Archive for the ‘run’ Category

St. George Marathon 10/5/2013

October 27, 2013

The first recollection I have of any desire to qualify for the Boston Marathon was early in 2010.  I had just completed the Texas Marathon Challenge (any five marathons in Texas within the same year) and the Marathons of Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin in that order).  Coach Al had sent out a list compiled by marathonguide.com of the races with the highest percentage of Boston qualifiers.  I figured that was a good list to work from in an attempt to establish a new PR at the distance and maybe even improve upon it enough to find myself toeing the line in Hopkinton.

The standard at the time for a male 40 – 44 years old (I was 42 way back then) was 3:20:59.  My PR was a 3:39:42.  I figured it would take a year or more to build up a large aerobic base, burn off 50 or so lbs of fat, and find the right combination of course and weather to make it happen.  I was running a lot of sub 4 hour marathons and occasionally dropping closer to 3:50 but there is a whole lot of road between 3:50 and 3:20:59.  I really figured that my best bet would be to make incremental improvements and ultimately use the fact that my time standard would relax a little when I turned 44 (Boston lets you use your age on their race day for the purposes of qualifying even if you’re technically a year younger when you ran your qualifying race).  The time standard for a 45 – 49 year old in 2010 was 3:30:59.

By late 2011, a year and a half and 11 marathons later, I had neither PR’d or BQ’d.  It seemed like when I found a good course the weather was uncooperative.  When the course and weather were good my training was poor.  I never could get it all to come together.

Then something else bad happened.  Boston changed the time standards making it tougher to get in.  The net effect on me was that turning 45 would not give me an additional 10 minutes, it only gave me another 4 minutes and 1 second (instead of increasing to 3:30:59 it only increased to 3:25:00…costing me 5:59).

2012 came and went without me running a single marathon.  I realized about a third of the way through 2012 what was happening and began to do some serious personal evaluation.  There is not a tremendous amount of quit in me but I definitely saw myself on an unfamiliar path towards just that.  I needed to switch gears, again.

After years of “running by the seat of my pants” I hired a coach.  My running group dubbed her “top secret” but her real name is Leah Skinner.

A few weeks after I bought my bike (May 2012) I was reading through the Austin Tri-Cyclist blog when I came across this article.  Something clicked and I reached out to her.  We met for coffee, I told her what I was wanting to accomplish, I told her what I’d tried so far in pursuit of said goal, she very frankly told me “we” wouldn’t be doing it that way moving forward, and I hired her on the spot.

I control, or at least attempt to control, pretty much everything around me.  In general, I find that life is better when I’m in charge.  Better for me and better for you too.  The thought of giving up control of my running was terrifying daunting.  It took a while to embrace my new routine (integrating my new workout regimen into my existing commitments like toting the water for the Ship) but I was able to do it seamlessly, for the most part, after a month or so.

By the end of 2012 I was ready to run my first marathon in over a year.  I ran Louisiana in 3:50:17.  Not a 3:25:00 but 37 minutes faster than the last one I had done in October of 2011.  Through February and March my paces on just about every run I did were coming down, way down.  At the same time, my heart rate was coming down as well.  The better I ran the more I bought in.  Even a control freak has a hard time arguing with the kind of results I was seeing.

At the very beginning of April, as I finished a short/fast run, my back was a little tight.  The next morning I could barely get out of bed.  When I was finally able to get up I had the oddest pain radiating through my hip, over to my groin, and then cascading down my right quad.  I could only tolerate the pain for a few seconds.  The only way to relieve it was to lay flat again or to lean against something that allowed me to get my weight off my legs and onto my arms.  I couldn’t put on my own socks or shoes.  I struggled with it for a few days (popping eight Advil a day just to keep the edge off) and attempted to wait it out while it healed itself.  Not a good plan.  Oddly, I could run…but everything else was problematic. When I finally extracted myself from denial long enough to schedule an appointment with a doctor I learned that I had herniated the disc between L2/L3.  I took an oral steroid which helped but it quickly wore off as soon as I ran out of pills.  I went to see Dr. Higginbotham and he suggested an epidural steroid injection (along with about a week to ten days of rest).  The shot worked wonders and I took the following week off.

My first run back sucked.  I ran three miles at a fairly slow/easy pace but my heart rate was elevated.  I had been telling myself that being in as good of shape as I was in the time off would have little to no impact.  Wrong.  I had undone months of training…months and months.  Tunnel was around two months away and I was far, far from ready.  I pressed.  I tried to go back to what I was running and who I was running with and it didn’t go well.  I tried to run 20 with Jerie one Saturday morning and ended up quitting on her around Far West, walking to a convenience store, and calling Kel to come pick me up.

I decided to go dark.  I would dial back and run what I could at the speed I could and see what happened.  I started running either alone or by myself.  What’s the difference?  Alone = showing up somewhere where no one else was likely to be and running.  By myself = meeting other people for a run but doing my own thing (ie not pushing or being pushed).  It took several weeks for it to stop sucking.  It took a couple of months for it to get fun again.  By then it was Tunnel time.  I knew I wouldn’t qualify there so I decided to run exactly what it took to PR and I did.

I immediately turned my attention to St. George.  I had exactly 13 weeks, was feeling much better, and was running pretty well.  There were originally 12 of us who got into St. George via lottery but 7 dropped out for various reasons.  There was another decent sized group that either didn’t get in to St. George or wanted to run Twin Cities that same weekend so there was a whole lot of marathon training going on within the group.  Jerie, Amber, Michelle and I ended up doing a lot of our runs together.  Many very early mornings both during the week and on weekends.  We covered a ton of miles in some tough conditions (routinely 80 degrees and 90% humidity).  I don’t recall a lot of rah rah motivating of each other but there was an immense amount of quiet commiseration.

