Monday, May 26, 2014

My 5th Marathon in 8 weeks- Buffalo 2014

As I was leaving for Buffalo, NY after work Friday night, Amber gave me a race-day goodie bag. Here's how the conversation went:

Danny: Thanks Amber for the goodie bag. That was really nice. Those calf sleeves are really awesome.
Amber: You're welcome. I know that you've been using some in the last few marathons and these are white so better for keeping you cool.
Danny: Yeah and the socks you got me are great.
Amber: Those can be your post-race socks.
Danny: Post-race socks?
Amber: Yeah, you don't wear socks when running, do you?
Danny: Errrr. I usually do, why?
Amber: Ooooooohhhh. Well usually people running fast don't wear socks[Editor's note: this last part of the conversation may not have transpired as such. It may have gone like: oh, I thought you don't wear socks... but I interpreted like fast people don't wear socks]. 

Neither on my drive up to Buffalo, nor during my time in Niagara Falls the next day did I think about the conversation. However, Sunday morning, I definitely did. 

Saturday though, I spent finishing my drive up to Buffalo(I had stayed in a smoky motel room just outside of Albany Friday night), picked up my race number and then headed up to Niagara Falls.
Paul and Lisa

A fairly fast current

 My friends Lisa Ransom and Paul Martin just happened to be up there for the weekend visiting and we met up and had a nice little picnic before I headed back for the pasta feed in Buffalo. I sat across from the two runners who would eventually finish first and second in the marathon but our conversation was pretty sparse as their English was about as good as my foreign language skills(in ANY foreign language). However, I did elicit several giggles every time I went back up for another beer or helping of the pasta. 

After gorging myself on beer and pasta, I explored Buffalo a bit. I had been by the University before but not downtown and it's an interesting city. What struck me first was it's potential. After seeing how well Pittsburgh revitalized itself, I think Buffalo may be able to do the same. It's got some really good bones. A lot of great architecture from Sullivan(who you may remember from Eric Larsen's Devil in the White City) as well as a few residential properties from Frank Lloyd Wright sprinkled throughout the city. Church street is amazing. Unfortunately, everything is a bit run-down and at 8pm was started to fell slightly unsafe for a delicate flower like yours truly. 

This ornate decoration covers the above building and is made out of terra cotta and was designed by Sullivan

Church St

That building with the two spiky tops is called the Liberty building and has two small Statues of Liberty facing opposite directions

Downtown Buffalo

This is a close-up of that building above-with the constitution written on it's walls

After exploring for a while longer, I headed back to my hotel where I intended to promptly fall asleep. Unfortunately, the Pacers weren't going to win without my watching so I had to help them out. To no avail. I am only one man anyhow. I quickly fell asleep and my alarm came as early as it usually does when you set it to a god-awful hour. I drank some coffee and had some apple sauce(a breakfast delicacy I poached from the QT2 people) and then went back to sleep for another hour. I've been doing that for the last few races and it seems to be working well-allowing me to digest while getting a little more sleep. 

I finally arrived to the race start at 6:45 for the 7am start(perfect!) and we were shortly sent off. The race started less than optimally with a multiple goons running the relay race tripping me up in the first several miles. And the first water stop produced an empty cup of water! Yes an empty cup. Like they had forgotten to fill it up and couldn't differentiate between the weight of one full and one empty. Maybe they were just VERY optimistic. Because of all of this, I was expecting an awful marathon. 

Luckily, my expectations were wrong. The rest of the course had excellent volunteers and I was able to separate myself from the relay runners. If you are looking for a marathon PR, Buffalo is the course to do. It's tree-lined roads provide good sun-cover and it is remarkably flat. Unbelievably flat. It was a bit windy but that forced me to do some surges in the first 10 miles which kept my pace up. After very hilly courses like Raleigh and Knoxville and a fairly hilly one in Boston and Pittsburgh, running a flat marathon was sooooooooo nice. I went through the half marathon in slightly slower than 6's. I was feeling strong and comfortable and although I had a slow mile 19 I still came through mile 20 in 6:10 pace. And then it happened. My slightly uncomfortable feet began to hurt a bit more and more every step I took. A combination of the laces slightly loosening up, water in the shoes and NO SOCKS made a perfect  blister producing storm. 
Sleeves but no socks?!

