I have elected not to enter the Philly Marathon on November 17th. The change has impacted my training a bit, and thus I am not ready to do what I feel like I am capable of doing. I did place 33rd out of 1900 runners in the Maine Half-Marthon two weeks ago, but still, I need more time. I will stick to some base running until mid December. Then, I will gear up for a spring half-marathon race and the Boston Marathon in April. Today was a nice run, I must say. Nothing too hard. 9 miles at a 7:10 per mile pace. 5 of those miles were around a 6:45 – 6:50 pace.
I am interested to see how my running will continue in North Andover. I accepted a residential faculty position in the history department at the Brooks School, a well-established boarding school just north of Boston. I believe I will be okay, though the new faculty position with my coaching and residential responsibilities will force me to be even more disciplined. I am pretty good about getting up very early to get my AM miles in; I am also good about my PM miles on days in which Karl scheduled a double. I suspect the new challenge will be fine. I am looking forward to it as I hope to up my miles to an all-time high. My body is ready for it.
As for the Boston Marathon 2014, it will be my 4th after qualifying in Dallas and again in Boston. And living up the road from Boston makes travel simple. I am – 4 min 52 sec in my qualifying time. I ran into problems in both of my last two races. The big question will be winter training. I am set to log a number of miles on the treadmill. No worries there. I already log a number of miles on that darn thing at times.
I have picked up the miles as I get set to start another racing season. I have not raced since the Boston Marathon on April 15th, though I did enter a race (10k) less than 11 days afterwards. I was still way too tired to finish that race. I think I dropped out at 2.5 miles in to it. Two of my elite high school runners kept going after I dropped out. Both took 1 & 2 in their division while placing in the top 10 overall. I would have placed in the top 10, but I would not have placed in my division seeing that the 2nd place runner won the division with a very low 30 minute time. I hope to get somethings worked out in my life so that I can map out my racing season. As of today, I do not know when I will race again.
Wow!!! I have been MIA for a bit; I will try to get back on the ball here and post more. I need to thank my buddy Dan and Jason for reminding me that I do have a blog. Mucho stuff has taken place since I last posted a piece. I Hope to publish my last two race reports: Boston 2012 — the really hot race, and Buffalo 2012 — the race that I had to quickly enter just to qualify for Boston 2013. Speaking of Boston 2013, I have submitted my application and should hear back soon as to if I got in or not; I am pretty sure I did. Did I say that I am running the Dallas Marathon on December 9th? I am. I am hoping that this is my breakout race. We shall see; it will be very interesting. It will be my 9th marathon and very first one in the state of Texas.
Tuesday workout was really easy. I did 6 x 800 meter repeats at 3 minutes each. I was not pushing the pace too much with more miles to run and a 5k race this Saturday. I am thinking that was roughly a 5 min 45- 50 sec pace. A bit slower than usual.
CB is a teacher in the great state of Colorado. She and her husband most recently moved from the depths of Houston’s heat to ice town USA. She is a big time runner who not only runs marathons, but races longer than that. I taught CB while teaching at a private school in North Little Rock from 2000 – 2004; CB was easily a favorite of mine. She was a National Merit semi-finalist and she performed very well while taking my AP European History course. We tend to chat a lot about running, politics, and beer. I ran this as a cross post at The Professor, too. Here are her thoughts and questions to me.
CB: What’s the deal with people who want to run just because they like running? September through December I hated it the whole time. The second I signed up for a race, though, boom. Big turnaround in my attitude and big jump in my weekly miles. Were you that same way before you started really working on your Boston goals? I wish I could just be casual about it and maintain enough miles to do a marathon occasionally if I feel like it, but I just don’t enjoy it if I don’t have a specific end in mind.
EC: I started running back in graduate school. Back then it was more to stay in shape and watch my weight; however, after slowly running for a period of time, I could not help but notice the rise of my competitive juices. I still enjoyed running, but I felt that if I was going to run, I wanted to see how good I could get. My initial purpose for running slowly started to change. I increased my miles and attempted to focus on training and not running. But, that would not come to fruition until 3 years ago. Even while teaching you (CB) at CAC, I was always a step away from injuring myself; I was pretty reckless then. And, sure enough, I did just that. Developed an injury that would not go away.
