Tag Archives: Boston Marathon

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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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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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.

Oh the Places You’ll Go

Photography by CapCity Sports Media (capcitysportsmedia.com)May 26 is a special day for me.  Seven years ago on May 26, 2010, I started a journey that has seen me log over 14,500 miles over the past 2,557 days, make countless new friends and experience many new adventures.

It all started by simply lacing up some old gym shoes and going for a run.

I was 38 years old and 235 pounds and knew that I needed to do something to get in better shape.  Yes, I had run one not so stellar season of track way back in eighth grade.  Any other running was seen as a necessary evil as conditioning for the other sports I played.  However, on this spring day, I decided that my jeans weren’t fitting so well and I needed to make a change so I went for a run.

That first run lasted all of two miles and the pace was nothing spectacular to document.  In fact, the speed walk that I did this morning at a 10:47 pace per mile was probably just about as fast as that first run seven years ago.  I found out just how out of shape I was.

But, I came back the next day and did it again.  And little by little over time the running clicked and I started to enjoy it.  I ran my first race three months later and was hooked and also discovered what a great social event running could be as well.  I finished with 559 miles by the end of 2010 and set my sights on going for 1,000 miles in 2011.

Fast forward to today.  I actually haven’t run for eight weeks now due to a stress fracture of the second metatarsal in my left foot.  This is the same foot that I broke back in 2015 (fifth metatarsal that time) when I missed 12 weeks of running.  However, I’ve started my comeback with fast walking miles and even won a 3000 meter race walk last Sunday with a time of 19:32.  I can’t wait to finish my rehab and get back to running full strength in the days ahead.  In the meantime, I’ve become a little more well-rounded by doing some strength training nearly every day for the first time in my life in addition to swimming and biking the last few weeks.  Cross training is so important to not only be the best runner that you can be, but also to stay as healthy as possible.

Some of the highlights over the past 12 months for me included an age group win at the Lake Michigan Half Marathon last June, a Boston Qualifying time of 3:14:09 and negative split second half at the Chicago Marathon in October, a second-place overall finish at the Hangry 4-Miler in November, a then new PR 1:29:40 in the Cleveland Fall Classic Half Marathon in November, an age group win at the Thanks 4 Giving 4-Miler on Thanksgiving, a PR and age group win at the 5th Line 5K in 18:13 in February, and a new PR of 1:27:49 at the Warm Up Columbus Half Marathon also in February.  I also logged my first 3,000-mile year with 3,021 miles for the 2016 calendar year.

CapCity Sports Media www.capcitysportsmedia.com

I also got to vary my running routes up thanks to all the traveling I do for work.  Nashville has become one of my favorite cities to run in and I also added Summerville, SC, Owensboro, KY and Bowling Green, KY to my list this year thanks to new Donatos locations opening there.  One of my most memorable runs was at sunrise over the Cooper River Bridge, which hosts one of the largest 10K races in the country each year.  Just one of the many sunrises that I was blessed to see as one of the biggest rewards of my pre-dawn running.

Here’s a year-by-year look at my mileage totals for the past seven years:

2010 – 559

2011 – 1818

2012 – 1497

2013 – 2221

2014 – 2488

2015 – 2125

2016 – 3021

2017 so far – 783

And a few other facts and figures from the past seven years:

Total States Run In – 17 (Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.)

Different Shoes – Asics Gel Kanbarra (3 pair), Asics Nimbus (16 pair), Adidas Boost (2 pair), Puma Ignite, New Balance 980, New Balance Vazee, Mizuno Wave Rider (2 pair)

Marathons – 11

Half Marathons – 15

Complete List of Races – Athlinks Page

As I get ready to start my eighth year as a runner, I can’t wait to see what the future holds and what new states I can add to my list.  I already have a qualifying time for the 2018 Boston Marathon and would also love to get into the New York City Marathon.  I am also excited to be part of Rogue Racers and look forward to representing them in my upcoming races.

