Boston Marathon 2014

IMG_2696On April 21, 2014 I ran in the Boston Marathon. A lot of you probably know the story of my journey to get to the starting line. I ran under the necessary qualifying time for my age (3:14:59) at the Chicago Marathon in 2012 (3:13:53). Then after the bombing at Boston in 2013, the demand to attend the race shot through the roof, and my qualifying time ended up being 31 seconds short. It was only the second time in history that not every qualifier was allowed into the race. It was a bummer. I tried to find a way to get in, but had pretty much given up hope and started training for the Illinois Marathon instead, which was to be run 4/26/14. Then two things happened. The first was a contest on Facebook sponsored by PowerBar, where they asked runners to tell them why running Boston meant so much to them. Facebook users then voted for the 10 best stories, and then PowerBar selected the top 4 to get race entries. My story, which was about how I took up running after my Chilean mountaineering trip/injury, and how I wanted to use running Boston to teach my twin girls perseverance, got me into the final 10 but not the final 4…so no entry. But then the second thing happened. A friend of a friend heard about my story on Facebook, and they in turn relayed that story to the Brassard family, who had been injured in the 2013 bombings, and had free race entries to give away. They reached out to me in January to offer a race spot to me, no strings attached…and voila…dreams really do come true! All things considered, as in, Chicago’s record setting crappy winter weather considered, my training went very well. I’ll run outside in the cold and snow and darkness no matter what, and I managed to get in about 95% of my training volume although there were a few I had to slow down my tempo, speed, or race pace intervals due to safety and average. Regardless, I still managed about 45 miles a week or so January straight through to April.

Miles run per week since December
Miles run per week since December

In spite of that, come March, I was not that sure where my fitness stood. I raced the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 8k and soon found the answer: my fitness was excellent. I PR’ed that distance by over 2 minutes and ran a pace just a few seconds off my 5k personal best. All systems go! We headed out to Boston on Friday night before the race. It was a family affair…Mary and the twins were all tagging along to cheer me on. The girls got a big thrill on the flight on out as the pilots invited them into the cockpit when we were boarding. They got to sit in the seats and push some buttons…you’d think they had died and gone to heaven.

Pilots in Training!
Pilots in Training!

We ended up staying on the first floor of an old Victorian home 3-flat in Jamaica Plain just outside the city. It was another friend of a friend setup and it turned out to be a phenomenal situation. The occupants upstairs invited us for waffles Saturday morning, and even gifted the girls with surprise Easter baskets on Sunday morning – placed discretely outside our door. Awesome! PizzaSaturday Mary and I went to a Red Sox game at Fenway while the twins did the duck boat tour (they loved it!!!) with my mom. Saturday night my aunt and her friend hosted a pizza party for us out in Newton. My aunt Sudi lived in Boston for over 30 years, although she now lives in Santa Barbara, so she was back to see me race and re-connect with old friends so she had quite the soiree put together. Sunday I did short run around Jamaica Pond with Mary, and then we did packet pickup and cruised the expo – although it was crazy/stupid crowded, and involved way more standing around and waiting than I would have liked. I did pickup a pair of Saucony Kinvara 5 running shoes, hot off the presses, and a new race singlet. We walked to the finish line area and took some pictures, and got to see first-hand the bombing spots along Boylston. Image We met my friend Mark and his wife for a late lunch – I was in marching band in high school and U of I with Mark – he now lives in Arizona but was also there running. Sunday night we did quiet pasta dinner at home with just Mary and the kids, and then I drove over to Wellesley to stay with my friend Bruce Noxon at his brother’s house. Bruce and his brother Stephen were both running in the race – Stephen has been instrumental in the MR8 charity campaign to commemorate Boston bombing victim Michael Richard. I slept good…felt good – onto race day! One of the nicest parts of this race is that the first wave does not go off until 10am – so no scrambling around at 5am to get to the race start. We downed some banans, bagels, and peanut butter for breakfast and slapped on some sunscreen. Bruce’s father, Woody, drove Bruce and I to the start area in Hopkinton – about a 20 minute drive or so from Wellseley. You can’t drive right to the start line…you either take a bus from Boston, or take a bus from a staging area just outside Hopkinton. We did the latter obviously, and arrived in Hopkinton about an hour or so before the start. Security was tight…we got searched a couple of times and there was a law enforcement agent every 10 feet in Hopkinton. At the start you spend most of your time in a huge staging area at the local school called the Athlete’s Village. They have huge tents setup outside, food, drinks, and a million porta-potties. They stage the waves and corrals from there and it is about a 10 minute walk back into town to the start line area. I mostly just sat around…Bruce was in the first wave, so he took off pretty quickly. I was in the first corral of the second wave…so my start time was 10:25am. With 45 minutes to go I downed my 16ounces of Generation UCAN – it’s a supplement I can’t recommend enough…for either long distance running or triathlons. Meb Keflezighi uses it, and used it that day for a victory in the race, and it has been rock solid for me throughout my training. No GI issues, and lots of fuel in the tank. With 30 minutes to go they started releasing the 2nd wave to get to the start. I did a last porta potty stop on the way, and then strolled up to Corral #1. It was nice to be in the first corral of this wave – you get a clear road ahead of you, and get to actually see the start line area up close and personal like you see it on TV. It’s a really small town, and a small 2-lane road, and in-person it all looks even smaller. There were 9000 people in my wave spread out in 8 corrals – but it did not feel cramped. I stripped off my extra clothing, fired up the Garmin, and waited for the gun. I remember feeling very calm. A lot of my pre-race nerves come from just the unknowns of getting there, being healthy, trying not to forget anything…standing there counting down to the gun I felt clear and focused in mind and body. I was done at my race weight, fit, and ready to go! The gun goes off, and it’s go time. The first miles are mostly downhill – the first mile in particular feels straight down – it has an average negative grade of 2.1%. Here is a look at the overall course elevation profile.

