Monday, April 27, 2015

Marathon Ride: Florida Keys Bikeway (4/25/15)

Florida Keys Cycle route

Ride: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, Islamorada - Marathon - Islamorada
Distance: 58 Miles
Sights: Iguanas, Ocean, Palm Trees, Channel #5 Bridge

Urvi and I drove down from the vacation rental to Backcountry Cowboy Outfitters where we rented two Giant road bikes. The plan was to make it from MM 83 down to Marathon Key and eat lunch at either the Island Fish Company at MM 53 or the Stuffed Pig at MM 48 and then return.

Coral Trail

Our initial plan was to ride along the road shoulder which would be faster and have less pedstrian traffic than the bike path/sidewalks that line US 1 from Key Largo down to Marathon.  As soon as we left the center of Islamorada, that plan was shot.  The asphault appears to have a good abount of coral in it and is really grainy on the tires.

Urvi on the Trail

Iguanas on the Trail

The route is almost completely flat, except for the Channell #5 Bridge which rises pretty high.  It is also a narrow shoulder, so while I was battling my irrational fear of bridges I was also battling the wind and my quite rational fear of getting hit by cars.

There were a couple of beautiful stretches, including the rails to trail into Marathon.  We stopped at the Island Fish Company - probably would have taken another hour to get to the Stuffed Pig... The conch chowder was awesome.

Scenes from the week:

Cheers to a weekend

Swimming out our back door

Islamorada Beer Company

Aye, Aye, Cap'n

Out to the sea

I'm sure nobody will get hurt here

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rolling and Paddling with Gators: The Everglades (4/21-4/22/15)

Day One (4/21/15): Shark Valley Bike Loop

Distance: 10 Miles
Location: Shark Valley Visitor Center
Difficulty: Easy - except sprinting past gators
Sights: Gators, Sawgrass fields

Urvi on the Trail
Baby Gator

Mamma Gator

Gator in the Path

Sawgrass fields

Me on my beach cruiser

World's Smallest Post Office, Ochopee, FL 34141

Day Two (4/22/15): Yaking the Mangroves

Distance: 4.75 miles
Location: Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Sights: birds, Mangrove swamps, crabs

Sara Lee

Barnacled Boat


Manatee Zone

Urvi and I enter the Mangrove Canopy
Urvi and I 

Sara Lee and Bud Light Lime

This heron was facinating 

Apres Kayak @Oyster House for Sandwiches, Gator bites and a Pitcher of Key West Pale Ale

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Left on Boylston: A 26 mile, 31 year journey (4/20/15)

At 30K
photo by Tom Cole

Race: Boston Marathon
Location: Hopkinton-Boston
Goal Time: 3:10:00
Actual Time: 3:12:00 (PR, BQ-3)

