NYC Marathon 2017 recap

I signed up for the NY marathon as a last minute decision. I was looking for the season closing race in 2017, but could not talk myself into doing another IM. The body felt beat up, I had trouble sleeping, was constantly stressed, was probably drinking more than I should I have... all in all, another round of IM training would have been too much at this point. But a marathon seemed manageable, and when my contact at the sponsor company of the marathon offered me a spot, I could not say no. 

So as I was finishing up the training for the Malibu Olympic distance race, I started to slowly ramp up my running mileage.I spent about 8 weeks training fairly consistently, and hit a couple of 50+ mile weeks, but did nothing really earth shattering in terms of the training volume. On the year I averaged 36 miles per week, and I was hoping that would be a good enough foundation for a solid year ending marathon run. I really wanted to improve on my time in the 2014 NYC marathon where I had a really crappy 8 mile stretch at the end of the race. I knew that with the constant rollers and tall bridge crossings, the 5 boroughs course will require strength and consistent pacing. I cut down on the quality runs a bit and concentrated on running daily, sometimes doubling up on a day to get used to running on tired legs. All in all, I think that the training went well, even though I had to reduce the volume in the week before the race, as I was feeling too much fatigue. I did 3 18 mile runs, one of them was done with a 4 mile closing stretch at the race pace at about 7:20 min/mile. I also ran a 1:25 half marathon (albeit on a very flat course) about a month before the race, which was encouraging but not really indicative of my potential time. It gave me hope, but in the absence of the longer training stretch I had to be careful with having too ambitious of a goal.

Got to NY on a Wednesday night, had a dinner with a co-worker who also traveled with me, checked into the hotel and fell asleep right away. Woke up at 7 am local time to what sounded like an animal stampede in the hallway. Dressed up and went outside and to my amusement there were a couple of dozen of Italian runners gathered outside of the hotel door. There were staying on my floor I guess - and they were all out to pre-run the course. Went for a run towards the Central Park, with the intent to make it about 6 miles in total... it was still a bit dark, lots of folks running, clearly in town for the race. By the time I got back to the hotel it was bright outside and very, very warm. In the evening I went to the convention center and picked up my packet. Walked back to the hotel and was pretty tired from all the running and walking during the day. Had to go for another dinner close by, and by the time I got back I had logged close to 20k steps on the day.

The next morning I did the same routine but kept the run down to about 3 miles, at a very easy pace. Limited walking to a trek to the office and back, had a quiet night by myself, went to bed at 9:30 pm - and woke up rested. Checked the forecast fr Sunday and it was showing the mid 50s to low 60s with rain and a bit of the wind throughout the day. I needed some warm clothes for the starting line - I had a couple of spare shifts that I could just change out of before the run, but no bottoms to keep the legs warm. Walked to a TJ Maxx nearby and bought some pajama pants that were on clearance for $9 and a cotton shirt for $5. Spent most of the day in bed, watching college football and went for an pasta dinner in a nearby Italian joint. Had a strangely intense conversation with some woman at a bar who was drinking fairly heavily (her $50 bill was made up of mostly red wine by glass) about the pros and cons of prolonging someone's life through tube feeding and so on. She mentioned working as a surgeon in a Brooklyn hospital but she might have been a bit drunk and exaggerated somewhat. Nonetheless I had a very tasty pasta with meat sauce with a glass of table wine, and afterwards went back to the hotel feeling quite ready.

Woke up the next morning, had 2 slices of bread with almond butter and marmalade, a cup of coffee, got dressed and headed out. Yes, I looked dorky.

The Europeans were already crowding in the lobby, all looking grumpy for some reason... walked to the Essex House hotel on the 58th to get on the sponsor's bus. Was seated fairly quickly and we were moving by 6 am. Have to say that the ride to Staten Island is one of my favorite parts of the race experience. Seeing New York early in the morning, the streets mostly empty except for the runners and their entourage getting on the race buses is quite a difference experience from the usual crazy hustle of the daily life in the city.We had a fairly smooth ride all the way to the Staten Island where we ran into the race day traffic and were moving at a glacial speed until one of the traffic cops cleared the road for us. I had a Clif bar right before we pulled into the terminal, and got ready to exit the bus. The weather outside was very, very autumn-like. Low clouds, a bit windy, with a tiny drizzle and the temps at about 53 degrees... we had to go through a massive security theater at the entrance with the metal detector gates, bag "checks", lots of cops of every imaginable unit clocking easy time and even the army units present in a full combat gear.I made it to the sponsor's tent, had a coffee and bagel and went outside to get a bit more used to the climate. It was wet and chilly, and I was worried that we would get drenched before the race even begins. After some more thinking I put on removable sleeves, grabbed my gels, Gatorade and one more Clif bar, and dropped my bag with the UPS track. I had to think for a second about potentially bringing with me a spare pair of running socks wrapped in a plastic bag... but the rain did not seem that bad. So I left them in the bag to change into them later. It was time to go to the Blue village for the start of my Wave 2. 

Made it there too early, and just sat on the ground for a bit in my Corral A. At around 9:40 am I went to a porta potty... and by the time I got out, the organizers had removed the ropes separating the corrals. I was suddenly in the middle of the 3:30 pace group probably in Corral D or maybe even further in the back. I tried to make my way to the front corral again, but no dice - I was facing a human wall made out of stressed and angry runners. As I was realizing that I was stuck, I took a deep breath and decided to relax and enjoy the experience... hopefully I'd make it through the crowds and get to run my pace. I was suddenly in a good place, rested and ready for a great run through the Big Apple. Had 3 Clif shot gels, 1 super caffeinated GU gel and 8 salt stick tabs in a baggie. Bring it!

