Mission Accomplished!

I did it!!!  It may have taken a lot longer than I had hoped, but on Sunday I officially put the car accident from February 28, 2018 behind me as I was able to beat my marathon time from prior to the accident when I crossed the finish line in Philadelphia in 3:12:07!  For me, beating that time was my way of completing the healing process.

rocky

What a journey it has been!  And I am so thankful for everyone who has been there with me and encouraged me along the way.  You were all part of the reason I did what I did on Sunday and it’s fitting that I’m writing this post as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow.  I have so much to be grateful for!

The Philadelphia Marathon was never part of the original plan for this comeback to be complete.  I trained hard for the Columbus Marathon on October 20 with a goal of running 3:18:18 or better which was my time just 10 days before my accident.  I had the opportunity to share my story leading up to race day thanks to an interview on 10TV.  However, I was battling hamstring issues as I toed the starting line and I really wasn’t sure what would happen so I planned to try to do as many 7:30 miles as possible.

I lined up at the front of the A corral with my Rogue Racer teammates and soon “Thunderstruck” was playing, the fireworks exploded and we were off! I ran a 7:21 first mile and then less than halfway through the second mile I could feel my left hamstring start to tighten up. Oh no! Please not today.

I slowed my pace, adjusted my gait and took a SaltStick Fastchew to see if the cramps would go away. Miles 2-6 ticked off at 7:30, 7:28, 7:32, 7:16 and 7:26. I took a second Fastchew at mile 3 as planned and my first gel at mile 6.

police chaseMile 7 slowed slightly to 7:41, but then I found my rhythm again with 7:26, 7:26, 7:27 and 7:25 for miles 8-11. Mile 12 featured an uphill and I slowed to 7:53, but then I knocked out a 7:26 and 7:30 to get to mile 14 as the half marathoners turned off and we were on our way to second half. I took a Fastchew at mile 9 and a Gu toasted marshmallow gel at mile 12.

Things started to get harder miles 15-20 (7:48, 7:39, 7:37, 7:40, 7:56 and 7:48) as my calves and quads started to tighten up since my gait had changed, the sun was out and the temps were rising. Another Fastchew at mile 15 and a gel at 18 helped keep me fueled as we climbed a few hills during this section.

paced by amyAt mile 21, my friend, Amy, joined me and helped me pick up the pace the next three miles (7:31, 7:37, 7:40) as I took another Fastchew at 21. Then, we hit the dreaded cobblestone streets in mile 24 and I could feel the screws in my surgically repaired foot as I slowed to 7:58. Mile 25 was tough with a my slowest mile of the day (8:09), but I rallied to post a 7:53 for mile 26 and then averaged 6:54 to the finish to come in at 3:20:57.  It wasn’t the 3:18:18 I had hoped for, but boy was I happy with how I navigated the distance on that day to post a post-surgery PR by 37+ minutes to best my 3:58:23 I had posted at Boston earlier this year.

medal bib collage

As I began to recover the week after Columbus and my hamstrings started to feel better, I began to think about what I might do next.  I felt really trained and began to think about other fall marathons I might have a chance to attempt.  Two that kept coming to mind were Philly and Kiawah Island.  I did an interview with M3S Sports that week for their podcast and actually shared that I was considering another marathon which by saying it out loud made it seem like even more of a possibility.

The following week after traveling to New York City on Friday I got back early Saturday morning and immediately knocked out a 16-mile run on little sleep at a 7:02 overall pace and knew that I was in good enough shape to truly consider doing another marathon.  I knew that my Rogue Racer teammates Amy and Michelle would be doing the full at Philly and that Julie and Jennifer would also be there to cheer us on after doing the half the previous day.  So, I signed up but didn’t tell anyone.  I figured that I could try to find Amy in the corral and run as many miles as possible with her since she had told me that she was targeting a 3:15 as her ‘A’ goal for that race.

I studied the Philly course map, watched all the videos about the course that were posted on their Instagram feed leading up to the race and also reached out to a couple of race ambassadors, Rachel and Stacey, to ask their thoughts on the race and other logistics in the city.  I made my travel plans so that I would only be in town for about 30 hours total – so it was all business.  I also did one hard run each of the next three weeks leading up to the race and strategically threw in a tough hill on each of those runs.  I felt ready!

When I landed in Philly on Saturday morning, I headed straight to the convention center to pick up my bib and race shirt.  I also wanted to see if I could run into Des Linden, Meb Keflezighi and Bart Yasso who were there for the weekend and are all three people I look up to and great ambassadors for the sport of running in addition to being incredibly talented runners.  I found Bart first and in true Bart fashion he reminded me that the last time we had bumped into each other I was in a trash bag heading out of my hotel to the start of a rainy Boston earlier this year.

famous runners

After picking up my race stuff and visiting the various vendors, I walked down the block to grab something to eat.  When I came back, I was able to meet Rachel and Stacey and thank each of them for their help in getting me to the starting line.  Then, I saw Meb and was able to snag a selfie with him and have him sign my bib.  I knew that Des would be coming back in a little bit, so I waited for the opportunity to see her as well.  I admire the way that both of these runners have been not only champions in their sport but are so gracious with the entire running community.

Once I left the expo, I watched some of the Ohio State-Penn State game and then it was time to figure out my carb loading dinner.  I googled pasta near me and then also stopped at the front desk of the Renaissance to get their recommendation.  I ended up a La Scala’s and had some amazing chicken parmesan and a piece of lemon cake that I saved for after the race.

flat dave

After walking back to the hotel, I laid out all of my gear for the next day and began to just relax and settle in for the night knowing that a busy day awaited.  The forecast was calling for an inch of rain overnight and lots of wind.  I tried to not think about it and I knew that I had run in rain before and I stood in the horrible conditions at Boston 2018 as a spectator, so I knew that I could handle it.  In fact, I thought about the fact that Des had won the race that year and that the conditions actually helped her do that.  That became my focus.

After a really good sleep, I woke up at 4 a.m. on Sunday – 15 minutes before my alarm was scheduled to go off.  I made my instant oatmeal with a little bit of brown sugar and a handful of raisins.  I did 200 squats because it’s been part of making my legs stronger since Columbus.  I put on my bib – 3926 – which was symbolic for me because I was 39 when I ran my first marathon (26.2 miles). I grabbed four Gu gels, 14 SaltStick Fastchews and my bottle of water with a Nuun cherry lemonade with caffeine tablet in it.  I layered up with a sweatshirt and sweatpants with a yellow poncho over top and grocery bags on my shoes and walked to the shuttle that would take me to the starting line.

yellow poncho group

When I got off the shuttle bus at the starting line, I headed to the corral to try to find Amy and Michelle who had just learned the night before that I was there.  Before they arrived, I was interviewed by Fitz Koehler, the race announcer, and she shared my story with everyone who was anxiously waiting for the race to start and said she thought I would run a 3:14.  Almost immediately after she finished, Amy and Michelle showed up and they were laughing because they had heard the whole thing and knew that the “tall drink of water in a yellow poncho from Ohio who had been in a car accident” had to be me.

ready to go

We snapped a quick photo of the three of us and then took off all the gear keeping us warm and dry.  Michelle was running her first marathon ever with an ‘A’ goal of sub 3:00 and we hoped we wouldn’t see her again until the out-and-back portion of the course late in the race.  We wished each other good luck, paused for the national anthem and then we were off!

