Monday, January 2, 2012

Introducing the Pioneer Beer Running club!

This is the starting point for the Pioneer Beer Runners club, or PBR for short. I decided to start this club because I love running and drinking beer. I noticed that a lot of other runners seemed to enjoy beer. Click here for a link to the Facebook group if you want to be kept up to date on what is going on with the PBR.

I have wanted to create this club for a while but a few weeks ago I noticed that a lot of my Facebook friends and runners I follow on twitter were posting about the great beers they were drinking and I said to myself, "if I don't do this now, then this club would just become another great idea that I never got around to."

I reached out to a runner I knew on Twitter, Mike Olkin, who I knew through his posts that he lived close to the Moan & Dove, which happens to be one of my favorite bars. They have a great craft beer selection and I was the first person to earn a mug there, so what better place to have the inaugural PBR run. I asked Mike if he was interested in joining the beer runner club I wanted to start. Mike very enthusiastically responded "yes" and he helped me pick a route.

I want this club to be fun for anybody who share the same interest in beer or running that I do. This club is meant to get beer geeks who happen to be runners together socially. Very few of the people I added to this group are runners that I have actually met. I want this to be fun and inclusive. I am hoping a variety of runners participate. I don't care how fast or slow you are or if you only feel comfortable running a mile or two rather than the six miles I have planned, I want you to show up and hopefully have fun being part of this group.

I planned a six mile route that is an "out & back" that starts at the Moan & Dove on January 22, 2012 and heads east to Station Road and the bike path. I specifically chose this route because it is not a really busy road and it is incredibly scenic. Also since the route is an out and back people who don't want to run as far or are really slow can feel free to turn around early. I will create a Facebook event page to allow people to confirm if they are coming.

Here is the map of the course we chose.

I hope that anyone interested joins us on the inaugural run. If you are interested please join reply to the vent invite so if there is terrible weather I can reschedule the date. I don't plan on rescheduling unless it is really bad. i like to run in the snow and cold!  Also feel free to invite your own friends to join the group and/or run. I hope that Pioneer Beer Runners grows bigger than just me and the few others I have already talked to about this!

If the first run goes well, I will plan other runs throughout Western Massachusetts that start and end at great beer places. I am thinking of planing the runs on a bi-monthly schedule. I look forward to seeing everyone at the Moan & Dove.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I am a Marathoner!

I have always wanted to run a marathon. There is just something about endurance sports that really have always amazed me. When I was younger I ran a lot until I kept having recurring issues with my metatarsals and my doctor told me to stop running. As I got older I became less and less in shape and gained a bunch of weight. As the years went on my dream of one day running a marathon was getting  further and further away.

About three years ago I wanted to run the Holyoke St. Pat's 10K race and I went through a long process that I have written about before but was able to complete that race within my goal. Since then I haven't looked back.

Sorry for the digression but I think it really helps explain how I got to be where I am today. Yesterday, in Portland, Maine, I finally realized my dream of becoming a marathoner. My Garmin said I ran 26.4 miles, but I don't think that counts as an Ultra! Here is my race report.

I met up with Danielle who is from Portland on Saturday and she graciously offered to run with me for the first mile and back of the race route. Along the way she offered some interesting tips about the route and really helped me ease my nerves about the race. Those who know me will tell you if I am worried about something I tend to obsess over it, so there is little anyone can do to calm me down.

That night I went back to my friends' home that I was staying at with my wife and two children. I had a few beers from Sebago brewing and then called it a night. My almost 3 year old daughter did not have a good time going to bed so my wife and I finally relented and let her sleep in the same bed we would be sharing. BAD IDEA. I am a very heavy sleeper and she woke me up many times throughout the night.

My alarm went off and I could hear the rain outside, which made it harder to get up, but the big day had finally arrived. I got dressed in the shorts and tank top that I had wanted to run the race in. I checked the weather and then decided the clothes I was wearing might not be warm enough so I changed into another pair of shorts and a short sleeve shirt instead.

My wife drove me to the race start. As usual before any long run I ate a Clif bar and drank some water. I also had a small coffee since I knew I would be waiting a while before the start of the race. When I got to the area where the race I found out the Gym at the University of Southern Maine was open and went there to stretch rather then standing out in the rain. there was an issue with the B tags on the race bibs so everyone had to wear the bibs sideways so that the sensors would be read when you crossed the start, half and finish line.

As it got close to race time I realized that even though it was pouring it wasn't that cold out. By coincidence I did a 19 mile training run the weekend of Hurricane Irene in the pouring rain and thought to myself that that was great training for the marathon I was about to attempt.

In true Maine grit fashion they fired a canon off to start the race and we were off. According to my Garmin it was a little less than a minute before I crossed the finish line. I was really concerned about starting to fast. I have a tendancy to start fast. The adrenaline was getting to me but I did manage to keep the pace somewhat under control. I thought if I had a good day I would pace around 11 minutes per mile. My first few miles were about 9:30 but I figured I felt really comfortable and I was trying to keep it slow so it was ok.

The race course basically goes up the coast and with a loop near the half way mark and then comes back the same way with a few extra turns thrown in. The first mile (and last mile) are along the back bay of Portland and offers a really great view even in the pouring rain. The rain was coming down hard but it didn't bother me, in fact I think it helped keep me cool.

At around the two mile mark I the runners in front of me stopped at an intersection because a bunch of firetrucks and police cars were rushing to an emergency. I reached the intersection and had to wait about 30 seconds or so for the firetrucks to pass. Someone pointed out a comically overweight spectator across the street who standing in a door way shirtless.

