Monday, April 20, 2015

Race report: 119th Boston Marathon (2015)

Hooray! Marathon Monday is upon us again! The Boston marathon is a revered race in the running community. The 119th running was my third consecutive time running it. It didn’t disappoint…of course, it can be cathartic to complain about something and the weather forecast provided such catharsis. The race was still super fun! A few days before, this was the forecast. 

Burr! Needless to say, there was a lot of moaning and groaning within the online running community.

Exited to get going on my race weekend, I left Tampa, FL early Friday morning, flying into Manchester, NH.

I am fortunate my parents live pretty close to Boston so I can stay with them. This has so many benefits above being able to combine a family visit with a race; I get to eat my normal food and stick to a fairly similar routine, which is something that can be lacking when you travel for a race! I had mailed some food items to cut down on food preparation time and to ensure I had exactly what I wanted. Some may call this “rigid” or “fussy,” I call it rigid AND fussy, but I also call it being well-prepared. It makes me happy, reduces stress, and makes me happy. Who is against happiness?

Like every runner before a big race, I had been checking the weather, compulsively. In a nutshell and as you can see from the forecast above, it didn’t look good. However, the weather in the three days leading up to the race were beautiful: sunny skies and mild temperatures. But, really, who cares about the weather before a race? It’s race day that matters.This was a video I made on my Sunday shake out run, the day before the race. Look how beautiful the weather is!

The taper ought to be a time of celebration. It's when your hard work and preparation get rewarded with tons of rest. Although I walked quite a bit in the days leading up to the race, I had reduced my mileage and eliminated any additional cardio activity (elliptical, Stairmaster, bike) in the two weeks leading up to the race. Although I know I have rested, I struggled with not feeling as rested as I'd like. Why were my legs a little achy the day before? There were little feelings of discomfort on my shakeout that had me worried in the beginning, although they soon went away.

Race day arrived and I had slept well, which can be unusual before a big race. I made it to the drop off point in a light rain …

…but by the time the bus reached Athlete’s Village it had stopped. I only had about 30 minutes before I had to walk down to the start line and in that time I had another banana (my fifth of the morning) and a spot of coffee. It’s about ¾ of a mile from Athlete’s Village down to the start line and, as usual, the atmosphere was thick with excitement with runners making their way. I was still wearing my warm clothes, which I was grateful to have; the temperature was 41 without any wind-chill. About 5 minutes before the start I shed my sweat pants and trash bag rain jacket, keeping my sweatshirt, hat and gloves on. Unfortunately, the planned Army helicopter flyover was cancelled due to a low ceiling, which was funny; the news helicopters’ had no trouble flying over the crowd. Oh well. 10am arrived quickly and we were off. For those who don’t know, the first miles of the course are downhill. After a taper, and with extreme excitement and eagerness to run, it almost feels like you’re falling. Below is the course profile with my pace (the dip in pace at mile 14 came courtesy of a potty break)!

Early running is easy but IT’S A TRAP! Going too fast here can cost you later in the race. I managed to hold back and was quite pleased with the restraint of my first three 5K splits: 20:45, 20:29, and 20:40. I felt good and could have gone way too fast! At mile 8 the rain began and at mile 11 is was a complete deluge. I was soaked and, worst of all, my shoes were soaked. I cannot emphasize enough how miserable I was between miles 11 and 13. It was so cold. My face felt frozen. In short, it was very uncomfortable! My metal game went out the window with the downpour and I had to battle to get it back. I kept on and when I checked my watch at mile 16, saw a 6:31 split, and felt good, I knew I had made it through the worst. I would not allow any mental weakness for the remainder of the race! Next up was the Newton hills, culminating with Heartbreak hill. I knew the hills started at mile 16 and ended around mile 21. I told myself I was up for 5 miles of work and my reward would be an easy 5 (mostly downhill) to the finish. I used a few mantras during the hill climbs including “run within yourself” and “do what you can do in this moment.” Furthermore, I refused to look up the hill. I kept my gaze about 20 feet in front and hammered it out. The final 5 were not as easy as I told myself they would be, due to the pounding my legs took in the hills, but it was nice knowing I was so close to the finish. At this point, I saw my average pace, up until this point, was 6:44 and I knew, barring anything unforeseen, I would be achieving my primary goal time: under 3 hours. I was very happy but I tried not to focus on the finish, yet. “Do what you can do in this moment!” I ran as hard as I dared (could?) in the last 5 miles and I felt great! Turning onto Boylston is a real treat; you can see the finish line in the distance and the crowds really motivate you to go all out!
I crossed the line in 2:57:39. This was my third time running Boston and I had made it a goal to go under 3. 

