On the Back Side of Boston and in the FLOW

It's been a few weeks now since I crossed the finish line of the 2021 Boston Marathon. All in all I had a great training cycle, a great race and am more excited to be exactly where I am than I have been in years. I'd like to take a moment to thank Flow Training.


Rivero and Benadum celebrate a tough marathon
Photo by Boston.com

This time... all of it was different.


 

First off, my race in Boston didn't go to plan. Paces that I was recovering at for the month previous were requiring gargantuan efforts as early as the 10k mark, an early race indicator that variables out of your control are at work, in our case - 93-95% humidity. In my final 20 mile long run two weeks before the race I was bouncing easily between sub 5:00 minute mile surges and 5:30 minute mile recoveries on hills with heart rates never exceeding 143 beats per minute and averaging 135 beats per minute for the entire run. Fast forward to miles 7-9 of Boston and I'm looking at 169 beats per minute for 5:25 per mile pace. To call it frustrating is an understatement. But you take it as it comes, especially with so many miles laid out in front of you. I'm proud for the effort I put in and the mental fortitude I was able to invoke in the moment. This is why I feel like "I had a great race" even having run a 2:27 rather than achieving my goal of a sub 2:20 in Boston.


Five months of training for Boston is a long time but it's nothing new. It's standard to put in this much time for the mighty marathon. When I first got serious about marathoning I dropped my annual 26.2 mile race frequency from 12 per year to 1 - 2 per year on average. For the ten years that I've taken this approach, I've become accustom to riding the edge of burnout in the final months of training, accompanied by the relief of taking a break from training following a race. This time... all of it was different.


 

High frequency anaerobic conditioning as a part of a comprehensive marathon training plan is truly the fountain of youth!



After only a couple months of trialing the Run Flow methods (developed by Richard Diaz and delivered through Guru Running), I was running faster sustained tempo paces than I ever had before. A couple months later I was doing multiple long runs per week, hitting even faster sustained anaerobic paces for longer, recovering at paces that seemed impossible and felt no signs of burnout. I was able to do martial arts and strength training multiple times per week, hit the waves and catch surf like I did in my twenties, rally as a father of two very energetic boys and help my in-laws with their remodeling project all while coaching and founding a new business. I credit the relationship with daily visits to the anaerobic energetic system and the resulting changes to cardiovascular fitness and its effects on hormones. High frequency anaerobic conditioning as a part of a comprehensive marathon training plan is truly the fountain of youth! That is, in essence, what Run Flow delivers on.



So the race left something to be desired and I've never felt faster, stronger or more prepared at any point in my running career. Now what? Naturally, I instantly signed up for the 2021 California International Marathon just six weeks after Boston. The simple plan of a quick recovery and getting back to training to "piggy-back" fitness for another attempt is quite common when a race doesn't pan out. But...


But... in the last two weeks of training for Boston, I ended up switching shoes from the Adidas Adizero to the Nike Alphafly because I had a bruise on the knuckle of my left foot and the Alphafly had a more flexible upper that didn't cause as much pain. This decision had consequence. The Alphaflys have a very loose and squishy feel that's a lot like running on a marshmallow, which is obviously intended as a way to cushion impact, while the energy lost is replaced and enhanced by the carbon fiber plate (something extremely unnatural that I'll write about later). Long story short, my left hamstring started to get really tight after the first wear. It subtly got worse and worse as the race neared. I tried upping my stretch game but didn't realize how bad it was getting. I really disliked the way the shoe felt from the first step, but I had accepted it in the week before with no time to try other brands. After the race the hamstring issue had become a hamstring, quad and hip-flexor issue and has since proved to be problematic in my plan to train through to the Cal Int Marathon.


As much as I wish I could train hard for the next few weeks and salvage the fitness to race a marathon time worthy of my past half year's training... I have come to peace with the reality that would not actually be possible in my current state.





Run Flow has fostered a deeper connection with my own energy - how it's used, how it's restored


When I look back on all of the learnings and wins from 2021, I can't help but have this sort of awe about it all. I'm truly inspired and fired up about this new place that I've arrived. It feels like a place I was searching for without ever really knowing exactly where it was before. This holistic, vital existence has replaced a marathon fragility that I had come to accept as the norm. My hamstring and quad are recovering well with the addition of yoga to my routine and I'm back to running regularly. I'll inevitably be back to running stupid fast paces before I know it and stretching the volume back out to marathon distances. But I am a different athlete and human than I was. Run Flow has fostered a deeper connection with my own energy - how it's used, how it's restored. The excitement I have for training really isn't about paces and times, it's become a relationship of intensities expressed over moments. It's become a journey focused on a daily practice that exposes me to an entire spectrum of energetic possibility.

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