Thursday, December 31, 2015

Running Streak: Day 36

4 miles tonight on New Year's Eve. Could have stayed out and run another couple of miles, but had to get home to get prepared for festivities.

Hope you have a joyous New Year's Eve! Here's to hoping we have an excellent 2016 filled with good health, strong running, and great family.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Running Streak : Day 35

3.4 miles tonight in the mist and fog. Still feeling strong even if I drag a bit through the daytime.

I need to start looking into training plans for the marathon, and tomorrow I will hang up my big sur calendar in tho office, to help motivate me out the door when the New England weather really gets going.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Running Streak : Day 34

1.2 tonight before an anticipated flash freeze. We were struck by an ice storm last night, and the accumulation surprised me.

I need to return some pairs of shoes before I can order new ones, but I really need to do that soon before winter gets worse. Vibram is making a waterproof bikila now, so I may try that out.

New Year's Greetings

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak' a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak' a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
--Robert Burns, Auld Lang Syne
*****

I've always been a fan of the New Year as a holiday celebration. Much in the same way I'm a fan of the build up to really big storms, the night before vacations, the anticipation is almost worth more to me than the payoff. It isn't a matter of having the snow day, but "Will we have the snow day?"

I love that anticipation. Few storms I've lived through have been as big as I've expected, partly I think because I have a very childlike fascination in observing them. I can't wait for the huge storms. I can't wait to walk around in them, and come back in to watch from my windows from the safety of the house. That's a bit nutty, I'll admit, but it's an attitude that makes New Year's Eve seem like a really big event.

I mean, that number at the end of the date doesn't change very often. In fact, it takes like three hundred and sixty five days for that number to change! That's crazy.

I love staying up, holding up a flute of champagne and watching the ball drop. Growing up my family was not much for celebrating this holiday. From about the time I was thirteen I would stay up by myself, often times playing video games with friends. We'd pause around twelve thirty, they'd go off to celebrate the passing year's last moments, and the new year's earliest moments with their families. I'd sit in my room, and I'd watch the ball on my little Panasonic TV. My family was of the sort to go to bed around ten o'clock. They didn't see much of the sense in staying up for the holiday.

As an adult, I've really enjoyed counting down with friends. When I was in college and lived away from home, we'd re-open our apartment off campus with a big New Year's bash. We'd drink, play games, and just generally enjoy eachother's company. It was an excellent time.

In recent years my family has come around, and we've been going to wine dinners on New Year's Eve, which is really nice. My wife and I don't really have the means to attend such things ourselves, and it is a real act of generosity on the part of my family. The dinner is usually incredible (and one of the only times all year I eat meat) and they usually have a band to play in the new year at midnight. It has been a lot of fun to dance in the New Year.

I remember as a small child looking through the old photo albums my mother had. She had a card for the new year in there, a classic old-New England-looking card with a whimsically drawn door a la Capra's "Its a Wonderful Life" with a brief poem about the New Year holiday. I may see if I can find the card to include at some point. To me the image has always been a big part of my nostalgia for the holiday.

This year things are, of course, slightly different.

The plan is to get together with some of our child's godparents and do a dinner of our own. Chinese food takeout, perhaps with a glass of wine, or champagne. The drinking won't be the emphasis, as it has been in past years.

We'll have plenty of folks around to supervise the wee one, and my wife may even be able to pass her off for a bit so she can nap. It will be tremendous to be able to ring in the new year and this new start with friends who are so close that they feel as if they are family.

Will we be totally sleep deprived? Absolutely. No doubt. But the struggles we share as a family will no doubt bring us closer.

I hope you have a good New Year with your loved ones, however you choose to celebrate, and I hope your new year is filled with peace, love, and music.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Running Streak : Day 33

1.2 tonight. Cold new england weather, and tomorrow is supposed to be wet. So far I am 103 miles in on the streak.

8th day doctor appointment today. The doctor gave us some advice on how to get more sleep, so we have some things to try. Otherwise the child is perfect.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Running Streak: Day 32

Went out for 3.4 tonight. Felt pretty good. My nutrition has been terrible this past week, but I still feel pretty light, and strong while climbing.

I have managed to keep my weight in the same range, although I admit it isn't my focus currently.

My daughter is one week old today. Hard to imagine it has only been seven days. My wife and I are trying to work out a sleep schedule, and I have been bonding with the child as much as possible. These themes and more in my big post next week.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Running Streak : Day 31

1.2 tonight. Very tough to push myself out the door, due to a very cuddly dog, and the exhaustion brought on by a day with no naps.

Hopefully I will get some good sleep in tonight, and then a few more tomorrow. Would like to put in a longer run but I am concerned about getting sick from pushing too hard.

the Early Morning Miles

***** 
I stand in the driveway in the early morning dark
watching bits of my breath vaporize into the cold night air
What will I do today?
How will I respond to the challenges of the day?

*****

In the early morning hours of this past Saturday, my wife woke me up. She had been having irregular contractions all week, but they were coming stronger and more frequently. Still not frequently enough to go to the hospital, but we started really talking about what we were going to do should we have to go in that night.

I had made plans to get some work done around the house, and I held to that a bit. We went out to breakfast, came back, and I got to work fixing up the toilet in our downstairs bathroom. It has really needed to be fixed since we moved in, but now with the additional guests and visitors I've been planning to use it as my main bathroom, and so that if we have people visiting in the finished part of our basement they won't have to trek all the way upstairs to our main bathroom. I also figured that since the baby was overdue, I might be able to jinx her into coming by making plans that I would then have to break.

Sure enough, the contractions continued into the night and we decided to go our for dinner with some friends who live up the street. Honestly, I imagined that even though the contractions were pretty serious my wife would still end up going until Tuesday when they had talked about induction. Induction, as I've learned, isn't preferred. But I figured that would be the luck we would have. We made it out to dinner and all the way home. We even stopped into our friends' house to visit a bit before heading home. The contractions were consistent, but not spaced too close together.

After we got back I decided to get my miles in. Those of you following my holiday running streak have seen how it has gone so far -- not my highest mileage year, but I've still remained fastidious in getting the miles done. This dedication is important to me. It is something that changed my life several years ago when I found it.

I went out for 2.1 miles, covered the distance in a moderate amount of time, came home, and showered. I laid down in bed for a couple of hours. My wife woke me up -- around 11. The contractions were really strong now. She even found an app that helped to time the frequency and duration of each one -- so we made a deal that when they started averaging close to 5 minutes we would call the doctor. The doctor told us not to come in until my wife was having trouble speaking because of the strength of the contractions -- and a couple of hours after that we were headed to triage.

It turns out that the best time to go to triage is not the early morning hours of Sunday. We arrived at about 1 am. My wife stood around at the desk for what felt like forever (was probably closer to 6 minutes) and then was seen. We both got brought back into a room, where they hooked up some sensors, told us they would be back, and then promptly forgot about us. I shouldn't say forgot about us, but due to the lack of information we certainly felt that way. An hour passed. Another hour. Finally a doctor and nurse came in to check my wife out, gave us no information, and left. Another hour passed. We paged for water a few times. No one ever came. It was scary, infuriating, and really, really unpleasant. You have to realize, this is our first child. I don't know if the lack of information or communication is par for the course here or due to a tremendous workload, but in any event I can only respond to the situation as I experienced it. I was ready to start yelling at people.

Finally at around 4 am a different doctor and nurse came in. They explained that there had been a long line of folks heading to delivery, so they were waiting for a room to open up. We waited another hour or so, and then we were brought up. From the time we stepped into the labor room I felt much more at ease. The LDR nurses were very, very kind to us and answered every question, and guided us through the choreography of the early parts of labor. When shifts changed, they would introduce us to the new staff. We got to know our staff well, and we really appreciated them.

*****
The adrenaline hits my system
my body devours the miles
the awake hours
welcomes no sleep
I run for longer than I imagined possible
I imagine never stopping
*****

Once we got into the LDR we slept for about twenty minutes or so. The adrenaline in my system made it really hard for me to sleep for long periods, and so I was up. I was watching my wife, staring at the monitors, thinking how useful it would have been to have gone to medical school. I didn't feel helpless -- I just felt strange. How long were we going to be there? And also, what the hell day was it? As we approached 10 am, things started to get real. The nurse started to prep us for what laboring would be like, and was in and out of the room with the doctor on call. During the in between moments my wife and I shared some very nervous exchanges -- I did my level best to be a very strong presence and put her at ease. I couldn't do much more than that, but expressed my commitment to her in the strongest way possible. The true importance of our union felt very apparent to me in this moment.

The nurse had prepped us that it might be a very long time. We had only been in the LDR for six hours or so, but when you considered we'd been at the hospital for closer to ten, and the labor had gone on for much longer than that, my wife was ready to be done. The epidural took the edge off her pain, but it was time to meet our child. The nurse had prepped us that it could be hours of pushing. It ended up only being about ten minutes. Our daughter came into the world, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life, cried, opened her eyes, and immediately was skin-to-skin with my wife.

*****
Now the sensation of ease with the new level of work 
I busy myself for hours 
revel in the joy of the motion 
the miles sing in my bones 
and thrum in my heart
*****


I have no words for what happened inside me. The adrenaline continued to stay kicked up, I draped my arms over my wife and daughter, and I have never been so happy in my life. A little later the nurse cleaned up the baby, took her foot print, weighed her, gave her her antibiotic, swaddled her and handed her to me. The ballet of the LDR is a really incredible one -- I'm not certain you fully understand it until you see it. The nurses work so much harder than anyone you've seen, while retaining compassion. You watch your birthing partner do something so incredible, and if you are me, you wonder how anyone thinks running 26.2 is hard compared to this incredible act of creation.

