in which Pooh finishes the “year of speed” with a flourish

The year 2013 will be remembered by Pooh as one in which he continued to step out of his comfort zone to reach for what was just beyond his grasp.  In this case it was to push his body to greater speeds in every distance in his repertoire.  After the successes in the St. Petersburg Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon, the Possum Trot 10K, and the Marine Corps Marathon it was left to the remainder of the year to see if there was anything left while training for the 2014 Disney Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.

ImageOne week after the Marine Corps Marathon would be the Anything is Possible 5K, a novel race held on the Sunday morning when daylight savings time ends.  The race begins at 1:50AM and the clocks get turned back one hour at 2:00AM so if you finish in 59:59 or less then you finish the race before you started.  Pooh worked tirelessly to convince his poor friend Wayne that it would be a good idea to run the race.  And finally Wayne agreed… Pooh isn’t quite sure Wayne has forgiven him yet (just kidding, you can see here that both had a great time).  Wayne surprised himself with a nice PR and Pooh, who didn’t expect much since the marathon was only one week removed, was equally stunned to take 2 seconds off his own PR to bring it down to 22:32.  The event was great fun and the pajama bottoms given out instead of race shirts are some of Pooh’s favorite sleepwear.

ImageNext on the list would be the Faith Cline Elf Trot 5K and the final opportunity to run a 5K for the year.  The weather would prove to be a challenge and Pooh was very pessimistic about being able to set a fast time because of both the rain and the wind.  But this race would prove to be a terrific experience as Pooh positioned himself near the front and when others raced off at a very fast pace he kept himself under control and stuck to his race plan to go out a little easier than normal and gradually pick up the pace.  The weather was unpleasant, indeed, but proved not to be a factor.  As mile 2 began Pooh picked up the pace a bit and began picking off racers that had started the race faster, perhaps, than they could maintain.  By the beginning of mile 3 there were only 22 other runners ahead of him (though he didn’t know that) and Pooh again increased the pace.  Only 3 other runners were within sight ahead and Pooh was clearly gaining on 2 of them.  That proved excellent motivation and by the end of mile 3 he had passed 2 of the 3 runners and was able to pick up the pace one more time to finish the race in fine fashion coming in 20th overall and 2nd in his age group with a personal best time of 22:17.  It would prove a good day for the East Cobb Peachy Runners in attendance who all placed in their Age Groups.

The last race of the year for Pooh would be the Boca 10K.  Having run in the cooler temps in the ATL Pooh didn’t have very high hopes of acclimating fast enough to the high humidity and temps in South Florida.  But the course is flat and Pooh had been unable to race the 10K in 2012 so he was determined to push as hard as he could.  The training runs leading up to the race weren’t very good because of the higher temperatures and humidity and that dampened his expectations for a good time.  But race day tends to bring adrenaline and this one was no different.  The morning was overcast which was nice.  But it was also warm and humid and, worst of all, windy.  And the wind was blowing from north to south so the return leg would be into the wind.  So with low expectations (anybody spot the pattern yet with Pooh that he doesn’t believe much in his own capabilities?) he set off to chase a 10K PR.  And catch it he did!  Closing off the year with a 47:30, a 24 second PR!  Even more fun was seeing Pat and Keren, the parents of Pooh’s son’s friend Louis who had moved to Boca the previous year.

Well that’s it friends.  Pooh’s year of speed has ended.  What should Pooh do next?  He has the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge and Critz Tybee Run Fest on the race schedule but Pooh needs a new challenge and chasing speed isn’t motivating Pooh any more.  But there’s no doubt that Pooh achieved what he set out to do in 2013 so to that we say… well done Pooh, you silly old bear.

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in which Pooh runs the 38th Marine Corps Marathon

Pooh talks a lot about the support he gets from his friends and family.  But there’s truly only one person without whom none of his exploits would be possible.  That’s his wife, Karen.  She is unflinching in her support.  When he needs to go for a run she is there to make sure the kids are cared for.  When he wants to do a race she just asks when it is and what she can do to help.  Pooh hopes others are as lucky as he is to have found someone like that!

