I’ll be going to Star Wars Celebration VI, and I have no doubt it will be a tremendously fun time.
You should go.
Specifically, you should go to GeekDad, where we’re giving away two four-day passes to this August’s Star Wars Celebration in Orlando. Deadline to enter is next Tuesday, July 3, 2012.
I’ve mentioned the role Atari played in my childhood a couple times before –
– so I love this timeline that Atari created, and which we’ve shared at GeekDad, in honor of the company’s 40th birthday today. (Below is just a peek – click through to see the whole thing, and enjoy some flashback cake.)
As a follow-up to writing about my Canton Marathon run, I also did a post for the North Canton Patch site noting several things I felt the race organizers did well: Five Things the Canton Marathon Got Right. There’s already a little bit of discussion about the race over there, and I’d love to hear more. (I’m shutting off comments to this entry, so if you have feedback to share, the Patch post is the place for it this time.)
Another eighteen-week training calendar is (mostly) full of Xs, and my second full marathon is behind me.
- Training start date: Feb. 14, 2012. Canton Marathon date: June 17, 2012.
- Running days: 68 (Days missed: 4)
- Total miles: 453.3. (Miles missed: 35)
- Marathon time: 4:15:33. Marathon pace: 9:47
That time is around 20 minutes slower than my first marathon – the Towpath in 2009 – and well short of the 8:23 pace goal I had in mind when I started training, but ultimately, this race turned out to be about more than that particular goal.
I was a real bundle of nerves the night before the race, but I carb-loaded and was tired enough to go to bed early, so when I woke up at 4 a.m. Sunday, I felt rested enough.
Adam and I left at about 5:10 to head downtown to the Stark County fairgrounds, parked and caught one of the many shuttle buses with no trouble, and were over at Fawcett Stadium by about 5:50 a.m.
Due to the last-minute arrival of many racers (guilty!) the organizers had to push back the start 20 minutes, but that seems like a pretty small inconvenience in the face of how smoothly I thought the whole parking/shuttle situation was handled: They seem to have had more than enough buses running to and from the fairgrounds – Adam and I had the same quick and easy experience getting back to the car at the end of the day. (Having run in three Akron Marathons, there’s no comparing the two parking situations. I know Akron attracts three times as many runners, but parking up there is a real issue, and every year we wind up parking on some side street and walking a half-mile to the starting line.)
I had trained differently for this race than my first one, and I felt a different sort of nervousness going into it. Several differences between then and now: On the one hand, there’s “Yes, I’ve done this before.” On the other, there’s, “Yes, you’ve done this before, so you know it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to suck.” No headphones in reserve for a late-race distraction this time, but Adam was running with me to keep me going, since he wasn’t going for a personal record, and we’ve never run a full marathon together before.
I went into this one with the mental approach of breaking the run into sections, planning for 90-second walk/water/gel breaks at 5, 9, 14, 18, and 22 miles. In terms of timing, I was hoping to maintain an 8:15 pace for at least the first five miles, and the first nine if at all possible – after that, I knew it would be a matter of just trying to keep going.
Now, we knew this course was going to be hilly – hugely different from both the completely flat Towpath and Adam’s first marathon in 2008. And we’ve heard from people who have run the full and also-hilly Akron course that it’s a bear.
Here’s the elevation chart for Canton’s run:
So, see, we knew that the first five miles covered the biggest net elevation gain, but it’s more gradual than the comparatively drastic ups-and-downs from about Mile 12 to the end. How grueling was that second half? Well, we’d reached the 13 mile marker after 1 hour and 50 minutes, so I was still on pace to beat my Towpath time. The second half beat the crap out of me for the next 2 hours and 25 minutes. I mean, damn. And that climb from Mile 20-21 was probably the worst.
I am proud to say this, though: I only walked for those scheduled 90-second breaks, and the only alteration I made to my plan was that I took my final gel walk at 21 miles instead of 22. Granted, there were times when I was barely passing the marathoners who were, in fact, walking up those hills, but I stuck to my plan, dang it.
Another big difference this time around was my familiarity with the course – for the most part, it covered streets I’ve driven most of my life, so turning a corner or coming over a rise, I had a pretty good idea just how far it was to the next landmark or turning point. Lots of changing scenery and neighborhoods. I liked the route.
Despite fears of an uncharacteristically hot day, the weather turned out to be pretty good for a run: Adam and I were a little worried just after Mile 5, when the sun was clearing the trees and starting to heat things up, but not long afterward, the clouds we had been hoping for moved in. In fact, in Mile 22, just after my last break, there was a great blattering downpour for about 10 or 15 minutes – it was refreshing and energizing and I laughed out loud and whooped with a sort of delirious exhilaration. It didn’t last long, and it made my shoes feel about 3 pounds heavier for a couple miles, but it was crazy and fun.