I only found out later that my wife had photographed the exact moment I first held our child -- I looked into her little eyes, "My long-expected child," I said. I stroked her hair. I smiled, and I told her I loved her.I felt euphoric, and I felt love for many people in that moment.

In the marathon we look within ourselves to find another level of strength. We look within ourselves to find a way to comfort ourselves through pain and trying times. I felt like this was that exact moment -- all of the stressors placed on my wife and I, all of the adrenaline and hormones and everything else you go through in the last stages of expecting -- I was drained from having been awake for so long. I hadn't seen a real meal in sixteen hours (and neither had my lady love, who did all the really hard stuff.) I looked into that little peanut's eyes, and I found another gear. I dug deep.


*****
The next gear opens up 
I search for even more to do 
Doing more and more than I thought possible 
My legs revel in the fatigue 
as does my heart 
We yearn for hard work 
to earn our rest
*****

The next twelve hours were a whirlwind. We were moved up to our room after two hours or so. I fed my wife while she fed my daughter. Family came to visit. Friends. I headed home while my daughter's god parents were up so I could grab some things we forgot in the go bag, and to get my mile in, and to bring some food up to my wife. I came back completely drained, and powered on into the night. We tried to work sleep in in shifts. At about 2 in the morning, I went out cold. Nothing woke me up until 7 am the next morning.

The next day was similar. Tests, doctors, feeding my wife while she fed my daughter. Coming home to attend to the house and make sure it would be ready for our return the next day. Getting in my mile before coming home. Continuing on into the night, trying to get my wife a few hours of sleep before I went out cold. Absolutely loving our child. Our perfect, perfect child.

We have been home for a couple of days now, and starting to hit our stride. We sleep in shifts, have split up some of the chores without even talking about it, and have had really excellent support from our friends and family. Simultaneously to the birth of this child my wife's family has been going through some turmoil due to illness, so it is difficult for her to not be able to be there as much. This child is our priority, and everyone understands, but it is hard to not be involved when you have been so very involved in the past.

*****
Rests now, the heart 
which realizes that the race is not run 
it has only begun 
and ever busy shall be the body 
the mind 
the soul
*****

My wife is an incredible person. I worked so much harder seeing what she did, because I felt that I could do nothing but support her, so I wanted to do it 150%. The child is incredible. I welcome the shifts where I get to spend time with her, comfort her cries, feed her, and sing to her. I know that there will be many nights ahead which are sleepless, and much work to be done which will be very difficult. I welcome it. I welcome the challenge and the rigors it will place on me. I want to go the extra mile for this child.

Fatherhood is my new endurance sport. I aim to be an elite at it.





Friday, December 25, 2015

Running Streak : Day 30

2 miles tonight. The unseasonable weather continues and is excellent.

Hope the holiday was good for those of you who celebrate, and that you had good luck in your running if you went out!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Running Streak : Day 29

Managed to get 3.4 miles today! Consistently running on six hours of sleep, trading off with my wife. We are adjusting really well to the big change in circadian rhythm, though, and today felt like we were firing on all cylinders.

Four days left in the week, and I want to try and get 40 minutes running into each of those days. I need to figure out a way to bulk up the weekly time on my feet for big sur, so we will see how this goes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Running Streak : Day 28

Only 1 mile tonight through some absolutely awful torrential rain. Urban flooding made things really interesting, but the temp is pretty warm so it was fairly pleasant.

Tomorrow is supposed to be about 69 degrees, and more terrible rain. Talk about weird weather for Christmas eve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Running Streak : Day 27

We are home! We have returned from the hospital, and are getting settled in. I ordered us two meals each so we would have lunch and dinner, and ran some errands.

My wife also insisted that I bring the dog home, and the pup has been very good with our little one so far. She listens to us very well, and seems to understand that we need her to keep her distance. I think it helped put some normalcy back into our routine.

We also had a visit from one of the little one's godparents tonight, who held her while my wife had dinner and I got in my 1.2 miles. It is, I kid you not, 60 degrees in my part of New England today. I had no reason to wear a long sleeve tech, but was comfortable anyway.

I would like to try and get in 3 miles tomorrow, but I will defer to my wife if she feels she can't spare me for the time.

The big post for this week will be late. I'm sure you understand... Fatherhood, after all, is an endurance sport, and we are in it's very early miles.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Running Streak : Day 26

1.2 today while my mother in law stayed with my wife and daughter at the hospital.

When I returned, they told me she had been looking for me since I left! We had an epic afternoon of cuddling while my wife napped. I'm so glad to know this kid.

The weather was really mild today so I did my miles with a vest instead of the jacket. Very comfortable. Hoping December keeps this up so I can maybe get in a couple of long runs before the end of the streak!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Running Streak : Day 25

Got my mile in tonight after stopping home from the hospital following the birth of my daughter.

Don't freak, my wife wanted me to keep the streak alive, and both were getting some good bonding time in with the godparents. On top of which I needed to grab some things from home we forgot to put in the go bag (d'oh!)

This week's big post will be about the events of this weekend and her birthday, and as you will read, I am a man changed.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Running Streak : Day 24

2.1 miles tonight. Child is coming soon. Hopefully this isn't a false alarm.

I'm somewhat upset with my progress so far on the running streak. This week has been a lot of shorter runs, and I haven't gotten in my long run. As of right now I am doubtful I will hit my goal of 150 miles. I need to forgive myself for missing that goal, if I do.

This year has a lot of stuff going on.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Running Streak : Day 23

1.2 miles tonight. Getting chilly out, so this is the first run I broke out the jean shorts for.

I'm hoping for 15 miles tomorrow - but we'll see if the much-expected child has other ideas.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Running Streak : Day 22

Are we so far in already?

84 miles as of tonight and 22 straight days with no missed miles. I feel like 2015 will be gone the next time I blink. I hate that feeling, but I am hopeful for the future, as well.

1 mile tonight in the wet and mist. Slower than my previous two runs, but once again running on a full stomach, late at night, and with many things weighing on my mind.

I am hoping to get some real distance in over the next couple of days. The child seems to be taking her time, so I see no reason to continue doing the bare minimum in my streak.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Running Streak: Day 21

Another 1.2 miler tonight. Quick lap around the neighborhood.

My wife is having some pretty strong contractions, but the timing isn't really anything of concern yet. Just wanted to get the mile in quick so I could get back as soon as possible.

Also ate most of a pizza for dinner. Felt that quite a bit on the downhills. I usually try to give myself a couple of hours after eating, but tonight I didn't feel like I had the luxury because I wanted to be home to take care of my wife.

Decently cold out tonight, but I still ran in shorts. Soon I'll have to switch to tights, I expect, but I've enjoyed the warmer parts of December so far.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Running Streak: Day 20

1.2 miles tonight.

Have to do some shorter miles to recover, and have been logging longer days at work and home with less rest (as my wife is due any day now, I'm up with her quite a bit of the night.)

Hopefully will be able to pull off a long run later in the week to add up some of these numbers.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Running Streak : Day 19

3.4 miles tonight to bring my total for the streak up to 80 miles.

Legs are feeling strong, and hopefully the baby will be coming soon. Once I have a better idea of the timing I can figure out how to get my other miles in.

So excited for this kiddo's arrival, though.

Just you and me, Pheidippides

Unforeseeing one! Yes, he fought on the Marathon day:
So, when Persia was dust, all cried "To Akropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
'Athens is saved, thank Pan,' go shout!" He flung down his shield,
Ran like fire once more: and the space 'twixt the Fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine thro' clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died--the bliss!

                                  --Robert Browning, Pheidippides

*****
My running habits have changed quite a bit over time. When I first started the run/walk program, I would usually head to the treadmill at about mid-morning. As I started to run outside, in preparing for races, I would go earlier in the morning. The reasoning for this was that I felt very self-conscious. I would get up at 3:30 am, sometimes 4 am, and I would run for however long my plan called for. The additional benefit of this was that at the time our apartment complex was located on a highway. Going out really early meant there were almost no cars on the road, and afforded me an additional level of safety.

Sometimes I would see foxes, deer, or coyotes running around that early. They would be my 'running partners' and offered a perspective on a place I've lived most of my life but very rarely see. I'm not really a person who believes in 'spirit animals' but I will admit to feeling a certain level of camaraderie with them. In the pre-dawn hours we were the only things moving, aside from very few automobiles. The world was ours and it was as if I'd stepped into some pre-historic version of New England. A forest along the bay where the wind blew very cold, and the pot-holes were plentiful.
My very favorite runs have often been my long runs. They provide a chance for real solace, and the overcoming of a feeling of uncomfortability. I probably shouldn't say 'overcoming' because you don't really overcome that feeling in the sense of 'putting an end to it'. It is more that you figure out how to live with it, and minimize the effect on your mind. One of my marathon plans called the work level "comfortably hard" and I think that applies here.

I live with a lot of unwarranted anxiety before long runs and races. There are a couple of reasons for this: As much as I love long runs, and find a lot of fun in them, somewhere in my mind I find them to be insurmountable. Also, with regards to races, I am antsy in a crowd of people I don't know. Usually by the end of the run, I've found at least one person to talk to, but the feeling of isolation standing in a chute is not one I've ever really identified with as a feeling of community, or camaraderie. It is a gaggle of strangers. I feel out of place in that situation, and it adds to my ill-at-ease sensation. I have a couple of ways of coping, though.

Back in those early days of my running, I started an early morning mantra as I bulked up my weekly long runs from 20-26 miles back in September of 2013. I'd stand in my driveway, about to head onto the road, and say to myself, “Just you and me, Pheidippides.”

