When 15 feels like 22 miles

It’s now taper time for Boston Marathon runners. Our Sunday Long Run program is in it’s last few weeks and the miles are dropping off rapidly.

Last week for Long Run Twelve, we ran 22 miles from Hopkinton to Boston College in Newton. This week we dropped down to 14.8 miles which at this point in time seemed like it was going to be easy.

When 15 feels like 22 miles

When we started our run last week in Hopkinton, I knew it was our longest run of the year. It was my longest run since The Honolulu Marathon on December 10th, 2017. 22 miles may not be a marathon but I have a healthy respect for that many miles.

Boston Marathon training, Hopkinton MA
Melrose Running Club SLR 12 Hopkinton

If you run them foolishly and without a plan, you are likely to run into problems. With my disaster of a run in Hawai’i fresh in my mind, I approached the 22 miler cautiously. The day before I ran the Malden Rotary 10K, but I took it easy. A 10K the day before a 22 miler is not the best idea, but I ran smart.

It’s one thing to know that your going to run 22 miles, it’s another to KNOW your going to run 22 miles.

My goal last week was to run a 9:30 to 9:45 pace. If I can manage this pace for Boston I’ll come in between 4:09 and 4:15. I’ve run much better, but I’ve also been younger and healthier.

The entire run in from Hopkinton was a test drive. I’ve run the Marathon seven times and done this long run three times at least. I’m pretty familiar with the course and there seem to be fewer new hills each year!

I ended up with an average pace of 9:46. Not too bad. I managed to run all of the hills including Heart Break Hill. Running those hills and managing the Rt. 95 overpass hill was a big confidence booster.

Running deliberately and with a plan makes a huge difference in how things turn out. Feeling my plan work was really cool!

The big difference between a training run and the race is that I wont be stopping every few miles to re-fuel and hydrate. Those little breaks make a big difference late in the run.

Over the week since that run I’ve done a lot of thinking. Can I maintain a 9:45 pace for 26.2 miles with only one stop at the most? I don’t know.

The 22 miler helped me dial in a few details that will be important on Marathon Monday, but I just don’t know. Anything can happen.

Running 15 miles feels like running 22 miles

The goal this week was to embrace the taper and try the 9:30 to 9:45 pace again.

Well, that didn’t work out too well!

The temperature was about 10° warmer than last week so I dressed a bit lighter. But it was windier, so I was cold a few times. Not a big deal and it won’t effect my marathon.

None of the guys I usually run with were here this week, so I ran on my own for the most part. I started with the lead group and ended up keeping up with them for most of the run. A big mistake that I should know better than to make.

I kept trying to lose them, but I couldn’t make my self slow down enough to get them out striking distance. The few times they did get ahead, we ended up at the next water stop together.

Running successfully requires control and running your plan. My goal was to dial in my pace this week and embrace the taper, but it just didn’t work out. I’m like a dog chasing a squirrel.

Early in the run I fueled and hydrated properly, so energy was never a problem. But around mile 9 I began to notice my thighs.

We were heading up Main Street in Saugus towards Wakefield High. Over the distance of a mile we gained about 70 ft in elevation. It’s not a steep climb, but it is a slow burn. And I ran the hill in 9:06. Way too fast for a hill nine miles into a run like this.

Mile 10 to 11 gave back the elevation, but the damage had been done. My thighs were now tired. Even with the downhill, mile 11 came in at 8:58. Still way too fast. But if I was going to kill it, if I was capable of killing it, that mile should have been more like 8:30. It was just all wrong.

I kept telling my self that this was building muscle and hill climbing capability for The Marathon. I also told my self that I had no more than four miles to go. I knew I had four miles in me.

Running it in from Wakefield

At the last water stop my left knee was acting up. Probably from attempting to run the down hills like a fool. I topped off one of my water bottles with water and had three Snickers minis. My gut was doing okay. So, maybe I have a handle on that problem. We’ll find out in two weeks!

My last four miles were 9:29, 9:01, 9:13 and 9:41.

My legs were exhausted and both knees were saying hello.

The official distance for Sunday Long Run 13 was 14.8, but I just had to round it off and ended up running 15.07.

I’ve got two weeks of taper time to rest. My thighs will recover and be stronger and my knees should be in good shape as long as I continue to give them lots of TLC.

Next week’s run is 12.5 miles. If I can dial that run in I’ll feel much more confident in my ability to dial it in when it really counts. It’s easy to blast out a short run, especially at the end of a marathon training program. I’ll be in as good of shape as I’ve been in since December.

The real test on the 12.5 mile run will be self control. It’s crucial.

March Miles Tally

Because Easter is early this year, we ran on Saturday, March 31st instead of Sunday. Not only did these miles count towards my March total they also added to last week’s 22 miler.

My last week of March totaled 46.87 which is a pretty respectable week even for a good runner. My total miles for March came in at 117.20 which is also a pretty respectable number.

I thought it was an all time monthly high for me, but in March 2016 I ran 122.8 miles. That year I ran Boston in 4:09.

4:09 is my stretch goal for 2018. I’m not sure that I’m in better shape or smarter than I was two years ago. I’m definitely two years older.

Run well my Friends and we’ll see you out there!


Five Things Every New Boston Marathon Runner Needs to Know

There have been thousands of books, magazine articles and blog posts written about running The Boston Marathon. I’ve written a few of those blog posts my self!

I’m not an elite runner, famous or a certified running coach. But I have run The Boston Marathon eight times and seventeen marathons all together.

I ran Boston in 2018 in the middle of a storm and I ran Boston in 2012 when it was over 80 degrees.

This advice is from my own personal experience and is written for first time Boston Marathon runners.

Five Things Every New Boston Marathon Runner Needs to Know

Train for the Boston Marathon

If this is your first marathon, I hope you’ve been training for quite a few months. Most running plans will advise new runners to train for eight or ten months.