Those 13 weeks of long runs was like nothing I had ever done (or would have done, or even thought was possible).  By that point Leah had coached me through two prior efforts.  I thought I knew what to expect but was sadly, sadly mistaken.  As the plan took shape I reacted with a well divided sense of fear and dread.  Starting with Tunnel on 7/14, here is what the long runs looked like:

7/14 – 26.2
7/20 – 10
7/27 – 20
8/3 – 20
8/10 – 22
8/17 – 19
8/24 – 20
8/31 – 22
9/7 – 19
9/14 – 22
9/21 – 19
9/27 – 10
10/5 – 26.2

The buildup for the prior two marathons Leah had coached me through looked nothing like this.  I’m still not sure where it came from.  I think it developed from how I had responded (or not responded) to the prior routines.  I never asked, I just ran.  That was the whole point of hiring her in the first place so I thought that questioning it or varying from it would be counterproductive.  A couple of those runs were ugly.  The 22 miler on 8/10 was probably the worst.  The one on 8/31 was when I felt things starting to come together.  By September, the girls and I were running some pretty hilly routes on some pretty brutal days at some pretty decent paces.  On 9/14 we did a 22 miler that included both Mt. Bonnell and a 7:19 final mile.

At this point I’m feeling well above average and decide it’s time to take a peek at the weather forecast for race day.  For the love of all that’s holy, I could not believe my eyes.  Cool, dry, and a little breeze from the north (aka a tailwind).  Must.  Look.  Away.  I don’t dare look again until the week of and, low and behold, it’s stayed the same or gotten a little better.

At this point, I have no excuses.  The only thing that hasn’t really gone to plan is my fatness.  I managed to get down to 205 lbs but got very nutritionally lazy at that point.  I had calculated that I needed to toe the line at about 190 lbs but that wasn’t going to happen at this point.

Once the race started, it wasn’t long before I achieved a deep and absolute sense that I would hit my goal of running a sub 3:25:00.  By mile 4 I was doing a little mental math to determine what shaving 5 seconds per mile off my goal pace would do to my overall time.  By mile 9 I was tamping down the kind of emotion that is typically reserved for the finish line (or mile 25.42 of the Tunnel).  I made the very difficult decision to turn everything off and focus on nothing more than running effortlessly to mile 20 and then deciding how I wanted the finish to go.  I’ve dreamed about the final 10k of St. George since I ran it in 2010.  I even put in my race report back then how nice it would be to run that final section on the perfect day.  This was that day.

My Garmin beeped at mile 20 and it was like waking up from the best dream ever.  I had just covered 20 miles in 2:35:45 (7:47 pace) and was determined to run it in as fast as I could.  So, yeah, like waking up from a kick ass dream and then being able to close your eyes and go right back to the point in the dream you just woke up from without missing a beat.  I didn’t run hard because I needed to in order to qualify.  I ran hard because, as bad as it hurt, it felt so good.  Pleasure spiked with pain and all that.

As the miles peeled away, I started thinking about my friends that were out on the course, or maybe already finished, and their goals.  They all trained harder than me and I felt a sense of pride in their accomplishments knowing that Colin would crush 2:40, that Sean would make 3 hours rue the day(s) it turned him away, and that Amber would be able to put a PR in one of her pockets and a BQ in the other.

Hitting the “one mile to go” marker in St. George I decided to wring out whatever I had left and was delighted to see 7:24 looking back at me as I passed by the mile 26 marker.  I covered the remaining ground somewhat reluctantly…like the final pages of a really good book that you’re enjoying so much you don’t want it to end.

3:23:39.  A PR by 15:10.  A BQ by a margin of 1:21.

My 30th marathon and still 17th state…and another negative split.

Milling about the finishing area, I was struck by how good I felt.  During my years of unsuccessfully trying to qualify for Boston I had repeatedly visualized what it would be like.  I always imagined it as some heroic race day effort where I dug deep and ran outside of myself.  Where I not only made the unlikely likely, but the impossible possible.  Where I overcame nasty weather, lackluster training, and excess body fat to prevail in some epic way that would be worthy of an urban legend AND a trip to the medical tent.  But, no.  The truth is that I really qualified on Steck at Shoal Creek, on S. Congress at Ben White, on Scenic, and on 10 Mile Mondays in the months and weeks leading up to this race.

The first half of St. George was about 50 seconds slower than my half marathon PR.  The second half of St. George was about a minute and a half faster than my half marathon PR.  The final 10k of St. George is faster than my 10k PR.  I will run 3M in January and try to find a 10k in order to officially update those distances.

I’ll be in Boston to run the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014!

Tunnel Marathon 7/14/2013

October 8, 2013

I don’t cry much.  In fact, I’d say rarely if ever.  My son, Bailey, commented several years ago that he’d never seen me cry and doubted he ever would.  In light of that, I found it rather odd to be standing in the middle of a gravel trail 25.42 miles into a 26.2 mile race sobbing uncontrollably.  When I say standing I mean standing as in standing still (aka not running towards the finish line less than a mile away).

To better understand how I got to that point, you have to journey back in time to February 2004.  The day of the 2004 Austin Marathon.  A day when the stars lined up (course, weather, and training) and I clicked off a series of miles that I didn’t think was possible for the 226 lb, 36 year old version of myself.  I ran outside of my perceived ability in true fly OR die fashion and clocked my fastest mile of the race (7:46) on mile 26 in route to a 3:39:42 finish.  14 minutes faster than the prior year and a full hour faster than my first marathon in 2000.  That was nine years and five months ago.

I managed to run my 2nd best marathon time three times in 2010 (a 3:49 in February in Austin, a 3:46 in May in the Poconos, and a 3:42 in October in St. George) but clipping that old mark was proving stubbornly difficult.  The St. George effort failed with less than a mile to go when both of my quads locked up…right about the spot that I was standing on this course on that course.  Of course.

A group of us ran the Tunnel Marathon in 2011 as well.  I was poorly trained but I wanted to preview the course so I went.  It was love at first sight and I vowed to return better prepared.  I also decided that I would try and stay near the starting line.  I don’t usually have a problem getting up early for races, I rarely even need an alarm, but this race requires quite a bit of up-front logistics due to its location.  I found a ski cabin near the start that worked beautifully and was reasonably priced considering the complete lack of snow in July.  Six of us ended up crashing there.