Back to our story… The night before the race was no different than any other big race Pooh entered.  Sleep was slow to arrive and Pooh was nervous that he’d oversleep.  The longer he lay awake the more nervous about oversleeping he became.  But finally the eyes closed and he was able to get a couple of hours sleep.  When the alarm went off he was instantly awake.  He had set out everything he would need the night before including his clothes, his gear, and his race bag.  After showering and getting dressed he headed downstairs to put together breakfast for himself and his two compatriots, Megan and Shawna.  Pooh’s friend Deb had gotten up and helped him prepare the pre-race food selections for the girls.  Pooh definitely has great friends as the weekend had proven already.  In fact the night before the race he finally opened up a card he had been given by Stacey with explicit instructions to open only on the day or two before the big race.  Of course it was signed by all his running posse from the Hundred Acre Wood.

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With care packs in hand Pooh headed to the hotel to meet the girls and head to Metro for the ride to the Pentagon.  The folks at the Courtyard Dunn Loring were fantastic, by the way, helping to fix a snafu of Pooh’s own making and then allowing him to park his car, free of charge, in their garage.  After walking to the Metro station it was a fairly short trip to the Pentagon station for the trio.  And now race day had officially begun for Pooh.

Shawna, Megan and Pooh pre-race

Shawna, Megan and Pooh pre-race

The race day began with chilly temperatures but you could tell it was going to be a perfect day for running. During the training Pooh had determined fueling and hydration strategies and with his coach, Jeff Gaudette from RunnersConnect, had put together a pace plan based on race course and that was programmed into the Garmin. Everything under his control was in place. Time to go run!

The beginning of the race was incredibly motivating. The singing of the National Anthem was accompanied by an 11 member skydiving team parachuting into the starting line, one of them trailing a 7800 sq ft American flag. It was spectacular. Pooh lined up near the back end of the 4hr flag as per his race strategy but then decided he needed to use the porta-potty one more time. By the time he finished he was stuck with a much slower crowd and it was to prove problematic as he spent the first 8 miles unable to hit the scheduled race paces. He was stuck in rush hour traffic. The second thing that cost him time, and was worth every second, was that at the water station at 6.5 miles one of the amazing people pushing a wheelchair could not get across the road to get some Gatorade and was calling for a couple of cups. Pooh and another runner stopped and grabbed a couple of cups of Gatorade each and brought them over and gave them to the pusher and the wheelchair bound young man. He felt so good doing that and with perspective in the right place he continued on. At about 8 miles is when things started to clear up a little bit but Pooh had to weave in and out of traffic for the entire rest of the race. But he stayed disciplined and didn’t try to make up the time by going too fast but every time he came to a water/Gatorade station people would jump in front of him and come to a complete stop which was frustrating to say the least.  Pooh had spent some time during a training race practicing the water stations and had gotten quite good. But again, he didn’t let it frustrate him and kept to his plan. Pooh fueled and hydrated when needed and when he hit 20 miles it was time to shift gears and pick up the pace. All the training paid off as the legs responded and for the next couple of miles the pace dropped 30sec/mi. With 4.2 miles left it was time to throw caution to the wind and drop the hammer and see what was left in the tank. The training led up to that moment and the last 4.2 were the fastest of the race for Pooh. When he finally reached the HILL at 0.2 miles remaining he was so ready to finish that it was almost anti-climactic. In truth the hill wasn’t that bad because he had trained properly and was able to sprint up the hill, turn right and finish up the 0.1 miles. Seeing the Iwo Jima memorial and getting to shake hands with so many heroes who serve in the Marines was so awe inspiring.

Pooh’s “A” goal was 3:50 and despite finishing in an official time of 3:50:12 he feels that he achieved what he set out to do. Here’s some of the numbers:

– placed 3518 OA out of 23,591 total runners who finished
– placed 2673 out of 13,533 men who finished
– placed 297 AG out of 1711
– race breakdown by my Garmin:
— 3mi @ 9:28/mi
— 5mi @ 9:01/mi
— 12mi @ 8:43/mi
— 2mi @ 8:15/mi
— 4.57mi @ 7:50/mi (technically Pooh only got credit for the 4.2 miles but these are the raw numbers)