Today I have discovered that I do not like running for the sake of running. Much like you, I am motivated by a goal. As soon as I sign up for a race, I am focused and ready to train – not run. I like to plot out my races well in advanced. The months of September through December are prime months for me. I try to get a fall marathon and at least 1 half-marathon in during this period. Knowing this forces me to discipline myself and think more about training and less about running. This sounds bad, but there are a number of day in which I just do not like running. I have come to see running as a job at times; it is what I must do not if I want to do it. I have found that this is the primary difference between running and training. It is too easy to quit and not run. That is less of an option when training since each workout build over a period of time. Back in 2008 I aimed to be really good. I am still working toward the point of being really really good. I do believe I will be there. Getting into Boston is a logical goal for being a competitive runner; I like the changes recently made for qualifying for the Boston Marathon. It means that I cannot get comfortable. Of course I am not too concerned about that. My goals are pretty steep. That is why I train. I must do more than just run.
CB: Second of all, what do your students think about your running? I feel like I’ve connected with kids who might not have liked me as much otherwise, especially at Lamar, where I posted my workouts in the classroom and gave them regular reports. I’ve even had a couple of former students from Lamar who facebooked me about marathons they were training for. One of them was a girl who was overweight in high school, so that was really cool. I would like to see stats on the obesity rate among high school teachers because I would be surprised if it’s not even higher than the national average. I’ve read maybe a few articles about student obesity affecting academics, but I want to know how teacher’s level of physical fitness affects the classroom.
EC: Well, my running is the topic of a number of conversations. Some students are amazed at the time and miles I devote to doing it. I have found my colleagues to be the most curious at times. Many still struggle to comprehend what I do and why I do it. Students, on the other hand, find my running to be pretty exciting. They ask a lot of basic questions about running due to their lack of knowledge; I am sure you get some of that. I do not post my workouts; however, they do have access to my training blog. A few of them swing by to see what I am doing. During the Boston Marathon last April, a number of students followed me via the Internet. The BAA posted times at various points. The challenge faced on my campus is that students have no sense of a diet. Many eat poorly; we do not offer a P.E. class. Credit is earned by joining a gym or by participating on a team for a semester.
Though not runners, I do have a number of colleagues who participate in Cross-fit. They are pretty committed to this task. I am helping a few teachers on my campus train and get ready for up coming races. One of my colleagues could not run 3 miles just a few years ago; she now has a half-marathon time of 2:04. That is very impressive. I have also encouraged them to seek out coaching – as I have done; I am blessed in that I do not have to figure out what to do or how to train. That is taken done for me. My task is to execute my training.
CB: Do you think you are better teacher because you run?
EC: It has helped. In the past all I did was work. I focused on my research, my teaching, and the number of things I had on the stove at once. Now, I feel much more recharged and ready for a new day. Running has added much needed variety to my days. It has slowed that sense of burnout I felt creeping in a few years ago. Then, I started questioning if I should just go get a PH.D and focus on writing or if I needed to change locations. Now, I am happy to be teaching. I enjoy it. Running gives me more time to reflect on what went well and not so well in class; it allows me to edit a paper in my head that I would like to deliver or publish. It also helps me think about a different approach to teaching a particular subject. I think about running a lot. In truth, I like training more than I like racing. I try to limit the number of races I do in a year. I want to spend more time focusing on training for a particular race.
Well, it is frustrating when one creates a training log to note each run, but fails to note the last 7 weeks of what transpired during each of those runs. Regardless, I have a pretty good idea. I am spending much of October following my recovery schedule. I have done few but not too many runs thus far. Some of my runs have been with a few of my star cross-country runners. My legs feel great. And, I am not letting my last race crush my confidence; if anything, I feel a sense of rejuvenation. I think that tends to be the case for most runners. We spend 90% or more of our time training, and less than 10% of it actually racing. I am okay with that. But, if I am going to give this much time and attention to training, I am going to make the most of it.
