Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Black Hills Trail Series

If you pay really close attention to my blog (and if you do, you really should find something more productive to do with your spare time) you'll notice that I added a few races to my schedule. The Fat Tire Trail Challenge, the Dino Trail Run, the Sundance Trail 10K, and the South Dakota Trail Championship, along with two TBA races in August and October, are part of the new Black Hills Trail Series, which is being organized by the Black Hills Runners Club. The series also includes the Mystic Mtn. Run on July 12, but I'm already registered to run the Missoula Marathon that day, so I'll miss that one.

For the record, I think this idea is cool as hell and I've been waiting for something like this to come along. For one, I was hoping to get more into trail running this summer as I prepare for Lean Horse and this is a great way to do it. For another, I'm competitive by nature and the whole series points thing lights a fire in my belly. You see, each runner receives points based on their finish at each race and then at the end of the series, the person with the most points wins, kinda like NASCAR but without the cars, fist fights between drivers and fiery crashes (hopefully). I'm basically a rookie when it comes to trail running, so I don't really have any aspirations of winning the series (especially since I'll miss the Mystic Mtn. race) but I still think it's a cool idea and I'm glad someone took the initiative to organize it.

If you're interested, check out the website at:

Monday, April 27, 2009

The road to recovery

Obviously, running a marathon takes a lot out of you. If there's one thing I've learned from the eleven marathons I've completed, it's that you can never predict just how much damage each one will inflict upon your body.

For example, the almost all downhill Colorado Marathon last year dealt a big blow to my quads and an even bigger one to my psyche, but I was still able to bounce back from both fairly quickly and run two more marathons, and a few shorter races, in the next 2.5 months. Ten weeks after Colorado, I qualified for Boston at the Missoula Marathon. You would expect that running a marathon faster than you ever have before would also leave you feeling more sore than ever before, but that wasn't the case. The day after Missoula I honestly did not feel like I had run a marathon. In fact, I felt so good after Missoula that I raced a 10.4 miler (Heart of the Hills from Hill City to Keystone) just 6 days later and ran it much faster than I had two years ago. Even after Colorado, which took much more of a toll than Missoula, I raced a 5K and finished in a decent time on a hilly course two weeks later.

And then there's Boston. Boston is like no other marathon in the world, so I guess it's appropriate that it took a toll on my body like no other marathon has. For the first couple of days after the race, I felt what I would call a normal amount of soreness. After every other marathon I've run, I've been able to go out for a short 4 miler on the third day after the race. I tried this last Thursday and made it a block before I realized that it was a bad idea. Specifically, my quads were screaming for mercy. So, I walked back to the house, resigned to trying again the next day. On Friday morning, I did manage to run a full 3 miles, albeit very, very slowly and my quads were extremely tight the whole time. But, my legs felt pretty good afterwards and I thought I was on the road to recovery (generally my legs start feeling much better once I start running again and getting some blood flowing). On Saturday morning, my legs felt really good so I headed out for what I hoped would be a 5 miler. But, as soon as I started running, my quads tightened up again. I did run 4 miles, but when I got back my quads were extremely sore and it was painful to go up and down steps or to stand up and sit down. You know it's bad when your son says "Daddy, are you grabbing the sink like that because your legs hurt?" as you struggle to get up off the john. So, Sunday and today are rest days with the hopes that my quads will be in a better mood tomorrow (I can now stand up, sit down and maneuver stairs with only minimal grimacing, so things are improving).

One would think that after running a 26.2 mile race, I would be content to sit on my butt for awhile. But that's not the case with me. Something about racing lights a fire in my head and just makes me want to do it more (hence racing Heart of the Hills after Missoula last year). Right now, it's hard to believe that I've ever been able to race within a week of a marathon, but that doesn't mean that I don't want to. Now, I don't plan on racing until my birthday on May 23rd (the Fat Tire Challenge Trail Race in Rapid City), so it's not as if my next race is imminent. I just want to feel like I could do it if the opportunity arose.

Patience is not a virtue of mine, especially when trying to practice it with my own body. I'm trying my damndest to be smart about my recovery and take it as easy as necessary, but damn it, I just want to run again. Anyone know of a doctor who performs quad transplants??

