Sunday, April 29, 2012

Boston Marathon 2012

I wrote this a few days after Boston but I've only shared it with a smaller circle of people up to now figuring after some time I would perhaps be able to be a bit less "negative" about the whole experience.  I don't consider myself to be a negative person and most every race I've done poorly in I've shook it off pretty quick.  A couple weeks has gone by now and I can't say I feel much different.  The raw emotions of the day have diminished and I share a certain bond with other "survivors" of the 2012 Boston Marathon.  I would still do it again even in hindsight mostly because of the times before and after the race - and the spectators at Boston came out in extraordinary force to help us along in this record heat ...... well here it is:

kayry vs Boston - kayry 3, Boston 1.

I'm prompted after finishing this year to ask such basic questions like why do I race these things. I really struggled answering that question for this race. I thought as long ago as January of bailing
on this race because I could not find my inspiration for it. This is my 4th Boston and the first 3 had me in love with this race. 2007 was the nor'easter storm year and my first Boston ever - what's not to be excited about for that and I was near tears crossing that finish at 3:01:01 - I get nostalgic with the thought of that perfect race on many levles. 2nd Boston 2008 was the year to kick butt on Lance Armstrong who'd been in my crosshairs for 6 months and three marathons - despite not quite the perfect race it was so awesome to beat him by more than a mile at 2:42:36. 2010 was a 26.2 mile party celebrating a LONG time on the sideline finally back running after ever so long logging mostly zero's for over a year and the Boston finishers medal after about 6 weeks of ramping up from zero and 150 miles of biking the MS150 the two days prior - the 3:10 at the finish was pure delight saying I can run again with near that same 2007 feel to it - a perfect experience.

With that backdrop 2012 had little hope to living up. I grasped for some motivation but there was no goal for this race that seemed could live up to the past. After a great effort at Houston in January achieving most all I wanted from coming back again from a shorter outage in early 2011 I looked ahead to Boston and kept asking myself what was my motivation for Boston? This is my 17th marathon (or more) event and I've always had some (sometimes lofty) goal that gave me inspiration and a lazar locked drive to train and race but it just wasn't there this time around. A few weeks after Houston I jump into a 50 miler because that inspired me more than training for Boston even
though I knew it would sabotage some of my Boston potential. A couple weeks before Boston I took on the challenge to try my best to help a team win Texas Independence Relay with disregard to whether that helped or hurt Boston - and we won which was awesome! For Boston I was grasping for straws. Training seemed to start coming together towards the last few weeks despite all efforts to sabotage it and I started to dream of a great race in Boston - some fire for this race was finally starting to grow - I know that running a all out effort race is in itself rewarding and picking off what seemed like low hanging fruit - the 2008 time of 2:42:36 - seemed within my grasp.

Then the forecasts starting 10 days out move from pretty good (50s) to not so bad (dry low 60s) to could be worse (dry low 70s) to this is going to suck (80s). You might think living in Texas that I'd be good at running in the heat but any who have raced against me in the heat know I'm easy pick'ns especially as the distances get longer. I'm not really certain if that a physiological disadvantage because I'm a pretty heavy sweater - or mental because I feel little inspiration when it's hot to do well - it literally seems to sucks the running life out of me much more times than not - or more likely a combination of both. But living in Houston I do race much more than I'd like in the heat and I know exactly how tactically to get top performance out of a race like that - but knowing and doing are quite different things. It's hard - any marathon all out is hard - but adding the heat is a very different kind of hard. I've read a lot of race reports of hot Chicago races or even things like Badwater and it does
nothing for me - there is not the slightest desire to do that. Maybe because I suffer in the heat so much living in Houston that I know that suffering all to well and don't like it. But here I am - 10 am at Boston with the announcer claiming it's already 80°F, I'm sweating and the race hasn't started yet.