One final bit of learning from my prior experience was with my Garmin’s lack of satellite reception in the tunnel.  This time around I added a foot pod that is supposed to kick in when the satellite reception is lost.  I tested it out on Saturday and it worked splendidly (the pod creates other issues if you happen to use Strava but I won’t go into that unless you ask).

IMG_3497

The weather was very nice on Sunday morning.  We already had a pretty good idea that it wouldn’t last long.  The race starts at 8 am and you lose altitude quickly so it warms up a bunch if you’re out there too long.  We weren’t sure how all of our various Garmins would behave in the tunnel so I told Jerie I would run with her through the tunnel and let her know the mileage so she would know how to pace the final 23 or so miles.  I knew that her goal pace was pushing it a little for me but decided I could slow it down after she was well on her way.

Miles 1 to 5 –  Sorry data geeks, I’ve sworn off the heart rate monitor since mid-June.  It was getting a little depressing watching my pace slow and my heart rate skyrocket once the weather turned.  Jerie, Matt, and I ran through the tunnel together.  When we split up just after exiting short of mile three we were averaging 8:02 per mile.  By mile 5 I had “slowed” that average down to 7:59.  3, 4, and 5 are all nicely downhill so it seemed no matter how hard I tried to throttle it back I was running right under 8 per.

Miles 6 to 10 –  Mile 6 had an understaffed water stop so I had to come to a complete stop to drink up.  That is not a complaint, I knew that most of the stops were understaffed and had prepared for it.  I was actually pleasantly surprised that most of them went very smoothly.  I also made a pee stop at around mile 8.  Paul and Stefan passed me while I was watering the moss so catching back up to them kept that mile split decent even with the stop.  I can still see Jerie ahead of me which shouldn’t be the case.  That means she’s doing a good job of keeping her pace but I’m most likely going too fast.  Overall pace is now 8:03 per.

Miles 11 to 15 – I averaged 8:17 through here, cruising through the half in 1:45.  Kel had made her way to 13.3 so I gave her some love and one very nasty shirt that I had peeled off right at the half mark.  Running shirtless is something I’ve embraced lately when the conditions demand it…much to the chagrin of those around me (friend and stranger alike).  Even after shedding enough tonnage to get myself close to 200 lbs the old bod is still not completely suitable for public display.  My apologies to everyone who has had to suffer through this visually unappealing phase of mine.  Still feeling good and enjoying the 8:08 overall pace through 15.

Miles 16 to 20 – I manage to average a respectable 8:35 pace through these miles and, thanks to some fast early miles, am still at an 8:14 overall.  I have been fighting with myself for several miles at this point trying to determine whether I should bump the effort or continue cruising.  Decisions, decisions.  I’ve lost sight of Jerie but Paul passed me a few miles ago and I seem to be maintaining a consistent spread with him.  It’s getting pretty warm in the less shady sections of the course but the sun is at our backs (as it is for the vast majority of the course when it’s visible) as we head due west to Tanner/North Bend.  I decide to remain conservative and not push it just yet.

Miles 21 to 25 – It appears as though I’ve made the right decision.  I feel very much in control at this late stage in the race clicking the miles off at an average of 8:44.  I’ve run a bunch of 5 – 7 milers at home over the past several weeks/months where I couldn’t maintain that pace so doing it in the latter miles of a marathon was good for the psyche.  I have my Garmin set up in a four-way split screen with the following data bites: time, distance, lap pace, overall pace.  With each passing mile the lap pace is bumping the overall pace by a few seconds.  By the time I finish mile 25 my overall has climbed to 8:20.  I need to keep it under 8:23 to PR.  That should be doable but (a) this is a marathon and (b) I’ve been in this very position at St. George just over two years ago.

Miles 26 to 26.2 – Paul is now about 25 meters ahead of me so I start to very slowly bring my speed up.  I cut the gap down a little more and am in a pretty good position to try and sneak by him at the finish.  I start to feel a little twitch in my left quad.  It grows.  I know a cramp is coming on so I start to throw counter measures at it.  I slow down, I speed up, I cock my hips, I try to run harder with my right leg, I try lifting my knees a little higher, I try to exaggerate the push off with my left foot with each step…anything to hold off the inevitable.  At 25.42 miles it locks up and I’m forced to stop.  I dig my thumbs into it as hard as I can and then rub the full length of my thigh to get it to release.  I’m bent over at the waist and notice that water is pouring off my head though I’m really not all that sweaty and I’m wearing a hat.  It’s not sweat, it’s tears.  I’m not only crying tears…I’m actually making moaning sounds to go along with them.  A full on cry fest!  I don’t know how long the pity party lasts but it couldn’t have been too long.  It suddenly dawns on me that the very same set of circumstances (being so close to the finish) that has overwhelmed my normally stoic state could also be what ends up salvaging the day.  I make the decision to run it in as hard as I possibly can regardless.  A picture forms in my head of me peg-legging my way across the finish line, face contorted in a mess of wrinkles, whiskers, dried salt and wet tears.

All the while, Kel has made it to the finish line and is waiting for me to arrive.  She knows based on my half split that I should be in PR range (3:39:42 being the mark).  She cannot see me yet down the course but is nervously watching the seconds tick up on the official race clock.  As it climbs through 3:36 and then 3:37 she sees me finally materialize on the horizon.  Knowing I’m going to be very close she starts screaming.

I-90 goes over our heads at the 26 mile mark with .2 to go.  I look at my watch and realize for the first time in the entire race that the “time” section only displays hours and minutes.  It says 3:37 but I have no way of knowing if it’s 3:37:01 or 3:37:59.  If it’s :01 I’m golden, if it’s :59 I’m hosed.  I have no choice but to wring out everything I have left and hope for the best.

IMG_2897

I cross the line and hit the stop button.  3:38:48, a PR by 54 seconds.  Nine years and five months later.

It feels pretty good but I don’t have much time to celebrate.  St. George is in 12 weeks and I need to shave off another 13:48 to hit the 3:25:00 necessary to qualify for Boston.

Click here for Garmin details.

Tunnel 2.0 was my 29th (and fastest) marathon and still 17th state.

