Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Hero's Journey: A Windy City Odessey (10/7/18)

Urvi and I on Navy Pier
Race: Chicago Marathon
Goal Time: 4:00
Actual Time: 4:49

(translation of a recently disovered manuscript in the Meteora monasteries from Greek heroic hexameter.)

Sing of legs and man from Cantapontem!
Who came west to these Wolverine lake shores,
destined to run in the City of Winds
and plowed the asphalt fields from the Loop
to Boystown and to Little Italy.
Driven by the rage of blonde Demeter
his knee bore bony battles of Greektown
and Pilsen t'ward the finish in Grant Park.

So, Kalliope, Chief of all Muses,
remind me of Iessai of the morning,
and how he overcame the Sheep-Bearer,
with assistance of fleet footed Hermes
to travel the turbulent travails
Pheidippides once ran in Attika.

Willis (Sears) Tower
Blonde Demeter, from her art-deco mount,
watched with ire as Iessai ran down Halsted -
at the home of flaming saganaki.
She dashed to Olympus, her former home.
and called to Zeus, "Oh Brother, King of Gods,
from my aerie atop the Board of Trade,
I watch with anger as morning Iessai
who once disturbed my sacred rams at Vik,
now race thru my Illini city streets.
To finish with glory would spoil and mar
my sacred pastures in the icy North."

The Cloud-Gatherer answered his sister,
"Giver of Goodly Fruits, Iessai disturbed
your sacred rams and ewes six summers ere;
for one last time you may punish him thus.
I will allow you to keep him from fame,
but he must [fragment missing]

Bad photo of medal

Thus lovely crowned Demeter spirited
back to her home away from Olympus.
She saw Iessai was drinking Gatorade
on Adams sea toward Santorini.
Though born of the morning star, mortal and
knit together through joints and ligaments
was he.  When dipped into the Karolos
as a boy, it left his MCL vulnerable.
To this point the Bringer of Seasons struck.

Thus like a poisoned dart as Iessai turned
onto Halsted his knee was pierced in pain.
His gait went from Olympic to a limp.
The previous 17 miles now struck
knee and hamstrings brought him down to a walk.
As he fought between running and walking
Iessai combatted urges to stop and sit.
By 17.5, he could not.
At the lair of Illinois Chicago
embattled Iessai sat upon the curb.

Race winner, Sir Mo Farah making an appearance at our tent.

An archon approached, "You need assistance?"
Iessai declined. And the archon then asked:
"How has this race gone for you until now?"
"Leaving the chariot," Iessai began,
"Eos streched her rosy fingers over
the lake, we awaited the call to arms
as the gates closed and athletes climed fences
high as the mighty walls of Troy once were.

"Upon the launch of Apollo's arrow
the athletes, more than thirty thousand strong,
furiously charged the up wide Via Colon
and into the Chicago catacombs.
An easy pace, I ran behind Brendan,
but had to let him speed away ahead.
After the [fragment missing]...
... like snakes ... aged Anchises..."

And thus Iessai continued his story:
"By 15k, I had to stop again.
The knee had started to hobble a bit;
My hamstrings started to waddle a bit.
I whisked away from the field of battle
and on a wobbly gate, I stretched my knee.
Then heard my name and looked around to see,
Victor, from the Land of Trolley-Dodgers,
with Batavian Flor and Megan too.
Megan and I around mile 10
"Thither I dashed to join them on the road
the next two miles running concurrently -
serpentine shape slithering and sluicing
like a black and gold river over rocks
through the host of heroes battling the race.
We saw the Old Town and our Stop and Shop.
By the eleventh mile, it was no more.
I had to drop away from the phalanx
of the golden hoplites of Saint-Omer.

"By mile 12 I sat and watch the L train
for a while before battling forward
to West Loop where I stopped again to rest.
My knee was now thus a real problem;
I considered whereabouts of the L;
considered wherewithal of surrender.

Mile 12.4

"Is it dark before rosy fingered dawn?
Perhaps; I perchanced to be passed by yet
another of mine own golden hoplites.
Liz dashed by with an air of confidence;
whilst I could not maintain her pace, she got
me from that place, heading to better space.
And back through Greektown and saganaki,
I went." Iessai paused to stretch out his knee.
"Then I was struck by a bow's iron arrow tip,
I hobbled here and look for the L home"

As wounded Iessai wound up his epic,
the Archon nodded a touched his tortoise
shell shades, and began speaking in god-like
voice, "So now you sit here building defeat!
Blinded and oblivious to your fate!
King of Gods - whose power sways Earth and sky -
sent me down here from brilliant Olympus,
bearing commands for you to race the winds.
If glorious destiny cannot fire
your spirit, perhaps the fires of the Blaze
commemorated here for hundred years
can move you on toward fateful fortune!"
With these holy orders still on his lips,
the Archon vanished.  Iessai now knew
it had been fleet of foot, tricky Hermes.

