And he’s off…

It’s been a few days since I’d posted my last entry and announced my interest in the Reach the Beach Relay.  I’d then hunted for runners in various places to no avail and was starting to lose my enthusiasm, when where of all places did I find my first volunteer… my son’s birthday party.

One of my guests’ parents asked me whether I was still running, which opened up the topic of the Half Marathons and the fundraising….I half-heartedly mentioned I wanted to assemble a team for RTB next year and was informed that one of the fathers present was a big runner.  I casually cornered him and with lots of disclaimers (“You can think about it…”) told him about the race….to my surprise he jumped on it.  So now there’s two of us.

I’m now posting in a forum that the race provides, under the group of threads titled “Runners looking for teams”….cross your fingers.


Looking Forward To 2009

It’s been a long time since I last wrote in my blog, and quite frankly this is because there hasn’t been much to report.  I started the year with big intentions which didn’t pan out to much action.  I’d hoped to continue my fundraising for the Children’s Hospital Boston, but to be honest, I didn’t promote my intentions much.  For this reason, it’s not a surprise that no additional funds have been raised.

(I also tried training for the Boston Marathon, which I was going to run as a bandit, but my knee gave out at 16 miles).

Part of the difficulty is that running is a lonely sport, and fundraising a very very lonely activity for a single person.  In my last effort, I brought together a group of parents of Autistic children that I’d hoped would be motivated to help me raise funds.  But the pressures of raising an autistic child took their attention and their ability to help was limited (some donated).

Given that the hospital is doing some of the most important work in the field (and generating invaluable results), I felt like this was too important a cause to abandon.  So, I have a new idea for 2009.

I would like to put together a team of runners to take part in the 2009 Reach the Beach Relay, a 200 mile, 24 hour relay race to benefit the hospital.  Ideally, this team will be comprised of parents or relatives of Autistic children, because I’ll also ask these people to dedicate their effort to those that they love.  In addition to running the race, they’ll be asked to raise funds for the hospital by soliciting their network, and to help publicize our campaign.

The race is comprised of 36 legs, some as short as 2.9 miles, some as long as 9.3 miles, some flat, some up very steep terrain in the White mountains of New Hampshire.  It starts at the base of Cannon Mountain and travels through 30 towns and communities and ends on the coast of the state, on the beaches of Hampton.

Teams can contain up to 12 members, or as few as 4,5,or 6 “Ultra” runners.  In a team of 12 (my goal), an individual runs an average of 16.6 miles.  A portion (~ 50%) of the runners in a team must be women.  Teams also include van drivers, which follow along the course with the portion of the team that’s not running.  Because the race takes place over such a long period of time, some teams drive their runners ahead several transition stops to camp and rest.

It’s a complicated event, but it can be really rewarding.  And, with the presumed amount of money that a large team of people can raise, it can be a goal accomplished that’ll not easily be forgotten.  I’d like to put together a team of 14 (12 runners including myself and 2 stand by’s), so I’m looking for 13 others to join me.  Registration of teams starts December 1, 2008 and it usually sells out by the spring.

By the way, I’ll leave it up to the relay to team to decide whether they want to pay the entry fee themselves or to pay it from raised funds.

Please contact me as soon as possible if you’re interested in joining me in this adventure; and if you’re not, please pass the word around.

$5,570 raised and many lessons learned

The Year in Review

If you’ve been following my blog in 2007, you know that earlier in the year I committed to running ten half marathons during the year for every $5,000 donated (my goal being to raise $50,000 during the year). I even made a list of the ten races I would run during the year.

I’d arrived this lofty figure using some assumptions about how much people would donate ($20 on average), how many of their friends they would forward my message to, and then how many of those would donate (and so on and so on).

But soon after I started my campaign I was surprised in two ways: by my friends’ and family’s generosity (the size of donations far exceeded what I assumed) and the number of donations from their friends and family.
So I soon started to realize that I would not meet my $5,000 goal in time for the first race and I was faced with a decision: to run that first race anyway, and what to do about the other races should donations not keep up with races.

I chose to run all races anyway and let the donations try and keep up with me, and I’m glad I did, because I learned a lot about half marathons in the process and continued to be surprised by the generosity of those who knew and cared for me. I also received a few donations from complete strangers…..folks who somehow found my web site or who I met during my races. Some of those have become casual friends that I hope to get to become better friends with in 2008.