The gun went off at 10:15 and the human stampede across the Verrazano-Narrows bridge has began. I was highly amused by the folks taking their selfies in all sorts of bizarre spots, like on the divider row, while running with the back turned, even attempting mini group selfies while all trying to run at the same pace... saw some dude drop his iPhone on the ground shuttering it into 2 halves. Good times. Human vanity is the true movers of the economy. In any case, there was not a ton of room to maneuver here, so I ran at whatever pace the crowd would let me without doing too much twisting and turning. The first mile was predictably slow, but then we starting going down the bridge, and the speed picked up. The next couple of miles through Brooklyn along the 4th Ave were fast fast fast and eventually I caught up with the 3:25 group. I started to feel really hot in the sleeves and dropped them soon after. Bye old friends - you served me well!

The problem was that there was just not a ton of space to run around people in. I kept passing folks who looked like they were running in the 10 min/mile range, and they were all bunched up together, clearly running as a group. Knowing from the past that doing too much running around the people will eventually cost me, I tried to keep it down to the minimum. And there odd bits like having a full camera crew on the motorcycles filming some human interest story about (I am assuming) the folks using the hand cycles and so on. But for most part I could find space and was keeping a steady pace. 

By the time we got to mile 9 I was averaging about 7:14 min/mile and that pace felt about right. The heart rate was mostly around 158 bpm and it felt comfortable. The drizzle started back up about an hour into the run. It was falling steadily, never quite turning into a full on rain, but kind of just slowly drenching everyone. On the upside, I stopped drinking water and would just take Gatorade every other station. Saw an open porta potty at around mile 10, darted into it, the piping was a bit frozen up so the pee took about a minute. Started running again, and eventually the pace was about 7:16 min/mile right. Both Pulaski and the Queensboro bridges were completely packed with very little room for maneuvering. We passed the halfway marker between those bridges and the time was 1:35:39 - so I was looking at something along the line of a 3:10-3:15 finish depending on how the rest of the run would go. Had the first Clif gel at that point.

That stretch on Queensboro broke me last time, as I was probably climbing too hard and then ran down too fast too. This time I made sure to keep it a steady effort, without jacking up the heart rate into the zone 5 range. The bridge is pretty dark and dank inside, although it looks absolutely majestic from the outside. It kept echoing with hundreds of feet pounding on the surface. I came off the bridge and was feeling very pumped. I knew that I was going to finish the run strong that day. And was really looking forward to running the 1st Ave - it is always the craziest stretch!

We ran north through Manhattan, crossed the Willis Ave bridge and then trekked into Bronx for about 2 miles. As everyone would tell you, it is the least exciting part of the run from the scenic view perspective. Drab streets, project buildings and a general feeling of this lingering industrial misery - that's pretty much what you see there. But soon enough you get back into Manhattan via Madison Ave and by then you are either doing a death march on the 5th Ave or are out to bring it for the final stretch. I was feeling good, had another Clif gel, but something inside of me was beginning to ache a bit. I also started to get a little bit of a twinge in the right hammy from probably not taking enough electrolytes. Had to pop a salt tab and started taking Gatorade at every water station without exception. The twinge went away. But I sure was seeing a lot folks working through massive cramps, and more or less run-walking those last 4-5 miles.The last few miles of the race along the 5th Ave are either a steady climb, or rollers that hurt. My pace was good and steady but I definitely felt that I lost 45-70 seconds along that stretch, as I had to respect the HR - was pretty sure that I push it I might cramp up pretty severely. This was taken at mile 24.

The rain stopped for a bit, but then started back up again...   feet were dry, but my top and shorts were all drenched. The average pace was dropping, and it was around 7:20 min/mile. With all the running around people I was looking to ending up running about 0.2 mile extra, which would have cost about 85 seconds extra, and with that it looked like it was going to be a 3:13-ish finish time. Indeed, that's what ended up happening - I finished with the time of 3:13:40.

Made my way to the tent of the sponsor, got my bag and rain poncho, put on calf sleeves and started walking towards the exit. I was absolutely drenched, shivering cold and just wanted to make it back to the hotel as soon as possible to get a hot shower. The walk was not bad save for the super congested stretch near the Columbus circle mall. Got back, showered and went out with a couple of friends to enjoy a burger and some brews! Should I even say that they hit the spot?

Final thoughts. It seems like the elites were about 3 min slower  compared to 2016, so perhaps I can be excused for missing my goal by 3 mins. I love this race, but being in the second wave majorly sucks. My whole race up until the last turn to the finish line was spent running around people. I ran up full 0.2 miles extra on top of the 26.2 and oftentimes there was just no way to run clean tangents. The first 3 bridges were jam packed and it certainly cost me anywhere between 60 an 90 seconds. Most importantly - I get that the organizers want to make it a special race for a lot of people but seeding massive European club teams way above their running ability turns this into a video game for the 2nd wave folks. If you are thinking of doing this race for a BQ - I'd find another course where you can have an open road. But then again - where else will you have this kind of crowd support?

My splits can be found here and my Garmin file is there - now I am going to go work on my breakfast.

Long Beach half marathon 2017 recap

I had nothing on the schedule between Nautica in mid September and the NYC marathon in early November, so I started to get antsy.  I felt like I need a teaser race to get a sense of my fitness to help decide on the realistic goals for the NYC. The Long Beach half was convenient, a bit on the pricey side, but quite a few of my fellow athletes were running it, so I signed up. Took it easy in the days leading to the race and skipped the tempo run that week. But still the legs were not feeling super fresh, but that's just how it goes - can't really taper for a half marathon.

