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!

 

All the Miles of 2017

It’s been nearly two weeks since we flipped the calendar to 2018 and I’ve finally had a chance to look back and reflect on my fitness journey in 2017.  It was year of ups and downs, new experiences and trying to continually work to be the best that I can be.

21150252_989462024660_4375247611170921058_nI finished the 2016 calendar year with my biggest running mileage year ever as I logged 3,023 miles and managed to stay healthy the entire year…which has been a rarity for me.  As 2017 began, I knew that I needed to not worry about trying to repeat that mileage total because it would catch up to me at some point with my propensity for overuse injuries that I’ve experienced over my seven-plus years of running (two tibial stress fractures, a broken left foot and plantar fasciatis just to name a few).

January started as it typically has for me with a New Year’s Day race as I did the First on the First 5K.  (I love the post-race Yabo’s tacos!)  It kicked off what would go on to be a 245-mile first month of the year, which was my second biggest January ever trailing just the 275 miles I logged in 2015.

Photography by CapCity Sports Media (capcitysportsmedia.com)
Photography by CapCity Sports Media (capcitysportsmedia.com)

February got under way much the same way as I competed in the 5th Line 5K on the first weekend of the month and set a new 5K personal best with an 18:13 to win my age group and finish 15th overall out of 2,782 runners.  The month continued to go well as at the Warm up Columbus half marathon I set a new PR with a 1:27:49 as I dropped nearly two minutes off my previous best time.  I finished February with 232 miles which was once again my second largest February total trailing just the 248 miles I did in 2016.

I was really feeling good as March got under way and had my sights set on some other races to try to PR at.  I had logged 256 miles heading into the last week of the month and felt very confident about the speed I was building.  And then it happened.  My left foot, which I had broken 18 months earlier started to hurt.  I had developed a stress fracture.  It was the second metatarsal this time and not the fifth which I had broken before, but it put an end to my running for eight weeks nonetheless.

Thankfully, I was not signed up for the Boston Marathon in April after running it the previous two years.  I managed just 10 total miles during the month and all were walking with half of them coming at the end of the month spectating at the Cap City Half Marathon.  I did, however, find other ways to work out as I started an upper body weight routine at my gym for the first time ever and also managed my highest single-month swimming mileage ever with 7.75 miles including my first two-mile swim.

imageAs May rolled around, I gradually began walking for exercise again but took it pretty easy.  The foot was starting to feel better and I heard about an open track meet with a 3000 meter race walk on May 21, so I decided to enter it.  It didn’t matter that there were only two other contestants – one who got disqualified from the meet for wearing an inflatable unicorn costume and the other was a 90-year-old senior Olympian (left).  It was a race and I was going to give it my best.  I ended up winning, but the best part was just being able to do something competitive again…even if it was mainly against myself.

I ended up getting my first run in on May 27 by accident when I was riding my bike and got a flat tire and had to run it back to my car.  It went well and I gradually started to get back into running from there.  I finished May with 62 miles with most of them being of the walking variety.

June for me was about gradually getting back into running.  Lots of easy miles early on and trying not to do too much.  However, that all changed on June 17.  After doing a 13-mile run in the morning followed by taking a Body Pump class, I saw on Facebook that a guy I didn’t even know needed a pacer at the Mohican 100-mile race.  I was probably the closest person who could get there, so I quickly ate a bagel, grabbed a gel and a Gatorade and headed out for what I thought would be an 8-10 mile gig as a pacer.

19225253_964218173540_7538623562995076134_nWhat I didn’t know when I got there was that once I started the loop with my new friend, Steve, that I would have to stay with him for 20 miles.  Yes, 20 miles!  That meant that I would be setting a new single-day distance record with 33 miles after barely logging twice that the month before with injuries.  (I guess technically I didn’t get all those miles on the same day since what I thought was going to be a two-hour jog turned into a seven-hour excursion in the woods in the middle of the night with only one headlamp between us.)  I have to say….this was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had as Steve battled back from nearly being pulled out of the race at the 75-mile mark to go on to complete the 100-miler and earn the coveted belt buckle.  It was truly a privilege to get to watch his determination first-hand and to make a new friend in the process.  Thanks in large part to that one day, I ended up with 230 miles in June and began to start feeling like I was on my way back to being 100 percent.

July started off with miles in multiple states in the first week alone with runs in Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina as I was traveling.  I got to experience the largest 10K in the US and finished 995th out of 55,234 people on a very hot day on the fourth of July on a hilly course.  I also spent a day hiking two portions of the Appalachian Trail.  I finished the month with 259 miles on foot.

One other highlight in July was logging 120 miles on my bike.  This started with a 30-mile ride, continued with a 40-mile ride, and then on July 30 I posted my first-ever 50-mile ride in just under three hours as I journeyed through Licking, Franklin and Delaware counties.

