I ran and ran and ran and ran

People often ask me if I run marathons. My answer had always been, “I ran one a long time ago, but I prefer shorter races.” Inevitably, people, especially non-runners, want to know why. After all, isn’t the marathon the be all end all of running?  My answer had always been “I think the marathon race is too long.” Now that I have done my second marathon, I believe that more than ever.

The Start
The Start

My goal for the Buffalo Marathon was to break 2:40 and win a Moose Mug. (Google it.) According to all the online calculators I should be able to run a 2:36-2:38 marathon, but we all know those things are crap for predicting marathon times. Even if you use a half marathon time, you are trying to predict what you will do in a race that takes over an hour longer to run. Still, I thought 2:39 was very reasonable, and it was until mile 22.

I’m not going to give a long recount of the Buffalo Marathon, but I do want to share a few high and low points. It was a nice course, with a few more hills than I expected. I liked that we started with the half marathon runners because I had a good group of people to run with on the first loop, including the woman who finished 2nd in the half. She kept worrying about her pace because she had never raced farther than 10k before. She hoped to break 80 minutes and did so by a wide margin. Helping her stay on track for the first 12 miles of the race took my mind off what I was going to have to do later on and made the first half seem very easy.

Time for a wave
Time for a wave

The second half was a lonely affair. Aside from passing a few people and being passed by one person I was running alone. As late as mile 18 or 19 I was thinking I should really start pushing the pace a little harder. But pushing the pace harder at that point just meant slowing down less. Then at around mile 23 we began a mile and half of steady uphill and things just fell apart.

The one person who passed me in the second half said,

“Mile 24 is a good one!”

“Is it downhill?”

“No it’s uphill, but there is good crowd support!”

At that point I would have traded all the crowd support in the world for a stretch of flat road. Not that I don’t appreciate the people who came out to cheer us up that last bit of hill, but unless one of them was going to carry me up it I wasn’t going to stay on pace to break 2:40.

8 miles to go.
8 miles to go.

The one thing that kept me moving those last 2 miles was the thought, “I worked too damn hard for this shit.” It just kept going through my head over and over while my feet burned, my quads ached and every step was choice to take one more or stop.

Still some work left.
Still some work left.

At mile 26 I got to see Lisa and the girls. Seeing them and hearing them cheer for me was absolute bliss. It was the only thing that was going to get me to move slightly faster and hold off a hard charging masters runner.

The end.
The end.

2 hours 41 minutes and 11 seconds. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I don’t find myself disappointed. I put in the work, and I ran my race. I gave everything I had to give, and in the end I came up a bit short of my goal. It certainly isn’t the first time or the last time that will happen. Eleven years and tens of thousands of miles since my last marathon, and I finally feel like I have a performance I can be proud of. Many people have already asked when I’m doing my next one… Maybe in another 11 years.

Final Results

11th place overall

10th male

2nd masters (I got 1st masters prize money because the 1st masters finished 3rd overall)

5k 3.1 mi 0:18:50 (6:04 pace)
10k 3.1 mi 0:18:44 (6:02 pace)
15k 3.1 mi 0:18:38 (6:00 pace)
20k 3.1 mi 0:18:51 (6:04 pace)
25k 3.1 mi 0:18:46 (6:02 pace)
30k 3.1 mi 0:19:04 (6:08 pace)
35k 3.1 mi 0:19:16 (6:012 pace)
40k 3.1 mi 0:20:18 (6:32 pace)
Finish 1.4 mi 0:08:44 (6:23 pace)

Time: 2:41:11 (6:09 pace)

Old Goat, Old Man

DSC07327

I ran the Charlie’s Old Goat Trail Run on Saturday. It was my second year doing the race, and the my second time finishing second. This time I was at least close enough to see the other person cross the finish line. Last year I was almost 4 minutes behind the leader, this year I managed to finish just under a minute back.

After the race I was talking with a few of the #TrailsRoc folks and I mentioned how this would be last race as an open runner and I couldn’t wait to not be competing against 24 year old kids anymore. That’s when Eric Egan said “well you used to be one of those kids.” That got me thinking… no, I never was.

Selfie circa 1998
Selfie circa 1998

Certainly I was 24 years old once, but as regular readers of this blog will know I wasn’t doing any running when I was 24. When I was 24 I was living in Portland, smoking a pack of camel lights a day and subsisting off cold pizza and BridgePort IPA. I hadn’t run a step in 6+ years and it would be another 4 before I would quit smoking and start running again. I try not to dwell on what might have been (no: shoulda, coulda, woulda’s for me). I’m of the mindset that everything I’ve done has lead me to where I am now. I very much like where I am now, so why would I want to change anything I had done to get here.

Still, that one off the cuff comment from Eric combined with my rapidly approaching 40th birthday got me thinking. What if? What if I never picked up all those “bad habits.” What if I kept running in high school, in college and beyond. What if my 20 year old self took running as seriously as my 39 year old self? What did I miss out on during those 10 years that should have been my running prime?