The last mile, then: Mostly uphill. Again. But I can feel the end drawing near, even as part of my brain pushes a super-early-warning button that sends the message, “Hey: Am I going to throw up? ‘Cause I kind of feel like -”
Just breathe. Slow, deep breaths. You’re almost there.
And then we turn onto the final street, and Adam has slowed to let me catch up, and I can see Fawcett Stadium ahead, and I want so badly to charge full-tilt, but that whole not-barfing thing is keeping me a little in check, and then, when we’re about 30 feet from the gate into the stadium, Adam nods and points to a runner about 15 feet ahead of us: “We gonna pass this guy?” He’s smiling.
I’m not sure I can mount a charge without puking, and I say, “I don’t think I can.” Adam: “No big deal. Whatever you can do.”
I look at the runner ahead again and say, “Yeah, let’s do it.” Adam: “Go ahead.”
I cannot stress enough how much it meant that Adam ran this race with me. We weren’t side-by-side the whole way, but he was always within earshot, and he’d slow up to check on me, to make sure I was hydrating at all the stations, to remind me to try and get my knees up and stride out the downhills when we could, to tell me I was doing well even in those later miles when I knew my hopes at another sub-four-hour time were shattered. On those late-race hills, when I wanted so badly just to slow down and walk, I saw him up ahead and kept going.
And it meant maybe a little more because I’m not sure I’ll be doing another full marathon again. Training for this one, I’ve come to realize that while I can do these 26.2-milers, I’ve found myself thinking more about running half-marathons and working on that pacing and seeing how long I can sustain and 8-minute (or faster!) per mile pace.
So when Adam said, “Go ahead,” I poured it on and passed the guy. And then with a quick left turn, I was on the field at Fawcett Stadium, and I could hear people cheering in the stands, and I could see the finish line, and then – goosebumps – I heard the announcer’s voice echo, “And here comes…John Booth!” And yes, dammit, I raised both fists to the sky and couldn’t help smiling, because then he said, “Followed by… Adam Booth!” And we were about 30 feet or so from the finish line, and I turned backwards and pointed both hands at my brother, and just before we hit the finish line, he did a goofy Heisman Trophy pose (c’mon – it’s Fawcett Stadium!) and I cracked up, and we high-fived and completed our run together.
I won’t forget that.
And then we enjoyed the post-race atmosphere for a bit. Canton’s medals were much bigger and heavier than I’d anticipated; and while there were no sandwiches, the food haul of chips, apple slices, peanut butter, bananas, water, cookies, chocolate milk, beef jerky and two beers easily topped the disappointing dry bagel handouts at Akron last year.
Funny how quickly the marathon’s moments of pain and doubt, which felt like they stretched on and on during the race itself, have receded so quickly in the rear view.
…and part 2:
Love the Sherlock scarf and Frodo’s hairy feet.
Also, when I got up for the marathon this morning, I found an incredibly nice and encouraging note from her.
And it came with a lucky mustache.
(Also, Jenn got me some cool shorts and a new swimsuit for an awesome family vacation that’s coming up. The excellence of the day will continue with vindaloo, which Jenn excels at making. The mustache: It is lucky!)
And finally, here’s a silly picture of me and my dad.
Tomorrow is race day.
Today I will drink water, eat carbs, and try to distract myself from the fact that Tomorrow. Is. Race. Day.
I still need to pick up my runner’s packet with my number and timing chip – I plan to do that this afternoon.
The ever-diminishing training run distances over the past three weeks have me in a strange mindset: Even though I know the Hal Higdon training schedule works as designed, all these low-mileage days have kind of fogged over what it feels like to run double-digit distances. I don’t remember feeling this way in 2009.
At the same time, I’ve been really excited to see the effect this year’s training has had on my short-run abilities. In the past month, I’ve recorded personal bests for three, four and five miles.
This week, Adam and I have only been aiming to make sure we’ve stayed faster than 8:20 per mile, and we’ve been able to do that pretty easily, carrying on conversations through entire routes and climbs, and never going into full-on sprint mode.
For this morning’s final pre-race run, while we could have taken a 2-mile loop that avoided large hills, I felt like doing an out-and-back along the road that has often marked our final mile, and which includes our least favorite climb. (Why did I want to do this? Because choosing to run the hill felt like a way of flipping it the bird, I guess. Juvenile and illogical, I know. But there it is.)
So we went out and talked the entire way – even up That Hill. And though exertion crept into our breath and voices at a couple times, for the most part it felt like a slightly-faster-than-leisurely jog.
We didn’t sprint up the street at the finish, either. Final time: 15:12.
And I’m kind of floored, because the last time I competed in a two-mile race (2007), I finished in 15:16 and had to mount a full-on uphill charge at the end to hit that. Makes me wonder what I could do if I actually took a shot at the Hall of Fame or North Canton 2-Mile races this year, with a full season of marathon training to build on.
