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Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston, my home.


This post isn't meant to be anything more than a collection of my thoughts on this day. I have a lot of them. This may be a bit (more) discombobulated compared to my usual posts.

Boston is my home. It's where I grew up. It holds a special place in my heart. Not just Marathon Monday, but every day of the year. I love the place. I love the sense of world centricity. I love the attitude. Dammit, I love the accent. Good Will Hinting is one of my favorite movies. I was at the clinching game of the '04 ALCS over the Yankees - breaking The Curse - and first game of the World Series against the Cardinals. I have a gold medal from the Head of the Charles and seven finishing medals from the Marathon. I LOVE THIS PLACE.

When I first head of the attack today, I was numbed...shocked...but it was like, hey...just another attack. That's what I've become to realize as the new normal. But then I saw pictures, videos, accounts of what happened on a street I've been down dozens of times...and as a new father, the news of an 8-year old boy being one of the deceased victims. I became upset, sick to my stomach, sad, angry. A whole list of emotions.

This was not just an attack on Boston, but one on runners, athletes, Massachusetts, in essence, my whole family. It made me want to be there to help, console, be with my family of runners and relatives.

Why? Marathon Monday in Boston is a special day in New England, a regional holiday (Patriots Day), the first day of spring break. A day when people get out and enjoy the start of spring and maybe take in a Sox game before heading out to Commonwealth Ave to watch the runners go by.  A day of hope and new beginnings. A day when the dreams of thousands of athletes are realized on one of the most hallowed grounds of sporting history. A day when 8-year olds start to place dreams in their heads about what they want to do when they grow up. Not a day when they have their lives taken from them inexplicably.

What is it now? Who knows what it will become...maybe  a day of remembrance. Maybe it will be the day in history when Boston became even more strong as a community than it ever was in it's nearly 400 years as a city. We, yes WE, are a strong people. We deal with tragedy and loss very well (hello, Red Sox). We, as a community of residents, former residents, runners and victims will rise from this occasion. Undoubtedly, some of the amputee victims of the attacks will be crossing the finish line on Boylston Street in the years ahead...there's no question in my mind. This day will change, this sport will change, this event will change...for the BETTER.

What is the take-away? Tragedies like this bring communities together, they give us strength. They do not deter, they do not instill fear. They give us pause and realize what we have, what we don't have...and how every moment we have is precious and shouldn't be taken for granted.

Yes, we will reflect and mourn for those who have been lost and injured. But that's what will motivate us all to become stronger, better people. In this day of tragedy, many of us will find new beginnings that will make us all as individuals and as a community even more resilient than we already are.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Boston Marathon...some thoughts about execution.



It's about that time for those who are running Boston to start thinking about their taper if you're not already knee deep in massages and compression tights already. You've qualified and put in the training over the dark, gloomy and cold winter months. You're ready to race!

Therein lies the rub. Boston is not a course you race. It's a course you execute - or not. Boston is a course that looks fast on paper, despite the Newton hills...roughly 400 feet of elevation loss from start to finish. But it's a course that deserves some study, some practice - very rarely will you get it right the first time...a thinking man's race. I've been fortunate to qualify for - and run it - seven times and hopefully if you're reading this I can guide you through some common mistakes and what to look forward to on your 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston.

The first four miles include 200 feet of elevation loss. This is where you have to be careful (the first time). Too fast here and not paying attention to your stride and cadence can spell disaster come 15-16 miles into the race. This is a time to soak in the fact that you're running the famed Boston course...be conservative, use short, quick steps to minimize the pounding on your quads that you'll so desperately need in your back pocket come the last five miles of the race.

Ashland is where you hit your first uphill - try not to worry about pace here as you still have 20+ miles to go. This is where you just want to keep rhythm and let those who want to pass go right by you - you'll see them again later in the day.

As you work your way through Framingham, try not to let the crowds, the biggest of the race to this point, affect your pace by surging from the mutual excitement. Watch out for the railroad tracks!

Through mile ten you're hopefully *slower* than goal pace and feeling great..almost like you're running too easy. Putting time "in the bank" in the first ten miles of the Boston course is the death knell for a strong showing, trust me. Seriously. No joke. You CAN negative split this race if you run smart for the first half and resist the temptation to put in a good 1/2 split. The thought of the hills in Newton is a siren song to run a bit too quick for the first 16 miles.