Louisiana Marathon 1/20/2013

July 16, 2013

My voluminous strategy to get in marathon shape and stay in marathon shape until I qualified for Boston (running eight marathons in 2010 and six in 2011) was proving stubbornly ineffective.  Taking over a year off from marathoning was even more ineffective as it is impossible to qualify if you’re not trying.  It was time for yet another shift in strategy.  After years of contemplation, and probably driving my good friend Corey more than a little crazy, I finally took the plunge in May of 2012 and purchased a road bike from the fine folks at Austin Tri-Cyclist.  Pedal my way to Boston?  Why not??  The majority of my more fleet footed friends incorporate the bike into their training so into their shadow I ride!

After about six months of riding, tweaking the diet, and experimenting with some “top secret” training…I managed to drop around 20 lbs and began to feel some speed returning to my tired, old legs.

I signed up for the 2012 version of the Louisiana Marathon shortly after completing Ridge to Bridge way back in October of 2011.  I can’t remember exactly what kept me from running it then but several friends did end up doing that inaugural race and had very good things to say about it.  When Frank encouraged me to sign up for the 2013 edition, I didn’t hesitate.

Frank was running it again due to clocking a 3:00:01 in 2012.  He had his mind set on revenge, I just wanted to knock over a year’s worth of marathon cobwebs from my legs/lungs.

As the race approached, I realized that while my training was significantly different this time around, what parallels I could draw from prior build ups were positive.  I knew that I would not be attempting the 3:25 necessary to qualify for Boston at this particular race but wanted to put forth a solid effort and continue the rebuilding process.  Not really knowing what I was capable of, I decided to run mainly by feel (pushing the pace until my breathing became labored and then backing off slightly).  Based on recent training runs, that strategy would put me in the 8:10 per mile range.

Miles 1 to 5 – I ran these at an average of 8:14 per mile and a 146 heart rate.  They were evenly paced even with the overpass at about mile 2.  The temp was in the high 40s at the start and the humidity must have been in the high 80s.  Kel managed to find her way down the course to mile 2.  I was working up a pretty good sweat by that point but still not ready to give up my gloves.  This part of the course takes you due south and through the LSU campus.

Miles 6 to 10 – a comfortable 8:17 pace through here at 148 beats per minute.  The miles really did feel effortless and I let myself believe that I might have a shot at a PR (3:39…which requires an 8:23 pace).  Through these miles you complete the tour of LSU and do a lot of running around two lakes (University Lake and City Park Lake).  I remember it being mostly shaded and the water stops seem to come up at every mile.  My Garmin is getting a little ahead of the markers at this point but no more than .15 or so.

Miles 11 to 15 – the pace and heart rate are both creeping up a little but still at 8:21 and 152, respectively.  I concentrate on my legs and determine that I am fit and strong.  I’m drenched in sweat at this point but am still not feeling any real fatigue.  My confidence is inching ever upward that this could be a PR day.  I see Kel again and bid her farewell until the finish.

Miles 16 to 20 – by mile 20 my rough math tells me that I’m right on PR pace.  My head says it’s still within the realm of possibility while my legs are starting to protest.  I average an 8:42 pace through this section but, thanks to the 15 miles run prior to this block, my overall average is 8:24.  I do notice my heart rate is creeping up (154 average through here) while my pace is slowing so things are starting to deteriorate ever so slightly.  After mile 18 I was having to work pretty hard to keep the pace below 9:00.  I would look at my watch about half way through each mile and it would be in the low 9s, I would speed up enough to keep it under 9:00, and repeated this routine several times.

Miles 21 to 26.2 – mile 21 would be my last one under 9:00.  22 was close at a 9:02 but once I broke that barrier my give-a-shitometer was registering near zero.  By 25 I was cracking 10s.  The Garmin bonus was .25 by this point so I knew I’d have to reinvent myself to keep it under 3:50.  I sped up as much as I could after the second hard right turn to the finish line and came in just above 3:50 at 3:50:17…my 5th fastest.

Not a bad return to the distance after an extended time away but clearly I have a lot of work to do between now and July 14th.  My original plan was not to race again between now and then but I’m having second thoughts about that.  I may try to squeeze in one more race (maybe two) between now and then.  Sugarloaf or a return to the Poconos in May?  I’ve done some informal polling but feel free to weigh in via comment below or email.  If you’re prepared to run the race that you think I should run…your vote counts twice!

Louisiana was my 28th marathon and my 17th state.

Ridge to Bridge Marathon 10/22/2011

January 23, 2013

Like the Tunnel Marathon report, this one is long overdue.  Again, the details are spotty but there are a few highlights I’d like to share.

The time between Tunnel and this race was full of anticipation for me.  From what I could tell the course was great and the weather is generally nice in the area at that time of year.  Despite my eagerness to run this race, my training was a flop.  In retrospect, I think I was a little burned out after cramming in a dozen or so marathons between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2011 in my quest to qualify for Boston by sheer volume (unsuccessful).  Taking a year and a quarter off after this race lends credence to that theory (but more on that in a future post).

The weather was definitely spot on, especially early.  I recall it being downright cold as the girls and I (Rachel and Michelle joined me for this one) picked up some extra gloves that they were handing out at the start.  We carved out some time to mack for the camera before meandering over to the starting line to get the show on the road.  This was a small race so there wasn’t a chute or corral or any other such organizational nonsense.  I believe there was a timing mat on the road and that’s about it.

10222011

Rachel and I ran together during the early parts of the race.  Michelle took off like she was shot out of a cannon but we were able to see her during out/back sections.  After several miles the race went off road onto some park trails and began a fairly rapid descent (about 2000 feet between miles 5 and 15).  Portions of the trail were quite rocky and at times the descent so steep you couldn’t really run comfortably.  It was more like controlled chaos and a tremendous amount of quad pounding.  It dawned on me that Rachel disappeared but I wasn’t sure whether she left me or I left her.  After mile 15 the course gently rolls net downhill along a river/creek for the duration.  Near the 26 mile mark my inner quads started to cramp.  It was mildly uncomfortable but by the actual mile marker it caused me to stop running.  At this point Rachel flew by me and joined Michelle at the finish festival.  I hobbled in and called it a day as well.

This is a race I would like to do again at some point…properly trained.