Going from your couch to 26.2 miles is a long process that should not be short changed.

This may seem obvious, but there are people who have never run a marathon or any race and decide to run Boston. If you are able to complete the 26.2 miles, you may cause harm to your self in the process.

I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2003 with only about four months of training. I advise against this!

Read My First Marathon Experience

Running a marathon is unlike any other running event you may have participated in. The level of fatigue and pain that you may feel is unlike anything that you have ever experienced.

Proper training is the best way to minimize fatigue and pain and enjoy your Boston Marathon Experience. Boston truly is a special race weather it is your first marathon or your first running of The Boston Marathon. You want to enjoy it as much as possible.

My advice is to pick a training plan that matches your goal and stick to it as closely as possible. There are plans out there for all levels of runners.

To pick a training plan you need to pick a goal finish time. The Boston Marathon has a six-hour cut off. So you should pick a plan that will set you up to meet this time at the least.

If you have run a race in the past month you can use The McMillan Running Calculator to calculate your estimated finish time. This calculator is fairly accurate.

As a first time marathoner I would use the finish time provided as my goal.

If you have yet to run even a 5K, I highly encourage you to run one soon. Then use your finish time in the McMillan Running Calculator.

Running a race is different than training. Almost everyone starts a race too fast sometimes. It is best to have this experience at a local 5K and not a few miles into The Boston Marathon.

It takes a lot of experience to avoid a fast start. After all these years, even I go out too fast sometimes. A 5K melt down will give you a taste of what going out too fast feels like and what The Wall feels like. You wont soon forget that burning feeling in your legs!

Get a plan. Follow the plan. Run the plan. It’s simple.

Welcome to Boston now meet The Wall

As a first timer, your body has never experienced the fatigue and pain of a 26.2 mile long run.

All training plans will take you from short runs up to a long run in the 20 mile range. This is why training over many months is required. It takes that long to build yourself up to running those long runs.

Long runs teach your body how to run for a long time. Long runs teach you how to fuel and hydrate properly so you can avoid The Wall or Bonk.

Def. Bonk: To hit the wall, to run out of juice. The point beyond which your body does not want to move.

Basically your body will have run out of energy producing glycogen. Once this happens you cannot replenish your stores. It will take your body hours to replenish the spent glycogen and by that time the street lights will be on!

It is a very unpleasant experience both physically and mentally. For some people it has been fatal.

Replacing glycogen while you run is vital to avoiding The Wall. You may have seen World Class marathoners grabbing sport bottles during a marathon. These bottles have sports drink and possibly a custom mix just for that athlete. They are fine tuned machines.

An Elite Marathoner is conditioned to run 26.2 miles and they are on the course for about half the time that you will be. They can get away with a few swigs of sport beverage.

You will need much more and you need to learn what works for you and when to take it.

Read Glucose and the Endurance athlete

gel, running food, glucoseLong runs are when you want to learn which food and beverage works for you. This is a process of trial and error. I’ve been doing this over 15 years and I’m still tweaking and trying new things.

When you discover a food that works for you, stick with it. For your first marathon you just need to find one sport drink and one gel that you can tolerate.

Most people use gels for convenient, quick energy. For some people gels bother their stomach. That’s runner speak for throwing up and/or diarrhea.

There are many brands of gels to try. Each has their own formula and some will work for you and some wont. Figure this out during your long runs.

fig newtons, glycemic indexYou can also eat common food items for energy. During a marathon, I’ve used Fig Newtons several times and Snickers bars twice. These are cheaper than gels and they will probably agree with your system. I still eat Snickers bars during Sunday Long Runs.

Gels are packaged for running. If you use cookies or candy bars you will need to package them for easy access. Candy bars do not work well in warm temperatures.

I’ve been eating Fig Newtons and Snickers bars my entire life. They may have added some pounds and cavities, but they never made me sick. Try some of your favorites if you like.

One draw back to common food items is that they probably do not have the electrolytes your body needs during a marathon. So if you go with Snickers, make sure you drink sports beverage during the race.

Read Fig Newtons and the Glycemic Index

Fuel Early and Often

Don’t wait until you feel tired to fuel. Once your body becomes depleted you cannot get ahead of it. It’s the beginning of the downward spiral towards The Bonk.

You need to start consuming calories early in the marathon. I advise taking your first gel at 5K or 5 miles at the latest. If you consume something every 5K you should be alright.

A well conditioned athlete’s muscles and liver can hold up to about 2,400 calories in the form of glycogen. As you run, your body turns glycogen into glucose and burns about 125 calories a mile. As a new runner you will not have 2,400 calories stored at the beginning of the race.

Your calorie burn depends on several factors such as conditioning and effort.

As an example: Assuming you consume no calories during a race, have 2,400 calories stored and burn 125 calories per mile you will bonk around mile 20.

You will have way less than 2,400 calories on board, but you will consume some. You just need to pay attention and make sure you consume enough.

Managing energy has to be part of your race plan. You have to be on top of this.

Heartbreak Hill meet The Wall

One of the beautiful things (irony) about The Boston Marathon is that mile 20 is just before Heartbreak Hill.

Just when a poorly fueled body will bonk. You don’t want this to happen to you and it doesn’t have to.

When you make the right hand turn just after Mile 17 and the Newton Fire Station, you hit a series of hills that continue until Cleveland Circle at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. You’ll know why it’s called the Chestnut HILL Reservoir as you run up the hill to the turn at Cleveland Circle.

Heartbreak Hill is the last hill. I always see people walking on these hills. Some are just tired or in pain. Others have hit the wall and have that far away look in their eye.

Once your body has depleted it’s store of glycogen during a marathon, it is impossible to recover. You cannot replenish glycogen faster than your body is consuming it. If you bonk, your goal finish time vaporizes before your glazed eyes. There is no way to recover. Once you bonk it’s  about survival and trying to get to the finish. It’s not pretty and it never feels good.