The first seven miles just flew by as Amy and I ran through downtown Philly together and tried to just zone out (7:00, 7:21, 6:55, 7:09, 7:21, 7:09, 6:44).  I was a little nervous about the pace, but I quickly realized that my mileage was off or I was running really bad tangents as my Garmin was already showing .20 more in distance when we hit the mile 7 clock.

pacing amy 2

Mile 8 ended up being my slowest mile of the race (7:41) which it should be since it’s the steepest elevation gain (roughly 100 feet) on the entire course as you head up to the Philadelphia Zoo.  We regrouped after we reached the top and knocked off the next seven miles (7:05, 7:24, 7:15, 6:55, 6:56, 7:10, 7:15) in strong fashion to get through mile 15.

pacing amy

It was about this time that Amy and I parted ways.  It wasn’t intentional, but I kept pushing on the small rollers to get around people and to keep an even pace and it happened.  This was the five-mile out-and-back portion that turns around roughly at mile 20 and we could start seeing the leaders come back to us.  I did the five-mile out portion with splits of 7:10, 7:03, 7:14, 7:29 and 7:20 and then came back with splits of 7:22, 7:22, 7:22, 7:35 and 7:33 to get to mile 25.  I saw Michelle go by when I was just past mile 19 and knew that she had almost a two-mile lead on me.  I vowed to keep pushing hard to see how close I could come to her over the final stretch.  I also saw Amy about a minute or so behind me once I turned around and we slapped each other’s hand as we passed.  She looked strong and I knew that she was in good shape to get a new PR.

Fueling was tricky for me during this race because my hands were freezing from the elements.  The temperature continued to drop as we ran and at times we had rain or even some sleet.  The wind also picked up as the morning wore on.  I ended up wearing the throwaway glove on my left hand the entire race, but I stuck the right hand glove in my pocked after my third time taking a Fastchew as it was a struggle to maneuver the Ziplock baggie they were in with cold hands.  I also had trouble pulling the gels out of my shorts and screwing the lid back on my bottle of water and eventually lost the cap to the bottle at mile 22.  I kept the capless bottle through mile 23 and then chugged the remaining water with Nuun and headed to the finish.  I was regimented with my fueling as I took a Fastchew right before the start of the race and again at mile 3.  I started my gels at mile 6 and then took one at mile 12 and 18.  I was planning to take one Fastchew at miles 9, 15 and 21 but ended up taking two instead and that paid off big time for me.  Then, instead of taking my final gel at mile 24 as planned, I took one last Fastchew because I thought my stomach could handle it better without water.  Again, another good call on my part.

hat flip

When I got to mile 25, Julie and Jennifer were there waiting to cheer us on.  This was the third time we saw them in the race and I can’t say thank you enough for their support as they stood out in the cold elements for four hours or more.  It’s what makes Rogue Racers such a great, supportive team.  Knowing that I just had a mile to go, it was time to flip my hat backwards (which Julie captured in the photo above) and push towards the finish line.  Mile 26 was a 7:25 and then the remainder of the race was 7:28 pace as I actually allowed myself to soak in the crowd and the emotions of what I had just done.  Not only had I gone 8:50 faster than at Columbus five weeks earlier or registered my seventh Boston qualifying time by my largest margin yet (7:53), I had posted my second fastest marathon time ever at 3:12:07 trailing just my Erie Marathon finish of 3:10:25 set way back on September 14, 2014.  I had also stayed very steady with splits of 1:35:10 for the first half and 1:36:57 for the second half.  Wow!  What a day!

approaching finish

 

arms up

Once I stopped, I asked a volunteer to help me get the remaining gel out of my pocket and I took it right away.  I’ve learned how important it is to not let your stomach get empty and I know that this helped me start my recovery quicker.  A volunteer put my medal around my neck and another volunteer wrapped the Mylar sheet around my shoulders as I started to realize how cold it was.  I grabbed a banana, a giant soft pretzel, some warm chicken broth (amazing!) and a water and proceeded to devour all of it so that I would begin to replenish all that I had lost.

medal pic

Pretty soon, Amy appeared and I learned that she had indeed gotten a shiny new PR with a 3:21.  We didn’t find Michelle at the finish line, but she had also posted an incredible 3:04 in her marathon debut and I know that with all she learned in the race that sub 3:00 is right around the corner in 2020.

medal pic w amy.JPG

After a quick picture with Amy, I left her with her family and headed to catch the shuttle and then to make the LOOOOONG walk into the 20 mph wind back to my hotel.  I was pretty well frozen by the time that I got there, but nothing could wipe the smile off my face as I really began to process everything that had just happened.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive along this journey.  My Rogue Racer teammates and especially the New Albany members who log miles with me.  Thank you to the staff and members at Next Level Fitness in Gahanna who talk to me every day at the gym and cheer me on.  Thanks to my friends on social media who have poured out so much love and encouragement even though I’ve never even met some of you.

Bart, you helped me fall in love with running when I read your book while on a plane early in my time as a runner.  I tweeted you about it and you responded back within just a few minutes.  Our paths have crossed numerous times since that day and you always know just the right thing to say.  A big part of who I am as a runner resonates with the same journey that you’ve been on combining the ability to push yourself to be your best while at the same time enjoying the journey with others.

Meb, you signed my bib with “run to win” which is your mantra.  While it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever win a marathon (and that’s ok), I did run on Sunday to give my very best and I thought about that when I pulled away from Amy.  I don’t know if 3:12:07 is the fastest time I have left in this 48-year-old, surgically-repaired body, but I do know that I left it all out there and I’m really proud of that.