Elevation Profile
Elevation Profile

There are lots of crowds right around Hopkinton, but once you get out of there you spend most of the first half of the race just hopping from town to town. The towns all have great crowds but in between there are sections of strange quietness. I chose not to wear headphones, so it was a bit surreal to be out in those quiet sections with few spectators and only the sound of the runners around you. Heavy breathing. Footfalls on the pavement. My pacing strategy was to go even effort, with a moderate fade at the end. My pace per mile would vary a lot based on the terrain. Sections predominantly downhill would be a little quicker, sections predominantly uphill would be slower. I used Greg Maclin’s MyMarathonPace.Com website to build a pace band that I could wear during the race. Most of the big uphills come with four hills between miles 16-21 so I wanted to get to that point with a few minutes in the tank, which would mean running the first half in 1:36 or so and the second half in 1:39. My goal was to run under 3:15 (that is a 7:25 pace)…that would get me qualified for the race the following year. I figured I was in shape to run 3:12/3:13 on a flat course, and that Boston, because of its difficulty, would add 5 minutes or so to that. But all I could do was go out, give it a shot, and see what happens. Here is a copy of my pacing plan, with all those variables and parameters factored in:

Pacing Plan
Pacing Plan

The first few miles were fast, but with all the downhill, I was supposed to take them fast – controlled and easy fast. Mission accomplished. I felt good. I was hydrating with both the on-course Gatorade and water, holding my pace back in a manageable zone, and feeling good. I wasn’t sure where I would see Mary and the girls, so I kept to the right-hand side of the road as planned and kept an eye out. It turns out I missed them at mile 7 or so. I was carrying 3 gels with me and dropped one at mile 8 but just kept going. I only planned to actually take 1 or 2 during the race so I was okay there and if I managed to lose my remaining stash there was a gel station later in the race I could use to replenish. Weather-wise it was beautiful for spectating, but a little warm for running. Start-time temp was in the low 60’s and it hung in the mid-60’s the whole race, and mostly sunny. This would come into play later when I started to get worn down and a little de-hydrated. The highlight of the first half, and maybe the whole race for me, is the stretch at mile 12 to 13 going by Wellesley College. The road is packed with screaming girls. Lots of ‘Kiss Me’ signs. It is LOUD. It is the first time in the race that the crowd is that much of a factor – and it carries on that way from there almost all the way to the finish. This video gives you some idea. Through halfway and I was right on track, and in fact about 15 seconds ahead of my target pace.

1 0:07:09 0:07:20
2 0:07:15 0:07:09
3 0:07:14 0:07:12
4 0:07:13 0:07:18
5 0:07:25 0:07:15
6 0:07:21 0:07:19
7 0:07:18 0:07:20
8 0:07:24 0:07:22
9 0:07:18 0:07:20
10 0:07:38 0:07:27
11 0:07:32 0:07:25
12 0:07:13 0:07:19
13 0:07:21 0:07:21

