Running Stories -- 2009
I am planning a sub 30:00 5K this year (previous PR is 37 minutes and change). I made the halfway point turnaround at sub 30:00 pace, but I felt it slip away from me on the way back to the chute, along with a lady who'd been right on my pace and pulled away. It's possible a chip time would have been sub-30:00 but this race was by the gun and I came in at 30:51. It was my first race where I hit sub 10:00 pace – very happy about that and I credit my Tuesday night tempo runs trying to catch Seth and the other 9 minute mile pack in Philly Runners.
The usual suspects (Jerrry, Mallory, Holly, Janine and her husband Mike, English Mike) and I went out to Media for the Media Five Miler last Friday, also known as the hilliest race you will ever encounter.
The hardest part of this race was actually getting there. Easy for me (and E-Mike) since I was driving. The rest of the crew was arriving on two different trains from two different directions. I arranged to pick up Jerry at the R2 stop in Crum Lynne. I had never been to Crum Lynne before, I just looked at a map and decided that was the easiest place for me to pick him up. Turns out the Crum Lynne train station is actually just a spot on the tracks with a small shelter on either side. I think Jerry was the first person to get off there in five years. Since there was nowhere to park on Jerry’s side of the tracks, I pulled into the parking lot of an abandoned-looking apartment building. There wasn’t a single other car in the parking lot. This resulted in me getting yelled at by somebody who I guess was the owner of the building, who was probably surprised to see me there since the train station looked about as abandoned as the apartment building. I was just about to start aimlessly circling around when I saw the train pull in, Jerry got in my car and we headed off to Media. I dropped Jerry off in town and went back down to the Media R3 train station to get everybody else. Philly Runners Rach and Dave live right around there, but unfortunately they were out of town that weekend. The station is at the bottom of one of the steepest hills I have ever driven on and was a preview of things to come. I picked everybody up, drove up the hill, stopped at the stop sign and then fried my clutch as we started back up. A few seconds later, I pulled over and parked. What everybody else didn’t realize was the reason that I pulled over so soon was not because I was afraid of getting stuck in traffic and not finding parking any closer to the race, it was because I wasn’t sure the car was going to get much farther after overheating my clutch. We got out and started walking up to the race. I noticed the distinct smell of fried clutch emanating from my car.
We picked up our bibs, I took the shirts back to my car, came back up to the race, and managed to run into Jerry, Mallory, Holly and E-Mike again. We started the race together, but, as expected, or least I expected it, they all lost me in the first thirty seconds. The race is two 2.5 mile loops, starting and ending on State Street in downtown Media. The start/finish area is pretty much the only flat part of the course. The rest is either all up or all down and you hit every hill twice. At the end of State Street, the course goes down, sharp right, sharp right, up, up, up. My first mile turned out to be 8:20, much faster than expected. I was really hoping just to keep a sub-10 for this race. My next three miles were all in the 9-9:30 range. The crowd support was great, we ran through mostly residential areas and everybody comes out of their homes to cheer. Media is a really beautiful town. The only complaint I have is that all the people out there hosing down the runners, although well-intentioned, made for a somewhat treachorous course, particularly the one wet spot on a downhill section on a sharp turn. We came around the first loop, back up on to flat State Street, back down, around, up, down, up, down, up. On the second lap, I was actually feeling pretty energetic, although I have no idea why, and I even noticed a downhill straightaway about a mile out from the finish that I hadn’t noticed on the first lap. I started really cranking down this hill, turned up another hill, emerged onto State Street and sprinted in the last bit. Total time: 45:11, way better than I expected. When I caught up with the other folks later, Jerry said my face at the end was “perfect”. Not quite sure what that means, but I’m guessing it means not very photogenic, so it’s a good thing nobody took a picture.
After the race, we headed over to Iron Hill Brewery, where we had an awesome meal, took some cool photos (see www.phillyrunners.org/photos2009.html) and ran into fellow Philly Runner and T3 triathlon club president, Mighty Marita.
In all, we all had a great time, it’s always fun to get out and run a race that is not on West River Drive. I hope more people will join us next year.
Truth be told, I’ve thinking about what to write for my LBRR (“long boring race report”) for several months now. No, seriously. I really have.
I thought, maybe instead of writing about the race, I’d write about my training. And I how I ran 1,000 miles in 18 weeks. And how I got in the best shape of my life. And how I finally lost those 7-8 extra pounds to get below 165. And how incredibly, incredibly hard the speed workouts were, only because I was in such good shape that I could push myself to the limit over and over and over again. And how I knew it was all coming together when I set 3 separate PRs (in practice) during the first week of my taper.