Race plan - Pre-Hydrate, electrolyte load and fuel load as I would for any other marathon to be maxed out at the startline. Hydrate ~24 oz/hr - no less - a little more OK but only a little. Stay wet as much as
possible with dumping water on head, legs, neck, arms - everywhere - so the evaporation can cool you off. And keep the Heartrate from going too much higher than it would in a cooler marathon (~160 bpm for me). Pretty straight forward. I had my garmin set to vibrate when my HR hit 162 to keep things controlled - especially for the first half - I'd be OK with it buzzing continual for the last several miles if I felt the inspiration to go harder but early on the plan was to be controlled.

Here's how the splits played out:

1 6.05 152,
2 6.19 159,
3 6.30 159,
4 6.30 159,
5 7.03 159,

Pace is dropping but keeping the HR about where I want it to be - maybe a hair on the low side. Slower than I expected even accounting for the heat. As much downhill as there is in that first stretch and knowing how my recent HR vs pace goes in the Houston heat I was expecting faster. Sometimes I've seen races where the pace picks up for same HR after a few miles so maybe the speed will come.

6 6.49 158,
7 6.46 159,
8 6.52 157,
9 6.50 156,
10 6.59 155,

Paces still are pretty darn low and motivation to push is kinda dropping off too. I'm thinking back to warm 100% humidity day just a few weeks prior running 6:50s at about 150 HR and something here is just off - not going to be my day.

11 6.58 156,
12 6.46 154,
13 6.54 154,
14 7.33 154,

Major race highlight as my Cousin at family who live in Wellselly bring pitchers of cool water to dump all over me and a bunch of ice to cool me off with and smiling faces to encourage me - I'm really feeling cooled off for a few miles after that - loved it!

15 6.56 157,
16 6.31 152, (downhill)
17 7.12 155,
18 7.20 154,
19 7.06 151,
20 7.39 149,
21 7.55 153, (heartbreak hill)
21 2.39 .17 136,

I added a split here as I walked from my Garmin's 21 mile marker to the course 21 mile marker and tried to motivate myself to charge the last 5 miles. I thought I'd kinda banked a little energy with some low HR running up the Newton hills

22 5.55 157,

Charging down the hill - watch is vibrating as I'm over 162 for much of the mile - feeling like I'm going to salvage something from this race.

23 7.18 156, With some walking
24 6.58 154, With some walking
25 7.49 152, With some walking
26 6.57 156, With some walking

Major Highlight that can never be bad no matter how the first 25 miles
goes.......right on Hertford.....left on Boylson.

26.2 1.54 .33 163 (5:45 mpm pace - tried to bet the clock rolling to
3:05 chip time - almost beat it)

Total 3:05:00 (Garmin 26.5)

Ok - Boston will always have it's moments - it's a great race. Before and after the race there were many great moments with friends both from Houston, Kingwood and all over the country and some family up in Wellesley - see pictures below.  Although all that was great I found myself really missing having my wife there for all those moments this year as she has been for prior Bostons - she's been lucky for me when she comes - but look what happens when she doesn't. Moving all those great moments to the side and only refering to the race - the final tally to me is that this was without a close second:

The worst race ever - of any distance!

I don't know how to say that strong enough.  I can't seem to find anything redeeming in this race.  I've searched for something I could say that had some meaning "at least ______" but I can find nothing to fill in that blank.  Of course many did much worse and many even could finish with medical issues and dehydration so I suppose I could say at least it wasn't THAT bad - but that's a pretty low bar - I'm in shape and heat acclimated and know how to handle the heat - there was little risk of that for me.  One think I can say - Boston yet again generates very strong emotions. My emotions are almost as strong to the negative as 2007 and 2010 were to the positive. I've been on the verge of tears for days now for this race and even had to stop and shed a few tears as I was writing this last paragraph.  Boston kicked my ass and that coming from a race I've come to love - hurts somehow extra. The feelings whether positive or negative certainly makes me feel alive - I learn a lot about myself running these things whether the outcome is positive or negative.  That's why I run these things - it doesn't always have to be a win to still be a deeply memorable experience - even a loss is way better than not playing at all. I have no idea when I'll do this race again but I can't see ending on that note - and whenever I overwrite this experience with another I'm certain yet again Boston will deliver some very strong emotional reaction.....I love this race.

