Life After the 2015 Boston Marathon

I promised you guys a ‘the rest of the story’ post. And there’s a lot of other stuff going on in the running world that I want to talk about so let’s get on with it.

2015 Boston Post Race

Last we talked, I was crossing the finish line (seconds behind Dezi, lest you forgot) in the 2015 Boston marathon. Here’s the rest of the story.

Pausing in the finisher's chute to get the post-race medal pic.

Pausing in the finisher’s chute to get the post-race medal pic.

Dezi and I laughed about how close our race was and I gave her a hard time for setting the Hoyt pick. We limped our way down the finishing chute which at this point seemed as long as the race itself. It didn’t take long for the cold to set in – stand around in wet clothes in low forties temps and you’ll find out quickly what I mean. My teeth started chattering so violently that I feared I might chomp off a section of tongue or jaw. The upgraded space blankets, complete with hoods, were nice but while they helped, the cold still found its way in, seemingly all the way to the bone.

I kept walking towards Boston Common, site of the bag check tents. My plan all along was to keep moving after the race as one year earlier things had gone horribly wrong for me when I sat down post-race. “Just keep moving. Just keep moving.” I told myself (and Dezi, for that matter). We made it to our bag check tent and retrieved our bags. For about two seconds, I contemplated changing out of my wet racing clothes and into my dry bag-check attire, but then realized that I’d be better served using that changing time to walk towards our condo, maybe a quarter of a mile away. Dezi concurred and we hoofed it back.

We had two keys to the condo – Chris and I had taken one each. We all assumed Chris would be the first back, being the fastest of our bunch. But when Dezi and I entered, Chris was nowhere to be found. Uh-oh.

Still shivering, I made the proverbial beeline for the shower, knowing that Laura should not be far behind, and sure enough, the phone rang while I was in that oh-so-glorious, warm, aqua heaven. I jumped out, texted Laura that I was on my way, threw some clothes on, and rushed (read ‘limped in an agonizingly slow way’) downstairs to free Laura from the cold and rain. On my way out I asked Dezi if she’d heard from Chris – still no word.

Long story short(ish) – Dezi went in search of Chris. Laura called local area hospitals just to make sure he hadn’t been admitted somewhere. Finally, Dezi found him in the finishing chute. He had been fine through mile 23 before the cold and wet took such a toll he was forced to stop with hypothermia. The medical staff there took him inside and spent an hour or so warming him up before he and a few other guys who were suffering the same fate decided to get back on the course and finish. When he told me this story, I instantly inducted him into the JITFO Hall of Fame and gave him JITFO membership for life status.

That night, we headed out and met up with Billy (Shue, the top Charlotte area finisher with a 2:36) and Caleb (who ran a 2:47) and celebrated. Boston treated us like royalty as usual:

The Charlotte crew with hoppy recovery beverages.

The Charlotte crew with hoppy recovery beverages.

Picking Cherries

Gucci and I had been chatting recently about looking for a good cherry picker race to “get back in the short game”. I’m coming off of marathon training and Gucci’s slowly but surely getting back into shorter-distance racing shape so we came up with this idea of finding a cherry picker – a race I’d have a shot to win – and he’d pace me.

Gucci surprised me by finding one sooner rather than later, the Friends Run. It fulfilled a few of the standard cherry picker rules – it was on the same weekend as a bunch of other races, it was relatively small, but also a couple more stringent, tricky things we were looking for: good timing/racing company (Start2Finish), and the trickiest thing of all, a Sunday race.

Ideally, I wanted more time after Boston to get in some shorter, and more, speed work. And I was a little worried I might derail my half marathon on the following Saturday. But how many Sunday 5Ks were we going to find? I told Gucci I was in.

After a rather tumultuous Saturday night spent chasing the Dubs around the NASCAR Hall of Fame that included multiple trips up and down three flights of stairs, I wasn’t particularly confident when I rolled into the Jewish Family Services center on Sunday morning. Both Achilles hurt, I was tight and gimpy, and I just had that “I’m not feeling it” kinda morning going on.

But Gucci and Sommer were there donning JITFO singlets when I pulled up, so I knew at least things would be fun. We set out on a preview warm-up run of the course.