A couple of anecdotes…

Pooh Celebrating at the Memorial

Pooh Celebrating at the Memorial

… on Saturday Pooh and his wife Karen had lunch at DC-3, a hot dog place in the Eastern Market district of DC. While there he was wearing his yellow race hat with the Marine hat pin on it that Bess G had given to him (and features prominently in the second story). A young Marine came in and sat down and seeing the pin asked if Pooh was in the service and he explained that he wasn’t but told the young Marine where he had gotten the pin. He said he’d be at the race and wished Pooh luck. After Pooh finished the race he got his picture taken at the Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima) and headed to the family meet area and shook hands with as many of the Marines as he could. Pooh took every opportunity the thank all those true heroes.  As he neared the end of the line of Marines who she he see but the young Marine from lunch the previous day. He pulled one of his buddies over and told him that he had seen Pooh at the hot dog place and it was just really a cool moment.

… Pooh got a lot of motivation during the race thinking about different people. He thought about his dailymile friends. He thought about his RC (RunnersConnect) friends. He thought about his local running besties. He thought of his family. He thought of Gozling a bunch of times and wished she was there to see it in person. He thought about his grandfather who had passed away this past June and got some strength from that. And He thought of Maj James Hardaway, Bess G. ‘s pop, who passed away this past summer. He was a Marine and Bess had given him a hat pin her father worn. Pooh put it on his race hat and any time he needed some strength he would reach up and touch the pin and say, a few times out loud, let’s go Major. There’s no doubt there were people watching over Pooh and it gave him extra strength to keep going!

Pooh, Shawna and Megan post-race celebrating PRs

Pooh, Shawna and Megan post-race celebrating PRs

Well done Pooh, you silly old bear! (you too, Shawna and Megan)

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in which Pooh’s race weekend has arrived

All the training is done.  Race weekend has arrived.  The parents have arrived to watch the kids, the car is packed, and Pooh and Mrs. Pooh are ready to hit the road to Washington, DC.  They are uncharacteristically driving in the daytime so Mrs. Pooh started off behind the wheel and Pooh took the opportunity to get in some work and thus did not take the day as a vacation day.  Well played, Pooh.

The drive was very uneventful and they couldn’t wait to arrive at their friend’s house in Virginia where they would stay for the weekend.  Scott and Deb are pretty awesome folks and Pooh doesn’t get to see them but once per year and so this was a special treat.  It was certainly part of what was going to be a very special weekend.  When they arrived they had a nice dinner with Scott, Deb and their two progeny Jacob and Jenna (crazy J’s) and just had a wonderful time enjoying the company and laughing a lot, as they always do with this family.  After dinner Pooh and Scott headed to the airport to pick up Pooh’s friend Shawna who was also running the race.  They dropped her off at the hotel next to the Metro station and bid her a good night’s sleep and a “see you tomorrow to pick up the race packets and hit the expo” and headed home for some sleep.  At that point it was thought that the only locomotion that would provide any real drama would be the running.  But alas the main drama would be the trains and automobiles that did so… HAH!

Shawna, Megan and Pooh

Shawna, Megan and Pooh at the MCM Expo

Saturday morning arrived and Pooh and the Mrs met up with Shawna and Megan, who had arrived on the red eye, to take the train to the DC Armory/RFK Stadium to pick up the race packets and hit the Expo.  The train ride was fun as Pooh loves trains but the packet pickup would provide some consternation as a long line had formed outside the tent.  The crew discovered as they got closer to the tent that the power had gone out and this was causing the delays.  But the Marines did their best and in the end the group made it through unscathed.  Moving on to the Expo they found high security in place and all had to go through a security check point where bags were being searched and everyone being “wanded” since walk through metal detectors weren’t available.  Security did a reasonably good job and they were able to get into the Expo, grab their race bags and shirts (awesome shirts), and do some shopping.  It was largely a disappointing Expo in that few, if any of the major companies other than Brooks were in evidence and all the Brooks gear at Expos is super expensive.  Pooh bought a race hat for himself and a race logo visor for his friend Bess (she doesn’t wear hats, thank goodness Pooh remembered that and put the hat down).  Mrs. Pooh didn’t really see anything she had to have with race logos on it but did get a cool armband to hold her phone for when she starts back on Couch to 5K.  By this time Shawna and Megan had headed back to their hotel for some much needed rest and Pooh was ready for another exciting high point for the weekend.