I mean, OK. So I haven't had an imaginary friend since I was six years old. Back then it was Frosty the Snowman (don't laugh at me, I was six.) But if you're a runner, you could do worse for an imaginary friend than the spirit of Pheidippides.

As has been written about for a long time in running circles, Pheidippides was the legendary runner who ran to notify Athens of the Athenian victory against Persia at the plains of Marathon. He also ran to Sparta days before requesting aid. I don't need to hash out the legend here, if you are a runner, you know the story. If not, there are many places for you to find the story.

The point is, like a lot of long-distance runners, I feel a kinship with this character from whom I am separated through hundreds of years of time. Whether or not he really did the deeds in his legends, it is generally considered true that the Greeks used messenger runners to cover large amounts of land. These people must have had the same feelings we did: a torrent of emotion wrought on by incredibly physical grind. Fear at the unknown, ease in one's confidence, sorrow at pain and reflection, and joy at the mastery of one's physical movement. We're not so dissimilar even separated by this much time. That character and that mantra pulled me through some very trying long runs through the very early hours of the morning in 2013.

Over time, I've begun running later into the afternoon and night. This fall I started doing a handful of runs in the early morning again. This was out of necessity of having to get up for early mornings with the baby, but also because it feels organic to me. My training hours have modulated from early morning, to mid-day, to afternoon, and now late evening. The obvious next progression was a return to mornings.

There is a remarkable peace in my urban setting during the early morning hours. The city is for the most part asleep, save for people delivering newspapers, bakery trucks shipping out bread and supplies. The actual hustle and bustle of my little city is hushed. The roads, for the most part, belong only to me, the stray cats, the raccoon, and the possums. Being that my slice of earth is so dense, it also means that a 26 mile training route can take me from my city, to some nearby farmland, into the woods, before returning back home. I can cross state lines twice, if I want to, and I can change elevation quite a bit for someone who live at sea level. These things feel epic to me, because I never would have imagined running so far unsupported a few years ago.

*****

The early morning fog dampens my eyes  
the rhythm of covering ground sings in my bones
I long to cover hills, cross wide fields and return
weary and worn and satisfied from that truly hard work
I gaze into the distance of time and space,
geography within my own mind
My heart dreams of Big Sur

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Running Streak : Day 18

4 miles of recovery tonight. Leaves me with 28 miles and change for the week.

I was hoping to top last year's 155 miles, but I am in doubt about that. It would require a couple of higher mileage weeks, and I am not sure I can get those in this year.

Now we are in a real state of flux and uncertainty. This "any day now" thing is exciting, but I'm bothered by not knowing how much time I will be out of work for, or when. Everyone tells me I won't care about that in the moment, and I am sure that is true, but it does bother me now...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Running Streak : Day 17

Went out for a 13.1 miler tonight. Weather was really nice, and I tried to take a nice and easy pace.

In the last four miles I switched to my music, from the podcast I had been listening to, and the world seemed to light up. I took the eleventh mile of my run considerably faster than the previous miles and had to force myself to ease of to save something for the hills I was approaching.

Overall, very good run. Still in the "any day now" frame of mind regarding the expected child. But, I am forcing the concern from my mind for the time being and focusing on what has become a brewing excitement in me...

Friday, December 11, 2015

Running Streak: Day 16

4 miles this evening on day 16 of the streak. Due to the head cold I've had this week I've been easier on my volume, but I'm still planning to go for a decent long run tomorrow. Easy pace, but the weather should be good for it.

We've been having a somewhat unseasonable batch of weather this week. Warmer, more humid, and not what I really expect for December. I suppose I've felt that way for a few Decembers now, though, so maybe I should just get used to the fact that winter in New England doesn't really get going until February.

I've really only worn the tights out two or three times this season. I'm not complaining about that, I don't particularly love wearing tights. It is just an odd thing to be wearing running shorts in December and being totally comfortable with that.

My new Vibrams broke down. I had ordered a set of KMD sports maybe a month ago, because they don't make the Bikila LS anymore and I didn't really want to go to the even (slightly) thicker sole of the Bikila EVO. The EVO looks nice, but I'm very used to the 4mm sole, so I wanted to stay closer to that. Sure enough about 60 miles in the tab at the top of the lacing strap came off. That is a manufacturer issue, so I'll be returning them this week.

I love my Vibrams, and this isn't the first time I've had issues with manufacturer problems. I'll keep running in them, but I am getting frustrated with the ever changing line of products, thicker soles, and what seems to me to be less durable rubber than my shoes had five years ago. I'll probably do an entry on my footwear at some point in the future. It isn't such a long and storied past, being that I've only run for a few years. It is just something I'm interested in exploring as a topic.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Running Streak : Day 15

1.3 miles tonight. Easy pace on a foggy New England winter eve. Easy also seems to mean faster, as the streak continues.

Still recovering from the head cold but hoping to be better, and to get in a moderate-long run in this weekend.

Throwback Thursday #10 -- Post Marathon Analysis and Goal Setting

Here is my original blog post reflecting on my experience at the 39th MCM. I've blogged about that race here before, but found this in the old blog and figured it was worth posting here. October 28, 2014:

Post Marathon Analysis and Goal Setting 
Late this summer I found myself in a bit of a predicament. My habits started to break down, and I was gaining weight again and watching my weekly mileage shrink. There are a lot of reasons for that but the one I've really been kicking myself about has been pride. I went out for a 21 miler in late August and found myself repeatedly guilty of that sin. 
I came home and took all of my race medals and put them in the bin with my bibs from past races. I started to train again, but never got my weekly mileage all that high. I decided that because I was so close to the marathon, it was better to race at my current weight (about 10 pounds up from my previous marathon weight) than risk trying to lose it fast and shedding all the core muscle I had worked to develop. 
I raced about a 3:52 in the MCM on Sunday, which was not my goal. I'm still very happy to have broken 4 hours again, and I'm happy to have finished at all (which is always a goal when you see people fitter than you passing out mid race). But I am wondering about that 3:40. If things had been only slightly different this summer, I have no doubt that's the time I'd have seen on the clock. 
Leaving the chute I realized that I was going out a lot faster (I had lined up with the 3:40 folks, but with no pacer people didn't line up by time). We hit mile 2 and the split came up as 7:52. I knew that wasn't great for my goal of 8:30 so I backed off. My next split came in at 8:22 so I aimed to stay comfortable and kept running off of effort, occasionally checking the splits. 
I felt good all the way through mile 13, I mean, I was working, but conversational, having fun, not breathing too hard. 
At mile 20 when we hit the bridge to head back towards Arlington, I knew I was in some trouble. I ran-walked through the next couple of miles so that I could finish running. But the walking cost me a bit, obviously. 
So my goal now is two-fold: I want to find my humility again and use it to make me a better runner. I want to be able to handle the 26.2 distance confidently and comfortably, not just telling myself "I will finish this." At this point, I know I have the grit to handle the distance when I'm in the race. I just need the training and experience to yield the results I want. 
So the plan now is to put together a plan to get trained up for a spring marathon. Even if I don't run a spring marathon. I want to handle the distance in the desired time. I also want to get back on track with my calorie counting, and planning out my meals so that I'm fueled well and in better fighting trim. Here goes, heading into the toughest season to do all that stuff. 
Bring it. My legs feel better with that 26.2 behind them, and I'm ready to hit the roads again for a few easy miles tonight. 
Also, still happy I beat Oprah. 
...and Sean Astin.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Running Streak : Day 14

A quick note here about my run on 12/9.

I am suffering from a really bad head cold, and so I was cramming lots of rest in around this run. I also had a gig playing for the school I once attended, so I decided I would get a quick three or four miles in, so that I didn't have truly awful numbers this week.

I actually felt quite a bit better after the run -- although I was much more tired at the end of the evening. Since I've been running I usually will continue to run through common colds, although I won't generally run if I have a fever. It has been an interesting experience that really makes me feel solid in the knowledge that I'm more powerful than an irritating little sickness.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Running Streak : Day 13

Just one mile and a quarter tonight. Fast, but I am limiting the mileage because I need to get better. Don't want to head into the LDR with a head cold.

The weather gets colder, and I am getting faster. My mind remains ever-focused on  my daughter. I haven't met her yet, not really. But I can't wait to. I am worried about how I will do as a father...

Maybe I will hit the books this weekend and see what is written on parenting...

Doubt

This week, a blog more on the parental side of things. I started working on this post back in August. By the time you're reading it in December I'll have made countless edits, additions. Maybe I'll even have written it and erased it a dozen times. I'm evolving a working process here that is unlike anything I've ever done, because I'm not someone who has really written with any regularity throughout his life.

When it comes to the topic of fatherhood I find myself in a constant state of questioning at this point: will I be able to handle a small and delicate child? I'm not a delicate person, really. Will I feel some sense of connection? Will I have a hard time pulling myself away from home to go to work each day, and what changes will I feel in my commitment to my work and training?

Because the things that I have worked to establish as a habit and ritual in my life are things that are important not only to who I am, but who I want to be in life and legacy. Losing them is kind of an odd thought to me. I don't want to become a zombie, because that would pull me out of my goal of being involved and aware in my own existence. Can I handle the added strain of helping to parent a child?

When I feel this overwhelming sense of self-questioning, I usually try and turn to books. I look up experts in the field. But I think this is an area that no one can really offer advice in, because it seems like all of my doubts can only be answered experientially. Sure enough every time I look up a book on raising children, or raising a daughter, I'm hit with an onslaught of concerns that belong to someone else.

"Well," the books say, "You're going to have to put up with the fact that girls like pink."

"And also," they continue, "They really like Disney."

Well, OK. Maybe those are someone's concerns (and honestly, I doubt that person has anything beyond a passing knowledge of parenting) but they are not my concerns. My concerns have to do more with connection and remaining connected to who I am, making sure that I don't change completely, making sure that this is an element of my life I can work to support.

