2018 Race Recap: #3 Clearwater Half

I wasn’t sure how well this race was going to go. I hadn’t run more than 7 miles at one time since December 7 and the last time I ran longer than 10 miles was the Cambridge Half Marathon in November.  Being laid up in an immobilization boot for the better part of December, I went from December 7 to December 31 without running.

Since then, I’ve run every day in 2018 except two – January 4, the day of a blizzard that shut down just about everything, including the gym, and yesterday when I just couldn’t get my stuff together to run the weekly 5k before I headed to the airport.

So, it’s race day.  The thing that saved the day from ignominy today is the fact that Florida is as flat as a pancake.  The only elevation gain was from the two bridges and the out and back course.  344′ of gain.  It saved the day, and cursed the day, but more on that later. The race started at 7:05 and about 58-degrees.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the race. My night sleep was sketchy, but my nutrition was on point.  Up and out to packet pick up by 5:30 AM, with a cup of coffee and an ill fated trip to the porta potty set the stage.

About 0.5 mile into the race was the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge.  I wasn’t sure I was going to accomplish this in the time I wanted, yet the next song to come up on my playlist was “Barometer Soup” by Jimmy Buffett.  Feeling the Margaritaville Vibe with the view of Clearwater was magnificent.

I wasn’t sure what the race held, but I was happy I was there.

The coffee helped get my metabolism going, but unfortunately caused some other issues for me, which wasn’t immediately a problem but about 4 miles in began causing issues.

Just before the second bridge, there was a breakfast place that had obviously just fired up their offerings with the net result was all I could smell was bacon…for like a mile.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sunglasses and textIts also the day of the AFC Championship Game – Patriots vs. Jaguars.  So, ever the master of race couture, I wore a TB12 jersey…the whole race. Not one hater on the course, some fist bumps, high fives, hoots.  It was fun and served the purpose I set out to achieve wearing it.

I was fully on pace for a personal record right up to Mile 12, right where the last bridge started inclining and I just couldn’t push any further.  For that half mile, I pretty much walk-ran the bridge.  The second half was down hill, including a ramp down into the park.  I’m pretty sure that mile split was 13:00 m/m for the first half, and 7:00 for the second.

Ultimately, I finished with a 1:56:32 time.  Not my worst by a long shot, and about 3.5 minutes shy of my best.  Much like Cambridge was in November, this was an opportunity to PR – an opportunity lost.  BUT, it was a personal victory; I’d not had a long run in months, I haven’t been running well at all.

A sub-2 hour half marathon is, in my book, a good race.  It didn’t feel like a good ending, but over all it felt like a good race.  I wound up with an 8:56 pace, with the last three miles taking their toll on my pace.  Lessons to build on.

Results

Clearwater Half Marathon: 1:56:32
Cambridge Half Marathon: 1:57:38
Upton State Forest Half Marathon (Trail): 2:18:01.9
Worcester Half Marathon: 1:51:56
Black Goose Half Marathon: 2:00:48

 

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2018 Race Recap: #2 CMS 52-Week 5k

cms_logo_smallWhat a weird day.  I woke up to 59-degree weather, perhaps a touch overcast, but otherwise a very pleasant January morning.  Now, it was widely reported that today was going to be strange, going from a high of about 59 to a low of 7 – or there about – so I was paying attention to the weather forecast, but my iPhone was telling me it was going to be about 57 and overcast through about 11 AM or so, so I figured I was good to go.  Put on a short sleeve shirt, a pair of shorts and a light fleece.  ‘Ret to go.

At about 8:20, it was still about 58-59 and overcast, to script, when I went into the Worcester State University building to register.  I came out to a noticeably colder day – I’m guessing it must’ve lost 4 degrees in the time I was inside.

I went for a quick warmup run, during which it started to rain on me.  Back at the University building, I took off the fleece after deciding to run in shirt sleeves – after all it was still very much in the mid-50’s.

At about 8:50 we headed out to the starting line, and I quickly decided shirt sleeves was not going to be my thing today – according to Apple, it was now about 47-degrees and it was pouring.  Back on went the fleece, as I regretted having registered for this.

Here’s the start. Note here, I’m comfortably ahead of the pack – this doesn’t stand very long because I’m a terrible runner who knows nothing of pacing.

