Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Boston Marathon 2018 Recap

I don't know if I ever considered way back in July 2007 when I started writing my thoughts in this blog about my quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon, that less than 11 years later I would have completed five 'Bostons'!

The most recent was yesterday's 2018 Boston Marathon.  It was brutal.  It was cold (4 degrees C / 39 F at the start -- although that is actually a good running temperature for me) but also windy (25 - 40 km/hr winds, right in your face) and raining.  I'd definitely believe predictions of 4 cm (1.5") of rain during the marathon.  The rain never stopped.  Sometimes it would seem to lighten up a bit -- and then a deluge would come and bring you back to earth.  But 25,746 of us finished (26,948 started) so I'm proud to be among that group.

Anyone who completes a marathon is a hero in my mind.  But anyone who completed yesterday's marathon had to have something extra, for sure.  Drive?  Perseverance? Guts? Stubbornness? I don't know. All I know is that I was quite proud to being among those people who made it the full distance yesterday.

Unfortunately, though, this may actually be my last 'Boston'. We'll have to see, of course, but I have been diagnosed as needing a hip replacement, so there is definitely a question as to whether I'll be as strong as I need to be in order to get another BQ.  Time will tell.

My time in this one was 4:03:41 -- well off my personal best in 2009 (3:30:38), but about where I expected to be given my hip issue and the weather.  My buddy, Eric Martin, ran with  me for the first 10 miles but I couldn't keep the pace on which we'd decided, so I told him to go on ahead.  He finished in 3:48:46 which was excellent.  Even the elites were slow this year -- the slowest in about 30 years, in fact -- so the weather was slowing everyone down.  My guess is that we each could have taken 10-15 minutes off our times if it was half-decent weather.

Here is how Strava saw my race: https://www.strava.com/activities/1513042383

What is very interesting is the elevation and speed chart:
My prior Boston experience helped on this run.  I knew I had to save energy for the Newton hills.  I knew some of those hills were long, but definitely do-able.  I knew that once you were done the hills, it was generally downhill from there and you just had to keep putting one foot in front of another to make it to the end without stopping.  In fact, my goal (which I achieved) was to not walk at all.  I did stop three times for kisses -- once at Wellesley College, and twice when I saw Jenny on the route.  But then I got right back to the run.

So I kept slogging along.  At first my goal was to hit a respectable time in the first half of the marathon. 1:53:41 was slow, but considering the weather, it was respectable.  And then my goal was to just keep moving forward as I was able to count down the miles until the finish, trying to ignore the pain in my left hip: 12 miles -- that's just a loop of Springbank Park from Gibbons Park.  10 miles -- that's just from Gibbons to the Pump House and back.  8 miles: I'm almost two-thirds done! Gibbons to Guy Lombardo Museum and back. 6 miles -- just a little 10k run.  5 miles -- right after Heartbreak Hill -- that's just around a country block. 2 miles: That's just an out-and-back for Mile Repeats at Gibbons Park.  And that is how I got through it.

The volunteers and fan support definitely helped.  Apparently 9,500 volunteers signed up to get us on the buses to Hopkinton, give out water and Gatorade along the route, help in the medical tent, give out medals, ponchos and food after the race, keep spectators off the road and I'm sure a thousand other tasks that needed to be performed.  And while a typical Boston Marathon might have as many as a million people lining the route, I'd be willing to be that half that number came out in the cold, wind and rain to cheer us on.  Even with the conditions, I had to really look hard to find Jenny in the crowd the two times I met up with her.

At the end, I ran across the finish line upright and smiling, which was a definite improvement on 2009's finish when I crawled across the finish line.  After that, though, I stiffened up very quickly.  I got my medal and 'heat poncho' and made my way to the hotel which was only about 600 m. away.  But it probably took me 15 minutes to get there. I was walking like a stick man, and leaning up against buildings as I made my way to the Park Plaza hotel.  Eric was there -- already showered and changed -- and Jenny arrived shortly afterwards.  I got into a warm bath and had a beer and after about a half hour of that I started to feel like a human again!

If I had to do anything different, I would have trained a bit faster.  I did a lot of long runs at a 5:45 to 6:00/km pace.  I really should have been at a 5:19 pace, which was my long run pace when I trained for my personal best in 2015.   Realistically, though, I don't know that my bum hip would have let me go that fast.  The 55-70 mile/week Advanced Marathoning plan was the one to do, for sure, which meshed very well with Coach John Ferguson's marathon training clinic at Runners' Choice in London.  While I didn't set the world on fire with my finish time, I felt that I was able to finish respectably considering the course and conditions.