The best I can figure using a combination of age-grading and completely made up numbers stemming from long term smoking effects on performance is this.

What Josh would have run as a healthy training 24 year old

  • 1 mile 4:18
  • 5k: 14:53
  • half marathon 1:09
  • marathon still would have gotten hurt and only run 1

So would I trade my life now to be able to have run those times in my prime? Hell no. Running fast is fun and all, but it is no replacement for a wonderful family that brings you joy everyday.

Charlie’s Old Goat Results

Kenny’s Gettysburg North-South Marathon Report

Get ready.  This might be a long one.

After a harsh training winter, it was finally time for the Gettysburg North-South Marathon on April 27.  The race was fairly small; there were 465 finishers this year.  Over a hilly course, each runner chooses a “side” to be on (North versus South).  The top male and female times for each side are added, and each member of the winning side gets a mug (spoiler alert: the North won).

I had done the best that I could with my training this winter, and I felt that this race would be my first legit shot at a sub-2:30 marathon. Fitness-wise, I felt that I was there.  However, the nature of the course would definitely present a challenge.  Here is a link to the map.   The course generally ascends early in the race, reaches its highest point soon after 7 miles, ascends once more before mile 11, then descends for the majority of the second half of the race.

I always try to have a few goals going into a big race.  My top goal for this one, if everything went perfectly, was to run under 2:30.  This would be a stretch, so my next goal was at least to PR, which meant running faster than 2:35:30.  I felt that this would definitely be doable, but in case something went horribly wrong on the course, my final goal was to be faster than 2:40.  This would at least convince me that my time under 2:40 from last year was not a fluke.

Read the rest at https://sciencerunrepeat.blogspot.com/

Numbers

Racing and baseball are my two favorite sports, and they are as different as any two sports can be.  Racing is nonstop, no TV time outs, no injury time outs, no rest after each inning.  Baseball is pastoral, the shortstop can wander in to the pitchers mound and strike up a conversation in the middle of an inning if he wants.  Racing is a celebration of the individual, one winner everyone else is an also ran.  Baseball is about team, 25 guys striving for the same goal, if you are lucky enough to play for the Yankees you don’t even get your name on the jersey.

Yankees

But both sports have one thing in common, an obsession with numbers.  And while 714, 755, 61, 56, 2,632 may resonate nationally more than 3:59, 2:03:23, 3:43, 26.2 the latter numbers are important to people who race or follow the sport.

bann1

Last night Albert Puloj became the 26th MLB player to hit 500 career home runs.  This used to mean something, it used to guarantee entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame, now it is a nice milestone that gets a 1 minute spot on Sports Center.  The reason behind the degradation of the number is obvious.  In 1929 Babe Ruth became the first player to hit 500 career home runs and over the next 70 years he was joined by 14 more players.  Then in a span of 15 years (1999-2014) 11 more players were added to the list.  You probably know some of the names.

Barry Bonds
Alex Rodriguez
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Jim Thome
Sammy Sosa
Mark McGwire
Rafael Palmeiro
Manny Ramirez
Frank Thomas
Gary Sheffield
Albert Pujols

7 of them have either tested positive for steroids or admitted using them.  What has MLB done about this?  Aside from suspending 2 of them for 1 season or less, nothing.  For a sport that clings so tightly to its history and records it has done nothing to preserve the meaning of those numbers.  And this may be the most glaring difference between the two sports I love.  In racing if you cheat, you are essentially erased from the history books.

07dope.2.650

Look at the 100m All Time List, no Justin Gatlin no Ben Johnson no Tim Montgomery.  And while I’m not naive enough to believe none of the current distance marks are tainted, at least when the IAAF busts someone they take action with up to a 2 year ban for a first offense and loss of any records or medals.  No one is taking Manny or Arod’s World Series rings from them even though they are both serving/served suspensions for multiple violations and Bonds is still listed as the all time single season and career home run leader.

628x471But I didn’t write this post because of Puloj’s milestone last night.  I actually began thinking about this after Meb’s win in Boston.  I started thinking about it terms of something baseball and distance racing have in common, something that baseball, distance racing and many other sports have in common actually.  The winners aren’t always the ones with the glaring stats, with the blazing fast times, with the highest paid stars.  Yogi Berra has 10 WS rings, Bill Russell has 11 NBA titles and neither are ever mentioned as the best player in their sport.  The NFL player with the most championships?  Charles Haley with 5.

And then you have Meb Keflezighi.  He’s won 4 NCAA titles, 3 National XC titles an Olympic silver medal, the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon.

Meb_Keflezighi_in_2014_Boston_Marathon

Meb has never been considered one of the best in the world despite these accomplishments.  He’s never had the jaw dropping times of many world class marathoners.  In fact his fastest time, 2:08:37 run this week at the Boston Marathon, ranks as the 843rd fastest marathon time ever run.

And that is why I love distance racing.  When you toe the line it doesn’t matter what you have done in the past or what the other guys have done.  It only matters what happens that day, in those fleeting moments from when the gun goes off until you cross the finish line.