Des, you have a couple of mantras.  The first is to “keep showing up” which is what I’ve tried to do as I’ve battled back from the car accident and nearly two years of not being the runner I thought I still had the capability of being.  I didn’t let the conditions bother me on Sunday and I didn’t let challenges like a pre-race port-a-pottie with no toilet paper, a gel I couldn’t get out of my pocket or losing the cap off my water bottle throw me for a loop.  Through it all, I kept reminding myself of three words – tenacious, determined, unstoppable.  And Des, your other mantra that you sign a lot is “run happy” which I did to the very best of my ability.  I constantly remind myself that I’m lucky to be alive after the accident and that running is a blessing.  My race photos captured a lot of smiles and thumbs ups and I heard comments from spectators coming to the finish line about how much I was smiling.  I ran happy and it sure helped!

medal collage

I’m not sure what the future of my running holds and what goals I’ll set yet for 2020, but I’ll take the time to enjoy this for a little bit.  I am also excited to work with some other runners from a coaching standpoint moving into the new year as I try to share what I’ve learned to help them reach their goals.  This has been an incredible journey of ups and downs for the past 635 days and as I close the book on this chapter of my story my heart is overflowing with gratitude.  You appreciate things the most when you have to work hard to accomplish them and I’m thankful for everything I’ve learned through this.

 

 

 

Taking Things Full Circle

600 days.  That’s the number of days from February 28, 2018 until October 20, 2019.  While it might not seem like all that many days to some, it’s been a long time coming for me.  And I can’t wait for October 20, 2019 and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon to get here!  (I was recently humbled to learn that I was one of 10 honorees selected to receive the Lashutka Spirit Awards for this year’s event and the following is a more in-depth look at my journey leading up to this year’s race which will be my 16th marathon.)

On the morning of February 28, 2018, I was up by 4:30 a.m. like I am so many mornings as I prepared to knock out most of my commute from Mount Vernon in order to get a run done in New Albany before going on to work in the Donatos home office in Gahanna.  It was an unseasonably warm February day as I had shorts on for my run since it was already in the mid-40s and headed to 60 later in the day.  I was still basking in glow of the previous morning’s 11-mile run at a sub-8:00 pace less than two weeks after re-qualifying for the Boston Marathon with a 3:18:18 finish time at the Warm-up Columbus Marathon on February 18.  It was going to be a great day!

At about 5:30 a.m., I was approaching Johnstown in the midst of the typical steady stream of early morning traffic cruising along at 55 miles per hour like we did every other morning.  Suddenly, the truck in front of me swerved to the right and I gripped the wheel thinking there must be a deer or something in the road.  At the last second, I saw a car with no headlights headed straight at me and managed to turn my steering wheel just enough to avoid a complete head-on collision and BOOM!!!

IMG_5849

I don’t think I blacked out, but I also don’t remember my airbag going off.  All I remember is hearing my horn blaring and seeing smoke everywhere.  My glasses had been knocked off my face and were later found in the back seat.  I quickly realized that my left foot was stuck under the crumpled dash and I knew that I couldn’t get out.  With smoke rising from my engine, I was starting to panic that the car might catch on fire, but there was nothing that I could do.

I remember almost immediately a man approaching my driver’s side window and trying to open my door, but it was caved in at the hinge from the impact.  He told me that EMS was on the way and that he was going to check on the person who had hit me as their car was in even worse shape since it was smaller and had struck four vehicles with mine being the last one.  The entire time I just remember my horn blaring and smelling fuel and smoke.

Within minutes, I heard sirens and soon the Monroe Township fire fighters and paramedics were on the scene.  Someone disconnected my car battery which thankfully silenced my horn and they started the tedious process of cutting off my driver’s side door once they broke the window so they could try to get me out.  A paramedic named Tracey climbed in the passenger side and began to talk to me to assess my condition.  Her calm presence was a God-send in the midst of all the chaos.  She kept me distracted from all the metal cutting, glass flying and loud noises happening next to me while the rest of her team worked to get me free.

At this point, I knew that the car wasn’t going to explode, but I also knew that my left foot was not okay.  I was starting to really worry about what we might find when we got the debris removed from around it.  There was so much pressure on it as the brake pedal had it trapped to the floor that I even imagined the worst case scenario – that it was not even still completely attached.

seatbelt markFinally, after what seemed like an eternity but was really less than 20 minutes, the crew was able to move enough of the dashboard to get me out.  Thankfully, my foot was intact, but I couldn’t put any weight on it and I knew that my shot at running the 2018 Boston Marathon less than two months later was most likely over.  But, I was alive and that was the most important thing.  They put me in an ambulance and I headed to the hospital for x-rays.

It was determined that I had a fracture in my second metatarsal of my left foot as well as very badly bruised ribs and some whiplash, but overall I was incredibly fortunate considering the damage my car sustained.  In fact, I sent a thank you note to the Toyota customer service team for having such great safety features on my RAV4 and I ended up replacing it with another one once the insurance company settled the claim.

I began going doing physical therapy for my neck and ribs, but made the decision to see if the break in the foot would heal if I limited my activity and wore a walking boot.  I was still hoping for the miracle that I might be able to at least jog the Boston Marathon in April.

Well, Boston came and went and although I made the trip to the race it ended up being in a spectator role in the torrential cold rain that fell during the 2018 race as my doctor told me that I would risk causing a more serious injury if I tried to run the marathon.  So, as soon as I got back to Ohio, I scheduled the surgery to get a plate and screws put in.

footSurgery day finally arrived on May 15 – two and a half months after the accident.  Dr. Terry Philbin and his team did a great job and the only issue I had that day was having to wear a one-size-fits-all gown that would have been just the right size for six-year-old and not a 6-foot-6 guy.  Ha!  I woke up from the anesthesia with a temporary cast on and the countdown clock to my recovery was now officially moving.

Over the next 10 days, my time was spent staying off my one good foot and waiting for the incision to heal enough that the stitches could come out and a permanent cast could be put on.  The numbing I received for the surgery took an amazing eight days to wear off and I never felt any pain from the incision and thankfully didn’t need the heavy drugs that had been prescribed to help with pain.  I returned to the doctor’s office on May 25 and got to see my foot for a few moments before the more sturdy cast was put on.

With the cast on, I spent the next five weeks getting really good at going everywhere on crutches whether it was multiple trips each day up and down my stairs at work to my office on the second floor or even attending races to cheer on my friends and take photos.  I watched as three races I had been signed up for – including my first attempt at an Olympic distance triathlon – came and went with me on the sidelines.  But, I knew that I was getting closer each day to being able to start being more active again.

cast removalMay turned to June and I knew that most likely I would get my cast off the first week in July.  Then, I got the exciting news that since the doctor’s office would be closed some the week of the 4th of July that I could get my cast off early on June 29 if I promised to take things easy.  Of course I wanted it off early!  I can remember how shriveled my left calf looked from being compressed for all that time, but it was so good to have that freedom.  I was told that I needed to continue to use crutches until I felt comfortable just using the walking boot.  I actually went straight from the doctor’s office to the Heit Center in New Albany to schedule my first physical therapy session for the next week and could not wait to get started with my rehab.

