Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Richmond Half Marathon Pt 2:The Race

Part 1
danchasingdan.blogspot.com/2017/11/richmond-half-marathon-pt-1the-key.html

It was 24 degrees on race morning, the "feels like" was 18.  I think it goes without saying, it was cold.  I had packed a couple of race kit options in case the weather wanted to act up....and in this case, it did.  I had really wanted to wear my club singlet and trusty black 2" split shorts, but I knew half tights, a short sleeve shirt, arms warmers, a buff, and gloves WITH hand warmers was a better option...but wow that is a lot to wear.  As soon as Brad and I stepped outside, despite being in fleece pants and top, I knew I had made the right decision.

We had about a half a block walk to the bag drop off, and then we were going to hit the porta pots, then part ways, as the full and half had different start lines, and times.  The half was scheduled to start at 7:30am, the full 7:45.  Why?  I have no idea.

It wasn't the most amazing send off, but as a porta potty door opened for me, we wished each other good luck and said our good byes.  A quick hug, and then....gone.

As with any pre race warm up, I felt sluggish.  I was scheduled for 3 miles followed by strides, but after 3/4 of a mile at 8:15 pace, I knew I should turn back and just get in some quality strides instead.  It was so cold out I kept the fleece pants on for all by the last two pick ups, and the top stayed on right up until I lined up in the corral.  Just before the gun, I squatted down and as always, said my runners prayer...."I am not asking for more than I have, just to give all that I have".  Looking back, I had no idea how true a request that could have been.


Then, the gun.

The game plan was to start my first mile at 6:10 pace, then mile 2 had a slight uphill, so aim for somewhere around a 6:15 pace.  After that, try to work my way down to race pace (6:04) and get into a rhythm.

I had lined up quite a few rows back, as I know how much adrenaline is coursing thru a runners veins at the start of a race.....this race was no different.  Despite being 6 rows back, I was getting passed by almost everyone.  I took a deep/calming breath in, and tried to settle in to 6:10 pace.  I did have to pull back on the reigns a bit as the final bits of adrenaline were burning off, but quickly found my rhythm.  Even 600m in, I was still being passed, unfazed, I got down to business.

"Alright Dan, you can do this!!"

I was confused, who did I know in Richmond?  I looked over and saw Brad waving from the side of the road.  Of course, he was probably in his warm up, as he still had 15 minutes before the gun.  I waved back, and then back to the work ahead....approximately 13 more miles of work.  My watched beep right as I passed the mile 1 marker, 6:07.  Good.

The second mile had 27 ft of climbing in it.  I know, I know, not a lot, but when you are racing near your red line, it is a lot.  The goal was 6:15 pace....but this is when the reality of the task at hand bore down.  My pace would go between 6:15-6:30 pace, and I already felt like I was having to put more effort in than I would have liked.  To make it worse, my watch beeped, 4:45, way ahead of the mile marker.  When I passed the 2 mile marker I hit the lap button again, reading 1:37.3.  "Mathing" isn't exactly my forte while running, but I quickly guesstimated my second mile to be around a 6:25 (it turned out to me a 6:23), 10 seconds behind.

Mile 3 was more of the same, struggling to get comfortable at race pace, but I knew I didn't want to force anything this early in the race.....beep, 6:14, another 10 seconds behind. 

Mile 4 had the only 180 degree turnaround of the course and at this time, most of the runners had settled into their pace so I started to look around.  There was one guy in a blue singlet about 15 yards ahead of me that was holding steady, and it seemed everyone else was already starting to fade. Besides the 180 turnaround, this mile was very flat, and luckily it showed as my watch beeped, 5:59.  My first reactions was "too fast, Dan!", but I knew I was behind, so I was happy to make up 4 seconds.

Sadly mile 5 came, and my watch beeped 6:07.  Closer to race pace, but still not race pace, and still not comfortable.