So, what sucks about my training? That is an easy question. I lack discipline. I fail to get key things done early enough thus I end up working late into the night. This means that my next run is done while I am sleep running. I have experienced this before — really. My diet has never been great. I am now convinced that I took up running so that I can eat and drink what I want. Oh, and so that I look good naked, too. The small stuff. Sure, I lift weights. But I do not lift weights in ways that I should. This is true of core work too. I am sure I will have more to say on this matter as I spend the next few weeks thinking about my next race.
I love this phrase by LL Cool J: Don’t call it a come back I’ve been here for years. I am thinking about making this my mantra; I like the sound of it. There is nothing better than gearing up for another training cycle. This time, it is my intent to make the most out of each session. I will train smart. But, I do want my ego to run wild just a bit. I do realize that races have an interesting way of humbling the soul. I am pretty humble. That is why I train hard. I have a long way to go. This is nothing new. I say this is my mantra because this will be my first training cycle in which my goals far exceed just qualifying for Boston. When I hit my goals, Boston will be a mere after thought. Really. I am pumped. I am confident. But I am also humble. This cycle is not a come back, I have been here.
Today’s AM run was tough due to the temps. But, I am using this week to slowly get my mind ready to train. Though I have some nice running weeks, my diet and other habits have sucked. Way too much pizza, wine, and brownies. I need to focus. I rolled off 12 easy miles on Sunday. Thus, I wanted to get in another easy 12. Though not as easy as Sunday’s run (heat issues), I am pumped that I finished it.
Mile Per Mile Pace
I would later hit the gym for an easy recovery run of 5 miles @ 8:19 pace.
Total Miles Today: 17
After each race, I do my best to add some type of post-race reflection. Though I have added some commentary already here, I wanted to reflect and generate a few more thoughts about this race. First of all, I must say that I think it sucks that the new course record will not count as a world BEST. 2:03.02 is just and unreal time. Congrats to the male winner, Geoffrey Mutai, for shattering the previous best of 2:03.59. By the way, that record was set on a very flat and fast course. And, it was set by a runner who was allowed to use a rabbit to pace him. Boston, on the other hand, is not a fast course; it is not a slow course either. One would be hard pressed to find a runner who thinks Boston is not a challenge.
For the weeks leading up to this race, I had been adjusting my goals; I wanted to have a great race, but I also wanted to be realistic, too. As I left the athlete’s village, I felt a sense of panic creep in. My Garmin GPS watch would not turn on; it was dead. I was very confused at this point; I knew it was fully charged. My friend and buddy, Jeff Le, told me not to panic; he advised me to find another runner who was aiming to race the course within the confines of my pace goal. Sure enough, as I approached my starting corral, I could not find anyone seeking to run my pace. However, one of the runners told me (note: 2 minutes before the gun) that he also had problems with his Garmin. All I needed to do was reset it. I had no clue how to do that; he showed me how, and boom — it came on. Wow!!! That was a close one. I would have run that race without any sense of pace. One might compare that to flying a plane without any navigational instruments.
The start was very crowded. Though my goal was to run a conservative pace for the first mile out of Hopkinton, I did not anticipate running mile 1 at 7 min 19 sec. In truth, I had little choice unless I wanted to be really aggressive towards the other runners; I decided to use mile 1 as a warm up. By time I reached mile 2, I was on cruise control. I knocked off both 2 and 3 at 7 minutes 4 sec per mile. Once I reached the 5k (3.1 Mile) mark, I was easily running a 7:05 pace for that mile, but was clocked officially at 7:09 per mile pace. Much of that was due to the slow first mile. As I expected, all felt very easy. The crowds were amazing. And, they were very loud.
Mile 4 7 min and 3 sec pace
Mile 5 7 min and 6 sec pace
Mile 6 7 min and 3 sec pace
Once I reached the 10k mark in Framingham, I kept thinking that I am holding back way too much; it was feeling very easy at this point, as it should. In my head, I kept hearing two voices. One voice stated, okay Carson, it is time to push the pace a little more. This is nothing. The other voice stated, be very careful Carson, it is early and you do not want to struggle to finish this race. I listened to the conservative voice. Thus, it was at the 10k mark that I elected to run a very conservative race. Though the weather was great and we had a tail wind, it was still warmer than I wanted. I dropped my hat back at mile 2, but kept with the gloves. For some strange reason, my fingers tend to remain cold far longer than the rest of my body.