The course was mostly gently rolling but with a significant incline that traversed most of the second mile. I got more concerned when I was heavily huffing and puffing at 8:30 pace during the warm-up when I planned on maintaining a pace at least two minutes faster than that during the race. Not cool.

Mere minutes later, we were lining up at the start with some 200 other people, most of them kids. As always, I surveyed the corral – I couldn’t find a split-short-singlet-wearing-skinny-person in the crowd, except for my two JITFO teammates and maybe one kid who looked to be about 14 that could go either way (sometimes kids that look like him are crazy fast, sometimes, not so much).

As there was no timing mat at the start, I tried to line up at the very front, but a ton of 8 and 9-year-olds crowded it. I asked the kid directly in front of me, “Hey, what’s your best 5K time?” and he answered, “I have no idea!” so I gestured for him to move back and to my surprise, he quickly complied. I am so very unused to 8 to 10-year-old boys acquiescing so rapidly – my experience is typically the exact opposite.

The announcer lady rambled on for a bit so I tried to run a few strides in the interim. Then some guy with a thick accent, a guy that reminded me a lot of 80s fitness guru Gilad Janklowicz, snagged the mic and led the crowd through a few minutes of warm-up calisthenics. I was getting anxious. For the love of Yahweh, can we please start this race already?

Gucci and I joked around on what to do about all the kids – he and I were surrounded by some 20 or 30 kids on the front line ranging from ages around 6 or 7 to the one legit-looking kid of 14 or 15. Should we just try to jet out in front of them? Should we bull our way past? Some kids were going to sprint out in front, that was a given, we’d seen it too many times – but how problematic would this actually be? We agreed to just make the best of things – let the chips fall where they may. We hoped they’d stay out of the way.

Finally Robin, the Start2Finish race director, took the mic. Laura and I had recently worked with her on the Triple C Know Your Craft 5K and I knew she was both professional and competent – I was confident the dillydallying was complete. Sure enough, after a few words about the course and the race, Robin counted down and fired the air horn to start the race.

And as expected, the fireworks kids shot to the front, Gucci and I close on their tails. One mildly rotund kid chatted with his buddies, “I’m probably gonna lose weight in this race. I don’t really care if I lose weight or not, but I probably will.” I was pretty impressed he carried on this conversation while sprinting at what had to be 99+% of top speed. One kid with his bib on his back had gapped us by some 15-20 meters right out of the gate. Tim (Gucci’s real name for those of you that don’t know) turned to me and said, “Check it out – he’s wearing a fun run bib.” That kid was in for a long day.

By 200 meters in, all the kids had come back to us and then some. Gucci and I were side-by-side in the somewhat unfamiliar (for me anyway) territory directly behind the motorcycle cop. We cruised down Providence and I glanced at my watch – I was right around 6:20 pace, exactly where I needed to be for the goal time of sub-20. Gucci turned to me and pointed to let me know there was a guy directly behind us. Note made.

I tried to lock into low 6:20s pace but this was not an easy task, not easy at all. Gucci wasn’t even breathing hard which made me super jealous because I was working. I hadn’t maintained this pace for more than a minute in months – I wasn’t sure how long I could hold it.

The course had some rollers in it, and we were working our way up one early when we were hit with a significant headwind. As Tim seemed to be casually cruising up, I called out, “Hey man, I’m gonna tuck in. Is that cool?” I didn’t want Gucci mad at me for drafting, but he said, “Sure man”, so we were good.

We came through the first mile in 6:30, a tad slow, but we had a nice downhill section ahead. When we hit it, I took off and said to Gucci, “Let’s gap that dude.” It felt sooo much better than the climb, letting gravity help carry some of the workload.

It didn’t take long for us to come upon the tail end of some of the 10Kers. We zipped past and a few folks cheered us on. Gucci told me later that one lady, upon seeing the cop on the bike, asked him, “Aw, does this mean I’m in dead last?” Tim told her, “Trust me, there are a lot of people behind you.”

Then we hit the long uphill stretch and I struggled. Gucci casually, inadvertently, pulled away because, well, this was easy for him. Not for me. I tried not to lose touch. Tim crested the hill and I worked to catch up. I pulled alongside and asked, “Hey, how far back is third?” Gucci turned back, looked, and responded, “I can’t even see him.” I relaxed a little – it sure appeared like we had first and second in the bag.