It turned out, in spite of, or perhaps because of the weather, to be a fantastic day…until I stopped running. Wow, that is when the cold hit me. Luckily, my parents were quickly on scene and had a sweater and jacket for me but it was still SOO cold. I knew I’d be posting about the race so I took a few (freezing) minutes to take some photos. 

The walk to the car was brutal but I made it to the sweet warm cocoon. Speaking of sweet warmth. This review is being written on an insanely turbulent flight back to Tampa but I have warm temps to look forward to upon my arrival.
Congrats to all runners who ran today! You’re all amazing athletes!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Image is everything, or is it?

Don’t we all want to be thought of, or seen, in the best light possible? When we identify with a particular sport/job/activity, it’s pleasant to work hard at it, to become better and see improvement. When those efforts are recognized by others it only serves to increase one’s feeling of well-being an enhance one's self-image. It’s a basic tenet of the supervisor-subordinate relationship: praising the effort, rather than the result, achieves greater success and happiness in the subordinate. Of course, we all know that one has to be happy with one’s self to truly achieve happiness. It’s a repeatedly cited cliché but Whitney was right: learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all
Anyway, enough of all that; if you’re reading this then it’s likely you accessed it from Twitter. Social media allows us to present out best selves. Social media doesn’t care if you love yourself; it cares about presenting your best self. The side of self that will be looked up to the most, appreciated and “liked/favorited” by as many people as possible. 

We often show only the side that makes us look like the superstars we all are. This is my blog so take me for example, I ran 20 miles today! Wow! Yes, I know, that is a long way. If you’re reading this then you may be (probably?) thinking, “Plantfedrunner is one freaking amazing guy! I want to be just like him. I wish I could go out and run that far and be so freaking awesome, like him!” (Don’t unfollow; I jest!) Ok, that may not be exactly what you’re thinking but the fact that I posted my long run earlier today painted me in a pretty positive light, especially if you’re a runner and into that kind of thing. What you don’t see is the struggle I had on the run. It was hard. I needed the motivation of my wife when, at around 7 miles, I ran into her near the house. I stopped and walked with her for a bit. She told me to “just get it done” and that I’d be really happy if I did it. I knew she was right but when you’re not in the right mindset it’s very difficult to focus on a future feeling. Social media doesn’t care about that. It’s the end result, not the journey that followers, me included, like to see. I like to see all my online friends activities and postings because it can be motivational. I don’t think (often enough) about how hard it was for them to run that day or what else they had to sacrifice to get it done. Just waking up can be a PITA and getting out of that sleepy, relaxed mode can be super hard! I will try harder to appreciate the effort that goes into the work and workouts you all post!

There is also the faulty self-image that social media and our training logs can provide. I like looking back at my training block to see what I’ve done. It can be comforting to know you’ve worked hard at achieving a goal. “Trust your training” is great a mantra to overcome race day anxiety! 

 But comparing ourselves to others is (mostly) not a good thing. True, it can provide motivation to better our selves but, overall, we are our own person and should embrace it. That brings me to the real reason for this post. I have been looking at my Tweet statistics and am not getting much attention. Apparently, photos increase the attention each post receives. Duh, of course! I know I like seeing personal photos! During my run I knew I was going to take a few photos to post immediately after my run. The only thing is that I was tired at mile 7. At mile 20 I would be exhausted. Who cares! A photo is just a snap shot in time. It does not have to capture my fatigue! 

I also remember seeing a photo of Rich Roll that, I thought, captured the grace of running. Even though it is not a typical running step, Roll looks strong and elegant. FYI, I just copied the photo from his site. If you want to check out his podcast, click here!

I’m that kind of runner (I thought). I will recreate that photo.
Post run, I walked in the door and immediately ask wifey to come out and take a few photos and a video of me. The photos are not too bad but, unfortunately, the video captures the real me. 

Not the imagined elegant and graceful runner I imagine myself to be. This is pretty self-depreciating so, in my defense, I did just run 20 miles. Enjoy!
Ahh, but what happens if I take some stills from the video?

Admittedly, these photos still do not paint me as the most elegant or graceful runner but they are clearly better than the video. Lesson learned: It is easy to adjust the image you portray to your followers. Are your photos showing the real you or the "you" you choose? Either way, I guess, it's all fun!