Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Vermont City Marathon Recap

As I had previously mentioned, I decided rather last minute to sign up for the Vermont City Marathon to try to qualify for the 2014 Boston Marathon. I wasn't sure where my fitness was and hadn't logged many long runs so it was totally up in the air. I knew that to be Boston Strong though you first have to be Boston Marathon Qualifier strong and my goal was to muscle through this marathon regardless of my fitness to get into Boston.

I had mentioned that I was shooting for a sub 3 hour marathon in my last post, which Michael Wade, of the Gate City Striders, took issue with. He wrote on my Facebook wall:
"Dear Danny -

   If you pull off a sub-3 on this (lack of) training I will (be amazed, but) no longer be able to be your friend. I hope you understand. 



Michael is a funny character and I didn't want to lose him as a friend so I was now in a quandry. Should I shoot for a 3:00:01? Probably my best bet to avoid loss of a friend.

My parents decided to join me up in Vermont on Saturday and we spent the day trying, unsuccessfully, to run in between the raindrops and stay dry up in Burlington. We had a fun day and were able to stay dry in the Magic Hat brewery but then had a chance to take a dip in our hotel's hot tub. Because we had waited so long to register, hotels in the Burlington area were all sold out so we stayed in Barre, VT which was almost an hour from the race. Besides the hot tub, Barre ended up being a great base with a good restaraunt where we had my pre-race dinner(anchovy pizza, nachos and a margarita-not the typical pre-race meal but delicious and since I had stomach issues during the race, maybe my new go-to).
I awoke early Sunday morning, ate half a powerbar, half a banana and drank two cups of coffee on my drive up to Burlington. This is definitely the least I have ever eaten before a marathon but I was probably still full from the 6 slices of pizza that I had eaten the night before. On my way up, the moutains surrounding the highway were all covered with snow. Snow? This is Memorial Day weekend! Luckily, for me(unluckily for anyone who has to ride in my car), I keep a few running items for every season so I was able to scrounge an acidotic RACING hat and gloves. And while I was planning on wearing shorts, I decided last minute to wear a pair of manpris and a long-sleeved Red Hook brewery cotton shirt. My thoughts were that I'd wear the shirt pre-race and maybe the first few miles and then toss it and go shirtless with arm warmers once I warmed up. I never warmed up. I finally ditched the shirt around mile 22 but only due to the chaffing I was experiencing not because I was warm.

Another part of signing up late was that I was unable to get into the "preferred corral" so I had to start a ways back in the pack so when the gun went off I spent the first few miles ducking and dodging runners. I was finally able to settle into a comfortable pace around mile 2 1/2 and hunkered down for the long haul.

That's the thing about marathons for me. They are loooooong. At no point was I breathing all that heavy and my legs weren't moving fast enough to be all that sore but this oozy, insidious, creeping discomfort just starts overcoming you. It's like a shadow that slowly envelops your entire body and mind and starts sprinkling in self-doubt and encouragements to start walking as well as little aches and pains in muscles you weren't sure(even as a physical therapist) you had. Usually this will start occurring around mile 18-20, but this race it started occurring a little earlier. Like around mile 6. Time traveling didn't help. A surprising combatant to this dark shadow? Running faster. Every time I felt like I needed to walk, I would do a 30 second pick up which usually got me out of its path, or at least tricked my body into thinking that the pace I had been running was sufficiently slow.

I was originally shooting for a 2:55 marathon but as I reached the half marathon mark in 1:27 I realized that wouldn't be happening. I thought of poor Michael Wade and how terribly upset he would be if he lost me as a friend, and then thought of the Boston Marathon and this wasn't about him or me but about coming together for a good cause that merited a little more effort on my part. I had 1:32:xx to get through the second half of this marathon and that became my goal. And then the chaffing began.