Wounded Iessai arose to continue,
like Agios Yiorgios his battle
would start taming flaming firedrake.
Thus with just the power of will he stopped,
and forced Sparky D. Dragon to submit.
Driven by duty now, Iessai moved on
t'ward shops of Italia Minor.
Emboldened by beating machinations
of Demeter, Iessai fought with himself.
Each desire to stop met with a walk
then back to a run until he could not.

Sparky D. Dragon and I

But fleet Hermes had a trick up his sleeve.
Chicanos of Pilsen were out in droves
cheering all athletes but Iessai saw them
as carrying him.  The Sheep Bearer had not
given up her quest to avenge her rams.
And as wounded Iessai crossed Charon's bridge
on Cernak, Demeter's daughter lashed out.

Another pain drove into Iessai's knee,
he couldn't turn over or bend for the run.
And he found a port bench on which to sit.
Shy of 21 miles - five more to go -
Iessai had descended down to Hades,
in the dark thoughts, perhaps ne'er to return.
Persephone roamed the harvest belt
and now in the guise of a volunteer
offered wounded Iessai a banana
and pomegranate juice. Iessai declined
knowing the fruits would offer return
to the land of the living nor finish.

The bench I sat at for far too long

Once he rested his skin-clad human ship
and strengthened the the boat's ligament-built ropes,
Wounded Iessai left the land of dead,
bid farewell to his bench, made for Sina
and built back his speed. Hoping to finish
in fewer than five hours, ran faster
thru Sina and the South Side of the Sox.
And was shocked he'd made it to 24!

But, alas, Demeter had another
pain shot through his knee, at twenty-four - five,
hobbled Iessai was forced to stop again.
An archon said he could walk to the end.
Iessai nodded but replied, "I'll just rest
until I'm ready to run." Iessa knew
Hermes was with him and wanted him done.
His destiny was to run to the end.

Jo Ann and I at mile 25.5 
Up the broad, wide Michigan Avenue,
spectators cheered all the athletes with beer.
Iessai continued his hobble and wobble.
Stopping here for a picture with Jo Ann
(While Jo Ann's friends questioned his choice this late),
High fiving there some children on course.
With a half mile to go, with one last hill,
wounded Iessai fought slowly as runners passed.
But in the home stretch, rugged Ithaki
came into view.  A giant red banner:
the end was a blast and FINISH, at last.

Some of the SRR finishers - Chris, Robert, Liz, me, Brendan, John, Keiran and Pickle

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Downward Cascade: Jack and Jill Half Marathon and the PNW

SRR at the finish line

Event: Jack and Jill Half Marathon
Goal Time: 1:30:00
Actual Time: 1:32:20 (Strava GAP: 1:35:06)
Location: Cascade Mountains, Washington State

Jack and Jill is a clever name for a downhill marathon/half marathon.  Although, I neither wanted to fall down, nor break my crown.  I always thought the Jack & Jill was a Scots-Irish Appalachia rhyme.  Turns out that's not true.

The first publication of the nursery rhyme was in 1765.  And while there are several theories about the source of the rhyme - from child born out of wedlock to being based on the great Icelandic poet, Snorri Sturluson.  But in my research, I found my favorite.  (Favorite meaning the one I liked best, not the one I felt there was the most evidence for); I'll sum it up:

Charles I of England and Scotland was in desperate need of money all the time.  He also conflicted with Parliament all the time in requesting taxes.  Parliament demanded he do more to support the Protestant cause during what is now called the Thirty Years' War and they demanded some oversight on the King's choice of advisers.  One of the taxes the king proposed was to increase the tax on ale/whisky/wine.  A jack was 1/8 of a pint; while a gill (with a soft G) was 1/4 of a pint.  When this tax was rejected by Parliament, the King instead moved to make both a jack and a gill smaller, thus increasing the per fluid oz tax on ale. This attempt (and others) to circumvent Parliament led to the English Civil War.  After Cromwell and the new Mercantile Class and returning Thirty Years' War veterans combined against the King, Charles lost his head in Parliamentary sponsored regicide.
Thus, Charles broke his crown over Jack and Jill. 
Of course there are many loose ends here and I'm sure it's all bs. Where does the vinegar and paper come in?  Maybe this jack/gill thing from 1625 was the beginning but is that really what broke his crown? What about the multitude of other complaints leading to the Petition of Right three years later? And what about the 24 years between the jack/gill controversy and the actual regicide?