As I close this look back over the past year on the run, I can’t help but think about these words penned by the incomparable Dr. Seuss:

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, “I don’t choose to go there.” With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.

And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.

Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.

You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.

And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don’t. Because, sometimes, they won’t.

I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause you’ll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl. Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Here’s hoping we cross paths in the days ahead!  Just lace up your shoes and get out there with me.  The adventures are endless.

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Cooper River Bridge in Charleston, SC at sunrise

2016 – Lots of Miles with Smiles

139694-051-036h-1As the calendar flips over to January 1, 2017, I think back to 2016 and can’t help but smile as I reflected with a thankful heart on all the places that my running took me and the memories that I made.

The year started for me just returning to running after taking 12 weeks off after suffering a broken foot on August 13, 2015 and then being sidelined.  So, my biggest goal for 2016 was to stay as healthy as possible and just enjoy being able to run again.

January saw me log miles on 29 of the 31 days as I finished the month with 240 miles.  For the first time since I started running five years earlier, I did not race a New Year’s Day race and the only race I ran during the month was the 5th Line 5K which finished on center ice inside Nationwide Arena.  Let’s just say it’s not easy to finish with speed when you are swerving down the hallway underneath an arena, but I still managed a 20:16 that day.  My longest run of the month came on the next to the last day of the month when I logged 18 miles on a gorgeous morning in Nashville, Tennessee with the Nashville Striders the morning of the VIP Party for our new Donatos that was opening there that week.  That was a great way to get to know the city where I would log a bunch of miles during the year!

In February, I logged 248 miles and took advantage of the extra day for Leap Year by running 27 of a possible 29 days.  There were several memorable runs during this month including 14 miles on a track (56 laps!) with the Brentwood Breakfast Club on Groundhog Day while I was in Nashville for work, 20 miles on a treadmill at my gym at a 7:25 pace overall, and a 1:30:50 half marathon time trial at Warm-up for Boston that was my fastest half time to date.

CapCity Sports Media www.capcitysportsmedia.comMarch roared in with numerous double digit runs as the Boston Marathon training was in full swing.  I finished the month with 276 miles spread over 28 of the 31 days.  Some of the highlights were another 20-mile run on the TJ Evans Trail, a 16-mile run in Mount Vernon that included both the Punisher and the hilly Gambier loop, a 16-miler in Huntsville, Alabama, a fast 15-miler in Nashville, and a 10-miler in Summerville, South Carolina as I logged runs in four different states in the span of a week at one point.  I also ran one race – the Scioto Miles 15K – and finished 5th overall despite hitting a deer on the way to the race.

For the second straight year, I was blessed to be able to spend part of my April in Boston to take part in the Boston Marathon.  After running a 3:44:27 in 2015 at less than 100%, I was looking forward to another shot at the iconic race.  I really wanted to requalify (BQ) with a sub 3:25 and felt like I was trained for it, but when race day rolled around with a 70-degree starting temperature I knew that it would be tough to do.  I still went for it, but the sun and heat took its toll between miles 19 and 20 and I had to stop.  After depositing my stomach contents on one of the infamous Newton hills, I did manage to continue on and was really proud of the way I gutted out a 3:28:48 finish time to knock off over 15 minutes from my previous Boston finish.  April ended up being lowest mileage month of the year with 193 miles logged over 25 days of activity as I took five rest days.

I got right back to logging consistent miles in May as I logged 265 miles spread over 28 of the 31 days in the month.  I celebrated my sixth “run”-iversary on May 26 with 10 miles and also paced a friend at the New Moon Half Marathon.  I got to run 8 miles in Lakeland, Florida while my dad road his bike when I flew there to surprise my mom on Mothers Day.  I also raced the RadioU 5K and managed to finish fourth overall in 21:01 on the toughest 5K course I’ve run yet.