A wet cotton T-shirt is NOT good marathon attire. However, the wind and the horizontal rain won out for several more miles as I didn't want to take it off and become colder. I finally did around mile 22 just as Jim Pawlicki cruised by me like I was standing still. The only reason I was ahead of him in the first place was that he switched running sneakers part way through the run! I felt like I was running through molasses with cinder blocks on my feet but finally came in sight of the finish. This course though is cruel and the last .2 miles were on a muddy field so now I was running in a molasses filled muddy field with cinder blocks on my feet. I briefly thought about sliding across the finish line but thought better of it as I realized I most likely wouldn't be able to get back up.

I finished the race in 2:58:50(2:59:13 gun time) and scurried back to my car to make my way home to a warm shower and a long nap. I ran into a  friend from college along the way to my car but unfortunately I was shivering so badly that I must have come across as a bigger goon than normally. It would have been nice to catch up more but getting in my heated car was higher on my list of priorities.

After warming up, I shot out a Facebook message to Michael:

Dear Michael,
While perusing the vermont marathon results yoy may have been dismayed to see at 2:58:50 beside my name. Fear not, a minor error,it should have read 3:58. So our friendship is still intact.

Danny Ferreira

It wasn't what you would call honest but I think he's an infrequent reader of our blog so I think we got away with it:)

I am a bit sore still today so I think I would recommend to others that they probably should consider getting in closer to 30 miles a week to be successful at the marathon. I plan on doing another one in late summer to improve my chances of getting in.

Up Next: Eagleman 70.3

Monday, May 27, 2013

Time Travel is Possible

Did you know you can time travel? Maybe not in a Delorian or through special portals but you certainly can time travel. I imagine many of you actually did some time traveling today. Memorial Day is a perfect example of one way in which we can time travel. By memorializing our friends and loved ones we are not only keeping their memories alive but also by transporting ourselves to another time when they were still a part of our lives. Through our memories and reminiscing, we may not be physically traveling but emotionally traveling to another place and time. We experience the fun and excitement as well as the sorrow and poignant moments again. This also occurs when reading a good book. I just finished yet another great novel by Ivan Doig and I was transported to Montana at the turn of the 20th century.

With stories and memories we can travel to different times in the past with ease. Actually we are always experiencing and interacting with the past. The stars we see tonight are a great example of looking into the past; as by the time the light hits our eyes, the star may have already died. But even the most mundane activities with which we interact are already in the past. The sounds we hear and sights we see have occurred in the past by the time our brains process them. Ever have the sense of deja vu? Psychologists suggest that this feeling is actually our conscious processing occurring slower than our subconscious so as we are experiencing an event our subconscious has already formed a memory of said event. This then confuses our conscious into thinking we've already experienced this in the past. So to some degree it is quite a bit easier to time travel into the past than to stay in the present moment(why meditation is so challenging but good for you).

What about the future? Books cannot serve us here as the future, arguably, has not yet occurred and therefore does not serve us in time traveling. Unless you're Cassandra, you most likely cannot see the future, and if you can, you probably will not be believed. So you cannot use your memories to travel to the future. But you can still time travel to the future. Ever find yourself driving along and all of a sudden you are five or ten exits further along than you thought? Congratulations! You have successfully time traveled into the future which paradoxically is now longer the future, only ephemerally the present and then forever the past.

What's the use of time traveling into the future? Don't we always want to be in the present? This my friends is the secret to a successful marathon. If you can engage your mind in thoughts other than the pain you currently are experiencing you may find the miles flying by. My best marathons have been ones where I have either been in good conversation with other runners, or had something on my mind that transported me to another time and place.

Yesterday's Vermont City Marathon was one where I was unsuccessful in my time traveling endeavors  I was painfully aware of every step and breath and the miles did not fly by but rather crawled by in, seemingly, endless succession. However, I was able to qualify for Boston with a six minute buffer so that may be enough to get in for next year(I will not risk it though and plan on doing another late summer marathon to lower my qualifying time).

Want to live forever? Like Joseph Heller's character, just surround yourself with painful experiences and it will seem like you have lived forever. But if you want to live a happy life, it may be a better option to live a life where you create wonderful memories with those who you love and use them to transport yourself to another time when in uncomfortable situations.

