Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Harper's 6 Month Photo Shoot

Sure, Harper may be 8 months old tomorrow (13th) but we just got our photos back from Jennifer Lee Photography from her 6th month old session.  During this session we included the other two devils girls.  Here are some of my favorites from Jennifer.  Here is a link to Jennifer's website: Jennifer Lee Photography
















Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween Havoc


Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Not exactly sure why, but it just has.  It might be the whole concept of getting dressed up in whatever you want and getting together with friends and family and having a good time.  Now, as my life changes I have grown to like Halloween even more.  Over the past month Sarah has been going to as many Halloween festivities as she can fit into her tight schedule.  This year we participated in the Teal Pumpkin Project and painted a pumpkin teal and placed it out in front of the house for Trick-or-Treaters to see.  THE TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT website. The Teal Pumpkin Project is there to raise awareness of children who suffer from food allergies.  Simply put, if you participate, just paint a pumpkin teal and have non-food treats to offer kids as necessary.  This was the first year of the Teal Pumpkin Project and was definitely in the infancy stages, but I felt as though it raised a lot of awareness in our neighborhood alone.  The week before Halloween we took a family trip with all of our college roommates to The Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells to use their indoor waterpark.  We didn't plan that weekend until about a month before, so it still amazes me that we were able to get all 4 families to the Dells for a weekend full of Halloween fun and swimming.  The day after Halloween, Sarah and I had the opportunity to send all three of our kids to her parents house for the entire day AND night!  We took full advantage of this for a full day of activities.  But, now with Halloween behind us, sadly, it's time to start planning for Christmas.

Do they come any cuter?




Zoo-Boo, N.E.W. Zoo, Green Bay, WI






Pumpkin Patch Fest, Door County, WI



The Great Wolf Lodge, Wisconsin Dells, WI

8 Adults....8 Kids, all in one large condo














Halloween










Date Night




My first ever Moscow Mule....Love It!!


Monday, October 13, 2014

WhistleStop Marathon - Race Report

Immediately after getting home this past May following my first ever DNF (Did Not Finish) at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, Sarah started looking for a secondary option for my opportunity to run a sub 3 hour marathon.  I had entered the GB Marathon with a pre-existing calf issue, but at least tried to run a full marathon regardless.  I made it just 17 miles of the 26.2 mile race.  I was pretty bummed, but not really surprised that I didn't finish.  I was more surprised that I made it 17 miles than I was that I had to pull out prior to crossing the finish line.  After Sarah and I got home, I started to unpack all my stuff and then jumped in the shower.  After I got out, Sarah had already found a redemption race for me...The WhistleStop Marathon in Ashland, WI on October 11th.  After she told me about it, I was as excited and optimistic, if not more, as I was earlier in the year before my calf issue arose.  The race website claims the event to be a "smaller, runner friendly event, with a course that is flat, easy on the knees, and the one on which you can set your PR or qualify for Boston."  I was sold immediately.  I then continued to read up on the course a little more and found that it was run almost solely on an old rail road trestle, that has since become a gravel/sand recreational trail, called the Tri-County Corridor.  The race was prominently flat with a net downhill course.  The course was a point to point race starting 26 miles west of Ashland at a resort in Iron River, WI.  The race starts with a short 1 mile jaunt south on a paved road before getting on the trail.  Not only was this a simple, runner friendly course, it appeared to be a super easy marathon to spectate.  The trail runs directly East/West along major highways and has several cross roads the intersect both the trail and the highways.

It not only sounded like a perfect course for me, but the timing was ideal too.  The race was exactly 9 weeks after the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.  That would leave me one week to lay low and recovery from a long stretch of triathlon training before jumping right into an 8 week marathon specific training program.  I had already taken that weekend off for Maya's birthday weekend, so my work schedule was not an issue.  Sarah's parents have a cabin (that I have talked about before) in Cayuga, which is about a 30 minute drive south of Ashland.  So there really was no reason not to do this race.  As you could imagine, it didn't take long for me to be convinced that this was "THE" race for me to set my marathon PR and redeem myself from my first ever DNF.  I jumped online and registered that day, the same day I posted my DNF.  We made immediate plans with both my family and Sarah's family to make a long weekend of it and spend the weekend in Cayuga, and hopefully celebrate my new Marathon PR with Maya's impending birthday (on the 13th).  Or so I thought....