The large blue arch looked hazy through the rain. But I could see it down by the library. I counted down the street actually on my hand: Gloucester, Fairfield, Exeter, Dartmouth. Tears were welling up and I had my arms thrust up in triumph and relief. It was a long way to get to this moment: not just in the running today, not just the training this year, not just the training for the past 5 years. It was a journey of personal commitment, change and redemption. And now – as my feet felt like they were as pruned as dishpan hands and my butt and leg muscles had nearly stopped firing – I was doing it!
There’s a runners’ saying about the end of the Boston Marathon: Right on Hereford; Left on Boylston. At that point you’ve made it. It is only four blocks to the Library and to the finish line. But this is a runners construct. For my years as a non-marathon runner, I have to say the turn on Hereford was something I never even heard of. When I was a kid in Atlanta, you would see the leader take the turn onto Boylston on the nightly news. Once I was in High School, we would down to the Prudential Center and watch people after the turn onto Boylston. So, for me the turn on Hereford was never a big deal.
I can’t say exactly when I decided to run the Boston Marathon. I do know that in January of 1984 when I was 10 years old, I decided to run the Peachtree Road Race – Atlanta’s massive 10k race. In July, I finished it, much to the surprise of the downstairs neighbor – Andre. I also clearly remember running the Run for Life 10K at Life Chiropractic College in Marietta, GA that summer. Along the roadside, they had motivational signs. And one of them said “Boston Next…” So, I’m assuming that is where the bug of the Boston Marathon got into my head. In 1984, I was told to run the Boston Marathon, you had to qualify by running another marathon at 7/min miles. So, I figured if I kept running after my two big 10ks of that summer, I would be able to qualify by the time I was 18.
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon makes the race special for the running community. Often called the “Everyman’s Olympics,” 70-80% of the field are those who ran another marathon below a specific speed for their age and gender to earn their qualified spot. Boston Qualified (or BQ) is both an honor and a personal achievement of the amateur runner. And, as I can attest, it is not nearly as easy as one might think when they start planning to do it. The distance of the marathon makes it not like any other race you might run.
There is a myth that Phiedippedes ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory. However, this conflicts with Herodotus’ telling of the Persian Wars (and he was there). It seems to me that Romano-Greek Lucan probably read Herodotus and then wrote his story, without having the text nearby and got two stories confused. This story was crystalized into English when Robert Browning wrote the almost unreadable Phiedippedes.* This version of the myth is what the Olympic organizers took with them to Athens when they held the first Olympics in 1896.
The sleepy exurb town of Hopkinton, where the race starts, swells by 4 times its size on the third Monday in April. Massachusetts’ Patriots Day was chosen to symbolize the connection between Athens’ and America’s battle for Independence. Originally the race was shorter and actually started in Ashland. The 26.2 miles goes through 8 towns before finish in Copley Square. Indeed, this is why people say the Boston Marathon doesn’t belong to anyone but to everyone.
I rode my bike from Cambridge down to the Common and met Kate Daniel at bag check. The two of us took the bus together out to Hopkinton and the Athlete's Village. I was glad that we were forced to do all these small steps to get from the Common to the start line – it made me briefly forget the enormity of it all. But as I walked out to the actually starting corrals, I was feeling it. I ran into Alain Ferry and then the Boys from SRR who were volunteering – Scott, Marc, Mauro and Tim. I pushed my way into the first corral of Wave 2. I was one of the last people in the corral so I was right up against the second corral. Kevin C. was behind me in the second corral. Here I was, Boston Marathon. This was actually happening! Once the gun went off, all I could think about was a commercial from the late 80s for Channel 7 New: “Next Stop... Boston!”
Everyone along the route and throughout New England has a special ownership to the race. There is also a special aura. In a recent article in the Eagle Tribune, top level local runner Nate Jenkins talks about informing his father that he had qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. Nate's father was less concerned with the Olympic trials and more concerned with the important race for a New Englander: “Does that mean you qualified for Boston?”
When I moved to Boston in 1987, I got a portion of that special ownership. Since the race is held on a holiday, we had the day off of school. And as mile and two mile track runner, I always made my way down to the course to watch the race. The goal of running the marathon had been deferred – not extinguished. I was busy running the middle-distances and would not have been able to train for longer distances. And this was pre-interweb, so I wouldn’t have known how to find out such information except by going to the library. And, I probably would not have known there were books to help.