As we started mile 6 we were leaving the neighborhoods, and entering a park.  The foliage was pretty, but there were hills.  I would open up my stride on the downs, and just comfortably get over the ups, my watch beeped, 6:09.  Damn, another mile that was slower than race pace, this time, I added another 5 seconds.  Just moments later I saw a clock, and below it, the 10k timing mat.  the clock ticked away as I neared....38:24, 38:25, 38:26, 38:27...I knew I would be behind goal pace bc of the planned slow first 2 miles, but not almost 40 seconds behind.  The same guy in the blue singlet was still ahead of me, I figured if I wanted to make up time, I had to start reeling him in.



This was also the time I had to make a decision....I was behind, my goal pace of 6:04 was not being clicked off comfortably as I had planned, and now, I had to run faster than goal pace to make the time.  I truly believed I wasn't going to make my time, and that is an awful feeling.  I was frustrated.  My breathing was labored, but I needed to speak to myself out loud....I reminded myself of the work I put in.  

I recalled my 20 miler with a 10 mile progression thrown in the middle https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2166873995

I recalled my 16x400m workout https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2193051335

Then I thought about my final workout before the taper, a 5k tempo followed by 5x1k intervals https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2257710299

I was 100% sure I was going to miss my goal, deep down I knew I had set a tough one.  But I was not going to let all that work go to waste.  I took a deep breath, then spoke truth to my inner voices...

Listen to the MUSTN'TS child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
The IMPOSSIBLE, the WONT'S
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then Listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

Mile 7 was 6:04.  I was relieved to see goal pace, but I knew that was no longer good enough.  

Mile 8 had hills, so in desperation I concocted a plan.  Survive this mile, then....GO.  My watched beeped 6:12.  

The desperation kicked in, the plan was to go, and that is exactly what I did.  The next thing I knew I was crossing the 10 mile timing mat, I saw the unforgiving clock ticking away.  It could care less about my goal, about my feelings, all it would do it give me facts, one.second.at.a.time.  As I approached, it ticked 1:01:23, 24, 25, 26, then as I crossed, 1:01:27.  The first thing I did was math.  If I could run the tangents perfectly, I needed an 18:30 5k to get my goal.  Lucky for me, I was desperate.  That desperate person did not stop to think that I hadn't run a 5k that fast since St Patricks Day 2015...in an actual 5k race.  That desperate person did not stop and remember his last 5k was a 19:14 that June.  That desperate person didn't care.  That desperate person just knew that I had done it before, which means it was possible.  For the first time in the race, I felt a sense of hope.  That was all I needed.  

I had already been pushing since my watch beeped with the mile 8 split, but I started pushing harder...the needle was already at my red line, now I felt it go past that red line.  Then, as I continued to push I realized....damn, that was a 10 mile PR.  

As my watch beeped for the 12 mile split, I saw an aid station up ahead.  I was still cold, my gloves were still on, and my hand warmers were still there as well...I also realized my tongue was bone dry and sticking to the roof of my mouth.  I hadn't taken any fluids during the race.  I was tempted to grab a drink, but the sense of urgency was too strong...I didn't have time.  Then I tried to look down at my split, but it was too late.  I pressed harder.  The guy in the blue singlet had been catching, then spitting out runners for the past 4 miles, to keep myself occupied I would keep a laser focus on him, and make sure to not get sucked in to the slower pace of the fading runners I would pass.  There seemed to be a lot of them.



As my watch beeped for the 13 mile mark, the 13 mile marker was still up ahead.  I had ground to gain.  I had no interest in looking down to see the split, all I wanted to do was get to that finish line as fast as I could....I was literally in full sprint. As I rounded the corner for the last 1/10th of the race I saw the clock, it read 1:19:12....I didn't need to do any math, I knew I could do it.  I wish I could have pushed harder, but I was already at my top speed.  Looking back, I have no idea how I could have managed a full sprint after all that.  


I kept pushing right up until about 4 yards from the finish.  At that point the nausea I was fighting off finally became too much, I started to dry heave and all I was thinking about was getting past the finish line without puking.....




Luckily there was nothing left in the tank (literally and figuratively) and no puke came up.  I stumbled to a stop, still dry heaving, and took a knee.  The next thing I knew, a volunteer was tapping my shoulder....telling me to keep moving thru the chute.  Obviously not a runner.  Not my proudest moment, but as I fought off another urge to vomit, I showed him my middle finger.  Quickly, another volunteer came over and told him to give me a minute.  It didn't take long, I was finally standing, and moving forward.  I slowly turned over my watch to read 1:19:55.  I stared in utter disbelief.  I had really done it.