At mile 22, I stopped and re-laced my shoes and tried adjusting the pressure they were causing on my feet but it didn't help. I stopped again two miles later and really considered just walking it in. Instead I just ran on the outside aspect of my foot trying as best I could to not pronate at all. Those last 5 miles, I averaged 7:20's and prevented me from getting a PR coming within 39 seconds of it. 
My left foot- I'm glad that I only have one left foot for everything except dancing;)
At the finish of the race, I quickly took off my shoes and hobbled to some free green space where I feel asleep in the sun for an hour. I then started my trip back to NH. My friend Kellan, recommended a lake right off 90 so I was able to go for a little dip part of the way home and I stopped again right outside of Bennington, VT to swim in the river and soak up some of the beautiful day. 

All in all, it was a fun trip and I would certainly recommend Buffalo for anyone looking for a small, fun marathon where you will certainly PR. That is if you remember to wear socks!

I'm looking forward to my month off running before I jump into my next Marathon Challenge up in Anchorage Alaska at the end of June. 

Up Next: Eagleman 70.3(Amber- June 8) 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ironman Texas 2014- Amber Comes in Third!!!

If you weren't on social media or the website, you may have missed the fact that Amber just finished 3rd at the heavily contested Ironman Texas in The Woodlands. She will write her race report at some point so this post will be from my perspective.

The Woodlands

This was only my second time in Texas --the other time being in Galveston for the 70.3 race there. As you remember from earlier this year, my sister and I were supposed to go in February but that didn't pan out. While Galveston was okay, it wasn't all that special and neither Amber nor I was expecting much difference considering that the Woodlands was only 20 minutes in the opposite direction from Houston.


Beautiful day for the race

While I can honestly say we were pleasantly surprised. We had an amazing homestay and I think that was a big part of why our trip was so good. The Lee family did an amazing job making us feel at home with great meals and a fun relaxing time, the majority of which was spent by their pool and hot tub. I was actually telling Amber as we left that if we didn't have a homestay we probably would have gotten a cheap motel by the highway and never really experienced how cool the Woodlands truly are. In addition, to a perennially competitive cross country team, the Woodlands hosts hundreds of miles of bike paths and as the name implies, has more trees than probably the majority of the rest of the state. All told we were very pleased with this community and would consider coming back.

We were there from Thursday to Monday and besides that pesky little Ironman we spent the majority of our time poolside or eating good food. Amber did give us a little scare on Friday when she realized that she didn't pack her pedals. Although her biking has significantly improved this year, riding a bike without pedals is slightly challenging. We spent a few hours rushing from bike shop to bike shop before finding one that sold pedals compatible to her bike shoes.
Matt Hanson and Amber pre-race
The race itself was great. The swim allowed for about a 1/2 mile of close cheering as it went through a narrow canal. It was pretty amazing seeing just how fast the pros were going and Amber was amongst them-coming out of the water with a blazing 52 minute swim split!
After exiting the water, Amber took off on the bike and Maverick Multisport founder, Chris Hutchens, and I headed out on the bike course to cheer Amber on as well as the two other MM athletes out there Matt Hanson and Clay Emge. We were able to see them 6 times along the course and it was great to see Amber working hard solo out there, moving her way up to 2nd place until mile 90 when she was passed by Kelly Williamson. She was able to hang close to Kelly for those last 22 minutes and pulled into transition fairly shortly after her.


 And then began the run! Knowing Kelly Williamson was going to throw down a blistering fast marathon time(she ended up running a 2:54!), Amber decided to race her own race and see where she could place. She had several fast runners behind her so she'd needed to run a fast but conservative marathon in order to stay in third. From a spectator's perspective, the marathon course is great because it is a 3 lap course where you can easily see your athlete 6 times with little effort and nine times with a little running. Suffice it to say, I saw Amber 9 times on the course and got to the point where she had to tell me to stop cheering for her in case someone thought I was pacing her. Which I certainly wasn't. She was too fast for that. She threw down sub-7's for the first 11 miles of the race and probably would have run close to a 3:06 if she didn't bonk, likely from dehydration, the last 4 miles. However, despite her slowed pace, she still was able to run a 3:11 for her first 3rd place finish at the 140.6 distance!

