Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Story of a Perfect Season

On November 2nd, day 306 of 2014 at 11:50:45AM, my perfect season was completed. Under somewhat adverse weather conditions, my final PR, the marathon fell (hard). 

When I began my 2014 campaign I started a running streak and I have run at least a mile everyday since then.  I had some goals in the early portion of the year which involved retiring a two year old half marathon PR and a 1 year old 5K time, but little did I know the journey that I was about to embark on.

The perfect season (or my definition of what a perfect season is) is a personal record in each distance.  Being an ultra runner, the list is a little longer than what most people may track.  My races go from 1 mile to 50 miles with stops at 5K, 4 mile, 5 mile, 10K, 15K, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon, and 50K (just typing that was exhausting).  Due to the fact there are so many distances, en route PR's count, especially when they are officially reported.  With 11 distances tracked, everything must go just right as there is little room for error and little time to re-attempt a distance. 

Below is the story of my season concluding with my final PR, the marathon, the race I had not yet conquered nor had a time I was truly proud of, at least not until last Sunday. 

The Winter
The perfect season started to become a reality after a huge race at New Bedford in March where I PR'd in the 10k, 15k, 10 mile, all en route to a 6 minute half marathon PR.

A few weeks before that I set a PR in the 4 and 5 mile distances (4 en route to 5) at the Super 5 miler on Super bowl Sunday in Kendall Square.

With 6 PR's out of the 11 complete, I was already half way there and only 3 months into the year.

4 Miles: Super Sunday Run Against Cancer 2/2/2014 --23:28 (5:52 / mile) -- En Route to 5 miles
5 Miles: Super Sunday Run Against Cancer 2/2/2014 -- 29:17 (5:52 / mile)
10K: New Bedford 3/16/2014 -- 38:37 (6:13 / mile) -- En Route 1/2 to Marathon
15K: New Bedford 3/16/2014 -- 57:40 (6:11 / mile) -- En Route 1/2 to Marathon
10 Miles: New Bedford 3/16/2014 -- 1:02:09 (6:13 / mile) -- En Route 1/2 to Marathon
1/2 Marathon: New Bedford 3/16/2014 --1:21:41 (6:14 / mile)


The Spring 
I picked up in the Spring right where I left off from the Winter.  After smashing my 50K PR by over 14 minutes in April at the TARC Spring Classic, I went on to obliterate (is there a more explosive word then obliterate?) my 50 mile PR by over 3 hours on Memorial Day weekend. 

8 down and 3 to go. At this point I was now officially going after the perfect season knowing that my 50 mile PR may never fall again. 

50K: TARC Spring Classic -- 4/26/2014 -- 3:58:23 (7:42 / mile)
50 Mile Trail: Salomon Trail 50 at Pineland Farms -- 5/25/2014 -- 7:38:35 (9:10 / mile)

The Summer
The very first day of summer was the SRR 26 X 1 club relay challenge.  The toughest part of all of this was I only planned to do a couple of distances once, the 1 mile being one of them.  One of my long term goals was to go sub 5 minutes in the mile.  I had attempted this 4 other times before, but something told me this time was going to be different. 

My training was really good going into the race with the combination of 70-90 mile weeks and some good speed work.  My body did not let me down with 17 second mile PR of 4:53.  

After completing the top item on my bucket list, the Leadville Silver Rush 50 in July, I took a few easy weeks and then returned to top fashion with a 36 second PR in the 5K at the Cigna Elliot Corporate Challenge in Manchester.  

1 Mile: SRR 26 X 1 Club Challenge 6/21/2014 -- 4:53
: Cigna Elliot Corporate 5K 8/14/2014 -- 17:26 (5:37 / mile)

The Fall
With one PR to go, the one that would be the toughest to complete, I built a tough training schedule with a heavy focus on distance and putting in some serious marathon paced miles.  After a short ramp up, I knocked out over 340 miles in a 5 week span leading up to the race.