I ran by the Noxon family and finally saw Mary and the girls at mile 14 or 15 near the Noxon house. That was a great pick-me-up as I approached the hills in Newton. Waiting for Dad People will often say that the course is downhill until mile 16, then there are 4 hills, then downhill to the finish. What it really is, to me, is relentlessly rolling throughout, with lots of bigger downhill stretches in the beginning, and of course the 4 bigger hills at 16-21. That constant rolling and downhilling does take a huge toll on your quads, and I started to feel that as I hit the first hill at mile 16. 761561-1335-0039s Of the 4 hills, I think that one is the worst. It’s about 80 feet of elevation gain, but it comes after a steep 150 foot downhill section, and it’s straight up an open and exposed part of road that goes over the expressway. It’s also more gradual at the bottom, and steeper at the top. The next hill comes in the next mile. It’s about 73 feet of climb, and at this point I was starting to wear down. My legs were really fatiguing, my quads in particular. I made it up that one a bit more slowly than I wanted, but basically still on pace, and then on the downhill stretch after that in mile 18-19, I started to really lose it and could feel cramping coming on. I stopped to walk. Just 10 seconds or so. Just enough to gather and keep it together. I didn’t want to blow up and lose it completely but I knew I could not keep going at this same pace and knew that I especially could not accelerate on the downhills like I wanted. My legs would have none of it. Here are my paces for that stretch:

14 0:07:23 0:07:25
15 0:07:28 0:07:26
16 0:07:09 0:07:15
17 0:07:42 0:07:43
18 0:07:40 0:07:56
19 0:07:20 0:07:34

At this point I was still only 20 seconds off my goal…but I could tell it was over…at least in terms of getting a 3:15. My energy level was dropping, the sun and heat were zapping me a little, and my legs were fried. I forced down a gel to keep the calories coming in, and moved on to the last 2 hills at miles 20 and 21. The last hill is the famous Heartbreak Hill I had promised Mary that I would not walk up the hills – and I kept that promise, but I did have to walk for a few seconds twice more on the downhills. At this point I’m just trying to hold it together. The last 10k was mostly a blur. I heard some “Scottie Dog” cheers at Kenmore Square, I remember seeing the Citgo sign, and praying for it to be closer (you actually see it from pretty far away and then it disappears for a while before you see it again when you are right up on it – talk about frustrating…it’s like a mirage in the desert!), and I remember the little underpass on Commonwealth before the turn onto Hereford where it seemed like people were walking everywhere. I had this vision in my head that had stuck there for months of making that final left-hand turn onto Boylston and seeing the mile 26 sign and the finish line and running past the bombing spots and being overcome with emotion at the depth and significance of that moment to me and to everyone else running the race in honor and tribute of all that happened last year. There was none of that. 761587-1062-0019sI was simply exhausted and dying for it all to be over. My legs were screaming, my feet hurt, and all I wanted to do was lie down somewhere and drink a 2-liter of Coke. Ohh but wait…first grab a medal, and get a picture.   But that is racing for you. I went there to race the Boston Marathon, and not just do a victory lap, and I gave it my best.

20 0:07:41 0:08:13
21 0:07:55 0:08:35
22 0:07:20 0:08:01
23 0:07:25 0:08:02
24 0:07:23 0:07:42
25 0:07:28 0:08:02
26 0:07:37 0:08:05

It was my fourth marathon, my second fastest at 3:18:49, but the one were I buried myself deeper than I ever had before. There is nothing unusual about my race from the standpoint that I blew up where almost everyone does – right at the Newton Hills. I’m actually pretty proud of the fact I hung in there and held it together somewhat all the way to the end. The last 4 miles felt like an eternity. I did also improve my seed time by almost 3000 spots…from 9374  to 6141…meaning I finished 3000 people ahead of my qualifying time. Not bad! The crowds were amazing – you almost become numb to it after a while with all the screaming and all the support you get from the throngs lining the course 5 deep. After the finish, I wandered over to an apartment nearby on Pembroke, where a friend of Sudi’s lived, and where racers and spectator alike slowly filtered in. I was the first to arrive and must have looked like death warmed over. I went right to the fridge and got that 2-liter of Coke out. Sweet Jesus it tasted good. IMG_0032Bruce arrived soon thereafter, and my mom and Mary and the kids, too. We walked through our war stories from the race and ate and drink and mostly sat and hobbled around for a bit before heading back out to drop Bruce off at his brother’s place in Wellesley, where we met up with all of this family and told our stories all over again.

Steve Noxon, Bruce Noxon, Scott Bradbury
Steve Noxon, Bruce Noxon, Scott Bradbury

Bruce is a client of ours and ran a very brave race – finishing in 3:04 – a marathon PR for him by over 5 minutes. He was aiming to go under 3 hours which was a bit ambitious for him but he hit the wall just where I did at the 35k mark. Overall he has dropped over 30 minutes from his marathon in just about 2 years time and I know on his next one we will get him under 3 hours. That’s Bradbury Fitness for ya!

Finally get to wear the jacket!
Finally get to wear the jacket!

On the flight home I put on my finishers jacket for the first time – superstitiously I don’t like wearing it before the race ( and I don’t understand people who do). It was great to see the airport swarming with those orange jackets (Adidas does a different color/design each year). What an experience, and what an honor to be there and race this year. It was wonderful to be there racing with friends, in front of lots of other friends and family. It’s the Super Bowl of marathon running – and I hope to make it back some day to do it all over again!!