When you bonk you probably have depleted electrolytes also. Your body will feel exhausted. This is the standard combination of misery. Your body has run out of energy to move and the electrolytes necessary to prevent cramping.

Depleted glucose and electrolytes can be dangerous. You can loose the ability to maintain your body temperature and your heart and other organs can fail. Glucose is the only energy source that your brain uses. I’ve seen people hauled off the course wrapped in blankets in a gurney!

This is not how you want your Boston Marathon Experience to end.

Read about one of my bonk experiences

This is why it is so important to fuel early in the race. If Gatorade and Clif Shot Energy Gels upset your stomach, bring your own fuel. Even if you like Clif Shot Energy Gels, they don’t hand them out until mile 11.8.

I advise taking some calories at 5K,10K and around mile 10. Just one gel or fig bar at each marker should do. The BAA will have digital clocks at every 5K and mile marker, so you can’t miss your marks.

I also carry bottles in my belt and have carried a 500ml bottle of sports drink mix. It’s better to carry what you know works for you.

The BAA will provide Poland Spring Water and Lemon Lime Gatorade Endurance Formula each mile starting at mile two.

You can use these water stops as a walk break if you need it, but get off to the side and out of everyone’s way. If you do walk the water stops start early in the race before your muscle tighten up. Don’t wait until you are in trouble.

If you like Clif Shot Energy Gels  you can get them at miles 11.8, 17 and 21.5.

You will need three gels for the 5k, 10K and 10 mile refueling. I would bring a 4th for late in the race, just in case. If you’re having a rough day you may need that extra gel after the mile 21.5 Clif Energy Zone.

If Clif Shots tie your guts into knots, then bring six or seven of what ever works for you. If Lemon Lime Gatorade makes you hurl, then bring your own beverage and just take water as needed.

A belt full of seven gels and a few drink bottles may seem like a lot. But if you fuel properly, by the half-marathon mark half your supplies should be gone. And if you are struggling late in the race that last gel will seem like Lembas.

Don’t Eat That!

The pasta dinner the night before Boston is a big tradition. I’ve never gone.

If you don’t like pasta or pasta sauce upsets your stomach, don’t go. Don’t go to a restaurant and have pasta just because it’s a pre-race tradition.

Don’t stuff yourself because you are carbo-loading. Eat what you normally eat just maybe a little more than usual. Your body can only carry 1,800 to 2,400 calories. Anything extra will just make you feel fat on Marathon Monday.

I also avoid alcohol. Well, too much alcohol. Alcohol accelerates dehydration and in the days before the race you want to stay well hydrated. I would stick to one or two beverages. You can party after the race.

Free Food at Hopkinton

When you get to Hopkinton there will be all kinds of food. Dunkin Donuts will have coffee and bagels. If coffee and bagels work for you, go for it. I always have coffee before a race and a plain bagel always settles well in my stomach. It’s a good way to top off your energy store just before the race.

Cliff, PowerBar and other vendors may be giving out free product. It will be tempting to take a bunch of them. But if you packed your belt properly, you don’t have room to take that stuff with you.

If you’ve never had what ever product is being given away, don’t take one. This is not the time to try anything new.

You don’t want to eat anything new the day before your race. In the hours before the start you absolutely do not want to eat anything new. Nothing.

Your bowels will be jumping around like a basket of snakes all ready. You do not want to put anything unknown into that pit of vipers!

Just because there are gallons of coffee and thousands of bagels, power bars and gels, even if you have had them all before, don’t be a glutton.  If you normally eat one bagel and have one 8 oz coffee, stick with that.

What goes in…

Honolulu Marathon 2017, Porta PottiesPlease read this carefully if this is your first Boston. I cannot stress this enough. When you get off the bus head strait for the porta potties. Your bowels are sure to be churning and you must pee before the race starts. Just the excitement of the race is enough to get things moving for most runners.

When you walk onto one of the two fields behind Hopkinton High School you will see more porta potties than you have ever seen in your life! Each one will have 100 people lined up laser-focused on their door. I’m not kidding and neither are they. There are no cuts in one of these lines.

It can take 30 minutes to over an hour to get through the line. Get through the line at least once and then walk around.

After you have checked things out and found your friends, get back into line. I guarantee that when you hear your corral called to the start you will instantly need to relieve yourself.

Boston Marathon 2018 Hydration

Proper hydration is essential for you to finish the race. As I mentioned earlier, even the elite runners have something to drink during the race. They are only out there for about two hours, so they don’t need as much as you and I do.

Much like training, hydration is a balancing act. You want to get enough hydration but not too much. During your training runs you should be able to figure out what you need.

At The Runners Village you may be bored and you will be nervous. This often causes people to drink more than they should. Weather it is coffee, Gatorade or water it all has to come back out eventually. This is why I advise standing in the porta potty line: it gives you something to do and you can talk to people and ease your nerves. Oh, and you’ll need to pee.

Boston Marathon Water Stop, Andy Nagelin, HPHydration during the race is different for everyone. It’s important to get to the start line hydrated but not over hydrated. I usually stop drinking anything the hour before my start time, then I get in line for the porta potty. This hour gives my body time to process what I have consumed and helps me avoid a porta potty or woods stop during the race.

During the race I normally take sips from one of my bottles of sports mix. Just enough to keep my mouth and throat wet.

My rule of thumb is that if I’m sweating than I’m properly hydrated. If I start to notice that my face is dry then it’s time to get more water or Gatorade. Usually by the half-marathon mark I start grabbing a cup of something at the water stops.

You have to pay attention to your body. Most of the fluid you consume during the race will be sweat out and you won’t have to make a stop. If you feel dizzy or your mouth is dry, take some fluid.

Dehydration is as big of an issue as bonking. If you run out of water or energy, your race is done. There will be race officials and medical assistance all along the course. If you start hallucinating or feel like you are about to die, ask for help.