 If I had cared to look back at my last 5 mile splits, they would have read 5:59, 6:00, 5:57, 6:01, 5:52 and 45 seconds for the last 0.16 (a 4:41 avg).  All that went thru my mind was "man, I really didn't have time to grab that drink".  

It wasn't until much later that day that I realized I had also set my 10k PR with a time of 37:14 as well....Shel Silverstein was right...ANYTHING can be.

The tears welled up, I was empty....physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.  All it took was all I had....my runners prayer had been answered.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Richmond Half Marathon Pt 1:The Key

I didn't even hear my watch beep with the mile split, and even if I had, I doubt I would have even bothered to look down.  My eyes were fixed 10 yards ahead of me, my mind was another 200 yards further up.  The last mile of a half marathon is usually a painful place, and when you start your kick at the 8 mile mark, pain is a guarantee.

Approximately 24 hours earlier OntheBusRunning and I had been talking race plans, our training leading up to the race, and our mental preparation.

"One advantage that you have is your ability to go deep into the pain cave, you're not afraid to hurt."

I had been thinking about that statement on my last tune up workout earlier that week, and I had already realized that wasn't completely true.  I hate pain just as much as the next guy, but I also knew I had willingly suffered before.....the reason had always eluded me.  After all, in the sport of distance running, ones ability to suffer is a badge of honor.  As I let my mind wander during my cool down on that early Tuesday morning tune up, I realized it wasn't my love for pain.....it was desperation.

A desperate person will endure things a normal person would never dream of.  A desperate person will start pushing with 6 miles to go in a marathon when he knows he only has 1 mile left in the tank.  A desperate person is dangerous....and in a moment of mid run clarity/honesty, I knew I had not raced desperately in almost a year.  I also knew the last time my desperation actually worked out in my favor was July of 2013.

As my alarm went off, I was already stretching my legs and assessing how they felt, which was great.

onthebusrunning was already awake, and had been for quite some time.

"How are you feeling?"

"Oddly, really good!" was my quick response.  "You?"

As suspected he replied "I had a hard time sleeping, the nerves."

Brad was going after a marathon PR with a goal time of 2:35, I was trying to finally break the 1:20 mark in the half.  Surprisingly, I wasn't all that nervous.  I had put in the work, I knew I had never been more fit in my entire life, and I knew (as my SIL Becky had told me before a bus ride up to the start of a marathon back in 2011) "there is only one way to find out" if I was ready.

The first few miles felt awful, I had found a rhythm, but the pace was much slower than planned. And as I came thru the 10k mark on the course, the clock read 38:27, a 6:11 pace (far from the 6:05 pace I needed) and over 40 seconds behind.  The goal was to come thru around 37:55, slightly behind my current 10k PR of 37:44.  It was my moment of truth, the voices of doubt were deafening.  If I am being honest, I was 100% sure I wasn't going to hit my goal.  I was upset, I had put in a year of hard work for this very moment.  I had had a horrible 5k that June, and a very disappointing 10k at the end of July (Which ironically was a 38:27) and this race looked to be more of the same.  Then I recited one of my favorite poems.....

Listen to the MUSTN'TS child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
The IMPOSSIBLE, the WONT'S
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then Listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.




I was speaking directly to the inner voices in my head.  I still was 100% sure I was going to miss my goal, but if I was going to fail again, it wasn't going to be without a fight.  My legs kept churning away....


If I had looked down at my watch for that final mile split I would have read 5:52, but I didn't bother to look, I was desperately clawing my way towards the finish line....at a 4:23 pace....








Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Eyes on the prize


I was already hunched over, dripping with sweat, and gasping for air as I clicked my watch.  Another 9 miler with 3 miles of 5k specific work tossed in the middle, another disappointing workout.  Ugh.

After my last 5k I was ready to toss my current plan in the trash and start some serious intervals, hill repeats, VO2 max sessions and cut back on my high mileage weeks.  Luckily I have been texting back and forth with a running buddy, Brad (aka the Bus), and he talked some sense into me.