When I got back to work after the race my staff had made me another mini finish line to cross. It was hilarious! They got a kick out of following me and supporting me virtually during the race.

Back at AAP...another finish line to cross to get to my desk!
Back at AAP…another finish line to cross to get to my desk!

Here is a link to my Garmin file from the race:

And here are a few more charts where you can see pacing throughout the race. This one shows deviation from the plan…you can clearly see it all start to slip away at mile 18:

Deviation from Targeted Pace
Deviation from Targeted Pace, in Seconds

This final one compares goal pace to actual per mile:

Actual vs. Target Per Mile
Actual vs. Goal Pace Per Mile

And finally, here is a link to some more pictures on my flickr account.

Thanks for reading!


The Good Day – Chicago Marathon 2012 Race Report

The Chicago Marathon 2012 was my 3rd marathon. Back in January of 2009 I’d run my first at the Phoenix Marathon, finishing in 3:28 and realizing that (1) marathons were very hard on me physically, and (2) I need to put “qualify for the Boston marathon” on my bucket list. I endeavored to figure out how to manage the former and target the latter by running the Chicago Marathon in 2010, thinking that the 3:20:59 or under qualifying time I needed was challenging, but attainable. October 2010 arrived, and so did a heat wave, with temps in the 80’s on race day, and that race and my qualifying attempt went right out the window as I limped home in 3:37. Just to add insult to injury, the Boston Athletic Association soon thereafter lowered the qualifying standards by 6 minutes for my age group – meaning that going forwarded I would need a 3:14:59 to qualify.

Fast forward to January, 2012. I signed up for Chicago again. Same goal in mind, same determination to qualify, but humbled and realistic in knowing that this goal was a stretch goal for me, and something that may take more work and effort that I could put together in the 9 months leading up to the race. Since Phoenix in 2009, I’d focused entirely on running, put the triathlon bike on mothballs, hung up the swim goggles, and slowly but surely rode the roller coaster of committed single-sport focus: nagging injury after nagging injury, accompanied by slowly improving times across all the lesser (5k, 10k, half-marathon) distances. I loved the simplicity of “just running,” and started to figure out how best to manage all those nagging injuries. Since the start of this year I put in 1049 miles of training, started my marathon focus in May and averaged 50+ miles a week since July. I PR’ed my 5k and 10k in September, so I was feeling good, but I still knew a 3:15 was right out on the very edge of possible, and I would need the stars to align come race day to even get close to that BQ time.

Race day this past Sunday dawned crisp and cold with temps in the 40s but not much wind at all at the start. I’d been a little under the weather in the week leading up to the race, but I woke up feeling the best I had in days. I downed a PowerBar, half a bagel and some peanut butter and drove down to the Loop and parked in the same garage off Monroe we use for Symphony parking…so things felt nice and familiar. I walked to the bag drop area where I hit the porta pottie, dumped my bag and headed over to the B corral with plenty of time to spare. I had on a thick plastic garbage bag and nylon pants that I ditched a few minutes prior to the start, and under that shorts, a short-sleeve shirt, arm warmers, and a long-sleeve shirt that I planned to ditch once I got going and warmed up. I also had gloves and a winter hat and my baseball-style running hat, but went with the baseball hat right away and shoved the winter hat in my pocket.

The gun went off at 7:30 and I got to the start line a minute and a half later, and off we went. The first mile is hard because you go through the lower Wacker tunnel, so my Garmin is not reading and giving me an accurate pace, I didn’t have any feel for how I am pacing, and it’s a little congested and squirrely up through the first turn at .7 miles. My goal pace was 7:26 and I knew I needed to start there and stay there if I was to have any chance…but I went through the first mile at 7:43 and was instantly freaked because even though I wanted to avoid the classic mistake of going out too fast, I hadn’t meant to go out that slowly. I put the hammer down a bit and went through miles 2-5 averaging 7:13’s. I’d started at the back of the corral, and worked up past the 3:25 and 3:20 pace groups until I was right up behind the 3:15 pace group, where I had planned to stay. I did not want to run with them (too crowded) but wanted to run behind them with them in sight. I felt amazing. I was working hard but it felt easy.

High 5's all around!

My cheering section was supposed to be at mile 3, but I missed them (we had a little miscommunication on which side of the road to look for them on). I had another sluggish mile at 7:37 as we wound through Lincoln Park, but rebounded again at 7:18 and 7:21 through to mile 8 when I did see Mary and the girls and the rest of the crew. Big cheers and big smiles…and it gave me a chance to ditch my gloves and winter hat.