Today’s pace has little actual bearing on tomorrow’s run, I know, but it was nice to finish the training on a positive note.
See you beyond the finish line.
Over the last three weeks, as the scheduled runs have gotten shorter, the last few months of training have resulted in some long-sought personal goals over the mid-range: My first sub-40-minute five-mile run, followed a week later by a four-miler at a personal best 30:19. These have significance to me because as I’ve run more, I’ve come to know pretty well where my physical limits lie.
My fastest Hall of Fame two-miler was around 15:03 (I ran the North Canton two-miler once in a fluke 13:46, but a) I was younger then, and b) it’s almost a completely flat course, compared to the Hall of Fame’s route, which has a couple climbs.) During summer training the past few years, my brother Adam and I have pushed for speed on our shortest routes – just over 3 miles – and, last year, I achieved a 7:24 pace on a 3.17 mile loop, and that required some serious work on my part. And after a run like that, I felt like I was at my limit.
This year’s schedule hasn’t included those short, speedy runs, since there were longer pace runs on the calendar, and I saved my weekly energy for those days. But breaking the 8-minute mark and keeping it up for four and five miles recently got me thinking about those “speed days” again. Week Seventeen’s daily mileage was 4, 3, 4, and 8, and there are no more pace runs scheduled. Knowing that next week’s miles will mostly be just to keep my legs warm (only six miles, total, before Sunday’s race), Adam and I decided to see this past week what the summer’s training has done for my speed over short distances.
Tuesday and Thursday, we ran our four-mile loops while talking and taking it easy.
Wednesday, though, we ran our old 3.17-mile course for the first time since mid-March, and we gave it the old speed treatment. We did choose to reverse the direction, which changes the effects of the hills somewhat, but since the course is a loop, our climbs and descents still equal out by definition. It was a tough but fun run, and we pulled it off at a personal-best 7:14 pace, which, frankly, I wouldn’t have even thought to shoot for, because I remember all too well the days when I had to pull up short and try not to puke while trying to break that 7:30 barrier.
Encouraged, we decided to aim at an 8:00 pace for Saturday’s eight-mile run.
Seven and a half weeks ago, I surprised the heck out of myself with a personal-best 8:09 pace over this same 8.2-mile route – a pace I never came close to reaching on two subsequent runs. And I freely admit that when I went out at 7 a.m. for this one, I really didn’t feel like aiming for a new PR. Still, I felt like I should try for it, so before I could change my mind, Adam and I took off at a brisk pace in our no-chatter-all-business mode.
My thinking was this: I had just run a sub-eight-minute-pace four-mile route last week, and felt fine afterwards. Today, then, I’d just be doing the same, only I’d be doing two of them, with a 60- to 90-second walking period in the middle.
We ran the first mile more quickly than planned, and I felt like I was struggling not to breathe too rapidly, but I felt much more in rhythm by the two-mile mark, where we were somewhere around 15:45. Still below my goal pace, but not much cushion to count on during what I knew would be a difficult second-half stretch. I made sure to sip water a couple times per mile. Number three passed steadily, and in mile four, I pushed myself pretty hard once I could see the traffic light that marked my first-half finish. (We later determined this to be the 4.1-mile mark, and we were there in 31:40, for a 7:43 pace.)
Adam timed me for a 90-second walk, and I drank some water, and then the tough miles began. Much of the second half of this loop feels at least slightly uphill, and I was in a place where “pushing it” felt less about trying to speed up and more about simply not slowing down.
The final mile begins with a climb which I have come to hate for two reasons: 1) It’s long, and it builds slowly before a steep section at the crest. And 2) Once you’re at the top, the road only levels out briefly before it goes up a bit more over the next few tenths of a mile. It’s not that this part is a real climb, it’s that it makes it really difficult to catch your breath and recover from the hill just behind you.
Past that, there’s just about a half-mile and distance padding, and while I let my breathing speed up, I’m also concentrating on taking deep breaths, and we finish with a good sprint up the street. Final distance: 8.214 miles. Time: 65:25.
Pace: 7:58! Eight seconds per mile off my previous best! (And yes – it’s “only” eight seconds per mile. But over the past few years, I’ve really developed an appreciation for both how long a few seconds can seem when you feel like you’re running at your limit, and the accumulation of these small bits of time over long distances. It might not seem like much, but I can tell you that I definitely know how different an 8:15 mile feels from an 8:30 or an 8:45.)
This is a perfectly fine way to end the middle-distance runs for my Canton Marathon training, and though I’m still worried about things as far as the 26.2 mile run a week from tomorrow is concerned right now, I’m feeling pretty darn good.