By the time I got to college, my world view had changed. I was less interested in reaching goals NOW and more into letting the world play through me. I guess you can say this for my entire 20s. I kinda lived day to day instead with a big picture in front of me. So, running to train for a marathon was not something I was into doing. I was into it still being a daydream plan for myself. I just wasn’t into actually doing it.
The Boston Marathon course had been chosen because it closely resembles the Marathon-Athens Course. The organizers wanted to relive that same Browning Myth in Boston with the “American Marathon.” The Olympic Team Manager, John Graham, was a BAA team member and with the help of a local business man was able to map out a course. Starting in Ashland it would copy the downhill off the Plain of Marathon. It would then run into the city and finish with a lap of Irvington Oval; whose exact location is now lost to history.
That first downhill out of Hopkinton is pretty steep for the first 4 miles as it takes you out of Hopkinton and into Ashland. I was warned that the start would be slow – as so many people are crammed together. However, when I got my number assignment (Wave 2/ Corral 1), I was hoping that wouldn’t happen. That meant there would be a good 15 minutes between me and the people in front of me. I would be in the front of the Wave 2 race. The fourth mile is marked by the Ashland Town Clock Tower.
I had an ideally simple yet mentally challenging game plan. I was going to start out slow and every 5K pick up speed a little bit. And then at the 25K mark, stop worrying about time and worry about effort. Put in great effort over the Newton Hills. Then at mile 21, reassess and see how much energy I had to run through Brookline and home to Copley Square. I kept calm in he 5k through the farms and quaintness of Hopkinton and Ashland. I hit the 5k mark at 24:45, which considering a natural break at mile 2 was great!
The racing can start on the flats. As you leave the exurbs of Ashland, you get into the outer suburbs of Framingham and Natick. The new Framingham train station is at the 10K point and that would be the spot where full racing should commence. Additionally, the crowds start to get bigger here. As everywhere on the route, it’s not just runners but also spectators who are the event.
As we entered Framingham, I was successfully running just that much faster. And in the outskirts of Framingham Center, the Framingham State kids were out in full force (and full-drink). “Wow, I said, it's 11am, that's dedication to be drunk already.” At the Framingham Center rail station, I had dropped it properly to 22:30 for the second 5k. I was feeling well and hadn't been overcome yet.
It wasn't until after the 15k mark – that I had hit properly again 22:15 – that I started to fully understand the enormity of everything. Natick is packed with spectators. As everyone owns the marathon, this is the spot the people of Natick own. Although still outer suburb, in the town center you get the city feel. The street is lined on both sides by probably 90% of the people of Natick. Wearing my Somerville Road Runners singlet, they recognize a local and yell out: “Go Somerville!” I think it's a recognition that were not different. The spectators are a major part of the race.
The Boston Marathon is the perfect spectacle for watchers. The women’s athletes at their sport in the world will run past you at the 10 mile mark Natick Town Common at 10:30. Then 20 minutes later, the best men in the world will run by. Then an hour after that, your friend Cathy from work who’s a serious runner will come by. And finally an hour after that you can watch your nephew who is running his first marathon to raise money for Cancer research. In no other event can you see your friends and families compete against the best in the world.
The world is one of those odd phrases. It wasn’t until I left to see even a small piece of it that I really regained my desire to run. I spent 4 months cycling across the Balkans in 2009. This trip invigorated my desire to see more and more importantly – do more. And I returned with a single manageable goal – qualify and run the Boston Marathon. I started by running my first half marathon – the Maine Half Marathon in Portland. While I ran okay, I was still a pack-a-day smoker. (I guess I ran great for that).
The next portion is still flat but starting to get long. I always consider mile 10 to 18, the Horse Latitudes. You aren’t close to done and you have to work, but you still have to worry about saving yourself for the end. For the Boston Marathon, this horse latitude will get broken up at mile 16. Going into the race I had always heard that the women from Wellesley College were the loudest part of the course. Sometimes you can hear their “scream tunnel” from a mile away. But, I have also been told that loudness is nowhere near as loud as when the first woman runner comes through Wellesley…
While the Boston Marathon is thought of as, the Everyman’s Olympics, for most of its history the “man” part was crucial. It wasn’t until 1966 that a woman ran it (and she had to bandit it). The next year Katherine Switzer ran the race under the name KV Switzer. Race organizers tried to physically force her off the course rather than have her finish. It wasn’t until 1972 that they would officially be recognized as runners and be allowed to register.