Running the course clockwise today probably helped as it’s mostly downhill, but there was a strong headwind during mile 2 – there were times I find myself unable to breath the wind was coming in so hard and fast at me, but by mile 3 the sun was out again  and it was probably in the low 40’s.  Just flat out crazy weather.  I’m sure my perception of the temps is off, but the story does play itself out in my splits with mile 2 being the slowest of the 3.

Note the lack of anyone near me at the finish (there’s a 0.1 mile overlap on the course to complete the 5k, which explains the Similar angle). Not really hard to tell the start of race pic from the race finish pic is it?

Official time: 25:14, not my best, not my worst.  It’s another minor victory for being the fastest 3-miles I’ve put down this year after having been laid up in December. I figured I’d  be chasing 26-minutes today, so I felt good that I didn’t.

Clockwise (last 5):

January 13, 2018: 25:14   53 degrees, cloudy, 22 mph wind, rainy
November 25, 2017: 24:55 Sunny and 28 degrees.
October 28, 2017: 24:53 Sunny and 56 degrees.
September 16, 2017: 25:56  Cloudy, humid, 60’s.
February 25, 2017:  24:36 cloudy, warm and 52 degrees.

Beliefs Become Destiny

This was my end of a recent conversation about health, conditioning, and whether to run a particular race:

“I mean I’ve barely run for three weeks and I’ve lost so much conditioning I’m afraid all I can do is the half marathon.”

I’m quite aware that may sound hollow to a good deal of people, I get that.  The race we were discussing is a 50k – 31.1-Miles – considerably longer than a half marathon and one for which one really needs to train.  I’m no where near that level of fitness right now.

My friend did not let me off the hook so easily. I was looking for affirmation, “yes, of course. You’re not your best you for reasons outside of your control. It’s okay. Build up to it.” That’s not what I got.  I was looking for excuses; I got a reality check.

“‘barely,’ ‘lost,’ ‘afraid’ are all I see in what you just said…  Come on man, if it’s a half marathon kick the crap out of it, if its a 50K finish, if it’s a 5K set a course record.”

“I mean I’ve barely run for three weeks and I’ve lost so much conditioning I’m afraid all I can do is the half marathon.”

A lot of negativity in one 23-word sentence.

Then, the kicker, because ever since undergrad I’ve been interested in how language affects us, how we use it to convey meta-messages, how it can be used like Jiu Jitsu to disarm verbal attacks:  “Language can be as bad for your health as drinking beer, and having a heart attack while in the garage on Facebook.” Ouch.  I was letting fear control my thoughts; and in turn I was letting that negative thinking control my words. My actions.  I was letting myself off the hook with excuses; setting the bar low so I could attain a marginal victory.  I was failing to control my inner dialogue and failing to let my positive thoughts control my language.

I was thinking that I could do the Half Marathon and get by. He was challenging me to set a personal best.  He made it okay to run the 5k variation, if I was going to set a course record. He made it okay to simply finish the ultra-marathon. Jiu Jitsu. He took the control the fear had over me, and used it against itself.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne WilliamsonA Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Internal dialogue is a powerful thing.  It controls your definition of success and it determines whether you’ll allow yourself to achieve it.  It is the difference between continuing when you don’t want to and regretting you didn’t continue. It’s the difference between embracing your limits and setting artificial ones.

My motto for 2017 was “goals without fear,” and yet I started 2018 allowing fear to control my thoughts.  Am I in condition for a long race? Probably not, but that’s not what I said. I said I was letting fear control how I was thinking about it, and not, as I believed, making an honest assessment of my current fitness.

The race is 20 days away – longer than I was laid up. If I want it, I can get myself back to my previous condition, whether or not that’s ‘race ready.’ The idea isn’t that I should or shouldn’t run the race, it’s that I should not let fear, loss, and barely control my thoughts.

It’s about the courage to see just where my inner power may be. Its the courage to see that light as power and not fear; to speak from a place of strength, not weakness.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

If you let fear control your thoughts, you allow fear to control your words. If you let fear control your words, it ultimately controls your destiny.  Charting your course is hard enough as it is, why make it more difficult by allowing that inner darkness control your destiny?

 

2018 Race Recap: #1 Freezer Five

Image result for freezer five sterling maToday was pretty difficult.  The Freezer Five is a 5-mile race through Sterling, MA, along a course that’s reasonably wide open, past the municipal airport around and back.  The course itself looks like a wildly out of proportion upside down coat hanger that’s had its hook straightened and stretched out.