Shiwon and Pooh

Shiwon and Pooh

Many months ago Pooh had joined a social, online community for “runners, triathletes, and people who like to work out” called Dailymile (DM).  It’s similar to Facebook and allows one to find motivation and other friends, in many cases all over the world.  Pooh has many friends in real life (IRL) that are also on DM but has made friends from other countries as well.  He has had the great, good fortune to meet some of those he did not know before joining DM like Steve, Brian, and Laura.  But of the 126 friends he has, if he had to create a list of those he would be most likely to meet the one who would come in at #126 would have been Shiwon.  Shiwon and her family are from New Zealand and while it had been commented by Shiwon a few times that she and Pooh must have been twins separated at birth that physical distance would likely mean they’d never meet in person.  But Shiwon and her family made a decision to move to the UK and to do so by taking a “once in a lifetime” migration/trip across the USA.  And as luck would have it they would be in Washington, DC until Sunday, October 27, the same day as the Marine Corps Marathon.  This was an opportunity impossible to pass up and so Pooh and Mrs Pooh jumped on the Metro and headed to meet Shiwon and family.  What a blessing this was.  They are just as amazing as Pooh always thought they would be and for sure he and Shiwon must have been separated at birth.  It was so fun getting to meet her husband David and their kids Clive and Harper.  They all went back the market where Harper and Clive had carved their very first pumpkins and ended up spending a great time together.  Finally it was time to part ways and though Pooh was sad to do so being able to get together made what was already a great weekend even more special.

Pooh and Mrs Pooh had missed lunch so it was time to get something and being in the Eastern Market area of DC they decided to walk around and get something local that looked good.  DC-3, a hot dog spot on 8th St looked good and proved to be just what the doctor ordered.  While sitting and eating two young men walked in and after ordering their food sat down at the table behind Pooh’s.  The young man facing Pooh noticed the Marine hat pin on his hat (given to Pooh by his friend Bess which had been worn by her father, Maj James Hardaway-USMC retired, may he rest in peace) and asked if he was in the service.  Pooh responded that he was not and shared where the hat pin came from.  The young man said that he and his buddy were in the Marines and would be down at the race and wished Pooh luck.  It was another good omen for the race, though Pooh.

At about this time Pooh and Mrs Pooh headed back to Metro and traveled back to the house only to find out that there was more locomotion drama.  Scott and Deb had been in the process of trying to buy a car and were to have the new vehicle upon returning home.  But it was not to be.  The whole weekend would prove extremely frustrating to Scott and especially Deb whose car they were replacing.  In fact they never did get the new car that weekend but finally bought a GMC Acadia which still hasn’t arrived but should do so before they head to Florida.  So Pooh and Mrs Pooh should get to see it when next they meet up with Scott and Deb in Delray Beach!!!

Pooh changed into running clothes and headed out for a short and slow 15 minute run for the last shake out before the actual marathon and upon returning to the house got showered and changed for dinner at Nostos, a wonderful Greek restaurant that is one of Deb’s favorite places.  Pooh and Scott went to pick up Megan and Shawna from the hotel and everyone went to dinner together.  It was everything Pooh could have asked for to wrap up the fantastic day.  Shawna and Megan and Deb and Scott got along famously and the entire dinner was both delicious and lots of fun.  But the evening had to end earlier than anyone would want because the racers had to get some sleep or at least some relaxation.  And thus ended what was a truly incredible day that Pooh got to spend with his wife, two awesome friends from Atlanta, two fantastic friends from Virginia, and his long lost twin sister and her family.

Well done Pooh, you silly old bear!

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in which Pooh focuses on the goal

On the day after the Alien Half Marathon Pooh found himself with 10 weeks until the Marine Corps Marathon and still holding onto doubts about whether or not he could approach the real goal he had in mind.  He had posted a goal of running a sub 4 hour marathon to the outside world, but the coaches and those who knew him best (all his BRFs) knew he had a little more ambition than that and all let him know that sub 4 was well within his grasp.  To those friends he said that he was quietly shooting for a 3:55 and perhaps even a 3:50.  It is important for Pooh to visualize himself running fast enough to achieve a goal and he just wasn’t there yet.