I am still feeling great as I head toward the 15k mark. My confidence was high, though I knew the Newton Hills were still in front of me.
Mile 7 7 min 3 sec pace
Mile 8 7 min 6 sec pace
Mile 9 7 min 4 sec pace.
The thing that most amazed me about Boston were not the Newton Hills, but the hills or inclines that defined the course throughout. As I raced into Natick, my legs were felling a bit heavy; in part, some of that was in my head. I started thinking that I had not tapered enough. But once I moved past my anxieties, I settled back down. I do recall reaching mile ten and saying, wow this race is going by pretty fast.
Mile 10 7 min 8 sec pace
Mile 11 7 min 12 sec pace
Mile 12 7 min 6 sec pace
Mile 13 7 min 9 sec pace
As I headed into Wellesley, I could not help but note what seemed pretty fast and flat turned quickly into a nice long uphill run. This came just as I approached the “so-called” hot girls of Wellesley College. Many of them were lined up screaming and holding signs that stated “kiss a Wellesley girl.” I did not see that happen. And I can assure you, the last thing on my mind was to kiss a co-ed the same age as many of my students.
I hit the half-marathon mark at 1 hour 33 minutes and 47 seconds. I was okay with that. And, I felt like I had much more to give. But, things went bad as I approached miles 14 and 15. I believe it was at mile 15 in which I had no choice but to make a stop. Number 2 was calling my name. I thought, this sucks big time; I cannot believe this is happening. I trained to deal with digestive matters. I always stated that I am willing to go number 1 on myself, but not number 2. This stop cost me a good 2 minutes. I was pretty frustrated, but I did not let it get me down. I thought to myself that I would just try to make it up later in the race.
Mile 14 7 min 9 sec pace
Mile 15 7 min 6 sec pace
I gained some speed after mile 15. There was a nice descent, but it left my legs screaming some. After the mile 15 descent, I headed toward the more difficult part of the course. From 16 to 21, there was a total net gain on the course. And it was at this point in which the real racing started. In essence, I hit 3 nice size hills before the infamous Heartbreak Hill. I did not think it was too bad. I reached the top of it at mile 21, but man my paced slowed a great deal.
Mile 16 6 min 49 sec pace
Mile 17 7 min 14 sec pace
Mile 18 7 min 18 sec pace
Mile 19 7 min 7 sec pace
Mile 20 7 min 20 sec pace
Mile 21 7 min 40 sec pace (ouch!!!!)
It is clear that I am struggled just a bit by mile 21; however, just when many start to wonder if the wall is near, I was feeling pretty good; I honestly felt strong as I headed toward Brookline and past Boston College. I must say, those folks at BC can cheer. As I raced forward, I could tell my legs were heavy; still, I knew I had plenty left to finish strong. I could hear the cheering as I entered downtown Boston. And, I could see the Citgo sign, thus I knew the end was near.
The last stretch was tough, but nothing I could not handle; I wish I would have run the last few miles faster, but I was a bit tired.
Mile 22 7 min 11 sec pace
Mile 23 7 min 14 sec pace
Mile 24 7 min 7 sec pace
Mile 25 7 min 13 sec pace
Mile 26.2 7 min 20 sec pace
I raced to a finish of 3 hours and 10 minutes; I ran roughly a 7:14 pace. In truth, I wanted to do better. But I am left full of energy and emotion from a race that I know I can build upon. I cannot recall a race in which I finished with so much energy. Janette told me that I look like I could do a few more miles. I doubt that. I suspect with more training, and some adjustments, I have no doubt that I can get under 3 hours and push toward a high 2:40 low 2:50 time. I did requalify for Boston 2012. I think I have a chance at getting in under the new rolling system.
As you can see, I am excited about achieving this goal just 13 months after aiming to reach it, dating back to the Little Rock Marathon. Here, I ran a course time of 3 hours and 42 minutes. That is about 8 min 30 sec per mile pace.