The mileage increased to 273 miles in June as I logged at least a mile on 28 of the 30 days of what turned out to be a pretty warm month.  Looking back, I remember calling several of those runs sauna runs and I definitely sweated off a few pounds.  Probably the highlight of the month for me was the lone race that I did…the Lake Michigan Half Marathon in Muskegon (below).  It was my first run ever in the state and I made it a memorable one as I lowered my half marathon PR with a 1:30:19 to finish 10th overall and win the 40-44 age group to score a large sandstone lighthouse sculpture as the prize.  I remember thinking as I ran along Lake Michigan and looked west across it to where Chicago would be that this was going to help me later in the year.

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I’m not sure where to start with July.  I don’t know if I’ll ever top it.  It was my best month ever with 303 miles as I logged mileage on 29 of the 31 days.  I had 17 double digit mileage days during the month including 17.76 miles to honor America on July 4th, 18 miles on July 16th and 20 miles on July 30th.  I also enjoyed running around beautiful Seabrook Island, South Carolina and running a 10K route back and forth across the famous Cooper River Bridge (below) in Charleston, South Carolina.

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I backed the mileage down to 264 miles in August while logging them on 28 of the 31 days.  A few of the highlights were a 16-miler at a 7:02 pace, a 17-miler and a 20-miler.  I also tried to go for a third straight half marathon PR at Emerald City in Dublin, Ohio, but I came up way short at 1:32:49 as the 70-degree temperature and 100 percent humidity did me in.  But, you never know what you can do unless you go after it, so I was glad that I attempted it.

September saw me log 263 miles while running 29 of the 30 days.  This month saw me log one 16-mile, one 19-mile and one 21-mile run as I was attempting to peak my training for the Chicago Marathon in early October.  I also managed to take a 40-mile bike ride on September 11th.

October may have been my favorite month of the year despite being my second-lowest mileage month with 212 miles and four rest days over the 31-day month.  The reason that I loved this month was that the weather was perfect and I got to do the Chicago Marathon.  I went into that race with a goal of 3:20 and I blew that away with a 3:14:09.  It wasn’t my fastest time by a long shot, but I BQ’d by over 10 minutes and also negative split the second half (1:47:05 to 1:47:04) for the first time ever in a marathon.  Plus, the entire time in Chicago was just perfect as I got to explore the city on a gorgeous fall weekend.  Two weeks later, I also did the OSU 4-Miler and set a new course PR in 25:17.

November saw me log 226 miles despite spending half the month on the road for work which meant runs in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky as I logged miles on all but two of the 30 days.  It was also my biggest racing month with the Hangry 4-Miler (2nd overall in 28:01), the Buckeye Classic 10K (10th overall in 43:43), the and Thanks For Giving 4-Miler (1st in age group in 24:58).  In addition, I celebrated turning 45 by setting a new half marathon PR for the third time in 2016 by finishing the Cleveland Fall Classic Half in 1:29:40 to take third place in my age group.

I closed out the year with 260 miles in December as I ran all but one of the 31 days.  It ended up being the only month all year that I did not run a race in, but on the flip side I did run in shorts on all but four days as the weather was abnormally warm.  The biggest highlight of the month was the unplanned 20-miler that happened the day after Christmas as I tracked down all 12 items on the #RunChatHunt list while staying inside the city limits of New Albany on what would turn out to be a 68-degree day.  A singlet and shorts the day after Christmas in Ohio?  I’ll take that every year!

I ended up logging 3,021 miles to finish more than 500 miles higher than my previous yearly best of 2,488 miles in 2014.  I logged miles on 336 of the possible 366 days (it was Leap Year don’t forget) which averages out to 8.99 miles per non-rest day.  I also had the opportunity to see many amazing sunrises over the course of the year which is one of the best benefits of being a predawn runner.

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However, more importantly than the miles I logged or the races I ran are the friendships I made or strengthened during the year.  It was great to make new friends in the cities I visited for work as running is one of the best ice breakers around.  And I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing running partner and other close friends who have helped and inspired me more than they know on this journey in 2016.