Of course the only way to get there was to stay laser focused on the goal and give full effort to every training run.  And it was to be the most challenging 10 weeks of physical training Pooh would ever endure because the pace for the “easy” training runs suddenly got faster and the long runs got longer and added surges and fast finishes.  Not to mention the speed training getting even more intense.  So with all that in mind Pooh tightened up his red vest, dug into some hunny and attacked every run.

There were good days and not so good days.  But Pooh soldiered on day after day with the support of his family and friends without whom he would never have made it through most of the hard workouts.  Some days it was all he could do to make the distance and others were spectacular successes.  Some days it was a chance meeting with his BRFs that got him through a tough run.  Other days it was just pure stubbornness that forced him to press the button on the Garmin and start the legs moving.  Every day was another adventure but the tide was starting to turn along with the leaves and the weather because periodically Pooh could start to see himself running at an 8:45/mi pace at mile 18 of the MCM.  And then suddenly one day, which day he can’t quite say but he would point to October 6, 2013 as a very important run…

… October 6 was the run Pooh was looking forward to the least.  It was the 20 mile fast finish run.  He was still haunted by the failure to complete the 18 mile fast finish run on September 9.  There were a number of reasons why he had been unable to complete that run and Pooh knew it was more than likely a blip on the radar due to having been ill and not fueling properly or hydrating properly but it was still in his mind that to achieve his goal he was going to HAVE to be able to finish fast and the only other fast finish run had been a disaster.  So October 6 had been circled on the calendar and that day had come.  The plan Pooh had in mind was to wear exactly the outfit and gear he planned to use for the actual race except to use his new red singlet to test it out in case race day was warm and the yellow t-shirt was too much.  Things were complicated by the fact that Pooh had run a 5K race the previous day and run a personal best time despite knowing he should have taken it easy on the hilly course and the shutdown of the parks but Pooh was able to find a spot to place his supplies that he would pass every 5 miles and carry all his fuel in his pockets and hydration belt pocket so all was in place for the assault on 20!  The run was supposed to look like this: 3mi @ 8:45/mi or slower, 5mi @ 8:30, 7mi @ 8:15, 4mi fast as you can, 1mi easy (8:55-9:40).  Pooh hydrated every 2.5 miles, stopping at the road bag to refill the water bottles and take on some G2 once, and fueled every 5 miles also taking the fueling stops to stretch and once talk to the Park Rangers who had come out to monitor and make sure people didn’t go into the Park.  They didn’t like doing it and hated having to keep the parks closed.  After the run was over Pooh looked at the data and found that this is what he had accomplished:

3mi @ 9:42/mi
5mi @ 8:30/mi
7mi @ 8:11/mi
4mi @ 8:11/mi
1mi @ 9:19/mi

At first he was a little disappointed by the inability to accelerate for the last 4 mi segment but then looked at it as a very successful run from which he learned a few lessons such as to fuel every 4.5 miles.  But most importantly it would be redemption from the failed fast finish run earlier and the first time that Pooh remembers thinking of a fast pace at the end of the MCM as a “when” rather than an “if.”

Pooh had pushed himself harder than he had ever thought possible and found himself knowing that he could achieve his goal!  Well done Pooh, you silly old bear!

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in which Pooh does something selfless

It should come as no surprise that Pooh and his family are big fans of Dragon*Con.  Pooh and family get a hotel room at the Hilton, one of the host hotels, and have a great time.  He even found a way to get in his marathon training runs the last two years (thanks for the great routes this year to his awesome tour guide, KCB!).  After one of the runs he and his son went and had breakfast and ran into Chrism.  Pooh doesn’t see Chrism very often so every chance to chat is fabulous.  During the breakfast banter Chrism mentioned that she has noticed Pooh and some of the other crew are runners and would any of them be interested in running in the upcoming Winship Win the Fight 5K.  The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University would be the beneficiary and any money we could raise would be a bonus, even if it was a few dollars.  Winship is near and dear to our hearts because Chrism’s husband Bill is being treated for brain cancer.  Pooh said he would look at his training plan to see if it fit in and got the information cards from Chrism.

Later that day Pooh decided that it was important to do the race and raise money regardless of whether it “fit” into his training plan so he signed up and began posting shameless requests on his Facebook page for support.  Pooh had never really tried to raise money other than some walk-a-thon events much earlier in his life so this was new and had no idea what to expect.  To his great surprise, satisfaction, and no small degree of relief, his friends and family and the friends and family of Chrism and Bill came charging in and gave what they could.

