Saturday, April 24, 2010

Boston in the Bucket

"I'm going to run the Boston Marathon!!!"

That's what I felt like shouting this past Monday as I followed the race online. I really got caught up in the moment this year, tracking elites, people I follow on Twitter and even runners from the local area.  My emotions ranged from excitement at times all the way down to sympathetic at others.

I was downright giddy when it became obvious Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot was going to set a course record. And I was disheartened, yet inspired, to see how others, like Steve Walker, were both struggling and overcoming challenges throughout.

I should mention I have never run a marathon. I've run a few - and by few I mean three - half marathons, but nothing farther than that outside training.  Quite frankly, running a full marathon is something I haven't thought much about. I think partially it's because the allure of the distance has been diminished. It seems like everyone's running a marathon these days. And when celebrities like Oprah and Will Ferrell can complete them, what's the appeal?

The appeal of the Boston Marathon is that you have to earn the right to be there. Either by running for a good cause or by posting a qualifying time at another approved marathon. This, combined with the countless, inspirational race recaps I read, made me want to be a part of it.

Anyway, I decided to wait a few days before composing this entry to give myself time to think. I didn't want to make any proclamations while on a high. Besides, it's not like I just get to "decide" that I'll run Boston. That's up to the BAA.  Still, five days later I'm stepping out on a limb and going on record.

"I'm going to run the Boston Marathon!!!"

Now, here's where I clarify and hedge. As I said, I've never run a marathon.This is a long-term goal, and right now, according to the McMillan running calculator, I couldn't qualify. The statisticians and physicists on McMillan's staff say I should be able to run a marathon in 3:31:30, but I need a 3:20 performance to qualify in my age group. I would have to pick up the pace by 27 seconds per mile! For 26.2 miles! Is that even possible?

Until I get a marathon under my belt I'm not making any projections as to when I think I can qualify. Will I make it on my first attempt or my twentieth? I don't know. I do know that the Boston Marathon is now on my Bucket List and I will work towards meeting that goal in the months and/or years to come.

I want to hear for myself the encouragement of a half million spectators. I want to run through the scream tunnel at Wellesley. I want to conquer the Newton hills. I want to run into Copley Square.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Centerpoint Challenge 5K

Just a quick race wrap up of this morning's Centerpoint Challenge 5K. My goal was to beat my PR of 21:35 attained at the MetroFitness Turkey Burner 5K last fall. I knew if I was going to do it it would have to be soon, before the sweltering heat and humidity descends upon Alabama.

The race was held on a flat course in a neighborhood I run through on occasion. I warmed up for about 10 minutes prior to the start and then positioned myself at the line because of all the young kids up front. The gun went off and I found myself out front all alone, which was surprising. That didn't last long, however, as Paul Bonds quickly passed me once and for all. About the time he did I looked down and noticed my watch hadn't started. Cr@p! I started it up and tried to focus.

My breathing was labored, mostly because of the gunk I've had in my lungs the past few weeks. My chest was also tight from the pace. Despite these issues I was still able to keep Paul within my sights. I didn't expect to catch him and grew comfortable with the thought I might even place 2nd overall. That lasted until about the mile 2 mark, when a young kid passed me like I was standing still.

I rounded the last corner and caught a glimpse of the clock, surprised to see it hadn't turned 20 minutes yet. Damn, I thought. It's short. I picked up the pace and finished 3rd overall with a time of 19:56. My corrected time for the full 5K would have been around 20:37 based on my average pace of 6:38. Considering that's almost a minute faster than my last PR, I'm pretty happy. Also, I placed 1st for the Masters division. I won't let it go to my head since most of my competition was running the 10K, but it's still a nice achievement. I've never placed first before in any category.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Proper Nutrition

I was reminded this morning of just how important proper nutrition is for me when it comes to running.  I usually eat pretty well and have a good amount of energy, but today I felt heavy and slow. It's possible the oppressive humidity played a role, but if so I think it was a minor one.

It's not that I ate horribly yesterday. I had a lot of my usual eats during the day: peanut butter bagel, banana, apple, almonds, etc. I even had a couple of slices of honey wheat quinoa bread I made last weekend.

