Wow, 2014 has started fast and strong! Every new year usually brings with it new changes, new goals, and new challenges and this one is no different!
After a sickly end to a disappointing 13, 14 has brought with it some much appreciated change! Along with many other dedicated Brooks runners, I was moved from the Brooks Inspire Daily Program to the Brooks Fanatics Program. Fanatics is a similar program but with a lot less sponsorship responsibility. This change comes alongside another recent occupational move back to bar tending. A move that has paid off physically, and fiscally. I’ve traded in grinding out my days in retail for more rest (sleeping in) and more training.
My first goal for 2014 was to start a running streak. Another goal was to run a third Marathon. Coincidentally, I received a free entry to the Rock-N-Roll New Orleans Marathon from the Fanatics Program. I only had a month to get ready so I decided to start my streaking. I’ve read about how streaks can make you a better runner for a number of reasons so I decided to try for at least a 5k a day for the month of January, and maybe even for the rest of the year. Below is a snapshot of my training in January.
There was only one day in January that I didn’t run and it was due to an unexpected 12hr workday. Running streaks are hard. Not only are they hard on your body, but they wear you down mentally too. They break you down to nothing and at the same time, teach you everything. They force you to run when you’re tired. They force you to run in terrible conditions. Your body might not like it, but if done properly (the 10 percent rule), it will adapt to the extra load and you will become a stronger runner. Streaks teach you how to adapt, so when the weather is less than perfect on race day, you’re prepared. When your calfs are sore, you’re prepared. When you have to run double the distance of your longest recent run in only two weeks, you’re prepared. Along with streaking, I worked on strengthening my core by adding a rigorous routine of pushups, situps, and squats. I also cross-trained by playing soccer once a week. January was a work month, but would it payoff in Nawlins?
On February 1st, the day before the marathon, I flew to the Big Easy. It didn’t take long for me to settle in. Before I knew it, I was 3IPA’s deep and playing Texas Hold Em at Harrah’s Casino. After grinding it out for two hours at the table, I started to get a little stir crazy and the dealer threw me Ace/9 off-suit. After limping into the hand, the flop came out 8, 8, 9. Two Pair with an Ace kicker. After everyone checked around the table, I over bet in an attempt to buy the measly pot. It pushed everyone out of the hand but my friend sitting to the left of me. He saw my $50 bet and raised me another $50….”Does he have the 8,” I thought? I’m going to pay to see it. By that point I only had $60 left, so I pushed what was left of my pride into the pot. All-in with a mediocre hand and sure enough, my opponent flipped over the only card that could’ve beaten me at that point…….the 8. Ouch….
After losing over half of my spending money in the first 2 hours of my trip, I walked to a near-by sushi bar to think over my poor decisions and drown my sorrows in Asian lagers and Dragon Rolls….Before I knew it, I had justified my first casino experience with a simple “When in Rome” and by 9pm I was back to the hotel with a nice beer buzz before bedtime.
At 4:30am my alarm sounded and I hit the Shower. The sky was overcast with temps in the cool 50’s and a 30% chance of showers. My head was clear and I felt relaxed.I had a plan. My plan was to start the Marathon slow and have as much fun as possible. “Make it easy!” I thought. After running only 13 miles for my long run, there was no telling how my body would react in the later miles of the race. Was I prepared?
A calmness fell over me as I was standing in the first corral waiting for the gun to sound. Probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been before a race. It was probably because I wasn’t racing anyone but myself, and the time to beat was 3 hrs and 41 minutes. My PR from RnR Savannah in 2012 came with a lot of aches and pains from starting out too fast, not eating enough, and not hydrating enough. I was determined not to go through that again, so when the gun sounded, I let everyone pass…
With 100% humidity that morning, water coated everything including the roads. Like Charleston, New Orleans isn’t exactly known for they’re newly paved roads. Cracks and crannies crawl through the roads just waiting for a misstep. Add the moisture in to the equation and there’s your recipe for a swollen ankle. The first 6 miles of the race was spent simply trying to find my footing. And then the rain came…
Before the rain:
During the rain:
After the rain:
After shedding my water soaked t-shirt, I felt lighter and faster. While everyone was struggling through the second half, I was just warming up. It’s worth noting that I ate a GU Rocktane every 30 minutes of the race and drank the water and gatorade at almost every station. This extra boost of caffeine and sugar powered me through the tough times. Marathons are monotonous, so having a reward to look forward to every 30 minutes really breaks up the race and boosts your mood. The extra fuel powered me through miles 16-24.
Oh yeah, I robbed a bank along the course and the Marathon was part of my getaway:
Seriously though…..it’s on my bucket list…
At this point, people were dropping like flies and I was cruising! Having lived it in previous races, I knew what they were going through and I was wondering when my wall would come. The muscles in my legs started tightening around mile 24. From quads to calfs, my output began to diminish, but breaking the 3hr 30 minute mark was still in my sights. I kept trying to do the math in my head, “Only 2 miles to go and I have 17 minutes till the 3:30 mark, thats like……… 8.5minutes/mile. I’ve got this”! I kept picturing 3:20 something in my head. My legs felt like dead weight at this point, and the last mile seemed to take longer than all of the previous miles combined…Until I saw the finish line 3:30:and some seconds! I kicked hard. I wanted that damn clock to stop inside 3:30!
Its all arms at this point.
As I crossed the finish line, I saw the clock change to 3:31:something. Oh well, I still shaved over 10 minutes off of my previous PR. I was happy with my time, and even happier with my performance. I had fun, and more importantly, I gained confidence. 26.2 miles had broken me before, but I just conquered it slightly hungover and in less than ideal weather conditions. Now I know what I need to do to keep that time down and eventually reach my goal of Sub 3 hours. Rock N Roll New Orleans was a success and it was time to celebrate. What better place to celebrate finishing my 3rd Marathon than Bourbon Street on Super Bowl Sunday?
Big thanks to Brooks Fanatics for the free entry, The Adventurer Bear Owings for the hotel room, and the rest of my friends and family for their never ending support and encouragement every day! I couldn’t do it without you! Next up, the Columbia Marathon on March 8th. What, you didn’t think I was just going to party for the month of February and lose my Ethiopian physique did you? I have goals man!