You also don’t want to over hydrate. This starts at the Runners Village, as mentioned above. Early in the race only drink what you feel you need. It may be half a cup of water or it may be a cup of Gatorade and water.

If you drink too much you will need to make a stop. Over-hydration can also cause exercise-induced hyponatremia. This is when you have consumed so much water that the sodium levels in your blood fall below safe levels. This is a very serious condition.

The best way to avoid this is don’t drink more than you need and drink some of that Gatorade since it contains sodium.

Advice from the BAA

Pay attention to your body.

Don’t get hurt

If this is your first marathon, or one of your first, you probably have few aches and pains. You probably feel great and energized after a run. This is normal. But it doesn’t last.

Talk to anyone who’s been running for a while and they will tell you about their latest injury. It happens to everyone, but you don’t want it to happen to you.

There are so many ways to get hurt running. It seems like a safe sport, no one is trying to tackle you or slam you into the boards. But you are your own worse enemy.

Many runners dive into training before they are prepared. Or they miss a day and add the miles to their next run. Or they don’t get enough rest or don’t eat right. They don’t stretch or do cross training.

It can all seem to be too much. But when you get an injury, that few minutes of stretching after a run or time in the gym doesn’t sound so boring anymore. It’s no fun recalling that run when you got that injury.

I feel that getting to the start line healthy but under trained is better than getting to the start line in great shape but with an injury. You just don’t want to do that.

How to avoid injury?

Pay attention to your body. Some runs just don’t feel right. This happens a lot but often goes away after a few miles. With experience you learn when you are just feeling lazy and when you really should cut your run short or stop.

Training is a balance between pushing your self and knowing when you need to take a break.

Running is about adapting. Sometimes you need to adapt your plans based on the situation.

Pay attention to your weekly miles

If you follow a professionally designed plan you should be okay. Otherwise, the general rule of thumb is to increase your miles by no more than 10% per week.

Running all of your miles in one day does not count! Increase mileage gradually over time and perhaps add days to your running week. Having at least one rest day is a very good idea.

If this is your first marathon you should use a professionally designed plan.

When I ramp up for a marathon I start by adding a day or two to my regular running schedule. Then I gradually add distance to each run. I find it easier on my body to run four or five shorter runs than running two short and one long run.

You do need long runs in your training plan, but they should come only after you have trained for a few months. Most training plans will ease you into longer runs.

Running a half-marathon a month or so before Boston is a good idea for any runner.

As a first-timer I think this is a very important part of your training. You need a long race to see how your body will feel and to gauge where you are with your training. It can be quite humbling!

Keep track of the miles on your shoes

lacing techniques, Five Things Every New Boston Marathon Runner Needs to KnowThis may seem silly to you, especially when your running shoes still look brand new. While the uppers may still be clean and bright, the sole of your shoe degrades significantly by 500 miles.

The cushion and support you had for the first few hundred miles begins to dissipate. It happens so slowly that you won’t even notice it. Then one day your knee or hip will get a twinge. You’ll know it when you feel it. You may start to get blisters all of a sudden.

If you are tracking your weekly miles, pay attention when you get around 500 miles. This is the time to get a new pair of running shoes.

Often I keep the older pair for shorter runs or walking around. Even though running shoes can look good for years, I generally get rid of any shoe that is more than three years old. Even for walking, your feet are not getting proper support from old shoes.

Your a runner, you need to take care of your feet.

Don’t over due the stretching

Runners need to stretch and strength train as part of their marathon training.

If you get to Hopkinton early, you may have a long wait for your start time. You may get bored sitting around. Looking around you will see runners stretching everywhere you look. It may look like people are stretching for hours. You are actually seeing people doing there normal routine and it isn’t an hour long.

stretching, yoga, clarity through pain

My advice is to only stretch as much as you normally do. Don’t try a cool stretch you see someone else doing. Hopkinton is not the place to learn yoga either!

You are going to be bored and nervous. The best thing to do is to stand in line for the porta potties and talk to other runners. Sit when you can to rest your legs and feet.

When you are ready, do your normal stretching routine. You may want to do it when you get to the field or you may want to do it just before you head for your corral. Just don’t over do it.

Don’t go out too fast

This happens to almost everyone at their first Boston. Your adrenaline will be surging and the crowds will make you feel like a rock star.

When you have that BAA bib pinned to your shirt, you are a VIP for the day. It is your show and all of the volunteers, staff and security are there to make sure things go as smoothly and safely for you as possible. Be sure to thank everyone in sight!

All of this VIP treatment contributes to your excitement. These folks are just doing their job. You need to do yours and keep your shit together.

If you have arrived at the start line uninjured and totally pumped up by the environment, you are likely to run one of your fastest miles.

The first five miles are mostly down hill or flat. The first time I ran Boston in 2003, I didn’t notice a hill until just after Mile 5 at the Framingham border. Looking at the elevation map, you can see that there are bigger hills before that. But I was so pumped up I didn’t even notice them.

Boston Marathon Course Map
BAA map

Because you are so pumped up and there is so much going on around you, it is easy to go out too fast. It is very important to focus on your pace as quickly as you can.

If you run the first mile 30 seconds or a minute below your goal pace, that’s okay. Not great but it shouldn’t hurt you. If you run the first five miles way under your goal pace it can come back to bite you in the ass.

And if you are so unfocused those first five miles you will probably also forget to fuel at 5K. That’s two strikes against you right there.

On many long runs I use the first mile or two as my warm up. The idea is to take it easy and see how my body feels. If something hurts I can stop and stretch.

The first mile or two is when you need to enjoy the euphoria of the start of the race, take in the sights and sounds of the crowd and relax.

This is the time to do a systems check and see what is bothering you today. It’s time to make sure you double tied your laces and that your running belt isn’t digging into your side, that your watch is started. Things like that.