As I head into 2017, my goal is not to attempt another high mileage year.  That was never the goal anyway until I saw it was within reach the final two months of the year.  Yes, I would love to average 200 miles per month and log 2,400 miles.  At the same time, I would much rather stay healthy and run fewer miles.  I also want to get stronger with consistent strength and core work.  But more than that, I want to continue to help others meet their goals either directly or by cheering them on from afar.  That brings me the most joy and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!

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6 Years & Running Strong

Today is a special day for me.  It was six years ago on May 26, 2010 when I started my journey as a runner on the Kokosing Gap Trail in Mount Vernon.  I was 35 pounds heavier and was looking for some way to get in better shape.

CapCity Sports Media www.capcitysportsmedia.comFast forward 2,192 days later and that running journey has taken me through 17 states, 11,890 miles, and several dozen pairs of running shoes all the while introducing me to many great new friends and exciting adventures.

I shared a lot of my running history last year in a blog and there is no need to go into all of that again.  Over the past 366 days since that blog, there have been ups and downs.  I battled plantar fasciatis throughout the summer and eventually suffered a broken left foot on August 13 while on a run.  That led to 12 weeks of no running and very limited activity until the end of that recovery process.  However, I tried to find other ways to stay involved in running by supporting others and still going to races.  I’m not going to lie…it was HARD!  But, I realized that I can’t take running for granted.  Just like other things in life it can be taken from you in a blink of an eye.  Live in the moments and take full advantage of things while you can.

Ironically, despite all that time off due to the injury, I still had one of my best running years yet as I managed to log 2,229 miles.  I ran my fastest half marathon time in February as part of my training for the Boston Marathon, and I completed Boston for the second year and bettered my time with a 3:28:48 for my ninth marathon finish in 6 years.

One of the highlights of my running this year has been all the time I spent getting to know Nashville on foot as I have been there for work.  It’s a great running town and I’ve made several new running friends there and logged lots of miles.  I hope to run a race there at some point.

I’m looking forward to training hard but smart this summer and staying injury-free while preparing for a fall marathon when the weather is a little cooler.  Who knows where the journey will take me this year!

Back to Boston

13015463_843150638850_7772319922997962584_nI am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to take part in the Boston Marathon for the second straight year this past Monday.  Last year, I posted a 3:44:27 at less than 100 percent.  Fortunately, I still had a qualifying time to get me in for this year.  Despite breaking my foot in August, I patiently worked my way back to at least close to my best shape yet.  I had a big confidence booster in February with a half marathon PR, and I was able to get lots of training on rolling terrain due to traveling to Nashville a lot for work.  I went into this year’s Boston Marathon gunning for a 3:15 and felt like I had a good plan of attack in place to accomplish that.

It was nice to have a day and a half in Boston prior to the race in order to take in a few tourist things and also spend plenty of time at the race expo including picking up that all-important race bib.  After walking over 11 miles the day before the marathon last year, I made sure to not be on my feet as much this time around.  It was also great to hang out with some friends that I don’t see often enough and eat at some great local restaurants.  One of the biggest highlights was going to a special service on Sunday morning at Old South Church which has been around since the mid 1600s and is located right at the finish line of the race.  They honored all of us running the race and had special music with Chariots of Fire on the pipe organ and even a bag piper.  I highly recommend visiting this church the day before the race to anyone who earns that coveted BQ.  I also logged a nice shakeout run along the Charles River after church on a picturesque day (see below).

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Finally, race day rolled around and with it a 70-degree starting temperature.  Yikes!  As someone who runs most of my miles predawn and definitely not in that kind of heat so far this year except when on a treadmill, the temperature and bright sun were definitely real concerns for all of the runners.  However, I didn’t adjust my plan other than to try to grab drinks at as many fluid stations as possible on the course.