The rehab process started on July 6 with Dr. Sarah Levine.  She had her hands full with me, but she also knew the right buttons to push to get me to do the things that would benefit me the most.  She really was the perfect person to help me get started on my recovery journey by pushing me hard enough for me to realize that I still had a lot of work to do and to hold me accountable enough to not overdo it.

As my PT sessions continued, I could see progress each time and I knew things were getting better.  In the back of my mind, I was still holding on to the hope of possibly attempting the Ironman Ohio 70.3 that I had signed up for as a Christmas present to myself to push me out of my comfort zone and make me work to get better at swimming.  At a follow-up visit with my doctor on July 20, I sheepishly asked if there was any possible way I could attempt the race.  Surprisingly, he responded that if I wore my boot for the half marathon portion and promised to stop if I felt any issues that I could attempt it.  I couldn’t believe it!  It was the opening I needed and I quickly put my nine-day training program in place.

run finishYes, that’s right….I trained for a half Ironman in basically nine days.  I took four one-mile walks, hopped in the pool a couple of times and logged 102 miles on my bike in that span.  I was not really prepared for what awaited, but I was extremely excited to be able to be active and part of a race again after a five-month absence from doing what I love.

Race day came and somehow despite my lack of preparation or real knowledge of what I was doing I managed to complete my first attempt at a half Ironman in just under eight hours.  While it wasn’t easy, it was such a tremendous experience for me and a big part of this comeback journey.  You can read the entire recap here.

With that goal checked off, I was soon able to switch from walking back to running without the boot.  Physical therapy continued as I worked to rebuild the muscles and strength in my left leg while at the same time getting my right leg used to not carrying the load of my entire body.

By September, I was ready to attempt my first race and finished the River Run Half Marathon in Cleveland in 1:46:43.  I was making progress.  I followed that with the Ohio State 4-Miler in October in 27:27 and that left me very optimistic about another big bucket list item that I had looming in November.

See, the night of the car accident, I found out that I had gotten into the New York City Marathon.  I had worked hard the previous year to get a half marathon qualifying time of 1:27:49 to get in and I really wanted to do this race.  I was thankful that my recovery was progressing enough that I knew I could cover the distance, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect.

45572563_10100200341163150_5933952727691296768_nLooking back on that race, I know that I went into it with unrealistic expectations.  In my head, I kept thinking about the times I was capable of running prior to the accident.  While I had definitely been able to train for the race once my physical therapy had finished and I had even shown some glimpses here and there of my speed returning, I was nowhere near ready to attempt to run a 3:30 marathon which was the pace I set out to run at the beginning.  My lack of stamina showed midway through the race as I ended up walking more than I ever had in a marathon and finished with my slowest time ever in 4:02:52, but, I was able to do it and again it was steps in the right direction as marathon No. 14 and my third different World Major was complete.

Once I recovered from NYC, I started to feel like my normal training was beginning to come back.  As 2019 began, it was time to start focusing on the Boston Marathon in April which I had fortunately qualified for just 10 days prior to the accident the previous year.  After my finishing time at NYC, I was determined to have a better showing and worked hard to put the training in.  Things were going really well until a month before the race when I began to experience pain in my right leg.  All the overcompensating that leg had done since the accident finally was catching up to me and I knew that if I didn’t back off with my training that I could face a serious issue with a potential stress fracture.

So, I took a break and just began to focus on making it to race day with the opportunity to complete the race.  The strategy paid off as the leg began to feel better and I was ready to run my third Boston Marathon – just not quite as well trained as I would have liked to have been.

IMG_1784I’m pleased to say that this race went much better than NYC as through 19 miles I was nearly back to my pre-accident self.  I managed to keep running through 21 miles and all the hills, but once again my lack of stamina caught up to me and I alternated between walking and jogging the rest of the way.  I became determined to keep my time under four hours and pushed as hard as I could the final mile to finish in 3:58:23.  It was the slowest of my three Boston Marathon times, but again it was progress.

Once that race was over, I began to think about which fall marathon I wanted to do.  Having completed 15 over the past eight years, I’m starting to look for different races to do.  However, with this being the 40th anniversary of the Columbus Marathon which was also my first one back in 2011, I decided that I would sign up to do it with a goal of running a 3:18:18 or better since that was my time before the accident.

I also enlisted the help of my running partner Cindy Warner, who is an RRCA-certified coach, to develop a plan for me so that I would really focus in on increasing my stamina in the later miles of the race.  I worked hard all summer following the plan she laid out and started to see the results in the various races I did including a 10K PR at the Columbus 10K in June.  I posted my fastest half marathon in two years at the Emerald City Half Marathon in August and then just this past weekend knocked more than a minute off my time at the Northern Ohio Half Marathon by finishing 15th overall in 1:30:25.

na rogue

Besides the people I’ve already mentioned in this post, I want to thank my teammates, the Rogue Racers.  This group inspires me every day with their performances and they have continually encouraged me on this comeback journey.  Some of them are currently battling injuries of their own, while others will be joining me at the starting line of this race looking to post incredibly fast times.  I’m especially thankful for Cindy, Hilary Ritter and Brittney Rabell (above) for logging lots of miles with me this summer to get me ready for race day.

I also really appreciate the support of my gym, Next Level Fitness and Training in Gahanna.  The people there are truly like a family and they constantly ask about my progress.  Without this facility and the people there, I would not be in the shape I am in now.

next level

The Columbus Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart.  It was the site of my first half marathon in 2010 and then my first full marathon in 2011.  This will be my fourth time running the full and I’ve gotten a BQ (Boston Qualifier) the last two times.  While qualifying for Boston is not the goal for me this time around, if I achieve my goal that will happen in the process.  More importantly, though, just by participating in this event, we are all working together to raise funds for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the tremendous work that is being done there.

I don’t know what will happen on race day once “Thunderstruck” starts playing, the fireworks go off and we begin moving over the starting line.  What I do know is I am grateful to have survived the accident and to be headed in the right direction.  Best wishes to all the runners and walkers doing the half and the full marathon.  Thank you so much to all the amazing volunteers, spectators and the inspiring patient champions and their families.  Let’s have a safe, awesome day touring Columbus!

 

 

 

The Comeback Continues in Boston

IMG_1784On Monday, I had the privilege of finishing the Boston Marathon for the third time.  It truly is a privilege because so many things can transpire to keep this from happening.  First, you have to achieve a qualifying time at another marathon or raise a significant amount of money for a partner charity just to enter.  Then, you have to stay healthy enough from the time you get in to the race to actually be able to run it on race day.  Finally, you have to cover 26.2 miles (and more if you run bad tangents like me) regardless of the weather on race day or how your body reacts to cross the famous finish line.