Always smiling out there

The only hill also corresponded with a 1/4 mile "trail" run
Amber running away from Danny

Amber looking strong



The next day we went to the Awards ceremony where Maverick Multisport had several athletes on the podium. In fact, all three athletes podiumed with Amber 3rd, Matt 6th, and Clay 7th.
Amber, Bree Wee, Jennie Hanson, and Jackie Arednt
Amber at the post-race celebration

Amber, Matt, Clay and Chris Hutchens

 Amber's start to the 2014 triathlon season so far has been great with now a 4th place finish at the 70.3 distance and 3rd place at 140.6. Maybe a 2nd place finish and then a 1st??? That would be 2nd at Eagleman in June and 1st at Lake Placid in late July!!! Stay tuned and see.
Up Next: Buffalo Marathon(Danny May 25th), Eagleman 70.3(Amber- June 8th) 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ironman Texas 2014 Preview

Next weekend, Amber will be toeing the line for her first 140.6 race of the season. We will be heading to the Woodlands in Texas next Thursday. She started her season off well in Florida and is looking to capitalize on her off-season training. Believe me, she has been putting in the hours. She ran a 5.5K this past weekend in 18:13 in the midst of a 5+ hour bike ride! While none of that sounds appealing to me, it does mean that she is likely to be coming into Texas ready to rip it!

This will be her first Ironman on her new Argon 18 bike fitted with Enve wheels, which she loves and is looking to ride her way to a PR on the bike. With the way the Kona qualifying works for pros, every race is important, but big ones like this can make a huge difference in whether she makes it to the big island in October.

The race itself is going to be interesting. With this exceptionally long winter, she hasn't had many opportunities to acclimate to the heat and humidity which is sure to be a factor in a town 20 minutes outside Houston. Judging by the course map, while there doesn't look like any long climbs, the course does have over 3,600 feet of elevation gain so won't be a pancake flat course either. The run looks to also be constantly up or down with very little flat terrain. Hills are good for Amber! Amber eats them for breakfast :) In reality, it makes for a more fair course and one that Amber can really make up some time.
As with last year, the pro fields just seem to be getting deeper and deeper and Texas looks to be no different. As of 5/8/2014, this is the most current start list and you can see that there will be several Ironman champions lining up to race:

1.       Kelly Williamson

2.       Bree Wee

3.       Julia Gajer

4.       Sarah Piampiano

5.       Jackie Arendt

6.       Karen Thibodeau

7.       Jennie Hansen

8.       Suzy Serpico

9.       April Gellatly

10.   Eva Wutti

11.   Sara Gross

12.   Olesya Prystayko

13.   Rachel Jastrebsky

14.   Corrie Kristick

15.   Christine Fletcher

16.   Tamara Kozulina

17.   Jocelyn Cornman

18.   Palmira Alvarez

19.   Amy Javens

20.   Tami Ritchie

21.   Cindy Lewis

22.   Ali Black

23.   Christina Jackson

25.   Jessica Meyers

26.   Heather Leiggi

27.   Jacqui Gordon

28.   Kristina Wiegand

29.   Lindsay Ludlow

30.   Rahel Bellinga

Make sure to send all your good vibes to Amber on May 17th.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

4 Marathons in Five Weeks

This past Sunday I completed my fourth marathon in five weeks. It started on March 30th with the Knoxville marathon with Raleigh and Boston 2 and 3 weeks later, respectively. I finished it up 13 days after Boston with the Pittsburgh Marathon. It has been a whirlwind 35 days. In that time, I probably had my most consistent running mileage with all but one week in the 30's. Obviously that was because 26.2 miles were occurring in one day. The races did get progressively more challenging with Knoxville feeling comfortably hard, Raleigh harder but which I attributed to the heat, Boston was hard through the half but then I slowed it down considerably to document the day. And that leaves Pittsburgh, and boy was it hard.