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I road the bus to Athletes’ Village with my running partner, Cindy Warner (see below), and it was great to pass the time with her instead of being in the midst of thousands of strangers.  We spent all of our time waiting to start by standing in line for port-a-potties.  We were smart, though, and picked lines that kept us in the shade under one of the large tents.  We were also well lathered up in 100 SPF sunscreen.  Well, except that neither one of us thought to put it on our legs and we both ended up with toasty red calves.  In the midst of all the people waiting, we did see our friend, Dan Bosch, and were able to wish him good luck as he headed to the starting line with his wave.

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It was finally time to head to the starting line and after I made one last bathroom stop we were on our way with 26.2 miles to cover between Hopkinton and Boston.  I stuck with Cindy for the first quarter of a mile and started to settle into my pace.  I finished the first mile in 7:45 and was really happy with that as I didn’t want to start too fast.  Over the next nine miles, I tried to stay steady with splits of 7:24, 7:28, 7:26, 7:36, 7:26, 7:29, 7:34, 7:23, and 7:23 to get through mile 10.  I slowed a little during the next mile with a 7:38, but I quickly got back on task with a 7:30 and a 7:25 to cross the halfway point in 1:38:50…right on track!  Wellesley and the girls of the scream tunnel had lots of energy as always, but unlike last year I stayed in the middle of the road this time and tried not to get caught up in it as I knew that I would need all of my energy and focus to try to meet my goal.

baa2016Miles 14, 15 and 16 went by with splits of 7:33, 7:44 and 7:33 as I stayed on track and started into the challenging Newton Hills.  Then, during mile 17, I nearly came to a screeching halt when I dry-heaved and started to realize that the heat was affecting me more than I realized.  I had been drinking regularly alternating between water and Gatorade and I had also taken a Clif fuel pouch at miles 5, 10 and 16 as well as pouring water over my head to try to stay cool.  I struggled through miles 17, 18 and 19 feeling nauseous with splits of 8:01, 8:28 and 8:05 as if the hills weren’t tough enough without feeling like I was going to throw up.

Finally, between mile 19 and mile 20, I did come to a screeching halt.  I walked to the side of the road and lost everything I had left in my stomach.  Or so I thought because 30 seconds later it happened again.  I felt bad for the poor spectators who were standing a few feet from me on the side of the road and I noticed mothers shielding their young kids’ eyes.  I sheepishly apologized for what had happened, but for the first time in my nearly six-year running career I had tossed my cookies.  Twice.  And I still had seven miles to go to earn my Boston Marathon finisher medal.

I rinsed my mouth out with the water I was carrying, took a deep breath and decided to see if I could get the legs to turn over again as I set out to attack the hill that awaited.  I knew that walking to the finish line would take me another two hours and I really wanted to avoid that if at all possible.  Then, I spotted it…just the fuel that I needed.  I ran to the opposite side of the road and grabbed a green freezer pop from a generous spectator.  The cold, sweet icy goodness refreshed me and I picked up the pace and started passing people.  My Garmin shows that I stopped for one minute and 48 seconds when I got sick, but I still ended up finishing mile 20 in 9:48 and then attacked Heartbreak Hill and finished that mile in 8:05 followed by an 8:07, an 8:19, and an 8:26 to get through mile 25.

baafinish2016The wind had picked up and I was fighting to push through it to get to the finish line that still seemed so far away.  Then, I started to get very light-headed over the final mile-plus as I was seeing black spots.  I’m sure this was because I was scared to eat any more of my planned fuel over the final 9 miles after the initial dry-heaving incident and was just trying to make it to the finish line.  Mile 26 was a 9:35 and then the turn on Boylston Street saw me pick up the pace to an 8:40 to get to the finish line where I crossed with my arms raised in 3:28:48 to finish 7,362nd out of 26,639 finishers overall and beat my bib number which was 8172.  (Boston bib numbers are seeded so the lower the number the faster you are compared to the rest of the field.)  It was great to have made it to the finish line even if I didn’t get the time I was shooting for.  I knew that I had given my all and that’s all that mattered.  Plus, I was 16 minutes faster than last year.  848 people who started didn’t finish and after 48% of the field re-qualified at last year’s Boston only 16% did this year due primarily to the heat.  I was also 5,830th out of 14,471 men overall and 1,077th out of 1,994 men in the 40-44 age group.