Mile 18

At this point I knew I was about 30 seconds ahead of my goal pace, and I knew I should try and conserve and hold back some, but instead I surged myself up past the 3:15 pace group by a little bit – it was a big group and they were slowing and surging around the aid stations – and it was annoying me so I decided to move ahead and try to stay ahead. I was taking Gatorade and water at every aid station, but my gut was cramping a bit and I was starting to feel a little flat so took a gel at mile 12, and passed the half-way point at 1:36:44. Perfect. I was up to 45 seconds ahead now. I clicked off the next 5 miles right at 7:24 pace – steady as she goes and about 2 seconds per mile ahead of where I needed to be. I saw the cheering section again at mile 18. I took another gel.

People have asked what I thought about for those miles.

What I was thinking was “I feel amazing, but I can’t possibly keep this pace, just make it to the next mile marker and hang on as long as you can.” Passing half way is a big step because you can then start counting down the remaining miles and mentally that is a boost. At mile 20 I hit Chinatown with its surge of enthusiasm, and shortly thereafter the doldrums before the final turn north onto Michigan Avenue at mile 23 ½ . I knew that whole last stretch would be into the wind that was strengthening out of the north and that I would need to have something left in the tank in order to stay on-track and not give back the now 1:20 cushion I had built up. I was waiting for the wheels to come off at any time, but I always felt like I had a little something left in the tank…an extra gear I could go to if I needed to.

Mile 24

But I was starting to believe…and starting to think it was all possible, and while my legs were now feeling the effects, and I was sore and tired…that mattered less as I realized that with now only 2 miles to go, no matter what, I was not going to let this opportunity slip through my fingers.I saw the cheering section for the last time at mile 24. I ditched the arm warmers, and their yelling and enthusiasm washed over me.

I tried to tuck in and draft off of other runners around me to save energy, but did start giving back a few seconds per mile from 24-26.

Finally, off in the distance, I could see the giant American flag that they hang over the course at the final right-hand turn at mile 26. It seemed like it took a day to run that last stretch up to the turn. I kept looking up at the flag and the looking to see where the buildings on the right ended to gauge where the turn was…hoping it would just hurry up and get to me. After the turn you hit the only hill on the course. It’s only 200 meters long and really not that steep, or long, and it is stretch of road I’d tackled in other races many times before and I knew it was a final hurdle that would not be my undoing. The crowds were thick and loud and I reached the top and saw the 200 meters to go sign and took the final left-hand turn to the finish.

There is a picture in my head…a finish to this race I had played out in my mind endlessly since the 2010 Chicago Marathon. This visualization has 2 versions. In version 1 it is a picture of me turning that corner and staring down the finish straight to the finish line and then glancing down to my watch. And that watch would read 3:15:00. And I would know that I had come up short, and that on that day it was simply not meant to be. I would live to fight another day, but on that day, I had not been able to reach what I was seeking.

In version 2, it is a picture of me turning that corner and staring down the finish straight to the finish line and then glancing down to my watch. And that watch would read 3:14:00. And I would know that if I sprinted from there I would be able to cross that finish line in 50 seconds and the dream would be realized.

But on October 7, 2012, as I reached the top of the hill and took that turn, and saw that finish line, and looked at that watch, it did not read 3:15:00, it did not read 3:14:10…it read 3:13:03 and I finally knew for certain that the stars had aligned for me that day and that something I barely though possible was going to be a reality. As I passed the grandstands I fumbled to take my headphones out so I could hear the crowds and crossed the finish line in 3:13:53. Mission accomplished.

I was in disbelief, elated, just completely blown away. I always thought I could get that BQ time, but I really this would be the year to get me half-way there. I’d run a 3:20 or so, and build on this next year and try again. But a 15 minute PR? It might be possible, but I’d need the perfect race. It just turns out I had the perfect race.

My garmin file is here. Ignore the HR line – I threw my HR strap off at mile 2. It was just making me mental.

I also charted out my pace relative to my goal and have pasted that in below.

Pace Graph

The weather helped. It was cold – mostly cloudy – not too windy. If it had been hot this probably would not have been possible. What else made the difference? It was a combination of dozens of little things. I hadn’t missed a training run all summer. Not one. I hadn’t made every time interval  (just go back and read about my Bad Day) but I had put in every ounce I had into every mile. I ran in rain. I ran in storms. I ran in the middle of the night with a failing headlamp. I ran in heat…and this summer that heat was often unrelenting. I took care of my body. I did over half my miles (including 80% of my runs over 14 miles) on traiIs to soften the pounding on my legs (if you ever want to know anything about the Des Plaines River Trail – I know every inch of it from Chicago to Gurnee). I wore compression socks almost every night. I got fitted into better shoes (thanks Pom!). I ate better, and in the last week before the race I ruthlessly cut down my diet to drop another 2 pounds, knowing that I could save nearly a minute of time over the 26.2 miles per pound lost. I trained with the nutrition that I knew they’d have on the course. I stretched…I foam-rolled…a iced…I soaked…I ice bathed…and my plantar fasciitis, tight IT bands, ankle tendonitis, and hamstring strain that have forever haunted me instead slowly faded away.