But then the race happened, and I knew I had to tell the story of October 4th, 2009.
Two weeks ago, I went out for an easy 18 mile jog at a lackadaisical pace, just for fun. But I didn’t plan it out right for some reason, and way underestimated the brightness and warmth of the sun. I sucked down as much water and Gatorade as I could get my hands on to during that run, but it wasn’t enough. In the end, I think I managed to finagle myself a wee bit of sunstroke.
And, as a result, every single run since then was a struggle. Something was clearly not right.
The morning before the marathon, I went out for an easy 4 mile jog with Sebastiaan. (And I could tell he was strong…very strong…because he was running 7:45s without a hint of effort.) Afterwards, I ran 3 or 4 striders to see if I could loosen up the legs. There was absolutely nothing there. Nothing at all. Those were easily the weakest striders I’ve ever run in my life.
Because of the bad running leading up to the race, I was very, very nervous (and a little frightened) about the marathon. If my legs weren’t there, I knew the only way I’d get my 3:10 is by running the RPMs real high (i.e., working hard…really, really hard). I told Jaime the night before that I was scared of the race and the pain to come…and that I was actually a little jealous of Jenny and her stress fracture because, if I were in her place, I wouldn’t have to experience that pain.
The morning of the race, Jaime, Sebastiaan, and I made our way to the Metrodome, dropped off our bags, and found a nice open parking lot with some strategically placed bushes. I did a little stretching, started to jog, took 10 steps, stopped, turned to Jaime, and said “I’ll be darned; there it is.”
I don’t think she was paying attention and really understood what I what meant…but I knew right then that my legs were back. And they were ready. Very ready.
To start the race, I squeezed myself relatively close to the start line. I figured I would jog out the first mile and just let the 3:10 group swallow me up, at which point I duck into the pack. After 2 miles, the group finally caught me and I worked my way into the 2nd row of the group.
The 3:10 group was shockingly large at Twin Cities. And once we got out of downtown and by the lakes, the roads were shockingly narrow. Not wanting to fight for position, I kept myself in the first row or two of the group. And whenever we’d come up on a water stop, I would shoot ahead so as to not fight the weaving crowd.
Miles 2-4 were normal for me. Those are my doubting miles. For some reason, it takes my body 3-5 miles to adjust to a pace, and during the adjustment process, all I think is “I can’t do this. I can’t hold this pace for 26 miles. It’s not going to happen.”
But then mile 5 rolled around, and I got into the rhythm of the group, with my stride feeling extraordinarily loose and comfortable. And I don’t know if the mile mark was off or not, but we came through at a 6:44. I have to imagine it was wrong, because the very next mile was 7:34.
For the next 5 miles, I locked on to two guys right at the front of the 3:10 group and let them pull me along. I remember nothing of miles 5-10, which is perfect, because I wanted to mentally and physically sleep as much as possible during the first half of the race.
At mile 10, I sprinted ahead at a water stop and then eased off, and waited, and waited, and waited…and finally the group caught me a full mile later. I figured I must have run a 7:45 mile because it was so easy. And then I caught my split. Mile 11 was a 7:04. And that’s when I knew. That’s when I had no doubt whatsoever that this was my day.
Wanting to conserve energy for just a smidge longer, I consciously let myself get absorbed back into the 3:10 group until the halfway mark.
When we crossed the half marathon point at 1:33:54 (yeah, the 3:10 group was moving a little fast), I slowly surged ahead and started to distance myself from the group.
Right after that, the course became decently more open and the wind definitely picked up. I was a little taken aback by the wind and starting ducking in behind people here and there wherever I could. And that’s when it happened.
Somehow, myself and three other guys got into a pace line. Each person would lead for a minute, and then drop to the back. And we rotated, and rotated, and rotated. We were clocking 7:05 miles and picking people off left and right. Over the next 5 miles, we must have passed 100 people. It was so unbelievably cool. It was definitely one of the neatest things I have ever done as a runner.
As we approached mile 19, I readied myself mentally for decently long hill that peaked at mile 22. I figured, it was there, at mile 22, that I would make my move and drop the hammer. I had the energy and I definitely had an extra gear that was ready to go. I knew that 3:07 was in the bag, and that I had a legitimate shot at 3:06.
And right as we approached the mile 19 mark, something in my right foot broke / tore / severely sprained. And, just like that, in a span of one footstep, my marathon was over.
Don’t be sad for me though. You know why? As crazy as it sounds, this is definitely close to the happiest I have ever been after a race. Sure, I didn’t get to finish. Sure, I didn’t get an official time. Sure, I didn’t get a PR. But man, that was the most awesome 19 miles ever. It was so incredibly awesome. Perhaps a once in a lifetime experience, in fact.