Woke up at 4am on Sunday, had 2 slices of bread with some peanut butter and banana slices, a cup of coffee and headed out. The drive was quick and the traffic in the area was light. I like to park about a mile away and then walk down, and usually the parking is easy to find... this time it was a real hassle. I ended up parking about 1.2 miles, in a pretty run down area. But on the flip side, a walk at an easy pace woke my legs up and by the time I made it to the starting line area I was fully awake and was feeling like running some fast miles.

By the time I made it to the Aquarium area, the bike tour was starting. A fairly long line of cyclists blocked the street crossing, and I had to wait for them to trickle out to the course. Once I crossed I saw my friend Joanne who was also picking up her bib in the morning. We chatted for a bit and then I wen to the gear drop off area to change into my running gear.

We also had a Boston line up reunion which was super cool! Have not seen Alan in a very long time.

I really had no strategy at all for this race, no goals, just wanted to go out and run fast. And I did just that. The first 3 miles I simply ran at the pace that felt very fast. The heart rate was high, Z5 pretty much all the way, so I knew that soon enough I'd have to throttle back a bit. By the time we crossed back to Ocean blvd I started slowing down and holding a steady 6:40ish pace. That felt comfortable and I knew that it was a safe pace to hold for 7-8 more miles.

I was still not that far from the second leading pack, and I was still hoping that once we get to the beach path I'd be able to work my way back into the pack if the wind was favorable. But unfortunately the wind was the exact opposite, and me running solo proved to be a huge detriment. They gapped me up quickly and by the time we made it to Belmont Shores I was easily 3-4 minutes behind. Oh yeah, I passed some odd looking slower marathon runners, including some dude wearing a Pikachu costume. Here's him checking out my ass.

Now with 3 miles to go I simply wanted to bring it home without being overtaken by my buddies. With the wind in my back from mile 10 onward, the run pace felt a bit easier although the heart rate was still way too high to be able to squeeze any real gains. 175bpm is only like 8 beats away from my max heart rate so I had to be judicious about trying to gain a few seconds here and there. Also, by the time I got to mile 11 I was absolutely soaking wet from the humidity of Long Beach, and was also weighing me down - I can do heat and cold, but humidity is my kryptonite.

Anyhow, soon enough I was turning left towards the finish chute. Was quite happy to cross it with the time around 1:25:10, and my fastest 10k/10mile/13.1 mile effort to date. My buddy Kevin finished about a minute behind, but I am sure that he was controlling his pace since he is training for a real goal (ie a sub 3 at the California Intl course in December). I hung out with him for a bit, but soon had to make my way back to the car to get home to take care of some stuff. I did stop by a tiny little cash only breakfast place run to get some omelet and bacon with toast or else my body was threatening a hard crash.

Overall I thought that the race was a success. I could have probably gone under 1:25 had I been executing on some specific race plan, but I really just wanted to go by a feel and just blast it out without any regard for the strategy. The end result gave me some confidence towards trying to go 3:12 or so in NY in November, but I'll have to recalibrate depending on the race day conditions. Until then...

Nautica Malibu Olympic Triathlon 2017 recap

I have done the Sunday edition of the race 6 times, in fact it was my introduction to triathlon and, for a long time, in many ways a measuring stick of my fitness in a given year. All 6 times I raced it as a part of the tri team at work. But I really grew tired of the shitshow that the bike course had become over time... it's no fun to race when you have to primarily focus on being taken out by a random cyclist who's not comfortable riding along cars on narrow shoulders. The changes in the team did not help either. But I love the Malibu course, and so I have decided to sign up for the Saturday Olympic distance race despite the obscene cost of it.

As it turned out, it was my last triathlon of 2017. After I came back to tri training in the summer of 2017, I felt like I had never probably recovered from the San Diego marathon. Never having specifically trained for an Olympic course, to be successful I had to concentrate on the swim fitness, and also shift the focus of the bike workouts to some short but very intense intervals. It was a tough slog for me, but by the beginning of September I saw a good size gains in my FTP, and I definitely was swimming better than ever, thanks to the time spent on the masters team.

My plan for the race was to swim as aggressively as possible for the first 1k, then bring it home with a steady kick to get the legs going, ride at roughly 82% of the FTP, and then run with the HR not higher than 180 bpm. I felt pretty comfortable than this should get me off the bike perhaps in the 6-7th position in the age group, and if I could hold a 6:15-6:20 pace I'd probably have a shot at winning it. The swim was a bit of a wild card here, as I did not want to overswim my fitness and jeopardize the bike leg.

One nice thing about the Saturday race is that it is a cinch to get to. Tons of parking, easy bike racking and full 5 minutes between the swim waves, not to mention that I was in wave 4! Woot! Got up at 3:00am, had the usual fare of two slices of bread with peanut butter and 2 bananas, a cup of coffee, stretched and rolled and was out of the door at 3:50am. The drive took about an hour. By 5:20am I was checked in, had everything setup

and got bodymarked. Had a half of Clif bar, stopped by the portajohn a couple of times and was at the beach by 6:30am. Found a good Samaritan who zipped up my Huub wetsuit for me, and took a quick dip in the ocean. No real wave action, but the water was plenty cold - about 63 degrees or so. That was fine by me, as I feel comfortable in anything above 58. There was a sighting of dolphins, I jogged for 3 minutes to activate the core and then I had a GU packet, and then it was time to go get it done.

My wave went off at 7:15. There was a lot of pushing and shoving until we turned right at the first marker, and after that it was a smooth sailing... well, swimming. I concentrated on making sure that I stayed in the mid pack of the wave and that I swam in as straight of a line as possible. I did good on both counts - came out of the water with a bunch of people in my wave swim caps, and did not zig zag much - based on my Garmin file. Good visibility that day helped a lot - unlike the last year's race, we had no fog and the chop was minimal. Swim time ended up being 26:43, though my watch showed 25:47 - I must have taken some time to run to T1.