I’m not an amazing physical specimen. I’m not a natural-born runner. I needed all those little things to add up to one special day…and they did.


All summer Mary and the twins put up with all this running, and the ridiculous logistics of trying to manage her training schedule, my schedule, and the kids’ schedule – but it was their encouragement and support that I thought of most during those 26.2 miles and provided endless inspiration.

On race day the cheering section was amazing: Mary, Sarah, Courtney, my mom, my sister Allison and her family (Josh, Nolan, Andrew), Aly Sander and Matt, and Mary’s cousin Martha. I felt blessed and inspired to have them out there for me cheering me on. It makes a difference to be able see and feel that support.

So it’s on to Boston, but I’m waiting until 2014. 2013 is too close. Now I’m off to find some other items for the bucket list…and also to check the results page one more time, because I keep going there and staring at it…not believing that it all really happened.


The Bad Day

When you are training for an endurance event, your days and weeks are filled with hours and hours of workouts. Many times they feel mundane, routine, and are in the end, often as forgettable as they are frequent. How many of those recovery runs from the past 8 weeks stand out in your mind? They’re all blending together? Nothing stands out? I know the feeling.

In truth, however, every workout presents an opportunity. An opportunity to find your focus, to improve, and to transform the mundane into meaningful improvement. That is a blog for another time, because what I want to talk about in this blog are those workouts that instantly jump off the page as “key” workouts, and how to respond when one of those key workouts goes horribly wrong.

In the course of my training for the Chicago Marathon, one of these key sets of workouts involves adding a large portion of race pace mileage to the end of my weekly long run. I’d do these every 3-4 weeks, and these workouts built over time in mileage, up to my last one on Labor Day weekend, which was scheduled at 18 miles with 14 at race pace.

Now, it is not the length of the workout that presents a challenge…my training has included 5 runs of 18-20 miles in length. And the 14 miles at race pace shouldn’t be that hard, right? I mean, if I’m going to run 26 miles at that pace, doing 14 should be no problem. But if you combine the length, with the amount at race pace, with the fact that it comes at the end of an already hard training week…it presents a challenge. But with that challenge comes an opportunity…and that opportunity is the chance to really test where I am with my fitness and with my training, and validate and confirm that my form is improving and that all the hard work I’ve put in so far this summer is going to pay off for me when I toe the starting line in October.

My previous key workouts of this flavor had gone pretty well, so as the Labor Day weekend arrived was pretty psyched and confident to get out there and go. That weekend we happened to be over in Des Moines for the Hy-Vee Triathlon, so prior to our arrival I scoped out an ideal route that followed a river-side path that headed north from our hotel. A simple out and back. I headed out at 7:30am on that Saturday. I did the first 4 miles easy, and as prescribed, ramped it up for the 14 mile fast finish. Within a mile or 2, I could tell things were not going well. 1-2 miles later it was confirmed…I was struggling.

The weather was in the 70’s and a bit humid, but I was sweating like a pig. My HR was high, as in “half-marathon pace” high. My legs felt like cinder blocks: heavy, sore, crampy.  Overall I felt sluggish. I struggled to maintain pace, and stopped a number of times to walk and re-gather myself. Physically, I was wrecked, and mentally, I was defeated. A workout that was meant to be an affirmation – a confidence booster – was crumbling all around me.

What was happening to me? And why? As I stood hunched over on the trail at mile 14 I started pouring over those questions in my mind. Well, the 6 hours in the car the day before probably didn’t help. I had been feeling a little under the weather. Etc. The truth was, there probably was really no answer, or at least no answer that was going to make itself completely obvious and apparent to me. It was probably just one of those things, just one of those days…a bad day.

What was most important to me was the realization that I had a choice: either let the bad day bring me down…or turn the page. And boy did I ever turn that page. I chucked that goal pace right out the window…and set a new goal for that last 4 miles – no walking, no whining – only laughing. I had to laugh. This epic struggle was so uncharacteristic as to be comical. I smiled, I jogged, I enjoyed the scenery and I finished that darn run.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I had not only turned that page, I had closed the book and returned it to the library. In the scheme of things I knew I had to make that run mean nothing…and keep in perspective that a bad training day in August/September was in no way a definitive harbinger for doom in October. There would be other workouts, other days, and up to that point, I needed to remember that there had been plenty of accomplished training days in the months prior. Success will never be determined by the outcome of any one training day, no matter how bad that day turns out to be. Rather, success in my marathon will be determined by the accumulation of dozens and dozens of training days played out carefully and consistently since May.