It’s not terribly challenging in terms of elevation profile: some slight elevation loss, some slight elevation gain. What makes it challenging is really just getting out there in the cold – today was somewhere around 5 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

I was about 20-seconds/mile slower today than I was a year ago.  A year ago the course was actually in much worse shape with snow, but it was definitely warmer.  I really felt the effect of having been laid up the better part of December, the result of having been relegated to a walking boot for most of the month.  The good news there is that while the doctors originally thought I had a partial Achilles tear, it turns out that it was tendinitis. So while the net effect of the boot was positive (my Achilles felt GREAT today), and despite the workouts I was doing while in the boot, I hadn’t changed my eating (read here more calories going in, fewer going out) so I packed on some pounds. Combined with a vast reduction in cardio work over that time, I was huffing and puffing my way through this.  In November, a group of us ran this course and I did it slightly faster than I ran the race last January, so I’m sure I could’ve hit this harder this year had I not been forced to take some time off running.  On the one hand, it would be easy to think of a missed opportunity, but really today is about giving myself grace: I came off the bench with a last minute decision to run and made it happen.

I considered my time today a minor victory given those circumstances and am generally pleased by the effort I put in out there.  It was difficult: between December 11 and today I had run 4 easy-miles yesterday.  I’m a little sore all over right now, but I’m glad I went out there and did it.  Onward and upward.

Distance: 5 Miles
2018 Time: 44:24 8:52 pace
2017 Time: 43:04 8:36.8 pace

 

2017 Goals: Review

Here is how I plan to get better:

  1. 1000 Miles (20 Miles/week):
    As of 1/2/17 – Week 1:18.1/1000

I nailed this.  I couldn’t run for 6 weeks and I still got this done before October ended.

2.  #Kill22 Challenge: Add a push up a day to the challenge.

  1. Day 2: Check

Yeah, this one fizzled out quickly.  I wish I had looked at this list more often, I would have realized I had blown it.

3.    2 Rounds (4 months) of Beachbody “Insanity”

I knew I was blowing this one.  In my defense I have been going to a fitness bootcamp regularly, but it’s no where near this level of workout.  Time to amp it up

4.  Spartan Trifecta

  1. Scheduled
  2. Additional Sprint Scheduled (x2 Trifecta?)

My injury in June kept me from running a bunch of races I really wanted to do, and specifically at least one Spartan Sprint.  I did complete the trifecta, but with the Fenway Stadium Sprint (2.2 miles), so it feels a bit hollow.  I am registered for 2/3 of the trifecta in 2018 with a trifecta pass in my hand so x2 Trifecta seems doable.

5.  2 Half Marathons – one of which will be less than 2 hours

Did 3 halfs, 2 in less than 2 hours and the third was a trail race so not really the same thing.

6. I will attempt at least 5 things that I’m not convinced I can complete

  1. To succeed, you cannot fear failure.
  2. Fear is a liar, desperate to convince you that you cannot succeed.

Completed.  3-2 on the Failure Opportunities. Sine metu ad metam

TKOs, Strategic Retreats, Halls of Mirrors and Being Adamantine

It would seem the year that was getting punched in the face has won via technical knockout.  This is not to say goals haven’t been achieved – they have – but it is to say that 2017 has stepped up to take back the idea that while you can fight age, no you cannot fully outrun it.  A seemingly obvious truism, but it is a lesson I think we each learn in our own way.

An ironic lesson perhaps that I started on a fitness journey to be sure that I reclaimed everything I possibly could because I was all too aware that life is short, opportunities come by once and I was determined not to allow Father Time to advance on me without giving myself the best opportunity to enjoy my one trip here.

In June, the year that was getting punched in the face punched back and I was put out of commission for 6-weeks. Made worse by the fact that at the fact that at the beginning of June I was bold enough to say that I was dissatisfied with punching in the face and was going to tear the face off the year.  On the 10th, I had fallen down a mountain.  9 stitches in my forearm and tendon surgery on my foot.  Had I to do it again, I probably wouldn’t continue the remaining 20+ miles of the race, but I was headstrong enough that I was not going to quit.  Hard to know if this was a “win” or if it was failing to accept a strategic retreat.