Within about 90 seconds of crossing the finish line, I found myself in a wheelchair as things started spinning and I nearly blacked out.  I fought hard to pay attention to what was going on around me because the medical person told me that if I sat in the wheelchair for 10 minutes that I had to go to the medical tent.  I told her to let me know when I was at 9:30 and then I made myself get up because I was supposed to meet Cindy at the finish line and I knew that she didn’t have her phone and wouldn’t be able to find me if I wasn’t at the predetermined spot.  It took everything I had to get out of the wheelchair, but I did and then hung on tight to a railing while I waited for her to finish.  I got another volunteer to give me a bag of potato chips and the salt started to perk me up enough that I spotted her as she was heading my way after setting nearly a two-minute Boston Marathon PR in the tough conditions in her third time running the prestigious race.  What a welcomed sight!  We had both made it!!!

While my time may not have been what I was originally hoping for, I am so proud of my effort and determination in this one.  Sure, it would have been great if the temperature would have been 20 degrees cooler and the sky would have been cloudy.  But, just like in life, things rarely go perfectly and the true test is adapting to the situation and doing the best you can.  I can say that I did that on this day!  I’m also proud of all my friends in addition to Cindy who battled the elements.  Great job, Dan, Ken Varian (sub 3:00 in that heat – Beast Mode!), Bryan Stansberry, Megan Morris, Molly Stout, Ryan Arens, Jason Homorody, Laura Anderson, and Ron Hayes.  I will not be going for a Boston three-peat in 2017, but I’m totally okay with that.  It’s a truly special event and it should be earned every time.

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A huge thank you to the BAA and the city of Boston for putting on a great event and the truly amazing spectators who simply won’t let you not finish the race.  There were lots of great signs along the course, lots of high fives to give, and yes, the dude around mile 14 who had a $1 bill firmly in his hand got a good laugh when I tried to grab it.  He turned to his buddy and said “got another one!”  Ha ha!  Such a great experience and I can’t wait to see what the next adventure will bring.

Happy 5-Year Runiversary

My most recent race...the Playin' Possum 50K on May 16th.
My most recent race…the Playin’ Possum 50K on May 16th.

May 26 marked the 5-year anniversary of the day that I first started running.  On that day back in 2010, I went to the Kokosing Gap Trail, which for the first 20 years of my time in Mount Vernon had gone unused by me.  (That itself is a shame since it’s a great 13.3-mile trail!)  I weighed 235 pounds and needed to make a change because my life as the sports information director at a small college was taking a toll on me.  I worked a lot of late hours, drank a lot of late-night Mountain Dew, and grabbed way too many fast food meals and bad snacks just to take care of my hunger pangs during my busy, over-worked schedule.

I can still remember that first run on that early morning….it seemed like it took forever to get to the one-mile mark to turn around and go back.  I didn’t take an iPod and I really had no idea how to set a pace and just took off thinking that it would be no problem. By the time I got to the one-mile mark and was turning around to head back, I was thinking to myself “what in the world have I gotten myself into?” I was able to finish and headed for home, but it definitely wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

The next day, I came back to attempt two miles again. I was fine for the first mile. However, as I approached the half mile mark on the way back, I was ready to just walk the final 800 meters. I passed an older lady who was walking and had been on the trail the previous day and said to her “I think you’ve got the right idea.”  She came back with “well, you sure seemed to have a lot more energy yesterday.”  Well, that was the kick in the pants that I needed to get back into a jog and finish the two miles without walking.

I only ran a total of three miles over the next two weeks as I debated whether this was something I really wanted to commit to doing or not. During this time, I came up with lots of excuses of why I was too busy or didn’t need to do it. However, every time I voiced one to my good friend, Jay Stancil (a fellow sports information director in Kentucky who had also just started running), he would tell me how busy he was, but that he still put in the time to run even if it meant getting up at 5:00 a.m.