Training for This Race

This year was the year for cookie cutter training programs.  Every single year prior to this race season, I created my own custom, personalized, specific training program.  But this year, I opted to scour the internet for training programs.  I did this for a couple reasons (or excuses).  One, I wanted some new workouts opposed to the usual workouts I would schedule myself.  Two, I was a little lost when designing a program specific for Sprint distance triathlons.  Three, I was looking for a marathon specific program that would theoretically prepare me adequately for a 2:59:59 or faster marathon.  So, I utilized Runner World's free Smart Coach feature which allows you to create a "custom" training program based on a previous race result.  I entered my half marathon time from this past April of 1:24:31 and scheduled my race date to be 8 weeks out with an average weekly mileage of 40-45.  It spit out a weekly training program with prescribed paces for each workout.  The program had me running 4 days a week; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and a long run on Sunday.  Below is a link to a PDF file of my training program. 


In general, my training was spot on.  I was hitting all my weekly mileage and my prescribed paces.  I was feeling great throughout my entire training plan and was seeming to progress rather nicely.  Typically, every Friday was a speed or tempo themed workout.  My first speed workout was a 7 mile run consisting of 4 mile repeats which I did at my local track.  It was during my last interval that I felt a similar tightness in my left calf.  I finished my interval (stupid?) and proceeded to take an extra day off to insure proper recovery.  I proceeded to train through the tightness, at the direction of my apparently newly appointed "coach," Sarah.  I proceeded to make my next long run of 18 miles and just dealt with the tightness, but it never became such and issue where it hindered my run.  All of long runs and most of my daily runs were done on local trails.  I did this with the belief that it would better prepare my legs for the softer running surface of the Marathon.  I ran on either the Wiouwash Trail or the Friendship Trail for most of my runs.  My last long run was run on the Fox River Trail, South of Green Bay.  I think this decision was as beneficial for my mental strength as it was for my running fitness, due to the simplicity of just running out and back for 10-20 miles at a time.  Doing this forced myself to remain focused on my breathing, heart rate, feeling in my legs, and just listening to my body opposed to relying on the constant changing scenery or constant turning of city running.

Prerace

I was fortunate enough to have off of work for most of the week leading up to the Marathon.  My last night at work was on Saturday (into Sunday) October, 4th.  I was then off Sunday through Wednesday.  On Wednesday night I made a Ginger Beef Stir-Fry for dinner and didn't think anything of it...  Until 12:30am that nigh, when Sarah and I were both woken up by Delaney screaming and crying.  We both immediately thought she had wet the bed.  Sarah went in to check on her and found that she had thrown up in bed.  Within the next hour, Sarah was now puking.  By 4:30am, Maya was now up throwing up.  Grrrrrrreat....now the entire family will be struck down by the flu for the next 3-4 days and my hopes of running in the WhistleStop Marathon were going to be taken out by the flu.  For whatever reason, I felt completely fine throughout the remainder of the night and woke up at 6:00am for my final training run before the race.  I was scheduled to have SWAT Training from 8a-4p on Thursday and made it through the day with no stomach issues, even though my stomach never felt "right."  Sarah ended up staying home from work on Thursday and all three girls just laid on the couch all day randomly puking throughout the morning.  As the day progressed, however, the vomiting stopped and all three of them felt relatively better.  After I got home from SWAT, I packed up the car and Sarah decided that they all felt well enough to make the 4 hour trip to the Northwoods.  We were on the road for Cayuga by 6:00.  Maya and Sarah were both asleep within the first 15 minutes of our drive, while Delaney stayed awake for the entire trip.  We finally made it to the cabin minutes before 10pm and were unpacked and in bed around midnight.  By the time we arrived, all three girls were feeling somewhat normal, albeit, tired and sore.  We never really figured out if they had a form of stomach flu or a type of food poisoning from the stir-fry.  I opted to sleep apart from Sarah and the girls in case they had the flu.