So follow your training plan, don’t over do it. On race day run your plan. Hit the port potties often and don’t eat or drink anything new.

Run well my friends and I’ll be looking for you in Hopkinton!


Boston Marathon Training 2018 5 Weeks to go

The Boston Marathon is rapidly approaching! How is your training going?

I was away for business last week and only managed two treadmill runs. One was 6.61 and the other was two miles. Not much but better than nothing.

Boston Marathon Training on the Road

Training while traveling can be a challenge. Running shoes take up a lot of space and can force you to check a bag that’s just too big for the overhead bin. You also have to remember to bring everything you need. Who wants to go for a five mile run in black dress socks!

Running Shoes, Surviving a Conference, Boston Marathon TrainingI’ve gotten to a hotel and realized I didn’t pack running shorts. All that effort and extra weight and I still couldn’t even go to the gym. Yes, you can always buy a pair of shorts. But when you have as much gear as I do, it’s painful to spend $30 to $50 for a pair of running shorts or yet another running shirt.

Most of my conferences have a packed schedule that has me leaving my room before 8 AM and often not returning until after 8 PM. This doesn’t leave much time for running.

I usually arrive the day before and try to run in the gym that night. It helps me relax after a long flight. The next morning I might go out for a short run around the neighborhood. This is more of a recon mission than a training run.

If you don’t know the area it’s best to go out during the day and see what the neighborhood looks like. I’ve been hemmed in by highways. Other times I couldn’t run more than a few hundred feet before stopping at a corner. Many towns don’t consider J-walking a sport like Bostonians do.

If I’m lucky and get to bed at a decent time I run in the mornings before the conference begins. A few miles in the clear morning air is a great way to start a long day.

If I can’t get to the gym or outside, I have yoga and body weight exercises that I can do.

Cross training is important in any training plan. A strong core and hip muscles will take you far. Simple things like planks, squats and stretching can give you a pretty good workout. I avoid anything that involves jumping, like burpees or jumping jacks.

I also avoid working my legs too much. It’s easy to knock about 100 squats and lunges when you’re bored and there’s nothing else to do. But then you have to walk and stand on those beat up legs the next day.

Eating on The Road

Surviving a Conference, TapasAt most conferences and meetings there is more food than you should eat. Sometimes the food is really good and it’s difficult not to go back for seconds or take an extra pastry.

The best thing to do is load up on fruit and yogurt and go lightly on bacon, sausage, fried potatoes and those delectable pastries!

Drinking a lot of water will also help. Often, conference halls are dry so you naturally dehydrate faster than you would at home. Keeping your belly full of water also helps you avoid the many high calorie temptations. Skip the soda and juice and go light on the sugar and cream in your coffee. Water is best.

If you go out for dinner you may be able to make good food choices. If not, just be careful how much you eat.

Paella, surviving a conferenceAvoiding cocktails, beer, wine etc is also a good idea. They are full of calories and lower your defenses to foods you should avoid. I hardly ever order desert and when I do it always feels like a mistake about half-way through!

Even if you can’t maintain a regular training schedule, keeping your weight under control can pay big dividends when you get back home.

Boston Marathon Training 2018 5 Weeks to go

Holy smokes! Only five weeks to go!

Like most plans, my training plan went off the rails a few times. In January I pulled my left calf muscle on the day I got confirmation I was running Boston. That took me out for about two weeks. When I started back I kept my runs short and many were on the treadmill.

Then my Dad got sick and I spent two weeks in Florida and ran once. January came in at 82 miles and February came in at 60 miles. I was hoping to run 100 miles for both of these months.

My Dad is okay and back home.

The first week of March I was away for business and missed a 20 mile Sunday Long Run. That was an important run that I really regret missing. But I had to fly on a Saturday and I’m glad I did.

Due to weather my flight out of Boston was delayed two and a half hours and I missed my connecting flight out of JFK. The last JetBlue flight out of JFK was 9 PM and I got into Las Vegas around 4 AM Eastern time.

If I did the 20 miler, my Sunday flight may have been cancelled and I would have had to fly on Monday.

As I mentioned above, my training in Las Vegas was minimal. But, now I’m back to the frozen North. Winter is still here.

Boston Marathon Training Sunday Long Run

Sunday Long Run week 10 2018, Boston marathon trainingThe official distance for this week’s run was 16 miles. Due to snow we could not run in Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, so adjustments were made. We have an awesome SLR crew!

Since I only ran 8.6 miles the previous week, I wasn’t to excited about a 16 miler for my first run back.

My weather app said it was 30° and would go up to 37° so I wore Kraft shorts and running shorts. I wore hat, gloves and two long-sleeved shirts. While most of me was okay, my legs were freezing for the first two miles. Garmin says it was 23° and I’m sure it was at times!

We started at Bruegger’s on Main Street in Melrose and headed north. Our first water stop was at Nick’s Pizza in Wakefield. I had my own Hammer Head mix, so I just took a tiny Snickers bar.

From Nick’s we headed to Lake Quannapowitt for a loop or two around the lake. It’s a 5K loop so it works out well.

The plan was to do one loop, head back to Melrose, pass Brueggers and do another loop in Melrose. As I ran towards the lake I decided to run around the lake twice if the wind wasn’t too bad.

I went one way and everyone else went the other way around the lake. As I ran around the lake I got to see everyone. The wind wasn’t bad at all, so I did a second loop and saw more of our crew along the way.

At the bottom of the lake on my second loop I was around 10 miles. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t hit 16 miles if I headed strait back to Melrose, but I had planned to cut the run short anyway.

I stopped at Nick’s for one last stop and had two little Snickers bars and added some water to one of my bottles. This was about mile eleven.

I knew it was only about three miles back to Brueggers, but that was okay.

My knees were starting to hurt and I didn’t want to push it. My last three miles were all under my marathon goal pace of 9:30 and my overall pace for the run was 8:56.