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Boston Pics

The reward:

The finish arch:

Me with Bill Rodgers (only person to ever win the Boston and New York Marathons four times each; he did it back in the 70s):

Me with Dick Beardsley (he took second by two seconds to Alberto Salazar in the legendary 1982 Boston Marathon, which was dubbed the "Duel in the Sun"):

Me with Ryan Hall, the next great American marathoner (he took 3rd at Boston this year):

I've got more pics on my Facebook page, just follow this link (it'll work whether you have a Facebook account or not):

My Boston Race Report - Hope you've got time to kill

It’s a long damn ways from Belle Fourche, SD to Boston, MA. Approximately 1,952 miles, according to MapQuest. But, in reality, my journey to Boston started from even further away, in Seattle (just about as far from Boston as you can get and still be in the lower 48). On November 27, 2005, I finished the Seattle Marathon, my first, in 3:46:14. I was 35 minutes and 15 seconds shy of a Boston qualifying time and, honestly, I don’t think I was aware of it in the least and I know I didn’t care. I was just happy to be upright and alive. But, like so many other marathoners, my goals changed from first just wanting to survive the distance, to wanting to cover the distance faster, to wanting to cover the distance fast enough to run the granddaddy of em all. I seem to remember at some point, not too long after Seattle, looking up the Boston qualifying times and immediately writing it off as something that would be cool, but not realistic. After all, I had just run a marathon at 8:38/mile pace and it had taken everything I had. Boston required that I run at least 7:17 pace….a daunting proposition at that point in time. One thing I did learn from Seattle is that marathoning wasn’t going to be a one and done endeavor for me. The challenge of covering the distance sparked something in me.

As I added more marathon finishes to my resume, my finish times began dropping. In May of 2007, I finished the Fargo Marathon in 3:18:53 and it was then that I first began to really believe that I might have a BQ in me somewhere. Now I just needed to put in the miles and find a place to unleash it. I settled on Ft. Collins, CO, home of the Colorado Marathon, well known for its fast, downhill course. Apparently, some people do well on courses with over 1,000 feet of drop. Apparently, I am not one of those people. I came home from Ft. Collins with a small PR (47 seconds), obliterated quads, and an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Like someone coming out of a bad breakup, I needed a rebound marathon. I ran Deadwood-Mickelson five weeks later, but its un-BQ-friendly course was really just a one night stand on my way to a more significant fling. On July 13, 2008, ten weeks after Colorado, I returned to an old mistress and my old college town, Missoula, MT, and set about shocking the world (or at least the RT forum). Without telling a soul, not even my wife, I toed the line at Missoula with a BQ on my mind. By that time, I had spent the last year or so wondering what it would feel like to actually cross the finish line of a marathon with a qualifying time. Would I be elated? Emotional? A combination of both? Well, when I hit the finish line in Missoula, looked down at my Garmin and saw 3:09:41 staring back at me, I simply felt relief. Some pain, but mostly relief. The elation and emotion came later, in spurts and at odd moments (i.e. the day I registered for Boston, the day my welcome packet arrived, the day my jacket arrived).

The thing about qualifying for Boston is that getting the BQ is only half the battle. After that, you actually have to run the damn thing, which is in itself a whole nother beast (not The Beast, a different kind). The logistics alone are infinitely more stressful than any other race I’ve ever done. It’s not like you can just make a $60 a night reservation at the local Super 8, drive to the start line the morning of the race and take off. I think I put more time into searching for a Boston motel that was close to the action but not $300/night and airfare that was less than a monthly mortgage payment than I have actually training for some races. In the end, all my hotel-stressing was for naught as I ended up scoring a sweet room at the Hilton Back Bay on Hotwire the week before the race for a mere $114 a night. Sometimes, waiting till the last second can be a good thing, I guess.