I am taking today completely off; it is a rest day as part of my recovery week. I will do some core work and a great deal of stretching. We are in Seabrook, Texas gearing up for my last race before Boston. So, things are busy but relaxed.
On another note, while reading an old issue of Running Times, I came across a story about Alex Vero. According to Vero, he was an overweight sloth at 224 lbs who was in poor shape due to drinking, smoking, burgers, and just living the sedentary life style. Being British, he noticed that only five British runners in 2005 broke 2 hr and 20 minutes in the marathon, a mark needed to qualify one for the Olympics. This number was down from the 102 runners that hit this mark in 1985. Thus, he set out on a journey to reach sub-elite status and qualify for the 2008 Olympic team.
In the process of his journey, he created a documentary film noting his aims. Though he never made it to the Olympics, he did reach sub-elite status running a high 2:30 ish marathon and a 1:13 half marathon. Vero received some criticism for his efforts; I suspect folks saw him as a self-promoter. But crap, what is wrong with that. I mean I maintain a freaking blog to document my athletic transformation. And, I am not the only one. If you search around the blogosphere, you will find runners ranging from hobby jogger status to elites documenting their efforts. I have not seen this DVD yet, but I hope to in the future.
I have been a bit frustrated all weekend; in truth, I think it has to do with the realization that I am not at a point in my development in which I am ready to reach some of my running goals; I am getting great feedback from folks in the running community that is helpful. And in the long run, it will allow me to continue to strive to get to a level I want to be at. I do appreciate great coaching. For the most part, I have been able to achieve many of the goals I have set out to achieve; it has allowed be to be very successful. I only returned to running in the fall of 2008… five months after having a tumor removed from my brain; I did not enter my first marathon since that return until March 2010, in which I was a bit too heavy (189 lbs) and had not done the work. Six weeks later, I saw more improvement. That March 2010 race was ugly. In less than a year, I have watched my MP go from 8:31 to 8:06 to 7:25. Running a 7:25 often feels like a jog right now. Knowing that I have made some great gains in a short amount of time keeps me focused.
I would be lying if I stated that I am not frustrated with my progress. Though I have made some gains, I created this time line for my running plight that is taking a bit longer. I have elected to start thinking more long-term. The goal still remains: a sub 2:50 marathon. I refuse to deviate from that. Now, how much faster beyond 2:50 is the great mystery. I love what Peter had to say regarding progress: “Look forward, do not look back, you will not catch up anything, but you always have good chance to improve your performance!” And, my friend Karl, who is a great runner, noted on his blog referencing Lena Horne: “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.“
I am a big picture kind of person. I think in some ways it is why I can see and understand the more dynamic phenomena that shapes historical processes by which I teach. But, as with teaching, I too realize there are small things that are significant. In my effort to reach that next level as a competitive runner, I have learned the importance of doing the small things in training.
- Regardless of my training environment (Memorial Park, Hershey Park, 24 Hour Fitness, HCHS), I always bring a change of clothing. I have found that my body recovers much faster when I am dry; it also adds a sense of completion to my workouts. And trust me, I am known for changing outside of my car. If I can, I always shower once done with a run. The public park makes this easy, especially since my commute is 20 minutes away. The hot water really helps me relax and reflect on how my recent run went.
- I never assume there will be something around for me to eat or drink once done with a run. Carrying a banana and a recovery drink always aids my recovery. This prevents me from overeating after a run. I have also read that said consumption within 30 minutes of a run helps your muscles recover, making it easy to get out for that next run. This is significant for me since I do 2 – 3 doubles a week.
- I never conduct any type of ad hoc runs. I focus on specific goals. This starts with my pace, splits, distance, and repeats. I know what I am doing before I do it.
- Spending time before each run visualizing success has helped me get over the mental hurdles of running 15 to 20 miles on days that I am tired. I ask myself how will this session make me better?
- I see each day as a training day; it is a job; it has to be done. I cannot skip it because I am not in the mood to run, or because I want to get a beer with a buddy. I do not exercise. That is what the average everyday Joe or Jane does. Because I train, I have no choice.