But that was an accident.  A failure perhaps of training, a failure to pay sufficient attention to what was required of a highly technical trail race.  Perhaps a failure of focus.  It was not a failure due to age.  Anyone taking on that race, under the same circumstances would have suffered the same injuries.  In fact, I feel confident in saying not too many people would have had the fortitude to continue on to finish – for better or worse.  In my mind’s eye, the fact that someone less than 1000 days from age 50 was out there on that course was testament to the idea the Reaper was getting further away in my rear view rather than closer.

This is different.  This is the reality check.  There may be times when the Reaper seems further behind, but that is perception in the hall of mirrors that is life.  After that involuntary layoff, I doubled down on my efforts.  More miles on the odometer.  Faster miles on the odometer. More races on the calendar.  Longer races on the calendar.  I improved personal records on 5k races, 10m races, 50k.  Running more, running faster, running more frequently.

And then, that pain in my heel.  I “knew” at the end of my run what it was.  It wasn’t an ache.  It was acute and localized.  I was pretty sure I had done something to my Achilles.  I was hoping it was a strain.  I ran a few more times, each time my pace suffered, my pain increased.  One last struggle of a run and the accompanying pain the next day, I knew I had to go to the doctor.

IMG_4181

And thus I find myself in an immobilizing walking boot.  My year of goals without fear is over.  I accomplished more than 1100 miles on a plan of 1000.  I ran something like 47 races even while missing more than a few while recovering in June and July.  I failed at some goals, but I succeeded at my most important ones.  It’s important now to focus on what I want to accomplish in 2018, and what this injury means for those goals.  Right now, there’s no surgery planned.  The doctor seems content to give me a few weeks in the boot anticipating that time should give me the time to heal and then work toward strength building.

I took too long to admit it, but I did. Like my experience in June, I tried to solider on and get it done.  Unlike my experience in June, I quit before it cost me more than it already had.  Perhaps a degree of learning or growing up on my part to realize that calling a strategic retreat isn’t an admission of defeat – it’s the appropriate reconsideration of the requirements given changing conditions on the battlefield.

Building an athletic level of fitness is not a means to fully prevent injury or illness.  It is, however, a means to mitigate those injuries or illness.  A runner may in fact be less likely to suffer a heart attack, but that runner is also more likely to have a heart that can mitigate the damaging effects of a heart attack.   Stronger hearts fare far better in both survival and recovery rates.  Because I’ve been running, because my body is strong an injury which may have completely ruptured my tendon 2 or 3-years ago, resulted in a partial rupture.  Why was my tendon prone to rupture? I’m less than 800 days away from age 50.  Time waits for no one, age will come to collect its toll.  The object is to resist.  As any personal trainer knows, resistance creates strength and strength allows further resistance.

The Reaper still remains, hiding somewhere in that hall of mirrors.  Ultimately, he will come to collect his due, but just like everything else in life, putting in the work to prepare for that which may come is the best way to get the best results from any encounter.

I’m determined at this point not to follow the path I followed in June.  I let my nutrition go and gained weight.  I focused on what I could not now do instead of what I could do and my conditioning suffered for it.  I’ve found vigorous activity keeps my emotions in check and keeps my head in all aspects of my Life’s game. I’m a better, more full and interesting person when I have been working out.  I’m determined not to see why I cannot run.  I am determined to see what I can do to maintain fitness while I’m recovering from this setback, what I can do to avoid a similar setback and what I can do to be sure I find the opportunity.  I’ve been duly reminded that I’m not 20 and bulletproof.  I’m screaming toward 50 and far from bulletproof, but I’m in the game.  If I’m to stay in the game, I need to be sure I’m more cognizant of the rules.   It’s all about resilience. Positioning oneself to be able to resiliently face the challenges in front of us is the key.

Doing the work – no matter how slow the results – to position yourself to best withstand whatever form the Reaper presents himself is your best bet for surviving and thriving despite the Reaper’s call, whether that’s wearing your seatbelt, or maintaining heart health and a generally healthy lifestyle.

Sometimes that means a strategic retreat.  Something that’s easier to acknowledge later in the battle than sooner.  In June when I hadn’t  accomplished anything that was hard to hear.  In December, it’s easier.  I’ve done the work, and now I have the perspective.  I’m glad – eternally grateful – that I realized that in the middle of my life, and not in the December.