I want to be an involved and active parent, not only for this child but also to support my wife. We've always been a good team, and I don't want to let her down in this endeavor either. I know she is going to be awesome at this -- but will I be the weak link? What would that look like? Would I be able to adapt and overcome it?

Ultimately I know this is something that can only be answered with time. I have to believe that a lot of these fears and self-doubts are things everyone goes through -- and that they are things I've been through before when entering into situations I've never experienced previously. In every situation I enter into I can also achieve a level of comfort -- a willingness to continue on, and then my doubt abates as I have faith in myself to continue. But, parenting seems like a really alien thing. My own parents weren't great models in this regard. What if there's nothing to fill the gap where my model of a good parent goes?

Some of these questions are unanswerable at the present time, but I'll be sure to update on these concerns as I go. Once I get into the meat of this thing, I'm sure there will be plenty to write about. Of that I am almost certain.

We're getting close.

Ready for the plunge.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Running Streak : Day 12

Just one mile tonight. Starting to come down with a head cold, so I want to get some good rest in.

We will see what tomorrow has in store. I'm hoping to feel better, and able to get a 5k in.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Running Streak : Day 11

10.6 miles this evening. Picking the right gear for the fickle new england climate continues to be the deciding factor in the success of my running. Tonight I went with a long sleeve shirt and shell over it, running shorts, no tights. Somewhat cold towards the end, but not uncomfortable.

Listening to Diana Nyad's book on tonight's run. Strongly recommend it for endurance athletes, and the audio book even features Nyad singing, which certainly keeps one focused on the story. Will write more on the book later.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Running Streak: Day 10

Went out for four miles tonight. Had planned to do a longer run, but we had some errands to run and it was getting cold, so I'll try to squeeze my long run in tomorrow. I will be quite happy provided that I can get in around 25-30 miles a week.

I would like to try and have some higher mileage weeks later in the streak, but we'll see how that goes with the new arrival.

Last year I managed 153.7 miles during the streak, but I did have a couple of weeks where I was in the 45 mile range. We'll see if I can best that by a couple of miles this year.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Running Streak : Day 9

Another 1 and a quarter miles in the books tonight. Need to rest, and hoping to get a long run in tomorrow.

Was surprised by my coworkers with a baby shower today. We don't usually do baby showers for male staff, but this has been a tough year, and so I think the idea is to do more to bring us together. The generosity was truly touching, and I feel very lucky to have the sense of community I have in this workplace.

I know great people.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Throwback Thursday #9 -- Negative Splits

In this installment of Throwback Thursday -- blog posts from my past -- I discuss negative splits, and how lousy I am at them.

It is worth noting that this year in training I began running mostly negative splits. We'll see how that impacts my race season this year!

Negative Splits
Today I went out for a three miler, to recover from my long run yesterday. I've always been lousy at running negative splits. 
Part of the problem, I think, is that I live on a highway. Not a major highway, but certainly one with a high volume of traffic at certain points in the day. If you ever feel like things are kind of dull in your life, join me on a long run some time. The first and last mile of my run always takes place on the highway where the cars are flying at you at incredible speed. Between the roadkill on the side of the road, broken glass and occasionally people who do not look while making turns off the highway, it's alway an adrenaline fueled run. 
So I set out early, hoping to catch a pretty dead time on the road. That worked out well, but I was feeling good, lovely day out, so I ended up with a first mile that was about 8 minutes. Not too bad, but definitely too fast for my plan. I ran the second mile at about 7:39, so, nice progress there. In the third mile, I came back out onto the highway and ran headfirst into a bitterly cold headwind. It ended up costing me some time, taking me 7:47 to complete mile 3. 
Overall this is a thing I still have to work on, but it was neat to experiment with today.
Running the last half mile, I looked down at the side of the road where I was running. In New England because of our large amounts of snow we throw lots of salt and sand on major highways like my road to help cars keep traction in the inclement weather. In the spring when the snow melts the sand washes into the shoulders and it creates a sensation similar to running on a very mild, well packed trail. I looked down and saw my vibram foot prints from yesterday's long run still impressed into the sand. 
I've had a rough going of maintaining a regular run schedule lately, but looking down at my preserved foot prints today, I couldn't help but feeling, "Yeah, I'm back."
Now, I need pancakes.


Running Streak: Day 8

An easy mile and a quarter to start off today. Have to work late tonight, so I decided today would be a good day to switch over to morning runs again. My wife also wanted me to switch over to mornings in case she goes into labor and I have to leave straight from work. Hopefully this way I'll be able to keep the streak going.

Morning running is strange. Even with stretching, rolling, and using the stick the night before my muscles still feel creaky until I've got at least a mile on my feet. I have to remind myself to go out easy, and slowly add on speed as I work through the little aches that come with legs that are just waking up.

The weather this morning couldn't have been better for a run, even if it was a bit damp. I came to realize how much I've missed the solitude of a city at 4am, when I used to do most of my longer-distance training. It will be nice to have that back, even in the dead cold of winter.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Running Streak : Day 7

2.1 miles tonight in foggy, soggy, humid New England.

Ran easy tonight because I am planning to start running before work tomorrow. Hoping that will make it easier to get in the miles when the baby comes.

38 week ultrasound today. Kiddo seems to be doing well, things look normal.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Running Streak : Day 6

Another 3.4 tonight, but adding in some speed play.

It was raining, so I decided to throw in the surges to keep things interesting. At one point, I almost ran into a kid wearing all dark clothing, and walking with traffic. I couldn't see him because of the oncoming headlights.

I drew my arms back to shift my weight, and he thought I was going to hit him and covered his face. We just narrowly collided.

A few more yards down the road I saw two folks running with traffic again. I shouted "Against traffic! There are cars coming!" and they smiled and nodded. Couldn't hear me over their headphones.

Seriously, folks. I'm glad to see you out there, but follow the rules of the road and common sense so you don't get killed.

The Marathon Brain and Two Shots in the Arm

A couple of years ago I got sent out of work. I had passed out. My wife had to come get me and take me to the ER. The doctor I saw asked what was wrong, and I explained. He listened to my lungs and told me my airway had closed up. I was so sick, I didn't even really know I couldn't breathe until I passed out. They had to put me on a nebulizer and a prescription steroid to handle the swelling.

The doctor was... a smart ass about it. But in a way that I found really endearing. My wife told him I never listen to her. He told me I should listen to her. He wrote me a note out of work for two days. When I protested that I wanted to go back the following day, he left the note as it was and gave me a look as if to say, "You'll see. Just wait."

The next day I had cramps in both thighs so big that I couldn't walk. I freaked out and called a friend who is a pharmacist. She asked which steroids I'd been put on, and then told me that leg cramping was a side-effect of those steroids in that kind of volume. "You'll see," indeed.

But I felt better really fast. Got a lot of rest, and I was in much better shape after. Coupled with the endearing snarkiness I knew I wanted this doctor to be my primary care. That is, provided that he wasn't going to tell me not to run. I made a deal with my wife: I'd make the appointment after my 30th birthday.

If they told me not to run, I'd stop running. I'd hate it. But I would give it up.

I just hoped I wouldn't have to.

*****


My job has been stressful lately. My job is always stressful, and there is a certain amount of it I accept. Lately it has been quite a bit more stressful than usual. I've been working longer hours to try and prepare things for the event that I'm out for some unknown amount of time. I'm sure it will be OK. I have coworkers who really look out for one another. But the uncertainty of leaving things still worries me.

Recently, after work, I went to the doctor. Being a young adult at the start of the economic depression, I have a depression-era thinking on a lot of things. I still ask my wife if we have enough in the checking to put gas in my car. I usually put stuff back before checking out at the store, being used to thinking that we can only afford necessities. In many ways that is a good thing -- it can help you save money and spend a bit more in other areas. But it is problematic when the thing you're telling yourself not to buy is a carton of eggs, for example.

So, I went to the doctor. Prior to this, I haven't had a primary care person since I was 17. I didn't have healthcare during college, having gained only a year on my parent's insurance when Obamacare took effect. I am used to paying out of pocket, and going to emergency rooms when things are really bad.

For about three years, we have had good healthcare. I put off getting a primary care because of the running, actually. I made that deal with my wife, though, and I don't play around with that. I am honest with her to a fault. I'm 30 now. I made the appointment.

My family has a medical history that includes lots of heart attacks, arrhythmia, and other cardiac issues. I was really scared that a doctor would tell me to stop running. Running gets a really mixed review in much of the medical community. I've had ER docs tell me to stop running. I usually take that with a grain of salt. Especially if they're not in great shape themselves, and especially if I'm dehydrated and need the sodium (does anyone get that joke?)

So I went to the appointment, got the vaccinations that one really needs to be around a newborn person. The shots didn't hurt at all. The night of I bossed out a seven miler. My arms were sore for a few days afterwards, which complicated my sleeping (I'm a side-sleeper) but all set on the shots now.

Before I left, I told the doc that I was a runner. I told him about the deal with my wife, and how I didn't want someone to tell me to stop running marathons. I told him about the time I fainted in Leadville. His response floored me.

"No, actually, I think running is what is going to prevent you from having these problems. You're in very good shape. Better than average. I think that is probably due to the fact that you run as much as you do."

He suggested the fainting may have been from dehydration (something I suspected about the incident in Leadville, or possibly altitude sickness) I know the science is somewhat dicey on that, but I feel confident knowing I have a doctor who has my back in this.

After the appointment I came home to my wife, had some left-over pizza for dinner, and we went to the hospital for our hospital tour.