Beyond the logistics mess, I had to figure out how to train for this thing. I had just started delving into Jack Daniels’ book before Missoula and knew that I wanted to give his plan (the ‘A’ plan) a shot. The big question was what my time goal was going to be for Boston. Since it would be my first marathon since Missoula, I knew that I would be able to focus all of my training on it. I felt like I didn’t want to go there just to go through the motions and say that I finished Boston, but I also didn’t want to go there with some grand goal (e.g., sub-3) in mind and then ultimately be disappointed with the whole experience if that goal wasn’t met (a la Colorado). Ultimately, I decided to do the prudent thing (a strategy I’m totally unfamiliar with) and let my training dictate what pace I seemed most prepared for. Over 18 weeks of intervals, tempo runs (lots and lots of tempo runs…Daniels really has a thing for tempo runs) and a couple of marathon pace runs, I finally decided that 7:00-7:05 pace (3:03:30-3:05:30 finish time) seemed possible if I had a good day and a re-BQ would be great. But, above all, my primary goal was to enjoy the experience. I didn’t want leave Boston the same way I left Fort Collins last year, with a bitter taste in my mouth about what is really a very nice event.

If nothing else, qualifying for Boston in July left me with a bunch of time to think about and prepare for the race. Missoula had been my third marathon in ten weeks. I had planned on running the flat and fast Bismarck Marathon in September for a BQ attempt, but when my Missoula finish made that a moot point, I quickly ditched those plans. Nothing against Bismarck, but it’s not exactly on top of my destination marathon list. So, I was suddenly facing 9 months before my next marathon. I responded by launching into an extended base building plan, the longest I’ve ever done, that topped out at 102 miles. When December finally rolled around, I transitioned into my 18 week Daniels plan, topping out at 100 miles (a few times) and averaging in the upper 80s. That 9 months was by far the highest mileage and, from December through April at least, highest intensity running period of my life. From December 28th through March 23rd, I ran every day for 85 days straight, that streak only coming to an end because of the heinous acts of Mother Nature (i.e., a spring blizzard, the first of three in three weeks that totally shut down western South Dakota). Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything like that again, but then again I say that at some point during almost every marathon (heck, during every 5k for that matter).

Despite, or maybe because of, all those miles I entered taper feeling good. As taper progressed, I started feeling really good, having to hold myself back during the last few runs before Boston. This was a new feeling to me as, for some reason, the Pfitz plans I had used the last two winters had left me nursing a modest injury or some random aches and pains during taper. That wasn’t the case this time and I felt like I was using the taper to rest instead of to recover. Mentally, of course, I was a wreck for the last couple of weeks, obsessively checking weather forecasts, the status of flights going into and out of Rapid City and pretty much anything and everything that had to do with Boston. Let’s just say that by the time April 17th rolled around and I left to catch my flight out of Rapid my wife was relieved to have me off of her hands.
The trip to Boston itself ended up taking a little longer than expected. A blizzard that hammered Denver the day I left didn’t affect South Dakota (for once). I flew to Chicago first and my flight leaving there to Boston was delayed 2.5 hours (possibly because of the Denver blizzard, I’m not sure). So, I didn’t roll into Logan until 12:40 Saturday morning, at which time the T had just stopped running for the night, which meant that I would have to catch a cab to my hotel (I spent that first night at the Holiday Inn Beacon Hill because the Hilton didn’t have any openings for Friday). I knew it was a bad sign when I told the cabbie where I was heading and, in a thick Indian accent, he replied “Oh, that is very far, will cost very much.” Great buddy, thanks for the info, but I really have no choice. So, 30-some dollars lighter, I arrived at my hotel, got my room, opened the door and…..there was someone in there already. Now, I didn’t actually see anybody, but all the lights were on, the TV was on, and the sheets on the bed were undone. I quickly backed out, headed back down to the lobby and told the front desk dude that I needed a new room. He hooked me up with one, unoccupied this time, but was totally unapologetic about it. Nothing like service with a smile.

