Boston Or Bust!!!

Sorry it’s taken me several days to create this post, but I think I am just finally starting to settle down after the race and my thoughts are coming back around.

As many of you know, I run for Team Hoyt VB and have been for going on two years now.  Several months back, after a discussion with Dick Hoyt himself,  I was selected to be on the Team Hoyt Foundation charity team and was to be part of a 30 person group who would be running the Boston marathon with Dick and Rick Hoyt. Clearly, I was ecstatic and stoked to be selected as part of this team. Running the Boston is a dream for any serious runner…but to run Boston WITH The Hoyts is like playing one on one with Michael Jordan in his driveway. The Hoyts are legends at Boston and this year will be their 30th official Boston marathon start.

Now, everything seems great, I am on the team and all systems are a go!! Well, that was not completely the case as it turns out. Sometime in November or so, I get a call from the director of Team Hoyt saying that David McGillvary (the Boston Marathon director) wanted me and Tim (my rider athlete) to run a 3:10 or better before we were officially accepted to run the marathon. There was going to be no charity for Tim and I and if we wanted to run Boston, we had to qualify just as everyone else has to. This was perfectly fine with me and I did not forsee any issues with meeting this qualifying standard.

Now, fast forward to Janurary 18th 2012. After a tough track workout, I wake up the next day to find myself hobbling around on a very painful achilles tendon. The first thought was “OH SHIT, NOT NOW!!” I was devastated! Essentially, we had set our sites to qualify at Shamrock (March 18th). So, I tried to stay positive and thought that a couple of days off would do the trick…Well, it didn’t do the trick and I spent the next several days attempting to run, but never getting more than a mile before the pain became unbearable. What to do? I decided that in order to maintain fitness, I would rollerblade and bike like hell. So, I started putting in 100 mile weeks on the bike and 40-60 miles roller blading. I then spent the next 6 weeks doing some extensive rehab and physical therapy. For the first time, I received Graston treatments. Which, if you have not heard of, they are the most painful thing I have ever had to endure. It is basically a Physcial Therapist taking these funky looking, stainless steel tools and vigoursly grinding away all the scar tissue and “nodules” that have built up around the injured area…IT IS PURE HELL!! But, if it would get me to the starting line of Sharmock, I would grit my teeth and bare it, no matter how painful it might be.

So, after 8 weeks of intensive PT, 2-3 days running per week and a max mileage week of 24 miles, I was standing on the line, awaiting to get underway for 26.2 miles of unforgiving impact. How would my achilles hold up? I had no clue and was just hoping that it wouldn’t be a problem. I did a couple of easy runs the week of the marathon and even an easy 6 miles caused pain and stiffness..How the hell could I go for 26.2? I figured there were only two possible scenarios…One, my achilles would hurt, but I would finish the race (hopefully at 3:10 or below), or my achilles would get so bad, it would cause me to pull out somewhere on the course and forfeit my “must have” Boston qualifying time. Needless to say, I was a mental wreck. I didn’t care so much about myself or what I would have to put myself through..But, I cared immensely for Tim, his parents, Team Hoyt and all those who have donated to Team Tim over the past few months. I just COULDN’T let them down.

With all of this on my mind, the horn sounded and the race started! I took off down Atlantic and was easily clicking of 6:50 miles (much faster than my 3:10 pace). I needed to bank all the time I could early, because I knew that the wind was at my back for the first several miles and also, I didn’t know how bad the achilles would get…so if I was to have to slow my pace, I wanted as much time in the bank as possible. The first several miles went smooth, I was hitting between 6:48 and 6:53 for each split. Up to this point, no achilles issues (thank God).

As we come out of Camp Pendelton and onto General Booth, I start feeling some wind on my face, which likely meant it would be really bad on the boardwalk. Coming off the Rudee Inlet bridge, I can now feel the wind and know that I will have to slow my pace on the boardwalk, or else my legs would be toast. As I approach 10.5 and hit the boardwalk, the wind come up and punched Tim and I right in our faces. We instantly went from 6:50, to 7:30 pace! As much as the wind sucked, I kept telling myself to just get through it with as little damage as possible and then make up the time once you are aided by cover from the trees on Shore Drive.

I don’t remember much from miles 16-22, which is pretty much just all of Shore Drive and Ft. Story. This part of the course sucks (for me at least). There is minimal crowd support, and not much to distract your mind. But, just as I was coming off the base and making a left back onto Shore Drive, the crowd went crazy for Tim and I…this was the boost we needed to get us to the finish line, 4 miles away. Once on Shore, we started picking up the pace again. It was then, that for the first time I realized, barring a disaster, we just needed to maintain pace and we would have our BQ. For the next couple miles, we just cruised along, passing runners who were “hitting the wall”. As we got to mile 25, I realized that marathons always measure a good amount longer than the 26.2, especially if you haven’t been running the tangents (which with a race chair, I normally can’t do so well). I knew we had one more good mile left and that we was going for broke just in case we needed those precious few seconds. So, with all the crowd support lined up screaming at the top of their lungs for Tim and I, we decided to make one last hard effort down the boardwalk, running the last mile in 6:17 and finishing in 3:09:29!! The course, via my Garmin, measured out at 26.41. Thank God we decided to make that last mile a good one, otherwise, we wouldn’t have made it.

