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Boston Marathon: Local runners hoping for PR's

Sunday, April 14, 2013
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Mike Roda took advantage of some extra time to fine-tune his marathon training.

Kristina Gracey skirted extra demands on her time to fine-tune hers.

Each runner believes that they’re in position to pursue a personal record when they run the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday.

Roda, a 37-year-old member of Team Utopia who lives in Albany, has cranked up his mileage, but within the framework set up by his coach, Jim Bowles, so that it isn’t just long mileage for the sake of mileage. He’s shooting for a sub-2:30.

Gracey, 30, also of Albany, is a resident at Albany Medical College whose shift there can stretch into some long hours. Still, she’s prepared to run around 2:50, and will be bolstered by the presence of a formidable team from the Willow Street AC that includes masters Emily Bryans of Delanson, Nancy Briskie of Schenectady and Sally Drake of Albany.

“I do feel like I have a good mental picture of what to expect from myself,” Roda said on Saturday. “I can’t imagine how much fun it will be. It’s a great opportunity and could be the race of a lifetime.”

Roda was a middle-distance track runner at Oneonta High School who had PR’s of 50.16 in the 400 meters and 2:00 in the 800.

He didn’t compete in college and actually had a gap of well over 10 years during which he graduated from UAlbany in 1994, got a job with State Farm Insurance — and didn’t race at all.

His job was outsourced in 2012, and by then, he had discovered the marathon through Team Utopia.

Roda debuted at the distance with a 2:47:35 to finish eighth behind Chuck Terry, who is also entered for Boston on Monday, in the Mohawk Hudson River Mar­athon in 2011.

Bowles suggested he run in the Race of Champions in Holyoke, Mass., last May, to get a sense of what it’s like to face grueling hills, and Roda was fifth in 2:49:35.

That set him up for a return to the Mohawk Hudson River Mar­athon last fall, when he took a significant chunk off his 2011 time by finishing second to Kyle Smith in 2:33:26.

“Although Holyoke was six months out, it was a great lead-in to the local marathon,” Roda said. “It was sort of a trial for the Mohawk Hudson, but it also forced me to build hill strength. You could call it a dress rehearsal.”

Now Roda is poised to chop some more time off his PR.

With the time off, he’s been preparing to apply to grad school, and also building up his mileage, which has climbed into the 130-mile-per-week strat­osphere on two occasions, but generally has been around 100.

It’s mileage with a purpose, though.

Bowles has employed what they call a tempo-progression philosophy to Roda’s workouts, during which he’ll run for an hour at a pace below what he wants to race at, then power up to race pace for a half-hour, for example. Then the duration of the workouts increases, but always running at race pace under a certain level of fatigue in the second portion of the workout.

Each of these runs will cover a minimum of 12 miles and a maximum of about 19.

“When I did the second Mohawk Hudson, the difference was that Jim and I had done these progression runs, and the pace became ingrained in me,” Roda said.

What isn’t ingrained in him is any memory of having run Boston, since this is his first.

That’s where more advice from Bowles and his experienced Team Utopia teammates comes in.

“They filled me in,” Roda said. “I’ll be on the conservative side in the beginning, because it’s a lot of downhill. One of the things Jim says is not to go for even splits, but to go for even effort. The best way to break 2:30 is not to be too aggressive. That sounds easy, but I’m confident I’ve done the training.”

Gracey, who has a young daughter with her husband, Dan, ran Boston in 2007 (3:30:24) and 2008 (3:15), but expects to do much better than that this time, based on a 2:52 she ran in California two years ago and some quick shorter races recently.

She was second at the 2011 Mohawk Hudson Marathon in 2:56:34, and has won the Troy Turkey Trot the last two Novembers.

“It’s really hard to predict any race until you’re in the midst of it,” she said. “The last time I ran it, I was struggling on the hills and felt a little better once I got to Cleveland Circle. I hope I feel better this time, but as far as being confident, I know I’ve put in a lot more consistent mileage this time.”

Gracey, whose husband is also running Boston, has been training 75-80 miles a week for the last three months.

Weather conditions are supposed to be favorable on Monday, but she knows that a huge crowd will be out there no matter what Mother Nature is doing.

“It’s crazy,” Gracey said. “The beginning is really exhilarating, given that you’re surrounded by all these phenomenal runners. It gets loud in Wellesley, then it gets deafening in Kenmore Square. Then that last corner on Hereford Street, there’s no feeling like it.”

Another top runner with Capital Region ties is former Shenendehowa and University of Cincinnati star Scott Mindel, who ran 2:27:15 despite hot conditions last year and finished 19th overall.

Dan Larson, 61, of Queensbury, will be chasing his 38th straight finish, one of the longest streaks at Boston.

 
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