Here's a few pictures:

My cousin Doug and family who live in Welleseley and cooled me off big time at the 1/2 way.

The Houston Striders Gang - got to hang out with them for Saturday Night dinner and the bus ride up to Hopkinton.

The Kingwood Gang - we had our own Pasta Party on Sunday Night (I don't think I've ever tasted such good Spagetti).

Sunbathing in Hopkinton before the race.  Prior years we'd be bundled up near freezing.

The Running Friends facebook group.

After the Marathon was done - I needed constant beer to get out of my rut - hanging with my roommate Jeff (sitting) and a few of his friends.

Fast forward a few hours - and time for more beer with the Running Friends facebook group - cool people.  You can see I'm such a sore looser I won't even wear the finishers medal and shirt like others but rather pick my CIM shirt and ironman hat - races I had more fond memories from.  I finally wore that shirt at a Relay race yesterday so I guess the sores are healing.

More beer - next day Neil and I went to lunch at Cheers.  Although no one there knew my name - it was pretty cool that most all in the photos above did - some really nice times hanging with all!

And always magical moments no matter how the first part of the race goes - moments of dreams.

Time to turn the page - this was my 17th marathon or more completed and I don't have another goal marathon in the foreseable future (at least for 12 months) so kinda a bummer to end this marathon chapter like this - but not all endings are happy - sometimes you just gotta turn the page anyway and look forward to the next adventure.  The next target for me is IM Florida on November 2nd - gotta get my swim and bike legs working again.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Texas Independence Relay

Team: More Pain Please!!
Results: Overall Win!!

There is no "I" in Team.

Running is certainly usually an individual sport but here we are - twelve of us out to try to be the fastest team to run from Bastrop, TX to the San Jacinto Monument 203 miles away. Much of the race I liked to think was generally around the "Runaway Scrape" back in 1836 where Sam Houston's Texas Army fled from the pursuing larger Mexican Army that Santa Ana led to their ultimate demise at the battle for Texas independence where the San Jacinto Monument now sits today. We had our own "Runaway Scrape" to do as the #1 seeded "Dollz n Towel Boys"(DNTB) started the journey just 5 minutes after us and we wanted to keep that pursuing team in our rear view mirror - more than 5 minutes back at the finishline and we win with the fastest net time.
2:15pm on 3/31/2012 - the race is on.

There's a little history between these teams as both were contenders in the 2011 race although neither the DNTB nor MPP came away victorious despite both setting course records over prior years. DNTB finished 2nd and MPP finished 4th with a roughly 11 sec/mile advantage to the DNTB team - but neither the 1st nor the 3rd place team showed up in 2012 so the contenders for this year were pretty clearly down to these two - DNTB is a predominately Dallas team and MPP is a predominately Houston Team - of course there is always Houston/Dallas rivalry so here we go - like the Texans against the Cowboys.
Team MPP:

Team DNTB:

Team Captain, Jace, largely retained the 2011 team although there were 3 new runners recruited to be a part of the team to replace runners that couldn't repeat and then a last minute replacement for a 4th runner that finally faced reality that his sore achillies was just not going to let him run the race and stepped instead into the drivers seat for one of the vans (Thanks Ian!!). I was one of the new recruits and didn't really know anyone on the team except a couple I'd seen at a couple races - as I understand someone (John Spiller I believe) came up with my name from meeting me at a race, another (Tom) did some google searching, found my blog which has a facebook link then sent me a facebook message inviting me on the team. I was initially reluctant with the Boston Marathon 2 weeks later but after a week or so of thought I was intrigued to be on what I saw as a kinda-sorta competitive team - I must admit a 4th place team wasn't really so impressive to me but what the heck - might be fun.