The 20K mark was in the midst of the “scream tunnel.” I was taking in this seminal moments of the race, As the loudest yell I had ever heard in a race went on for about a ¼ mile. This bursts of rain I had experienced in Ashland and Natick had not dampened their enthusiasm (see what I did there?). I was getting a bit emotional as the yells washed over me; and, the Wellesley College police officer might have thought I was hurting or overwhelmed by the actual running. He yells out: “C'mon Summah-ville, you can make it. At least it ain't snowing.”
Indeed, 108 inches of snow made training a challenge to say this least. At one point in February, I couldn't take it anymore. I was not going to let all that stupid snow slow me down. On February 11th, I decided I was going to run everyday. I was going to train over ice, over packed snow and in snowstorms. And, I did. The snow slowly melted, the sidewalks slowly cleared and my average speed slowly increased. For 47 straight days until my last long run on March 29th, I ran at least 3 miles every day (and more than 6 miles on 44 of them). Then I realized I only had 3 more days to make 50 days. It wasn't until April 3rd after 51 days and 514 miles that I ended my streak. And, so it was that I really felt I had put in the training for this lifetime achievement.
After Wellesley College, I had continued on my next faster pace. In the center of town, you cross the halfway point of the Marathon. My watch put me at 1:36:3...something for the first half. Wow, I thought. If I do that again, it's 3:13. That meant a new Personal Best but also another BQ and BQ minus 2 minutes to boot! and within the range of “getting in.”
In 1970, the BAA instituted qualification standards for the marathon. For the first time, runners would be required to run a 4 hour marathon to get into Boston. By the time I was running my first marathon in 2010, I had to run a 3:15 marathon. I got to the start line with no intention of trying to qualify. But, once the race started… As, Tim Morin said: “Well, that was stupid.” My second marathon is the only marathon where I haven’t tried to qualify. I was only 5 months removed from my first one. I was only 6 months removed from quitting smoking. And, I was 30 pounds overweight. And, oddly, it went worse than those variables would make it sound.
At mile 16, the horse latitudes of the Boston Marathon end. You run into Newton Lower Falls and then you have the first (and little talked about ) Newton Hill. As you climb out of the Charles River and up toward the Woodland stop, it’s one of the steepest parts of a marathon I’ve ever run. I remember the 2012 New Bedford Half Marathon. As you run up that crappy hill at mile 12 and think you might as well quit, I saw Sean McDonough Jr cheering. He didn’t say any of the typical banal “keep it up” or “almost there” stuff. Nope, his words: “now it’s time to start working.” I’ve looked at the profile of this race 20 times – at least. I’ve ran the Newton Hills 5 times this year alone. The previous 31 years of life, five years of training, 750 miles this year and 16 miles today were all a mere prelude to this very moment. Here, I listen to Sean, again: “Now is the time to start working.”
The 5k from Wellesley College to the 25k mark at Newton Lower Falls was the fastest of the day. But that is of course a mirage. Because now was the time I needed to work. So as we climbed back up out of Lower Falls and toward the Newton-Wellesley Hospital my focus shifted from 5k at a time to one hill at a time. Crossing over Route 9 and then the interstate, the road became more familiar for this city boy. I recognized the roll of the hills. And even on the open six lane highway, the crowds started to get big. (And would continue getting bigger and louder and more people who either I knew or who would yell for the local: “C'mon Summah-ville!”)
Through out this first hill I was worried. I was passing people on the uphill. Maybe I'm running too fast? Maybe they know something I don't about the next hills? But, this didn't deter me from executing my plan. We crested the hill by the Hospital and then I saw the big right. At mile 17.5 is a big right turn from Route 16 and onto Commonwealth Avenue. And right there is Newton Firehouse #2. The firehouse is a landmark during the race, but even more of one during the training. “We ran out to the Firehouse and back,” is a phrase often heard around running circles in February and March. It's convenient to the Newton Hills and has a bathroom and water bubbler.
2012 was also the first year I really had a chance of qualifying. 7 weeks after New Bedford and 3 weeks after Boston, I ran the Providence Marathon. Both Korynn and I were going to make that step from casual runner to BQ status. For 23 miles, I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon. And then, there is this tough short annoying hill at mile 23 (I believe Ruthanne calls those hills, “snotty”). When I got to the top of that hill, I hit the wall. I had slowed down well below pace and just couldn’t run any faster. In August I tried again at Reykjavik to fail but not as spectacularly, since I realized I wouldn’t do it earlier in the race so finished the last quarter easy. I capped the year with a victory lap marathon at Cape Cod. I ran the Clam Chowder Challenge (half marathon Saturday; full marathon Sunday.)
The second hill carries you up to the 18 mile mark and then it’s a gentle descent to mile 19 and Newt on Town Hall. The 30km mark is where most marathons get hard. It's about the limit of people's natural abilities. “Boston Billy” Rodgers said he thought that the hardest part of the race is the next two hills because they are right after you have reached your natural ability. My next small goal was the top of the hill at 30k. My running club always sets up right past the 30km (18.7 mile) line. I knew my fiance and others would be there. The Tsarnaev trial just finished last week so I also knew that when I got passed that, I was winning.