And now you're like: Yeah, and what about that half marathon?

The race was at 6:30, which required an O-Dark-Thirty wake up.  After parking on a field in a random state park, we loaded onto a shuttle bus, where the driver wasn't 100% certain where we were going.  (This is how a lot of horror movies start). After some frightful moments where she called out with no response, to the world over a staticy radio, we made it to the half-marathon drop-off.

But this wasn't the start line. Per the Jack and Jill website:

"Half Marathon runners will be bused from the finish area (the same finish area as the full marathoners) to the half marathon bus drop. Buses will drop runners at the bottom of the Garcia trail and runners will need to hike up a one mile trail/road to the start area.  Trust us...this half marathon is worth the hike!"

Brian, Urvi, Melissa, Kevin and I started on the steep hike up the Garcia "trail" (really a dirt road) along with the others who had been on our bus.  About a quarter of the way up, a van stopped.  The Wahoo Runners had rented a van and had plenty of room for all of us from our shuttle bus - WAHOO!

The race is all on a gravel rail-to-trail that comes downhill out of the Cascades:  The John Wayne Pioneer Trail and the Snoqualmie River Trail.  (Snoqualmie River drops into the Snoqualmie Falls which is part of the TV show Twin Peaks).  The trail is not too bad as far as big gravel rocks, but about half way through the half marathon it splits into more of a jeep track than a trail.  So you have to stay right or left of a median of grass.  Along the way the trail crosses old railroad bridges that are both glorious and disconcerting in height.  The beauty of the Cascade region might slow you down a bit as you stop and smell the evergreens. And the full marathon has a two mile tunnel.

Snoqualmie Falls
There were not a lot of people doing the half marathon, so with my 1:30 goal I was in the second row at the start line.  A couple guys, including a 16 year old who would eventually win with a 1:20, took off like bats outta hell.  I took a few strides with them before I got my mind and pace right.

By Mile 2, there was nobody in sight.  Over the next 2 or 3 miles, about three people passed me who obviously had a negative split in mind.  But other than that, nada.  The first third, I managed to keep my goal pace around the 6:55 mark.  But then something happened to me in the second third.  I tried to put in an "iota" more of effort, but there was nothing there.  I slowed to miles between 7:10-7:25.  Then there was a weird bit through Rattlesnake Lake State Park that was like chicanes at Monte Carlo.

Two Boston high school guys meet again after 25 years, at the end of a marathon in a random state park in Washington State
Josh W. & I

Coming out of "the Snake," I was able to drop the pace again somehow.  The next 4 miles I kept under 7 min miles.  In miles 11 and 12 I managed to pass two and a half people (one of them was not in the race but he was running at a good clip, it took a while to catch and pass him.) After the 12 mile mark there was one more guy in the distance who I was closing on.  I probably closed 20 seconds on him in that last mile.  He probably had had a 40 second lead on me going into the last mile.  So I finished in 11th Overall and 4th in my age group.

Even with the higher temps and the adjustment for the all downhill, I am still leaps and bounds ahead of the Houston Half in January.  But still leaps and bounds behind this time in 2016.

I was the first SRR to finish.  So that let me cheer in Brian and Melissa to their age group awards; Kevin to his first half marathon finish and Urvi into her best half in two years.  Then the marathoners came in: Barry, Josh (whith a huge PR), Deb and Nichole, Scott, and Seth.

Melissa and BLav with their Second Place age group medals.

24 Hours in Seattle

Chihuly Museum and Garden

Safeco Field

Urvi, BLav, Nichole and I at the Space Needle

48 Hours in Olympic National Park

Hole in the Wall, Rialto Beach

Sol Duc Hot Springs

World's Largest Spruce

Sunrise Point
Lake Crescent

Hurricane Ridge

24 Hours in Portland

Heavenly Falls, Portland Japanese Garden

Dinner at Rogue

Portland International Test Rose Garden

Peggy the Train, World Forest Museum

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Prov2Prov: Beat the Ferry (6/30/18)

Riding the Canal Trail toward the Bourne Bridge
Event: Beat the Ferry: Providence to Provincetown
Distance: 145 miles
Moving Time: 9:19:05
Elapsed Time: 11:43:13

Providence to Provincetown map
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take the first train from South Station at 0645 to Providence, RI - arriving at 0755.  Then cycle 234km (145 mi) in 12 hours or overall average of 19.5km/h (12 mph) and catch the last ferry back to Boston at 2030.