I am doing 50-60 mile weeks of moderate paced runs, tempos, and VO2 max work, and I know this will not produce fast 5k times, but fast 5k times were never the real goal.  The goal is another HUGE marathon PR.  All the base was there, and now my workouts have all been geared to making me an aerobic monster, not to churn out 16-20 x 75 second quarters on the track.

I badly want to get that 5k PR to start with a 17, and then maybe a 16, but for now, I know that trying to go there may get in the way of the current goal of a marathon time starting with 2:4X.

So, with this realization I must keep on grinding out my high mileage weeks, simply to get me ready for week #1 of marathon training, it starts with a 56 mile week, 4 miles at MP tossed in the middle of a midweek 12 miler, and a 17 mile long run.....and it only gets worse from there.

I need to keep my eyes on the prize.



"You dont' become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many days, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials. How could he make them understand?”  
-John L Parker, Once a Runner

Friday, March 16, 2012

When the Smoke Clears...

Premeditation.  I hate to say it, but the best crimes are usually a result of it, and with any good premeditated crime, it usually takes a great deal of time to plot, prepare, and perfect.  I want to commit a crime on the marathon, the Houston marathon to be exact.

In December 2011, after aprx 10 months of preperation, I came at the marathon like a coked up Honey Badger.  It was a hard fought fight that got the best of me after 22 miles.  I find comfort in the fact that even though I was getting beaten mercilessly over the last 4 miles, I never stopped, never walked, and I never gave up.  After some initial disappointment and a few tears, I hobbled away from that race with more knowledge of myself, a huge PR, and more importantly, a smile on my face.  But I also walked away vowing my revenge.  I was already plotting on the plane ride back to Colorado, but when one has long term plans, there are always challenges.....

Fast forward four months.  My life has never been busier.  Work, home improvements, and best of all...on February 22nd, we welcomed Joslyn Danielle into our family.

I wanted to take 2 weeks off of work for all of this, but there was a lot to attend to there as well.....2 weeks turned into 3.5 days, ugh.  8 hours of sleep turned in 5, and for my wife, 3 hours.   Finally, the smoke is starting to clear.


We are so blessed.  We have a happy and healthy baby girl, our two and a half year old loves being a big sister, my wife is having a smooth recovery, I am learning how to spread my attention out to two daughters instead of just one, I am taking on more responsibility at work, and I am still running.  How much?  Around 40-45 miles per week.  Why?  Because distance running, when boiled down to its core is simply continuing to put one foot in front of the other....no matter what.  

As Joslyn starts sleeping longer (she is still waking up every 2 hours to feed at night), my miles will continue to increase.  I would like to get up to 55 miles per week by the end of April.  Then, the track.  Yes, the grueling, painful, only way to get faster, vomit inducing, oval of death.  I need it for the first goal of a 17:41 5k in July.  (Sorry Becky, but I am going after the family PR.  Sorry Stephen, you will never beat me again)

Then, with some new speed in my legs, I will begin formal marathon training.  

Sometimes I wonder if I am a masochist?  Perhaps I am crazy?  Nah, I am just a runner.  Goal time, 2:49, which is a 6:28 min.mi pace over 26.2 miles.  

January 13th, 2013 is still a long ways off, but I am already plotting.  Houston, you have a problem....I am going to put my foot in your.....

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

California International Marathon

I was bouncing around in my seat surrounded by conversation and laughter.  Some of the people had been training together for months, others had just met, but obviously found an instant bond with people that were on the bus with the same goal, to run a marathon.  We were heading NE 26.2 miles to the starting line in Folsom, CA.  It seemed like everyone was relaxed and having a great time, everyone but the two people in the 5th row back on the right side.  To my left was my sister in law, her forehead pressed against the edge of the seat in front of us, mine, was burried in my hands.  I had my headphones on, trying to take Bob Marley's advice "Don't worry, about a thing....."