Boston, you are a tough beast to slay, and you were tougher this year than most others.  I hope we shall meet again!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ragnar Tennessee 2015 - Team Best - 26:47:33

Another epic adventure with the Geezer Guys at the Ragnar Tennessee 198 mile relay race this weekend. Our finish time was 26:47:33.4 (approximately) which placed us 2nd out of 6 teams in the Men's Masters division, and would have placed us 4th out of 29 in the Men's Open division. Overall we were 18th out of 295 teams.

Team members this year were:
(Capt'n) Bob Weir
(Rocky) Kevin Garlick
(Ripper) Bob Ripley
(Easy) Gord Ball
(Geswin) Nick Groot
(Rotten) John Ferguson
(Sir) Eric Martin
(Iron) Mike Blencowe
(Stallion) Bruce Lamb
(La Duke) Dave LaDouceur
(G-Man) Gerald Macdougall
(Wheezer) Arnie Spivey

... although Wheezer Geezer was only able to join us after the actual race was done due to work commitments.

There were some very tough legs -- one so tough the La Duke got a medal just for completing it -- 10.2 miles with an elevation gain of 1079 ft and elevation loss of 1161 feet!  I had the second-toughest (1303 ft of elevation gain, 171 feet of elevation loss), and no question the toughest 10 K I've ever done.  I walked-ran about two-thirds of it.

Comparing to other Ragnars, this was our team best:

Chicago (2011): 28:34-ish, estimated by Arnie (3rd Mens Masters, 192.5 miles-ish)
Las Vegas (2012): 27:43:13.3 (3rd Mens Masters, 20th out of 230 teams, 196 miles)
Colorado (2013): 28:26:42.7 (2nd Mens Masters, 23rd out of 194 finishers, 192 miles)
Adirondacks (2014): 27:04 (2nd Mens Masters, 30th out of 295 finishers, 197 miles)
Tennessee (2015): 26:47:33 (2nd Mens Masters, 18th out of 292 teams, 194.8 miles)

Everyone gave it their best on every run and, most importantly, no runners went off course!

Another awesome weekend with the Geezers.  So looking forward to the next one!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Erie Marathon: 3:24:37 PB. BQ. Going to Boston!!!

This blog has been very silent over the summer training session for two reasons:

1.  I've been spending so much time running, I haven't had a lot of time to keep the blog up-to-date, and
2.  There wasn't really a lot to talk about anyway.  We did the 50-70 mile program from Advanced Marathoning and while the miles were long, they weren't particularly hard.  Really, the average post would be the distance and average pace.  Not very exciting.

So I'll chat about the paces we did from the program.

Ultimate Goal Time: 3:28 or better in order to qualify for Boston
Race Goal Time: 3:25
Training Goal Time: 3:23

So we were going to train as if we were targeting a 3:23, run the race as if we were going for a 3:25 finish, and if everything fell apart, we'd hope to hold onto a 3:28 finish time.

I say "we" because Bernie LeForte agreed to pace me for the training and the race itself.  It was a real bonus having him join me for those long runs because they would have been pretty boring running solo.

Within the Advanced Marathoning program, there were several types of pace:

Long Run (10% slower than marathon pace) 5:19  per kilometre
General Aerobic (15% slower than marathon pace): 5:31  per kilometre
Recovery Pace: 5:31  per kilometre
Half-Marathon Race Pace: 4:44  per kilometre
5K Race Pace: 4:12  per kilometre

For the race itself, we were looking for a 4:51 or 4:52 pace per kilometre to meet the 3:25 goal.

On race day, the conditions were near-perfect.  The weather was overcast with a temperature of between 14 and 16 degrees C.  There was a strong wind from the north, but it was really only a factor for about 2 kilometres of the 21.1 km (two loop) course.  The sand dunes and trees provided excellent cover from the elements on race day.  And the course was as flat as you could ever ask for.

Here are my splits:

Split Time
1 04:51.9
2 04:50.0
3 04:49.0
4 04:49.7
5 04:48.8
6 04:49.1
7 04:52.1
8 04:51.4
9 04:49.7
10 04:51.6
11 04:49.1
12 04:46.6
13 04:52.4
14 04:51.2
15 04:50.3
16 04:50.1
17 04:54.2
18 04:50.3
19 04:50.2
20 04:50.5
21 04:51.3
22 04:47.7
23 04:49.7
24 04:51.9
25 04:50.9
26 04:51.3
27 04:58.4
28 04:48.6
29 04:51.2
30 04:48.4
31 04:51.3
32 04:50.9
33 04:51.3
34 04:55.8
35 04:54.7
36 04:50.3
37 04:51.5
38 04:53.8
39 04:47.0
40 04:50.8
41 04:42.0
42 04:46.7
43 01:15.4

Remarkably consistent, and during the last 4 km, I decided I could ramp up the pace a bit.  That last time -- 1:15.4 -- was for the last 300 m. of the course and was at a pace of 4:11/k (5K race pace)!