It is an odd thing, going on a tour in a group like that. No one really knows how to act. Do you introduce yourself to the other people? But, you probably won't see them again. So that doesn't make much sense. Are you supposed to talk in full voice in the waiting room? I don't know. Everyone was library-whispering. I found that off-putting. I really wanted to tell a joke, or try and lighten the mood. But I didn't know those people, and they seemed very reserved.

We got shown through the foyer (which we'd seen) and were shown some of the different areas around it. The gift shops. The family room.

Before we knew it, we were walking through triage, where they explained how arrival night would go. They go to a really great effort to limit the amount of time parents have to be separated during the birth, and I thought that was really great. We'll see how it actually works, of course, but the idea that it is thought of is nice.

We went and looked through an empty delivery room, and I was really impressed with how mellow those rooms are. They aren't huge, of course, but the colors are very contemporary, and soothing. The lights dim and the rooms are temp controlled. The hospital also offers an "alternative birthing room" which you can only use if you have a midwife and refuse an epidural. Those rooms seemed nice, but I know my wife and she wants the pain management. The delivery rooms are vacated two hours or so after delivery, so we'll be in our private room fairly soon after that, anyway.

We were also shown one of the private rooms. They aren't huge, but they are private, and very nice. The same mellow vibe with a bed for the mom, and a sleeper chair for the dad or birthing partner. The baby stays in the room the whole time, and has a lo-jack on them so no one steals them.

The hospital tour made this thing feel more real to me. In a couple of weeks I'll be in that room with my wife and our daughter. We'll sing to her, and we'll talk to her, and we'll be a family in one place. My wife will sleep, I can't imagine that I will except out of sheer exhaustion. I can't imagine sleeping at all in that scenario. The marathon runner in me looks at the labor room and thinks "You've gone eight hours without peeing before. You won't use the bathroom ever again after she goes into labor!"

The marathon brain is a bit nuts, though. I mean that guy runs 26.2 for fun sometimes.

In any event I know it's built up in my head more than it should be, but hopefully that will set me up to be comfortable and un-surprised by whatever happens. This is the same feeling I get before the plane takes off. Before the roller-coaster roars to life.

Before I run 26.2.

It is a feeling of uncertainty and terror. Of joy in experience. It is so hard to visualize this particular thing.

But I'm getting ready for it.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Running Streak : Day 5

A quick 3.4 miles tonight. Served as a good recovery from yesterday's long run.

Additionally, the winter chill is becoming very apparent in the air, and I was not overdressed with tights, shorts, long sleeved shirt, jacket, hat, and gloves.

The rest of the week is very busy at work. I will undoubtedly have a couple of one mile days, but I remain steadfast and committed to the streak!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Running Streak: Day 4 (The Ol' Stomping Grounds)

Long run tonight. Ran 13.4 miles in about two hours.

Planned a course that took me from my current neighborhood around my city, and looped into the village that I used to live in on the way back. I like running over there on long runs because as I don't run much there anymore, I am always impressed at how my legs seem to remember the terrain. My legs adjust to the hills and pot holes as if I had run them just yesterday, and I feel a great sense of ease and familiarity there.

At about mile seven, as I climbed up an old familiar hill, I was disappointed to see that the thick undergrowth and forested area that had once surrounded the area had been cut clear, and I could see the half-mile or so to the apartment building I used to live in. Not sure if that land is being developed for something, but one of the nice things about those apartments was that they were surrounded by woods and thick brush, so you felt isolated even in the midst of a moderate urban area.

Travelling further on the road that I so often stepped out on when I started running, I was impressed to see that the area had been improved and re-paved. Really nice for pedestrians, now, with a solid sidewalk running all the way along the road (this area immediately connects to a highway, so it was fairly dangerous running in the shoulder there when I started running.)

All in all, a good run. A cold night, but I did OK even if I felt like I may have been a bit under-dressed towards the end. The temp had dropped so much after sunset that I was starting to get concerned about being out in sweat-drenched clothes, so I packed it in. Overall ended up with 27.8 miles for the week. Not a half bad start to this running streak.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Running Streak: Day 3

Just a quick mile and a quarter tonight. Wet out, and I'm feeling sort of cold. Figured I would get the mile in since I hope to do a longer run tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Running Streak: Day 2

4.3 today. Had planned to do the old Turkey Trot Course, but due to some errands, general laziness, and a family commitment I ended up just going out for a run on one of my normal 4.3 routes.

The weather was absolutely beautiful, and I managed to cover the distance in 38 minutes even.

Hoping to get a long run in Saturday or Sunday. Haven't managed to get a run in longer than seven or so miles in November. Partly because I was prioritizing the 5ks, and partly because I was recovering from the marathon in October. I'll shoe-horn a longer run in this weekend though, as I like to have at least a 10k and a 13.1 in the books for every month.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Running Streak: Day 1

Some easy miles tonight.. about 4 and a half. Thought it would be colder, so I wore a shirt that was a bit too heavy, which made things fairly unpleasant. Live and learn, I suppose.

Thanksgiving dinner was a simple one this year. I did some baked tofu, mashed carrots and turnip, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, and brussel sprouts roasted with toasted walnuts. We did turkey with our friends two weeks ago, so we didn't see the point in going all out again. I broiled a steak for my wife.

Soon it should be cold enough that all that winter gear will pay off at keeping me comfortable. In the meantime I will try to dress lighter and enjoy the nice fall weather!

Planning to go run another 4 tomorrow with some friends, on what used to be our old Turkey Trot course. Will let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hard Reset


"Le premier pas, mon fils, que l'on fait dans le monde,Est celui dont d├ępend le reste de nos jours." 
--Voltaire, L'Indiscret

*****

As we hit the holiday season (and I consider Thanksgiving to be the start to the actual holiday season, not Halloween) I am thinking more and more about my eating habits. I'm up several pounds since the marathon I ran back in October, and I have been stress eating like crazy as we approach the arrival of this little girl. Also, things at work have become increasingly stressful, and I've had a harder time getting in more than 15 miles a week this month. Less mileage almost always means more unresolved stress for me, so I'm going to need to start putting in a more consistent effort as we approach December.

So last week after a particularly stressful set of days, I gave myself a mental health day. Those aren't always work days, I should point out, a good many of our mental health days are weekend days. But still, a day set aside with an intentionally blank agenda can be freeing. On this particular one I even let go of logging my food. For the first time in 1,220 days I didn't log a single thing into my MFP diary. I didn't even really think about it until the next morning when my counter reset to 0 days.

For those of you who don't know, I lost a lot of weight a few years ago as I began running. Really, I started the weight loss with MyFitnessPal and logging my food. My wife and I began logging the activity we were doing, and I started a run/walk program on my own. I didn't expect to become a marathon runner. I just wanted to get back in shape and hopefully find the confidence to free myself from a really soul-crushing boss.

Logging everyday really helped me think about what I'm eating, how I portion things, and also about how important my activity level can be in maintaining the shape I'm in. It was a really great 3.34 years of consistent logging, but I'll admit, towards the end of that streak I've been less diligent about it. I was still logging, but I wasn't really being truthful with myself and with portion sizes.

I think sometimes it is good to have a hard reset. This worked for me once, but that was three years ago, and I am a decidedly different person now. I'm intending to continue logging, to start my streak over again. I just want to see if I can get back the drive and dedication I had to it for that first year when I made a really crazy amount of progress. I've done similar things to keep my running fresh -- I still run, but I try different plans, and I don't always glue myself to them permanently.

So we'll see what happens. I would like to lose about 15 pounds and get back down to the weight I was when I ran my first marathon. I'm not sure if that's really realistic, but I would accept losing 10 pounds. I know I can get there in time for Big Sur in April. I also need to get back to eating my mostly vegetarian diet. I've been slipping on that more and more, and I've had meat more times in the last month than I probably have had all year. I notice it in my running -- I feel like I sweat differently, I'm more prone to heart burn. I need to get back to more veggies.

For thanksgiving I usually do a field roast celebration roast -- they taste really good, but they usually give me really bad heartburn. So I'm staying away from that this season. I'm planning to do a savory baked tofu with beans and some roast veggies. I'm still planning to do a bread stuffing and maybe mashed sweet potatoes. I'm also planning on making cranberry-orange bread (a favorite of my father-in-law's) and sharing that out with my coworkers this week. I am planning on giving up alcohol (save for maybe a drink at Christmas, a flute of champagne at New Year's) until after Big Sur.

Do I have any regular readers yet? If I do, I hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and loved ones. For those of you not in the US, I hope that you and your families are doing well. The world becomes increasingly turbulent around us, and sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, bear down into the hill, and think about the people that really matter to us.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

End of the 2015 Racing Season / Holiday Running Streak

Due to a variety of upcoming events, my race season ended yesterday. I can't commit to anymore races this year, because I may not be able to attend them! That's an odd feeling, usually I go into December. Anyway, here is a list of the races I've run in 2015:

2/20/2015 -- Newport Night Run 5k! (Newport, RI)
21:58, 7:04/mile

3/29/2015 -- Eastern States 20 mile (Portsmouth, NH)
2:49:15, 8:28/mile

6/13/2015 -- Gaspee Days 5k (Cranston, RI)
22:26, 7:15/mile

7/18/2015 -- Craft Brew Races 5k (Newport, RI)
21:37, 6:57/mile

7/24/2015 -- Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile Race (Narragansett, RI)
1:17:27, 7:45/mile

9/19/15 -- Jamestown Half Marathon (Jamestown, RI)
1:40:16, 7:39/mile, 31st Overall

10/18/15 -- Ashworth Awards Baystate Marathon (Lowell, MA)
3:48:48

10/25/15 -- Pell Bridge Walk/Run (Jamestown/Newport, RI)
(Walked with family members, can't remember time, don't care.)