Let's spend the rest of the day forming new memories while remembering all those that made these memories possible.

Up Next: Possibly Bretton Woods Fell Race next week, then EAGLEMAN 70.3 the following weekend!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Vermont City Marathon

My goal of Boston 2014 or Bust will be commencing this weekend as I have(some will argue stupidly) signed myself up for the Vermont City Marathon. I had originally considered giving myself an extra week of training and entering in the Minneapolis marathon but I was quick to realize that a 2 week training program as compared to three really would be no different and I would be utterly and hopelessly underprepared to run a marathon.

As it would happen, Big Lake Half Marathon will have to serve as my long run(it is actually my longest run in the last 9 months) but I was able to get one week of 30 miles in so this will be interesting. In last ditch efforts to get fit fast, I googled "how to train for a marathon on little mileage". In addition to Amber's little article on how to train for a marathon in two weeks, all I came across were articles upon articles stating that it wasn't advisable. I even found an Active.com article that lumped beginner runners and low-mileage runners(under 20 miles a week) into the same category and recommended the walk-run approach to marathon completion.

Unfortunately, I'm not looking to just finish the marathon but to qualify for Boston. I figure that worst comes to worst this race will be my first real long run of the year and I can build my fitness up to run a later-in the summer marathon.

Either way, I plan on having a fun Memorial Day weekend, spending the Saturday with my parents up in Vermont, running the race on Sunday and hiking(assuming my quads are still attached) with Amber in the Whites on Monday.

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday:)

Only TWO MORE WEEKS until Eagleman! ALL 3 Cullen girls will be racing!!!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Boston Marathon 2014 or Bust

After the Boston bombings, I decided that I would run the Boston Marathon in 2014 in memory of those who lost their lives as well as all the people who will never be the same because of it. In addition to the three lives lost, ~260 people who were injured, probably thousands more were affected. From the spectators who saw the carnage, the EMTs, doctors, nurses and good Samaritans heroically doing what they could to save lives, to all the runners who couldn't complete the race they trained months for as well as those who now will not run it again out of fear and all of the families and friends of the victims, they will never be the same again.

There is already hope that this can turn into a positive however. It seems that people have come together like no other to support the city of Boston and all of the victims. As long as the energy can remain focused on doing good and helping others and not being vengeful and vindictive, some good can come from this.Maybe it's not enough to make things right for all of those people affected, but enough to show that there is far more good in this world than evil.

I think part of the problem is that we all feel so helpless to help others in situations like this so we often try to direct our emotions to things we can affect and unfortunately sometimes this is driven by anger and hatred. Rather than focus on the anger, I would much rather doing something to help celebrate and commemorate those people involved. 
  What I'm doing is neither good nor evil but rather just dumb. After vowing to myself and anyone listening that I was going to do Boston next year, I realized that I had to qualify. In the past, this would not have been too challenging, as I have qualified for Boston over ten times. Unfortunately all of those marathons are out of the date range which means that I need to do it all again... between now and September when registration opens. Which means I need to go from my weekly 10 miles of running to something slightly more respectable. Especially since I will have to run a marathon in the summer to qualify. I am estimating that next year's race will be bigger than ever since so many people will show up as a sign of solidarity and support, that the race will likely fill up before the last qualifying times(QT) get a chance to sign up. If you remember, registering for Boston requires that you run a certain marathon time(for me: 3:05) but opens up early for people who beat their QTs by 20, 10 and 5 minutes. I suspect that I will need to run at least a 2:59 if not a 2:55 if I want a chance to run Boston next year.

I've run faster than 2:55 only five times and the last one was in 2011. Heat, lack of base and only a few months to train will make this very challenging for me.

Danny's plan? Avoid the heat. I can't do anything about the lack of base that I have afforded myself by avoiding running for the last six months, but I can try to avoid the heat by picking a marathon that has the best chances of being cool. Downside? It's in three weeks in Minneapolis, MN.