My sister in law, Becky, was 11 months out from having my beautiful niece, Annabelle, and was gunning for a long time goal of qualifying for the Olympic trials in Houston.  She needed to run a 2:45:59 or faster.  My goal, was 2:59:XX, a 6:51 min.mi pace and 25 min PR.  Too be perfectly honest, I was terrified.  On the outside I looked stone cold, on the inside I was drowing in doubt, questioning my sanity, and realizing that I may have finally bitten off more than I could chew.  I was wrestling with thoughts of easing up on my race goal and just aiming for the new Boston standard of 3:05, afterall, kicking out 26 consecutive 7:03 minute miles was a much safer (and much less painful) bet.  There was no fire, no passion, no courage.  Just nerves and fear.  To make matters worse, the 26.2 mile drive seemed like it took forever, and I have to run this?  When we were arriving to the start I turned to Becky and asked if she was ready.  She looked at me with a look of nervous confidence and replied "There is only one way to find out."

When I made my way up the the start, I found myself standing among some very thin runners in team singlets and Boston paraphernalia, they all looked fit as hell.  "Did I really belong up here?"  After the national anthem, the mayor started the countdown, 10, 9, 8....I bowed my head and said my runners prayer.  "May this run give hope, courage, and strength to those in need, and in turn, may I have some of yours"  The gun went off, I went for it.


As I crossed the finish line, everything seized up.  I was quickly wrapped in a space blanket, and given a finishers medal.  I heard my name being yelled, and saw my brother and niece waiting at the fence for me.  His smile was ear to ear.  I limped over to him to see him oozing with pride.  Pride for me, pride for his wife.  I asked how Becky did.  The same as you, AWESOME!  She got it!  2:44:14!  He was beaming, and with good reason.  He again told me how proud he was of me too, and gave me a big hug.  As he squeezed, I burried my head in his shoulder and lost it.  Between sobs I managed to get out a "I, I couldnt do it".  It was the first time I had missed a running goal.  Failure, I thought, was a bitter pill to swallow.  Most people wouldn't understand....why would anyone be upset at a 22 min PR and qualifying for Boston?  The answer?  6 days and 70 miles each week, alarms going off at 3am, lonely 6am track session where you push yourself so hard you vomit, and gut wrenching tempo runs that test the very fibers of ones soul.  We pour our energy, time, and passion into training for a dream.  We spend hours mentally preparing.  My brothers next words were powerful, he is a competitve cyclist in TX, which means he understood.....

He grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in my exhuasted and tear soaked eyes. The look was serious and demanded respect.  "You ran a gutsy race.  You know that right?"  He could sense my reply was going to start with "but....." and he cut me off.  " Did you go for it or did you back off?".  I mustered a "I tried, I tried so hard, I just coulnt do it."  He then hugged me again.  His tone softened, and he whispered "You went after an unthinkable goal in your second marathon.  You have nothing to be ashamed of".   We stood there at the finish line, hugging for the next few minutes.

I was lined up with the 3 hour pace group, and as the gun went off, so did they.  The first mile was a quad busting downhill, I was already running a 6:47 pace and they were still pulling away from me like they were riding bikes, I let them go.  This was going to be a lonely race for me, and I was fine with that.  I went over the game plan....start out slow (oops), ease into race pace, come thru the halfway point anywhere from 1:30:15 to 1:30:45, then negative split this b!#@*! 

I came thru the 5.9 mile mark at 40:14, a 6:49 pace, feeling good and right on track.  The course is touted as downhill, but it is full of hills.  Especially the first half.  The biggest hills were between miles 10-13, and they were steep!  I got thru them very well, just running on effort, not actual pace.  I would ease up on the uphill, and open up a ground eating stride down the backside.

My Garmin told me I was at the halfway mark in 1:29:56, I then crossed the line around 300 ft later.  I was losing some ground.  I came thru the actual halfway point EXACTLY where I wanted to be, at 1:30:13, a 6:53 min.mi pace.  I did a quick check.  Breathing, controlled.  Form, relaxed.  Stride, good.  Legs, a little sore.  They were starting to feel not only the uphills, but the steep downhills, too.
mile 11


Most of the race was run by feel.  I rarely looked down at my watch, and when I did, I would only look at the overall pace for that mile, making sure I wasnt going either too fast, or too slow.  I did everything I could to not even think about distance, especially how much farther I had to go.