10/25/15 -- Great Pumpkin 5k / Dog Run (Warren, RI)
24:07, 7:47/mile, 1st in Age Group

11/11/15 -- PVMS 5k (Cranston, RI)
22:55, 7:04/mile

11/21/15 -- East Providence Turkey Trot (East Providence, RI)
21:59, 7:04/mile

Not a bad showing, for my third year of running. No PR at the 5k distance, which I was hoping for, but I didn't do as much as I could have to make that happen. I focused more on the distance and frequency of training through the summer and less on speedwork, which did pay off at the marathon distance and got me close to my 2013 PR at Baystate.

I will be adding things to my race calendar for 2016 in the upcoming weeks. I already have Big Sur on my mind, and I've been throwing in more hills at the end of my runs in anticipation for it. I'm also thinking of taking up snow-shoeing this winter, as a way to get some distance in without having to do endless loops in my neighborhood. I don't plan on doing any snow shoe races this year, but we'll see where that leads me in years to come.

Overall, optimistic about my future with running. I'll never be competitive with anyone but myself, but at least I still have my goals in sight, and they feel pretty attainable.

I will once again be participating in the Runner's World Holiday Running Streak this year. This will be my third year doing the streak, with the goal of running at least one mile a day everyday between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I will have some added challenges this year, but I still want to try my best. This week look for a couple of posts about my holiday streaks from previous years. I will also attempt to post each day about the workout I've done for that day.

This combined with my regularly scheduled posts means there will be quite a bit of content here on the NDEB, and I hope it is stuff you will enjoy reading.

Participating in the holiday streak? Let me know in the comments and we can cheer each other on!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

On Meat and Vegans

So, I should probably disclose to readers here that I am a vegetarian. I eat some animal products, I do try and remain conscious of what I am buying. I buy local eggs from local farms. I eat greek yogurt, but mostly I avoid dairy because I've never much cared for it. I use a soy-based margarine type of spread on most of my food and in my baking (except when butter is a necessary indulgence.)

Mostly, I try to eat more vegetarian and with those priorities because I think it is healthier. I've been keeping mostly vegetarian for years, and have noticed a dramatic reduction in the number of times that I've gotten heart burn over the course of a year.

I mean, also there was the years that my wife and I were fairly poor out of college. We ate a lot of chicken, and I just am totally burned out on that protein. I became interested in a vegan diet mostly because I was interested in trying new types of food. There may have been a brief moment where I wanted to do it for ethical reasons, but I certainly am not a proselytizer for vegan ethics. Some of the most interesting recipes to me have been vegan -- it can be a challenge but also a lot of fun. It also proved a way for me to learn about the foods of other cultures.

Meat is a thing I've been thinking a lot about lately. This isn't really a treatise on diets, ethics, and more. This is, actually, about parenting. A big facet of being a new parent in America is interfacing with the corporate medical establishment. I'm not bemoaning the loss of the "old time family doctor" making house calls with a black leather bag. I think that there are real benefits to the way we do things. I'm a pro-Science person. I have friends who work in medicine, and I trust their thoughts and knowledge on medical matters. But, the population of medical professionals is a huge one, and there is a lot of variance in personality and demeanor. I'm not sure we have this figured out at all, especially when it comes to the medical professionals who work with pregnant women.

The big issue is this: there are so many patients, and it seems, so many overworked medical professionals.

Being teachers, my wife and I have the benefit of the forced work stoppage that happens during the summer. I consider it beneficial, if not financially, then because we are able to get early appointments with doctors all summer. When you are the first person a doctor sees, or even early on in the day, there is a big difference from being the last person. Now that we've been back to work for a couple of months, the appointments have been later in the afternoon.

Since the fall season has begun, we've been forced to wait longer, testing our patience at the end of an already long work day. I want to say that we haven't been rude to any of the doctors. I don't think we have. But, I can tell you that we have had our share of doctors who clearly have not read my wife's chart. They are caught off guard when she tells them she has gestational diabetes, as if this is news. As if we didn't have several tests in their own labs.

That is unacceptable to me; more-so as a regular occurrence. If you are a father, and you've been through this situation then I imagine you felt a similar sense of  defensiveness over the well-being of your parenting-partner. You want to feel like they are receiving the absolute best medical care you can afford. But you are deceiving yourself when you tell yourself that while realizing that the doctor has no idea what you are talking about on an issue that is in your partner's chart. The word 'unacceptable' hardly placates the anger I feel about this. But it is unacceptable.

It is also unacceptable to let your first year med student (who we don't know) take my wife's measurements without her consent. It is unacceptable to allow a med student to do anything without first asking the patient. The idea that consent is somehow implied there is insanity to me.

I'm having a hard time abstaining from profanity in this post. Just thought you should know, dear reader.

Where I have to draw the line is when we're made to wait for a long time, and my wife is thrown into a panic because the doctor's bedside manner is so poor that it resembles more complete apathy. Pregnant people don't deserve apathy. I know of no people who are comforted by the lack of compassion or care provided by an overworked doctor. Coupled with an ignorance and persistent deafness when discussing work leave policies, I am placed into a rage where I really have to fight against losing my composure.

Again, the profanity.

I'm very protective of my wife. This is our first child. This is a big deal to me. I understand that to the doctor, we are really just 3:45pm-4:15pm.

But part of that job is also being a compassionate human being.

We aren't pieces of meat. On this stance I will not waiver.

So, what is the solution to that?  Unionizing doctors? I would think that would be the only way to ensure that they say fewer patients a day. I certainly think that they need fewer patients a day. I'm not under the impression that being a doctor is easy. I'm just saying, I don't appreciate the habitually lack of care that goes into these appointments. It is dehumanizing, and it is off-putting to feel like this person holds the health of your loved ones in their hands, and that they are somewhat indifferent about that fact.

Aside from the idea that doctors may be overworked, there is the fact that they wield an enormous amount of power, and they can leave patients feeling defenseless to argue. I'm sorry, but sometimes, Doctors are not right. That is a difficult thing for many of us who grew up with an idea of them as somehow infallible. I know a doctor isn't right when they don't ask my wife for consent to allow a medical student to do anything. I know a doctor isn't right when they assume they know what kind of stresses and rigors we face at work, without first asking, reading the file, or listening to what is said. That is just bad staff work, and we should expect more from medical professionals.

So my wife and I have been seeing other doctors since our uneasiness with our OB. We believe we have found one that we like, at least in so far as this doctor listens and seems supportive of doing what my wife needs. You wouldn't think that would be such a hard thing to get in a medical professional.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dreams and Visions

"Dreams, as we all know, are very queer things: some parts are presented with appalling vividness, with details worked up with the elaborate finish of jewelry, while others one gallops through, as it were, without noticing them at all, as, for instance, through space and time. Dreams seem to be spurred on not by reason but by desire, not by the head but by the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason has played sometimes in dreams, what utterly incomprehensible things happen to it!"

--Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man (1877)

*****

I haven't been running much this week, due mostly to work and feeling exhausted. My phone has a pedometer, and even though I'm doubtful of its accuracy, I believe I still at least four miles on foot everyday. Walking, up and down stairs, occasionally running to get here or there.

So when I talk about my weekly mileage, mostly that's on top of the 30 or so miles I walk a week.

I have been taking that time off because I'm "listening to my body." It feels like a cop-out to say that, but I am just so tired after work. The plan right now is to get back on the road in the next couple of weeks to get in some kind of shape for the Turkey Trot I'll be running in a couple of weeks. Our Turkey Trot here used to be a 4.3 miler, but this year has changed over to a 5k. I'm going to miss the eccentric distance, it was always a lot of fun, but I will appreciate the ability to use the 5k distance to judge my fitness and marathon recovery time.

My wife and I got a new bed about a month ago, and I have been sleeping more soundly than I have in years. Those of you with children, no doubt, are saying "Get that rest now, because you won't be able to later.." This is a message reiterated to me from many friends and colleagues with young ones at home.

Since I've been sleeping, I've returned to dreaming. Often throughout my life when I've had good periods of rest I tend to have very vivid dreams, odd at times as most dreams are, but memorable.

I wanted to write a post to recall a dream I had on the eve of my 30th birthday. I think it may be the first dream I have ever had about running -- at least running in a race.

In nightmares I often find myself running from something with the fear that I won't be able to get away. I suppose that has a lot to do with the layer of sleep one is in during nightmares. The amygdala tends to be very active during that type of sleep, so the fight or flight instinct takes over. It makes sense when you think about it as practice for things that can happen to you in the wild. But it still isn't a lot of fun. In any event, that wasn't what this dream was about. This one was a dream about the marathon I didn't run on November 1st.

I decided not to run the race because we had a family emergency going on, and also because it was the first running of that race. I wasn't sure how the course support would be, and I like to know that stuff being a middle of the pack runner.

Anyway, in this dream I was running along the course. The marathon in my dream was set in New England, but not exactly where the race is actually set. I remember feeling in my dream like it was an awful lot like Dedham, Massachusetts. That had a lot to do with the types of buildings and population density. Anyway, it wasn't where the race actually was, just vaguely similar.

When I hit mile 20, there was a gift shop selling race memorabilia. The memorabilia had to do with the New England States -- in my dream, at least, this race was cashing in on being set in New England and pandering to New England runners on participating. I don't know any races that do that. It is a strange concept, because you'd usually want something to do with the race you're participating in, and where it is set, not where you came from to run it. Odd.

So, of course I stopped to purchase some stuff, and then got back on the road. At mile 22, I stopped into my house (which for some reason was on the race course..) to show the things I bought to my wife. In the dream at this point she said, "So, what do you think? You'll be coming in at around 4:30/5 hours at this point?"