I came up with this scheme last week and on Friday I decided to see if I could find a shorter race to test my fitness. I checked coolrunning and sure enough, the very next day the Big Lake Half Marathon was taking place. I told myself that I would need to do at least a 1:25 or better if I realistically would have a chance to run a 2:55 in June. I steeled myself for a potentially painful day and headed out the next morning to register and race Big Lake. I would definitely recommend this race as a fun and beautiful late spring half.

I arrived early to ensure that I'd be able to register and used the extra time to doing a little reconnoitering. I ran into acidotic RACING's Scott Graham who gave me some det's on the course. Expect a long climb from miles 3-6 and then rolling hills until 11 and a nice downhill to the finish. Well, Scott. I disagree. I'd say that miles 1-7 are flat to false-flat while 7-10 are short steep kickers that beat the heck out of your legs. I do agree that the last few miles are perfect for a fast finish. If you've got anything left. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Scotty Graham running acidotic up Mt. Washington

In addition to Scott, I ran into my friends Josh and KJ. Josh was pacing KJ for her first half marathon. She certainly did not pick a flat half but since it was her first, I guess it was a PR course for her nonetheless. We chatted for a while before I headed to the start line.
Josh and KJ
Not many of the usual suspects were there but I did see Ryan Aschbrenner who had beaten me at Merrimack River at my last race this year. I knew better than try to keep pace with him. aR's Dave Hamilton also made a last minute decision to run the race as was John Finn who I've never seen at a road race before but he seems to magically appear at every triathlon that I mistakenly sign up for. Since our last names and ages are close we always seem to rack our bikes beside each other. Since he typically finishes just ahead of me in tri's, I figured he'd be a good person to run with during the half.
John Finn-beating me at IM Mont Tremblant
The gun went off almost unexpectedly and I settled in a pack of 4-5 guys. Ryan and two other guys were off the front and I knew I wouldn't be seeing him again. He ended up winning in 1:15. After about 2 miles, the pack had thinned out and I found myself running with Brady Hoover, who was a recent convert to running after being a collegiate soccer player.

He had run Philly last November and was planning on running Boston this coming year as well. We ran together for another couple miles picking up another runner, Matt Galluzo, along the way. At an aide station, Brady dropped back a bit and Matt and I ran side by side from ~ miles 4-10.

At mile 10 we saw the second place guy about a half mile ahead of us and I encouraged Matt to benefit from me pulling for a while as we tried to catch him.


Despite my prompting and probably due to the timing of our kick, Matt fell off and I went after the second place guy on my own.

My fitness level was definitely evident as I just didn't have that extra gear to close in fast enough despite the great slightly down finish. I ended up finishing 8 seconds behind him in a time of 1:22:09 for a third place finish.

Not one of my better races at this distance but somewhat encouraging that I'll be able to qualify for Boston. It also was nice because it pushed my mileage for the week above 20 for the first time in quite some time.

So. I think I will now have to look into flights to Minnesota now:)

Congrats to all the finishers and especially to KJ who had a great race and also congrats to my cousin Ryan for running his first ever road race down in Mass that same day!
Spent the next day with my brother Matt, soon-to be brother in-law Matt Menning, parents and Uncle Billy to celebrate Mother's Day.
Danny and Matt

Up Next:
Rock N Race this Thursday!
June 2-Minneapolis Marathon(potentially Danny)
June 9- Eagleman 70.3(Amber)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

St. George 2013

This past weekend, Amber and I flew out to St. George, Utah for the US 70.3 Pro Championships. We had been to St. George once before for the Ironman in 2011 where Amber had spent 45 minutes on the side of the road due to several broken spokes on her bike. She was looking for some redemption as well as some points to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships in Lake Las Vegas in September.

After a long delay in Fort Worth, TX, we finally arrived in Las Vegas Thursday night. We had arranged a home stay for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights but since we arrived so late we decided we'd be better off finding a cheap hotel in Vegas.

