Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year in Review...

Overall I think 2010 will be looked at as a year of missed opportunities and near misses. I think that there was a lot that went right this year and it would be difficult to capture everything that was great. Often times these reviews can be negative but I am going to try and keep things as positive as possible. For everything that did go wrong there were five things that always seemed to go right. I really think that I am one of the luckiest human beings on the planet and 2010 only added to that feeling. I’m still married to my best friend which never gets old. Mary and I have more fun than any couple that I have ever met. We have the greatest dog ever in Eko. He really is the true story of 2010. He changed our lives in such a positive way that I cannot imagine life without him. 2010 also brought a new and exciting job that brought a lot of change to our lives. I get excited every morning over my mug of coffee to go to work. I work with some incredible kids and for that I am very lucky. Obviously I know everyone reads this blog for the athletics so I’ll skip the rest of the boring every day stuff.

The year started out with great promise and optimism with the return to the boards. Workouts at Baker were going well despite the fact that I was not one hundred percent confident in the program. I think I was to willing to give in to the workouts of others. While Justin undoubtedly had an eye trained on Vermont City I needed to be more honest with myself and stick to a program that would produce a fast mile. My only real speed workout of the winter was the Wednesday before Terrier. My hamstrings tightened so badly following 1x600 in 1:27, 200 rest, and 1x400 in 58 that I could not even complete the prescribed 4x200. I spent the next two days wondering if I would even be able to run at Terrier let alone run to my 4:09 seed time. I was gimping around wreaking of Icy Hot knowing that even being able to jog on race day would be a success. Race day came and I headed down to Boston not really knowing what to expect. I have laid some eggs in big races before and was pretty determined not to let that happen again. With the aid of a pot of dark roast, a couple of Sudafed and a handful of ibuprofen I managed a 4:08 while winning the second heat. Following the race I reflected while sitting on the mats, how the hell did I do that? Najem approached and pointed out a big spike gash on my shin from the race. Najem was not worried about the cut. He was worried about the fact that I was bleeding the blackest blood either of us has ever seen. I just chalked it up to way to much dark roast!

Indoor also brought on my major mistake of 2010. In my attempt to transform myself into a marathoner I decided to drop all weight lifting from my program. I figured that I would shed a few kilos up top and be more efficient over the longer distance. I did not look at this as a gamble at all, but I feel like it really back fired. Looking at the Flotrack video of that Terrier mile my upper body seems sloppy and weak. Transpose that over a 2008 video when I ran 8:07 while doing high repetition weight work five days a week and the difference is clear. I think the strength work is what makes me more efficient. Dropping it made me more inefficient and more likely to breakdown in the waning stages of races. This breakdown was in my opinion a contributing factor to later problems.

The transition to the roads when great. Despite a blindside from a phantom cramp at the Grand Prix ten miler I ran extremely tough. It would have been pretty easy to mail it in for the day when Pat passed me at eight miles but I continued to fight and ran a great final two miles in serious pain. I still think DH Jones is a great course for me and hopefully I can be ready to run there again in 2011.

The New Bedford half went extremely well considering I trained through that week. I was a little overwhelmed at with the strength of the field and the difficulty of the final miles. I was very aggressive and ran really well through a couple of bad patches that could have really put me on the ropes. Although I finished forty-five seconds off my pr (Hartford 2007) New Bedford is significantly harder and the conditions were far from ideal. I do however question if I will return to this great race. I don’t like to be negative but NB really does take away a whole weekend.

Somewhere in the next six weeks something changed and I seriously lost faith in the journey that I was on. The lack of familiarity added an element of drudgery to my marathon training. My emotions cycled endlessly about the process. There were days when I was positive that I could run 2:20 and others when I questioned if I would make it under 2:30. There is an unquestionable lack of perspective that comes to mind when I think about this months down the line. Leading up to Vermont City things went pretty well but my lack of a performance that I could hang my hat on led to dark ideas within.

Finally Vermont City came and the experience somehow managed to match up to all the hype. The first fifteen miles of the race were pretty text book in terms of execution. All things considered even the last eleven were pretty damn good considering how badly I was falling apart. Whether or not I ever run another marathon remains to be seen but without question Vermont City left a lasting image burned into my psyche. Realizing the show was essentially over at twenty was a major blow. My reaction to that blow is what will define the experience over time. Looking two minutes up the road at Jonathan Fasulo knowing that I would have to go deeper than I ever imagined to catch him still raises goose bumps. The haunting images of my hollow stare as I approached the finish still make me cringe and well with pride. Knowing that I made it all the way even thought I was not 100% confident will always stick with me. What is and what will never be....