It was mile 17 when my breathing was getting a bit labored, and my legs started getting tight.  I stayed as relaxed as possible, and pushed ahead.  Each mile was getting a little harder than the last, and my legs were really starting to hurt.  Thats when the reasoning started.  At 18 it was getting very dark, so I told myself that I only had one more hour of this.  Mile 19 I told myself if I could just make it to 20, I could reasses from there......

My Garmin told me I got to mile 20 at 2:17:12, right on pace.  I didnt actually cross over the mat until 2:17:44, a 6:53 pace.  I was now starting to suffer.  Like good old Mike Tyson says, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face".  In other words, most people have a plan, until the going gets tough.  I did an honest assesment of my body, and I knew my legs were toast.  The only thing worse than getting punched in the face by Iron Mike is getting punched in the legs by the marathon.  After its 20,000 punch combo on your legs by mile 20, it steps back to see what you will do.

It was my moment of truth.

I could ease up to a 7:15 pace, by doing so I could still float in under the new BQ standard, or I could go down swinging, possibly losing the BQ as well.

I closed my eyes and once again repeated my runners prayer.....May this run give hope, courage, and strength to those in need, and in turn, may I have some of yours. I was trying not to think about it, but I already knew the outcome of my decision.  I tried to summon the fire, but it was not there.  I tried to let slip the dogs of war, but they were gone, too.  It was just my exhuasted shell staring down 6.2 more miles.  I knew I needed to push in around a 6:48 min.mi pace to sneak in under the clock.


I grit my teeth went for it....

mile 21

It was mile 22 when I fell apart, finding myself physically suffering to just hold a 7:09 min.mi pace.  It was the fastest my legs would go.  Then the next mile was a 7:25 pace, then a 7:35 pace, then 7:45.  There was nothing I could do.  I was pushing them as hard as I could, they would revolt, and I would push again.  This went on for the rest of the race.  The last mile seemed like it went on forever, I saw runners stopping to stretch or walk, and although it was tempting, I fought off the urge.  I pushed myself until I crossed the line....in 3:03:47.

the finish

My brother kept hugging me until his words really sunk in.  After a minute or two, they did.  My tears eventually stopped, and so did my dissappointment.

That morning I learned that a clock is made by man, so are BQ standards.  They are empty measures of what it means to be a runner.  For months I would get up before the sun, drive out to a local track, a popular running trail, or an adandoned road and chased after the runner I wanted to be. 
When someone says "Dan, do you know what it means to give it your all?"  I can confidently reply "Yes, I do."  And THAT, is my ultimate running goal.  On Dec 4th, 2011, I thought I fell 3 minutes short.  Turns out, at mile 22, I had already caught him.

Monday, December 26, 2011

What is it all about?

It all started back on December 28th, 2009.  I weighed around 185 lbs and I did not like where I was going with my health.  Like many people, running a marathon was on my bucket list.....and like many people, I also hated running. 

It all started in a snow storm. I wore old sneakers, some warm up pants that were a tad too short, and a hoodie.  I didn't even cover 1 mile in that first 10 minutes.  Surprisingly, I was not discouraged.  I was not going to give up that easily, and as it turns out, I never would.  My motivation at the time was two-fold.

1) I thought I had something to prove.

2) I thought I needed to lose some weight. 

It's amazing how much you learn about yourself when you are suffering, and running can definitely make you suffer.  In those first few months I learned I had nothing to prove to others, and after my first half marathon, I learned I had nothing to prove to myself, either. 

I did, in fact, need to lose some weight.....

As my body started to slowly change, so did my reasons for putting one foot in front of the other.  I soon discovered I was running slowly over long distances to lose myself, and in turn, I was running hard to find myself.  Oh, the contrast.  The more I would get lost in my own head, the more I realized how interesting I could actually be.  The more I pushed my limits, the more I would surprise myself with what was inside.  The hard workouts taught me that pain is not an indication of ones physical or mental limits.  Ones limits lay much farther than this point.  To find my true potential, I had to learn to not only seek out pain, but to embrace it. 

So now I am on a journey of self discovery.  I want to find out how far I can push myself, both mentally and physically.  I want to find out how fast I can really go.  This is where our journey begins.....