Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Go Meb and Shalane!!

Wow, what a Boston Marathon...

We all knew coming in that this edition of the Boston Marathon was gonna be special. The emotions were running high and everyone felt it. Then, as if scripted (it sure wasn't) two athletes made a very special moment even more so by literaly re-writing history.

30 years...

From CNN.com

That's how long ago an American had won the Boston Marathon. Meb Keflezighi was 8 years old at the time.

It's not that an American had to win this year. Life rarely works out with such synchronicity. But you know there were many at the starting line who thought they had to give a little extra this year to try and make it happen. It certainly seemed that way at the beggining. Both Meb and Ryan Hall were looking very strong in a field dominated by African countries. (as expected. By now I think everyone can agree they have rightfuly staked their claim in the history of the sport) But it was Meb who kept going. ...and going, and going.

At first, I was worried. I had seen a similar scenario during the New York Marathon and Meb simply could not keep up. With every step, I kept thinking: "He's gonna be 39 in May. There is only so much he can do." But he eventually ended up in the lead all by himself and even a late surge by Wilson Chebet was not enough. Meb won. With a ton of guts.

But if we are gonna talk about guts, then we have to talk about Shalane Flanagan.

I have been struggling to find something to compare Shalane's performance at Boston. There was something eerily familiar about the way she raced that sparked some faint memory in my brain but I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then, hours after the race I was grocery shopping when it hit me. The last time I saw a performance like that from an American runner, it was a recording of an event that happened before I was even alive: Steve Prefontaine running at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Like Shalane, Pre didn't win that one either. In fact he didn't even place and yet, many still talk about that race. Realizing a bit after the halfway point that he was not gonna be able to out-kick Lasse Viren from Finland at the end, he decided to outrun him from the outset by running the race of his life. Sadly, he fell just a bit short; running out of gas, and losing a podium finish at the very end. But that was the whole point. He didn't race for an Olympic Medal. He raced to win. That's what I saw in Shalane last Monday. 

From the start, she claimed the race as hers, stubbornly refusing to relinquish the lead. Even if she fell a bit behind when taking something to drink, she would immediately join the lead group and get in front. It was clear from the start, that if this incredibly talented field of women was going to have a chance at taking this away from her, it was going to take a downright historic effort. And in the end that's exactly what happened. Shalane finished with not only a personal best time, but with a performance that would have won her the race in any other year except three and yet she finished seventh. That's why we race. We motivate each other directly and indirectly. Shalane's incredible race begat an even more impressive performance from the eventual winner, Rita Jeptoo that led to a new course record. In fact, the top three finishers came in under the old course record. That's how competitive the Women's Marathon was, and it was all thanks for Shalane Flanagan and her will to win one for Boston.

By the way was it just me, or all I could focus on during the race was Shalane's abs? I mean, wow, does she have a strong core! Quite the six pack. I have a 1 liter bottle myself so maybe that's why I noticed so much. Gotta get planking! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Fat Triathlete(?)

About a week or two before the Disney Marathon, I was at an uncle's house during one of our (many, many) Christmas season family parties. My cousin Carlos sits by me and the following conversation ensues:

Carlos: So, you're ready for the marathon?

Me: I hope so. Otherwise this will be a very expensive fiasco. I'm very nervous.

Carlos: You got this! You sure trained for it. You'll rise to the challenge.

Me: We'll see.

Carlos: In fact, I got another one for you.

Me: Really?

Carlos: Yup. How's this: For our 40th birthday, we do the Ironman in Hawaii! Three years to train. What do you think?

Me: I think there is no chance in hell. How about we aim for Ironman 70.3 San Juan? It's right in our backyard and it's half the distance of an Ironman.

Carlos: Why not?! You worked your way up to a marathon. Why not an Ironman?