For my first long run in two weeks, 14.1 miles isn’t bad. Next week the run is 17.8 miles and I’ll need to start working on my pace.

I’m pretty good at running even splits. Now I just need to get the splits around 9:30.

Looking Ahead to the Boston Marathon

Being realistic, I will not be in shape to run 9:00 splits for Boston. In Honolulu I only managed a 10:34 pace. This was due to my knee and making four porta potty stops.

When I ran Boston in 2016 I ran a 9:30 pace and finished at 4:09. When I did that I had different knee issues than Honolulu. The Honolulu knee issues persist.

I’ve been working on my stomach issues. I woke up early for today’s SLR and had breakfast an hour and a half before the run. It may be a one-off, but my gut never bothered me for the entire run. I usually eat within a half-hour of a run and that may be a bad idea for me.

It also seems like my recent time off from running has helped my knee recover somewhat. I was bumming about missing the 20 miler, but while running today I was glad when I realized how well my knee was doing.

I’m always looking for the upside in any situation. The “rest” in Las Vegas was good for my knee and I may have a handle on my stomach issues.

If things go my way I should be able to run between 9:30 and 10:00 minute splits for the Boston Marathon 2018!

The Boston Marathon 2018 winners will be showered and doing interviews by the time I head down Boylston Street.

This will be my Eight Running of The Boston Marathon and it still has a special place in my heart. I get excited just thinking about it! I know it will be difficult and painful, but the joy is in the challenge and over coming.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate running with 32,500 other runners on Marathon Monday!

Run well my Friends and let me know how your training is coming along.


18 Mile Sunday Long Run

Boston Marathon 2018 training continues. This week we an 18 mile Sunday Long run in the cold and rain. Welcome to New England in February!

18 Mile Sunday Long Run

Last week the official long run was 14.3 miles, but I cut it to 10 miles since it was my first long run in weeks. This week we stepped up to 18 miles and I had to give it a go.

On Marathon Monday it’s these long runs that will make or break my day. Shorter runs can help with speed and getting your mileage count up. But it’s these long runs that build cardio-vascular fitness and help carry you to the finish line.

As painful as an 18 or 20 mile long run often is, it’s the price you have to pay to run marathons. I think most people who read this blog understand that you don’t just show up for a marathon and go for a jog.

There’s a lot of hard work and time that goes into getting to the start line and then the finish line.

It was a cold and blustery day

When I woke up I could hear the rain coming down. It was in the forecast, I just didn’t know how heavy the rain was or how low the temperature was.

After I got most of my running gear on I went to the front door to see what things looked like. As soon as I opened the door I could see that it was a light rain and that it was cold and raw out. Nice!

I opted to run in tights and shorts, figuring pants would just soak through and get heavy.

Sunday Long Run 8, February 25 2018My phone said it was 37° out, but the rain and breeze made it feel much cooler. Garmin said the reel feel temp was 29° and I believe it.

I decided to wear a wool hat instead of a running hat. A  running hat brim would keep some rain off of my glasses, but I was more interested in staying warm!

Traffic was light and I got to Bruegger’s in time for a coffee and bagel. I wasn’t hungry at home, but knew I needed to eat something.

The 18 Mile Sunday Long Run

marathon training, sunday long run, Boston Marathon 2018Like a dummy I never looked at the map for today’s run. As Jim Carson explained it to the crowd, I realized I knew this course by heart.

We had about 35 runners even on a cold and blustery February day. Usually the combination of long distance and shitty weather keeps people home. Not today.

My buddy Don Keren and I ran the first 9 miles together. Don ran The Everglades 50K last weekend and was still in his recovery phase.

My knees are still bothering me so I was more than happy to run a reasonable pace with Don.

We ran up Main Street Melrose to The Fellsway up to Breakheart Reservation in Saugus for the first water stop.

After a slow first mile we did 9:11 for miles two and three. Miles four and five were in Breakheart and we had to deal with all of those hills. Both miles were around 10:20.

The next three miles back down the Fellsway to Main Street Saugus were all around 9:45. The Nine-mile water stop was at Wakefield High. At this point Don peeled off to head home and I headed out for the second half of my soggy slog.

The 9 miles home

I knew exactly where I was going so I didn’t have any concerns about getting lost. I knew there were some rolling hills but nothing like we had in Breakheart. At the water stop I took a gel and that helped re-energize me. Mile 9 came in at 9:09 and the next two miles were both under 9:00.

Sunday Long Run water stop, Jackie Ecker
MRC Water Stop – Courtesy: Jackie Ecker

Miles 12 through 17 were under 9:47. Not great but my knee was acting up and I was beyond the range of any run in the past few months. It was to be expected.

At mile 18 I had to walk. This was a training run and there wasn’t a gold medal waiting for me or anyone else at the end. I was exhausted, sore and cold and wet. A splendid combination.

Probably around mile 16 I started bargaining with my self. I kept thinking of UMaine’s Coach John Winkin. In addition to being a very successful baseball coach at Maine he was also an avid runner.

Many times I would see him jogging on the roads near the UMaine campus. He often wore what looked like a cotton warm-up suit and never looked like he was running. When I was at Maine he was in his late 60s and looked trimmer than most students.

I kept telling myself to run like Coach Winkin, slow and steady. If he could do it at 65+, it would get a youngster like me home!

When my knee hurt I thought about Lindsey Vonn. I’ve been watching the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics for the past two weeks. It’s easy to get inspired by many of these athlete’s stories.  No one gets to The Olympics by being born rich or pretty. No one gets to The Olympics without hard work, sacrifice and enduring a lot of pain at times.

Lindsey seems to have endured more pain than many, but she still gets out there and lays it all on the line for every run down those slopes.

I don’t have Team USA, a slew of medical professionals behind me or Lindsey’s level of motivation.

But I do have my level of motivation. A level of motivation that has gotten me to the finish line on Boylston Street seven times. I’m not a World Class athlete, but I know what needs to be done to succeed at my level.