The T1 was quick and soon I was on my way to the bike start. The temps were in the mid 60s and the wind was pretty mild. Unfortunately, the first mile or so was very crowded and I could not do much (or even get on the aerobars), especially with the tunnel under the PCH being flooded and everyone riding a narrow improvised bridge over the water. Once I got to the open space, it was just the matter of putting my head down and hammering. The leg out was into the wind as usual, and it took a bit of work to find some a steady rhythm. But I was feeling pretty strong and basically was passing people the entire time until we got to the single lane zone right past Neptune's Net. A bit more of restrained riding there but soon we were at the turn around. On the way back it really felt good to have wind in my back and I was going about 23-24 mph the entire time except for the climb out of Leo Carillo. Got to the dismount with a lot of energy, but was feeling a little bit dehydrated despite having at least 20 oz of the Gatorade mix. The bike time was 1:06:01, about 30 seconds slower than I had hoped but I was definitely still in the hunt.

The T2 was pretty quick - but this time I decided to put on socks since I was going to run in Hoka Claytons that I just had not put a lot of miles on yet. Spent about 30 seconds extra there. Still kicking myself for that.

Onto the run! It was definitely a slightly harder course than the 4 mile Sunday version. A few more u-turns and a bit more concrete sidewalk running. But unlike the Classic distance, I had lots of open space and spent little time running around slower racers. I was maintaining the tempo I had planned for and quickly passed 2 of my m40-44 competitors in the first 1.5 miles. After that things definitely got harder and I started looking at the Garmin every chance I got. On the positive side of things, I was not seeing any more of the m40-44 or actually of much of anyone at all until maybe around the 4.5 mile mark where I ran into a large group hanging with some female pros. The last mile was definitely a trying experience as I started to feel a bit of a fade setting in. The pace dropped some to 6:21 min/mile... yet the finish line was close. I thought that I saw another m40-44 racer right near the finish line with maybe 0.15 mile to go - but I was not sure. But yes - he was there... I thought about doing one more surge to overtake him, but alas that was my moment of weakness. I was just not too sure if he was in my age group, and (lame!) decided to take my chance. Sure enough - I finished 12 seconds behind the second place. Damn it, putting on socks was not such a smart decision! 39:22 was the run time, and I missed out on the 2nd place by a tiny margin. The overall time was 02:16:31.

Had a bagel with cream cheese, a banana, some water and a shot of fancy coffee drink that some company was giving away at the finish line. Hung around a bit, got my medal and went back to the car to drive home and get some much needed SLEEP! But the sleep never materialized, and instead I spent a bunch of time watching NFL games in the company of my dogs.

All in all, I think that this was a successful race. I swam ok, bike pretty hard (19th fastest non-pro), and had the 6th fastest non-pro running split. I might accept an invite to go to Cleveland nationals next year since I think that this was a strong enough showing.

Now - onto the NYC marathon!

San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon 2017 recap

Why the hell was I even there? I guess that I just like racing. Signed up for this race for 3 reasons:
  1. San Diego Rock'n'Roll  2012 was my first marathon. I wanted to see how I progressed in 5 years.
  2. It was only $70 through a promo.
  3. In June of 2016 I was not sure if I was going to get into Boston, so I wanted to sign up for a late Spring marathon as a fallback.
So then I got into Boston and talked myself into racing the "inaugural" Santa Rosa 70.3 in mid May... and suddenly I had my hands full with 3 races in 7 weeks. I kind of considered both Boston and Santa Rosa to be the A races, and so had to re-allocate the time that would have normally been spent on running/recovering to cycling. As the result, I ended up with 22 weeks of mixed mode training and racing with about 37 miles per week of running all in all. In other words, this is about 25% lower than the mileage I'd consider standard for the marathon training. The big positive was that I got plenty of aerobic exercise, which made the tempo runs very very fast at low heart rate readings. Accordingly, in 2017 my times for 13.1 were about 5 mins better than my previous PRs, but running a full marathon in Boston on 39 mpw for 15 weeks proved to be not so awesome, even though I BQ'ed there.

Come mid May, I vacillated for a while thinking of just using my cancellation option that I paid an extra $10 for during the registration, but then the stupid part of me took over... and with that I decided to give it a go since I had a whole bunch of Hilton Honors points and there was a Hampton's right next to the finish line that I could book for $30/night after applying the points. I also was keen to test the theory that I had read on Slowtwitch that if you can hold a certain pace for 16 miles, you should be able to hold it for 26 miles. I was pretty certain that I can hold 7 min/mile pace for 16 miles, so in theory that'd would have given me a very solid PR. In other words, all kinds of cocky, stupid stuff but if you don't need to worry about BQ'ing, all kinds of self abuse suddenly seem like a good idea.


Drove to San Diego in the afternoon, checked into my hotel and walked about a mile or so to the convention center. It was a bit crowded, but I got done with the packet pick up fairly quickly. I had no desire to hang around, so I walked back to the hotel and noticed that it was quite warm despite the cloud cover and definitely VERY humid - I was sweating from just a moderate walk. Huh!

Stopped by a nearby Claim Jumper for dinner. Had a beer and a chicken club sandwich with mashed potatoes. Was really really full when I left. Watched TV for a little while at the hotel, read the book and went to bed at 9:30.


The alarm clock went off at 3:45am. I was actually soundly asleep for a change. The pre-race meal consisted of 2 strawberry pop tarts with peanut butter, a banana and 2 cups of coffee. I was out of the door at 4:45am with the intent of solo Ubering to the start line. Luckily a couple of runners downstairs graciously offered to split their Uber with me, so for $5 I a ride to Balboa park arriving at around 5am.

