Monday, April 30, 2007

Top 10 things to remember in amateur racing

I recently had an occasion to ponder amateur racing.

Here are my TOP 10 things to remember.

10. Show up on time. If the race is supposed to start at 8am and you arrive at 8:01...believe me, folks have been racing for a minute. If being fashionably late is more your style, take up bicycle racing.

9. Your race packet will hopefully contain your race number and instructions. It will also invariably contain discount coupons (e.g., local running store, Chick-fil-A), some sort of kitchen magnet, tiny first aid kit containing 2 band-aids and a Q-tip, and a t-shirt that is 2 sizes too large.

8. Line up for the race according to your pace. Look, if you know you're not a contender, please don't to line up on the starting line. No, you're not going to get run over. You will however be a hinderance to folks who run much faster than you and that's just plain inconsiderate.

7. If you have a complaint about a race, file a protest...that's what they're for.

6. Do not demand appearance fees: Consistant 3rd place age group finishes does NOT make you a professional runner in demand.

5. After the race, don't jump up on stage during the awards ceremony and gripe about it. You make an ass of yourself and it embarasses your friends.

4. Running is a sport. You'll have good days and not so good days. But all the days should be fun. After the race, smile and remember that not everyone can run. Oh yea, get to a towel as soon as possible after the race. No one likes to stand next to a sweaty, dripping wet, smelly runner...especially at the results wall.

3. Don't cheat. If you really need that, "hardware" (typically a plastic trophy, medal, or ceramic tile painted by 3 year olds) go rob a bank and buy a case of 'em...they cost about $2.99 each.

2. Remember the folks working the water stands, post-race food tables, starting and finishing lines? Well, they're volunteers. Try it sometime...

1. If you have an aversion to port-o-cans, racing is not for you. But if you join the Bayou City Road Runners (, your worries are over. We have two private privies!!!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boston Marathon - race report

Short story
For those folks just surfing the blog waves for the number of Boston Marathon stories.

The weather was the story. Rainy & wet, cold, strong headwind with occasional gusts of close to 50mph. That said, it was Boston so it was fun and I managed to qualify for Boston next year too!

Longer story
For those of you with too much time or just wanting to hear a, “Boston story.”

Friday night
The Boston Athletic Association (baa) sent out a weather warning Friday night. Hey, once the baa has your money, you NEVER get a weather warning email. Anyway, the first paragraph provided a forecast for Monday. A Nor’easter with rain & sleet, possible snow, headwinds gusting to 50mph, and temperatures in the low 40s. The next several pages of the email talked about how to recognize and treat hypothermia. This is just great. I’ve got non-refundable plane tickets, expensive hotel reservations, and my girlfriend already has plans to party in Houston without me. Am I really going to get on a plane to Boston on Saturday morning?

The early morning flight was on time, and naturally arrived in Boston early…about 45 minutes early…lots of ultra-light runners on board. Normally, I go to the Expo and buy a patch for my jacket. This was my eighth Boston and a $6 patch is a lot better than a $90 jacket that I’d hardly wear (We have about 7 days of winter in Houston). This time however, I bought a hoody (sweatshirt with a hood) to commemorate what was expected to be a very cold & wet day on Monday.

Saturday night at the Union Oyster House is an annual tradition. Spent an hour or so at the oyster bar running smack with the shuckers (Sox & Astros always come up), ate some cold water oyster, chowda, & beer. Then lobster for dinner. I really do love Boston on the Saturday before the marathon.


The Sunday weather reports were scary…Nor’easter blowing trees down and beach houses inland. Talk of canceling the race was heard but only as a matter of conversation. After all, it is the 111th Boston. No doubt that the ballgame at Fenway would be cancelled.

The pre-race pasta party at Government Plaza on Sunday evening was another indication that Monday’s race was going to be….err, ah, exciting. To get to the food, we were shuttled through a huge circus tent to protect us from the rain, wind, and cold. Did I say windy? Forget carrying an umbrella…unless you wanted to fly to Hopkinton via Mary Poppins Airways. Once inside though, it was typical Boston Marathon fanfare; jugglers, music, noise, pasta of course, and beer. Dessert? Oh, that was outside. Yep, there’s nothing like finishing a nice pasta dinner, bundling back up, and then heading out into the cold, windy night for some ice cream.

Got back to the hotel and spent at least an hour laying out all the possible combinations of clothing to wear during the marathon. I settled on long sleeve tights, leggings, two pair of gloves with chemical hand warmers, knit cap.