My journey to this year’s Boston Marathon actually started in February of 2018 when I earned my spot by running a 3:18:18 at the Warmup Columbus Marathon in Dublin, Ohio on February 18.  Little did I know that my running abilities and life in general would change just 10 days later when a distracted driver went left of center and hit my car head on.  Among the resulting injuries for me was a broken foot that would require surgery and an extended period of time away from any kind of running including not running the 2018 Boston Marathon which I was already signed up to do.

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I spent the rest of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 working to recover from the injuries.  I was finally out of my cast at the beginning of July and then began to gradually start running again later in August.  I worked my way up to being able to complete the New York City Marathon in 4:02:52 on November 4 and realized that I still had a long way to go to get back to where I was before the accident.

Training for Boston was going well as the calendar flipped to 2019 and although the weather forced me inside to more treadmill runs than I would like I could feel my strength and speed coming back as well as my ability to log more miles.  As January turned into February, I was consistently hitting 50+ weekly miles and then had three straight weeks of 63, 64 and 63 miles from February 25-March 17.  I was one month from race day and feeling great!!!

Or so I thought.  I began feeling a pain in my left leg that was eerily similar to the pain I had previously felt when I had a left tibial stress fracture.  I dialed things back the next week and did three runs totaling just over 14 miles.  When I finished the last one, I knew that I needed to take a break if I did not want to miss Boston for the second straight year despite being signed up to run.

So, I took 10 days off before I tried to run again.  And when I did run again, I just did a few miles at a time.  Finally, on April 6, I decided to try one last double digit run to see what might be possible on race day and I managed 13.1 miles at a 7:58 pace and felt good at the end.

At that point, only a couple of easy runs remained and then packing for the trip.  I was trying to figure out what my goal pace for race day should be and knew that while I still had a good fitness level that it was really going to be an unknown in the later miles of the race.  I finally settled on shooting for a 3:30 finish time which would be an 8:00/mile pace.  It would also bring me in just slightly slower than my best Boston time of 3:28:48 in 2016 and so yes there was a part of me that wanted to try to break that.

After two fun days in Boston that included meeting several pro runners and seeing friends while at the same time trying to stay off my feet as much as possible, race morning had arrived.  The forecast was not good with rain and lightning and there was actually a delay getting some of the runners to the starting area because of the lightning.  I waited in my hotel until the last minute and then made my way to the bus for the hour-long ride to Athletes Village with bags tied over my shoes to keep them dry and mud-free.

The closer the bus got to Hopkinton the better the weather got as the rain stopped and the clouds started to part.  The temperature was already in the 60s and I really started to worry about getting too hot in the race, but there was nothing I could do as I had dressed appropriately in a singlet and shorts.  I did apply some sunscreen from a first aid station near the start corral and this proved to be a good move as it saved my shoulders from getting burned later on.

After a quick pitstop at a port-a-pot, I headed to the corrals and the race got started.  It really was perfect timing as I did not have to wait in the very muddy confines of Athletes Village or even have time to get too nervous!

Instead of taking off and weaving through runners the first mile, I ran it conservatively with my running partner, Cindy, in 8:52 to keep from using up energy on the initial downhill.  We parted ways after that and I picked things up slightly with an 8:15 and an 8:03 mile to cross the 5K mat in 26:05 (8:23 pace).

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Miles 4-6 clicked by with splits of 7:47, 8:07 and 7:45 with the 10K split coming in at 50:41.  I stayed relatively steady the rest of the first half as the miles ticked by – 7:41, 7:49, 7:43, 7:43, 7:53, 7:36, 7:50 with the 15K split being at 1:14:49, the 20K split being at 1:39:06 and the half marathon split being at 1:44:25 (7:58 pace).  I was doing exactly what I wanted and was right on track with my pre-race plan.  I had even high-fived a bunch of spectators at Wellesley College without going out of my way or using too much energy.  I had taken my fuel on schedule – one toasted marshmallow GU gel at 3.5 and a Maurten gel at 8.5 and another just after the half marathon marker – and drank an entire liter of water.

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Miles 14-16 continued to click away with splits of 7:51, 7:53 and 7:45 as the 25K mark came and went at 2:03:35.  I had lowered my overall pace to 7:56, but I knew that the toughest part of the course awaited – the infamous Newton hills.

My goal going into the race was to not walk at all but especially not to stop on the hills.  The first time I ran Boston I stopped at an aid station on Heartbreak Hill to get chicken broth because I was starting to feel hypothermia set in due to it being cold and rainy.  The second time I ran Boston I stopped at the base of the hill and threw up twice because it was so hot and I was becoming dehydrated.

I’m pleased to say that I met my goal of running all the hills this time around even though I knew I was starting to wear down due to the heat and the fact that I hadn’t done any long runs the last month before the race.  Miles 17-20 were still very respectable as I made surges when I could to try to stay sharp as they ticked by in 8:17, 8:27, 8:19 and 9:24.  I continued to slow down as I trudged up Heartbreak Hill and even though my mile split was 10:19 I never quit running.  I had made it to the top and to mile 21!

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At this point, I knew that I could finish the race, but I also knew that I did not feel very good as my stomach just wanted to empty its contents (which there could not have been much).  I was very hot from the sun and also started seeing people in serious medical situations as three people collapsed to the ground around me over the next four miles and needed immediate attention.  I walked most of this part but tried to shuffle/jog any downhills as my splits were 12:18, 13:45, 13:02, 13:03.

When I reached the mile 25 marker, I knew that I would need to run the rest of the way in order to keep my time under 4 hours and so I set out determined to do just that.  While it may not have been spectacularly fast at 11:11 for that mile, it got the job done and then I covered the final .44 (yes, I ran nearly an extra quarter of a mile!) at an 8:40 clip to cross the finish line in 3:58:23 (9:05 pace) to finish 16,483rd out of 26,632 finishers.  It was the slowest of my three Boston finishes, but by far the one that I’m most proud of.  It was also nearly four and a half minutes faster than my New York City finish so I’m making gradual progress post surgery.

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Congratulations to all of my Rogue Racer teammates and other friends who also finished the race.  Whether it was a PR, a first time under 3:00, a fifth Boston finish or a tough day that took all you had to finish the race, you are all Boston finishers!!!!  Big thanks goes out to the volunteers who make this possible and the amazing spectators who give this event the energy that makes you want to do it again and again.  While this race is tough and the course sometimes unforgiving, there is just something special about Boston and it will always have a piece of my heart!  Thank you!

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It’s Bigger Than the Pizza

I have the privilege of meeting many interesting people through my job at Donatos Pizza.  We are blessed with great customers who have supported us for over 55 years now and each have their own story to tell.  And as I am continually reminded, many times THEY make a bigger impact on us than they even realize.

Back in June, I first learned about a wonderful lady named Clem Torma, who visits our East Broad Street store almost every other Tuesday to get her favorite food, an individual thin crust sausage pizza.  As fate would have it, that day when Clem came in to get her pizza Donatos founder Jim Grote met her and the two of them took the picture below.