Looking back, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect marathon. Coincidentally, this race was my marathon PR, pushing or solo. But, for the first time, my nutrition was on point and I had no issues with hydration or electrolyte imbalances.

Looking at it now, several days removed from the race, I think it has finally hit me that I will be going to run the Boston Marathon for the first time ever. I will not only be running down a dream of my own, but I will also be a part of Tim Brown’s dream and his family’s fight to give him a normal life, with all of the same opportunities that an abled-body runner would have. If any of you might think that Tim was not aware of what was going on, well, you are DEAD WRONG!! During the marathon and during all the rough patches, Tim would raise his head upright and give out a loud scream! That was his way of telling me “You can do this Dennis, we got this”! He was connected and engaged with the race the entire time..he may not have been able to speak his feelings or thoughts, but I could sense them and it’s what kept us pushing on.

I would like to thank so many people for making this all possible. All of my HRR team and training partners for pushing me through the cold winter months, all of my Team Hoyt family, my friends, family and local running community for your constant support and belief in us. I would like to thank Dick Hoyt, Kathy Boyer, Uta Pippig and the entire Team Hoyt Boston charity team for all the encouragement, phone calls and endless support. Big thanks to Final Kick Sports for getting our race chair tweeked and set up for speed!! Also a HUGE thanks for all those who donated to Team Tim Is Going to Boston!

I would also like to give a shout out to all of you who raced Shamrock weekend…you all did amazing and should be proud of yourselves!! Last but not least, a big shout out to my training partner and friend, Thomas Hicks! As most of you who know Thomas, he has an unwavering drive and is the uncontested champ of overcoming adversity. Thomas was dealing with some issues of his own at Shamrock and despite those challenges, he still ran an impressive marathon himself. His drive, motivating attitude and persaverance helped many of us find that “little extra” in our own races. For that Thomas, I thank you!

So, three weeks and counting till Boston!! Stay tuned for post Boston recap!

Shamrock Is In The Air

Race weekends, what is not to love about them? The Shamrock marathon weekend, being mid-March every year, seems to fall right in line with the first great week of spring weather. This week has been amazing, and the past two days has been in the low to mid 80’s. Everywhere you look, there are people running, biking or just out strolling along. The week leading up to our big races are so great! Everyone is in amazing spirits, happy, giddy and just so excited for the journey they are about to embark on.

During these weeks, we go out, do our training runs and just chill for the first time in months. No pressure about distance, pace, or anything….just go and run a few miles easy with your running friends..What could be more enjoyable than that for a runner?

The race weekend is filled with so much excitement and sensory overload. It usually seems to start in full force about 3 days or so before the race itself. There is the expo, which is always great! You get to see an entire convention center dedicated to all things running and you feel like a kid in a candy store. Then, there is the packet pick-up (conformation of what you got yourself into). Next up, there is the pre-race dinner. This is where runners make an excuse to pig out and “carb load” on tons of bread, pasta and the like. The pre-race dinner is where we discuss strategy, pacing, fueling and everything else applicable to running a distance race. Then comes race morning!! We wake up (or if you are like me, never really sleep) at the “ass crack” of dawn and stalk around the house going over every possible scenario. We go over our checklist 15 million times to ensure we have everything we need. Garmin? check! Shoes? check!, Gels? check! and on and on and on!! Last year, I forgot my bib and had to send Crystle on a mad rush back to the house to retrieve it (she made it literally about 2 minutes before the gun went off). Then, we get to the starting line (hopefully with everything we will need). Here is where we stand with thousands of other runners, elbow to elbow, pacing around like a kid doing the “potty dance”. This is where we question our months of training! Did I do enough tempos? Did I do enough long runs? Did I bring enough gels? If there is a question out there about running, rest assured that you will ask yourself that question come race morning. Then, FINALLY, it is time to race! After a few introductions, a speech or two and the National Anthem, the gun fires and the race is underway. The first mile goes by in a blur and is ran solely on adrenaline. After that first mile, you generally settle into the pace and just ride out the storm.

For me, this will by my 5th official marathon. Though I can probably offer some advice or a bit of insight on “how to” and on “how to not” do things…In the end, every runner has to run the race for themselves. For you see, there is no easy way to complete a marathon. The 2:03 marathoner is hurting equally as much as the 6:03 marathoner. The marathon is just about the perfect distance for a real good “gut check” on not only your running ability and training, but also your drive, your pain tolerance and your will. Emil Zatopek said it best by saying ” If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. Nothing could be more true!