Bernie developed groin cramps at around 17 miles so he told me to go on ahead and keep the steady pace, which I did.  He finished about 3 minutes behind me.

For hydration, I took Gatorade (or whatever it was) at almost ever hydration station (every mile).  For carbs, I made up several tubes of my potato, honey and salt concoction and had one tube (half a large "Mr. Freezee" tube) every 4 miles, other than at Mile 20 where Jenny had handed me a baggie with orange slices and pineapple which got me through the rest of the race.

My challenge in my previous marathons was leg cramps -- particularly my left hamstring -- starting at between 15 and 16 miles (24-25k).  In this race, though, my training allowed me to get through those kilometres unscathed.  There was a bit of a slow patch at km 27 (I just wasn't paying attention to the pace) and then at kms 34 and 35 (headwind).  I decided with 2 km to go, I could pick up the pace but with 800 m. to go, my left hamstring threw a cramp at me and I had to ease up a bit.  But when I saw Jenny at the finish and Coach John jumped out of the crowd to run me in, I picked up the pace a lot and finished strongly.

In summary, the training we did make this the easiest marathon I've ever done.  It was mind-boggling, really, how at 22 miles (when I'm normally just trying to hold the race together), I was thinking how steady and easy the race was going.  I didn't want to pick up the pace at all, lest I risk having hamstring cramps again, so I just followed the target pace that Bernie and I set out at the beginning.

And here are the overall results:


Thank Yous

Obviously, the biggest thanks has to go to Bernie LeForte, who got me onto the Advanced Marathoning program after his successful results, and who ran with me for almost all of the training runs and almost all of the marathon.  A huge commitment, and something only a true friend could do for another person.

Jenny was awesome and so supportive -- both physically on marathon day with supplies for the run, not to mention driving to and from Erie -- but also emotionally, supporting my 18 long weeks of training.  Knowing that the end goal was to be able to run Boston with her in 2016 gave me the motivation to get out there every day to work hard to reach the goal.

Coach John Ferguson was also there for us with advice and support to allow us to execute our Advanced Marathoning program within his regular marathon training program.  As he said at the start of this season's session, in the ideal world he'd have a custom program for each one of us depending on our abilities and goals.  Allowing us to be the renegades of the group by doing different speed work and slightly different tempo runs was great.

Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Walker wrote Advanced Marathoning and deserve thanks as well -- even though they have no idea that I even exist.  But I'm sure they wrote the book with people like me in mind -- who needed a plan to take them to the next level in their marathon running.  It worked.

And finally, many thanks to the whole Runners' Choice Marathon Training Group.  The emotional support of that group allows one to get through the tough runs, and the willingness of members to step up to keep me company on some of the (otherwise) solitary runs (Brian Watson, Dave LaDouceur, Brian Kilburn, Gord Ball) was a real benefit.


I'm going to have the smile on my face for days or weeks to come.  It was a long program and a lot of work, but the results were 100% worth it.

In April 2016, Jenny and I will be running the Boston Marathon together for the second time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First "Advanced Marathoning" Speed Work - 8 mile warmup, 10 x 100 m. strides...

Today was my first "speed work" session as per the Advanced Marathoning book. The schedule called for 13 km (8 miles) of warm-up (!) at a relaxed pace (5:31/k. was what I was aiming for), followed by 10 repeats of 100 m. sprint/stride-outs.  Here are my splits:

My 100 m. stride-outs were each about 18 or 19 seconds, with a break of between 1:20 and 1:30 seconds.

The total distance, including stride-outs and jog-backs was 15.3 kilometres.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Excellent Speed Work at Gibbons Park - 6.5 miles with 3 miles at sub-7 minute miles

Tonight I met the group at Gibbons park for our speed work session.  This session marked week one of the 18 weeks leading up to the Erie Marathon on September 13.

Without a dedicated plan in place, Coach John suggested 3 miles at "repeat" pace.  Bernie and I wanted a bit more than that, so we compromised with 2 miles at "marathon" pace and then 3 miles at "repeat" pace of 7:10 or better.