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I took the red line from Central to South Station and then met up with five others to get down to Providence.  Rami, Glen, Moshem, John and Ben (who was a member of the train gang from the CRW Century).

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Heading out of Providence we caught the East Bay trail down the eastside of the Gansett.  This trail is the main part of the Providence Marathon so it was fun to do the miles on bike rather than foot.  The temps were still cool as we shifted from shaded wooded sections of the trail to cool seabreeze sections.

At the end of the trail we headed over the Mt. Hope suspension bridge in Bristol - which was nerve wracking to say the least.  The first 20 miles, my inflamed knee fired shooting pains up and down my leg.  I had a bailout plan to return to Providence or push onto Plymouth if I was forced to retire.

Soon we left the Ocean State for the Bay State.

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After the urban jungle, surprise cobblestones and highway bridges of New Bedford, we caught the Phoenix Rail Trail in Fairhaven - another beautiful trail that mixes tidal marshes and woods.

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Once off the Phoenix trail, we rode through the towns of Wareham and Onset and onto the Cape Cod Canal trail.  The massive sugar intake from Gu and Cliff bars and Tailwind had started to hit my stomach.  And the views of the Bourne Bridge that we would have to cross merely exasperated the rumbly tumbly tummy.  I kept temporarily placating my stomach with some salty peanuts I'd bought at Cumby's in Wareham, but it would return with a vengeance a mile later.

Over the bridge we continued to the northern entrance of the canal.  And while I tried to stay with everyone I kept dropping off the back.  I was not feeling well, but I wasn't getting worse so I thought if I just got to the next rest stop...

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By the time we pulled into the Optimist Cafe in Yarmouthport, I was worried that I would have to bail because of my stomach.  Then the Optimist was closed.  So we crossed the street to the historic Hallet's restaurant (founded in 1889).  Their meatball sub was exactly what my turnover stomach had needed.  After that lunch break, I was fit and ready to finish.

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Coming out of Yarmouth, we caught the Cape Cod Rail Trail through the center of the Cape from Brewster to Wellfleet. This gorgeous trail through sandy woods and state parks was not crowded.  We met up with Ben's aunt and uncle on the trail.

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The final rest stop was PB Boulangerie Bistro in South Wellfleet.  This bustling bakery and bistro had a rocking quiche Loraine that I ate in two bites.

On the road into Wellfleet Center, we caught back up to Glen who had been having some cramping issues and had had problems on the hills through the Cape.  Rami got him into Wellfleet where Glen could Uber into PTown and still catch the ferry.

Me, Moshe, Ben and Rami at the Post Office Cafe, P-Town
At 7:30 I came over a hill in Truro and saw the spire of the Pilgrim Monument in the hot hazy horizon.  We were going to make it!  I picked up he pace - never dropping much below 20 mph - until we hit the crowds and mayhem of Provincetown.

The four of us who rode the whole way, found John and Glen who'd each been forced to finish the trip by bus or Uber.  After a pint at Post Office Cafe we clambered aboard the Fast Ferry bound for home.

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Mission, Successful. Ferry Beat.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Montes Homini Lupus Sunt: B2VT Iron Distance (6/9/18)

Thru Vermont

Ride: B2VT Iron Distance
Distance: 113 miles
Moving Time: 7:19:08
Elapsed Time: 8:57:04
Pivo Index: 2
Map and Profile

Tyson Road, Reading, VT 

At the final water stop we had been told it was only 5 more miles of climbing.  That was good since much of the previous 10 miles had been long not too steep climbs.  I was ready for the down hill off of Tyson Road and down into Okemo.

What they did not tell us was exactly how steep those 5 miles would be or that it was really six and a half miles...

As I fought my way up the road, about 4 and a half miles up, a group came by me.  And there I heard the telltale: "looking good Jesse."  I didn't know these people but they had read it off the bib number on my back.  There is one thing for certain, you only tell people they are looking good is when they aren't.

BLav and the Bear -
It's like a 70s buddy comedy

My legs were dead; I was shifting side to side.  And all I could think was, "thank god I'm only doing the 113 miler and not the full 149."

Cambridge, MA

Two weeks before, we received an email. There would be construction on the route between the final water stop in Belows Falls and Okemo.  The organizers, thus, were rerouting the ride.  So those who had registered for the 136 mile ride could either ride 149 miles or drop down to the Century which would now be the "Iron Distance" 113 mile ride.