And that brings me to my plans for this year

I’ve given a lot of thought to what I’d like to do this year and I have to admit that I considered not running this year, mostly because I felt like I had to top my 10 race feat. However, I’m going to make a commitment and stick to it this year. And the commitment is this……

For every $300 donated during each calendar quarter in 2008, I will run 5 Kilometers in a race during the following quarter.

That means that if during the months of January to March of 2008 I receive $2,400 in donations, I will run a Marathon (about 40 Kilometers) sometime during the next quarter. If I receive $1,200, I will run a Half Marathon (about 20 Kilometers). Then, the next quarter, the process starts over.

So what happens if I get receive donations totaling any other amount? Portions of $300 get rounded up. So, for example, if I receive $1,400 ($1,200 + $200) that’ll guarantee your seeing me in a Half Marathon and a 5 Kilometer race during the next 3 months. I know this is a little more complicated, so I’ve created a table which you can access here for your reference.

I have to admit that I really hope I’ll see $2,600 in donations during the first 3 months of 2008 so that I can run the Boston Marathon (as a bandit, of course, my times certainly don’t qualify me) in the name of Children’s Hospital Boston. I could run on my own, of course, but I know that without your backing, it’ll be too easy to stop running when I get to Heartbreak Hill. This would be my first marathon, by the way.

One Last Comment about 2007

As I said at the beginning, I committed to run 10 races last year, and you might remember I had trouble completing one, so I’d planned to complete an 11th one during my holiday trip to Florida. Well, I’m not ashamed to admit that instead of running it I spent the day with my kids in Disney World (the first time for some of them). However, I can tell you I’ve already signed up for the ING Miami Half in January (3 weeks or so from now), so I’ll use that as my “make-up”.

Thanks to all who supported me in 2007 and keep tuned to this blog in 2008 for more race updates and even more continuations on the topics I started in 2007!

A Good Race, But 2:00 Hour Time Remains A Goal

The Short Story

With a relatively flat course before me and a plan to finish in 2 hours, I executed for 10/13 of the race, but again hit a wall at the end.

Worst moment of the race: When a fellow racer pulled up to me sometime after mile 10 and said “I’ve been trying to catch you all race. You’re doing a good job”….and then proceeded to pull away.

Best moment: Knowing that this is the 10th race of the year and that I’ve fulfilled my promise. Also, keeping a relatively fast pace for most of the race and finishing in a decent time (2:05:21).

The Full Story

Coming later…..

Course Route and Elevation

The Hilliest Half Marathon I Never (officially) Ran

The Short Story

I wasn’t expecting much in today’s Manchester City Half Marathon because I hadn’t trained much (only once!) since my last race about 3 weeks ago and because the course elevation map showed me this was a very hilly course.

Unfortunately, I got what I expected: 2:15 minutes (per my Garmin), which considering how much I walked, was actually much better than where I thought I’d end up.

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Lowest time this year at the Lowell Half

The Short Story

Taking last week’s lessons into this race and knowing that this was a much flatter course than the BAA’s, I anticipated a new course record, and perhaps even a new personal record. Halfway into the race, I even thought I might finish in 2:00:00 or less.

I was partly right in that I set a personal course record of 2:03:38, but not a personal record (which is just over 2:02, set last year at the Big Lake Half Marathon).

The Full Story

I first ran this race (which is technically called the Bay State Marathon and Lowell Sun Half Marathon) last year when my friend Niels skipped the BAA and suggested we do the Lowell instead. I had run the BAA, but wanted to improve a disappointing time in that race, and I saw this as my last chance to do so in the year. I was pleasantly surprised by a well organized race, on a beautiful and fairly flat course and a cool and sunny fall day. Returning this year, it was all as I remembered it, with some notable exceptions.

The Setup

The city of Lowell was exactly as I remembered….a charming and well appointed town, 30 minutes or so from Boston, a place that I’d want for my wife to see. I don’t really know what kind of city it is, but it’s worth visiting, full of pubs, boutiques, condos and restaurants nestled in old mill buildings and historic brick low-rises. Some of the streets were cobble-stoned. (Since originally writing this, I’ve heard that Lowell has traditionally not been a place where you would hang out at night, but that it’s transitioning).

Number pickup was at the Tsongas Arena as last year and the start of the race was a few blocks away down the street, but between the walk from my car to the arena and the start I got a good warm up in. I arrived a few minutes before the schedule race start, with just enough time to do a light stretch and turn in my bag.

As I walked to the starting line, however, I was confused by the fact that some of the runners were facing what I thought was the back of the pack, while the back of the pack was facing what I thought was the front. With the two groups facing each other, I wondered “Am I about to witness gang warfare?”