As the race drew closer and closer Pooh began to think he would just run a conservative pace.  He had a very important 20 mile fast finish run in his training plan for the next day and the course for the 5K was a challenging and hilly one so he had no expectations that it would be a place to try and go for a PR (personal record).  So with that in mind he began really looking forward to the race.

The most important numbers are that the participants raised over $440,000 for the center.  Pooh’s family and friends and those of Bill and Chrism contributed $1,000 as part of his fundraising effort and this generosity was to prove very humbling and motivating to Pooh and it was these two emotions that brought him to the starting line on Saturday, October 5, 2013.

Pooh had already noted that this was a much tougher course than the last 5K that he ran for himself so his expectations was to run a pace similar to his 10K PR in the 7:50/mi range.  He warmed up on the course and noted that course was indeed hilly.  But when he got to the starting line he began thinking of Bill, his friend Heidi, his friend’s daughter Bea who had lost her battle with cancer the previous Christmas Day, and his friend’s father, Maj James Hardway who had lost his battle with cancer during the summer.  He also began thinking of all the people that had donated to the Center on his behalf.  And as soon as the “gun” went off the adrenaline added it’s kick to all the other motivating thoughts and off he went.  He knew right away there was more than a 7:50/mi average in the tank so he went at a good clip for the first mile but tried to save some for later. The second mile was where most of the hills were and it was as tough as he expected. The third mile had some hills but more downhill than the second. And then the last 0.11 were all out. When he stopped his Garmin about 5 seconds after crossing the finish line (forgot to do so right at the finish) he was surprised to find that it showed a 1 second PR. When the chip time was posted it came up with a 6 second PR.  Pooh’s previous best had been 22:40 and this race was 22:34.  Hew finished 5th in my AG out of 47 people and 65th overall.

Despite the knowledge that he would probably pay for this effort on his fast finish 20 he was thrilled with the effort and with the entire experience.  The effort to raise money for the Center was one of the more selfless things Pooh has ever done in his life and he was paid back with the strength for such a wonderful effort.  Congratulations and well done Pooh, you silly old bear!

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in Which Piglet and Pooh outrun the Aliens!

I’ve discovered over the years that one of the things I love the most is when I can be there, or better yet take part when someone dear to me (family and friends) achieves something greater than they thought they could. In some ways, in many ways, it’s an even greater feeling than when I achieve things I didn’t think I could do myself. With that as the backdrop, here’s my race wrap up…

… for me this race was all about two things:

1) Help Callie G. get a sub 2:00 half marathon (I knew she was capable, just had to help her prove it to herself)

2) Redeem myself for my horrible performance in last year’s Area 13.1 half (I knew if I accomplished #1 then #2 would come with it)

Steve P. came down from Charlotte and we were going to run with Callie G. A week or so before the race we were lucky to gain another awesome partner to run with us when Katie R. said she would like to try for that general pace. So, with my race OCD kicking into full gear, I picked up Steve since he was staying near me and off we went. The race started at 7:00PM and I think we got to the parking lot right at the start/finish line around 4:40PM. From that time one we saw many folks like Sang Y. (1:45 pacer extraordinaire), Rachelle K. (pacing the lucky 2:00 group… lucky to have her as a pacer!), Stacey O. (2:15 killer awesome pacer), Spurgeon H. and Shawna B. (2:30 pacers beyond amazing who NAILED this pace for their group), Gail N. (AG winner and 6th female OA), Kate B. , Bill E (2nd AG, 21 OA, 1:30:13!!!), AnnMarie, Joy S. (OMG THOSE CUPCAKES WERE AMAZING!!!), Brian C. (who I finally got to meet IRL and who NAILED the time he told me he wanted) and his lovely family, Laura R. and the kids who were fantastic cheerers and made a HUGE difference at just the right time, Christy, Debbie, Slade, Rodney (who also won his AG)… I’m sure I’m leaving at least a few people out but there were so many!