I chose the latter.

Urvi's pic of me - before I knew what was about to come

Discourses on Leviathan while riding on Leviathan - Chesterfield, NH

Leaving Ashby, we had a nice 38 mile warm up before that monster climb - Leviathan.  En route to it, all the guys we knew riding from the 149 start passed us - Joe, Patrick, Rory and Dave.

"There is no such thing as the Tranquility of mind" so as I made the Leviathan climb, I could only think of Hobbes' Leviathan.  And a man dead nearly 350 years, offered assistance - either by motivation or by distraction - to the top of a mount in New Hampshire.

"The condition of man is a condition of war of every one against every one."
By the time we made the right hand turn, the group we were with had begun to split up.  In what had been a group effort to get the bottom became a free for all of man against man to get to the top.

"Hell is truth seen too late." 
And this hill, while not as hard as Tyson Road, was an early reminder of a pretty simple truth - I had not done enough training.  But it was too late.

Atop Leviathan

“Covenants, without the sword, are but words and of no strength to secure a man at all.”
Probably the main issue is that unlike marathoning, I didn't have the same direct forcefulness to me.  The sword of the impending marathon is so much stronger than the dagger of the impending Century ride.

“For it can never be that war shall preserve life, and peace destroy it.”
This battle of all against all (that really wasn't - seriously most people around me were just trying to make it to the top), every pedal stroke was destroying quads.  There was no hope to save strength for later each of these strokes was one that would not return later in the ride.

“Fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion.” 
Slowly the fear of Leviathan dissipated.  I could handle this average 4% grade; I could handle the

“War consisteth not in battle only,or the act of fighting;but in a tract of time,wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known.”
So, by halfway up, with the superstitions and fears of Leviathan gone, I looked to controlling it.  A sign passed that said 2 miles to go.  I knew if I took it smartly, I could make it.

"Hurt inflicted, if lesse than the benefit of transgressing, is not punishment"
Each pedal stroke was not the agony of destruction but now the step to the top.  Each hurt was not punishment but hurrah to another rung to the top.

“Respice finem; that is to say, in all your actions, look often upon what you would have, as the thing that directs all your thoughts in the way to attain it.” 
I knew how much I had to climb, I knew the water stop in Chesterfield was near.  So I traded between sitting when the slope was gentle and standing emulating Contador (only in mine own head I'm sure) when the rise was steep.

Rivers of Vermont

“Fact be virtuous, or vicious, as Fortune pleaseth”
One mile to go was both virtuous and vicious.  I was 80% done; but I still had one mile of slope and climb to ride. 

"For Appetite with an opinion of attaining, is called HOPE."
Eventually, I knew I would make it.  There spero pushed its way as a pacer.  I chased with not only desire to finish but expectation.  And then over the mat at the top I briefly was going to exult my success an  exhalt my mini-victory by thrusting my arms into the air.  Yet there were still 70 miles to go and the mat was a raised enough bump that I worried I would fall.

“I often observe the absurdity of dreams, but never dream of the absurdity of my waking thoughts.” 
As I sat under a large maple at the Chesterfield Fire Department I reflected up the Leviathan climb:

It was solitary and it was nasty and it was brutish; but, alas, it was not short.

Bellows Falls, VT

Thinking Thucydides on Tyson Road

Many of the lessons of Leviathan that could be teased out of Leviathan had been learned.  Sadly not many of them could have been implemented by this time. 

Exhausted and weakened and now left with but one goal, finishing.

Yet, with no Hobbes to help, I was left only with Thucydides: "strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

Weak and humbled I climbed to the top of 5 miles of Tyson Road, just to make a turn and see MORE CLIMBING to the top of Tyson Road.  And then after charging up that with my last ounce of strength, I made a turn to find yet one last climb to finally top out five mile hill 1000 foot hill of Tyson Road (at more like 6 miles and 1100 feet of climbing).

The last section was just suffering what I must. I sat down and pushed what I could and thought: my "swaying bodies reflected the agitation of my mind, and I suffered the worst agony of all, ever just within the reach of safety or just on the point of destruction."

Okemo, VT

After Tyson, it was fast and easy (except for the slight climb to the finish).  Brian met me at the finish and we headed to BBQ and Sam Adams IPAs with the boys.