20840785_984551001390_872213289273606592_nAugust brought with it heat and more races.  I finished second overall at the Feet for Hope 5K and also managed to break 1:30 at the Emerald City Half Marathon with a 1:29:47.  However, my biggest accomplishment of the month was attempting and completing my first triathlon – a sprint one – in Delaware on August 13.  After a panic attack in the pool on a very short swim, I bounced back to pass people on the ride and run to finish eighth overall out of 65 competitors in 1:05:24.  I logged 253 running miles in the month.

September saw me dial back the mileage just a little bit as I began the taper for what awaited in October.  I still managed to log 221 miles and participated in the Run for the Health of It 4-Miler.

22489673_10100100772923700_8548369684524733274_nAs the calendar turned to October, it represented a month of challenges for me.  On the first day of the month, I paced the Wineglass Marathon as a training run and finished in just over 3:47 on a nice, cool fall morning.  Two weeks later, it was time for my goal race on a warm, humid morning at the Columbus Marathon.  I ran the first half at near PR pace (1:35:20), but the weather took its toll on me and I slowed the second half by eight and a half minutes (1:43:50).  However, I was extremely proud of the way that I pushed through and finished in 3:19:10 (right) for a BQ time of more than five minutes to earn the right to register the first week for the 2019 Boston Marathon.  A week later, I ran the Ohio State 4-Miler and won my age group to cap off a busy month that ironically saw me run 192 miles for my lowest monthly total besides my injury-sidelined April and May.

November saw me log 210 miles and participate in the Buckeye Classic 10K and the Thanks for Giving 4-Miler.  I closed out the year with 250 miles in December to finish with 2,420 miles overall in 2017.

In addition to the running miles, I finished the year with 266 miles on my bike and nearly 27 miles in the pool including meeting my goal of at least one 1-mile swim per month for the entire year.  I also stayed consistent with my upper body weight workouts and know that this is an important aspect of my fitness moving forward.

IMG_5485.JPGOne other funny side note is that I decided at the beginning of the year to save all the change I found on my runs.  I ended up with $5.23 in change (left) in my first year of ‘getting paid’ to run.  Ha ha!  I almost made 1.5 cents per day.

I’m extremely thankful for the people I was able to log miles with in 2017.  You made me a better runner but more importantly your friendship means so much to me.  I’m also thankful for the entire Rogue Racers team that I was privileged to join.  I may not have gotten to train with you much due to where I live and work, but I have learned so much from each of your experiences and knowledge and have been inspired by your performances.  Teamwork does make the dream work.

I can’t wait to see where my fitness journey will take me in 2018.  I’ve set a few big goals and look forward to sharing my adventures as they happen.

Running in the Mizuno Wave Sky


mizunoIt is always fun to have the opportunity to test out new products and especially when it is a new pair of running shoes.  Thanks to my involvement with Fit Fluential, I was recently selected to give the brand new Mizuno Wave Sky a try.  It was a trial like this a year ago that introduced me to the Mizuno Wave Rider 20 and I was a fan from the first run.  I was curious to see if it would happen again.

The timing of this campaign was also interesting for me because I was just coming off a two-month hiatus from running due to a stress fracture of the second metatarsal in my left foot.  I was looking forward to getting back to first walking fast and then running, but I was a little cautious as well because I wanted to make sure that I did everything possible to get 100% recovered.

I arrived home from work one day to find a large shipping box and couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  Sure enough, there was a plain white box with a label saying Mizuno Wave Sky, Size 12, Prototype on the side.  This had me really excited because these shoes hadn’t even had their packaging fully developed yet!  I really was going to be one of the first group of people to try them out!

mizuno3

Over the past two weeks, I’ve put nearly 50 miles on the shoes including a long run of 11 miles and a couple of speedier runs with sprints in the 6:45/mile range as I’ve tried to balance my need to ease back into things and my desire to get back to my normal running and to also give the shoes a fair workout.  One thing that I can say without a doubt is that these shoes are extremely comfortable right out of the box.  As someone who is being a little cautious coming back from injury, I truly feel that these have been the perfect shoes for me during this time.  The Mizuno website gives this description of the shoes:  “Maximum cushioning meets maximum comfort in the new Wave Sky, built for neutral runners. A full length U4icX midsole works in harmony with new cloudwave technology for a plush and lively ride.”  I agree with this and am so glad I had the opportunity to try these out!

For a neutral runner who logs a lot of weekly miles and puts lot of stress on their feet, I look forward to seeing how these shoes hold up.  Probably the only thing I would have changed about these shoes is that I would have loved to have had the black with red trim version (below) for the Peachtree 10K on July 4th that is put on by the Atlanta Track Club in Mizuno’s hometown.  They would have totally matched the group’s colors as well as the colors of my local group, Rogue Racers.

mizuno4

(I received a pair of Mizuno Wave Sky shoes in exchange for compiling a review of them.  These are my honest thoughts and it has definitely been a positive experience to test these shoes. #Sponsored)