A few weeks before the race I send Jace an email asking if there was any draft plan out there for this race so I could get an idea of what kinda workload I was piling into my weekend 2 weeks before what to me was a more important race - Boston Marathon 2012. I told him I'd probably be sandbagging just a little so I didn't wear myself out too bad for Boston but still figured I'd deliver a better than team average 6:00-6:15 pace on my legs - to which I received a reply "That's disappointing" - which initially pissed me off and got me to the edge of bailing on this group strangers. But after a couple email exchanges I came to understand better that Jace had put a lot into forming a "contender" team vs what I'd kinda viewed up to then as a 2nd tier team. My attitude shifted more as I met a few of the guys in a pre-planning meeting - pretty cool guys - and some pretty fast too - I'm closer to the midpoint of the team than the top - and according to the official seeding our team is rated 2nd fastest team on the field according to what runners put down in their race entry - only one team to beat - the little Competitive Jerk in me is starting to get fired up about our chances. I finally come around - this is worth giving my all - 110% effort - and move Boston down in the priorities - I can quite possibly have a great race there too - who knows maybe even better - but going for a win at TIR was an inspiring goal.

Jace really formed a great team and organized us well working out the best potential time balancing the variables to two vans of runners. Initially the plan was somewhat straight forward with a pretty much straight 12 person rotation of 36 legs then the fastest 4 doing the last 4 legs but with the last minute swap out changing Ian for a replacement that had certain conditions/restraints made that simple plan more complex. Our 12th man - Jose Lara was committed to running a 5k race on Saturday Morning in Houston and agreed to meet up with the team Sunday morning as we rolled into Houston - knock out back2back legs for 11 miles - rest a couple hours - then run the final leg to finish out the race. That made us an 11 person rotation for a couple cycles then a bit of a mix around for much of the second half of the race to work the legs in. Although not so simple - still a great plan to maximize our potential with 4 out of 5 of our fastest runners running 4 legs (Jose was fast guy not doing 4 because he had the 5k race too) and the other 8 running 3 legs for the total 40 legs. I just barely made the cut to be one of the 4 leg runners.

Van #1 - Ian (Driver) - runners (in order of first rotation): Dan, Sydney, Stephen, Evan, Tom and John H.(me) - on paper were were the slightly faster van by ~10sec/mile on averages.

Van #2 - Charles(Driver) - runners: Nikki, Claudio, Jace, Geoff, John S.

Here's how it all played out:

 LegsMilesSplit PaceTotalPaceLead over Dollz n Towel BoysSplit Conditions
(aka excuses)
Team1-522.33 22.336:00 Very hot/humid/LSO(life sucking orb - aka direct sun w/o shade or clouds) into the wind with some hilly legs.
Me64.946:1227.276:028min @Leg 8
very hot/humid, LSO, strong headwind (15mph), net uphill, 2 miles of it on dusty dirt road about like running on an inch of sand.  Not so tasty as cars go by.  Translation - it sucked - but I ran my heart out anyway.
Team7-1650.846:1078.116:073min @Leg 14After Leg 9 cuts crosswind - Cut out the LSO at sunset around Leg 11ish
Me174.555:5882.666:0711min @leg17
Cooler though still humid, down to ~10mph headwind, net uphill.
Team18-2647.756:05130.46:07-3min @leg23 as one of ours got cramped.One more leg of headwind then crosswind for the rest.
Still cooler though still humid, crosswind and flat - Best running conditions of the day for me.
Team28-3856.16:15192.96:0910min @leg35Mostly crosswind - A couple legs on trails - humidity peaks at sunrise around leg 33ish.  Heat of the day builds as the LSO moves up.
very hot/humid, LSO, flat
Team405.325:59201.56:0825min @finish or about 8 sec/mile
very hot/humid, LSO, flat on busy road.
TotalMine  19.26:01  
TeamThe Rest  182.36:09  

In the final ~30 miles it looks like the DNTB team slowed down with the last official split coming in around 30 sec/mile slower than they'd been doing the first 170 miles - seems like they'd eased up knowing we were out of reach. Jose Lara sealed the deal. He'd run his 5k race on Saturday (which he WON at 15:56) then knocked down his 2 leg 11 miler at 5:50 pace Sunday Morning then closed out the race at the hottest part of the Sunday Race with 6 mpm for the final 5. I heard the DNTB runners that were standing at the exchange where he didn't hand-off were kinda stunned how fast this guy was and he didn't even hand-off - so nice to have the fresh legs closer Sunday Morning.