Walked to the gear trucks, sat on the curb, chatted with a few fellow runners, got my gear bag checked in and went to the porta potties. Just like 5 years ago, the lines were super slow moving, and eventually I just gave up and committed a quick pee behind a tree. No idea why this race sanitation situation is like this - seems like a ton of porta potties, but I guess for some 30k people+support at the start it is just not enough.

Made it into the Corral 2 about 5 mins before the start.  To be honest, I still did not have a very good plan as to what I was going to do race wise. From looking at the elevation profile I knew that
  1. there will be rollers for the first 10 miles
  2. there was a big drop coming at mile 11 or so 
  3. the hill on the 163 that used to be mid way through the race was now coming sometime around mile 22. 
  4. the elevation gain was going about the same as Boston
With that in mind, I decided to just hold the same pace I did for the Santa Rosa 70.3 run leg (about 6:50 min/mile) for as long as I can and, if things go well, re-assess at around mile 18. Wanted to be sure that I have something left in the tank to do that hill and then just blast down to the finish line. I also allowed myself  2 30 second pee breaks around miles 8 and 16 to break things up and give myself a breather.

The race kicked off at 6;15am. Oddly, for a while everything was happening more or less as planned. I jammed the first 12 miles running slightly under 6:50 min/mile, but the legs were not feeling fresh at all. From the mile 3 I was feeling like I had run a 10 miler already, mainly in the quads and the hip flexors. But I pressed on and was concentrating on not pushing the rollers too forcefully, having learned that lesson in Boston the hard way. There were lots of them for the first 8 or so miles, with a couple of decently steep but short climbs. The sky was overcast, with almost no wind and a muggy but cool air. After a while it started to drizzle a tiny bit and soon I realized that I was completely drenched from the humidity. But the weird thing was that I had to keep taking fluids at almost every other station - it sure felt like I was sweating up a storm. Even my feet were eventually swamped in sweat.

We left the downtown area, ran around Normal Heights (what a name) and eventually split from the half marathoners. Then after a while we were moving along the side (but in the opposite direction) of the runners just going through mile 5 or so. At one point I saw a bunch of school girls all decked in KISS makeup and costumes and had a really laugh. They were going completely nuts rocking out to Dr Love - fantastic! More looping through the neighborhoods and eventually we got to Presidio Drive, where the big drop was about to happen before we would cross the 8 freeway. We ran down that serpentine downhill that had some pretty steep sections where I had to slow down and go very gingerly since the pavement was a bit wet. Once I got done with descending, that's when the legs started to feel really uneasy for the first time. I was definitely doing ok aerobically, and the effort did not feel too hard, but the lack of training volume was not helping any. I was slowing down a bit, and I could tell that I won't be able to hold the sub 7 pace for that much longer. Saw the leading men while making my way through Overlook to to Mission Bay and they looked pretty miserable too, so that made me a feel a bit better but not really.

At that point I started taking caffeinated Clif gels every 3 aid stations. Really wished that I could have some Cola, but no dice. This was probably the lowest point of the race for me, as I was really dreading that I had miscalculated my abilities and there would need to be some walking in the near future. Coming out of the Mission Bay area, and tracking back along the road that we took on the way there, I saw a bunch of other runners, and they were definitely suffering. Eventually, we started climbing at around mile 19, very slowly but... suddenly I would see people in front of me slow down and walk, stretch, jog. Not race anymore in other words. I was not hauling ass anymore either, but I was still moving at a reasonable clip, so at that point I started to pass some people. Eventually made it to the off-ramp to the 163, saw the KISS girls one more time, they were still going nuts. Awesome!

Suddenly I started feeling better. That's when the actual hill at mile 22.5 presented itself. It was more of the same - I was not going super fast but was passing people consistently. About 1/4 way up I did get overtaken by a very fit looking runner chick - I tried to hang on and have her tow me up the hill but she was just stronger at that point and eventually dropped me once we started running down. She was absolutely flying!  She definitely helped me go a bit faster up that thing that just seemed to never end. Hurray for getting chicked.

Once I got over the hill, I knew that I was going to finish strong as long as the grade on the way down was not going to be too crazy. I still had some strength in my legs but could not do better than 7:20ish min/miles. The downhill was snaking all the time and I was trying very hard to run the tangents and not put any extra distance - as my watch was already showing an extra 0.12 miles by that point. I was very very happy to see the downtown San Diego again, and see us merge with the 1/2 marathon crowd - who were also moving at a zombie pace. There was a tiny tiny hill right after the 26 mile marker, and that seemed like a mountain... but soon enough I hit the finish line. Not going to lie - I was completely out of gas. Could barely see or walk. Somehow in the downtown area I picked an extra 0.08 miles and now my total was almost 26.4 miles. Grabbed some water and Gatorade and started slowly moving towards the gear pickup area - which was like 4 blocks away.

Eventually, I made it there, got my bag and my finisher jacket, got back to the hotel, stretched, showered, grabbed a few munchies and drove back to LA. Had to stop half way through to eat something and stretch. Even McDonalds tasted good at that point.

The finish time was 3:12:50 (Garmin file here), so this at least will improve my corral placement for Boston if I decide to run it next year. The first half of the race was run in 1:31:20 and I added a solid 11 minutes to the second half, so no negative splits here! Once again - this was a hard, painful run, but then again in 2017 I was 30 minutes faster than 5 years ago on almost the same course (yay getting older?). It is entirely possible that I simply had not been fully recovered from Santa Rosa, where I was probably not 100% recovered from Boston.

I got back to my house 3 hours later, and only then realized that I was totally and completely spent. Chilling by the pool never felt that good before.

Will take the next 5-6 days off completely, and will get back into swimming and cycling next week. Won't run til the end of the June, but will need to eventually get back into the groove to build for the NYC 2017!