In 2013, I was supposed to run my fiancĂ©-to-be, Urvi, in from the 30km mark to the finish line. Right as she got to that point, I hopped onto the course with her. We went about 100 yards when we saw our friend Ariana on the phone crying. She was talking to her fiancĂ©. He was at the finish line with her son. And telling her and everyone: “Don't come down here.” I was thrown a bit frantic. I was worried about Ariana's family, I wanted Urvi to finish what she had worked so hard to get to, but I didn't want to go anywhere we might get trapped. I didn't know if ahead they were corralling runners or closing off streets or what. ** Once it was determined that Ariana's family was safe and on their way out of the finish line area, I convinced a bewildered and dehydrated Urvi that the race was over and we needed to go back to our running club. There would be people with cars and we could probably get out of Newton quickly. Dafne, who is from Calabria, Italy, gave us a ride home and had managed to pick up a reporter for the New York Times of Italy – la Repubblica – who had been running and was also stopped by the bombing.
The next few days were a whirlwind. Thursday night, our club was at a vigil for the victims at Somerville City Hall. Afterward, there were murmurs about a shooting at MIT. Our friend who is a Cambridge cop, had to work a double shift that night. There was a carjacking by the expected terrorists (which later turned out to happen across the street from my parents’ house!). In the morning, we were on lockdown and the area around Urvi's apartment was cordoned off because it was near the Tsarnaev's apartment.
Two weeks after the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier and the lockdown and the police sweeps of Deb and Steve's backyard, a group of us went out to Pittsburgh to run the Marathon there. For several of us this was a doubly emotional marathon. Tommy and Anthony were both like me and trying for their first BQ. Bradley was going to try to break 3 hours. But for all of us, we were three weeks removed from the bombing, from the police lockdown and from the anguish. It was not far enough away to be distant from it; but, it was far enough away to think we were.
In light of the bombings less than a month before, Pittsburgh was a good day. But while I was “running” it, Pittsburgh was a bad day. At mile 7 on the West Side, I tried to jump over a median. And, I twisted my ankle. 4 months and 1000 miles of training were blown out by twisting my ankle in a marathon – of all things. 2013 was now a coupled with a personal setback and public tragedy of the marathon bombing.
Climbing that hill from the landmark of the Firehouse to the Somerville Road Runners tent had become more important to me than taking that left onto Boylston. As, I climbed up, thousands of people with pop up tents were screaming their heads off. Many of them were probably in the same spot as 2013. If pressure cooker bombs hadn't scared them off, the rain that was now pelting certainly wouldn't. Every step up the hill become a little lighter with the yells for “Somerville” and the occassional “Jesse!” Then I saw the medical tent at mile 18, then there was the turn , then there was the 30K photo spot. Then...
Then, there was the SRR Tent. I noticed it was bit of a downhill to the tent, since it sits lower than you when you first see it. I made sure I was as far to the left as I could go. The first people I saw were Ben and Korynn. And then Brian Keefe and Sean. And then it was a blur of high-fiving until I got to Urvi. I was making it! I failed to grab my bag from her. I was uncertain whether I'd be able to start running again, I stopped running to kiss her as Aharon had with Amy. So I just kept going. Emma tracked me down to get me my bag.
The reason I really hadn't want to go forward with Urvi from the 30K mark is the 19 mile mark. At mile 19 there is a large water stop and it's where Newton City Hall is and a large cross street – Walnut. It would have been a good point to corral runners after the bombing. Immediately after that, the third of the Newton Hills starts. It carries you up to mile 20 and up to the spot where the Hashers set up with emergency beer supplies.
My next goal was to get up the hill to the Hashers. It was the “next hill” and Brendan Caffrey was supposed to give me a calories in the form of shrimp cocktail. At the base of the hill I was surprised by Paul Hammond and Chris Spinney (who was fortunately not telling me where to get out of the wind). And, then Matt Noyes jumped out and gave me a really hard lo-five. (I remember thinking as I passed Boston College two miles later, “oww, my hand still hurts.”) Then about halfway up the hill, I saw Brendan Kearney cheering. I think I was too determined or too tired to get over and high-five him. Finally at Mile 20, I made the hill and the Hashers. “Where the fuck is my shrimp cocktail?”
The 20 mile mark was the spot in the 2013 Manchester Marathon where I realized I might be able to BQ. With the California International a mere month later, I had wanted to use Manchester as training run and get in some “marathon pace” miles. But when I was supposed to slow back down from marathon pace to easy pace at mile 16, I felt too good to do so. Eventually around mile 20 I caught up with Karen Encarnacion and we spent the next 4 miles on and off together pace and wind blocking (well, I was wind-blocking). At mile 26, I looked at the big clock, it read 3:12:00. I was going to do it, I was going to BQ! At 3:13:43, I was qualified for the 2015 Boston Marathon. That was one big hill for me to finally climb.
Mile 21 and the main entrance to Boston College mark the last big hill on the Boston Marathon route. It gains a little less than 100 feet in about a mile. While that isn’t too bad, it’s between mile 20 & 21. In 1936, Johnny Kelley the Elder, caught up with Tarzan Brown, who was on world record pace, at Mile 20. He gave Brown a “good job” pat on the back as he went by. But Brown wasn’t done. He passed Kelley to go onto the win; and, in the words of Jerry Nason of the Boston American, “broke Johnny’s heart.” Thus, it’s called Heartbreak Hill. While it’s largely downhill from BC, there are still 5 miles left in the Marathon. It is no victory lap.
Heartbreak was not a heartbreak for me. I had moved right at some point. While I was not doing as well as the Newton-Wellesley Hospital hill, I was still passing people. My gameplan had been terrific. And I had executed it successfully. I got up to the sign that says “top of heartbreak.” But I did not celebrate. There is one more little bump about an 1/8 of a mile further that is really - “almost all down hill from here.” On the left there is an odd looking Swiss-chalet inspired house with I'm guessing 9 units. That is the top for me.