Dave, Brian, Rory, Patrick and I stand around Joe

Rory won second in his age group
Patrick took third in his.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Train Gang: North to New Hampshire Century (5/20/18)

Train Gang:
Andy, me, Gavin and Ben
Ride: North to New Hampshire
Distance: 100 Miles
Route: Wakefield Depot -> Harold Parker Depot -> New Hampshire -> Newburyport -> Ipswich -> Wakefield
Moving Time: 6:28:56
Elapsed Time: 7:25:25

The Charles River Wheelmen offered a new option for their Spring Century - North to New Hampshire - Ride.  The ride director and the sweeper met us at the Wakefield Depot for the check in that normally happens at the high school.  Four of us: Andy, Gavin, Ben and I then rode off with the sweeper onto the ride.  Gavin and Ben were going to do the Metric Century, while Andy and I were going to hit the hundo.  By the time we got to the Imperial Century/Metric Century split, Gavin and Ben changed their mind.  They rode with us through the whole hundred. 

North to New Hampshire Route

While I based this on the words of Sam Cooke, I had the Ladysmith Black Mambazo version in my head.

Wakefield Depot
I hear someone saying
Oh don't you know 
That's the sound of the folks
Riding in the Train Ga-ang
That's the sound of the folks 
Riding in the Train Gang.

Harold Parker State Forest

All day long they ride so hard, 

til the sun is going down
Spinning on the highways and byways
Turning those frowns upside down
You hear as the buffaloes bray
Then you hear somebody say

Riding selfie with the rest of the Train Gang in tow

That's the sound of the folks

Riding in the Train Ga-ang
That's the sound of the folks 
Riding in the Train Gang.

New Hampshire Roads
Can't you hear them singing:

We're riding along all of these ways
Heading back toward Massachusetts Bay
With water so clear
But meanwhile we gotta ride here.

Merrimack River
That's the sound of the folks

Riding in the Train Ga-ang
That's the sound of the folks 
Riding in the Train Gang.

All our bikes on the train heading back to Boston
All day long they're singing, mmm (Hoh! Ah!)
My ride is so hard
Give me water
I'm thirsty, my ride is so hard
Woah ooo
My ride is so hard

It was my first hundred of the season.  Great to finally get onto the road and be prepared for the rest of the cycling season - 3 weeks til B2VT!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

That Was Pretty Epic: Boston Marathon (4/16/18)

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Race: Boston Marathon
Goal Time: 3:30
Actual Time: 3:54

"You know it's wild when you are wearing a stranger's dirty socks on your hands as gloves" - Deb Downs.

Only 10 months after my seizure, a terrible training cycle coming off an equally bad cycle from New York did not bode well for a marathon.  Which was alright I guess since the weather gods didn't help, either.

Throughout the week, weather forecasts got drearier and drearier.  By Thursday they were predicting 90% chance of rain and 20mph winds.  We all thought, okay this is bad but kinda like 2015 so we should be okay.

Then Saturday morning, it changed again.  Temperature predictions had dropped 10 degrees and now winds were 25-35mph.  And 90% chance of rain had basically become - MONSOON!

Sure enough, marathon morning was dismal and depressing.  My lack of training with nagging injuries just made it worse. If it was any other race, I would not have done it.

Hopkinton to Framingham

Dreams of requalifying for Boston were ephemeral. By mile 3, questions of such a plan began to dominate my brain.  Around the time the questions were in my head, I caught up with Deb; she was still nursing an injury and wasn't ready to run fast.  I joined her and pretty much immediately we were among the stragglers in wave 1.  But that was awesome.  My struggles with training, injury and weight let me join a friend who was also going through the motions and just going to finish the race.

The weather would trade between icy wind and downpours.  I kept trying to have Deb hide behind me (random other people kept hiding behind me without me telling them to).


By Mile 9, I was warmed up.  Deb was not.  Her hands and legs were freezing.  She picked up somebody's discarded poncho and attempted to make it into a skirt.  When that failed, she found somebody's discarded socks (that they probably wore on their hands) and put them over her gloves.

We did get to see Mama and Papa Downs in Natick Center.  Which gave us both a little pick-me-up since there were virtually no runners around us by then.  It was like running a smaller marathon with so few people around us.


At Mile 12, the first people in Wave 2 came flying by us (including the woman who was 5th fastest in chip time).  Then Meb and his group came by.

Deb and I kept clumping out our 8:00-8:30 pace.  The din of the Wellesley girls rose above the puddled pavement.

The Scream Tunnel was coming. In 2015 and 2016, I had intentionally moved to the left hand side of the road to avoid the tunnel and its accompanying stops and zigs and zags from runners.  This year I did not.