Me: It has nothing to do with thinking you can, genius. Though the jury is still out on the marathon. The Ironman in Kona is like, the World Championship. To race it you have to qualify for it. There is also a lottery but to qualify for that you got to do like a thousand Ironmans in other places first (actually you have to do 12, but it might as well be a million for us) so again, I don't think we got a chance.

And with that he got up and left, checking on his phone that everything I just told him was true. I had too much in my head at that moment to give the idea much though, but Carlos did nurture a little seed that was planted a while back.

Not long after starting my running journey I learned about two former contestants of The Biggest Loser who had actually done the Ironman in Kona. Matt Hoover, who sadly fell short of the 17 hour time limit by a couple of minutes and thus, didn't officially finish; and Tara Costa, one of my favorite contestants, who did manage to complete it. Their story compelled me enough to actually look up information on this crazy sport of triathlon and the Ironman. (hence, my knowledge on the subject during the above conversation.)

I was immediately struck by it. It is a very technical sport that requires a lot of planning and strategy which is what I love so much about running longer distances. Also, I thought this was a great way to become a better runner overall. After all, both cycling and swimming are cardio execises without the high impact of running so what better way to increase my training volume? All that motivation however, went the way of the Dodo bird when I started visiting local bike shops and seeing just how much these incredible pieces of modern technology cost. Very expensive plus you got to buy some extra gear (pedals, shoes, clothing etc...). So, for my own good I left it at that.

Then, I ran the marathon and I felt that the sky was the limit. Coming back from Florida, Carlos' words were starting to ring strong in my ears. Not long after that, as the wife and I were getting ready for bed one night, I was lazily flipping channels when I stopped at a rerun of NBC's coverage of the 2013 Ironman in Kona. I don't know if you all have watched this at some point but it's gripping stuff. They not only show you the pros trying to win but the everyday age groupers trying to finish, competing for different causes and enduring hardship just like all of us. It makes you want to try it yourself. Now, I'm not crazy enough to aim for an Ironman but it was enough for me to go ahead and aim to at least get a taste for the sport by doing a sprint triathlon (750 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run). One little problem though: I still don't have a bike. I have figured out a solution but I'll leave that explanation for my next post. 

So, I have oficially started triathlon training and I have to say, even though my mileage has dropped quite a bit as I add both swimming and cycling to my regular weekly schedule and get used to it all, it has been a funny ride so far. If you think me wearing a tutu was funny, you'll want to read my upcoming posts about tri training.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

5K for Values 2014 Race Recap

I gotta ask: How can you possibly screw up a free race? It's free! Right? Well, you screw it up by not reading instructions. That's how!

Long story short: I was not able to pick up my race pack and bib. Circumstances out of my control and all so not really my fault. What was my fault was not reading the email reminder all the way through. Especially the part that said there would be no bib pick up the day of the race.

So there I was on race day, ready to run, no bib. I looked for one of the organizers to talk to and told him what happened. He was very understanding but he just could not help me. They didn't bring the bibs. However, I could still run the race. He said this race was for the people and anyone who wanted to run, could run. I just would not be timed and would not get a medal.
The Police Band (not the radio frequency) I understand they are actual police officers but why play armed?

I'll be honest. This didn't feel right. Even though he was clear (and later said it over the loudspeakers) that anyone could run the race I was feeling a bit like a bandit. Besides, if you run a race and have no bling to show for it, did it really happen? (Yes, it does but it still stings a bit) I almost didn't run it but after some soul-searching I decided to go ahead. It felt weird to line up without a bib but hey, when life throws you lemons, run a 5K.
The always popular warm-up

The route of this 5K is extremely popular. The 5K for Diabetes, The Runner's Love 5K and 10K, The Divas Half-Marathon and even the Ironman 70.3 among others, all follow this very route and the freaking steep hill that's in it. I have now run it many times but it's not getting any easier, even on this day where I was not aiming for a PR or anything other than finishing. My mileage has been way down and the miles I have run have been very slow in an attempt at base training (training in very low heart rate zones) so even considering a PR would have been stupid.
Ahead of me.
Behind me