2014 came around and it was such a big deal. The city, state, nation and world came out to stand up to terrorism and “take the Finish Line back.” In the weeks leading up to the race, I had been so disappointed by my twisted ankle at Pittsburgh and that Manchester and California International had been too late to get me in. In the end, I'm glad I didn't qualify for 2014. I got to be one of a million people cheering along the course; announcing like Ortiz: "This is our Fucking City."  Dedicating the weekend to Uvi's success was awesome. She fought through a painful CIM training cycle and then after the heel injury at Manhattan Half Marathon. I was able to share the last 8 miles or so with her.
After she passed us at the 30K mark, I mounted my bike and rode onto the 22 mile mark at Cleveland Circle, where Urvi’s family was waiting. Then I leapfrogged through Brookline along the course on Beacon Street. This part of the course, while largely flat or downhill, does have an annoying uphill to Coolidge Corner and then back down to the 40km mark to almost Kenmore Square. Brookline is where the course gets exciting for me. Living in Jamaica Plain and Fenway while I was in High School, Cleveland Circle was probably the edge of the Boston City Kid’s reach. There was a movie theater there – which still stands but looks closed. Beacon Street is on the Green Line with trolleys running along the middle of the street. It’s the first time you are feeling like you’re in the City.
I charged down the hill from BC to Cleveland Circle, with a cheer from Matt Story on the way. When I took the left onto Beacon, I was ready to run and enjoy the parts of the Boston Marathon I always wanted to. Unfortunately, I was hurting a bit but also still running fast. If I hoped to keep up the speed and get a personal record, I had to keep focused on one step at a time. Fortunately, Cleveland Circle into Boston, I already know like the back of my hand. I had a general idea of how far, if not in distance or time, in effort at every location. With my head down and my Pirates had pulled down low into the nearly driving rain, I just started putting on the steps through Washington Square and passed Tom Scudder. In Coolidge Corner, I saw my mother yelling her head off.
At the 40K mark, you can see the famous Citgo sign that looms above Kenmore Square and is an icon over the monster at Fenway Park. The sign was originally put up in the 40s, but in 1965 Citgo and the Sign got its current logo. Before you enter Kenmore Square, there is one last hurdle: the little bridge on Beacon that goes over the Turnpike and Yawkey train station. Fight over that and you just have one mile to go down beautiful Comm Ave, before that right on Hereford.
I got to St Mary's Street and saw the Citgo sign. You reenter the City of Boston, here. Between the signs for Boston and the sign, I completely missed that Mark Duggan was cheering there. I was ready for the lip of a hill at the Pike. I just ran it hard. I knew I'd get a breather as I ran down the hill into Kenmore. I avoided the giant puddle where Brookline Street hits Kenmore and the crowd spurred me on past the one mile to go sign. OMG, Here I am. On the other side of Kenmore, I got a yell from Jake Barnett who was with his family awaiting his father to come by.
After 30 years and finally running a BQ time – twice – there was still one more hurdle to leap. I had run a 3:13:31 at California International. The question was: would that be enough to get in? Qualifying is not enough anymore. There are only a certain number of spots available and only the fastest people who have registered get those spots. So on Wednesday September 24th, I stayed glued to my computer constantly looking at Entrants to see if they had posted the last group yet. I got text messages from people asking if I had heard. People on gchat were on the edge of their seats to see if they or any one they knew got in. At 5:52 PM, I got the “has been accepted” email and nearly cried. I had reached everything I needed to attain a lifelong goal; well, except the actual running.
All that work, waiting, emotional roller coaster, life lessons and life changes culminated. I took the right onto Hereford (which is annoyingly uphill, by the way). And then I took the left on Boylston. I ran down the street with my arms in the air. On the right was the old Cheri theater where we saw many movies since Long Kim was the manager. On the left one of the buildings I always went to as a courier. On the right was the Expo. On the left was the Pour House with $1 Burgers and the Walgreens that used to be the Paris theater where I saw Dead Poet's Society and fought through protesters to see The Last Temptation of Christ. On the right was the old North Plaza of the Prudential Center where Dennis Saccoach and I used hide in high school to drink Vodka and Coke. On the left was the ATM machine I once had to help a woman who was trapped get out. On the right was the Lennox Hotel bar we went to a week after the bombing. On the left was the Pizzeria Uno Ian stormed through the patio seating in the late 90s to get out instead of going the right way and the Au Bon Pain Maryanne Chicarelli worked at. On the left was the site of the second bomb. On the right was the Library and the stop I used to catch the 55 bus to high school. On the left was the Marathon Sports and the site of the first bomb. And then it was the front. Those big arches and the finish line.
In between dry heaves I was crying. Medical staff though I was really bad. I said no. I normally dry heave a few times.... To quote Nicholas Thompson from the New Yorker: “[The marathon is] an epic event in which men and women appear almost superhuman. The winning men run for hours at a pace even normal fit people can only hold in a sprint. But it’s also so ordinary. It’s not held in a stadium or on a track. It’s held in the same streets everyone drives on and walks down.” The Boston Marathon’s epicness makes it a challenge; but, it’s the ordinariness – the Everyman's and Everywoman's Olympics – that makes it great.