My arm fired my hand out and it high-fived every single girl reaching over the barrier. As I got thru and looked back Deb was doing the same. She had also never actually high-fived the girls, either and it was good that we got to really experience such a seminal part of the marathon.

Going through Wellesley Centre and Hills, we got a high-five from Coach Rick and Nichole Bukowski passed us.  (She also checked if we were okay, we were as good as we could be.)

The dip into Newton Lower Falls was brutal on my stiff left knee and weird lower calf thing.  But we hit that town flags and we made it -


Secret Hill 
This is where I took my leave of Deb.  8:00/mile pace would be required if I planned to keep moving.  (The old: "I know I'm just going to get slower, so if I start too slow I might actually stop").  So up the first (secret) hill, I ran, fighting to the Hospital and then tto he Firehouse.

30km Hill
The big swooping right turn swept up to the start of the 30km Hill.  I immediately went to the left so I was ready to acknowledge and receive acknowledgement from both November Project and Somerville Road Runners.  With November Project in my rear view, the wall was beginning to shake its fist at me.  I kept it together enough as I ran by SRR.

In the driving winds and pouring rains, SRR was nothing but a jumble of rain jackets and ponchos and trashbags.  Kate and Kari and Emma and Rod and Paul (he had a giant camera), were all that could be made out in the mass of water-beading vinyl.  Blowing a kiss toward Urvi, I went on my way.  But that was it for me.  Most of the fun of my race was over and forced a dejected slump as soon as I got around the corner and out of sight.

Hasher Hill
On the Orange Line en route to the charter bus, I read the latest issue RUSA's American Randonneur magazine. Included was a ride report from a woman who attempted a 200k permanent ride when she first started chemotherapy. By half-way through she had kept herself going by trying to push through for the next 10 miles and then the next 10 miles, etc.  I realized I wasn't on chemotherapy and that unlike many runners I have some meat on my bones that generally keeps me warmer.  So I wasn't too worried about the conditions affecting me medically any more.  So I moved from the next ten miles as she thought to the next "marker."

My first marker was Brendan K. I fought myself through the City Hall area to Brendan. I high fived him and got great chants.  Then it was to fight to the top of the Hasher Hill.  Brendan C. wouldn't be there but it was a marker and a progression.

Heartbreak Hill
Next marker was Heartbreak Hill.  I pulled over to the right and just put one foot in front of another.  clump clump clump.  Atop Heartbreak I pulled way over to the right so that I could adjust the left sock that had curled up and caused a numbness.


At the Heights, the BC kids yelled as the sky opened in yet another Noahesque downpour.  It was the first time I acknowledged both a downpour and massive headwind simultaneously.  Visibility got to zero as the headwinds battered my chest.  "All of this misery can be over.  I can just hop on the Green Line and go home."  But the knowledge that after Chestnut Hill reservoir, it would be a point of no return.  There would be no way I could quit with less than 45 minutes left.  So I stumbled forward along Comm Ave and toward Cleveland Circle.


I had fallen into dark and depressed place when I turned onto Beacon in Cleveland Circle.  So much so, I don't even remember the turn:

What I do remember is that the flag for Brookline was not right at Beacon but probably 1/10th of a mile ahead.  That means that Maryann's isn't in Brookline but actually in the City of Boston (Brighton).  Maybe that's how they got away with selling $1 Bud Lights to underage undergrads.  I always thought it was weird that the Town of Brookline that doesn't let you park on the street at night and whose cops pull over cars with black teenagers in it for no reason other than to ask where they were going would allow such a thing to happen.  Once I realized Maryann's was in Boston, that explained it.  

This strange digression into underage bars from the mid-90s probably kept me not thinking about running for nearly a quarter mile, which was good. I hit the Mile 23 sign and just told myself, "Just keep running for 35 minutes and you can f'ing stop."

After Washington Sq., my name was yelled from the left. It was Officer McGinty doing a detail with the tactical team.  Cutting across Beacon, my hand gave him a high five and I spoke to him for 30 seconds before heading on my way.

At Coolidge Corner, I found my mother and gave her a hug.  Just 25 more minutes and you can stop. A big cheer from Ray had me stepping a little quicker toward Boston.  I had to avoid a tall guy who had gone from running an 8:00 mile to near dead stop walking.


At Park Ave, you can see the Citgo Sign.  And at Park Ave, you can see the bridge over Yawkey Station. Crossing the 40km mark my legs tried to get a start over to the bridge over the Turnpike Just 15 more minutes and you can stop.