Anyway, the gun went off and I started running. Too fast as usual. I was still fretting about the bib issue so out of guilt I didn't stop in any of the hydration spots and because I started too fast my energy slowly went away. The result? A positive split. I don't know if that's what you call it but since the exact opposite is a negative split then, what I did was a positive split. And pretty beautiful one at that.
Avg Pace

Even with all of that. I managed to run a sub-40 race so it wasn't all bad. At the finish they were lining up for the medals. I think, they would have given me one if I asked but again, it didn't feel right so I got off the line and headed home. I did ask a fellow runner to let me take a picture of his. It's the same as last year's.

Along with that sub-40 I also managed to keep my heart rate lower than what I have been seeing in 5K's so the base training seems to be working. All in all, not a bad day. Just a weird one I guess.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Philadelphia!!

A little while back I was writing about short and long term goals. Among those goals was running a sub-3 hour Half Marathon this fall, and I also mentioned that I was trying to pick a race to go try get that PR. There were plenty of choices of course and many of those choices were certainly tempting for different reasons. However, life throws curve balls sometimes and when they come at you, you take a swing at them if you can.

Among my short list were races I genuinely wanted to run because they were on my list (Space Coast Half Marathon), races that were close to people I met during the Marathon or online (Pensacola, Avengers Half, some potential Loopfests) and some charity runs (St. Judes). In the end, fate kind of chose for me.

I think it was about a month ago, I talked about a run I did with my friend Al Vincent and how we went to the LRS and got him some running shoes. 

Al, is a very busy guy with many responsabilities and travels A LOT so it's hard for him to maintain the discipline to run regularly. I told him that one of the best ways to keep yourself accountable was to sign up for a big race early so you have something to work towards to. Well, on April 1st, registration for the Philadelphia Marathon/Half was opened and I emailed him with the challenge that if he signed up for it, I would join him. Well, he did. 

A promise is a promise right? So I signed up as well. Come November, we'll be running up those "Rocky Steps" and celebrating with a cheeseteak sandwich in the City of Brotherly Love. I worked in Philly for a year back in 2000 so it's a return to my old stomping grounds. Plus, November 21st is my Birthday!!  Will I manage to go sub-3? That remains to be seen but I will sure work my butt off to get it done.

Monday, March 31, 2014

And now for some upcoming attractions.

OK, I've been taking it relatively easy lately. It's time to get my butt in gear and get some serious miles in. What better way to do that than signing up for a couple of races right? Nothing like an upcoming race to get the fires burning and the legs moving. Plus, I got a little not-so-secret-anymore surprise coming up. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. First, the race schedule. Here's what I have come up with for the following months.

April 6 - 5K for Values: Ran it last year. It's organized by the Government Ethics Office (there's an oxymoron), I love ruinning this race. Why? Because it's free! You can't argue with free. I'll line up for some free. Hence, what better way to add races to a rather slow year so far?

April 27 - Altamesa 5K: I've had my eye on this one for a while now but hadn't been able to get to it. This race has a reputation for being very well organized. It's also for charity so another reason to go run it. I have also heard this is a relatively fast course so... new 5K PR? We will see...

May 25 - Abraham Rosa International 10K: This is a very famous race in Puerto Rico. Even before I started running, I talked about doing it one day. I guess the time has come. It is a very tough course with lots of hills. Hey, I'm nothing if not ambitous right?

And for the surprise(ish). On June 29, I'm gonna tri something new...

Yup, The Fat Runner is gonna be doing some cycling and swimming along with his running to attempt his first triathlon. I must be going insane. I'm gonna go into a bit more detail in an upcoming post about the whats and whys of this but for now, know this: If you want to keep something like this secret - and that's what I was trying to do. I wanted to shock everyone with the race recap - always remember to turn off auto-share when uploading your workouts to Dailymile or Garmin Connect. I didn't. When some people started to see swimming and biking along with the running on Facebook and Twitter, they(obviously) figured it out. What a genius. And, in case you don't find that funny, I assure you, you will laugh when I talk about training and competing in the tri. Funny stuff.

