Well the day finally came and twenty six miles later I finally get to lay claim to the title marathoner. The race was another fantastic event with a vibrant crowd, supportive runners and a well organized event staff. Joel cleaned up in the half marathon and Dan beat his best marathon time by about five minutes. I did not run as fast as I had wanted to, but I did have to overcome a cold and a hamstring I pulled while climbing. I even have the injury on video so check it out now.
The race started out well enough. Weather was just the way I like it – mid thirties, no wind and no rain. Since I pulled my hamstring I had only been on a slow three mile and two mile jog in the last two weeks. I hoped that it wouldn’t be factor with sufficient rest even if it meant cutting all training right before the big race. My goal was to run the marathon in under four hours which would require a 9:10 mile. So the big plan was to run the first half at about a 9:15 pace and then increase to a 9:05 pace for the second half. I found it difficult to not go too fast for the first few miles. Everyone seemed to be pumped up and running quickly. I clocked in my first two miles at an 8:40 pace and knew I had to dial it back. My bad hamstring twanged a couple of times so I made sure to take it easier and ensure my bad leg did not become a liability further on in the race.
Dan, Joel and I Ready to Rock
At mile two I saw my fans Gretchen, Brian and Kristyn cheering me on. Kristyn made some killer signs to cheer us on. So awesome of her! Having people along the course keeps your energy up. Then something occurred to me. I was running the full marathon and more than 80% of the runners were going to be gone at the half way point. All their supporters would be gone and I had a feeling it was going to get really quiet. I finished the first half in 1:55 or an 8:50 mile and still felt great. I could not have been more right about the crowd thinning out though. After having to listen to people say “only a few more miles” for all the half marathoners the last three miles the crowd was gone. From here on out it was event staff, police officers and the five or six people I could see around me. It was very peaceful for awhile and at mile 15 I was still going strong at a nine pace. Then a strong headwind came on and the temperature probably dropped ten degrees. Bummer.
Mom, Dad, Aunt Carol and Krystyn's Awesome Sign
At mile 17 I ran into real trouble. Leg cramps and in the worst way. I felt my bad hamstring twinging and then all of a sudden I got three simultaneous muscle cramps. Both quads and my bad hamstring. I turned into Frankenstein and straight legged my way over a nearby fence. Thank goodness it was close or I would have gone over like a tree in a twister. From there on I was plagued by muscle cramps, especially on the uphills. I could only walk uphill or I would turn into Frankenstein again. Fortunately I could still run very slowly. I loaded up on Gatorade at the rest of the water stops, but my time was suffering horribly. After maintaining a sub nine mile for seventeen miles I was having to stop every several hundred yards and stretch/massage my legs. My pace dropped to about a 15 minute mile for the next five miles. Eventually my leg cramps seemed to subside enough that I could run the last three at about an eleven minute mile without having to stop.
Finally the Finish Line!
Overall the race was still a success. If I had to redo things I would have taken it slower in the first half of the race and taken the potassium filled, cramp busting banana that a woman was holding out at mile 14. I thought maybe it was her banana, but I bet if I had taken it she would have let me go. I also have to give a shout out to girl on the trampoline at miles 10 and 23. She was bouncing on this thing with a field hockey stick and vibrantly cheering for at least two hours. Way to be hockey stick girl!
Will I run another marathon? Maybe. The amount of work is ridiculous, but it would be awesome to get back on that horse and run an even better race. I know I can so what’s stopping me!
So I am officially in coast mode. After four months of training (not counting the three months of training for the Urbanathlon) I am finally prepared for the big show. Honestly I wasn’t sure at certain points whether or not I was going to make it. Training for a marathon is hard. Really hard. Way harder than I ever expected. Frankly a half marathon is cake. A walk in the park. I look back at my original marathon training post and think of the crazy goals I set for myself and wonder how I could have thought that was possible. Too much too fast. Eventually those goals would be possible, but I don’t think that four months was realistic at all. I am getting ahead of myself, so let me get you up to speed.
What is so hard? There is this wall at about thirteen miles where I would start to feel tired. By fifteen my quads are burning, my breath is starting to become labored and my form starts to fall apart. Each of these problems reinforces the others until mentally I cannot continue running. For a month each of my long runs hit this wall. I felt defeated. Fifteen is barely over halfway. How was I supposed to go another nine miles?! Fortunately I had an experienced athlete in Dan Corbera to help me out. One cold December morning I drove down to Attleboro for a seventeen mile run with Dan. Previously my longest run had been fifteen and a half. The run started out great and it really helped to have someone to chat with. At the half way point I still felt pretty good. We took a short break at Dans parent’s house and I met his family (who have read my blog!).
The second half started out well, but by that ominous thirteen mile marker the conversation had thinned and it was time to get down to business. True to form at mile fifteen I was really starting to feel it. Fortunately I had Dan to encourage me. Just two more miles, two more miles! I put my head down and trudged on. Keep my breath, keep my form, just – keep – going. Those last two miles were horrendous. I felt terrible. Dan, if you are reading this, the run was actually seventeen and a half miles. That extra half hurt. It made two miles feel interminable! As we coasted into our finish my quads were like jelly. I didn’t even feel like celebrating for finishing. I felt like curling up in a ball and passing out.
