Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A Year Later

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I last wrote a blog post. I’m still here and have had some decent races since Philly, not to mention an epic Boston Marathon with a ton of Dukes Track Club runners that occupied the starting line of that famous race. But, I may have been lost in void of micro social media post here and there, which ultimately took the time away from any hint of a blog post. Now I can honestly do a full review of the last year, and what lies ahead… I really want to gather my thoughts and cover what happened since my last post, then discuss my marathon “progress” over the last 10 years, and finally go over what looms over the horizon.

So, last December after Philly was abysmal. I was recovering from the marathon and not running a whole lot. Maybe some light workouts to freshen up the legs. I had already signed up for Boston and was very excited to race that and get my fitness in order to run a Boston PR! January rolled around and training was ramping up. I was finally running early in the morning and had a newfound glory to waking up before the sun rises. I had Corey and Sal to run with as they were getting ready for a speedy track season. Life was good. February came and I jumped into a 10k at the Super Bowl run, and had a good showing. Fitness was great and mileage was creeping into familiar territory - 80 mile weeks and even higher! 

When March came, a few of use planned a trip to Phoenix to race the Mountain to Fountain 15k. This is a great point to point 15k that is fast for the first 5k, then relatively quick for the next 5k, and finally a tough and hilly last 5k. There’s a team component to it where you can win your weight in beer, so that’s a huge incentive for any team to race their tail off. The Dukes took home the co-ed Victory with Arlene finishing 3rd Female, myself taking home 2nd place, Rachel Janson rounding out the top 10 female and Brant finishing top 10 as well. I don’t fully remember their placings, so I apologize for that. But we won and the Armijo’s podiumed with some gas money in hand! I ran 48:20 which was faster than the previous year, so I was very satisfied.

I ruined my confidence by running the St. Patrick’s Day 10 miler in Rio Rancho later that month. Now, I didn’t have a bad race, I just didn’t train for hills like I should have. This neglect will further be proven correct after racing the Boston Marathon. I’m too lazy to look up those results, but it wasn’t good. I finished 4th overall and felt good, meaning I didn’t push myself like I know I can. The hills were too abrupt and I didn’t race with the tenacity that I usually do. Oh, and to add more excuses (because this is exactly what I’m doing), I had 2 solid weeks of 100 miles or more leading up to this race. I was super happy to be training at that volume again and feeling pretty strong about everything. However, the race result on a hilly course that I wasn’t training for proved differently. So with that race behind me, I was looking forward to Boston!

April: Bawston! I rested and peaked perfectly and was ready for anything in Boston. Our entire team had a huge Airbnb and after a long travel day to Boston, it was so amazing to see everyone and calm the nerves by all being together. I think there were about 10 of us in that Airbnb, and it was just like college! Except, I was sleeping next to Zach and not my wife… but that’s just the logistics of sharing a large space with that many people. I really wish I could write every moment that was spent in Boston with those friends, but thinking about those memories might be too much to add to this post. This will be a lesson to myself on how I must write something immediately after I’m done with that experience, rather than wait 6 months after the fact. All I will share are blobs of memories rather than detail them out, because those cherished details should be spoken with you on a run or over a beer. Just thinking about that weekend provokes more wonderful moments of stillness that can’t be expressed in words: Just walking around the city, going to a Red Sox game, having dinner with friends, sitting around the Airbnb, attending the expo, taking countless pictures on Boylston Street, occupying the finishing line, gearing up, the bus ride, sitting at the athlete’s village, all the rain, and finally running the Race.

The Boston Marathon! It was my second time running it, but I was well prepared and ready to roll as opposed to my 2016 experience. I felt like I was holding back for the first half of the race fully in control and relaxed. I knew the pain of the hills were coming at mile 18, so I wanted to hold back. That didn’t work. The intensity of the downhills on my legs were a little too much for me to be ready for. As soon as I past the fire station and made that right hand turn, I was on the verge of trashed legs. I went from 5:20’s and 5:30’s splits to a dramatic 6 flat pace or slower for the last 8 miles. It wasn’t pretty. I had a solid pace for 18 miles and I was passing people every so often. However at mile 19, the tables had turned and people were passing me. I ended up finishing in 2:31:57, which wasn’t what I wanted or expected with the amount of training I had done. I think my half split was somewhere around 1:12 low. With every race I always think I can negative split, so after holding back I thought I could at least come home in another 1:12 and finish under 2:25. Inevitably, that didn’t happen. I managed to maintain low 6:00’s to the finish, but that just felt like a painful jog and each step filled with burning intensity through my quads. It was the downhill(s) at the beginning, which is what EVERYONE always says. The downhill will trash your quads, and then those hills come you’re gonna pay for it. Well, they are all right about that. Still, it was amazing and the crowds were cheering their drunken brains out! I love that race and can’t wait to head back there again with the team. And speaking of team, we finished 13th place overall as a team. Not too bad. 