Race: Manchester City Marathon
Location: Manchester, NH
Date: 11/2/2014

Distance: 26.2 miles

Primary Goal: 3:09:00 (1 sec PR)  
Reach Goal:  2:59:59
Actual Time: 3:00:45
Place: 38 / 429 OA, 14 / 71 AG

The primary goal, PR and thus BQ (I age up by the 2016 Boston Marathon); The reach goal, run a sub 3 hour marathon.  Somewhat of a stretch, but hey I have been having a break out year so why not.

The morning of the race I caught a ride up to Manchester with Jen and Keith (This was Jen's first marathon).  We arrived around 7:30, parked, picked up our numbers, and then found the lobby of the hotel to hang out in (and stay warm).  We had a pretty good size group from our running club, so we found some other members to hang out with as we waited for the race start.

The weather was let's say "Not quite ideal" but also not awful.  It was upper 30s with some wind, but it was literally snowing back in Boston, so it could have been worse. 

The race started with an immediate downhill allowing me to knock off the first mile in 6:31, just a mere 19 seconds faster than intended pace.  From there I fell into a fairly steady pace in the mid to upper 6:40s and just plugged away.  I had to deal with a little bit of a head wind at times with lots of rolling hills, but I was able to keep my heart rate in check and was feeling solid.

Around mile 10 was the first time that I even felt like I had put any miles on my legs.  Most of my 12-14 mile marathon paced runs all came during or at the end of high mileage weeks.  I was happy to see that with a real break before the race, my body was withstanding this beating pretty well.

Pic compliments of Joe O'Leary
I went through the half in 1:29:27, pretty much directly on my plan and just kept plugging away.  There were a couple of trail sections which made me feel right at home.  There were also very few prolonged segments (lots of turns) which always gave a nice feeling progress.

The first test of my composure came during mile 16 which had a pretty strong headwind with a good climb.  I ran a 7:13 knowing that I had just blown a good portion of my budget.  Luckily I was able to regain form and knock out 6:49, 6:53, and 6:34 over the next three miles which culminated with bombing down hill by a group of SRRers, my parents, and then finally Amy, Neil, and Jen Rapaport (who had just won the half marathon).

As my watch beeped for mile 19, I knew nothing was going to be able to stop me from achieving goal 1.  Even as I slowed to 7ish pace over the next three miles (mostly due to wind), I still felt strong enough to keep pushing and not give up on a sub 3 hour race.

Miles 23 and 24 were on a bike path down by the river and out of the wind and I was able to put in two sub 6:50 miles.  Just as I finished hyping my self up to throw down a 6:30 for mile 25, I was greeted with the meanest and nastiest head wind I have ever encountered. 

Smiling at the finish
Mile 25 took everything I had to just maintain forward progress.  At one point I tried running sideways to reduce my surface area.  Later I was told that it was a 30+ MPH wind with gusts as high as 49. 

Finally I pulled away from the river, then up a hill, and then a 1/3 mile sprint to the finish.  As I went into close mode, I knew I wasn't going to quite get under 3, but I didn't care.  I was completing my last PR, probably the most important one, by over 8 minutes.  I was about to achieve the long sought after BQ, and was putting an exclamation point on a season that I will never be able to replicate.

3:00:45 -- 8 minutes and 16 second PR -- Number 11 (of 11) for 2014 

From 1 mile to 50 miles (clockwise)
Shout Outs:
- Jen for completing first marathon in 4:04
- Keith for holding me off down the stretch (we are 3-3 in head on competition this year)
- Jen Rapaport for winning the Half 
- Scott, Liz, Allison, and Joe who also PR'd in the crazy windy conditions
- Erin for a post baby PR 
- The rest the SRRers and all those who braved the weather to race and / or support us
- Amy and Neil for making the trek and giving me that extra smile I needed at mile 19

A tired Neil with his medal on the way home

Addendum (November 27th - Thanksgiving)
- PR'd again the the 4 miler at the Gobble Gobble Gobble.  Increasing the total straight out PR's to 8 with 3 en route PRs (10k, 15k, and 10 miler en route to half marathon).

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