Somewhere shortly thereafter, the motorcycle cop started to make a right turn onto a road where the 10K dumped out to share the 5K course. But the 5K course continued straight ahead. He cut between Tim and me and called out, “Take a right here!” Neither of us complied because we’d just run the entire course warming up and we knew 1) exactly where to go, which was straight and 2) that he was wrong and about to go in the wrong direction. Tim explained this to the officer who said, “You already ran the entire course once? You guys are nuts.” , and then got back on course ahead of us.

Having a slow second mile split thanks in part to the nice uphill stretch, I knew a sub-20 was in serious jeopardy. Gucci kept pulling farther ahead, apparently in an attempt to get me to pick up the pace, but I couldn’t keep up, until with maybe half a mile to go, I realized that a 19-something was still possible. We picked up the pace.

We hit the 3-mile mark and I cranked as hard as I could go. With the finish line in sight, Tim reached out a fist and I bumped it, and then kicked (well, if you can call it that). If you go to this link, and scroll along the timeline until you see about 34:35 on the race clock in the video (actually the 10K clock, we started 15 minutes after the 10K start), you can see Tim and me running in – I believe this is the only video in existence where I am the first person in a race to cross the finish line.

I posted a picture of my little printout receipt that says “Male 5K Overall: 1st Place” to Facebook because, well, that’s what runners do when they win races these days. Rob, the captain of archrival Stache & Dash, posted “Come on now, if ya are gonna take the podium, at least you can try to run a sub 20.” as my official time was 20:05. To which I responded, “5K started precisely 15 minutes after 10K. If you watch the following video, I am clearly over the tape at 34:59. Hence, time should be 19:59, Rob.” You be the judge:

Foot clearly over the line by 34:59, meaning 19:59, right?

Foot clearly over the line by 34:59, meaning 19:59, right?

So what if my official time is 20:05 and my Garmin link says 20:06? We clearly have irrefutable photographic evidence saying otherwise. The readers of this blog and the guys over at letsrun can debate what my actual time is – I’ll be content with only my second road race win ever, regardless of whether or not I broke 20:00 or if faster friends may or may not have let me win.

Sommer finished tight on our heels (making me glad I didn’t give in to the temptation to coast it in), winning the women’s race and ensuring the JITFO podium sweep.

On Boston Cheaters

I wanted to take some time to write about Mike Rossi, but you know what? Fuck him. Google him if you want to know more, but as for me, I’m sick of that dude. I will say that I will gladly race that punk anywhere. He knows where to find me. Rob, sign him up for Stache & Dash and put him on my leg.

Going Forward

Does anybody else hear this phrase regularly at work? Does anybody else experience a tiny twinge of nausea upon seeing/reading it? If so, I apologize, but it is so burned into my psyche now that I use it for talking about the immediate future.

Laura and I are running a half marathon next week where she’ll defend her title and I will try to, um, run well? I had a blast running it last year – I hope to do the same this year.

After that, I hope to work on speed. Faster, shorter stuff – I plan to return to my track roots in the RFYL Summer Series, as well as jump in a few 5Ks here and there and finally get back under 20 minutes again.

Oh, I almost forgot. Kahn tricked, er convinced Laura and me into signing up for the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon. Of course, as is apparently always the case when Mike convinces me to sign up for a race, I somehow managed to sign up for the wrong race. This has happened to me exactly twice in my life – both times it was when Kahn was putting the hard sell on. I may or may not have had a beer or two in me when I signed up via my Smartphone Thursday night, but in my defense, what city has two marathons less than a month apart?!? That’s just crazy. But we got it all squared away and we are going to have an epic, field-leveling/handicapped, race within a race, pitting a crew of Charlotteans against each other. Winner take all. May the best man or woman win. (If anybody out there wants to race us, make sure to sign up for the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon – the keyword is Lakefront – and NOT the Milwaukee Running Festival Marathon.)

Then it’s all about Blue Ridge and the greatest rivalry in all of sports. JITFO vs Stache & Dash. We have the belt. They want it back. Bring it.



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