I didn’t sleep worth crap that first night and was up by 6 AM, which was actually 4 AM to me, but I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. So, I got up, went in search for coffee (I found that Starbucks are almost as plentiful in Boston as they are in Seattle) and then headed for the nearest T station and caught a ride to the Hilton. My first ever experience on a subway went well (i.e., I didn’t get on the wrong train and ended up exactly where I wanted to be). I checked into the Hilton and by that time it was almost time for the expo to open so I went and stood in the number pick up line and was one of the first in the door. The Boston expo is unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was almost overwhelming, like trying to ride all the rides at Disneyland in one day. I had tentatively planned on meeting with shellaran (Dan), vitadolce (Pam), Cartman (Justin), Toad (Joe) and irunforbeer (John) at the expo and, eventually, we all did end up coalescing at one of the adidas booths and chatting for awhile. After we separated, I hurried over to the Asics booth to meet Ryan Hall. He was a great guy. I tried talking him into running the Missoula Marathon sometime. He seemed more interested in going to Montana for some fishing. After I got his autograph and picture I headed over to the New Balance booth to meet Dick Beardsley. I actually met Dick a couple of years ago at a half-marathon in Spearfish, SD, but I wanted to get a picture with him too and have him sign my copy of Duel in the Sun, which I head re-read on the plane ride to Boston. After meeting Dick, it was off to the Running Times booth to meet Bill Rodgers, who I also got a picture and photo with (sorry, Jeff, I forgot to tell him “hi” from you). While I was in line for Bill Rodgers, I also met up with madbuck (Mike) and we chatted for awhile. The funny thing was, although Dick’s and Bill’s lines were much shorter than Ryan’s, they moved wwwaaayyy slower because those two can’t help but have at least a 5 minute long conversation with each and every person they meet. In the end, I was at the expo from the time it opened at 9 until about 3 in the afternoon. Good thing I did that on Saturday.

Sunday was more laid back, although I did venture out for a short run and to a finish line FE with rogere (Roger), The Beast (Bruce), Rio (uhhh…sorry), Stace76 (Robin), Bret (PhillyRunninMan), Rob26.2 (Rob), and probably some other people who I’m forgetting (and I apologize profusely for that). After the FE, Bret and I headed out in his car for a tour of the Newton Hills (yup, they are actually hills….damn) and dinner at a tiny, but very good, Italian place in Newton.

Monday morning I was off on one of the first waves of busses to leave the Commons, so got to Hopkinton with time to spare. I realized at some point that my caffeine-addicted body hadn’t had any since early Sunday morning and I had a pulsing headache because of it (how pathetic is that?). Fortunately, they were serving coffee in the Village and after drinking some I started to feel better. At 8:45, I headed over to the tennis court FE and met a bunch more people, more people than I can even attempt to remember and name here, so just look at Erik’s picture thread to figure that one out. Just after 9, I walked down to the corrals with Justin, Butters (Thomas), Joe and John. Almost before I knew it, it was time to cuddle into Corral 5, there were F-15s flying over and we were off like a herd of turtles.

I was wearing a pace band for a 3:05 finish time, but honestly didn’t even look at it after the first 3 miles and just decided to play it by feel. One thing that was concerning me right away was my heart rate (I had made a last minute decision to wear my HR strap). It was hovering in the upper 160s, which seemed too high for so early in the race….at my qualifying run in Missoula I had kept it in the 150s until about mile 18 or 19 before it started to drift upward. I tried to ignore it, but it was still bugging me. In any case, the first 5 miles went pretty damn good pace-wise and I was having a good time, high fiving kids and waving to the crowd. The thing that was immediately apparent to me was the rolling nature of the course. Yeah, we were going downhill overall, but there were a lot of ups too.

1 – 7:25 (impossible to go much faster in the mass of humanity)
2 – 7:03
3 – 6:56
4 – 6:55
5 – 7:05

The next five miles, I started to get into somewhat of a groove, but my HR was still too high and I would have periods where I just didn’t feel all that comfortable, followed by periods where I felt great.