The lump in my throat has snuck up on me several times since I heard about Ray Bradbury’s death this week.
Thinking about how his name first meant something to me when I was a little kid and I watched (but didn’t understand) the TV adaptation of The Martian Chronicles, but it was 1979, and I ate up anything science fiction because I was still drowning in the wake of Star Wars. Thinking about being older, then, and recognizing his name when I found Fahrenheit 451 at a library’s used book sale. It scarred me in the best ways possible, and I wanted more.
Thinking about being at Bowling Green State University in 1990 and 1991, which is when I really started scarfing down Bradbury stories by the handful, sitting in the stacks on the first floor of the library. This is where I met those bratty kids from “The Veldt” and the time-traveling hunters in “A Sound of Thunder” and the inventor of “The Toynbee Convector.” (It was also in this period when I read a review of Bradbury’s collections that featured a description of “The October Game” as the most chilling story that Ray had ever written. It would take me a long time to track down a copy, but I still remember finding it in the Upper Sandusky library on a visit to my grandmother’s, and feeling icy water down my back when I read the story alone in a quiet den.)
Thinking of “The Lake,” one of my favorite Bradbury stories ever.
Thinking over and over again of a train and a bridge and a poem and a story and, finally, the time Ray Bradbury sent me a letter.
In December of 1990, my friend Tobi took me to Five Mile Bridge, west of Bryan, Ohio, to watch a train thunder past. Years later, I wrote the following in Crossing Decembers – and though my novel is fiction, this part is pretty close to reality as I remember it:
I wrote about the [train] in that green spiral notebook, but that was a two a.m., hurry-God-please-don’t-let-me-forget-a-nanosecond rush of howl and sigh and adrenaline.
The next night, I fell asleep trying to recreate the train, the bridge, and her eyes in my mind.
After I soaked it into my blood for a week or so, one night while my roommate was out, I shut off the lights and sat down at my desk by the window, where a bright pink-orange glow came in from the floodlight on the outside of the building.
Tree branches clicked in the wind, and over an hour or two, I wrote a poem I called “For Kallie: A Night at Five Mile Bridge.”
The next morning, on my way to the cafeteria, I stopped by her room. I was pretty sure she’d be at class already, so I slid the poem in an envelope with her name on it under the door.
Late that afternoon, I was alone in my room again and there was a quick, soft knock at the door.
When I opened it, Kallie was standing there, shaking, and her eyes were wet.
Before I could even say hello, her arms were around my neck, her sweet hair like spring, her body quaking, and in one of her hands was single sheet of paper, folded in thirds, with my poem typed on it.
Jump forward a few years to late summer, 1995. I have just sold my first piece of fiction, “Heading Home,” to Florida magazine for $100. Having practically memorized large chunks of Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, I found myself thinking about the part where Ray wrote that the greatest reward a writer gets is when someone “rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire” at how your work connected with him. And I thought about Tobi, and then, since it was well past midnight, I wrote Ray what I’m certain was a rambling, barely coherent letter about these thoughts bouncing around in my head.
I mailed it the next day and forgot all about it.
Two weeks later, his response landed in my mailbox, and I remember that my hands just started shaking when I saw the return address. Inside was a one-page typewritten letter, with a few errors and one ballpoint spelling correction.
At the top of the page were these images:
And below, a short note, reading in part:
These celebratory cats are Bradbury cats and they are celebrating John Booth and his first story sale and the night his girl friend flung her arms around him and wept because of the beauty of his poem!
Much luck in the coming years from Win-Win, Ditzi, Dingo and Jack, the Bradbury cats, and from
(Oh, how I love this part – )
Over the years, I’ve opened that envelope time and again, always carefully unfolding the letter and imagining that maybe the tiniest remnants of typewriter dust from Bradbury’s fingernails are still settled in the weave of the paper, quietly crackling with static electricity and magic.
Well, the 20-miler is behind us, and after this morning’s run to start week seventeen, there are now more miles in the marathon itself (26.2) than in the six remaining training runs combined (22). In other words: Not much to tell.
So last week’s five mile runs on Tuesday and Thursday were uneventful. Wednesday, with a four-mile pace run on the schedule, Adam and I went after it with the same energy as we’d done when I ran my first sub-eight-minute five-miler a week before – and we came in at a personal best 30:19. The loop is actually 4.05 miles, so our average was about 7:29 per mile. I felt really good about this run.
We were visiting our friends Jen & Steve in Columbus over the weekend, so I mapped out a 12.6-mile back-and-forth course near their house and ran it solo. It was cloudless but nice and cool and breezy, and I averaged an 8:50 pace over the mostly-flat course.
I suppose the most significant running event of Week Sixteen was Thursday night, when I finally pulled the trigger and registered myself for the full marathon, which means I’m now committed to the race, just twelve days off.