On Friday, I just laid low around the cabin, colored in Maya's coloring book, did some word searches, and watched some TV.  I ate my scheduled menu for Friday, which was a pretty simple diet with all easily digestible foods and nothing new....and definitely no Ginger Beef Stir-Fry.  At 3:30 I drove up to Ashland for the packet pick-up, which was about as simple as they come.  I picked up my packet and walked through the couple of vendors that were selling their end of year gear and was back on the road heading back to the cabin within a half hour.  After getting back to the cabin, I ate my dinner and hung out with the gang before heading over to my mom and dad's cabin for the night.  My parents made the trip up north for the weekend that Friday night and got into town around 5:00.  They rented a cabin for the weekend on Gordon Lake, which was about a 15 minute drive south of the my in-law's cabin.  I was in bed around 8:30pm and was asleep before 9pm.

Keeping busy with crayons

My morning breakfast
That morning I woke up around 4:45am to a fresh brewed pot of Hammer Nutrition's 53x11 Organic Chain Breaker Coffee.  I ate a sweet potato with Justin's Almond Butter and a Tbsp of natural local honey at 5:30 and left for the race around 6:00.  I found a great parking spot and hung out in the Ashland Ice Arena for a little while before boarding the first bus to the start line of the full marathon at 7:00.  The bus ride was relaxing and took about 25-30 minutes.  The start line was located on East Long Lake Rd just outside of the Tri-Lake Timbers Resort.  The resort opened their bar/dinning area up for runners to hang out and stay warm.  The weather at the time we arrived at the start line was about 30 degrees.  The bar was a nice place to sit and just relax.  They served free coffee for runners and hand made bloody mary's for the family members of runners.  With about 20 minutes before the start of the race, I made my way outside and did an easy warm up consisting of various dynamic movements, such as leg kicks, lunges, and skips, all intermixed with very light jogging.

A view looking left from the start line...gorgeous!

Nutrition Plan

What I had planned for my race nutrition plan and what I actually did throughout the race were two completely different things.  I won't dive into what I ended up doing on race day here, as I will let you read the actual report for that, I will just stay with what I had planned to follow on race day.  So, I already discussed what I ate and drank for my pre-race breakfast after waking up that morning.  I then continued to sip on my 53x11 Organic Coffee throughout the morning during the bus ride to the start line.  At 8am, 1 hour before the race, I took, 2 Anti-Fatigue Caps, 2 Race Caps Supreme, 1 Mito Caps, and 1 Endurolyte.  During the race my plan was to take a Hammer Gel at miles 3.9, 7.9, 12.2, 16, and 21.6.  Doing this would provide me a total of 450 calories or about 150 calories per hour.  My preferred flavor for the WhistleStop Marathon was the new Peanut Butter-Chocolate, which is seriously, the best flavor gel I have had.  Throughout the race, I was planning on taking 2 Anti-Fatigue Caps at miles 10 and then at 20.  I also had several Energy Surge tabs and Endurolytes to take as needed throughout the race.  My plan was simple and had worked for me throughout all of long runs in training.  To carry my pills and capsules, I bought a pack of 2.5"x3" resealable plastic bags which would keep my pills dry and separated without taking up a lot space.