6 – 7:01
7 – 7:06
8 – 7:06
9 – 7:06
10 – 7:15

At some point in the third five mile stretch, I started to reevaluate my goals. I wasn’t feeling totally comfortable, but I was still maintaining a decent enough pace and was well on pace to PR and re-BQ at halfway. But, with the Newton Hills still ahead, I knew that a negative split was highly unlikely and that it was more of a question of how much of a positive split I would post. Of course, this stretch is famous for one thing and rightly so. Around mile 12, I started to hear the roar from up ahead and knew that the Wellesley scream tunnel was coming. It was everything it’s cracked up to be and more. I didn’t kiss any girls (I swear, Shannon), but I did blow some kisses and slapped some hands. I hit the halfway mat in 1:33:21, on pace but knowing that a fade was coming.

11 – 7:11
12 – 7:09
13 – 7:10
14 – 7:13
15 – 7:25

And then the hills began. I knew my pace was going to slow going up them, so I didn’t stress out too bad when it did. I was able to use the downhill and flat stretches between each of the hills to keep my splits a little better looking. My hope was that once I crested Heartbreak, I’d be able speed the pace back up a little and maybe still re-BQ.

16 – 7:17
17 – 7:36
18 – 7:39
19 – 7:33
20 – 7:45

In between miles 20 and 21, you finally crest Heartbreak (I think I counted two false summits on that sucker) and the downhill begins. It was immediately and painfully obvious that the final 10k wasn’t going to be entirely pleasant. As soon as I started running downhill, my quads and calves started screaming and it felt like my calves were going to seize up at any second. At this point I was basically just resigned to going as fast as my legs would let me go. The kicker was, my heart rate had finally calmed down, so although I should have been able to push it harder heart rate-wise, my legs were having none of it. The end result was that my splits coming down the Newton Hills were actually slower than going up. As much as my quads and calves were screaming for relief, I told myself that I absolutely, positively was not going to walk a single step of the Boston Marathon. I searched desperately for the Citgo sign and finally saw it around mile 24. When I passed it at the one mile to go marker, my pace started to pick up. Right on Hereford, left on Boylston and I can finally see the finish line (although it’s a llllloooonnnnggg ways away). Magically, my legs don’t hurt so much any more and I’m able to muster something that vaguely resembles a finishing kick. As I cross the line, I point to the sky and it’s over. I’m a Boston Marathon finisher.

21 – 8:07
22 – 7:53
23 – 8:13
24 – 8:13
25 – 8:25
26 – 8:04
26.2 – 1:40 (7:14 pace)
Chip Time – 3:15:41, my second fastest time
Overall Place – 3,756th out of 22,849 (as of 4/22)

The very second I stopped running I was freezing my arse off. I had been fine the entire race, the 47 degrees and overcast conditions were ideal for me, but as soon as I stopped the wind hit me and I was freezing. I made the shuffle with hundreds of others as we got our silver blankets and medals and, finally, our drop bags. I carried my stuff off to a side street and sat down on a curb to put on my track pants and sweatshirt (this was probably a pathetic sight, as I found it very hard to bend my legs and basically had to flop around until I had my pants hiked all the way up). After calling my wife, mom and dad, I sat on the curb wondering how in the hell I was going to get up. I thought about asking one of the able-bodied looking bystanders to help me, but eventually was able to push myself up with having to bend my legs too much. Then, I made a very slow shuffle back to the Hilton to get showered and dressed for a night on the town.

After showering and dressing, I began another very slow walk (all the while telling myself that this was good for me) back down toward the finish area to meet up with some forumites for dinner and, more importantly, beer. Eventually, a few of us X-Squaders (Pam, Erik and myself) ended up crashing the MOTU party at Jacob Wirth’s. I hope I get this right….to the best of my recollection we were joined by Dan, his sister Amy, Barkeep (Steve) and his wife Renate, Bruce and his wife Patty (is that right??), HEB (Hardy), Waterdog66 (Tim) and RiverGirl, and n3103f (David) and his wife Madonne. Again, apologies if I missed someone or got a name wrong. It was all very overwhelming, plus the beer was tasting very good.