Once we were able to get going again the race continued across a bridge that had the most amazing view. I skipped the first few water stations and then I was happy to see a bag piper playing as I ran by.

It was raining so hard out that it was kind of peaceful. I felt great. My breathing wasn't too hard and I didn't feel like my heart was pounding and I was averaging about a 10 minute mile pace. I was able to keep a conversation with many people during the route. At about mile 6, a couple older guys noticed that I had a bib that said I was a first timer and they were very encouraging. It was around mile 6 that the leader for the half marathon was coming back and there was a huge roar of cheers from the runners around me. This helped pump me up.

When I passed the half marathon turn I felt like I just ran through a wall. It hit me that I was really going to try to run a marathon. It was actually quite lonely for a second or two. the route continued by a bunch f nice houses. I noticed I was in a pack of runners that were similarly paced. In talking to one guy it turns out that he was born in raised in the same town that I live in. Small world!

As we wound around the route the occasional car would try to snake by. A car came down a slight hill and hit a huge puddle that completely soaked the gut behind me and he said that the funny thing was it completely soaked him but it didn't make a difference because he was already soaked. It was raining so hard that I could hardly see since I were glasses. I am blind without my glasses so I had no choice but to wear them.

I was keeping pace with a woman who it turns out is from Glastonbury, CT which is not to far from me. I chatted with her for a while to distract myself and at about the 10 mile mark I looked at my Garmin and realized I was still doing a 10 minute mile pace. This kind of shocked me. In all of my long runs I was slower than that. Somehow I was keeping a great pace and still feeling pretty good.

I saw a great sign on the route nailed to a tree that said something like "Pookie: It is ok if you poop yourself!" This made me laugh out loud. I saw several more signs for Pookie and thought, I don't know who that is but they have some great friends.

About mile 12.5 I got another great boost of energy because I saw the only other person I knew running the race, Danielle. I yelled "Go Danielle!" without even thinking. Then a little while after that I reached the turn around and then realized how close behind her I was.

I quickly passed the half way mark at about 2:10 minutes, which is almost 5 minutes faster than the half marathon time I did in April of this year. I was still going strong. Around mile 15 the ankle that had been bothering me for the past couple weeks was starting to act up but everything else was fine.  at mile 17 I had no problem with the big hill on the course, mostly because I overdid it with hill training because I heard there were some hills on the route and as mentioned prior I tend to obsess when i get nervous. It made me feel good that I was able to get up the hill that easy, but this big hill wasn't too big.

I started to slow a bit and the CT woman I was running with started to slowly pull away and I could feel my ankle screaming at me. It was ok because I knew I couldn't keep up that pace any longer. I made it to mile 20 and told a random person next to me that I had never run this far before without stopping for a walking break and that every step I took further would be a new personal best for distance. Within a few minutes of this statement I got a major cramp in my left hamstring. I tried to run through it but I couldn't. I stopped and stretched for about 15 second sand immediately started running again. During that 15 seconds I had real thoughts that I would not be able to finsih and I got really scared which motivated me to start again.

The  next six miles were the hardest miles I have ever run. Once I got going again I told myself, I have run in worse pain than this and I had trained for 18 weeks and wasn't going to let leg cramps stop me. In the next four miles I too probably 5 walking breaks. I lost count of the actual number but I am pretty sure that is correct. I noticed that I was leapfrogging another runner who was doing the same walk/run tat I was and made a joke about it on the way by me.

I ran by someone playing "Don't Stop Believing" on a radio and a bunch of college kids that were cheering everyone on and giving out high fives. I had about two miles left. My legs were cramping all over and both ankles were killing me but with 2 miles left I was determined to finish and I was not going to stop for fear that I would not be able to get started again.

I came down a sligh slope to the back bay road and there was a huge puddle that runner's were being directed around. I stepped in he grass around the puddle and my shoe sank into mud. The rain had let up for a little while but was starting to get steady again. On the back bay road I chatted with a few more people to distract myself from all the cramping in my legs. I kept looking at my Garmin to try to calculate the remaining distance when I thought I had a half mile left someone yelled that I had about 3/4 of a mile left. This nearly took the wind out of my sails.

I had already dug deep and convinced myself to dig deeper. i tried to pick up the pace but the cramping just got worse. I kept pushing forward. Then I saw the 26 mile marker and I somehow started to slowly pick up my pace. I don't know how and the cramps were still there but I picked up the pace. Then the intersection right before the finish. I was giving it all I had. the last 10th of a mile seemed like forever. As I crossed the finish line I felt like I was starting to tear up. It was so much more emotional than I ever thought it would be. I was so overwhelmed by emotion. I refused a space blanket and got my race medal. I grabbed some water and saw my leap frog friend and we high-fived. I heard my wife called my name and I gave her a big sweaty wet hug. It was a good thing she was wearing a rain coat!

Finishing the Maine Marathon was an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I am considering running a half marathon in a few weeks. I am also thinking of pushing myself to do a 100 mile bike race next year. Several people have asked me if I will run another marathon and I have not yet decided. As I write this I am extremely sore and my left ankle is killing me. Biofreeze and Ibuprofen are my best friends right now. I will say that I may try this again and on the ride back home I thought about which marathon I would like to run if I do it again.

(I of course had a couple celebratory beers at the Great Lost Bear after the race but this blog entry is too long already to talk about that!)