Gear/Equipment

Cheap, knee-high socks with the toe cut out to throw away during the race
Cheap, knit gloves that I can also throw away during the race



Miles 0-6.2

My Splits:
1 - 6:51
2 - 6:39
3 - 6:44
4 - 6:48
5 - 6:39
6 - 6:42

I was feeling really good and confident leading up to the start of the race.  I really felt as though I was going to be able to nail my goal of running a sub 3:00 marathon.  I was running with my Garmin, but turned off all alerts and alarms.  I set the screen to just show distance.  I did not want to become overly concerned with what pace I was running.  I wanted to truly focus in on myself and listen to my body.  I had read several articles on the benefits of not running with a GPS watch, and I bought into it.  My plan was to run the first 4-6 miles at a moderate pace, build up to a more intense pace for miles 7-20 and then run as fast as possible for the final 10k.  As I mentioned earlier, the first mile or so, was on an asphalt road leading south to the Tri-County Corridor.  I ran at what I felt was a comfortable relaxed pace for the first 10k.  I was feeling really good.  I was getting slightly annoyed with the trail surface however, but was expecting this.  The WhistleStop staff did make us aware of the current trail conditions leading up to the race in their regular email updates.  Due to the above average rain fall all summer and fall, they experienced areas of the trail that were slightly washed out.  They also warned of larger rocks throughout the first 6 miles of the trail.  What I was not expecting was the sandiness of the trail.  Throughout most of the race, but especially during the initial 10k, we were all moving from side to side of the trail just trying to find the most secure footing along the trail.  There were sections of the trail which reminded me of running on beaches with how sandy and soft the surface was.  There were some sections of the trail which had large rocks, some the size of baseballs, which I was not anticipating.  I first saw my support group (Sarah with the girls, my mother and father in-law, my parents, Sarah's sister, Lisa, and Andy's wife, Lindsay with her boys.  Shortly after passing my fans, the runners around me started calling my "Uncle Matt" and commented on how loud and great my crowd was, I just smiled and said they are the best.


Miles 7-13.1

My Splits:
7 - 6:35
8 - 6:47
9 - 6:44
10 - 6:57
11 - 6:38
12 - 6:39
13 - 6:55

After crossing the first 10k mark, I was feeling really good.  I honestly felt as though I was running about a 6:55-7:00/mile average.  After the race, as I was looking at my splits, I was well below that, averaging close to a 6:45/mile average.  The trail conditions continued to remain constant - Sandy and rocky in spots.  I took my second gel at mile 7.9 and was feeling really well.  I was constantly asking myself, "how do you feel?" and "how will the pace effect me at miles 20-26.2?"  I knew I still had a long race ahead and was convinced I was not going to blow up and fall apart during the second half.  Literally a mile or two before the 13 mile marker I started getting terrible stomach cramps.  They felt like knives stabbing me in my sides, they made it difficult to breath.  I was determined not to let that effect my race.  I immediately began to start thinking a mile ahead of where I was in the race.  I wanted to stay ahead of the game and make sure my plan would set me up for success, not make matters worse.  I skipped my third gel that I was scheduled to take at mile 12.2 with hopes that my cramps were being caused by my nutrition.  I did take my Anti-Fatigue Caps at mile 10 as I was scheduled to.

Miles 14-20

My Splits:
14 - 7:17
15 - 7:41
16 - 7:01
17 - 7:33
18 - 7:11
19 - 8:47
20 - 7:24

Just by looking at those splits you can tell something went wrong.  As usual, I completely fell apart after crossing the 13.1 marker.  My stomach cramps never went away, in fact they got worse, much worse.  It got to the point were I felt as though I was going to puke.  I actually regurgitated a bit several times and just swallowed it back down (sorry for being descriptive).  I knew that regardless of how I was feeling I needed to take some calories in to keep moving forward.  I took my third gel at mile 16 and it didn't feel good going down.  I tried to continue taking in water, but I could still feel everything just sloshing around in my belly.  I knew at this point a 2:59 was probably not going to happen.  I was still going to do my best to continue moving forward with hopes of a marathon PR (sub 3:03).  Due to my persistent stomach issues, I was forced to walk more and more, as is evident by my splits.  My race turned into a mile by mile survival in stead of cranking it up during the second half as I had planned to do.  I skipped taking my second dose of Anti-Fatigue Caps at mile 20