Maybe it was the bite-size Snickers I ate? Nah, I've done that plenty of times in the past without consequence, so I don't think that was it.

It certainly couldn't be dinner. I fixed a healthy meal of baked salmon with steamed green beans and new potatoes. Nothing wrong with that, right?

What's missing? Complex carbohydrates. Sure, the new potatoes I ate with dinner qualify, but it was a pretty small portion.

I usually carbo load at dinner, usually in the form of pasta or brown rice. And on the occasion I don't I'll snack on a whole wheat bagel before bed. I had none of those things yesterday and paid for it this morning. I'd say lesson learned, but this isn't the first time I've done this. I should know better by now.

So, do you experience disparate energy levels based on what you've recently eaten? I'm curious if my body's nutritional needs are just more sensitive than the average athlete.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Amphibious Warrior Mud Run

This morning I participated in the Amphibious Warrior Mud Run in Auburn, AL with friends Duane, Heather and Mike. It was being held by the Auburn University NROTC activity, and part of the proceeds benefited the Wounded Warrior Project. We ran the inaugural event's 5k together as a team and had a blast despite a few minor issues. The photo to the left was taken before the race, when were all relatively clean.

The race was supposed to begin at 10:00, but it quickly became apparent that wasn't going to happen when we noticed how long the registration line was at 9:30. Sure enough an announcement came saying it would be pushed back a little. It was starting to get sunny and hot, but it never did get unbearable. In the end they did a little better than I expected, and we began at around 10:20. At least we did. They started the race in waves, and we were fortunate enough to be in the first one. We later learned that the staggered start had some starting as much as an hour later. That would have been very disappointing.

The first "obstacle" of the course was a ¾ mile trek through a creek that began just a couple hundred yards into the race. It was mostly shallow, but for the majority of it we had to walk just to keep from falling or twisting an ankle. In a couple of places it got really deep without warning, and at one point Mike was in almost up to his head. I enjoyed this part, but felt it could have been shortened up a bit.

Once we left the water we crossed a field and came to a cattle fence we had to negotiate. After that we rounded a corner and were greeted by a few people that pelted us with water balloons! Some were kids, who were have a great time doing so. We then climbed over a 4-foot wooden wall and were greeted with the sight of mud pits! And these mud pits had wires running about 18" over them, so you had to - as Heather later said - "waller through the mud like pigs!" Initially I tried to make it through on my hands and knees, but finally succumbed and fell on my stomach when bystanders started egging me on.

There were a total of four mud pits all in a row, and none of us were spared scraped knees or knuckles by the time we completed them. Still, despite the awful smell it was part of the experience and a lot of fun. We run a short ways through the woods and when we exited had to perform the "hand grenade toss" with water balloons. We had to get ours in a square or else double back on the course a little as a penalty. I somehow managed to hit my target, but muddy, slippery hands kept Duane, Heather and Mike from getting theirs in.

Just up a little further up we came to the "Ammo Can" obstacle. One at a time we each had to carry a heavy ammo can (25 lbs?) down to a cone about 25 meters away and then back again. None of us had any problem with this task, even Mike who had turned his ankle earlier while exiting the creek.

The last obstacle was to once again crawl through the mud. This time it was under a narrow, makeshift bridge in the middle of a field.  After that we sloshed our way towards the finish, briefly getting wet from running under the high-powered stream of a fire truck's hose.

According to my Garmin we finished the course in about 52:51. And the distance was considerably longer than 5K, coming in at 3.86 miles. That works out to a 13:41 pace, which sounds awful but - really - who cares?!?! We're not yet sure how our team placed in relation to other co-ed teams because the race officials were having a problem getting things tabulated. Fortunately, they made the decision to inform everyone of this problem and asked everyone to check the website later for the results. If we win something they'll send it in the mail.

So, all in all it really was a fun time and they did put on a good inaugural race. The schwag bag had a nice tech shirt, bottle and lanyard, the course was well put together and race officials made up for their shortcomings by communicating well with the participants.

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, a post-race photo is to the right (click to embiggen). Mud found its way into every nook and cranny! Shoes, hair, shirts and shorts! Ooh Rah!