I forgot I was still in the middle of the race. And in the dream, I wasn't really alarmed by this, I just got back out on the road and ran to the end. That's odd, isn't it?

So, I don't know. I think dreams are really just our brain's way of filing through the events of the day, and it is possible I'd been thinking so much about marathons post-Baystate that it was the overall theme. But what about the gift shop thing? Is my subconscious also telling me that I'm in this for the wrong reasons? I always tell myself that I'm in this for the experience of running in different places, experiencing the joy of adding  my power to the pack, reveling in the running culture I never knew until a few years ago.

Maybe I'm getting too materialistic? Maybe my priorities are out of whack.

This dream is one that I'll be reflecting on during my holiday running streak this year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Talisman

Ganesha the god-maker regarded the jungle about him. Though he walked through the realm of the phantom cats, he feared no evil. For the Lord of Chaos walked by his side, and the Trident of Destruction comforted him.
--Roger Zelazny, in Lord of Light

*****

I am a person who is naturally superstitious. In developing a mental fortitude that allowed me to run great distances, I've found not only the use of mantras to be very important but having a physical symbol of strength to carry with me. When I started this running journey I was wearing the Ankh, the Egyptian symbol associated with everlasting life and the element of water. Being a Rhode Islander the water has always had an important role in my life, and I took up running in part to extend my health and my life, so I feel the connection there is obvious. I've also always enjoyed the Ankh as a symbol. I've owned various pendants in that shape since I was a teenager, so I've got some history with it.

I wore the Ankh on and off for a couple of years (I continue to wear it today on occasion) and I also wear the Eye of Horus. Another ancient symbol that represents protection. My Horus pendant is an onyx disc with multiple Egyptian symbols surrounding the eye in Silver. I never wore it a lot while running, just because it was so heavy. But I did wear it quite a few other times through the past years because I like the iconography.

I moved on to the Scorpion for a couple of reasons. My astrological sign is Scorpio, and also I wanted to claim the protection of a symbol that many people, including myself, may find intimidating. It was a sort of a “batman” moment. Scorpions aren't terribly friendly. But I think of mine as being a spirit animal of sorts. I usually have some minor anxieties when dragging myself out on a long run (am I dressed right for the weather? What if a car hits me? What if I twist an ankle?) and I have to muster the strength to just get out the door. The scorpion pendant I wear represents that sort of grit that it takes to pull me through some of those thoughts.

For this next chapter in my life I've chosen a different sort of talisman. In discussing design plans for our baby's nursery, my wife and I settled on a color scheme of teals, blues, and lime greens with Elephants as a unifying theme. We've always liked elephants, and I've long collected statues (and have a great set of book ends) of elephants. I also can remember my grandmother reading the French children's stories of Babar to me when I was young.

Being a student of Eastern thought, and coupled with this new plan for the nursery I've decided to adopt the Hindu deity of Ganesha as my talisman for this next ten years. Ganesha is the Hindu deity who is often referred to as the “remover of obstacles.” He is the God of knowledge, wisdom, and new beginnings.

One of my favorite books on Hinduism is Sanjay Patel's The Little Book of Hindu Deities. In the book Patel refers to a story in which Shiva created Ganesha to protect his wife Parvati. When he returned, Ganesha didn't recognize him and so Shiva took his head off. 

Parvati gave him a hard time about that, so Shiva replaced his head with the head of an elephant. Obviously there are a lot of variations to these stories as Hinduism is a very old religion, but this one is one of my favorite versions. My understanding is that in Hinduism he is seen as a friend deity, one who you are meant to think of warmly. I like that for this chapter, because I'm hoping this child sees the world in a warm, friendly way.

So Ganesha will be a great symbol for me as I start this new chapter in my life: a way to tie in an acceptance of all the changes to come. A symbol of the desire to learn and overcome, and the unconditional love I already feel for this child.

My legs are tired this week. 8 miles into the week, and we have a fairly big storm coming that's expected to drop a couple of inches of rain. I may take a day off today to rest, and run some errands. This weekend I'm planning to run a 5k I run every year around my birthday. I'm not sure that I'll try to race it very hard, but I'm hoping to put in a decent enough effort and finish around 22 minutes. I'm thinking it was overly ambitious to shoot for the marathon this Sunday (on my birthday) but who knows. I may still change my mind and go run it.

My bigger concern now is running it and getting injured, being unable to run the running streak I do every year between American Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

30.

Today is my thirtieth birthday.

I'm not really sure what's on the schedule for today... plans got sidelined this weekend by an unexpected family emergency. Not to worry, the baby, my wife, and myself are all fine. Sometimes life throws us curve balls, and honestly I won't be too hurt by the addition of a couple of rest days.

I'm in an odd place, though. This is past the "quarter-life crisis". I'm not really sure what I feel. I expected to be freaked out at being thirty, but I'm finding that just like with other milestones I'm not really feeling changed by it. That is a good thing, I guess. Crises are not a thing to relish and sentimentalize.

So, the 5k and Marathon I had planned for this weekend went out the window. I dreamed of the marathon last night, too. I'll need to get out and get a good long run in soon.

Towards the end of November I participate in the Runner's World Running Streak. It doesn't really feel like a big deal to me, anymore, and last year I actually ended up building a strong base and peaking at 45 miles during the streak. We'll see if I have a similar performance this year, it certainly wouldn't hurt me going into a training season for Big Sur.

I will plan to do some more frequent posts as I start the streak, so anyone following can stay updated on the progress. The middle of December is also "go time" for this baby, so I am planning to try and build up some posts in case I am pulled away from my normal commitments for an unspecified amount of time.

Three decades. Ugh.

Cake tonight.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Previous Marathons, pt. 2

After I finished Bay State in 2013 I wasn't terrifically pleased in my performance. Don't get me wrong, I was happy about having run my first marathon, but I had to stop towards mile 22 for some walk breaks. I really wanted to know, "How fast can I do this if I don't have to walk?"

I know some plans advocate using walk breaks. But to me the art of endurance means finding a way to stay in one set of movements for a specific period of time. I sort of feel like if I can't run the whole thing, then I'm not a marathoner. I want to minimize those times spent walking, stopping for aid stations, etc.

So I set a bunch of goals post-Bay State 2013. I wanted to run the Runner's World Heartbreak Hill Festival in June of the following year (5k/10k/13.1 in one weekend). I also figured I would enter the lottery for Marine Corps., which opens in March. I'd wanted to run Marine Corps. since hearing multiple accounts of the race in the running books I was reading at the time. Bart Yasso happens to tell some very good stories about it, as well.

There was also a family benefit to running Marine Corps. The race in held in Washington, D.C., and my paternal grandfather used to travel there for work quite a bit when I was a kid. He was a civilian engineer with the Navy, so Kings Bay, Seattle, and Washington were all in the regular rotation. I figured if I could go run Marine Corps., maybe he could come with me to spectate. It would be a good bonding exercise.

My wife and I traveled out of state in March to help some friends move. I remember the lottery closing, and then for days hearing nothing. I helped my friends load furniture into a U-Haul and told them, "I guess I didn't get through. That's life, there will be other races."

Days later I got an email in the early hours of the morning.

I got into the 39th Marine Corps. Marathon!

I was ecstatic. I bought a bunch of "in-training" gear and set out to pursue a training plan. I used another about.com plan, and tweaked it so I would have my long runs in a similar fashion as my first plan.

But life has a way of throwing curve balls at you. Mine came in the form of a house. My wife and I bought our first and current house in June of that year. The house came with projects, and a new neighborhood I hadn't run much in. I still managed to log a bunch of miles in July and August. Come September I was feeling pretty good, but my weekly mileage was starting to drop as we went back to work.

I think the lesson here, was that I had no clue how to taper. I understood the idea of dialing back the mileage, but not the idea of maintaining the intensity. I actually dialed up the intensity.

When I saw the results weren't working, I started trying to add supplemental workouts. I have no idea why I did that. That was pretty stupid.

The result was that I was burnt out. By the time we went to Marine Corps. all I wanted was to finish and enjoy the race. On race day I stood at the starting line and watched the American flag parachuted in overhead. The pagentry of that race was remarkable.

As I started running, I felt pretty good. I figured that I wasn't prepared to PR the distance on an unfamiliar course, so I may as well run strong and have fun. I came through the 10k in 51 minutes. That was a projected finish of 3:37. That was nuts, but I figured if I could hang there it would be really incredible.

At the half point I was at 1:47 on the clock. That's about 7 minutes slower than my current half PR. Mentally I knew this was too fast. But again, I figured if I needed to slow down, I would. I should have taken it easy at this point and tried to maintain some strength.

I hit the 30k mark in 2:35. That would still have had me finishing in 3:38. I felt pretty good at that point. Then I hit the bridge.

See, in the MCM you break the race down mentally into a couple of sections: Charge the district, beat the bridge, and "take the Iwo". I hadn't run many races where I was concerned about the cut-off time, but at Marine Corps. the cut off is on a highway bridge. For some reason, even though it was completely illogical, I felt like I had to power my way to that bridge or be trapped forever in front of the Capitol. When I saw the mile 20 sign on the bridge, I knew I was good. And then my mental game totally melted down.

Between the 30k and 40k marks, I had to start throwing in walk breaks. Partly I think this was the sun beating down on us (no cover on that bridge), partly it may have been the number of other participants walking at that point. A pack mentality can sometimes hurt you as much as it helps.

It isn't a great feeling to be walking at that point in a marathon. I mean, you have 10k left. You certainly can't stop, but my god did I want to.