I’ll tell you what, I can’t wait to get out there and get back at it. It may take a while though, seeing as how I can’t even walk right now. But I’ll be back; there is no question about that.
Some of you may know that I have been trying to qualify for Boston for the past year. I missed it in Philly last year by 2.5 minutes, and then I missed it in Nashville in April by 18 seconds! I thought I was never going to run Boston! I was determined to qualify this time in Chicago. I had a great training group of Holly, Megan, Mike, and Dan. We pushed each other a ton, and I know I have gotten so much faster because of them.
Race day: Finally I had good weather for a race (the past 3 marathons were 90 degrees, 25 degrees, and 85 degrees). A bit chilly at about 35-40 degrees, but really, that's pretty perfect for a marathon. I started out running the race with Holly and 3 other girls from San Diego. We had some bathroom line issues, had to climb a fence to get to our corral, and basically got to the start as the gun was going off. Kind of crazy, but looking back, I actually never got nervous for the race because there was no time.
Gun went off, and we started out conservatatively going about 8:20's to 8:30's for the first couple of miles. Then we were able to setting into pretty consistent 8:05-8:10 minute miles. I was feeling great. I saw my family and friends several times on the course which was great. And having 1.5 million spectators was amazing! I was running with Holly and her friend Jenny for much of the race.
At the half, we were at 1:46 which was a great pace. We kept this pace and felt great until about mile 20. Jenny and I lost Holly here, but we knew she was close behind. I started getting a little bit tired here, but I was still hitting 8:10 miles. Then mile 23, I felt my legs cramp up (and I lost Jenny). It felt like I had charlie horses in both calves. I was in an incredible amount of pain. But I knew I had about 30 minutes to run the remaining 3.2 miles so that was encouraging. Although I wanted to stop and cry, I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other (but those 8:10 miles were gone!). I think I was literally talking to myself until the finish. I then hit the 25.2 mile mark (they had a 1 mile to go mark). I had 14 minutes to finish this last mile and still get under 3:40. So again I started yelling at myself that I had to qualify. Just telling my legs to keep working! And plus with so many spectators at the last mile, I knew I would feel like an idiot walking now.
So I powered through that last mile and finished in 3:35:29. Going to Boston!! And the great news is Jenny and another San Diego friend Nikki also qualified, and Holly was already qualified so the 4 of us are heading up there in April!
So anyway, thanks to Shanley, Patrick, and Jerry for being out there cheering for us. And thanks for all of the encouragement from everyone during my training. And thanks for the words of congratulations as well. I'm still on a high but am going to take a few days off from running to recover, but see you all out running soon!
My story could be somewhat different with what you expect on this board because I'm not an experienced marathoner. Actually I just started my running 2.5 years ago and was never athletic in any kind of sports (still not). I hope my story can help some people still hesitate their goal. :)
I did my first long run at 10M broad street run in 2007, and I did 5 half marathons before this Chicago Marathon. I joined Philly Runners on July when I started my scheduled running for marathon. Luckily I met great runners (thanks A-/B+ team!) and I could keep on my schedule. I really appreciate it.
So, this is my first experience of full marathon.
I'd panicked since the week before the race. Somehow I started feeling some pain my knees and feet and my confidence was suddenly gone. Actually I regretted telling so many people that I was going to run Chicago marathon. But many people cheered me up with saying that was natural (is that true?).
Finally on the race day morning, it was freezing in Chicago. The temperature was 36F and felt like under 32F. I didn't prepare for cold weather so I was worried, but after starting it was ok. Crowds were so cheerful so I couldn't feel any cold or nervousness. Until half, I felt great and kept following 3:50 pace runners (actually I started 5 min later so it meant I could finish 3:40s). However somehow after 15 miles I had some backpain and made speed a little slow down. Sometimes I have backpain during long run so I thought it was not a big deal and I decided to walk a little after 18 miles. But I think that was not a good idea. After walking a few minutes, my feeling was completely different and I felt severe pain on my legs too. and even worse, after 20 miles I had cramps on my both lower legs. I could say it was completely agony from 20 to 23. I thought I could never finish the race. Even walking was just pain.