*- On the plus side, it does have a cool rhyme pattern for each of its 15 stanzas: ABCDDCAB

**- It turned out almost no such action from race officials took; Bill Hees even had to be informed by spectators rather than officials that the race was over.

Friday, April 17, 2015

T Minus 4 Days: Sean Collier Run (4/16/15)

Sean Collier, MIT and Somerville police officer
killed in the line of duty by the Tsarnaevs 4/18/15

Two years ago on the Thursday night after the marathon, our club was at a vigil for the victims at Somerville City Hall.  Afterward, there were murmurs about a shooting at MIT.  Our friend who is a Cambridge cop, had to work a double shift that night.  There was a carjacking by the expected terrorists (which later turned out to happen across the street from my parents house!).  In the morning, we were on lockdown and the area around Urvi's apartment was cordoned off because it was near the Tsarnaev's apartment. 

In remembrance of the MIT police officer, Sean Collier, who was killed SRR now dedicates the Thursday Night Run before the marathon to him.  

We also have a big Pasta meal after the run and SRR gets a group picture of all the members running Boston.
Somerville Class of 2015 

Story on Fox 25 about the Sean Collier Run


Since Baske Ostarije was stolen, I've been riding Ajax Telemon to and from work.  This is annoying and hard for a multiplicity of reasons:

- I feel unsafe in traffic hunched over;
- I don't have saddlebags so I have to wear a backpack;
- It's a little dangerous in rain with the narrow slick tires; and,
- I pop tires in the city on it all the time.

Sure enough, this morning I had a popped tire.  So I had to go back to the house and repair it.  Add 15 minutes to my morning!

Weather update: 

Monday's forecast is now on the 5-Day weather forecast! Now the chance of PM rain is 90%.  But the temp is supposed to be between 48°F and 50°F.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

T Minus 5 Days: The Taxman Cometh (4/15/15)

So, today, still obsessing about the weather.  (Now Mondy's forecast is 51F with 80% chance of PM rain.)

And, I actually have no workouts or runs today.  I'll walk to and from Harvard Yard for class but that's it.

I also watched several videos of the marathon:

5 more days.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

T Minus 6 Days: Souvlaki & The Lou Ristaino Workout (4/14/15)

6 days away until the Boston Marathon!

Today's plan is to:

1) Run "The Lou":

Thanks to Coach Joe O'Leary, the Somerville Road Runners has a Tuesday before marathon track workout.  "The Lou" (or "Lou Riggatoni" or "Lou Rissoto") is a workout designed by local runner and coach - Lou Ristaino. It has become, for Somerville Road Runners', THE rite of passage for a marathon.  Several years ago, at the New England championship track meet, Lou told me he had figured out the workout as one where you achieve three thingsdo "something" for nervous energy, don't kill yourself, and keep your body fluid in the week leading up to your big race.

"The Lou" workout:
800m warm-up

4800m continous, with the first 800 at goal Marathon Pace and each successive 800 four seconds faster:
800 @ 3:32
800 @ 3:28
800 @ 3:24
800 @ 3:20
800 @ 3:16
800 @ 3:12

1600 cooldown.

Meanwhile in actual existing workouts.

2) Continue to obsess over the weather forecast: 

At Noon, the forecast saiad: High of 55 with 50% chance of showers in the PM; three and a half hours later, it hadn't changed.

3) Carb up #1 meal: Pork Souvlaki with Potatoes

mmmm... Pork and Potatoes

1 lb. of ground pork
3 Tbsp of 365 souvlaki spice mix
1 egg
1/4 cup panko 

1 lb of russet potatoes sliced

a- Preheat oven at 400°F
b- Chop up potatoes, put in greased pan with olive oil and spread herbs de Provence
c- Place in oven
d- Combine pork, spices, egg and panko
e- Form around kabob skewers into 4-6 long sausages
f- place on greased cooking sheet
g- Place in oven, bake 25 minutes.

dill yogurt sauce: plain greek yogurt; lime juice; dried dill.

Monday, April 13, 2015

T minus 7 days: The Boston Memorial Run (4/13/15)

One week out from my first Boston Marathon.  It's been a long time coming and here in the final week it's time to obsess over things I cannot control.  So I intend to do three things today that can help me.

1.  The Boston Marathon Memorial run - For the third year Somerville Road Runners will hold its memorial run during its Monday BurRun.  So I'll do some easy miles, jog there, have a pint with the boys, run the 5k and jog back.

2.  Watch the replay of Paris-Roubaix - Hell of the North - on the channel that was up until very recently called Versus.

3.  Obsess about the weather on Next Monday.  When I woke up this morning they predicted a high of 58°F, mostly sunny with 10% chance of rain and gentle breeze from the W.  At 4:30 pm, the prediction had changed to 59°F, partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain and heavier breeze but from the SE.

Photos by Tom Cole

Little Ones Before the Big One: Shifters and Doyles (4/4/15-4/12/15)

Race #1 - Shifters 5k

Eva, Victor (129), Mike and Melissa (288)
photo by Tom Cole
Date: 4/4/15
Location: Waltham, MA
Goal Time: 22:30
Actual Time: 19:09

My goal had been to run to Waltham and then do MP during the race...

I couldn't get myself going early enough this morning, so I had to ride my bike instead. Then that took so long riding directly into 25mph winds all the way, that I didn't warm up.