Santa Rosa 70.3 2017 half recap

Prior to the race.

The focus of the winter and the early spring training was getting ready for Boston while maintaining a decent amount of bike fitness. That amounted to about 45 miles per week of running and about 100 miles per week of cycling. I did not swim at all until the week of taper before Boston, so in total I got in maybe 12 swims before the race. I felt reasonably ok about being able to race the bike leg, but the swim was likely going to be a struggle. However, since it was a wetsuit legal event in a lake I was fairly confident that in the worst case scenario I'd be looking at about 40 mins. 

Friday before the race

Got into Santa Rosa at around 11am. Found parking, and headed into the athlete's village. Picked up my registration, got the swag and met up with my buddy Brad who got there the night prior. We decided to head to the lake and survey the area after dropping off the bikes. It took about 35 mins to drive there - most of the drive was along a very pristine wine country with plenty of faux Italian/French architecture. Got to the lake, parked in the overflow parking, got my gear into the bike bag, pumped the tires and headed to the T1 area.This is what it looked like from the top:

The lake was looking awesome, by the way:

Noticed that my rack was towards the end of the transition, which meant a longer run from the lake. The ramp leading to the lake looked as fearsome as portrayed in the race director's videos he was posting on Facebook. It was steep for the first few hundred yards and the concrete was kind of rough and definitely cold. The view of the ramp from T1:

I could only imagine how unpleasant it would be after hundreds of feet will splash it with water on the morning of the race.

By the way, all 3 of those pictures were taken from the Facebook group page where they were shared. Hooray for full disclosure!

Headed back to Santa Rosa, dropped off my running gear and had a quick lunch at Mary's pizza shack (it was a decent bet that we would carb up there) with Brad who was by the way coming back to racing after taking a year off. I ordered a sandwich with cheese and meatballs. It was quite filling actually and reasonably tasty. After that I went to find my friend Cynthia's new house in Santa Rosa where I was going to crash for the night. It was about 3 miles from the starting area. Hung out with the incredibly hospitable Cynthia and her husband Shawn and their 12 month old, had a bit more food at around 6:30pm and headed to bed at 9pm. Felt asleep quickly which was a bit unusual for me - normally I toss and turn all night before the race like a rookie. This time - a total fucking blackout. Good!

Race day

Got up at 3:10am, had 3 slices of raisin bread with peanut butter, 2 bananas and a can of Starbucks doubleshot espresso with cream. Drove to the mall parking lot near the start, got the bag, and headed towards the shuttles. The looked long but somehow 5 minutes later I was aboard a shuttle. A lady next to me was very visibly nervous and could not wait to tell me that she did not know how to swim freestyle and was going to breast stroke her way through. I had my doubts, but assured that this was totally doable, I'll probably burn in hell for a bit for this.

Got to T1 and got out of the shuttle. Holy shit, the parking lot was literally swarming with triathletes! The porta potty lines were ridiculous too. Went in, got the tires pumped, packed my nutrition and salt tabs, filled the water bottle... left myself about 20 mins before the start at 6:25am to get to a toilet. Well, not so fast! I got done at 6:22am and had to haul ass down to the boat ramp only to find the line of people already entering the water! Quickly chomped a GU packet, washed it down with some Gatorade and 18 minutes later started swimming with my feet were already frozen solid. 


The sun was in my face and had trouble seeing the first 2 or 3 buoys. The water temps were in the low 60s but I got used to it after a minute or two. But then we turned right and suddenly everything was clear and I got into the rhythm, despite some chop and the swells coming in from time to time. To be honest, there were so many people in the water that I did not even bother to sight and just followed the bubbles in front. The pace felt easy and the whole lake was a giant draft. Before I knew it we crossed back under the bridge and exited the water. The swim took 40:01, uploaded here. Ouch.


I was kicking myself for not bringing with me a pair of flip flops to wear on the way out of the water. Plenty of folks were smarter than me... I actually ran up that ramp and sort of jogged to the top of concrete path all the way to the parking lot. Along the way was trying to pull the wetsuit down my ankles but it was not budging, Have to mention that it is a roughly .25 mile run - the ramp is .22 miles and my bike rack was towards the end. I had to run AROUND the edge of the T1, not straight to the bike racks. I got to my bike in T1 and pulled the wetsuit down hard - and the legs cramped big time! Finally I got it off and had to make a decision about the arm warmers. I was shivering bad so the wind vest was definitely a go, but I could not see myself spending anymore time putting those things on. Grabbed the bike and ran to the exit. T1 time was 8:59.


This was my first race on my Cervelo P3, so I was a little bit cautious not knowing what to expect from the bike in terms handling and the position. I got it in mid April and by the time I had it all built up and fitted... was just not enough time left to test it out in real conditions. I had a few issues with the seat post slipping, and the 11 speed chain already popped once... all of this was weighing in on my mind.

The exit was crowded. Some tall dude in front of me got on his bike but was probably in too high of a gear - and so he toppled right over into the ditch. I stood on the pedals and pushed through the short incline and was off to the races. Grabbed a quick gel with double caffeine and crossed the bridge. The powermeter was acting up and my right foot was having trouble clipping in. Finally I got to the descent out of the lake and was able to relax a bit. The descent was quick and fast but I  was not rushing it since I was too cold to go hard or react to the emergency braking situations. 

The first 10 miles went by quick. Got out of the lake park, rolled along the wineries on Dutcher Creek for a bit and eventually got to the 1st climb. It was a bit steep, with some sections of the grade in the 8%+ range but nothing killer. After that it was again more rollers and a few flattish sections. Basically the old Vineman route in reverse. Got to the 1st aid station and refilled my water bottle and dropped the vest. I was mainly fighting the road surface up until mile 26 or so, which was where we hit the second climb. Again no problemo.