4:27:47 final time.  27th marathon.  16th state.

Tunnel Marathon 7/24/2011

January 23, 2013

I ran this marathon a year and a half ago.  There probably is not a lot to be gleaned from my spotty recollection of it at this point…but I figured I should fill in some blanks.

My understanding of the origins of this particular race are quite entertaining and dovetail nicely with my multi-year effort to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  It seems the race director created this race so that he could qualify for Boston.  There are rules regarding certification and minimum participation for a race to be a “Boston Qualifier” so he made sure to cover all of his bases.  Ultimately he qualified and the race had grown to a point that it made sense to keep it going.

“What’s up with the tunnel?” you may ask.  Excellent question!  This race is on an old converted railbed (a la Eisenbahn) just east of Seattle.  The race starts normally enough but after 3/4 of a mile you enter a tunnel about 20 feet wide and 30 feet tall.  You remain in said tunnel for a little over two miles.  The entire time you’re in there (besides the fact that it is cold and wet) you see a tiny pinprick of light way out in the distance.  That light is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

The tunnel jacked my Garmin up good.  I thought these things were supposed to triangulate when they lost a signal and give you credit for the ground covered from when it lost the signal to when it found it again.  Not the case.  It behaved as though I turned the watch off once inside and turned it back on upon reaching the other end.  Later in the race one of the pins that holds the band on worked itself loose and the watch went careening down the trail.  I had to carry it the rest of the way in (roughly nine miles).  Not the Garmin’s finest hour (or four).

Ultimately, I finished the race in 4:06:24.  That isn’t horrible but Sandy hung over 16 minutes on me.  Even though it’s been well over a year since the race, she still reminds me of that fact frequently.  What are friends for??

The best thing, by far, about this race is the course.  It is like nothing I’ve ever run before.  It has a nice, smooth downhill angle of roughly 80 feet per mile for the entire 26.2 miles.  A lot of race directors will tell you that their race is flat/fast, etc…  This one really is.

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The weather was relatively nice as well.  There was actually some snow on the ground (in July) at the starting line.  It warmed a little towards the end but wasn’t horrible.

Tunnel was my 26th marathon and my 15th state.

I will be back in July of 2013 to attempt to qualify for Boston.

Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon 5/1/2011

May 22, 2011

On April 19, 1995, some a-hole parked a Ryder van full of fertilizer and explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and detonated it killing 168 people.  Among the dead were a bunch of children in a daycare just above where the van was parked.  Timothy McVeigh was quickly caught, tried, convicted, and executed for the crime.  Terry Nichols and several others got lengthy prison sentences but were ultimately spared death by flipping on McVeigh and each other while trying to avoid the needle.  The federal building was rebuilt on a site nearby and the original building site has been converted to a memorial to those who perished.  This marathon is run in memory of those killed and to raise funds for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the Memorial.

Late spring and early summer is a tricky time to run long distances close to home.  When I put Oklahoma City on the calendar I did it with every intention of waiting until the last minute to decide if I was actually going.  I watched the weather closely and decided on Thursday/Friday to head out on Saturday morning.  TJ and I were the only two originally on board.  As the date approached Hillary signed up.  Then Jerie.  Then on Friday (yes, the day before we left) Rachel jumped in.  TJ flew up solo, the rest of us piled into Kel’s car and drove the 388 miles due north on I-35.  Me (the guy who only likes to stop when the gas tank is empty)…in the car with three girls who are vigorously hydrating for a marathon the next day.  It’s probably not fair to call it a recipe for disaster but it was definitely a recipe for one, one, one slow trip to Oklahoma.  We hadn’t even made it 40 miles when Hillary the first one had to go.  We stopped in Salado, Waco, Fort Worth (combo stop for lunch as well), Ardmore, and Paul’s Valley.  On average, we stopped every 80 miles.  Despite that, we made excellent time arriving in Oklahoma City exactly 6 hours after leaving Austin.

We checked in and hit the expo.  Rachel was leaning towards doing the half but it was sold out so she had to register for the full.  With our packets in hand, the only thing left to do was check the updated weather forecast (rapidly deteriorating) and start making dinner plans.  We found a cool little Italian place, Portofino’s, that was in a building that used to house a PF Changs (big horses still out front).  The service was slow but the food was good and reasonably priced.

Race morning we awoke to temps in the low 50s, rain, lightning, and winds screaming in from the north at 20 mph (bringing more of the same with it).  The start was delayed 30 minutes in an attempt to let the lightning pass through.  It worked, the lightning was gone but the wind and rain stayed and the strong north winds dropped the temperature into the 40s.  We waited until the last minute to leave the hotel which ended up being a mistake.  We couldn’t get closer than two blocks away from bag drop before the crowd of runners and spectators got too thick to allow forward (really backward) progress.  We basically got stuck and had to wait for the race to start to cover the remaining two blocks in the opposite direction to drop our bags.  Once dropped, we worked our way forward and crossed the starting line about eleven and a half minutes after the race had started.  Chip timing minimizes the impact of this but what it doesn’t do is thin the crowd much.  Starting that far back means a lot of weaving early on.  It probably took us two miles to get to a point where the crowd was moving at about our desired pace (roughly 9 minutes per mile).  TJ and Hillary got themselves to the starting line on time so they didn’t have to deal with any of this.

I’m not sure why, but I decided to wear the Garmin for this race.  Jerie, Rachel, and I planned on running the whole race together and wanted to run right at 4 hours…or slightly under.  I’ve done shorter races in conditions like we were running in but never a marathon.  The wind wasn’t a big deal but mixed with the steady rain and cool temps it made for an interesting day.  I usually attempt to gauge my future misery by how quickly I start sweating.  Sweating within a mile means an epic meltdown is close at hand, sweating after six or seven miles is usually a good sign.  Being completely drenched from the start throws that measure out the window so, for today only, I decide to use my frozen fingers as a gauge.

Miles 1 – 5, after a perfect 10:00 minute mile one and a 9:40 mile two we get on track and end up averaging 9:21 through here.  After a mile, Jerie and I lost Rachel in the crowd.  We didn’t know if she was ahead of or behind us so we marched forward.  It is highly unusual for my hands to stay cold after two miles even in the coldest of conditions.  At this point they are still completely numb.