After the MOTU party split up, Steve, Renate and I hiked back to the Sheraton to continue celebrating in the lobby bar. Amazingly, the walk back was much more comfortable than the walk out. Beer apparently has medicinal properties. Renate retired and Pam eventually joined us and then, just as Steve was about to head up to bed, Bart Yasso sat down at the table next to ours. Immediately, Steve says something to him along the lines of “Whatever you do, don’t mess with the RT forums.” Bart is a really cool guy and Pam and I end up spending the next hour and a half or two drinking and chatting with him about the day’s elite races, Boston history and Bart tells us some good stories about Dick Beardsley and Bill Rodgers. As the three of us go our separate ways at about 12:30 in the morning, the last thing Bart says is something along the lines of “Okay, so I need to remember to not mess with the RT forums.” So, rest assured Steve, your message got through.

Oh, and while Steve, Renate and I were at the Sheraton I got a text from my wife saying that I had just been on the local news back in South Dakota. Apparently, I ended up being the fastest Boston finisher from the Black Hills area (out of 7). There was also an article in Tuesday’s Rapid City Journal, at the top of the front page of the sports section with my name in the headline and a picture of me in the article. I was shocked that the Rapid City media even knew the marathon was going on, much less took the time to check the results for the local runners. And it doesn’t end there. I also got a comment on my blog yesterday from one of the sports writers from the Journal. He wants me to call him so he can talk to me about my Boston experience. I’ll probably get around to that later today. Seems like an awful lot of attention for what isn’t even my fastest time. But, hey, it’s Boston and I’m just glad that the local media has actually recognized that running exists.

Tuesday, it was back home. My legs, quads especially, were definitely sore….walking down the steps to get to the T was an adventure in itself and the 4.5 hour plane ride from Boston to Denver wasn’t all that pleasant because I couldn’t stretch out, but otherwise I don’t feel too horrible. I’m back at work now (can’t ya tell??). My co-workers pasted a picture of me to the front of a Wheaties box and signed it and gave it to me today. Tomorrow is supposed to be Take Your Kid to Work Day, for which we’re supposed to go on a hike. Sure hope the hike doesn’t feature any uphill or downhill.

Next up, I’m already registered for three big races: the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Half-marathon in June, the Missoula Marathon in July and the Lean Horse Half Hundred in August. So, I guess I’ll have to start running again soon, but for now I’m giving my body as much rest as it needs. It’s earned it, I guess.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, you’re doing pretty damn good. I don’t know if this is my longest report ever, but it’s gotta be close. But, hey, it’s Boston. Thanks to everyone for the support and for everyone I met in Boston, it was great to finally put a face to the name. Like Bruce said on Monday night, it’s amazing how all of these “strangers” we talk to online turn out to be genuinely good people in person. We’ll have to do it again sometime….I’m eyeing 2014.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bored at work? Track me online!

Okay, I honestly have no clue how many of you there are out there who actually read the nonsense I post here, but if you're looking for something not all that exiciting to do on Monday morning, you can track my progress in Boston online. It's pretty simple:

1 - Go to the Boston Marathon website (
2 - On Monday, there will be a fairly obvious (I think) "Athlete Tracking" link. Click on it.
3 - Enter my bib number (5189).

That's about it, folks. There are checkpoints every 5 kilometers along the course and the tracking page will update every time I pass one of those (not sure if it updates automatically or if you have to refresh it every once in awhile). The tracking info you get will show the last checkpoint I passed, my current pace, my total time and my projected finish time. Bear in mind that the nature of the Boston course leads to many (most) people running the first half slower than the second half, so the projected finish time early on will probably be overly optimistic. Hopefully my second half isn't TOO much slower, but that remains to be seen.

Rest assured, I'll post a race report on here as soon as possible, which may not be until sometime Tuesday night, after I get back to SoDak.

Thanks for all the support!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Uno mas

17 weeks down, 1 to go. Ready or not, here I go. Or something like that. My training is officially at the point where there's not a damn thing I can do to make myself faster, but there is oh so much that can happen to make me slower. Doesn't really seem fair, does it?

Here's how my second to last week before Boston went:

Monday - 6 in the morning, 4 in the afternoon. The last double before Boston (I'm also to the point where I often find myself thinking "well, there was the last before Boston."

Tuesday - 8.15 miles.