After that there was a long stretch on Westside road which was all rollers and that was one section of the course that I knew really well from my past rides in that area. I started to feel some fatigue once we turned onto Laguna road and was feeling kind of hot and cold for the rest of the ride. Nutrition wise I was sticking with my plan of 3 squares of Clif Shot blocks every 20 mins, a 3rd of a Clif bar and 1 Salt Tab every hour on the hour. There was a stretch of some really terrible pavement on Guerneville Rd at miles 45 through 49 or so. I was nearly nauseous from the road vibrations. The final 4 miles were back in Santa Rosa and were very very crowded with cyclists going 3 rows wide in a single traffic lane. I just hung in there and cruised to the finish. Ride time turned out to be 2:48:30, uploaded here. Most importantly, I felt ready to make up some time on the run.


Easy peasy - shoes left clipped in, ran up to the rack, parked the noble steed, swapped the helmet for the hat and the number belt, put on my Cliftons and ran out. It took me a good 40 seconds to get to the end of T2 - 2:54.


I felt great, really did. Running on a smooth bike path,  along the side of a nice stream in a mostly shaded area was a big plus. I was passing people the entire 13 miles, no joke. Felt had a crazy good vibe going all the way through maybe mile 10 and by then I started to get a bit hot. Was taking Gatorade and water every station and Cola every 3 stations. Had a bit of a panic through mile 8 when I realized that I am heading towards the finish line... finally saw the turn around like 0.3 miles from the finish. Phew.

The second lap was also pretty fast sort of following the first lap. Started fading a bit around mile 11 and 12, but I never felt like the wheels were going to come off. Was still passing a ton of people. Kicked up the last mile and finished strong. Run time - 1:29:02, uploaded here. Overall 05:09:26, for the 39th in the 40-44 age group out of 343.


Ate 2 slices of pizza and 2 bananas and a Cola, chatted with some folks, got my gear bags and my bike, showered and drove to my buddy's house in San Carlos where I had some sushi, some wine and a damn good company of my old friends. Crashed at 10pm, had a great breakfast in the morning with my hosts and then drove back to LA with 3 (!) stops to stretch the legs.


I might return next year for this race when it happens in July. Well organized, and if the roads are somehow fixed up - it will be a killer little race. 

Boston 2017 recap


Qualified last year with a 3:11 time, but after that did mostly IM type of training with no real significant running volume. Started to get a bit more focused in the beginning of 2017, but for most part the volume was quite low – about 12 weeks at 43 miles per week average with a lot of bike workouts mixed in as I was also training for the Santa Rosa 70.3. As the result, my bike fitness got way better than what it normally is in Spring, but my run fitness was probably a bit less than optimal. Additionally, I started having some hip and hamstring tightness on the left side, and had a really hard time stretching it out. For the last 2 weeks before Boston I tapered off the run volume and replaced it with the swim volume feeling that it is the right move.

Day 1.

Got to Boston at around 4pm. Got super duper sore just sitting on the airplane. Dropped my stuff off at the hotel, hopped on the T and got to Hynes Center at around 5:30pm. It was crazy packed, the streets, the entrance, the expo – very busy as expected.

I’ve noticed that it was really really warm and humid that day. Not a good sign. Got my registration and my packet and shot right out of the building. Grabbed some groceries and then stopped by PF Chang’s in Cambridge for the fried rice combo.

Back in the hotel by 8pm and asleep by 10pm.

Day 2.

Woke up, ate a small breakfast with a sandwich and coffee. Next was my 2 miler shakeout run. Holy crap, was it hot and humid and windy at the same time! The temps were in the mid 80s and it felt sort of tropical. The first mile into the wind was pretty horribad, and the return was a bit better but not very encouraging. Was astonished to see a number of French speaking runners just powering into this muck the day before the race – and going HARD!
Got back to the hotel, showered, walked around Cambridge - which was almost completely shut down because of Easter Sunday. Took the train to Boylston to meet up with the member of my tri team also in Boston for the race. Ended up at a pretty generic Irish pub, had a sandwich and french fries. Back to the hotel at 4pm, lazed around for a bit. Got my gear set up for tomorrow, had plenty of fluids, and went to bed at 10pm. Did not sleep well at all.

Day 3.

Woke up at 5:30am, ate the usual PB and Banana sandwich with coffee. On the T by 6:30am. Dropped off my gear bag and headed for the bus with a bottle of Gatorade and 3 small Clif bars. Shared a bus seat with a gent from Oregon named Norm. Got to the athlete village 8am. Could have slept for another hour easily…
Hung around the tented area, ate a little, drank a little, chatted with a few runners. In the corral by 10:20am after a surprisingly long walk through the village – I was assigned to the Wave 2/Corral 1. It already felt warm – not as bad as the day before, but the sunshine was direct and definitely felt a few degrees warmer than the real temps. Humidity was also quite high. We kicked off right on time at 10:25am. My plan was to stick with the 7:14 min/mile pace for as long as I could until Newton, give up a couple of minutes there and then make it up from mile 23.
The first 2 miles were mostly downhill with one or 2 minor climbs. The crowd of the runners was very thick and we all moved in unison with very little space between the runners. The crowds were loud and insanely supportive. The entire stretch had almost no empty spaces where no one would be cheering. Held the pace quite well for the first 8 miles and was ahead of the schedule by 30 seconds. Decided to reward myself with a quick pee break. Started running again and was about 15 seconds behind at the next mile marker.
From the nutrition and hydration perspective, the strategy was simple. A cup of Gatorade every drink station unless I am taking a gel that mile, and small sip of water, with the remaining cup and a half of water dumped on the head, back and shoulders. I would eat a Clif gel every 6 miles and in case of cramps, I had salt tabs.
Started to feel a bit bad at mile 10 – the constant rollers were beginning to grind me down. I would lose 5-10 seconds on every uphill (and they were coming in all the time) and would not get all of them back on the downhill. Was trying not to get frustrated and kept my emotions in check. The mind was in a good place, and the tempo felt very very manageable. By mile 15 was about 68 seconds behind, and decided to take another pee break before we would get to the Newton hills.
I actually went through the major inclines without feeling fatigued or even noticing them very much. But the downhills were my undoing and I would give up 30-40 seconds per major hill. By mile 23 I accumulated about 5 minutes of debt and the legs were starting to give up the ghost a bit. I knew that I had enough in me to finish up at the pace about 30 seconds slower than the target, and I sort of let it go and started paying way more attention to the crowds and a few attractive female runners near me than to my watch. Lots of people were walking by then with cramps and heat exhaustion clearly visible. I had to get paramedics to check out a runner who was running figure 8’s in the lane next to me. I basically floated around for 20 minutes or so and once we turned to Boylston Street, I picked up the pace a bit to just finish strong. 3:16:54 was the finish time, enough to qualify me for 2018 if I want to go next year. Garmin file is here.
Walked to the gear tent, got my bag, changed, rode the T back to Cambridge, and hobbled over to the hotel room with a few other fellow crazy people from all over the world. Ate, showered, stretched and hopped back on the T for a dinner with Kevin and Carrie who wanted to celebrate. Lots of good food, probably more wine and desert than necessary – good times.