So with Coach Winkin and Lindsey Vonn to inspire me, I bargained with my self to get to the next intersection. There were a few times when I had to walk. There were times when I jogged like Winkin.

With all of that, mile 17 came in at 9:47 and mile 18 came in at 12:10. It took me 2:55 to run 18 miles for an average pace of 9:43. If this were a marathon I have no doubt that the last 8.2 miles would all have been 12 minute miles.

Fortunately this was a training run and I have six more weeks of training.

Run well my Friends!


Boston Marathon 2018 Training

Boston Marathon 2018 Training so far

I’ve run The Boston Marathon seven times over the past fifteen years. The Boston Marathon was my first marathon and the second race I’d ever run.

For my first Boston I trained less than three months and was absolutely clueless about running. I managed to finish in 5:11 in 2003 and somehow that experience hooked me on running for life!

It’s advised that first time marathon runners take up to a year to train. This is especially true for people like me who literally did a couch to marathon! I would advise six months at a minimum for most people.

In 2009 I joined the Melrose Running Club and finally started to train properly. I ran Boston in 4:45 that year and in October ran The BayState Marathon in 4:10. I really thought I was on to something.

Many years I have tried to train properly for the Boston Marathon. Inevitably, something comes up. I’ve been injured or had a lingering cold. The weather never seems to cooperate with marathoners in January and February.

Boston Marathon 2018 Training Plan

I had a pretty good running year in 2017. I ran The Eastern States 20 in March and discovered how out of shape I was. I spent the rest of 2017 working my self into shape.

Honolulu Marathon 2017In August I signed up for The Honolulu Marathon. This race was December 10th. I was in pretty good shape in August and I had about four months to train for Honolulu.

I figured that I could handle a reasonably rigorous training plan and have a fun if not fast run in Hawai’i.

Then life got in the way. I spent a lot of August and September travelling for business. While I was able to jog around Baltimore a few times, most of my runs were 5 miles or less on a treadmill. There were also far too few of those treadmill runs!

I still managed to run over 89 miles in August. Then I got sick in September, missed two significant Sunday Long Runs and only managed 53 miles.

From October 1st to November 19th I ran four half-marathons and was getting back on track. In October I ran just over 100 miles and in November I ran about 85.

My Boston Marathon training plan was to get in shape for Honolulu, get through the holidays without gaining weight and maintain my fitness through the winter.

My left knee started to bother me leading up to Honolulu and then during that marathon it blew up. I actually had to walk even when I had the energy to run. I’ve never experienced that before. You can read all the gory details in my Honolulu Marathon Recap.

December miles were just under 54, with 26.2 of them in Hawai’i. I did manage to keep my weight in the normal range over the holidays, which for me was a big victory.

On January 6th the Sunday Long Run program began. Through the end of January I made all of the long runs, except for January 28th when I ran The Great Stew Chase 15K.

My knee was still acting up for the Stew Chase, so my buddy Derm Cahill and I limped along like two old men and managed a 10:36 pace.

Then on January 29th I got a call that my father had a heart attack. The next morning I was on a flight to Florida and spent the next two weeks there.

My father survived and is having a remarkable recovery. It was a very stressful few weeks for all of us and I only ran one 2.4 mile run. While running is a great way to burn off stress, sometimes there is just too much to do and think about.

Sunday Long Runs and the Treadmill

I missed the Sunday Long Run the day after I came back from Florida. I wasn’t really in the mood and it was a cold, rainy day.

Sunday Long Run Week 7, Melrose Running Club, boston marathon 2018 trainingOn February 18th the Sunday Long Run was 14.3 miles. As an officially registered Boston Marathon 2018 runner, I should have been all over that.

But, after missing the previous two weeks long runs, I decided to play it safe and only ran 10 miles. Derm Cahill and I took it easy at a 9:33 pace. Derm is running the Hyannis Marathon in February 25th and was in taper mode for that race.

Since getting back into the swing of things my training is getting back on track also.

Since February 12th I’ve done three treadmill runs, two Tuesday Night Club runs and a Sunday Long Run. Six runs over 10 days for total mileage of 33.36 miles.  With an 18 mile long run this weekend and a few more runs I could get close to 70 miles for February.

Over the 15 years I’ve been running I’ve learned a few things. One is that when you take time off, you can’t pick up where you left off.

I took two weeks off, so it was smart to only run 10 miles for my first long run. My previous long run was 12.5 miles.

The other big lesson is that people get hurt running. Running is a repetitive action and even a well-trained runner can get a repetitive motion injury.

Part of avoiding injury is not ramping your miles too quickly and listening to your body. Most people recommend increasing your miles no more than 10% per week. This is a good rule of thumb that I generally follow.

My left knee is still bothering me a bit and could turn into a painful problem again. So with this in mind I’m trying to run more frequently but shorter distances. When I do run long I try to be careful and not push it.

I’m also doing everything I can to take care of my knee. This includes stretching, rolling and occasional ice and anti-inflammatory meds.

I know that if I don’t do long runs I wont be ready for Boston. On the other hand, a long run could cause my knee to flare up and derail my training. It’s a delicate balance!

How is your Boston Marathon training going?


Medford Long Run

The Melrose Running Club has a Sunday Long Run program for spring and fall marathon runners. In 2017 my marathon was in December and well after the Sunday Long Run program ended.

Without an organized program I had to come up with my own runs and one was the Medford Long Run.


Medford Long Run Destination Unknown

I’ve lived in Medford for about 15 years and know the area fairly well.

I also know most of the Melrose long run routes by heart. The challenge for me is stringing the two together. Starting from a different place and running to a familiar space can be disorienting.

I like to visualize my run before I go out. But when I change things up I can find it difficult to string things together. If I imagine one intersection incorrectly I could have an extra long run!

Where was I and how did I get there?