Then I realized, there was no starting line! Whereas we were all wearing chips on our shoes, there was no mat for us to cross. No one knew how far back to go in order to be at the start. Runners we walking back and forth looking for it and there were no course officials around to clarify matters. As I was talking to someone about the situation, we heard a gun go off without warning.

Without a starting line, it was impossible to know exactly where to start my watch. However, I noticed that the group had been divided into the Half Marathon runners (on the right) and Marathon runners (on the left) with a barrier in between, and that the Marathon runners had a starting line. So, I started my watch when I “crossed” the marathon start.

The Race

During the week, I’d managed to draw up a new “Time Budget” for each mile that would have me crossing the finish line just under 2:02, thereby setting a new personal record. I thought I’d try a feature in my Garmin watch, however, instead of carrying a piece of paper around, so that I’d be warned if I was running too quickly or too slowly.

However, it rained most of the week in my area so I didn’t have a chance to test this feature out prior to the race. So, just before the gun went off, as I was running to the Tsongas Arena and to the “starting line”, I ran a small trial and for reasons I don’t want to go into, it didn’t work. So, here I was with no time-budget-slip-of-paper and worse yet, no starting line.

I thought I remembered how I set the target pace for each mile….I just deducted 15 seconds from all of last week’s paces, so I figured this would get me pretty far, and that I would work out the rest. I knew the first two miles were supposed to be 9:45, the next two were 9:15, and so on.

In fact, I was a bit off, but I did remember correctly that the course was a double loop – the first was 7 miles and the second was 6.1. I also remembered that in each loop, the back 3 miles of each loop were very flat and fast, with a small (20 to 30 foot) elevation. So in the end, I decided that I’d ran slightly slower the first 3 miles (9:45, 9:30, 9:30), then faster the next 3 miles (9:30, 9:15, 9:15) the next 3. Then on the second loop, I’d cut 15 seconds off each of those times. This was actually a lot closer to the actual plan. And I came up with it while running the first mile.

Rather than taking you through each mile, I’ll tell you that I stuck to this plan during the first loop and that at the halfway point, I had run exactly a 1:00:00 on the nose. This was exciting because I was on track to run a 2 hour half, but a little troublesome because I knew it was a bit faster than I’d planned.

That said, I ran the second half of the race on plan again all the way up until mile 12. where suddenly I hit “the wall”. I was breathing as heavily as I ever had, my legs were cement and no matter how much I reminded myself I was almost at the end, I couldn’t go any faster. In fact, I slowed down to a 9:48 pace and then a 10:12 pace on the last mile. If I’d been able to run at the pace I’d originally planned (8:30 then 8:15), I’d have run the race in 2:01.

One of the things I like the most about this race is that the last tenth of a mile or so is ¾ of a lap on a track within a stadium. There is loud music playing, the previous finishers are cheering you on, and there is hot soup waiting. I had planned to sprint once I entered the stadium, but again, I had cement legs. That last bit of the race seemed to take an eternity and I was happy to finally finish in a new course record and the best time yet this year.

After stretching, drinking lots of water and retrieving my checked bags, I headed up to the food line, where they were serving hot, fresh, homemade chicken soup, minestrone, baked beans, pb&j sandwiches, bananas, rolls and candy. Soup is my favorite post-race food so this is my favorite post-race spread.

As I sit on the stadium bleachers munching away, I saw the winner of the marathon, who amazingly looked like he was running at the end of 26.2 miles faster than I was at the beginning of 13.1. He finished in 2:38 and change.

In the post analysis, I see that I lost my goal to have a new personal record in the last two miles. But it’s not surprising that without any additional training and a much more quickly run first 6 miles, I was bound to hit a wall. The good thing that came out of this is that I practiced some of my newly developed (in the BAA) Half Marathon tenets, and that I was able to keep a cool head in the face of a surprising situation and adapt accordingly.

Next race: Manchester City Half on November 4

Personal Course Record set at the BAA Half

The short story

The hours leading up to the race were warmer than usual (in the mid 60’s during the early morning hours), but the temperature kept dropping throughout the race into the high 50’s which made the race comfortable.

I finished in 2:04 and a few seconds by progressively ratcheting up my pace from 10:00 on the first mile to 8:30 in the last.

The full story

This is the race that started my obsession with Half Marathons. Originally, I got the idea to do a full marathon while watching the Boston Marathon, which races through my town and only 4 or 5 blocks from my house. On that day, however, I wisely chose to first complete a Half Marathon to see how I fared.

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