Day 4
Woke up, stretched a bit more, ate, Ubered to the airport – and off to the Big Apple!


  1. Boston requires a significant investment in training focused on running the rollers and downhills efficiently and fast.
  2. The weather can be a huge factor. In Boston it is likely to be all over the place and can change significantly intra day.
  3. A late starting marathon can throw your body a curve ball. It sure did throw mine off.
  4. In Boston pace and hydration can be the difference between a great run and a walk for the last few miles. Think through your strategy and stick with it. If you are feeling good after the Heartbreak hill, make it a race.

Run To Remember 2017 recap

Started running again in January in order to build for Boston. A little sluggish in the first 2 weeks, but started to get into the rhythm of the training. The typical schedule is something like this:
  • Mon - 6-8 miles running
  • Tuesday - 6-8 miles running with some speedwork
  • Wednesday - 4-5 miles easy running + 20-25 miles hard cycling
  • Thursday - 6 miles medium effort running + 20-25 miles medium effort cycling
  • Friday - long run
  • Saturday - long bike + 4 miles running easy
  • Sunday - off
So with that going on for a month, I thought it'd be a good idea to test the waters and see what I can do on a short course. At the end of January I ran a local half marathon in Griffith Park and did ok, basically matching where I was last year in January. I was encouraged by this development (even though I was sore as hell for 3-4 days), and so I signed for the Run to Remember half which is basically a collection of my lunch time running routes in Hollywood.

Did a little bit more work than I should have during my ride on Saturday the day prior, so the legs were not super fresh come Sunday morning when I rolled out of bed at 4:45am. Had my usual Clif Bar with a side of banana and cashews, plus coffee. Got to the Grove at around 5:45am, parked, picked up my bib, went back to the car... listened to the radio, peed in the bottle to avoid the stupid long lines and went downstairs again to take my space by the starting line.

The sub 7 min group was a little sparse so I had plenty of room of stretch and do some basic warming up. The weather was awesome - high 50s, plenty of sunshine, clear and cool. Kicked off at 7:01am, and the first 1/2 mile were a real struggle - I was trying to find some space to run, and it was a bit of an uphill, so the pace was really punishing. By the time we got to Melrose I settled into a good rhythm and was averaging 6:21 min/mile. We ran into the Paramount lot, where the water station was manned by my Tri team members. Grabbed a cup of water from Agnieszka and proceeded towards the Bronson gate. I know I look like I am being chased by cops in the picture below, but that's just how much of a savage I am.

There after a quick lot detour the 10k and the 1/2 marathon crowds split. I was able to see the field in front of me and by my estimation I was about 20th from the front.

I knew that the climb up Western and Hollywood blvd is coming up, so the rest of the run on Melrose was the effort to get as close to the group up front. For some reason I made it up Western with ease but once I was on Hollywood blvd I really started to hurt. The pace was still high, all the way to the turnaround on Vermont, but I was really struggling. Heart rate was in the mid 170s, no bueno. In my mind, I just needed to get past Normandie on the way back and then get my shit together on the downhill all the way back to Melrose.

I got to the turnaround and I was actually 21st there. The runners in front of me looked pretty young, so I thought that I had a decent shot at placing in my age group. The downhill back to Melrose was a nice relief for my quads and I was ready to take on the Melrose hill - TWICE! Climbed it quite gingerly, knowing how unpleasant it really is even on a training run.  Got back to the Bronson gate of Paramount and here we merged with the 10k crowds - or put differently, the walkers of the 10k crowd.

From here to La Brea it was mainly all about dodging the walkers, trying to not get jammed into the curb like it happened last year when a lady in front me decided to suddenly stop and bolt in a coffee shop. The average speed dropped to 6:34 min/mile. Finally got to La Brea and from here we had our own lane again. Suddenly I got dropped by a group of 3 runners. Chased them all the way to the 3rd street where a did our last turnaround, and were within a mile or so from the finish line. I caught all but one of them, but had him and one more running in my sight all the way to the finish line. Finish time was 1:25:54, official time 1:25;52, the Garmin goodness can be seen here in all of its glory.

Got my medals, picked up a few bananas and a Nesquick's protein drink and walked back to the car - slowly! Got home and actually discovered that I finished 23rd overall, and took the 1st in my age group. Yay me!