Miles 21-26.2

My Splits
21 - 8:00
22 - 8:59
23 - 8:31
24 - 9:05
25 - 8:42
26 - 9:48

The final 10k was not at all what I had hoped it would be.  My breathing became noticeably more and more labored and my stomach issues were getting worse.  I was burping more and more and doing my best to not throw up.  I never took my 4th or 5th gels, nor did I take any of my Energy Surge tablets or Endurolytes for fear that they would put me over the edge and make me throw up, and make my shitty day even worse.  I was now walking a couple times every mile.  It reminded me a lot of how I felt through most of my Ironman Marathon.  It seemed like no matter how slow I would run, my heart rate would skyrocket and I would be out of breath and the only thing that would counter this would be to walk.  It was frustrating and painful.  It's a terrible feeling knowing that you're not going to come close to your goals and there was nothing you can do about it.  It was the same old song and dance for me.  Run a strong half marathon, feel great throughout the first half and then crash hard and burn throughout the next 13.1 miles.  I did make it a point to run when ever in eye shot of my family.  I felt as though I owed it to them, not to look like I was struggling - no matter how much I hurt or how frustrated I was.  I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:16:28 (7:30/mile average pace) which put me in 28th overall (of 379 finishers) and 4th in my age group (of 30 finishers).


Post Race

Immediately after crossing the finish line, I just wanted to catch my breath.  My breathing had been very labored for the past 13 miles and my stomach felt like it had several knives stabbing me from every which way.  I quickly made my way through the finisher's chute, got my space blanket and medal and found a quiet spot off to the side and just caught my breath.  Within seconds of finding a quiet spot to rest, Maya ran up to me and gave me a huge hug, it was exactly what I needed.  It made me so happy.  I immediately took off my medal and gave it to her.  Sarah found me shortly after Maya did and she was probably just as frustrated as I was with the day.  I made my way to the post race tent to claim my finisher's jacket, which is a really nice, white jacket with a stitched in WhistleStop logo and the word FINISHER printed along the right sleeve.  The jacket is easily one of the best post race give-aways, if not THE best I have received from a race.  The jacket is a quality jacket and one that I will actually wear, especially this fall.  I made my way through the post race food tent as well, but nothing even looked remotely appealing.  I just grabbed two containers of unsweetened apple sauce.  I ate them slowly and was able to hold them down.  The was the only thing I ate until I had a beer :) at South Shore Brewery in Ashland.  Even if I wasn't feeling up for a beer, I was going to force myself to drink one, as I was looking forward to having my traditional post race brew, especially at one of my favorite little brew pubs.  I ordered a light tasting Apple Ale which actually hit the spot pretty nicely.  Right after most of the gang sucked down a beer we all hit the road back to the cabin to make the most of the remainder of the afternoon.  We had a big cook out and sat around a fire for the rest of a nearly perfect, cool, crisp fall day in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

Finisher's Jacket and Medal
My post race beer at South Shore Brewery

The race itself, as I look back on it, was an awesome race.  As I mentioned above, if I were to make on complaint it would be the quality of the running surface.  For majority of the race, the trail surface was much softer and sandier than I had expected and frankly, more than desired.  The course was uber scenic and there was rarely a section of the course that wasn't picturesque.  There were large gorges with large wooden trestles.  The fall colors were at their peak throughout the entire area.  I would highly recommend running this race, if you are able to make the trip to Ashland.  Just expect the course to be run on a sand/gravel covered trail.  If you are able to accept this fact, its a race that I guarantee you will enjoy and not regret.
A view of the course

The Day in Music

I'm going to try doing something new here.  I want to just put a song up that I feel summarizes my race.  I am a huge believer in the power of music, not only to motivate, but to tell a story, effect emotions, or even inspire.  I won't go into any details as to why I chose the song I did, and will leave that up to your own interpretation.  So, for my first crack at this, I have chosen "Takes Me Nowhere," by The Offspring.