Wednesday - 12 including 3 easy, 1 tempo, 2 marathon pace, 1 tempo, 2 marathon pace and 3 easy. First time I've ever alternated between tempo and MP during a run and it felt kinda weird, especially the second time since I was going uphill and when I got done with the tempo mile, it took some finessing to get my legs locked into something that wasn't as fast, but not too slow either.

Thursday - 6 miles.

Friday - 8.38 miles w/ 8 strides. This is how a taper run should feel. My easy pace was much faster than normal. After running the first couple miles at just over 8:00/mile pace, every mile after that was sub-8 and I averaged 7:45 for the entire run, about 30-40 seconds faster than my "normal" easy pace.

Saturday - 6 miles. Again, easy was easier.

Sunday - 8.1 miles w/ 8 strides. A little slower than the previous two runs, but I was also trying to hold back more.

Total - 58.63 miles

So, the second to last week of taper, no long run, and my mileage was still higher than my peak mileage was when I trained for the Brookings Marathon (my second) back in 2006. Crazy.

No long run last week because I ran it this morning (Monday) instead so that my final week of training would line up with Boston. Besides, it was only 13 miles anyhow, so not really a "long" run.

Well, now there's pretty much nothing left to do but check and recheck the weather forecast, check and recheck my packing list, and otherwise needlessly obsess about what's going to happen next Monday. Should be fun!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obsessing about the weather

A favorite pasttime of taper crazed marathoners is to obsessively check the weather forecast for the day of the race. Why? Well, for one, when you're running less than usual you've got more time to psychoanalyze every single miniscule factor that could contribute to your ultimate success or demise. For another, weather is one of the biggest factors determining success (or demise) at a marathon. Take, for example, my two runnings of the Missoula Marathon. In 2007, it was blazing hot and I struggled to a 3:32, walk-jogging my way through intense calf and quad cramps for the last few miles. In 2008, the weather was perfect and I pounded out a 3:09. Of course, I had trained more and was in better shape in 2008, but if it has been hot again like 2007 I never would have gotten that BQ.

Another reason Boston runners in particular obsess about the weather is that late April weather conditions are notoriously unpredictable in Boston. It has snowed on race day and it has been in the 90s. As recently as 2004, temps climbed above 90, causing many runners to drop out or run much slower than they had planned. In 2007, a fierce noreaster blew through the weekend before the race and the organizers came very close to canceling it, but the race ended up going off in just as the 30-40 mph winds and driving rain started to subside. So, why obsess about something that is so unpredictable and that you can't control anyway? Like I said, we don't have much else to do. Obviously, I'm hoping for something between 2004 and 2007 conditions when I make the journey to Boston in a couple of weeks. About 47 degrees and overcast would be ideal for me. Will I get that? Probably not, but I can dream.

Fueling the taper madness weather obsession is the weather forecasts themselves. Accuweather provides a 15 day forecast, which you can imagine is about as accurate as a monkey doing long division, but do you think that stops us from checking (repeatedly). Hell, no! In just two days, the Accuweather forecast for Boston on April 20th has gone from 62 and rainy to 47 and partly cloudy. What will tomorrow hold? More importantly, what will April 20th hold?? I sure as hell don't know, but I guarantee you that for the next 13 days I'll be watching the rise and fall of the Accuweather forecast like an investor watching the Dow average rise and fall. And, if 47 and partly cloudy holds, I'll be yelling "BUY, BUY, BUY!!!!" at the top of my lungs. Should be fun....

Monday, April 6, 2009

The winter that would not die

You know, Mother Nature can be a real bitch when she wants to be. Here it is April 6th and I think we've gotten more snow in the last three weeks than we did all winter before that (or at least it feels that way). Here's a recap:

March 23rd - Blizzard, well over a foot of snow, drifts much higher

March 30th - Blizzard, another 6 inches or so

April 4th - Winter Storm, 13+ inches more

Will it ever freakin end??

Well, the good news is that its actually supposed to approach, or exceed, 50 degrees at some point this week and there isn't aren't any more major winter storms in the forecast (knock on wood).