After a sleepless night at the Flamingo casino due to all-night revelers in the adjacent rooms, we headed out to St. George. Friday was spent as most pre-race days are spent, gorging ourselves with food (although not racing, I didn't want Amber to have to eat alone), preparing race gear, doing a tune-up ride, driving some of the course and getting an early night sleep.
Amber with potential sponsors(photoshop yourself in=) ) after getting her bike from TriBike Transport. If you haven't used them yet, you should definitely check them out as they make dealing with the bike so much easier.
Amber on the top of the run course in her Zoot kit
The people who put us up were wonderful and very accommodating and didn't make us feel badly for going to bed while the sun was still up.

We awoke early the next morning and I dropped Amber off for the shuttle out to Sand Hollow where T1 was located(this race is a point to point bike). I then jumped in my car and headed out there myself. I had to park about a mile away and got a little run in on my way to the course. The water temps were in the low 60s and the air wasn't much warmer so people were bundled up pre-swim. The temps would rise into the 90s by early afternoon but you wouldn't have known by the early morning outfits. I positioned myself for a good view of the swim and soon they were off.

In 26:55 later and in 17th place, Amber was back, in a big pack of women including eventual third place finisher Heather Wurtele.
Amber out of the water
Amber writes more about her bike on her blog, but from a spectator she looked like she was cruising. I was able to drive to several locations to cheer her on before she headed into Snow Canyon State Park where I had to head back. I'd see her again soon as she headed into T2 after a 21.7mph bike split on a VERY hilly course. She pretty much held her position during the bike coming off in 18th place.
Amber on the bike

And off she went on the run. I saw her as she left T2 and then head up the hill to catch her at the summit of the climb. This course is hilly! My mind had must have forgotten just how challenging this course is but my legs soon remembered as I had to slow to a near crawl to make it up. I will say this-I'd do this race again WAY before some flat boring run courses. This race is beautiful albeit not a PR course.

I climbed up a cliff on the side of the run course where I was able to get a good view of the run. Soon I saw Amber flying by. She had already made up one spot and was closing in on the 16th place girl. Somehow she could actually hear me cheering and had a little dialogue with me about her placing:
Danny: Good new or Bad news
Amber: What?
Danny: Okay, bad news. You're in 17th place
Amber: What?
Danny: Good news. You're closing in on 15 and 16th place!
Amber: I love triathlon!
A mountain goat's eye view of Amber(center) crushing the run
Next time I saw Amber she had, in fact, become the 16th place female and was closing in on 15th. She had been down nearly a minute but with three miles to go she had cut it to 35 seconds. I gave her an update on her time back then ran to the last mile marker. By this time she had cut the lead to 22 seconds! She was closing fast. Alas she just didn't have enough space finishing 20 second back from fellow Zooter, Uli Bromme. Unfortunately this meant she was didn't get any points for the World Championships, but it did give her a great experience racing against some of the best triathletes in the world and with a taper(and a good night's sleep and no jet-lag) this 16th place finish could easily turn into a top ten finish.
Amber on the finishing kick of the run
After the race, we spent the rest of the day pool-side at our home-stay. That evening we had dinner with several other local racers and Svenja, the German Olympian, who had come in second that day. I'm sure it was nice for Amber to see her mowing down on some Krispie Kremes:) Okay, so more nice for me to justify equal consumption.

The next morning we headed out to Snow Canyon where we spent the day hiking and rock scrambling. I couldn't believe the views that the cyclists had during this part of the race(it is a different bike course than when it was an Ironman). Below are some pictures which do not at all do it justice.

At the opening of a lava tube

Amber feeling good enough to pose:)

And pose

And pose

A rare pic of Danny

And pose some more

And more

And still more posing:)

And feeling good enough to do a little rock scrambling

Amber and Danny

On Monday we had an early flight out of Vegas so we had decided we'd stay there for the night(rather than make an early morning drive from St. George and potentially get stuck in traffic). I had(as always) booked through a discount travel vendor and was able to get a good deal at the Rio. We arrived in for check-in and was made to wait for about a half-half, in which time Amber tried her lucrative hand in some one-armed bandits while I waited in line.
Amber winning "big"
Annoying yes, vacation ruining no. However, apparently the hotel thought we were put out more than we were so they comped us a top floor penthouse suite.