Always keep in mind that bigger picture, and never let a bad day overwhelm your mind or body.

Vineman Race Report – From Coach Scott

Last weekend we traveled out to Sonoma county, California so Mary could compete in the Full Vineman Aquabike. Vineman is a very cool Ironman distance race that has been around 20+ years. They are one of the few last remaining independent non-WTC races, and one of the only ones that runs an Aquabike (swim-bike) version of the race…so 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike. There is also a half-iron distance race run on the same course earlier in the year, and that is now officially a 70.3 WTC race.

We flew out Thursday and drove up from San Francisco. We rented a 1BR cottage in the hills overlooking Windsor, CA. It is right on the bike course and turned out to be a perfect place for us to stay. Friday we did a the usual registration, course recon, chill out, etc.. The race was Saturday. The swim is in the Russian River in Guernville, while T2 and the finish are all in Windsor, so Saturday morning it’s up and at ’em at 4am for the 40 minute drive over to the start.

The whole point of this race was to allow Mary an excuse to do some serious bike mileage that will serve her well at the Olympic distance world championships in New Zealand in October…that course is quite hilly and challenging on the bike and she has always responded favorably to high volume with her bike training.

This was not an ‘A’ race for her, and it has been tricky to weave in that long bike training in amongst her sort course schedule.

It was cool and overcast as Mary setup T1. The water temp was 71 degrees, so wetsuit legal. The river swim is a 2 loop up and back…the river is narrow and shallow…and they send the Aquabike waves of after everyone else…which meant lots of traffic for Mary to swim through. This actually works to her advantage, as she is amazing at working through slower traffic. At 6:45 she was off. She had amazing swim. 56 minutes, and many thought the course 2 minutes long. She was on cruise control and not pushing it one bit. Effortless. Fastest female swim of the day.

She also smoked her transition. Fastest T1 male or female. I know it’s an Ironman and therefore the importance of that time savings is reduced, but most everyone was just waltzing around and taking way too much time, even the pros. It’s free speed, people! Get your sunscreen on and go!

Out on the bike…it’s a 2 loop course that has a little bit of everything…rolling hills, flats, curves, sun, shade, good pavement, shitty pavement, and 2 fairly challenging climbs that you hit twice…the highest being at the top of Chalk Hill Road. We followed Mary around tracking her progress, and she was doing great. The goal was to average 20mph, and nail her nutrition. She definitely did the latter, but at about the 80 mile mark I could tell she was fading a bit, and she ended up averaging 19.1 or so. Nothing to sneeze at on that tough course and still one of the top 10 female times of the day.

We haven’t had good luck with the bike mechanicals this year, and at about mile 107 her right aerobar clamp broke. It was not a fatal breakdown, more an inconvenience, but it definitely cost her 2nd place overall, which she lost by just 13 seconds. Think those transition time don’t matter in Ironman? Think again. She ended up 2:30 behind the Aquabike winner…and won her age group so it was a great race and I was very proud.

Overall, it was a great learning experience, but the expected gains in her bike fitness have not materialized this year, in spite of all that training, it’s the first time that “more is more” has not turned out to be true. So next up is USAT Nationals, which we are also not tapering for at all as we turn our focus for the rest of the year to trying to get that short course speed back in time for NZ.

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Vineman is a great race. It is super-well run, and the area is simply beautiful with great weather. I highly recommend it…and they give wine instead of trophies!

Shamrock Shuffle Race Report

Coach Scott here with a report from this past weekends Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago.

I’ve done this race 3 times now…it gets a little bigger every year and this year took the cake with 37,000 or so finishers. That’s a big race. The start/finish area is in downtown Chicago…same setup as the Chicago Marathon with identical start and finish lines. The weather was beautiful this year, which almost makes up for the shitty weather we’ve had every other year – in the form of snow and ice.

I think these big races are fun. It’s exciting to be part of a spectacle like that and it’s definitely competitive. The only thing I hate is the previous-day packet pickup rule. For the love of god, race directors, please give us the option to have our packets mailed. I’ll pay the extra 5 bucks. And don’t worry about the shirt, you can keep it, or donate it to charity, or make a flag out of it, whatever. Luckily our friend Amy grabbed my packet for me on Saturday, so I can’t complain one bit.

It was an 8:30am start time so I left the house at 7 o’clock. No traffic at all, so I grabbed a free parking spot on the street in the loop and walked down to the start area. I had plenty of time to check my gear at bag check and do a warm-up. The shorter the race, the longer the warm-up should be, so I got in a jog with some pick-ups, then did some strides.