Running-wise, the taper continues. As of today, I can check the 15 day Boston forecast on Accuweather (62 with rain showers possible), so that gives me something else to obsess about for the next couple of weeks.

Monday - 6 in the morning, another 4 later in the morning. I knew the blizzard was bearing down on us, but I went about my morning routine as if I was going to work (knowing full well that I probably wasn't). Sure enough, after I'd run the six and was ready to head into work, work got cancelled because the interstate got shut down and no travel advisories were posted everywhere else. I squeezed in the 4 miler before the gym closed down early due to the storm.

Tuesday - 8 miles. Back outside. This blizzard definitely had less punch than the first one (at least in Belle Fourche). The streets were runnable right away; seems like the city actually kept up with the plowing this time.

Wednesday - 11 miles including 20 minutes easy, 15 minutes tempo, 20 minutes easy, 15 minutes tempo and a couple of miles cooldown. I ran this on an out and back route in Spearfish that's generally downhill on the out and uphill on the back, so the first set of tempo was faster than the second, as expected.

Thursday - 6 miles in the morning, 2 miles with Caiden in the afternoon. Caid, who just turned 5 the day before, is registered to run two kids marathons this year: Deadwood-Mickelson and Missoula. Now, of course they don't expect a bunch of kids to run 26.2 miles at once. What they do is run, walk, or hike a total of 25 miles in the months leading up to race day and have an adult keep track of their progress on a mileage sheet and then run the last 1.2 on race day. This was Caiden's first run of the "spring" (I use that term loosely, but it was the warmest day of the week). We started off with the goal of running 1 mile, but when we got back to the house after a mile and I asked him if he wanted to stop he said no, so we kept going. He ran 11 minute pace the first mile, closer to 12 after that and didn't walk at all until about 1.6 miles and then we walk/jogged the last 0.4. When we got back to the house again at 2 miles I asked him again if he wanted to stop and, with a huge grin on his face, he said no again. But, I decided that 2 miles was probably enough at that point, so we stopped. Now, if Mother Nature would just cooperate, we could do this more often.

Friday - 6 miles w/ 8 strides in the morning, 4 in the afternoon. The afternoon run was done in fairly heavy snow as the next storm began.

Saturday - 6 miles w/ 8 strides. Back inside thanks to yet more snow.

Sunday - 16.1 miles. The irony of this run is that I spent a good part of the week worrying about what I should do. I didn't know if I should just run an easy 16, or if I should mix in some marathon pace miles. I even emailed Jack Daniels, not the whiskey distiller but a famous running coach who wrote the book I've been using to train for Boston, and asked him. He actually responded really quickly and his advice was to include some marathon pace miles. So, I eventually decided that I would run 16 with the middle ten at marathon pace. Well, Mother Nature obviously had other plans. Although the snow had stopped late Saturday, the streets were in craptacular shape and I had no desire whatsoever to run my final pre-Boston long run on the indoor track, so I headed outside. Running anything faster than a normal, easy long run pace was basically impossible, at least if I didn't want to fall on my ass repeatedly (I didn't). The streets in town were snowpacked with a thin layer of fresh snow on top, which made them slicker than snot. Outside of town, the roads had either been freshly plowed, so the snow was all broken up and soft and it was like running in sand, or they hadn't been plowed yet, so I had to run in the tire tracks of vehicles that had passed through. At one point, I had to turn around and backtrack because the tracks stopped and the road was just totally covered with over a foot of fresh snow. So, all the worrying about what I should do ended up being taken out of my hands. I did manage to throw down one marathon pace mile when I finally found a clear stretch of highway toward the end of the run, but for the most part my last long run before Boston wasn't anything spectacular (and most certainly wasn't fast).

Total - 69.1 miles

Two weeks to go. I'm at the point now where I've pretty much done everything I can do. From here on out, it's more about not hurting myself than it is about pushing myself. This is also when the questions start: Did I do enough? Did I do too much? Is my goal totally unrealistic? Is this the stupidest idea I've ever had? Why can't I find a less stressful hobby? How many Sam Adams can I drink after the race and still make my Tuesday morning flight home? Ah, the joys of taper madness....