What's on Tap

How lucky am I to have such a great support crew!!
This one was tough.  I had high expectations and really thought I was going to be successful.  I went into this race more confident, more optimistic, and honestly, more arrogance than any other race to date.  As I sit here writing my race report, just 2 days after finishing over 16 minutes longer than my goal, I am left with feelings of failure, guilt, and more questions that I just don't have the answers to.  I feel like I failed, I have no idea why, or how, but I failed.  Don't get me wrong, finishing a marathon in 3:16 is still nothing to scoff at and honestly, I am happy with finishing in the time that I did, but, still, I know what I am capable of, or at least think I know what I'm capable of.  And, 3:16 is NOT the peak of my abilities.  I feel guilty for having my awesome family make the trip up north to watch me to just fall short of my goal.  I feel like I not only let myself down, but let them down.  They all knew my goals and aspirations.  They knew how bad I wanted it, so when I finished in 3:16, I felt like the 4 hour drive up North was all for naught.  I feel as though I am carrying the burden of a weekend of something better to do, than watch me struggle through yet another marathon.  I wonder how much longer I will continue to get the best support of any other runner on the course, before my support group says, "you know, we have something better to do..."  Finally, I am left with numerous thoughts just racing through my head.  I wonder why I can't put together a strong marathon.  Am I running too much?  Should I be running at a higher weekly mileage?  Is my nutrition as dialed in as I thought?  Do I need to just step away?  Should I run more?  Do I need to reevaluate my goals and abilities?  Is a sub 3 marathon realistic?

To her, I'm the worlds greatest runner

The more I sit here and think about it, I am torn.  I don't know where to go.  Almost immediately after I finished this race, Sarah looked at me and didn't offer any words of accomplishment, apathy, or congratulations.  She simply looked at me with a disappointed face and said, "maybe you just need to step away for a year."  I'll be honest, it pissed me off, it wasn't really what I wanted to hear at that moment in time.  But, that's my wife, she's very strong, and bull headed.  She doesn't sugar coat anything.  Frankly, she has every right to share her emotions with me.  She has made just as many sacrifices throughout the years for me to race and train, so I would be foolish to think she owes me anything.  But those words stuck with me, and still stick in my mind.  I wonder if maybe she's right, or if she was just speaking out of frustration from watching me train so hard just to continuously fall short.  I honestly don't know what to think at this point.  I know I want to run a sub 3 hour marathon more than anything.  I know that I am unwilling to just give up.  I am not a quitter, I will not give up, nor will I accept my mediocrity.  I don't know what it will take for me to accept the fact that running a 2:59 marathon just might not be in my deck of cards.  What I do know, is how I feel right now, as I sit here sore as hell, writing this report.  I feel frustrated, angry, and a desire inside that is burning bigger and hotter than ever.  I am motivated, driven, and unwilling to quit.  I may have numerous other goals (just check out my bucket list), but none are more meaningful or more important that running 26.2 miles in under 3 hours.  Right now, today, I am here to say I will most likely be running another marathon, hopefully early this spring.  I think I am going to set aside my cycling and swimming fitness to focus on my running, if that's what it is going to take, that is what I shall do.  I will train like a runner....not a triathlete.  I will add strength training to my program to strength up my legs to better withstand the torture they endure over the course of a marathon.  I will continue to refocus my diet and continue to pursue my desired body composition.  Ultimately, I will run a 2:59 marathon.  Mark my words.  

So what now...like right now, the immediate future?  I do need a break, I am not a fool.  I need to recharge both physically AND mentally.  I am taking a week or two off from working out and possibly 3-4 weeks off from running.  I want to get in some yoga, strength training, swimming, and cycling before the snow starts to fall.  So until then, I will continue to stay up to date with my blog, so stay tuned!

Thanks as always for following my journey throughout yet another successful race season!