We killed a bunch of time hanging out with everyone and then lined up. The pre-race singing of the National Anthem was very inspiring and beautifully done and then, without further ado, off we went.Steve P. and I had discussed our plan for the race and Callie G. made it very clear she didn’t want to know anything other than “speed up” or “slow down” or things like that but definitely nothing about the pace or the time. We had decided that the first 3 miles would be an easy 9:15 pace, then we’d pick it up to 9:05-9:10 for a bit because we’d get a little downhill, and then try to stay around that 9:09 pace, slowing down to go up any incline or hill, and at 10 miles to go we’d pick it up and go hard until the finish line. For the most part we executed this plan right on the nose. The one glitch I had was both technical and biological. The latter causing the former. About 3 miles into the race I started feeling like I needed to use the restroom. That’s happened before on half marathons and I usually can finish with no problem. But at about 5 miles I knew I needed to make a fast stop. So I told Callie I was going to pull ahead and then catch back up. That worked just fine and I was able to catch back up to the rest of the team in short order. However, I forgot that I wasn’t running a programmed workout on my Garmin and that the auto-pause was set, so for the 1:15 or so that I was stopped, so was the recording. It gave me a little more confidence that we were way ahead of schedule but in the end probably gave me the confidence to make sure we relaxed up the hills and keep relaxed when we decided to refill Callie’s water bottles at the second super-hydration station at the turn-around. Somewhere around mile 7 or 8 Katie R. decided to back off a bit from the pace we were setting and Steve P. kept her company while I pushed on with Callie. Oh and who else is awesome to get a PR… Katie R.!!!!

After the turn-around we took the last real hill at an easy pace to make sure the walk through at the station didn’t tighten up the legs. And then it was go-time. The top of the hill was essentially 3 miles left and the launching pad for the fast kick. Callie put in her music (which we had talked about a few times and would help her focus) and away we went. I never told her just how fast we were going and I gradually picked her pace up to around 8:30/mi. It was an act of great faith that she put her trust in me. We saw a bunch of our friends on this leg of the race and every time we passed we heard “GO CALLIE AND ADAM!” and it was really amazing how much that energized both of us.

My main focus over the last three miles was to listen to see if the breathing was getting labored and periodically give Callie reminders to focus on her breathing and at those points I’d back off just a step and then, after a few seconds of getting her breathing under control, we’d be back up to the fast pace. We took it a bit easy through some slick and dark areas of the final 0.25mi and in the end I just kept telling us both to push hard. As we neared the finish line I could see the gun time clock was still under 2:00:00 and was so thrilled because that’s when I really knew we had achieved the #1 goal and, like I said, #2 came right with it. It felt like I had PR’ed the race myself.

After that we celebrated and eventually Shawna B. , Steve P. , Callie G. and I hit the Waffle House. Waffle House food has never tasted so good as it did last night. LOL!!! But not as good as those CUPCAKES (Joy S. you are fantastic!).

From a physical perspective I am also very pleased with this run. I never felt like I was pushing out of my comfort zone. The effort level was such that I felt I could have easily gone for at least a few more miles at the 8:30 pace with relative ease. I fueled at the intervals I am planning during the marathon and used the specific gel types and flavors. I also got in some hydration practice. I had my own water but I decided to use this race to practice running at speed through the hydration stations and taking on water and trying to get more IN me than ON me. It worked so I’m also happy about that. All around this was a great run and now I am almost looking forward to trying to get in my tempo interval run today in about an hour.

Well done Piglet… well done Pooh, you silly old bear!

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p.s. Pooh did take a few moments after the race to de-activate “Auto-Pause” on his Garmin 😉

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in which Pooh meets his challenge

It’s Saturday night, February 9, 2013 and I can’t sleep.  For the last three days I’ve been thinking I’m coming down with a cold so I’ve been taking doses of Echinacea/Goldenseal and lots of Vitamin C.  I think it’s worked and I’m feeling physically better but I’m really anxious about the race as I described in the last chapter of our story.  I turn on the light and go through all my gear for the race one more time to make sure that what I’m wearing is already set out and what I’m taking in the car is ready to go.  It’s all there so I shut off the light one more time and put my head on the pillow and finally drift off to sleep only to wake up after what I’m sure can’t be more than 5 minutes and discover that my alarm is going off and it is time to get up, eat my half plain bagel with peanut butter, drink my G2, get dressed and get up to St. Petersburg because it’s Sunday, RACE DAY!