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Upon hearing of this chance meeting, I immediately reached out to her family to find out more about her story.  What I learned among many other things is that Clem, who was 102 at the time, had come to America from Italy in a boat at the age of five and landed on Ellis Island.  She worked during World War II as a riveter at Westinghouse in Mansfield.  She has been a widow for nearly half her life and she never had any children.  But boy, has she lived life!  She loved to travel and she was very active in the lives of all her other family members and has taken care of them over the years when they needed it.  We were able to introduce the rest of Central Ohio to Clem and share her story on National Centenarians Day (people who are 100 or older) when WBNS 10TV’s Karina Nova interviewed her in our restaurant that she so frequently visits.

As we parted ways on the day of that interview in September, we promised Clem that we would throw her a pizza party for her 103rd birthday – December 26.  She gladly accepted and I put the date on my calendar as soon as I got back to my desk.

grandmaWhat Clem and her family didn’t realize at the time was that a week before I met her for the first time I had lost my last remaining grandparent.  Grandma Mahaffey and I (pictured celebrating Christmas in 2017) were incredibly close since I was her oldest grandchild and we both loved a lot of the same types of things – sports, good writers and great human interest stories.  Grandma lived to be 96 and had an incredibly full life with so many great memories.  She and Clem would have been great friends had they ever met.  Grandma was also the subject of one of my favorite blog stories that showed me first-hand the power of social media and the amazing kindness of others.

As Christmas approached this year, I began to realize that this would be the first time in my life that I would not get to celebrate Christmas with Grandma. I was extremely blessed to get 46 Christmases with her and I may have watched White Christmas that many times with her.  She loved the holiday season, the music, the lights and most of all the family and friends that she got to spend time with.  This was probably the first time that I truly understood to some degree the feeling of sadness so many deal with around the holidays.

As Christmas came and went, I was eagerly anticipating spending part of Clem’s big day with her.  In talking with her niece, Jan, I knew that there had been some challenging days for Clem since I had seen her last, but the family was really excited to have this celebration.  We showed up with pizza to feed all the residents at the assisted living facility where she lives and boy did Clem’s face light up! (click for video)  She greeted everyone as they entered the dining room and proudly told them that it was her birthday.  She even told me to look around at how many people where there and that we should be able to sell them a lot of pizza.  Good ol’ Clem!  🙂
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Karina Nova had also planned to attend the party, but unfortunately needed to anchor the noon news broadcast and could not attend.  So, she did the next best thing and sent Clem this video and then also wished her happy birthday during the broadcast.  Once again, Clem made an impact.  All the residents sang happy birthday to Clem and then enjoyed pizza and cake.  It was great to see the smile not only on Clem’s face, but the smiles on the faces of the other residents and also on the faces of Clem’s family members.
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At Donatos, our promise is to serve the best pizza and make YOUR day a little better.  We strive for this every day with every customer.  Sometimes we come up a little short and when we do we try our very best to make it right.  I know that on this day we definitely lived up to our promise.  But you know what is great about having a promise like this?  It actually makes OUR day better too by living it out!  So thank you, Clem, for coming into my life in 2018 just when I needed you and allowing me to play just a small part in one chapter of your great story.  Thanks to your love of Donatos Pizza you made MY day a whole lot better!  Happy birthday!
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Finding a Way

Back in January when I signed up for my first Ironman 70.3, I was set to put in all the training to attempt this new challenge.  I began trying to get a mile-and-a-half swim in twice a month so it would make the 1.2-mile swim on race day seem easier.  I took spin classes to get a jump on the bicycling while waiting for winter to break.  And I was running well as I recorded my sixth Boston-qualifying marathon time on February 18 with a 3:18:18 at the Warm-up Columbus Marathon.

Then, on the morning of February 28, everything changed.  At around 5:30 a.m. as I was halfway through my commute to do a training run before work, I noticed the truck in front of me swerve to the right as if to avoid something.  The next thing I knew, I had been hit head on.

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I realized immediately that my left foot was pinned under the dash and I had no idea what kind of shape it was in.  My driver’s side door was smashed shut as the impact of the oncoming car had caved it in.  I had a panicked feeling as I realized that I was stuck in the car and could not get out.  When the firefighters finally arrived and started working to get me out, I could tell that my foot was still attached.  Even though I was thankful to be alive, I was also pretty sure that my plans to run the Boston Marathon in April had just come to an end.

Long story short, an x-ray revealed a fracture in the second metatarsal and badly bruised ribs.  Ironically, the pain in my ribs is what prevented me from trying to test my foot on a run.  Eventually, I started to walk to see what my options might be for continuing my Boston and then half Ironman training.

Four weeks after the accident, I tried to run and realized that there was still something wrong with my foot.  An MRI revealed not one, but multiple fractures in the foot.  After seeing an orthopedic surgeon, I was put in a boot and we tried to let the foot continue to heal without surgery.  However, the decision was made to have a plate and screws put in my left foot on May 15 after x-rays showed the fractures were not healing.  Having already missed the Boston Marathon, I just wanted to move forward and let the healing start.

foot surgeryThe surgery went well.  My recovery started with 10 days of no activity as I had the surgical dressing on my foot.  Then, I was placed in a cast for the next five weeks and spent the time building up my upper body strength since I was on crutches.  On June 29, the cast came off and I was able to transition back to my walking boot and start physical therapy.  At my follow-up visit on July 20, I sheepishly asked if I would be allowed to attempt the half Ironman that was just nine days away.  Surprisingly, the doctor said if I wore the boot, walked the run portion and stopped if something hurt, then I could go for it.  Well, that’s all I needed to hear.

I got in the pool a couple of times before the race to try to prepare for the 1.2-mile swim which would be my first open water swim.  This part of the event was my biggest fear going into the race, but I knew that the distance was doable for me.  The key was not panicking.

In addition to physical therapy twice a week, I was also able to get several bike rides in including 51 miles split into two rides while wearing the boot two weeks before the race.  As for walking, I only managed four one-mile walks just to see how the foot might feel.  I knew that the 13.1 miles to finish the event would probably be my biggest challenge and I was certainly not over-trained.

I was naively unaware of the whole process of what was involved with a triathlon, let alone a half Ironman.  Having only done one previous event that included only swimming eight lengths of a pool, biking 12 miles and running a 5K, I was far from being a veteran.  My plan prior to the accident had been to do the Central Ohio Triathlon in June which featured a 1.35-mile open water swim, a 41.8-mile bike and a 9.3-mile run.  That didn’t happen.