So, after two weeks of coming up with excuses only to have Jay shoot them all down, I headed back to the trail on June 12th with a new frame of mind. I also took my iPod along this time. I went into my run that day planning to do two miles, but kept pushing myself and ended up running to the two-mile mark instead. Before I knew it, I had run two miles out and two miles back and had four miles under my belt in a time that I was pretty pleased with. I went back the next day and ran three more miles. It felt really good to have done seven miles in the span of two days.

My first race...the Knox Community Hospital Foundation 4-Miler in August 2010.
My first race…the Knox Community Hospital Foundation 4-Miler in August 2010.

From June through August, I stayed pretty regular with several solo runs a week while listening to my iPod.  I did all of my runs on the Kokosing Gap Trail so that I would know my mileage since I had not yet invested in a Garmin.  Then, in late August, I found out that there was going to be a 4-mile race in town.  Several people I knew where going to do it and I thought it would be fun to try something different.

Needless to say, I had a blast and I was hooked!!!  I had always been a marginal athlete at best growing up.  But when I finished second in my age group and 21st overall in this race, I realized that I had found something that at least on a small local level I was decent at.  It fueled my fire to work harder and also to run with other people.  I began to train a little more seriously and signed up for inaugural Emerald City Quarter Marathon that was a week later and ended up once again finishing second in my age group and this time 12th overall out of 709 people!!!

From there, running just continued to take off.  I did the Columbus Half Marathon that fall and finished 2010 with 559 total miles.  I was excited to continue my running journey and see what I could do in a full year.  I also saw my health and fitness improving.  My weight was dropping and I was doing a better job of getting to sleep earlier at night since I was getting up to run predawn most mornings.  I was eating a little healthier and had cut soda out while drinking a lot of water.

2011 proved to be a full year of racing with two half marathons (Cap City and Earth Day) in the spring, the Erie Half Marathon in the fall, and then my first full marathon in October when I ran the Columbus Marathon in 3:52:04 even with walking most of the final 6 miles.  I knew that day even before I got home that I would do another full because I had so much room for improvement.  I finished 2011 with 1,818 miles and set my sights on going for 2,000 miles the next year.

About to finish my first marathon!
About to finish my first marathon!  3:52:04

And then they hit….INJURIES!!!  2012 started off well with my second marathon (Earth Day) as I improved to 3:41:39 and only walked about three miles.  I also did the Cap City Quarter Marathon with my oldest daughter who was 10 at the time and then the Pittsburgh Half Marathon the next day.  However, after that, I started to battle shin splints.  Then, they turned into full blown stress fractures.  I walked two races and then was only able to do the first of my three scheduled legs at the Hood to Coast Relay.  I ended up taking about three months off from running and finished the year with 1,505 miles.  However, by late fall and after supporting friends at the Columbus Marathon including some unplanned running, I knew that I was on the mend and I was ready to start fresh in the new year!!!

My van mates and half of my Hood to Coast Relay team.
My van mates and half of my Hood to Coast Relay team.  I want to do this again some day…healthy!

2013 started off with a bang for me as I set a new PR in the First on the First 5K at 19:52.  Then, in February, I posted what is to date my only race win as I captured the title at the Granville Winter Run 7.5-Mile race.  That gave me the confidence that I would need to go after my first Boston Qualifier (BQ) just a week later at the Last Chance for Boston Marathon in Dublin, Ohio.  That day on the one-mile loop course I dropped 28 minutes off my marathon PR and finished in 3:13:33!!!  (Unfortunately, I would later find out when registering for Boston that due to increased interest in the race after the bombing that I was still 11 seconds too slow to get in for 2014.)