Here are  my mile splits:

7:21.81 (targeting 7:56) No break.
7:34.99 (still targeting 7:56) 3 minute break
6:56.06 (targeting 7:10)
6;53.56 (targeting 7:10)
6:49.51 (targeting 7:00)

My legs were feeling it for the last two, but we got through it.  It was great having Bernie next to me keeping the pace.  So my average pace for all 5 miles was 7:06.99 and my average pace for the 3 "repeat" miles was 6:52.71.

I'm pretty happy with this result.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

16 mile long run at 4:59 average pace...

Today the group was doing a 12 mile long run, so I added the "Erie Breakfast Club" 4 miles prior to the groups run to get in a total of 16 miles.  Brian Kilburn and I ran together at a comfortable pace -- probably around 5;15 per kilometre.

When the group started to run, I found myself running with Paul Arnold who is an excellent (younger!) runner, but I was able to keep up easily.  We were doing about a 4:48 pace for much of that run and I was still able to chat in short sentences.  He was barely breathing hard though!  About 3/4 of the way through that run, he wanted to step it up a bit for the run back to the club, so I joined with Billal, Marc Labreche and Gord Ball for the last segment from the pump house back to Goodlife.  Eventually it was just Gord and me and while that last 500 m. from the King Street bridge was tough, we got through it okay.

All told, I was at a 4:59 pace -- so just a hair slower than marathon pace.  Apparently, though, I'm going to have to get used to running super-easy for these long runs if I'm to follow the Advanced Marathoning schedule.  I need to save energy and leg muscle for the tempo runs.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Toronto Goodlife Fitness Marathon - 3:39.43 with Walk/Run for Last Half Due to Hamstring Cramps... Personal Best Half, Though!

Well, I have to say that I really like that course. The first half is super fast, despite a few uphill segments. I was barely working and still pounded out a personal best Half time of 1:39:23. But at 23 k, my left hamstring started cramping on me. It got worse and worse as the run went on, so my rule was that if I had two cramps in a row, I'd walk for 10 seconds and then pick up a trot again. Pretty much the last 12K was walk/run.

Still, I managed a 3:39:43 which is about 7 minutes faster than when I went through the same scenario in Columbus last fall, and my fastest marathon since I ripped my right hamstring a few years back.

Here are my splits:

06:08.1 (kilometre 23 - first hamstring cramp)
04:17.7 (downtown Toronto -- GPS was wonky)
06:32.3 (kilometre 31 - average pace so far: 4:56)
02:04.3 (for 400 m. at 5:15 pace)

Here is an elevation and pace chart from https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/764824050 :

While I was getting tired and beat up otherwise, clearly the cramps were the big problem causing me to need to walk. I could get through a single cramp, but when I'd hit two in a row, I'd walk for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds and try to stretch it out.

Jenny and I did lots of research on cramps after the run. This site does a very good job of explaining the symptoms and issues in trying to find the solution:


Jenny also found this:

and then click on the See Also links at the bottom for more

Same info in a much shorter version:

"Researchers are now considering the possibility that cramps are a phenomenon related to “altered neuromuscular control”, stemming from multiple factors including fatigue, muscle damage and genetic make-up. The new theory doesn’t offer any quick fixes, but it suggests that proper training and pacing could help minimise your risk.

Research comparing cramp-prone Ironman athletes to their non-cramp-prone peers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa found that hydration and electrolyte levels in the two groups were almost identical. And a forthcoming study from the Brigham Young group found no change in volunteers’ susceptibility to cramps after they lost three per cent of their body mass through sweat. The neuromuscular cramp theory was first proposed in 1997 by UCT sports physician Dr Martin Schwellnus, who asks: “If it’s a systemic problem like dehydration, then why doesn’t the whole body cramp?”

Your muscles are always held in a delicate balance between an excitatory input that encourages them to contract, and an inhibitory input that encourages them to relax. If this balance is upset, Schwellnus says, “the muscle gets twitchy”, and if the imbalance persists, it leads to a full-blown cramp.

Interestingly, Schwellnus’s study of triathletes found that those who developed cramps had set higher pre-race goals and started at faster-than-usual paces. And in a further study he found that crampers tended to have trained more in the final week before the race. So the lesson is to taper for your races, train adequately and pace yourself. "
- From TriRadar.com, Sept 2013, by Alex Hutchinson
(who writes for Runners' World a la Dr. Mirkin)

Schwellnus' study abstracts are here:

So the answer is simple: train "properly" and "adequately", and get "appropriate" rest. Oh, and don't be genetically disposed to cramps. :-)

We're meeting with Bernie LeForte tomorrow night to discuss his (high mileage) training regimen that allowed him to take 10 minutes off his already-fast PB, getting a 3:14 in Toledo.

Training for Erie in September starts Tuesday.