My legs were sore for the next three days, however that day was a big break through. I learned a lot from Dan about proper marathon training. Things I wasn’t doing and should have been. For the first time I was eating “gus” while running. These are essentially sugar packets you can eat for energy on the run. Coupled with gatorade I consume about seven hundred calories on a typical long run. I also learned that I needed to eat immediately after exercise to replenish lost calories or my body would burn muscle and the run would be self defeating. I never feel like eating during or after exercise so this probably explained my complete lack of progress from my previous fifteen mile runs.
Since then I have perfected my long run preparation. I eat two dinners the night before. One around six and then a second one around nine or ten. I make sure I eat enough at the second meal that I cause a food induced coma which guarantees a good night of sleep. For breakfast I eat pancakes and waffles with maple syrup. A lot of ‘em! Finally I gu every five miles and make sure I have gatorade for calories while I run. After the run I enjoy yogurt and a PB&J sandwich for some quick sugar calories coupled with some carbs and proteins.
The real part of marathon running is the mental game. My body is constantly asking my brain to just walk for a little bit. Catch my breath and shake out my legs, but my brain can’t listen. I always ask myself – Do I have my breath? Do my legs hurt? If no then there is no excuse for stopping. Just keep those feet moving one after the other. My last long run training session really required some mental toughness. At thirteen miles I was on an 8:45 pace, but I could feel a big blister forming on my left foot. I kept asking myself whether I should head home and call it a day. This was my last chance though. My last big run before I began a rest period for the marathon. I couldn’t quit. At sixteen miles I was still on pace. I pulled my shoe and took a look. Not good. A big blister the size of about a quarter on the inside sole of my foot. Time to quit? No way, time to go. I slowed down to a ten minute mile for the last four miles, but I ran the whole way. This time I did a little sidewalk dance/fist pump to celebrate. Twenty and a half miles in three hours and one minute, just a hair over a nine minute mile.
I’ve set a realistic marathon target of a 9:10 mile which will pull me in at just under four hours. I am ready to rumble. Let’s go Hyannis!
I had been looking forward to the Boston Rock Gym’s Heart of Steel competition since I missed the inaugural event last year. Climbers were talking about it for weeks afterwards and after experiencing the 2010 event firsthand all I have to say is that BRG rocks! The event was very well organized and they gave out more prizes than you could imagine. A shower of t-shirts, chalk bags, water bottles and more were rained down upon competitors. Thousands of dollars of gear were raffled off to contestants and thousands more were ready to be won by the finalists. Props go to my wife Gretchen who somehow managed to jump up and snag me a chalkbag despite being five months pregnant. I am going to schedule another comp in four months and see how much gear she can get me then.
Over one hundred seventy climbers of all ages and skill levels climbed for five hours to turn in the best six climbs they could find. The feeling of the gym was electric. There wasn’t a moment of peace. As soon as one climber was down another was taking their place. Sporadic bursts of encouragement would well from the crowd as climbers worked their way through a crux or fought fatigue as they approached a difficult finish.
I had so much fun that the entire day flew by. I was at the gym for twelve hours, but somehow it only seemed like a little while. After the climbing portion of the show ended BRG kept the party going with the gear give away, raffle, competitive awards and some words from sponsors The North Face and Life Under Sun. Also in attendance were ASA Photographic, Toyota/Scion of Woburn, Evolv, Vegan Treats (I think, sorry I didn’t sample!) and Shandra Campbell who gave me the most amazing post climb arm massage. Today my legs feel like they were run over by a steamroller, but my arms are fine. I really have to hand it to all these groups who supported the event. Thank you so much for contributing to something that brought so much fun and excitement to hundreds of people.
Taylor de Lench debuted his climbing video SICK which featured tons of New England’s best climbing sites as well as climbers. It was certainly fun to see local climbers that we know and love conquering some badass problems. I have to give it to Taylor for putting something together that wasn’t just climbs, but also a number of clips that showed the climbers’ passion, fun, and excitement of their day to day climbing expeditions. For me the highlight of the video was definitely Aleksey Shuruyev ice climbing behind an enormous icicle and then topping out by moving up onto the face of it. I don’t even know if I can call it an icicle. This block of frozen ice must have weighed hundreds if not thousands of pounds and was tens of feet long. The videography was intense and the mood of the crowd reflected the danger we sensed. Gretchen had her chin on my shoulder and her nails in my back. I certainly felt apprehensive watching a loved member of the BRG community tackling that problem. It looked like this massive thing would break out from under Aleksey and send him flying off into space. So do yourself a favor and check out Taylor’s work.
Let’s get to the real fun stuff though. Finals. I have videos of each of the three men and three women who brought their HEARTS OV ZTEEL! There were actually four men who completed all the most difficult routes. Rob and Vasya tied for first and Michael and Zeb tied for second. This required a spontaneous climb off between Michael and Zeb to determine who would attend the finals. A newly set route was improvised and whoever made it the farthest would move on to the finals. The crowd was cheering like crazy as both of them came to the same super hard move. Check out the vid to see who won. All vids are available in HD so go ahead and change the resolution to 720p for some full resolution glory.