I pushed through and into Crystal City. It was unbearably hot. Fortunately there were a couple of fire trucks set up with hoses for runners to run under, which was really nice. I came through the 40k mark in 3:38:38, projected finish of 3:50. The last couple of miles were mostly walk/run for me, and the spectators were very few along the stretches of highway. As we approached Arlington National Cemetary, I could see the Iwo Jima memorial and started to trot up the hill. I planned to end the race running, and I probably ran the last quarter mile of it.

MCM puts some fun decals on the ground at that hill. Arrows point your way and say "MARINE UP!" When you go past the stands and through the chute, you're facing a line of Marines handing out medals in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial. In my memory, it is the most beautiful place a long run has ever ended. I finished in 3:52:08.

Runners were fainting in front of me, being carried off by Marines. I shook the hand of a uniformed Marine. "How was your run?" he asked. "It wasn't what I wanted it to be," I said, "But I'll be back. You'll see me here again, for sure."

"Great! Glad to hear it." he replied.

The Marines are the most impressive force I have ever seen when it comes to logistical organization and execution. From the Marines I met at 4 am waiting for the shuttle to the guys right at the end of the line, every one of them was helpful, polite, and knowledgeable. There is nothing like a race where you hit an aid station, say "Thankyou Marines!" and receive an "Oo-rah!" in unison from 14 really enthusiastic volunteers. My performance at the race let me down but the experience I had still exceeded my wildest dreams. If MCM isn't on your bucket list, it needs to be. You owe it to yourself.

I felt pangs of karmic guilt when I didn't get through the lottery for the 40th MCM. I failed my sport in my lack of devotion to training. But I feel some level of redemption at my most recent performance at Baystate 2015. Overall I've evolved in terms of how I see endurance sport: maybe I don't have to be the fastest. My goal is to go farther, even if I never qualify for anything.

I want to run places I've never seen, see courses that everyone raves about. I want to live a strong life and set the example to my descendants that you can achieve anything you set your mind to, even if people tell you it isn't worth it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday #8 -- Excuses and Canker Sores

Continuing to migrate all of my old MFP blog posts over here in this weekly series, we continue with a few rambling thoughts on excuses and canker sores. These feelings come to me every year, as I tend to experience doldrums in late winter.

Aerobic activity manages to keep me afloat and functional, but I still require a bit more sleep, and it can be pretty hard to stay positive at times.

Excuses and Canker Sores

I've been slacking a lot this past couple of months with my running. My weight is holding the same, but I am feeling lousy. Less energy than when I'm running regularly, but with the bitter cold it is very tough to drag myself out of bed most days...
I am running the Eastern States 20 miler on March 30. I'm excited about it, even though I expect it will be a tougher run at my current level (or lack there of) of training. The course runs from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Salisbury Massachusetts along the New Hampshire sea coast. I've played weddings around the New Hampshire sea coast before, and it is a really lovely place! Should have some gorgeous views.
I'm also nursing a really nasty canker sore at the base of my tongue, left side of my mouth. It makes eating extremely unpleasant so I've had a couple of days this week where I just couldn't make a reasonable number of calories. I've always had a history with these sores, maybe a couple every other month. Usually they are very painful but this one, because of the location on my tongue, is without a doubt the most painful thing I have ever experienced.
I was reading last night about using alum (which is used in pickling) as a treatment for this. I've never heard of that before, but I may actually try it out as this thing is becoming intolerable and has been around for four days now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Race Report: Baystate Marathon (Lowell, MA)

At midnight I reach the base of homebound hill
One more mile to go before I sleep
and in my mind I hear the call of the road
the Mother Marathon beckons to me
the Marathon of memory
the first long run

*****

This past weekend I ran the Baystate Marathon for the second time in my running career. Those of you have read my post on here about my first attempt know that it was my first marathon. It meant a lot to me.

I decided to register for Baystate again this past summer because I wanted to put my training to the test. This past summer I ran without a plan, just working on projects around the house (putting in a new floor, building a half wall around the basement stairs to baby-proof the kitchen, plastering and painting walls, and more.) The time spent on the house meant I didn't have much time to record runs anyway in a journal, so I recorded everything in my Strava App.

After working for eight or more hours on projects I would set out late at night for a variety of rambles. I've done enough training plans before that I knew to stick a set of hill or speed workouts once a week, a long run, and also a tempo run. The other runs were just to build up base mileage. I also decided I'd try and get a good running streak in. I ran for 70 days straight through the summer.

My heaviest mileage week was 50 miles, and I topped out in my long runs at about 19.5 miles. I didn't do a 20 mile run, so I wasn't sure if that would help me or hurt me. Also, because of the crazy commitment I have to my professional career, the two weeks before the race weren't really high mile weeks. This is good from a taper sense, but you're really meant to maintain the intensity as you lower the miles in a taper. I didn't really have the energy for that so I just got some miles in and focused on quality rest.

I did run a test race in the Jamestown half marathon, in September. The pace I set was pretty decent given that the course was very hilly, and running so close to my PR I figured my fitness was close to what it was in 2013 when I first ran Baystate.

My wife and I booked a hotel up in Andover for the Saturday before Baystate. The marathon had to cancel its pasta dinner due to so much interest and it being a logistical impossibility to make that much pasta. We opted to go to the cracker barrel near the hotel for dinner.

The next morning we woke up at 4am, and drove to the Tsongas Center parking. I had visions in my head from my previous running of waiting in a massive amount of traffic, but being that we arrived four hours before the race, there was no one there. We slept in the car for a couple of hours, I pounded the rest of my breakfast, hit the port-a-john and then at about 730 we started mulling around the chute.

It was cold. I was very cold. I lost feeling in my toes. I entered the chute at about 750, kissed my wife goodbye and told her I would see her at the finish area in a few hours. The national anthem played, and before I knew it we were off bounding through the streets of Lowell on frozen feet.

I decided that given my previous experience of going out too fast I would hang with the 3:45 pace group this time. If I felt good at the last 5k, I could maybe try to layer the speed on. But I reasoned there wasn't any sense to trying to go for broke when I wasn't trying to prove much to myself. To be honest, I wasn't really feeling the run. I was nervous (I'm not sure why) and I was tired. I didn't know if I could really cover the distance. I just banked on being able to gut it out.

So I hung with the 3:45 group. The pacer for the first half was the same pacer I remember giving me a big pick me up near the end of the race in 2013. He was a very nice guy, and I really enjoyed his conversation and light attitude. At about mile 10 the pacers switched off so we could have an even pace all the way to the end. The new guy was nice, too. But the pack was really pretty quiet. We went through mile 20, where the organizers paint a shattered brick wall on the ground and he said to us, "Normal people run out of glycogen at 20 miles. But you aren't normal people. You're marathoners."

That gives one a massive sense of pride. However, I was having an increasingly hard time hanging with them. Come mile 22, I was starting to drag, even though I'd pounded down a hammer gel every hour of the race. I sipped at water on the fuel belt I had on. "OK", I thought, "...time to reassess,"

My goal in any race is primarily to finish. I was sure I would finish this marathon. My legs had carried me to 22 miles at that point, and even though I dropped a bit behind the pace group, I knew I could tough it out. Look at the river? Maybe the trees. Maybe just keep your head down and don't look at the slight incline in front of you.

My second goal at Baystate this year had been to run the entire 26.2 miles. Not stopping to walk. Previously in Baystate I stopped to take a couple of walk breaks. That was helpful, because I had gone out too fast, but it is tough to recover from when you stop late in a race like that. Your mind at that point can be so set on giving up. In Marine Corps. in 2014 I had a similar problem at the bridge. I hadn't been aware we'd be on the bridge with the sun pounding down on us for all that long. It wore me down just being there. I also wasn't terribly experienced with how to fuel for those races, so that may have been an issue as well.

"This time around," I thought, "...an even pace."

"...and no walking."

Lastly my goal had been to hang with the 3:45 pacer the whole time. Finishing with him would be a PR of about two minutes. That would have been awesome, but as I watched them slowly pull away from me, I knew I wasn't going to hang for the last six miles.

I gutted it out. This year, the organizers had printed our names on our bibs, and I was overwhelmed when people in the crowd looked at the bib and called to us by name, "You're looking great, Mike!"

"You can do this!"

It reminded me a lot of my experience running the BAA Half. The crowds were massive and exuberant. They called to us individually, telling us that we were awesome. Treating us as conquering heroes, while our legs stilled battled with the distance and our minds shouting contradictory things every other minute.

In those last four miles, Lowell felt an awful lot like my own personal Boston.

As I crossed the finish line I landed firmly on a joyous pad of endorphins. I knew I came in around 3:50, but I wasn't sure of chip time since I'd spent some time in the chute at the beginning. I got my space blanket, medal, water bottle and started to stumble off towards the food tent. A nice volunteer saw that I was sort of a disaster, trying to carry my fuel belt and handle the other stuff I had. She stopped me and tied the space blanket around my shoulders so it wouldn't fall, and helped me put myself together.

I wandered off and found my wife in the crowd. We stumbled towards the car where I got changed and we headed home for lunch and a magnificent afternoon of lazing in bed. Later in the afternoon I got an email with my official time of 3 hours, 48 minutes, and 48 seconds. I was so close to my PR, but I am so satisfied with that effort and the training hours I put into it this summer.

Baystate is, at this point, one of my favorite races. I love it like a family member. I'm not sure if I will run it again next year, as I have a goal of running in places I'd love to see. If I get the chance to travel for a fall marathon I've never done, I will probably take the opportunity. But I know for sure that I'll be back to Baystate.

My recovery has been very smooth, too. I went back to work the next day, ran an easy 5k, and have been moving very well with only a little muscle fatigue. I'm only three years into my journey as an endurance athlete, but I think I'm finally starting to feel at home as a long distance runner.