Miles 6 – 10, definitely in a groove now.  Clipping along at an average of 8:57.  My hands are so cold my fingers are actually starting to hurt.  Jerie is handing me an occasional gel blast (cola flavored, yum!)…and I just have to kinda slurp them up out of my palm.  I cannot pinch them between two fingers.

Miles 11 – 15, it’s pretty flat through here plus I stopped to tinkle and Jerie kept going.  I had to speed up a little to catch her and ended up averaging 8:45.  I went through the half in 2:01:31 so I’m set up pretty well for another negative split assuming we can pull off the sub 4.  I have lost all manual dexterity in my fingers.  I find myself pumping my fingers for the better part of the time between miles…only stopping to check my split when the watch beeps.  I’m actually starting to wonder if I’ll ever be able to feel my digits again.

Miles 16 – 20, the sun actually came out at mile 17!!  It didn’t stay long though.  Just long enough for my fingers to thaw out and for Jerie to remove (and discard) her trash bag, plastic gloves, and real gloves.  By mile 18 it was raining harder than before, the temp had dropped another 5 degrees, and the wind was gusting up to 30 mph.  Mile 20 is a rocking downhill and helped us eke out an 8:59 pace through here.  Oh, and I can’t feel my fingers again.

Miles 21 – 26.2, we realize that we are going to be very, very close to 4 hours.  I think we even tried to speed up when we could.  Miles 20 to 24 were a long, slow climb and we were having a hard time keeping them close to 9.  We took turns pulling and, when we could make words, tried to encourage each other and keep each other focused.  I didn’t have my heart rate monitor strap on but I’m pretty sure I know what it would have said…I was giving it all I could and I think Jerie was too.  We averaged 9:12 per and crossed the line in 4:01:41.  I couldn’t actually push the stop button on my watch so I had to wait for the official results to confirm this.  The official results also confirmed another negative split (this time by a whopping minute and twenty seconds)!

Full details here.

If you’ve ever run a marathon you probably know first hand the frustration of knowing that you’re going to be very close to your goal time but really have no energy reserve left to tap to shave off a minute and some change (or even 10 – 15 seconds per mile over the last several) to get it done.  We knew, we tried, it just wasn’t in the cards that day.

Oklahoma City uses the RunPix technology as a supplement to their regular results.  To illustrate just what I mean when I say we left it all out there…their tracking system says we passed 153 runners in the final 10k and were passed by none.  You’ve probably read enough of my reports to know that I don’t roll like that.  That was all Jerie and I’m just glad I was able to hang on for dear life to her very wet coattails all the way to the finish line.

So, we’ve crossed the finish line…the race should be over, right?  Wrong!  I grab a water, a fig newton, and a cookie and start sleestacking my way out of the finisher’s chute.  Towards the end there is a Carl’s Jr. mobile grill set up and they are churning out the FREE burgers as fast as they can.  As awesome as it looks…I just can’t do it.  We grab our finisher’s t-shirts and check the reunion area for Rachel, Hillary, and TJ.  Empty…duh, it’s raining like gangbusters and the wind is really picking up now.  We’re only a few blocks north of our hotel so we start the walk back.  That north wind is hitting me in the back so hard my neck is cramping!  Then I start getting pelted with hail!!  We duck into the massage tent and wait for it to pass.  It does and now we really start to worry about everyone else…hoping that they’re finished or at least able to find cover.

I finally get back to the room but cannot get warm.  I put on dry clothes and get under two down comforters but am still shivering.  I take a long, hot shower but start shivering again immediately after getting out.  I get back under the covers but this time I take the hairdryer with me.  That does the trick!

We head out to a sports bar for some recovery grub.  I down an excellent burger and fries but have to limit my beer intake to one (gotta drive home).  We hit the road and are not at all surprised to learn that all that crappy weather is basically trapped on the I-35 corridor.  There are a few wrecks, lots of construction, and more hail so the trip home takes about 2 hours longer than the trip up.  I did learn that mildly dehydrated girls (who have just run a marathon) sleep more and pee less than girls who haven’t.

The highlight of the return trip was the obligatory Blizzard stop!  It really hit the spot!!

Oklahoma City is definitely a marathon worth doing.  It was my 25th marathon and my 14th state. 

Next up, The Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon on June 5th in South Dakota.

Hogeye Marathon 4/10/2011

May 7, 2011

The Hogeye Marathon (Fayetteville, AR) celebrated its 35th running by abusing my fat ass for five hours, eighteen minutes, and nearly thirty-three seconds.  The course was tough, the weather was brutal, and there was one VERY long gap (ok, two) between aid stations at a fairly crucial spot in the race.  Hey, it’s a freaking marathon…when is it ever a good idea to jam over 4 miles between water stops?  I know, I know…I sound a little bitter.  Just think how bad I’d be ranting if I hadn’t waited over three weeks to type this out!

I originally had a different marathon, the Garmin Olathe Marathon (Olathe, KS), on the calendar but let Rachel talk me into going to Arkansas.  Her and her husband went to school at the University of Arkansas and were heading up there to visit friends and family.  I decided to tag along.  Meeting and hanging out with their friends was definitely the highlight of the trip, the race and everything associated with it was at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

The Course – I knew it was not an easy one.  Eyes wide open there.  That being said, it was even harder than I anticipated.  Just driving around town you could tell it was going to hurt.  Not a lot of flat spots anywhere.  I heard a rumor that Jeff Galloway had it on his list of toughest courses…I did not attempt to confirm this but, in any event, agree wholeheartedly.

The Weather – warm, humid, and windy.  Oddly, the wind actually made it seem bearable early in the morning but that faded quickly.  If you’ve ever run in a strong wind you know the sensation of feeling relatively cool when it’s hitting you head on (even while it’s making you work harder) and then how quickly you warm up when it dies down a little or is at your tail.  The twists and turns of the course really exaggerated the effect.