The walk to the Park Plaza Hotel to catch the bus was not too bad. A bit of rain, lots of wind, and of course, cold. My company provides two coach busses that take us to Hopkinton so we get a huge break on transportation and comfort. Not only is the ride better than a big yellow school bus, but there is a bathroom on board. Oh yea! A bathroom on a bus that takes over an hour to get to Hopkinton is priceless. Did I mention that I was rooming with my running buddy Fred? Although the busses were filled up with company employees, I managed to get Fred on the bus. I think he appreciated the above amenities.

Last minute changes to the wardrobe selection. The weather was probably not going to be as bad as everyone thought. I settled on a LS tight shirt, hat, one pair of gloves (with chemical warmers), and some thigh length shorts. Got lucky as that was about the perfect attire for me.

The marathon
As is my custom for the Boston Marathon, I brought my cell phone. Several of my running buddies in Houston take a half day off work to watch the marathon. It’s always a lot of fun to call them and provide real-time race reports along the course. After the first call while in the corral, I made 3-4 other calls. Also, this year, I took a few pictures…a few at Wellesley of course.

The marathon went very well with no back pain at all. Amazing what anti-inflammatories and pain medication can do ;) I ran at a fairly steady pace throughout the race and finished with a 3 minute positive split (ran the second half of the marathon 3 minutes slower than the first half). Given that the Newton Hills (including Heartbreak Hill) are in the second half, I consider that an accomplishment.

Oh yea, the BoSox game was delayed...not cancelled.

Post –marathon
After the company party at the Park Plaza hotel (where I was forced to give away over 30 beers…but that’s another story), Fred and I met a bunch of other Houston runners at Grill 23. Any steak after a marathon is excellent but Grill 23 steak is absolutely the best! Thanks Wayne for making those reservations.

Am already thinking about next year.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Boston - Preparations and expectations

The training for Boston is over. The last speed workout was on Wednesday evening…during the 40th anniversary of the LP run. The workout went well and I’m about as ready as can be. The plan is to run a few easy miles today, rest on Saturday, do a few easy miles on the Charles River on Sunday and then do the 26.2 on Monday with 25,000 of my closest friends.

I leave for Boston tomorrow morning. Will start medicating this evening and should be completely numb by Monday morning. Hopefully, with the predicted heavy rain, high wind, and 39 degree temperature, I'll be so worried about staying alive that my back will not be an issue. That said, I fully expect to feel spasms somewhere around to the Newton Hills around noon. By then, I’ll have an hour and a half to finish and re-qualify for Boston next year….or four hours to finish in time for a medal ;)

Normally, I’d plan to go to Fenway park on Sunday to watch the BoSox and relax. However, current weather predictions indicate possible snow so maybe that’s out. Heck, that free pasta dinner on Sunday night may be out too if it means dealing with snow.

A couple of years ago, the temperature for the Boston Marathon was 85 degrees at the start. When you’re putting suntan lotion on before a marathon, you know it’s gonna be a long day. I’ll always remember that Boston as the “hosed” marathon as the strategy was to run through every hose and/or sprinkler on the route. I swear, I must’ve run 28 miles zig-zagging from one side of the street to the other…anything to keep cool.

Time will tell on how this year’s Boston will be remembered….

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Feeling better: racing and tapering

Yep, am feeling pretty good and getting anxious.

The Bellaire Trolley Run on Saturday March 31st
There's nothing like a thunder filled (and rainy) morning to start a race. Although my back is still giving me fits, the race went fine and I am happy with the results. However, when you've run 44 5K races in your life and the most recent race ranks 43rd....well, you get the idea. Did I mention #44 was on a the rain...and part of the course was on a wet, slippery boardwalk...6 years ago!!! Oh, and to top it off, the Bellaire Trolley Run was 238 feet short? Ouch...salt in the wound. But, I'm quite happy to be running again!

Taper begins
Tapering for the Boston Marathon officially began last Monday. A few more hard workouts but this week's mileage will drop ~30% and next week will drop even more. It feels so good!

The LP run is next Wednesday evening (4/11) at the St. Thomas High School track
Instead of a fixed distance that you run as fast as you can, it's a fixed time where you run as far as you can. A cool concept. In other words, you run around a track for 33 1/3 minutes to see how far you can run. For the kids in the crowd, LP refers to a Long Play vinyl album/record that spins at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.

Don't blow it off if you've never tried it. It is a LOT of fun and you get to run along side some of the fastest folks in they lap you over and over...;) Anyway, if you want more info, Google it and come on out. The LP run will be my last hard workout before heading to Boston for the marathon. Speaking of Boston...

Saturday April 14th is the Houston to Boston flight
The morning Continental flight will be completely full of excited runners. It's very much like a chartered flight as everyone knows everone on the plane. Every year, we arrive in Boston ahead of schedule....after all, the plane is full of emaciated runners and is super light.