The Heart of Steel has an awesome finals system where prize money is actually taped to the wall along routes. Finalists win whatever they grab and whoever grabs the most cash wins whatever cash was missed. This means the top finisher could win up to twelve hundred bucks.
For the first finals problem the women tore it up. All three of them shredded through the largest “bouldering” problem you’ve seen. It was more like three long boulder problems all crammed onto one overhanging wall. Major props to all of them. Check out these vids.
Women’s First Final Route
Sydney McNair was all business as she conquered the first set of finals problems. Cool as a cucumber she took her time and made every move count. She makes it look easy as she hangs out on one arm scoping whats ahead. That is experience and confidence exhibiting itself on the wall and in the face of some stiff competition.
Sasha DiGiulian looked like she was having fun as a big grin skittered across her face after grabbing her first set of cash money. From then on it was all business though. With a fist pump she exited the course after matching Sydney’s performance.
Francesca Metcalf who finished in second place last year brought back her talent and experience for the finals. A crux move that was done dynamically by Sydney and Sasha she handled statically. The women’s finals were shaping up to be one hell of a competition.
Men’s First Final Route
The men brought their “A” game as well and Michael was a fantastic first competitor. His high flying and dynamic moves really got the crowd going. His precisely timed dynos to the gray protrusion and out to the telephone handle were awesome.
Local favorite Vasya Verotnikov who won last year’s competition looked super strong and pulled off the most ridiculous move to shortcut his way through a set of the problem. I guarantee you that the route setters checked this stuff out, but Vasya’s unbelievable talent combined with his tenacity let him crimp off of a finger nail sized chip. After two failed attempts I was honestly thinking he was wasting time and energy. Gavin seemed to agree as he suggested that there may be a path of less resistance. I think that little bit of doubt may have helped give Vasya the mental, “I’ll show you,” he needed to pull it off. His next attempt he nailed it and of course the crowd was eating it up!
Last up was Rob D’Anastasio and he struggled a bit with this problem. He started out by going for the same insane crimp that Vasya had just used. I think this may have been a tactical mistake. At this point in the game there was little room for mistakes. He had already spent so much energy climbing earlier and I think this affected his performance.
The Dark Crystal
Now the FINAL FINAL. This was something big. Something no one had seen before. I think I should let this video speak for itself.
I jumped on the dark crystal post comp and let me tell you. It ain’t easy. The dynamics of the thing are difficult to figure out. Each crank on the crystal sucks the strength out of your hands. Intuitively you would think that a pull down with your hands combined with a pull back on the upswing would get that baby flying, but this was no swingset. Cranking down to get some momentum worked, but if you pulled back on the upswing your feet would push out and kill the momentum. I can’t really explain it, but it takes a tricky set of body movements to get the thing going. I can only imagine what it was like for our finalists to conquer the dark crystal both physically and mentally with so much on the line.
Women vs. The Dark Crystal
Sydney McNair started as cool and strong as she did in the first finals run, but as she worked her way up to the big money she struggled with the dark crystal. After a near fall going for a sloper she managed to tenously grasp it with a few fingers before settling her weight. As the big jug that promised so much needed relief as well as cash approached she ran out of juice.
Sasha DiGiulian started out with another big smile on her face as she grabbed some “easy” money. The dark crystal posed no problem as she scrambled up on top of it and made good use of the positive surface to rest her arms. The last move out to some money looked to stump her briefly, but after flying off the rings she stuck to the wall and claimed her cash.
Francesca Metcalf absolutely destroyed. I would have run out of film if it wasn’t for her stellar climbing. She cruised through the final problem in under four minutes. As it was I only had ninety seconds left at the end of the comp. She placed second according to Gavin’s blog post, but as far as I can tell they both had the same amount of money at the end. I’m not sure how they came up with that, but if you are reading Francesca I think it was a tie! Thanks to an update from the one and only Francesca herself I found out that she did have the same amount of money as Sasha and it was a tie. For future reference let it be known that I am always right =).
Men vs. The Dark Crystal
Michael Bautista did a great job figuring out the Dark Crystal. His technique seemed to be the best and involved a cool scramble across three faces while it spun around.
Vasya Verotnikov powered through the Dark Crystal on his first try. His last move up to the cash was sick. He went from a terrible two handed sloper to a tiny crimp at the very top of the wall. There is practically no foot purchase so he had to rely on a powerful burst coupled with absolute body control to nail that crimper.
Rob D’Anastasio started out strong and worked his way up to the big money, but after snagging the fifty exhaustion appeared to set in. He definitely gets props for going for the big money and the big glory first. He didn’t complete some of the side routes, but it doesn’t matter to me. He made a great showing and hit the hard stuff.
All of the finalists provided an inspirational performance that will elevate this sport. Again I have to thank BRG and all the sponsors for putting on an amazing event and for all the great climbers who were there to spot, encourage and crush. I will have a follow up post with some more videos of my climbs and my friend’s climbs so check back soon!