Amber lounging in our penthouse suite
 While all the other floors on the elevator could be accessed simply by pressing the corresponding button, for our floor we had to swing an access card. As Amber will attest, I made a point to wait until the elevator was full and then make a show of having to use the card to get to our exclusive floor oftentimes utilizing a British accent to illustrate our opulence. This my friend, is no two-star hotel.

We flew out early the next day and luckily continued our luxurious vacation by having our chauffeur pick us up at the airport. After threatening to leave me in Boston if I called her Jeeves one more time, Amber's sister, Deidre, drove us home where we promptly fell into a deep and restorative sleep.

A fun-filled weekend and good prep for Amber's June and July triathlon season which is rapidly approaching. I love seeing how well she has been progressing this year and encourage you all to keep following her as her season continues.

Up Next:  Rock N Race on May 16.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April in Review

Happy May Day!

April has come and gone and has been one that almost saw Amber not race at all. This year has been pretty slow for me and April was no different-only eating in one race: Merrimack River Trail Race. I had come in 4th last year running at 1:02:47 and knew I was going to be a bit slower. I ended up finishing in 8th place running 1:04:26- about 12 seconds per mile slower. Considering I had only been averaging 10 miles of running a week, I'd take it. Still does not bode well for longer distance races that I am considering for later in the year... better start training again:)

On the last weekend of the month and the last day before turning 31, Amber and I entered the Quabbin Bike Race. You can find Amber's race report here. Let me tell you, having a ten minute head start on Amber and getting passed by her like you're standing still is pretty amazing. I can't wait to see how she does at St. George 70.3 this Saturday. Oh yeah another triathlon after a five week hiatus! She is chomping at the bit to swim, bike and run again. As has been the pattern this year, this race is stacked. It is the Pro Championships so it was expected to be competitive but.... this is crazy competitive! 42 pro females! Amber has entered many races with less pros total.

Here is a list of the pros expected to toe the start line this Saturday.

  1. Anderson Christine
  2. Baker Kat
  3. Bazlen Svenja
  4. Bennett Laura
  5. Black Ali
  6. Blakemore Katy
  7. Bromme Uli
  8. Butterfield Nikki
  9. Calkins Kathleen
  10. Castro Terra
  11. Cave Leanda
  12. Corbin Linsey
  13. De Groote Sophie
  14. Deim Trish
  15. Ferreira Amber
  16. Fletcher Christine
  17. Gajer Julia
  18. Garcia Whitney
  19. Homo Malaika
  20. Jerdonek Lindsey
  21. Kehoe Danielle
  22. Kessler Meredith
  23. Leiggi Heather
  24. Lidbury Emma-Kate
  25. Luxford Annabel
  26. Madison Mackenzie
  27. McQuaid Melanie
  28. Mensink Lisa
  29. Norden Lisa
  30. Paterson Lesley
  31. Pedersen Camilla
  32. Piampiano Sarah
  33. Riveros Barbara
  34. Seymour Jeanni
  35. Shapiro Margie
  36. Shutt Beth 
  37. Smith Jessica
  38. Tomenson-Bharadwaj Miranda
  39. Walsh Beth
  40. Wernick Charisa 
  41. Williamson Kelly
  42. Wurtele Heather
But I'm not scared for Amber, because in addition to kicking butt at Quabbin she has been training like crazy as can be seen by the below photos:

Losing at Mini-golf

Cutting back on meals

Realizing that's not a good idea
Core training
So as you can see Amber is MORE than prepared enough to take on all these pros this Saturday in Utah.

Follow her at ironman.com and I'll be trying to update her Facebook page with race details as I get them.