It was such a whirlwind not even sure where to start!! I stayed in the FiDistrict so super easy walk over to the ferry at ~7am, which wasn't as chaotic as I feared. The boat ride over was amazing, seeing the statue of liberty and then onto the shuttle. I loved getting peeks of the bridge and couldn't believe just in general how just plain excited I was about the race, like first-time excited, even though it was my seventh marathon! I actually had heard horror stories about waiting around at Ft. Wadsworth but I actually thought that was totally fine (except a bit soggy!). I could imagine if the weather was really cold it would be much, much tougher but after not too long I was tucked into the corral and finally we made our way up to the bridge. Starting the run up the bridge was AWESOME, I loved the NY sinatra and the cannonball and i hit the first mile in 8:5x per the "even effort" pace band i had. then hit the next mile perfect down the bridge in 8:0x and then 8:22 and then i think the fourth mile is when the crowds picked up which made it really, really hard to run around 8:20s. It seemed with the crowds and weaving the best I could consistently do was like 8:32 and then at one point I tried to catch up a bit and ran another 8:0x mile so I felt back in it a little bit, but then just as I did, MORE crowds and I would get behind again. I told myself just to do the best I could and re-evaluate at the half. When I went by the half by my recollection I was 1:50:50ish. Being 100% realistic and knowing the Qboro bridge and all of CP was waiting I pretty much knew the BQ (3:40 for me)probably just wasn't in the cards. I tried to just tell myself to forget the time and have fun but I didn't feel tired and the pace didn't feel hard. When the streets opened up on 1st avenue even though it was uphill I felt GREAT. I FINALLY was in a rhythm. Wide streets and even pace, I ran several miles at exactly 8:16 a mile. But then another bridge, more crowded people slowing in front of me. The bridge didn't wear me out at all, I think mentally I was so sick of constantly dodging people to try and run my pace. When we were out of Harlem and heading towards Central Park I think I was on pace for 3:42ish. But then the VERY mixed emotions of having the best and most fun marathon of my life seemingly being completely incompatible with my time goals hit me. I allowed the hills of 23-26.2 to set up camp for a pity party that lasted until the finish, when I crossed in 3:44:43. It is a 7:24 PR for me.
I used the death march out of the park to absorb the blow. I sort of can't put it together, in that I had an AMAZING 2009 given that I broke my foot 12.30.08, didn't run more than 1 mile by st. patrick's day and not more than 6 miles by may 1st, and much to my surprise set 2 5k PRS, a 4mile PR, a 10k PR, a 10mile PR, a half marathon PR and a new marathon PR all by 11.1.09. I ran my favorite marathon of all (NYC) and had the best time. I think I was a little bit shocked that even though I knew NYC was a hard course, it was still, much much harder (hills, bridges, turns!) and more crowded than I ever expected. Being seeded in the very last corral of the second wave didn't help my cause either (I used a 3:53 as my seeded time). A small part of me felt that if I had been out running Philly or Chicago yesterday I would have gotten it, since the course was probably 2 minutes slower and I wouldn't have thrown myself the 24-26.2 pity party.
Because more than anything I struggled with the crowds limiting my pace my legs feel fine today and I don't feel like 110% used up or something, I think I have set my sights on the National Marathon in DC in March. I think I am going to just not focus on the BQ and just focus on making more improvements and if that works out to BQ or not I will still be happy.
Last but not least, I owe most of these improvements to Philly Runners and those that have spent the last several months of their Saturday's with me, the A-/B+ marathon team (Brian, Christian, Ben, Jae and others!). I literally have never had so much fun training as I have these past few months!
I wanted to share my marathon experience also because it was such a huge accomplishment for me. NYC was my very first marathon. In the weeks leading up to the NYC Marathon I developed a string of injuries from a torn muscle, Achilles tendinitis and a stress fracture. Basically, I was sidelined for 8 weeks leading up to the Marathon. Considering all the running I did before the injury I relied on my year round fitness. The morning of the race I wasn’t nervous at all, a bit scared yes, because I had no idea what to expect. My definite loss of fitness lingered in the back of my mind but seeing all the runners of different shapes and sizes was very calming.
I started in the Local Elite corral with some seriously fast looking people including the world record holder Paula Radcliffe. I had to neglect my plans of running a superb first marathon because of the injuries. Rather, I decided to just finish this race and chase a faster time in a future race. I was very grateful to just be on my feet again. I approached the first mile around 8:30 which felt a lot faster. I remember thinking as I ran across the Verrazano Bridge in the first 2 miles, “there is no way I can hold this pace” at some point after the first mile I could feel the pace getting faster eventually I approached the 5k mark at 20:51, 10k then 41:01. At some point after 15k I decided not to even think about my time. I stopped my watch and basically ran a pace that felt comfortable.