Although 164 teams started this race with some starting as early as 6 am Saturday more than 8 hours ahead of us - we passed them all. The evidence along the way was the portajohns - very used at the aid stations initially - cleaner and cleaner as we went to the point I had to unwrap the toilet paper at the end.

10:53 there are 13 people (including 2 drivers) on the finishline waiting for Jose to finish out this race (really - there wasn't another sole out there - we'd even beat the official timekeeper to the finishline).

Jose seals the deal winning his 2nd race in two days. And we are done. Yeah it was kinda like Sam Houston getting pursued by Santa Ana - in the end Sam Houston kicked a$$ and won the Texas Independence and in the end we did the same. Very happy to have come away with the victory - but also just a little tired - occasional spurts of cheers and hurrays were intermixed with a bit of a weary shuffle through the post race festivities.

There's a post race epilogue - victory walk to the San Jacinto monument we shuffle along through and a party set-up of sorts at the monument

- which I can imagine becomes rather rip-roaring after there are more than a single team at the finish. For about 30 minutes we go through the motions posing for pictures,

congratulating each other, eating free pizza, accepting a few accolades by the volunteers at the finishline the we wonder back to the vans. As we head to the vans the DNTB's are doing epilogue journey to the monument and we all kinda naturally form a line giving high fives to all with a "good race" good sportsmanlike gesture as we head to the vans and they head to their pizza. If it wasn't so hot out and I wasn't so eager to fall on a pillow somewhere it would have been kinda fun to swap stories for a while. Home bound where after a quick shower I fall on my pillow and hours and hours fall away then have a quiet margarita with my wife to toast the victory.

Several Thanks to go around:

Ian - thanks for driving - initially terrifying but eventually you won me over - take care of your achilles!
Tom - Thanks for inviting me to join the team - turned out to be a lot of fun! Your motivating cheering with a few hundred meters to go was great to get a couple good finishing kicks out of me - I really appreciated that and you look like a professional traffic cop out there stopping cars too.
Sydney - you're an amazing gal to put up with 6 smelly sweaty guys all day - and man did you kill your legs - Jace had you down for way too slow.
Dan - Thanks for organizing the van and getting all the stuff and letting us all crash at your pad for a couple hours - that was priceless. You are one FAST dude! Good luck in Chicago - sub2:40 seems a cake-walk for you.
Evan - you're the far traveller among us - hope your trip back to San Francisco went smooth - I'm still considering Bay2Breakers despite your not so inspiring words about it - clearly it's a 4fun kinda race. Man you rocked your legs!
Stephen - Thanks for teaching me a little on how to do 100 mile races - hope my rattling you with questions wasn't offputting - I really appreciated your experience. And as I said out there - your marathon time is way too slow - no way your only a 2:45 marathoner the way you dominated your legs - you're certainly way faster than me. Good luck at IM Texas next month! And I hope to see you at Rocky Raccoon 100 next year - maybe we can do a training run or two together before so I can learn a few more secrets to success.

Captain Jace - Well Done! You deserve several victory laps alone for assembling the winning team. It was really a pleasure to be on your team!

Sorry I missed the opportunies to visit with the rest of the Van#2 people much. Thanks to Charles for taking lots of pictures!!

Of course to all the Race organizers and volunteers along the way - you put on an awesome race overcome some major obsticals along the way - awesome job!!

Way to go Team: "More Pain Please!!"