So, I called my friend Melanie on Saturday afternoon the day before the race (nothing like waiting until the last minute) and she proceeded to offer me numerous tips such as what to pack for the two transition areas, how to best fuel for the race, how to attack the three stages and some tips about the course and what to expect on race day.  I also went to the pre-race participant meeting and for the first time heard all the rules.  My head was spinning and I definitely had more than a few moments of self-doubt as the full realization of just how demanding this was going to be both physically and mentally hit me.  I dropped my bike off at transition one at Delaware State Park and then headed for home to carb load and get some sleep.

Race morning came and the forecast was perfect.  I left my house at 4 a.m. and arrived near the finish line to drop off my transition bag for the run portion at Selby Field about an hour later.  From there, I walked about a mile to catch the shuttle to the start.  I knew it was going to be a good day when I found two dimes in the dark on my walk to the bus.

What should have been a 20-minute bus ride to the start at Delaware State Park ended up taking nearly 45 minutes due to traffic.  It hit me how unprepared I was as I listened to others talk about their training for this race.

waiting to goWhen the bus finally arrived, there was only enough time to drop off my bike helmet, gloves, shoes and nutrition for the ride before we had to exit the transition area and get our body marking done to prepare for the start.  Each participant had their bib number (1762 in my case) written on each arm and their age by the end of the year (47) on their left calf.  A quick trip to the port-a-potty and it was time to choose which wave I wanted to start my swim in.

Having never done an open water swim, I wasn’t sure what my best starting point would be.  I decided to line up with the 47 to 50-minute group.  Following the national anthem, the fastest swimmers got started as we began inching towards the starting line.  They were letting four swimmers go every three seconds.  After about 28 minutes, I stood on the edge of the water for three seconds to wait and then it was my turn.  There was no turning back now!

I was not sure what to expect except that I knew I would need to keep my head up most of the time since the water was so murky and there would be other swimmers all around me.  I also did not want to get off course and swim any more than I had to.  I made it out past the first few buoys without much issue and was pleasantly surprised with how calm I was.

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I think sometimes not having any expectations other than surviving and finishing helps take the pressure off because I just kept swimming and swimming and felt relaxed doing it.  There were several times when it got congested and there would be contact with other swimmers, but nothing like I had imagined.  I kept telling myself to just make it to the next buoy and before I knew it we were making the final turn to head back towards shore.

At that point, I was determined to not stop so that I could say I made it completely through my first open water swim (and half Ironman distance at that!) without stopping to rest.  Soon, I had reached the shallow area and was able to walk to the shore.  I had conquered the first leg and the one I feared the most.  Official swim time – 55:29.

The transition area from swim to bike was tough for me.  The parking lot was very rough and for someone who had not been walking much over the past five months and especially not barefoot, it hurt walking from the beach to the bike and I had to go slow.  As I put on my socks, shoes, tank, sunscreen and then bike helmet and gloves, I did take the time to fuel knowing that I would need it to help propel me through the next 56 miles on the bike.  I spent 8:31 in the transition one.

The bike course is very flat and can be monotonous miles of roads and cornfields as company.  I got off to a good start and by mile three, I was riding at an 18.2 mph clip.  I went on to hit my fastest two miles during miles 5 and 6 at 18.5 mph and 18.6 mph respectively.  Not bad for riding a low tier road bike and for not being clipped in.

Melanie had advised me to not go too hard on the bike and save my legs during this portion for the run that would follow.  She also reiterated how important fueling on the bike would be.  I made sure I worked on the bike to keep a steady pace, but I also made sure that I wasn’t going all out all the time.  I had 16 miles where I held over a 17 mph average and even at mile 17 I still posted an 18.1 mph mile.  I also took advantage of the aid stations along the course for extra fuel and hydration.

The final eight miles of the ride were the most challenging with rolling hills on tired legs.  I don’t mind hills on the bike if you can take advantage of the downhills.  Unfortunately, the best two downhills had sharp turns at the bottom that caused you to brake going down them.

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As I neared the end the bike portion, I caught a glimpse of my running partner Cindy up ahead.  It was great to see a familiar face and it lifted my spirits.

I entered the transition area and had finished the 56-mile bike ride in 3:27:20 (16.2 mph average).  I only had one mechanical scare at about mile 50 when I was switching gears and they momentarily locked up and I thought the chain might come off.  Fortunately, it stayed on and I had my second leg of the event done with no stops.

Transition two started with reapplying sunscreen (or I thought I did as I found out afterwards I had missed a couple of spots).  I racked my bike and ditched my helmet.  I also took off my left shoe and put on my walking boot per my doctor’s orders.  I refueled quickly and grabbed a cold bottle of water as I started my 13.1-mile walk.

Immediately, the crowds and other participants noticed I was attempting the 13.1 miles in a boot.  Their comments and encouragement as I started out led to a 13:37 first mile.  I managed to keep the pace below a 14:00 per mile average through the first five miles as I just tried to knock out the distance.

The comments were amazing and helped keep me working as hard as I could.  I grabbed water at every aid station and began to grab a handful of chips and even a small swig of Coke to stay fueled.  I made it through the first loop of the course and knew that the second loop would be tougher as I was starting to tire.  By mile 8, my pace had slowed to 16:01 per mile as the efforts of the day began to take its toll.  The next four miles slowly ticked away (16:20, 16:00, 15:39, 16:32) and then I managed to pick things up as I knew I was almost done.

I had been on the course so long they were beginning to tear things down as I finished the second loop.  Participants who had finished were heading to their cars along with their families and I appreciated every single person who paused and cheered me on.  They made a difference.  As I got within a quarter mile of the finish line, a group of elite athletes waiting to receive their overall and age group awards stood and cheered for me as they saw I had done a half marathon with the boot on.  The emotion got the best of me and I started to jog.  Then, as I entered the stadium for the final half lap to the finish, the cheering grew louder and my pace quickened.  By the time I crossed the finish line, I was running at a 7:09 clip in my first run attempt since March!

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I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air and felt so proud of what I had just accomplished.  My half marathon time was 3:18:21 (15:08 per mile) and three seconds slower than my marathon time in February, but I’ll take it!!!  I had also finished the 70.3 miles overall in just under eight hours at 7:56:03.  Wow!

Reflecting on the day and the past five months of agony since the accident as I was unable to do the things that I love doing, I am so thankful that I could complete this major goal that I had planned.  I heard over and over on the course on Sunday that I was an inspiration to so many people.  The truth is they were all inspiring to me.  People like the 81-year-old man who blew by me on the bike.  The volunteers like my friends Brian, Doug and Joe who gave up their day to work an aid station.  The spectators, family and friends who came out to support and had to stand for hours and hours just hoping to see their participant for 5-10 seconds as they went by.  The police officers who had to put up with disgruntled motorists who were forced to wait while we biked, ran or walked by.  They are the true inspirations.