There is something intriguing about the marathon. Unlike the shorter distances, its not a race you can prepare for by going out and “half assing” the training. You have to put in the time and the effort. Then, aside from the amount of training you put forth, there is the whole battle with proper fueling and nutrition. For the shorter races, the body can maintain and get through without any additional fueling…to run the marathon on that principle is damn near suicidal!!! Nearly anyone who has ran a marathon can tell you, that no matter how well trained you are, somewhere between mile 18-26.2, it seems that monkey is always ready to jump on your back.

In short, the marathon is a race that is not suited for everyone. But, if you want to challenge yourself, if you want to test your will and discover a part of you that you never thought existed, then the marathon is a great distance to train for. With the right mind, the right understanding and the right training, anyone can complete the distance. Do you have the desire? Do you have the determination? What’s stopping you?

Set the goal, prepare, overcome!

The World Ain’t Rainbows and Sunshines

Let me tell you something you already know.
Determination is what it’s about. Willingness to stay in the game even though you didn’t win is what it’s about. I don’t want you to focus on winning the game, I want you to focus on FINISHING WHAT YOU STARTED!
I want you to focus on your body, your mind, your spirit and the strength of your heart. If deep down inside you want to finish this challenge, then finish it! Don’t let numbers or time restraints or anything keep you from reaching your goals and finishing what you started!
The only one to beat here is yourself. The only thing to win is confidence in your self and self determination, pride in who you are, what you can do, how far you have come and how far you will go.
Let me tell you something you already know.
This is life! There are going to be people ahead of you in the game and people behind you in the game. All you have to do is stay in the game! So if you came here thinking you were going to win a prize, then you came to the wrong game because it’s not about what you can put on paper or in your pocket, it’s about what you can carry inside of you.
What do you carry inside of you? Are you proud of the effort that you gave last week? I’ll be honest, I feel like crap after what I gave last week! I knew I was slacking, putting things off to the last moment. I knew I could do better, that I could have done 200 a day if I really, really wanted it. I knew what I wanted, I knew what I needed to do to get it and I didn’t get it because I gave one excuse after another.
I can’t run that far, I can’t do that many, I can’t hit that hard.
Let me tell you something you already know.
There are no more excuses because I’m not here to do what anyone else can do or do it as well as everyone else. I’m here to do what I can do and right now I know I can push myself, I can kick it up a notch, I can take it one step further, I can go the distance!
I can’t be taken off of the challenge because I don’t want off and I refuse to leave. I won’t let you, myself or anyone else take me off no matter how hard it gets, no matter how hard it hurts or how far behind I am because it’s about me, not you or anyone else. I know what I am worth.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!”- Rocky Balboa
Let me tell you something you already know.

My Credo

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time”

-Jack London

Getting Started

So here I am! Starting a blog and making my first entry.

Today was another great day in running. Several of us (Rob, Howie, David, Hannah and myself,) all met up at Hot Tuna for an easy mid-distance longish run. Kept an easy pace for the entire run, just talking and bullshitting about “this, that and the other” and how David Mick has recently been selected as an “elite” for any upcoming race. The original plan was to do 10+ miles, but we had to get to Cox High School by 8:30 to watch a few of our Hampton Roads Runners brethren (Thomas Hicks and Mike Wolfe) run the Cox HS 5k. So, we ended up doing an easy 8 and calling it quits.

Got down to the Cox H.S. with a few minutes to spare before the gun fired for the start of the 5k. Weather was a bit chilly and quite windy, but everyone seemed to be in good spirits nonetheless. At 8:30 on the dot, the gun fired and the runners were gone! After seeing everyone off, we all walked over to the track (the last 300 meters of the race finished on the track..pretty cool!!) to catch the finish.

Thomas and Mike had both set goals of a sub 18:00. So, for the next 18 minutes, Howie, David, Rob and me were discussing the insane running complex we would build if any of us ever won a big lottery jackpot. We were on the topic of creating our own shoe brand when we looked up to see Ryan Carroll cruising toward the track (he was out to pace a friend to 16:30 or better)…So, as Ryan comfortably cruised in at 16:31, we look back to see the bright green HRR colors of Thomas, with Mike nipping at his heels. We all started yelling and cheering for them to push it in, knowing that the clock was getting closer and closer to that 18:00 mark that had been set. As they rounded the final turn and was coming up the backstretch, they were giving it all they had, but the 18 would narrowly slip through their grasps, as Thomas finished in 18:08 and Mike in 18:17! So close and on a good day with no wind, the elusive 18 would have been caught. But, they both placed 1st in their age groups and Mike ended up with a substantial 5k PR! Sometimes that’s just how running goes.