How many times have you been driving and suddenly realize you’ve arrived but don’t recall the journey?

While running it’s easy to focus on your shoes and not notice the surroundings. This is especially true on a long, difficult run. And just like driving, you can finish a run and not recall the turns. Some of this is from the shoe thing and some is from runner’s amnesia. Exhaustion and pain tend to make the mind focus inwardly and blur the world.

Sometimes a landmark gets torn down or painted. Its amazing how differently a street can look from the opposite direction. It’s amazing how different a street looks from your car as apposed to running.

I tend to notice these things more when I’m running, but only if I’m tuned in. It can be disorienting to suddenly realize that some building is gone but not be sure what had been there.

Starting from a different place, I felt disoriented trying to visualize the entire route. I was not entirely sure where I was going!

I was running into the unknown.

Starting the Medford Long Run

Medford-Long-Run, marathon trainingI left from my front door step, ran past the Crystal Campbell Memorial on Riverside Ave and through Medford Square.

From the Square I ran up High Street past the library and St. Joseph’s. At the rotary I stayed left and continued to West Medford down High Street.

In West Medford I crossed the Commuter Train tracks and passed St. Raphael’s.

A lot of West Medford seems out of the 1950’s. The square is full of small shops, there is a train stop and the houses are large early 1900’s style and look to be mostly single family still.

So far so good, I knew exactly where I was.

Medford Long Run Mystic Valley Parkway

At the rotary below the Lower Mystic Lake I took a right onto the Mystic Valley Parkway. As I approached the turn I saw several cyclist turn up the Parkway. This is a great road for cyclists and runners. On the lake side of the road there is a gravel path which isn’t too dangerous to run on.

Just before the turn my watch chimed 3 miles. My average pace was 8:50. I told my self that I would get in at least a 6 mile run now. It was beginning to feel like a run but my pace was still good.

As I ran up the Mystic Valley Parkway I met other runners and several walkers. It was nice to see so much activity in my home town. I even saw an un-manned water stop for The Tufts Marathon Team.

As I got to the end of the Parkway I crossed the street near the Wedgemere commuter rail station and took a right onto Bacon Street.

I was still on my mental map!

Into the Wilderness

I’ve run this area many times and knew where I was. But I was having difficulty visualizing the next turn. I knew how to get home from here, but I wanted to get in more miles before heading home.

At the next rotary I recognized Symmes Corner and knew that I wanted to turn left onto Main Street. However, I still could not visualize my next turn. I took it on faith that I would know which way to go when I got there.

When Main Street split into Main and Washington Street, I went down Washington. I saw a sign for Rt. 38 and knew that went to Medford. It felt like dead reckoning.

At mile 7 I was in the Winchester Highlands. I’ve been here many times and recalled that I never recall the street to turn right onto. Each corner looks the same to me: houses and maybe a business of some kind. As generic as a Florida intersection.

Instead of turning right onto Forrest Street I continued into the Montvale section of Woburn. This is the southern edge of Woburn but the farthest distance from my house. I did not want to get turned around here! While running down this road I saw a sign for Tyngsboro! That caught my attention. Tyngsboro is on the New Hampshire border.

Around mile 7 I took my single gel. At the corner of Washington Street and Montvale Ave I found a Wendy’s and put my empty gel packet into a trash can.

While wandering across the parking lot like a zombie I took out my phone and checked my map. I wasn’t too far off of the beaten path, but I had missed that turn onto Forrest Street. It was time to find the most direct way home. I noticed that my water was well over half gone, but it never occurred to me to go into Wendy’s and get a drink. Too focused on that map!

Medford Long Run Home

All I had to do was turn right onto Montvale Avenue and head for the Stone Zoo. Going down Montvale I had to cross the ramps for Rt. 93, both north and south bound. Fortunately traffic wasn’t too bad and I never feared for my life!

After I ran that gauntlet I decided to check my map again. I recalled seeing a street that cut off some distance, but didn’t recall the name. Fortunately I was on the right corner and turned down Maple Street.

Maple started out okay and then turned into a bitch of a hill. I went up 100 feet in less than half a mile. I wasn’t even sure where I was going and this hill was kicking my ass! What a waste if I got it wrong!

Fortunately Maple ended at Main Street in Stoneham which is also Rt. 28 which goes to Medford. I was feeling a little better.

When I got to the corner I recognized the area and knew to turn right and head south. I didn’t really recognize anything running down Main Street. Then I got to the four-way intersection of Main Street, North Border Road, South Street and Fellsway West.

I saw the Friendly’s on the corner and the Fellsway West right in front of me. I knew where to go.

The Fellsway West has several long slow hills that just burn you up. They’re not steep, they just go on for ever. I knew where I was but had to figure out how to get home.

Normally we take a left at Elm Street off of the Fellsway and hit the last water stop before heading back to Melrose.

I did not want to go to Melrose this time!

As I passed my usual turn I entered very familiar territory. I was now in the Fulton Heights section of Medford and running past St. Francis. This was our parish when my kids were in elementary school.

The Fellsway West comes around the back side of Spot Pond and passes in front of St. Francis. Shortly after passing Fulton Street, mile 13 chimed in at 9:01! Not bad for being this deep into a greater Medford long run.

I wasn’t sure how much further I had to go distance wise, but I knew exactly where I was going. As I made my way down Spring Street mile 14 approached. I was spent and decided to walk after mile 14.

I never planned to run this far in the first place! Just before the turn onto my street mile 14 chimed in at 9:12. Still very good.

I walked the last quarter mile and lengthened my stride to stretch my muscles a little bit. I felt a little funny walking past the neighbors homes in my running kit and, well walking! My shirt was so thoroughly sweat through that the entire shirt was now several shades darker. The uniformity of color probably looked like I hadn’t even broken a sweat.

This was a great run for my training for The Honolulu Marathon and my memory turned out to be much better than I thought.

Run Well my Friends!