Now coming through Wellesley is one hell of an exciting experience, especially for the men in the race, as you run through the deafening screams from the women of Wellesley College. Again, try not to let the crowd surge you to paces beyond for which you're ready!

The most important section of the race, in my opinion, is the stretch between 15-1/2 miles and the 17 mile marker. This is where you encounter a 1/2 mile steep, potentially quadricep destroying  descent, into Lower Newton Falls...immediately followed by an unexpectedly challenging uphill over route 128 that can bring some crosswinds. If you can navigate this 1-1/2 mile stretch feeling good physically and mentally, you're on your way to a strong race because this is where the race really begins...the Newton hills.

Take the right at the fire station after a slight decent and being offered a Power Gel, the infamous hills begin. Four hills over the next four miles to the 21 mile marker. None of them are particularly challenging in amongst themselves, but combined at this specific part of the course is what gives them their notoriety. After taking the turn at the fire station, the crowds certainly give you a push up the steepest of the four hills...but try not to let the noise push you harder than you should - there's still a long way to go. Soak it in, enjoy it. You'll need the energy later!
If you're not aware, Marathon Monday is also Patriots Day in New England - the first day of spring break ...a regional holiday. No work, no school...the crowds are out in force. Coming through Newton is when you start to first encounter the college crowds - possibly offering you a sudsy drink in Red Solo Cup. Unless you've crapped the bed already, best to avoid taking "aid" from a rowdy college student at this point in the race.

Back to the race...run steady through the hills. Yes, your pace will slow slightly - but you've trained for this! Your legs are strong and running a couple miles slightly slower than goal pace will set you up well for a strong last five miles. Just keep in mind that the race is NOT over when you crest Heartbreak, it's merely just beginning.

Once you reach the top of Heartbreak, downtown Boston comes into view...a tantalizing realization that you're close to the finish, but yet still quite far away. The downhill immediately following is one that needs to be approached with caution. The cemetery at the bottom of the hill is where your marathon dreams may go to die and be buried six feet under if you take this descent too aggressively. Use the same downhill cadence and gait that you've used for the other downhill portions of the race and "save" - if you can use that term this late in the race - for when you reach Beacon Street and the seemingly unending crowds and modestly rolling terrain.

Undoubtedly, this last stretch before you hit 25.2 miles in Kenmore Square, the infamous Citgo sign and the throngs of Red Sox fans will leave your quads begging for mercy. This is where an experienced marathoner knows it's going to hurt but you can still keep putting one foot in front of the other...possibly even at a faster pace than the previous 20 miles. This is the part of the race for which you've trained to be tough! If you've paced well to this point, you'll be passing runners in droves...in droves I tell you! If this doesn't give you confidence, I don't know what will.

Once through Kenmore Square, you're pretty much home free - but it is one of the longest miles you'll ever run. Commonwealth Ave, the right on to an *uphill* on Hereford Street before making the final left turn on to Boylston Street. This is where you soak it in...you're going to cross the finish line in Boston. You've earned it...have fun, encourage the crowd, live it up... you never know if you'll get this opportunity again.

If there's a theme here, it's that more often than not, it pays to be patient on this course above others. I've learned from the mistakes of my past that running faster than goal for any part of the first 21 miles can (and more than likely will) lead to a death march for the last 4-5 miles. In my experiences as a marathoner, Ironman athlete and coach, I can tell you that your results will be determined largely by how well you execute the first 75% of your marathon. Be smart, be patient and be confident in your training in preparation and you'll have a great race.

Good luck!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Drumroll Please...


The launch of our sponsorship program was met with great enthusiasm and applications were received from all over the world - from Australia to Denmark to the Philippines and all the spaces in between. Thanks to everyone who took the time to submit an application.

It would have been easy to select one of the athletes who have been to Kona multiple times, or the applicants who have yet to even complete a triathlon, or the ones who lost the most weight on their journey to better health and fitness. The applications I received were about as diverse as the variety of people with whom we come in contact each day.

In the end however, I narrowed it down to three athletes – all of whom could have been selected - among other things - by their athletic performances, their vision for the next few years within the sport, their involvement with their local triathlon community and their flat-out enthusiasm.