So that's it. This schedule should keep me plenty busy until mid summer, at which point I switch gears and focus on this year's main goal: A sub-3 hour Half-Marathon. What do you guys think?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

This Should Have Been a Race Recap

That's right. If everything would have panned out exactly as planned, this post would be recounting my experiences running the Puerto Rico Half-Marathon; a race I should mention, I have now been trying to race for two years now. But I didn't run it. Why? Because of this guy.

Yeah, that's right. It was his fault. His name is SeƱor Sapo (Mr. Frog) and he is part of a group called Atencion Atencion (Attention Attention) which, if I were to describe their TV show is the local equivalent of Sesame Street. A lot of singing, dancing and learning fun for the children. Yes, it can get a bit annoying for parents when the kids get hooked on some of this stuff (and once the songs get in your head... forget about it.) but there is no denying that kids not only enjoy the songs and colors but it teaches them a lot. All three of my daughters are huge fans and the youngest one especially, considering her situation, has learned a lot of good things from it. 

So, when the chance to take them to their 15th anniversary concert presented itself, there was no Marathon in the World that was gonna make me choose it over this.

Needless to say, they had the time of their lives singing and jumping around, which in turn means we enjoyed it immensly as well watching them enjoy it so much. The show itself was also a pretty big succes. Atencion Atencion posted these pics  on their Facebook page:

So yeah, I think its safe to say they are pretty popular around these parts. As far as the Half goes, last year I was forced to choose between signing up for it or signing up for the Disney Marathon (we all know how THAT panned out) and this year, this happened. But, go ahead. Ask me how sorry I am for missing it.

My good friend and running buddy Frankie, got to run it though and ended up doing pretty well with a time around 2:25-ish if I'm not mistaken so there you go. 

There are many other races to run so no worries. Next I'll post about what races I will run in the near future. In the meantime, please excuse me while I go jump with Mr. Frog and my girls.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two Years Running

 In March of 2012, I took my first steps as a runner. They were painful, they were extremely slow, and I was hoping with each and every one of them, that they would help me, for the first time in my life, to stick to some form of exercise and activity for an extended period of time. This month I celebrate two years of what has been a pretty interesting and incredible journey and I'm surprised to say that I have not only kept at it, but I'm looking forward to keep doing it and then some. When I think about the future now, I see it very much tied to a healthier lifestyle both for me and my family. Things have certainly changed around here.

As if on cue just so I could celebrate, this month I recieved this:

A pretty cool "runnaversary" gift if I do say so myself. I thought real hard about getting this plaque. After all they are not cheap but how many times in our lives do we run a first marathon? I thought it was important to commemorate the occasion so I gave in and got it. I also bought digital copies of all my pics a while back but I hadn't shared them. Here are some of my favorites.

Right before my corral went off. The photographer caught me putting my headphones on.

My favorite marathon pic. Not surprisingly, it was taken while running up Main Street U.S.A. heading towards the Castle.

WDW Race Track. I don't know what I was going for here. Apparently moonwalking?

Halfway done at Animal Kingdom.(Check the sensor behind me) Do I look excited?

I'm proudest of these next pics simply because this is late in the race(I think that is the twenty-something mile sensor behind me) and as you can see I'm still running and also, playing air guitar. I don't remember what song it was though.

This was a few seconds before the pic above in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Crossing the finish line. You can see MIckey's feet at the top. I had just high-fived him and was screaming "YEAAAHHHH!!!!"

Not my favorite picture but there I was. Marathon done! On the verge of tears too.

Serendipity is an incredible thing. Nice way to celebrate two years of running. Here's to running for many years to come! Do you celebrate your running anniversary? How?