I was in the A corral (I think they went from A to H), and it wasn’t too crowded, so I milled around with the masses waiting for the start. The horn sounded and off we went.

My goal was to just try and beat my time from last year…when I went 34:57, averaging 7:01 minute miles. I am not in great shape right now. I built my run fitness all through 2011 up until the Hot Chocolate 15k in November, where I peaked for the year, but then took some time off knowing that our Africa trip in February would not allow me to run hard through the winter. Plus, I needed a break, and wanted to sneak in a round of P90x over the holidays – so long story short – not much running going on for me from November to March…maybe 2 runs a week on average.

We got back from Africa 3 weeks before the race and I ramped up training as fast as I could, but I also have some plantar fasciitis I’ve been dealing with, so I was trying to be careful not to do too much, but it flared up anyway…more on that later.

With my goal to run sub 7’s I started out the first mile at 6:45, then 6:53. I felt okay, but I was working hard. By mile 2 my heart rate was pegged at 181 and stuck there. My legs were burning and I was literally on the rivet from there on out. Mile 3 went by at 6:51,then I hit mile 4 with a 6:58, so I was confident of making my goal but boy I was maxed out. I limped home in 7:06 for 34:31 total.

I beat last year by 26 seconds and I was happy about that. I was also happy that hung tough mentally and physically. My average heart rate for the race was 180, which is stoopid high for an old man like me, so I know I was giving it everything I had.

Here is a link to my Garmin file.

Mary and the girls met me afterwards, where we all got in some good stretching.
Stretching with the twins

My plantar fasciitis didn’t bother during the race but it is still something I need to address ASAP, so I’m going to go heavy on the treatment and stay on the couch for at least a week and plan out my next move only once I feel I have things under control. Thanks for reading!

Hot Chocolate 15k Race Report

Shame on me for not getting this out earlier, but here are some quick thoughts from the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15k race from back in November.

My goal going into the race was to definitely run sub 7’s, and stretch to try and go 6:50 miles throughout.

I had two good 5ks and a solid 10k in the months prior to the race, and my training had been going quite well. I was averaging about 35 miles a week in October and had switched my training around to incorporate a good mix of long intervals (1000s to mile repeats) and speed work usually doing 200s and 400s.

Race morning dawned clear and cold. Temps in the 40s. Perfect racing weather. This race has gotten quite big, but RAM wised up this year and changed the route downtown to all city streets. No more lakefront path cluster like in 2010. The start and finish in Grant Park now match what they do with the marathon and shamrock shuffle 8k.

Race time rolls around. I hooked up with Noxons and the Morgans in the start corral about 20 yards from the line.


The gun goes off and things open up real quick. The biggest issue with running downtown is that the Garmin can’t handle the tall buildings, so there are long stretches where it’s not accurately showing me my pace. In addition, the first mile starts with the lower wacker tunnel, so I have no idea how I’m doing. I’m holding back, trying to not go out too fast, and it turns out I overdid it as I go thru the first mile marker at 7:10 or so. Oops. Too slow. I picked up the pace to hit mile 2 at 6:41. From there I calmed down and knocked out 6:55 or so for the next 6 miles. I felt pretty good. I was working hard but not losing it.


At mile 8 I kicked it in gear and finished up fast averaging 6:44 or so until the finish. Total time: 1:04:15 for a 6:53 avg pace. Considering my time in 2010 was 1:08:40 I was pleased with the improvement. I was also pleased with the negative split, even though I may could have emptied the tank a little earlier and not gone out so slow.

Afterwards it was chocolate time with the girls!



RAM racing recently got ripped for putting on a crap version of this race in Washington DC. You can read one race report from DCRainmaker here. I was not surprised. I’ve always thought RAM falters when it comes to logistics and course management. They love fancy schwag, and they love cramming tons of people onto their courses (south shore triathlon=unsafe) and constantly spout off like they are the be all end all when it comes to race management. The Chicago course this year was much improved, but they have no idea how to do start corrals properly, insist on a narrow start lane funnel, and the whole day before packet pickup? Huge pain in the ass. Nothing worse than spending 2 hours hoofing it downtown from the suburbs so I can blow 20 bucks on parking just so I can spend 10 seconds grabbing my bib. I’d gladly pay 10 extra bucks to have it mailed and happily pick up my goodie bag day of race.

Back to the race I do have one final tip. If you are wearing a gps watch in a race downtown, turn off the autolap. If the signal is going in and out and you try to autolap at 1 mile intervals you are not going to get an accurate read on your pace. You just have to look for the mile markers on the course and trust they have them measured properly and manually capture your lap times. You can see my garmin file here.

Thanks for reading!

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