Nate Thomas, 34, of Bedford, Massachusetts ended up making the final cut and will be represent Dark Horse Multisport Coaching as its sponsored athlete for the 2013 season.

Nate, along with his wife, is an elementary school teacher and they are expecting their first child this coming spring. Nate is an inspiration to his students and has motivated them to be physically active through his involvement and competition in triathlon. Nate is also the secretary of his triathlon club, Northeast Multisport, and helps put on local clinics. His race results, however impressive over his first three years in the sport, pale in comparison to how he is helping shape the next generation of triathletes. Our congratulations go out to Nate…we will be working together to help make Ironman Mt. Tremblant in August the race of a lifetime!

Live Like You Were Dyin'

I tell you one thing, it has been a wild ride over the last twelve months.

Sure, this blog might be a place where people go looking for triathlon related topics. A place where people will look for tips and tricks to becoming a faster athlete. A site where training "secrets" might be made public. Frankly, the posts that you will read about these things on other blogs or websites are often trite, stale and a lot of drivel...at least in my opinion. You won't find much (any) of that here <em>in the future</em>.

I would like the blog section of this website to be a little more original and more thought (and action) provoking than it has in the past.

Let's begin with today, Groundhog Day. The day itself isn't all that significant as it regards the furry little critter in Pennsylvania and whether or not Phil sees his shadow or not. To me and many of the people with whom I grew up, Groundhog Day spurs memories of the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and how he woke up repeating the same day over and over again while being trapped in Punxsutawny, while all the while being miserable.

Having experienced what I have over the last twelve months, I feel like I have a different (or fresh) perspective on life. Yes, life is the longest thing that you'll ever be a part of - but it goes by quickly. I hesitate to say that it's short - but in the words of Ferris Bueller; "if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." (note to self: limit two movie references per blog post).

What am I getting at? I think most of us are sleepwalking through life. 30+ minute commute in each direction to a job for which we lack enthusiasm and vigor. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we not pursue our true passions? I believe a lot of it is societal pressure to do what we're expected: graduate high school, go to college, get a job/start a career, get married, start a family and so on and so forth. To what end? To satisfy the status quo? To be safe? To be "normal"? How many great things were ever accomplished by taking the path most traveled? By behaving? By following the "rules"?

I left Corporate America nearly a decade ago and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. I may never be taking baths with $100 bills, but I certainly will be <em>happy</em> with the path that I've chosen. I'm trying to blaze my own trail, find the path on which I'm meant to be, having fun and challenging myself (and hopefully others)...with the family in tow, of course.

I want to wake up each day and progress towards giving myself and my family the chance to live like we were dying. Think about that for a second...if you knew it was all going to end tomorrow...next week...next month...next year...what would you do differently? Why wait?


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why I Choose Not to Race Pro

It has been asked of me:

"When are you going to turn pro?"

Simple answer from me:

Never.

It's not that I haven't thought about it and wouldn't enjoy racing with the fastest triathletes in the world. There was actually a time this past fall when I thought that Ironman Arizona might be my last race as an amateur.

Then I really started thinking about what my goals would be as a pro. It certainly wouldn't be to attempt to make a living as a triathlete by winning part of a professional purse, I'm simply not fast enough...never have been.

As someone who has been to several world championship events, that's what I thrive for. Trying to be the best triathlete I can be and compete on the biggest stage available. As a pro, my best chance at that would be to try to qualify for Vegas.

In order to do that however, chasing points would be part of the journey. As a parent with a 15-month old boy at home and quite possibly a second little one in the not-too-distant future, I simply don't want to be traveling the country over just to earn points to qualify for one race. It would simply be too much of a strain on my family, which at times during heavy training is tough enough. If I was ten years younger, single, without a family...it would be a totally different story.

Yes, there are other events out there other than the ones that WTC owns...and that's another topic that I'm not going to approach here today.

If I'm going to continue competing with the aim of a world championship qualification, whether it be for Vegas or Kona, it will be a one-and-done situation as it currently is with age-groupers. I will stay as close to home as possible with these qualifications. As it turns out, Boulder 70.3 and Ironman Arizona are extremely convenient for my family and will be events on which I will focus...as an age group athlete.