As I approached 15 miles I felt a cramp coming on, a problem that I’ve battled in several races in 2009. I actually thought my race was over around mile 16 as I slowed the pace and forcefully took in extra fluids and gels. As in most races I changed my stride while maintaining pace. The slight change in my strides allowed me to run through the last few miles averaging 6:45/mile. I kept telling myself to just remain calm and patient. As I entered 1st avenue, I was pretty much running alone. With no one within a few hundred feet of me I realized I might be in a bad situation. It was then I remembered doing my long runs alone and that this was what I had prepared for. Eventually I begin to see guys falter, sobbing on the curbs or screaming at themselves as their bodies couldn’t respond to the demands of the marathon. It was a bit heartbreaking knowing how much dedication is put into training. I approached mile 20 around 2:14 which was a bit comforting knowing that I was still on pace. From the intensity of the crowd I heard a friend screaming out “looking great Lavar, you are doing awesome” that little cheer gave me an extra boost of confidence as I powered through the cramps and muscled through 5th avenue and knowing that I was only a few miles from the finish I fed off the deafening cheers of the crowd. I entered central park and ran buy the 24 mile water feeling great. I actually avoided looking at the clock knowing that I just had to maintain pace and rhythm for a few more minutes. The last mile of the race was the most intense, seeing myself on the big screen as I entered the park I knew that somewhere out there my family could see me doing what I had set out to do. At that point I went from running alone to being swallowed up by hundreds of runners that seemed to be struggling in their last mile. As we approached the 26 mile marker I felt a sense of relief, accomplishment, pride and pure adrenaline. The thought of being exhausted was long gone by that point. I couldn’t believe the time at 2:58.28, my first marathon and a Boston Qualifier. It truly was an amazing experience and to complete my marathon in the NYC was even more amazing. I look forward to running in Boston in April. After all it is the most prestigious race in the running world, hopefully injury free.
Thanks to all the volunteers too. Somehow I managed to miss you all at the medal handing out but the race was organized really well and you guys were fantastic to give so much time.
My race was really great. First marathon ever so I wasn't sure what to expect. Met Michelle who was doing the half early on and really enjoyed her company for 11 miles until I could feel her pulling away for a burst to her finish line. Phil jumped in at 14 miles to give me some fresh support for the second half of the race. I kept waiting for the "wall" to hit but it seems that the Gu Chunks held it off. Once we were back on Kelly Drive I felt we were on home turf so I put the head down and picked up the pace for the last 5 miles. I realized at about Lloyd Hall that my supreme goal of a Boston Qualifier was possibly back on the table and literally sprinted up the hill and around the Art Museum but that finish line just didn't show up on time so I finished a measly 11 seconds slower at 3:46:10. Not in the slightest bit disappointed. I was thrilled to have the push in my legs for the last 5 miles. Thanks to the B+/A- team who's long training runs always finished in an all out sprint. When you train like that, it seems you can race like that!
Thanks to Philly Runners for being such an awesome club! I wouldn't have done any of this without you guys!
What a perfect day for a run! The weather couldn't have been better - 42 at the 7am start, 52 at 11am. The city did a pretty incredible job of organizing it, too. UPS did the bag check, and it took less than a minute to drop off and pick up bags.
The Philly Runners volunteers were great. Got a 'good morning' from Seth just before the start. I was able to get my medal from Kevin and Jae at the finish line. Having Caroline cheering and waving her sign at mile 25 was a boost. I never saw my Dad and kids at the finish, but they saw me, although they said we all looked alike at the end! I did see my mom at 21st and Chestnut, and she had a printed a sign and was screaming like a nut. I slowed down and handed her my sweaty gloves.
I'm pretty happy with the race. Final time was 3:39:22 and a PR. Very consistent pace, dropped a minute or two heading up Belmont, but also finished strong and ran my fastest splits at the end. No, I didn't qualify for Boston, but it wasn't too far off. A few more speed training sessions at Franklin Field and it's doable. I also felt I gave 100% and left it all out on the course. I busted my butt to make it under 3:40 and didn't realize the final cattle chute was 2 blocks long so really cranked hard at the end (where is that $%#! finish line??).
As soon as I stopped my left hamstring cramped up. Definitely due to the sprint at the end. Walked it off no problem within a few minutes. Really had no problems at all during the race. A couple twitches in my calves around mile 18 as we headed into Manayunk but nothing more. One potty break at mile 7, as always, and I did walk the water stops at miles 16 and 22. Finally drank more Gatorade than I wore!
I feel great. I definitely think the stretching/core routine I do every morning helps.I spent the day walking around the city with the kids and my family.
Distance Time Split Average to distance
Only 8:39 away from Boston qualifying (using that free :59 seconds for 3:30:59 qualifying time).
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