Once April had passed, May was just a fun month of catching up on miles and getting in shape. I had a decent summer of training while teaching full time on summer school mode. And with the summer heat in full swing, I was glad to get up early and run with the guys while building my speed up. I set out a plan to break 16 minutes for the 5k in Albuquerque (5000’ + Altitude) and finally did so after 2 solid races. In July, Arlene and I took a vacation to Costa Rica and I took the week completely off. I came back a little outta shape and then got sick the moment we got home. That was followed by a bachelor party to Kansas City where I wasn’t running a whole lot. This brought me to August where I finally got into a routine of training again and raced the La Luz trail run. This is a gruelling uphill trail run that I love/hate. After that I raced the Lobo Invite XC race and did a little quicker than last year - 16:31. Things were looking up. I kept focusing on my training, but my mileage never quite hit over 70 miles/week. I had another tune-up race at the Chips and Salsa 10k and ran 33:16 to win it. That was also faster than what I ran 2 years ago. Things seemed to be looking up, but in the back of my head I knew I could get away with running quicker at shorter distances, but how was this going to translate to the marathon? The true test would be the Duke City Half Marathon in October… I know, it’s a lot, but I’m almost caught up. 

The Duke City Half Marathon would be a great test of marathon fitness and where I could attempt to defend my title for a 4th year in a row. It ended up going pretty well. I won but ran my slowest time of all 4 wins with a time of 1:13:22. I felt like I had a little tail wind going out, but then that wind hit me on the way home. It didn’t affect me too much, but enough to bring my splits down. Here they are: (5:30, 5:31, 5:25, 5:24, 5:32, 5:27, 5:37, 5:39, 5:44, 5:41, 5:38, 5:38, 5:38, 5:01 pace for last .21), not too bad but not too great. The biggest take away from this was knowing where I was fitnesswise. With this performance, I feel like I should be able to run 2:28 or quicker. If things fall apart, I will be above 2:30. The goal this year since Boston has been Chasing 2:30… another arbitrary number that really doesn’t mean anything to anyone else but myself. I want that feeling of chasing something that’s hard but not a given. 

I looked back on my last post and after reading through that, I saw how important it was to be chasing a low 2:20 marathon. I usually plot things out over the long term and chase things with intention and thought. I know what is reasonable for me, and have surprisingly been health over the last 4 years. I know I am not pushing my body beyond my limits with the hope of staying healthy and racing out of my mind like I used to. Now, I train with purpose and with a healthy mindset to stay healthy and not overdo myself. This training approach isn’t going to yield stupendous results, but I’m 37 years old, I have a wonderful and physically demanding job, and I’m healthy to run about 90% pain free. And this deep into my training I am not going to deviate to do anything drastic that will cost me an opportunity to race. Races now are a reflection on my preparation. I’m looking forward to another great experience at the California International Marathon in December, and can’t wait to add it to the memory bank of great marathon races.

This leads me to my marathon progress over the last 10 years (or regress). And when I write this, I honestly can’t believe it’s been 10 years since my first marathon. Each one has had a specific memory that makes each one special in their own way. Even if it was deemed “bad” or a horrible race, it’s still a memory that I’m happy to cherish. 

Here is a quick list:

2009 Twin Cities Marathon - 2:24:26
2010 RnR Nashville Marathon - 2:25:36
2010 Chicago Marathon - 2:26:16
2011 California International Marathon - 2:17:19
2012 USA Olympic Trials Marathon - 2:22:25
2012 Grandma’s Marathon - 2:22:44
2012 RnR Las Vegas Marathon - 2:43:38
2013 Twin Cities Marathon (US Champs) - 2:20:57
2016 Boston Marathon - 3:07:42
2017 RnR Arizona Marathon - 2:35:37
2017 California International Marathon - 2:25:50
2018 Philadelphia Marathon - 2:29:10
2019 Boston Marathon - 2:31:57

*2:27:35 Average for 13 marathons and not a single DNF!!!

I’m pretty proud of that last statement.

As CIM approaches I just look forward to embracing the struggle and journey that coexists with running a marathon. The high’s and low’s of each mile, the pack running that only happens at certain races, and the moment of virtue once you cross that finish line. I still have a couple weeks left, so I will approach these weeks with continued excitement and try to absorb every mile of fitness that I put in.

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