The overpass at Yawkey is perhaps the ugliest bit of nastiness.  It's the last water stop; it's steeper than it should be; and, at that moment there are only two things that can be going through your head: a) "I'm having a great race and in a little more than a mile, I'll be celebrating", or b) "Make this stop."  (There are surely people who are telling themselves both).  I had been in camp b for quite a while, jogging over to the right with people who were walking as they drank a last gatorade or girding themselves to not stop again.  Never did my legs go into walking mode, but sometimes "running" was far slower than other people's walking.

From the peak of the overpass my legs started picking up speed and thought they could put in one 9 minute mile (They couldn't) and then I almost ran into Tall Guy again as he had passed me running but was walking.  oh my god just run a speed you can keep running or don't stop in the middle of the back.

Crossing the one mile to go mark with the Citgo sign painted on the ground I gave a glance to the left at the sign itself and ahead was the Charlesgate bridge over Comm Ave.  Just get there, I told myself.  I just kept putting one foot in front of another.  Then the clouds opened up again one more time... and Tall Guy passed me and then started walking - fucker.

Gotta make the underpass; gotta make the underpass; gotta make it to the underpass.  I dipped my way under Mass Ave and prepared for the climb back up.  My left knee was find now but my right calf and periformis and hip were not. The downhill was murder.

Right on Hereford. I got ready for the obnoxious uphill.  Nobody was walking now, we were all going to run to the finish.  Here it was.... oh wait, except Tall Guy is in my way again.  It was now comically annoying rather than angering.

Left on Boylston.  I was so unhappy; so destroyed; so done with this miserable deathmarch across the MetroWest.  We hit the turn and I didn't even care.  Just get me to the finish. 5 more minutes and you can stop.  But then something happened.  There were runners around me throwing up there hands in joy and looking to each other and smiling. I realized, this might me their first time here.  Many of these people were fulfilling the dream that I had done in 2015.  This might be miserable and horrible but suddenly Bradley's advice came back to me: I'm in the goddamned Boston Marathon.

I proudly started counting down the blocks Gloucester, Fairfield and then Exeter.  Yeah, we're all going to do this!  We're finishing the Boston Marathon! We're all in this finish together!  Then as we passed Exeter Street, I saw in my peripheral vision - Tall Guy. We're in this together except that guy. I dropped whatever hammer I had left to make sure I went across before Tall Guy did, cuz fuck him.

I crossed the line and stopped running.  The pain was really setting in as  I made my way to the medals, found Freddi and got my medal from her.  Then my poncho and waddled down Clarendon to get to Back Bay Station.

Heading back toward the Park Street and Cambridge on the Orange Line, I texted Brian Lavalle in Vietnam: "Well, that was pretty epic."

Monday, March 5, 2018

Running the Upside Down Cow: Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler (2/17/18)

Race: Martha's Vineyard
Location: Martha's Vineyard, MA (Vineyard Haven to Edgartown and back to Oak Bluffs)
Goal Time: 2:32:30
Actual Time: 2:34:30 (2nd, Clydesdale)

I'm a bit behind on this blog, this is taken from my RunningAHEAD recap:

I had a pretty good plan:

8 miles easy
4 MP
4 MP-5
4 MP-10

Started out with Bolt, CA, Tim, Dennis and Sean, Sr. At Mile 6, I went from easy to less easy. At 8, I was going to drop it down to current MP (7:25). I tried, however, I needed to stop and retie my right shoe. Then I got back on track from 9-12. I was going to make 13 another MP. But that's when drinking til 2:45 with Tim and Scott started to effect me. I had some stomach problems after a chug of water at mile 12.5. Had to fight through that mile and then the next, I overcompensated on 14. It took me a little more than a mile to recover. At mile 17, I dropped to MP -10. That only lasted a little more than a mile. The miles caught up with me. 7:45/mi would be a BQ, so I can't be too unhappy.

Perceived Effort -10 - 20 mile race; really put it all out there. Nearly collapsed at the finish.

Mood - 7 - Man, everything was awesome. Weather; time; wind. Sadly, Scott, Tim and I had decided to drink until way past bedtime.

Pop - 4 - Tired legs from the middle-upper level training week. Each mile where I tried a pickup, I felt the weakness in the calves and quads. But as it got later, the inner quad felt like it was tearing from the tired legs.

I came in at my slowest Martha's ever. However, from my launch point of only Jan 1, I think I'm doing well. This race put me on target for this year's plan.

2nd Place, Clydesdales