Failure Potential

I had made up my mind that I would challenge myself this year.  I would try things I had a good chance of failing at doing.  I would try some new things.  In 2016, I set a volume goal and I hit it easily.  In fact, I really didn’t fail at accomplishing any of my goals last year, so among the goals this year was a challenge to do 5 things at which I might fail.

I actually did fail at my first attempt at a 50k – we accomplished about 30k, but decided to stop due to weather conditions and the potential (turned reality) of a harrowing commute home.

My second attempt at a 50k was my second “Failure Potential,” but although it took me just about 7 hours I completed it.  I really really really hate failing.  I got the distance, but in terms of trail races, it was a relatively flat course, so while it was a personal victory not to fail it wasn’t the most technical of courses.

My third “failure potential” attempt was another 50k on a very technical course and about 6100′ of elevation gain up and down a mountain. This as one I probably should have allowed myself to fail; about mile 10 I fell, gashed open my arm, broke a toe and damaged a tendon.  I was so delirious, I actually wound up adding an extra mile by wandering around a little off track. It took more than 10 hours on a course with a 10 hour limit, having been allowed to finish by virtue of avoiding course marshalls for the last 40 minutes or so.

So the fourth was another 50k, and at this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “if you’ve already done 2 what would make you think you couldn’t do it again?”  Here’s where my head was though: the last time I had done the distance, I had messed myself up.  Badly. I really wasn’t sure I was ready to do this again physically, I wasn’t sure I was mentally able to do it.  Frankly, I may not have been able to do it, but at the end of my first of 3 loops there was my friend Rich and his son.  I was such a great feeling seeing them there to welcome me in and to see me off that it was just what I needed to keep going.  Had they not been there to volunteer, I likely would have given it up.

So where am I for the fifth?  Originally, I had a different plan.  I am registered for a December 32-miler that’s described as “nightmarish” and with December weather in New England such as it is, I’m pretty sure this may be one of the bigger challenges of the year – except my boy now has an event on that day and I need to be there.  So I needed a different plan.

Another goal was to break two-hours running a half marathon.  I was able to accomplish that in October. 1:51:56, but a week ago I as given a bib for another half marathon with a three day notice on a much flatter course than the October race.  The week before that, I had run a 10-miler at an 8:18 pace so I really thought I had a good chance of beating that 1:52 time. And so it was, my Failure Possibility was to break 1:50:00.

Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor
That’s me in the orange shirt about 3 rows back. For the record, this was the Wave 2 start line. 9:00m/m runners don’t start at the starting line otherwise.

For the first couple of miles I was feeling good, but I really had to pee: the porta potties at the starting line were packed, so I had to wait.  Fortunately there were some on the route and I availed myself of one at mile 3.  That took about 40-50 seconds,  but my mile pace was still reasonable for that mile.  The real problem kicked in after that though.  I had slept terribly the night before; I went to bed too early, woke up in the middle of the night and was terrified I’d over sleep, so I stayed up.  It turns out running 13 miles on 4-hours sleep is really, really hard.  Never mind trying to beat a 1:50:00 pace.

It had rained all morning and through most of the race.  The course was part bike path and drainage was suspect, so on top of low octane fuel I was battling mud and the elements.  As 1:50 came and went I still had the opportunity to finish in under 2-hours.

And there it was. As I hit 13 miles, I was just over 1:55.  The last .1-mile+ was a path along a water element, which was flooded and muddy.  People were trying to avoid the water and mud by running  along the side, but if I tried that I’d never finish in under 2-hours, so I took the Spartan Race option and went through, high-stepping and all.  A minor victory in that I finished 1:57:38 so I had conquered the 2-hour mark twice this year and really twice in a month, but I failed at my time goal by almost 8-minutes. Or put another way, by about 30-seconds a mile.

My 5 opportunities for failure netted a 3 wins – 2 losses record.  Not bad, really. I found some limits, worked harder and got past one of them.  I’m going to try to beat that 1:50:00 time again, but it’s probably going to be next year before I can attempt it so I feel pretty comfortable that I can report out on this endeavor.  I learned more resilience from this than any other goal I’d set for myself, something I hadn’t anticipated.  The goal was to push myself by getting out of my safe zone.  What I got out of it was that I need to aim higher more often and what I learned was how resilient I can be.  Very awakening.

Very awakening.