The Training – since I’ve been running marathons every three weeks for the last few months I haven’t been “training” a whole lot in between.  I try to recover for a week after, work hard in the middle week, and taper the week of.  One thing I’ve noticed for sure (and you may have as well) is that the limited training isn’t doing me any favors in terms of losing or keeping weight off.  Complicating that is my growing affection for bourbon.  My buddy Dan (proprietor of Garrison Brothers Bourbon) released a limited run of the good stuff he’s had in barrels for a few years and I like it.  A lot.  Ok, a little too much.

So, put those three (course, weather, training) together and you pretty much get what happened next.  Total annihilation.

Miles 1 – 5, I averaged 9:24 per through here.  Actually started with a 9:26, ran three 9:24s, and rounded it out with a 9:25.  Even with the wind I was drenched in sweat within the first mile…a harbinger of things to come.  A half mile in brought the first, but certainly not last, significant climb of the day.

Miles 6 – 10, the average bumped up to 9:37 through here.  There was one substantial climb but I think net/net this was a mostly downhill section.  We passed a our first pig farm, or at least the scent of one, in here.  I prefer dead pig to live pig…hands down.

Miles 11 – 15, rocking through here at an 11:18 pace.  I walked a pretty good chunk of mile 15.  This portion is basically the “out” portion of a long out and back section in Lake Fayetteville Park.  I recall a water stop around 11 and another one around the turnaround at 15…if there was something in between I missed it!  The blisters on the balls of my feet that came on a little during Virginia Beach are coming back now with a vengeance.  It’s going to be a loooooong day.

Miles 16 – 20, 13:57 pace is all I can muster through this portion.  The sun is out, the temp is soaring, my feet are on fire, and I am officially toast.  The lack of aid stations through here are certainly not helping.  I am seriously considering walking it in (I would hitch a ride if I could).

Miles 21 – 26.2, I average around 15:41 a mile for my “big finish.”  I know I walk ALL of mile 22 in a 17:38.  I run a little each mile but am really just trying to get to the finish line.

In addition to the customary finisher’s medal, I received a couple of additional trophies for completing Hogeye:

These blisters, especially that blood filled one on the right foot, were 100% attributable to my shoes.  New Balance “updated” my trusty 1225 to the 1226.  Apparently the 1226 had a special insert added to the forefoot that creates massive blisters at around mile 11.  I’m not always proud of my reaction to things that disappoint me…below is my reaction to this unpleasant experience:

The last eight pairs of size 11.5 New Balance 1225 that I could find anywhere in the world are now in my closet.  Unfortunately, that only puts off the inevitable for about 18 months.

In closing, Hogeye was my 24th and slowest marathon ever.  13th state.  Next up, Oklahoma City on May 1.  Are we having fun yet??

Shamrock Marathon 3/20/2011

April 6, 2011

Sandy has declared that my marathon weather curse is OVER!  Having now run three marathons in a row that had pretty decent weather she lifted the curse as we shivered in the cold waiting for the start of the 39th Annual Shamrock Marathon (sponsored by Yuengling).  Running a marathon close to St. Patrick’s Day that is sponsored by a beer company was pure genius.  I don’t remember who thought of it but THANK YOU!

Though I spent more time in Virginia Beach than in Jacksonville last month, it was still a very short stay.  I arrived Saturday at around 1:00 pm and left Sunday at 5:40 pm.  Al, Sandy, and POJ (who got there the day before me) picked me up at the airport and we headed straight to packet pick-up.  From there it was off to Zero’s Subs.  I bought a foot long, ate half, and saved the other half for breakfast (the race started at 8:00 am so I knew my typical bagel or poptart wouldn’t cut it).  We went to an awesome Italian restaurant on Saturday night.  Franco’s in Norfolk.  I highly recommend it if you’re in the area and hungry for spaghetti!

I was in bed and sound asleep by about 11:00 pm…at 12:15 am all hell broke loose in the room nextdoor.  I heard several adult voices and at least two children (one a crying baby and the other a toddler).  The initial conversation was between an adult male and the toddler arguing over who was cooler…Spiderman or Superman.  After about 45 minutes, once I was convinced that they wouldn’t be settling down anytime soon, I called the front desk and had them move me down the hall.  Luckily, since the race wasn’t starting until 8:00 am, I still got a pretty good night’s sleep.

It was pretty chilly and very windy Sunday morning.  The temps were in the low 40s and the wind was howling from the NNE at about 10 mph (gusting to 20 mph).  We sought refuge inside a hotel that was right on the water and waited until the last possible minute to venture out towards the starting line.  We didn’t wait long enough…as they delayed the start of the race to 8:15 am.  The delay wasn’t a big deal as the temperature wasn’t supposed to get much higher than 49 degrees at any point during the day.

I looked at the course profile the night before and noticed that there were two “humps” in the first half (one just before mile two and then coming back over it just before mile 10).  The course climbed slighly from 10 to 19 and then turned and dropped by the same from 20 to the finish.  I figured I’d go out slow, try to run effortlessly to mile 19 or 20, and then see how much I could speed up to the finish.

I’ve only run one long training run (18 miles) since Jacksonville.  I had a 20 miler on the schedule for a weekend that my brothers wanted to go fishing…fishing won out over running long and I never made it up.  My weekly mileage stayed up in the mid 40s but I was a little concerned about the lack of running long and the three week taper (I usually do a two week taper).  Carrying about 10-15 extra pounds (gained since October) was adding to my worry as well.  To ice the training cake, I didn’t get any runs in after Tuesday of the week leading up to the race.  If recovery and rest are the key to good marathons…I’m set!

Mile 1 8:45
Mile 2 8:33
Mile 3 8:40
Mile 4 8:49
Mile 5 8:44
Mile 6 9:14
Mile 7 8:53
Mile 8 8:52
Mile 9 8:49
Mile 10 8:55
Mile 11 9:10
Mile 12 9:03
Mile 13 8:53
Mile 14 8:41
Mile 15 8:42
Mile 16 8:55
Mile 17 8:58
Mile 18 8:58
Mile 19 9:00
Mile 20 8:52
Mile 21 8:56
Mile 22 9:03
Mile 23 9:00
Mile 24 8:55
Mile 25 8:51
Mile 26 8:34
Mile .2 1:47

I actually ran a race almost exactly according to plan!  It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve felt so good so late in a race.  I felt like I was in complete control from mile 20 to the finish line.  I passed literally hundreds of people in the final 6 miles.  After mile 23 or so I was having the strangest thought or sensation that I was a running vampire sucking the life force out of everyone I passed.  I even caught myself making a slurping sound and thanking them for their sacrifice as I went by.  Crazy, right?!