The next nine weeks of the year were a sort of black hole for my fitness. That structural breakdown because of my inefficient upper body left me with a tattered achilles. Medically it was tendonitis and I was an hour away from committing to a month in the dreaded boot of shame. In a very calculated move I decided to roll the dice and start training while there was still some slight pain. Knowing from Mary’s experience the past two years I knew that if it was bad that I would learn sooner rather than later. Obviously the achilles injury was terrible and it ruined a seven month training block. Heading into VCM I was leading the USATF GP by one point over Fyffe and had a nice little gap on Ely. Winning the GP was a huge goal for me this year so to see it slip away with half the season in the bag was tough. There were however some silver linings to the injury that will shape my future. I really got into swimming which has been the only thing that ever held me back from becoming serious triathlete. I can honestly say that I started looking forward to two mile swims at Wilson Pond. I became more and more efficient with each passing week and even started to convince myself that I could be competitive during swim legs. I rode my mountain bike to its limits every chance I got which really helped my power. I could not believe how well I was climbing by the end of the summer.

Obviously one of the biggest days of the year was my triathlon debut at Give Peace a Tri. I fell in love with the sport that day and despite shaky fitness managed a solid finish. I can’t wait to tear that race to shreds next summer with some real work behind me. I really think that I will be five to seven minutes faster next year, I can’t wait. The momentum from Give Peace a Tri led into The Circle Tri a month later in Ashland. There was so much energy and excitement that morning. Starting in the third wave was a crazy shot of adrenaline. Passing waves of swimmers before that instant when I emerged from the water was brilliant. That instant of looking up and assessing the situation while simultaneously putting the swim in the past is indescribable. Tearing the race apart on the bike with the knowledge that my best leg closed the race gave me the shivers. Wheeling the run almost three minutes faster than anyone else convinced me that I could be unstoppable. The Circle Triathlon cemented my decision to make triathlon my primary focus for 2011.

The fall was going amazingly well until Thanksgiving break. I was on the cusp of real fitness with my running. I was being very conservative following the achilles injury and had not logged a week over seventy miles. I had just completed my third track workout since the injury and had run 24:53 the previous Sunday in Fitchburg. Things were really starting to look up in the running department with each passing day. To put it simply I was also killing it on the bike. My body somehow naturally adapted to the time trial bike. We were a great team before the accident. Veterans Day afternoon following a ten mile morning run was a true sign of things to come. I absolutely exploded my moderately hilly twenty mile Keene loop with a 24.3 mph average. Things were heading exactly where I wanted them to go heading into the winter. I had my sights set on running fast again during indoor then setting my sights on Triathlon.

Obviously that all ended in the blink of an eye when an eighty-one year old women made a bad decision on West Street in Keene. This was unquestionably the most terrifying experience of my life so far. Thankfully nothing broke except my brand new bike. In the five weeks since the accident I have come to realize just how lucky I was. There are so many horror stories about accidents like this ending in an instant. I have struggled in the aftermath with the idea of getting back to work. Lacking perspective again hindering my judgement about what a typical recovery should be. Last week my doctor tried to add perspective that made my current reality not seem so bad. He told me that for ninety-nine percent of his patients that this would be a year long healing process. He came right out and told me that I am the only person he knows that could have walked away from this crash. (He really said walked away despite the three hours in the ER) With that in mind a month did not sound all that bad. I have forced myself to find a few silver linings and they sound pretty good heading into the new year. I am one hundred percent well rested for the first time in years. No activity, very few late nights, great. I have gotten to see Rob League my chiropractor pretty much every other day since the accident. I have also been able to address some nutritional issues so when I do begin serious training, I will be ready to rock. Clearly the accident sucked and it cost me five weeks but I’m hear! I’m still alive...

Heading into 2011 I think things are pretty straight forward. More than anything I want to live and train healthy! The past two years I have missed between twenty-four and thirty weeks due to injury! That is unacceptable but it shows how positive and resilient the human spirt can be in times of trouble. I’m not one hundred percent ready to roll out the rest of the 2011 goals yet. I want to make sure my body is going to be ready to cash the check that my mouth is about to write. Right now I just want to get back into that familiar rhythm of beating the hell out of myself on a daily basis to continue the evolution of this athlete.


ps 2011 is also going to bring a new ride. The Felt B14 is one of the fastest TT bikes on the road.


  1. I'm wishing you a happy and healthy new year! Any snowshoeing for 2011?

  2. To snowshoe or not to snowshoe that is the question. Looks like it may be a good year so the chances are pretty high. Although the Farmers Almanac says the snow is going to stop falling by the end of January. Good luck at MM tomorrow. See you next Wednesday.