So I decided to not worry about anything for the race. The start lead to a XC narrowing about 100 yds ahead. So, I took the start easy and hung with Toledo Steve for the first 1/2 mile.

Once the crowd dispersed, I started to run. At the one mile mark, I looked at my watch: 6:45. Pretty good considering the first 400 was probably on 8 min pace.

So, right in front of me was Deb Downs. I figured, I'd catch up with her and then run with her for a while. The first part happened, but the second part didn't. I felt good so I just blew by her.

As I approached the second mile, I was catching up with Jim Normile. I caught up with him and tried to catch my breath. Instead he put in a bit of an attack on me. I figured I didn't have that energy and would lose him.

But as I crossed the mile 2 mark, I just felt okay. So I put in some effort to catch him and instead of staying with him when I caught him, I just blew by him. So, I figured I only had a mile left, I would see what I could do.

At about 2.5 you take the left back onto Wavery Oaks. And this is the signature hill of the course, back to the parking lot. I figured I wasn't going to let Jim back into our little race. I took the first part of the hill at a good clip. Then for the top third, I dropped whatever hammer Seth could pick up later.

I made the right turn before the quarter mile snake through the parking lot. I looked over my shoulder and Jim was a good distance behind but once I caught my breath from the hill I took the downhill and then the last left into the finishing straight.

I hadn't looked at my watch since the mile one mark, so when I got in sight of the finishing clock, I wasn't surprised to see I would barely miss breaking 20 minutes. But then I realized it was 19 minutes that I would barely miss. Wow.

Really good surprise race.

shoutouts -

Aharon & Andy were 2nd & 3rd overall
Deb was 2nd woman
Bradley, Joe, Barbara and Melissa Glockenspiel all won their age group
Carrie-Anne and Todd were second in their age group
John Wichers took third in his

Race #2 - Doyle's 5 Miler

Finishing Doyle's!

Date: 4/12/15
Location: Jamaica Plain, MA
Goal Time: 31:30
Actual Time: 31:26

At 9:45, I went downstairs to grab my bike to get out to JP.

And it was not there.  This is weird to me since I had put it in the bike room.  Crap stolen! After about 10 minutes of searchng the basement for...(Maybe somebody moved it?)  And then 10 minutes of not having a clue what to do...I pulled out Ajax Telemon - which I haven't ridden since the 300K Brevet last year - reattached the wheels, pumped up the tires, greased the chain and hopped out onto the road.  I got into JP with very little time to spare.

At the gun, Mariah and I decided to stay back.  Once the crowd disbursed, I started moving my way up.  I had two targets in front.  First I wanted to catch Mike Quinn.  And then when I got to him, I moved on to catch Matt Ridout.  So by the end of the first mile I was up with Matt.  In front of me was Nichole.  I decided to leapfrog to catch up with her.

I never did.

From the turnaround at mile 2 until the end of the race, I kept closing on Nichole.  But I never got within 20 yards of her.

But I managed to run at the limits of my ability.  I never looked at my watch except for the mile 3 time, because when the volunteer said it, I thought it was fast.

It was fast and also short... It was more like mile 2.9.  I did apparently run a 6 minute mile, but they had be a bit under.

That's when I started to pick up the women's race.  I was sitting behind woman in purple and looking ahead where Nichole and Amanda Watters were.  I didn't actually know the placements of the three woman and I didn't know how much energy I really had.  So I didn't want to run hard to catch up with Nichole with the purple woman in tow and then get tired and drop off where the only thing I'd done is make Nichole's race harder.

But in about 1/4 mile we passed a volunteer who was calling out the woman's places - Nichole and Amanda were 3&4 and purple was 5th.  "Ok," I thought, "Nichole isn't the leader and she'll have to fight Amanda for 3rd anyways."  So now I charged ahead a bit right as we got to a little bump.  Purple woman didn't come with me so I charged the little hill hoping to open up a lead.

On the downhill, Nichole had gone ahead of Amanda.  So I decided to leapfrog to Amanda and then catch my breath and then leapfrog finally to Nichole.  I passed Amanda and went toward catching Nichole.

Right before we turned off the road on to the trails by the golf course, I heard my watch beep for mile 4.  And then passed the volutneers who were stationed where the course said it was mile four - probably 4.1 or so.  They called the times - 25:25.  I was thinking, great, 6 flat could give me a PR.

Nichole looked back - probably to see where Amanda was.  I looked back and saw purple woman reasonably close behind me.  I yelled: "you gotta run! She's closing!"

That was the closest I got to catching Nichole.  She started running harder.

I finished with a 31:26 and a Masters PR!!!

Shoutouts -
Picklesheimer - 4th Overall, 1st AG
Jake - 6th Overall, 2nd AG
Nichole 3rd Overall, 2nd AG
Gordon MacFarland defeated Matt again.