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Fortunately, as the week has gone by, I think I avoided doing any further damage to my injured foot despite all the activity.  Yes, my physical therapist is not happy with me, and yes, I was tired, sun-burnt and sore afterwards.  But for the first time in five months, I felt like myself.  And that is a better reward than any finisher medal could ever be!

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Jeff Baldwin, Cap City Legacy Runner

As we get ready to celebrate the 15th year of the Cap City Half Marathon on April 28, I think it is important to look back at the history of the race.  And what better way to do that than by asking someone who has run every single one of them.

Jeff Baldwin 2017Fortunately for me, I work with one such person.  Jeff Baldwin, the vice president of franchising and development at Donatos Pizza, has completed every Cap City Half Marathon dating back to the first one in 2004.  And what is amazing about Jeff is his consistency.  He finished the very first one in 1:48:25 (which is still his fastest finish) at age 32 and 13 races later finished the 2017 race (pictured at left) in 1:50:26 at age 45.

I decided to ask Jeff about his history with the Cap City Half Marathon and running in general and included some questions from my social media followers who had also chimed in.  This is what I found out:

Was there something specific that made you decide to start running?  “I started running after college when I started working and needed that release.  I tend to daydream when I run longer distances and it seems to give me a break from day to day.  Running gives me time to reflect on things going on in my life now, which is kind of cool since that was never the intent.”

Jeff Baldwin 2004Why did you sign up for the first Cap City Half Marathon in 2004?  He’s pictured at the right in the inaugural race in 2004.  “It was called the ‘Commit to Be Fit’ race, so it was perfect for me at the time.  I didn’t have enough drive to stay fit and I wasn’t playing any other sports.”

What kept you coming back each year?  “I joked with an attorney friend that it was a verbal contract to run the race every year with a sub 2-hour finish, so the joke has just kept going all these years!  Twice, I have been so close to two hours I felt like I could pass out trying to finish strong.  Those memories make me train a bit harder as I get older!  I also joke with my girls that I try to stay in shape so I can keep up with their kids someday.  They just laugh!”

At what point did you realize you had a streak going and is that streak important to you?  “It only dawned on me a few years ago when I realized how different the pre-race atmosphere was than back in the first year.  Music and local celebrities are everywhere.  There are so many runners now and it has turned into a huge event.  It’s very cool to have been part of it from the beginning.”

Which year was your favorite race and why?  “I think 2009 was the first year my older kids were there to cheer and actually understood what was going on.  I stopped to give my wife and kids a kiss.  Today, they understand the value of health and fitness and watching Dad has been a small part of that.”

timesWhich year was your least favorite race and why?  “The second year in 2005 when the race was in early April and it was 32 degrees with driving sleet.  I wore a hat very low and had to look down the entire race.  It was really tough running conditions which I think helped move the event later in April and even sometimes the first week of May.  I also had a bad IT band issue one year.  Running injured is never fun.”

What kind of training do you do each year to get ready for the race?  “I play ice hockey and tennis and normally run 10-15 miles per week throughout the year.  Starting in January and February, I will start to build to 20-25 miles per week with a few races over 10 miles.  I concentrate on pace and also speed training.  When I run distance, I wear a watch so I don’t have a set route and I don’t have to stop!”

If you could change one thing about the race, what would it be?  “I wouldn’t change much really.  There have been several race routes over the years – some good and some too tight for the volume of runners.  It was fun to run to OSU and around The Horseshoe several years back.  The most recent route is fair and interesting, but nobody likes the uphill climb from German Village to downtown near miles 11 and 12.”  (Note:  Jeff and everyone else will be thrilled to run on the new and improved course in 2018.)

What makes the Cap City Half Marathon so special that you do it every year?  “I enjoy the fact that this is something I have done for so many years, longer than jobs, age of my kids etc.  Knowing it’s on the horizon keeps me honest the balance of the year with training and exercise.  There have been a few near misses such as a daughter was born April 7 and a couple of weddings out of state near May 1, but none have disrupted race day.”

I can’t wait to see how Jeff does in 2018.  If you want to join Jeff and I at this year’s race, make sure to register now.  Use code 18VOCDAVE at checkout to save $10.

The Road to Cap City

It gets hard to imagine spring and warm races when it’s cold and snowy in Ohio in January, but we are now just 102 days away from the 15th annual running of the Cap City Half Marathon along with the Quarter Marathon and the Commit to Be Fit 5K.

VOCCHighResOver the next four months, I have the privilege of being one of eight ambassadors or “Voices of Cap City” for this year’s race.  What that means is that I’ll be posting about the race on my blog and social media and would love to answer any questions you have and also share some stories along the way as we all journey together to get to the starting line on April 28 geared up for a successful race.  As a way to encourage you to sign up to join me, register now and use promo code 18VOCDAVE at checkout to save $10 on any race distance entry fee.  Do it now before the prices go up!

One challenge that all of us are having these days is battling the weather to get our runs done.  I’m typically a predawn runner and freezing temperatures and slippery snow or ice-covered roads and paths definitely pose a problem when trying to run outside.  While I would always much rather run outside, I have come to value the treadmill as a necessary part of my training especially when trying to get speed work in or just trying to stay safe in the conditions.  If you don’t currently belong to a gym or have access to a treadmill or indoor track, you might contact a gym in your area to see if they have trial passes that you might cash in for a weekend long run if you can’t get outside.  If you do run outside, make sure to bundle up and stay very alert to traffic since the conditions aren’t always great to stop quickly.

26804815_10100125315185810_7851032349514182247_nOne other suggestion I would have as you begin to ramp up your miles as race day approaches is to not do too much too soon.  The general rule is to only increase your weekly mileage by 10 percent of what the previous week’s mileage total was.  This will help keep you from getting injured.  You still have plenty of time to log miles as you train for race day.

Also, cross training is a very important aspect to running that we all too often don’t make time for.  Take a spin class at your gym or try out one of the CycleBar locations where typically your first four rides are free.  If you have access to an indoor pool, go for a swim.  It’s a great workout and your legs will thank you for giving them a break while still getting an awesome workout.  Strength and core is also an important component of any running training plan.  You don’t have to belong to a gym or have a personal trainer.  You can do pushups and planks in the comfort of your own home.  It will make a difference and you’ll feel stronger if you do it regularly.  Finally, buy a foam roller and start using it daily after runs.  It will help get you to the starting line injury-free.

We can all do this together.  Feel free to comment below with any questions or send me a tweet at @dponthego.  There is a race distance for everyone at Cap City, but if you feel like you aren’t ready to run this year or maybe are battling back from an injury then consider volunteering as a way to get involved.  You’ll be inspired by all the runners and I guarantee it will be rewarding.

Until next time, enjoy your miles!