The hour long drive to the race passes by like a blur as the anxiety has turned to excitement.  I get to the parking lot at Tropicana Field and start getting ready. I immediately head to the port-a-potties which is part of my normal race prep.  I know I’ll probably need to hit them 2-3 more times (and I do, at least for half-marathons and the one marathon I’ve done).  I make sure I’ve had enough water and G2 and go drop off my bag at the trucks and then proceed to warm up.  I take it easy just to get the legs warm and so I run around the parking area a few times and then I see people starting to line up in the corrals.  Time to get rolling.

I use the port-a-potty one more time for luck and go to my corral. The nerves are starting to kick back in and it’s not a good feeling.  So I did something I’ve never done before.  I squirmed my way to the very front of my corral.  I knew my corral placing was based on my previous PR and I was sure I could beat that so I didn’t think I’d be getting in the way of many people.  But this was the first time that I really acknowledged in my head that I’m fast enough to warrant getting a good starting position.  And the minute I got to the front of the corral the nerves just disappeared.  In their place was determination and a certain excitement that bordered on giddiness.  I felt ready.  I felt strong.  It was time to get moving!

As our wave was released I knew I had done the right thing moving to the front because I wasn’t being passed by anyone and was into the open space between the previous wave and ours.  I knew I was going a little faster than I had planned for the first few miles but I also knew I wasn’t pushing it that hard.  I was breathing easily and the legs felt great.  All that was left to do was to run like hell!

I won’t go into a mile by mile race recap.  Instead I’ll skip ahead to around mile 8-9.  I started to get a little tired at that point and was beginning to feel like I HAD gone out too fast.  But I took on some Gu and some water and backed off the pace ever so slightly just to recover a bit.  I took a mental inventory of the key systems.  My breathing had slowed down.  My energy level was returning.  My legs were feeling OK.  And my calves were not complaining at all.  I was on target for a 1:45 – 1:46 finish and I was feeling good about that.  I kept up the slower pace for about a mile or so and then picked it back up just a tad around mile 10.

And now we’re into the last couple of miles of the race. The part of the half marathon where, in every other one I had run, my calves start complaining and spasming and I have to slow down. But my training had included “closing.” I had been putting in a very fast last 1-2 miles in each of my long runs during the latter half of my training and now I was going to find out just how much, if at all, along with the purposeful speed training, had paid off.  I see the mile 11 sign and I pick up the pace ever so slightly, almost expecting the calves to start expressing their displeasure. But they don’t.  So over the next 2.1 miles I gradually, but steadily, pick up the pace.  And I start passing people. And the calves are still with me.  They are still giving me their tacit approval to keep going.  And so I do. The momentum is building and building and now I’m breathing really heavily and the legs are turning faster and faster. By the time I see the finishing stretch and hit mile 13 my pace has increased into the high 6’s. And my calves are going right there with me and we’re passing people left and right.  I get into the finishing area and give it one last acceleration because I don’t want to finish with anything left in the tank.  I run at top speed over the timing thing on the road and I immediately realized that I had smashed through the most ambitious time goal I had set.  I wasn’t sure what the official time was going to be but I knew I had finished below 1:45 and I was walking on a cloud.

I began walking through the gauntlet of folks handing things to me. My medal. Water. Gatorade. Chocolate Milk (yay). Bagel, Banana. Dole strawberry fruit cup (yummy, they were semi frozen too). Granola bar.  And I get through it all and find a place to put things down and stretch and drink my water and chocolate milk.  I realize that my eyes are watering from the emotion of the realization of what I accomplished.  I set a challenge I didn’t know I could meet.  I set a plan to accomplish it.  I executed the plan.  And I met the challenge head on and beat it.

Something to know about me if you hadn’t already guessed is that I tend not to celebrate my own achievements. I’m happy when I do something really good but I don’t advertise myself.  I try to be a little more understated in that regard.  It’s not that I don’t think I’m good at various things. It’s just that I’ve never liked to call attention to myself especially when there’s a risk of failing and yes, I think that indicates a dose of fear of failure. So stating a goal I didn’t know I could achieve, by itself, was a big step for me.  Achieving that goal was almost secondary.  Not quite, but I think you understand what I’m saying.

So Pooh challenged himself and met his own challenge. Well done Pooh, you silly old bear!

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