I did three more half marathons in that spring (Xenia, Earth Day, and Pittsburgh) and also my second relay event (Relay Around Columbus) and then set my sights on the Erie Marathon in the fall.  I was a little too energetic at Erie, though, and ended up running what would have been a new PR 1:30 first half to that race and then struggled the second half with some walking at the end as my fourth marathon finished in 3:21:47.  I was bummed because I knew by then that my chances of getting into Boston in 2014 were slim and now I would need to work hard again to get another BQ for the following year.

Enjoyed a warm all-night tour of Columbus during Relay Around Columbus.
Enjoyed a warm all-night tour of Columbus during Relay Around Columbus.

So, I did what a lot of crazy runners do….I quickly signed up for the Columbus Marathon that was less than a month later.  I knew that I was well-trained and that if I could just pace myself better that I had a shot at another sub 3:15.  When race day came, I followed my plan perfectly.  I just kept plugging away and ended up knocking 8 more seconds off my PR with a 3:13:25 to secure another BQ.  I finished 2013 with 2,214 miles.

In 2014, I put together my most consistent and healthiest year yet as I credit taking up biking and swimming as some of the key factors to this success.  I was able to pace two marathons (Myrtle Beach and Monumental) as well as set a new half marathon PR at Cap City with a 1:32:04.  After a 1:32:29 Emerald City Half Marathon in August, I again returned to Erie to try to lower my marathon PR.  Running my smartest race so far, I managed to knock three minutes off my PR and finished in 3:10:25 and knew that it looked good for me to get into the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2015.  I went on to finish 2014 with 2,489 miles and felt great!

Closing in on the finish line and a new PR at the Erie Marathon...3:10:25!
Closing in on the finish line and a new PR at the Erie Marathon…3:10:25!

2015 got off to a great start as I averaged 250 miles for the first three months, but all of the miles began to slowly catch up to me especially after attempting to PR at the Last Chance for Boston Marathon in February on a snow-covered course.  However, I have managed to run through them as best I can and really enjoyed the opportunity to run and finish the Boston Marathon in April.  Then, less than a month later, I tacked on my first ultra marathon experience by taking part and completing the Playin’ Possum 50K.  It was a tremendous new experience and will make me a better runner because of it.

Crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon in the orange tank. #MissionAccomplished
Crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon in the orange tank. #MissionAccomplished

As I finish up this recap of my first five years, it is amazing to think that I’ve amassed 9,661 miles during that span or an average of 1,932 per year.  That’s nearly 5.3 miles per day for the past 1,826 days and there have definitely been a lot of non-running days in there…especially when I was injured.

However, more importantly than all the miles or any awards or medals that I have received from running are the friendships that I have gained.  The running community is an amazing group filled with inspiring people who each have their own story to tell.  I have really enjoyed getting to know so many great people on this journey.

Here are just a few facts and figures from the past five years:

Total States Run In – 16 (Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.)

Different Shoes – Asics Gel Kanbarra (3 pair), Asics Nimbus (12 pair), Adidas Boost (2 pair), Puma Ignite, New Balance 980

Starting Weight – 235

Current Weight – 205

Marathons – 9

Half Marathons – 11

Complete List of Races – Athlinks Page

Did you know that running across the Golden Gate Bridge and back is a 5K?  :)
Did you know that running across the Golden Gate Bridge and back is a 5K? 🙂
Two loops around the block that the Arch is on is also a 5K...and I placed in the top 5!
Two loops around the block that the Arch is on is also a 5K…and I placed in the top 5!
And I may have done an unofficial 5K on the Daytona Speedway.....Shhhh!
And I may have done an unofficial 5K on the Daytona Speedway…..Shhhh!
I definitely enjoy myself in races...this one is crossing a bridge in Pittsburgh.
I definitely enjoy myself in races…this one is crossing a bridge in Pittsburgh.
But this running journey is most fun because of the people I've met along the way.
But this running journey is most fun because of the people I’ve met along the way.
And trust me....it's quite a cast of characters!   Which suits me just fine!  :)
And trust me….it’s quite a cast of characters! Which suits me just fine! 🙂

With five amazing years in the books, I cannot wait to see what happens over the next five years!