Although this was a short trip it was a really fun one. I had never been to Pittsburgh but didn't have much expectations for the town thinking that it was firmly rusted in a stagnant effluvium. How wrong was I? The town is really quite cool. The districts in town are each so different and lively, the architecture beautiful and diverse and the food amazing. I flew out early Saturday morning and met my friend Rich who is just finishing up his grad program at Carnegie Mellon and Brooklyn who drove up from Cincinnati. After Rich showing us around town, Rich took us to an amazing Polish restaurant for pierogies and then to a seafood restaurant for lunch.
Talk about fresh seafood.
 We headed to a local bar where we used liquid for my carb loading, laughed a lot and played indoor shuffle board which I consistently lost at. We then headed to the Pirates v Blue Jays game with pretty good views of the field but better of the skyline:
View from our seats

Apparently it is that awe inspiring:)


That beer is actually filling from the bottom.
 The beer being filled from the bottom up was so amazing that we had to see it multiple times to believe it, which, unsurprisingly, led to a late night and early morning. In fact, I woke up in a state of shock realizing that the liquid carb loading may not have been the best way to prepare for 26.2 miles of running. The way my head and stomach both felt, I really couldn't think of anything better than to fall back asleep. However, right at that moment, Brooklyn muttered something about offering to drive me in to the start of the race, and I realized I better get my butt off the air mattress. He had driven up pretty much just for the night and despite a short sleep on a coach(I took the luxorious air mattress) he was still willing to wake up at four to drive me in. The least I could do was run(Illogical thinking perhaps, but 4am with a pounding head, you need any excuse you can to get up).

And the fun began... I was in the seeded corral for the start of the race which had a combined 30,000 runners between the full, half and relay. However, it never really felt crowded. The race was well organized and was very accomodating. They even had a 3 hour pacer(which is unusual since it's a fairly fast time to rely on someone to consistently hit pace goals). After dry heaving when trying to tie my shoes, I realized that just trying to stay with that 3 hour pacer was going to be challenging.

The race starts with about 3 miles of pancake flat terrain which was nice because it didn't jostle my stomach too much. I gingerly was trying to replenish by fluids with gatorade but fairly quickly was losing sight of the 3 hour pacer. Oh well. I resigned myself to just try completing the race and I could always come back to do it under 3. After about 8-9 miles of all miles well off pace, I finally started feeling somewhat better and caught the 3 hour group and ended up running with a brother and sister who were running together. The brother was a collegiate runner and he was trying to help his sister break 2:55. We chatted for 3-4 miles before I let them go. I pulled back alongside the 3 hour pacer who had now dropped almost half of the group and we went through the half in 1:30:13 which, if you're doing the math, is pretty darn close to exactly a 3 hour marathon but didn't give me much wiggle room to get under 3. Rich and Brooklyn were at mile 14 with mimosas and it took all I had to not just stop there.

My saving grace was a girl who was hanging on. This was only her second marathon and her previous PR was a 3:09. She was trying to break 3 hours and was beginning to struggle. The pacer, John, was doing his best to keep her motivated and to stick with him and I decided to help out as well. At every aid station, he and I was sprint ahead and grab a water and gatorade for her. We would run lockstep unless there was wind in which case I'd pull ahead of her to block it. By focusing on making sure that she was staying on pace, I really couldn't focus on how badly I was feeling.

We put in some seriously faster than pace miles in the second half and we winded up finishing in 2:58:36 which was over 10 minutes faster than her previous one.

After getting a big thanks from her, I then spent the next thirty minutes trying to remember where I parked my rental car.

Brooklyn, Rich and I went out for an awesome burger and shake for lunch and then Brooklyn parted ways with us. Rich and I hung out for a while and then went out to church that was converted to a brewery. Did I mention how cool Pittsburgh is?

All in all it was a really fun weekend. Now I get three weeks rest until my next marathon in Buffalo.

Up Next: Ironman Texas(Amber) May 17th-watch it on