One of the guys I caught apparently did not want to be passed by a 225 lb vampire so he sped up right as I moved up behind him.  We were still a ways out, maybe mile 24, so it was too early to throw down.  He gapped ahead of me by 20 meters then grabbed his right hamstring.  He walked it out until I caught him and then started running again.  He put about 10 meters on me before pulling up again.  This time I put on a surge (a la Corey May) and passed him with some velocity.  I knew I couldn’t hold that pace through the end…but he didn’t!  I settled back down after about 50 meters not really knowing how far he was behind me.  I made the final few turns of the race and the course is now on a wide promenade that runs parallel to the shoreline.  It’s very long and very straight.  From here you can see both the 26 mile mark and the finish line but both seem very far away (and about equally spaced).  I sped up just a touch and decided to hold that pace, as best I could, through the mile marker.

Once I pass the marker I realize I’ve just run my second fastest mile of the entire race at mile 26!  I’m completely dedicated to not getting passed at this point…there are also about a dozen people within striking distance ahead of me and I decide to fuel up on as many of them as I can (remember, I’m a running vampire).

I’m running about as fast as I can to cover the final .2 while reserving just a little in case anyone (like Sandy) decides they’re going to sprint for glory at the fat boy’s expense.  I cruise through the finish and am pleasantly surprised when I see my watch…3:52:47.  Back under 4:00:00!  I remember going through the half in 1:56 but can’t remember the seconds.  Either way, there is a good chance I ran a negative split (runner speak for the back half being faster than the front half).  According to the official splits I ran a 1:56:26 first half and a 1:56:21 second half so I did, indeed, go negative.  Second time ever.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did stop for a potty break and a photo op during the first half so the deck was stacked somewhat in my favor.  The shot below of me, Chekal, and Rumble was snapped at mile 12.

Shamrock was my 23rd marathon and my 5th fastest ever.  It feels good to get back under 4 hours.

There are only three weeks between Shamrock and my next race, Hogeye in Fayetteville, AR (4/10/2011).  Three weeks after that I’m doing Oklahoma City, OK (5/1/2011).

26.2 with Donna 2/13/2011

March 22, 2011

Twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes.  No, that’s not how long it took me to complete the race.  It is, however, the total time from landing to take-off that I spent in Jacksonville, Florida.  That wasn’t the plan…that’s just how it worked out.  I was originally supposed to head out Friday afternoon but got busy at work and pushed my flight to Saturday morning.  We landed at 3:30 pm Saturday and took off at 3:25 pm Sunday.  A little tight of a window to get a real flavor of the local scene…

TJ and Allegra were on the flight so that was a bonus.  Al, Sandy, POJ, and Linda were already in Jacksonville and had been to the expo.  They texted to see if we wanted them to get us some tickets to the pasta dinner and we, of course, said YES!  We owed Al $20 each for the tickets so we used up some free time on the plane to make origami whales out of twenty dollar bills (which he promptly unfolded and stuffed in his wallet).  TJ and I struggled mightily with the intricate folds required.  Allegra was very patient with us and jumped in to make the harder folds when necessary.

Looking at the weather forecast as race day approached it was hard not to get excited.  It was looking darn good.  After travelling hither and yon in search of perfect conditions it was a little surprising that Florida might actually deliver (after striking out in places like Utah, New Mexico, Northern California, Pennsylvania, etc…).  Waking up race morning to discover that the actual conditions were a little better than the forecast made it even better!

The timeline was going to be pretty tight.  The race started at 7:30 am.  I allotted 4 hours to finish.  30 minutes to collect myself, get my drop bag, and pound some coca-cola.  The shuttle ride from the finish line to the hotel would add another 30 minutes.  A quick shower, packing, and checking out would tack on another 45 minutes.  Another 30 minute segment to get to the airport and drop the rental car.  If everything went according to plan we’d be at the airport at 1:45 pm for a 3:25 pm flight (and if we were lucky…have enough time to eat/drink/be merry).  Adding a layer of urgency was our desire to be in line to board the plane on time so as to secure some exit row seats with extra leg room…always good when you just ran 26 miles and those pesky final 385 yards.

So, with good weather and a tight timeline to adhere to we were off to the starting line.  We got an early start.  I woke up at 4:45 am to catch the 5:15 shuttle to the starting line 30 minutes away.  I didn’t mind shivering in the cold for an hour and a half (yes, the shuttle left a little late)…I figured I was lowering my core temperature and that would come in handy once the mercury started rising.  According to the race director’s husband, who is also a local meteorologist (aka weather man), the temperature would climb around 5 degrees per hour.  That meant our 40 degree start time would yield to roughly 60 degrees by the time I finished.  Not perfect but not too shabby.

Plan?  I didn’t really have a plan.  I’ve put on about 10 lbs since St. George in October and I don’t feel like my training since that time has been all that it can be so I knew Boston was not in the equation.  I thought if the weather could hold I might have a shot at a PR but wasn’t certain that was really doable either.  I decided just to go out and run effortlessly for a few miles and see where that put me and, from there, I would devise a goal on the fly.  No garmin, no pacetat, no pace band…just me and my timex clipping off miles.

Miles 1 – 5:  I was running at an 8:19 pace without really breathing hard and with no perceived exertion.  A PR just might be in the cards.  This part of the course takes you over a long, tall overpass from the starting line at the Mayo Clinic to the beach.  Long, tall overpasses are not a big deal at mile one of a race…unless the race is an “out and back” and that overpass is also at mile 24.  But I digress.

Miles 6 – 10:  I covered these at an 8:45 pace including a 9:25 mile 8 were I hit the porta-potty for what turned out to be a one minute stop (yes, I timed it).  A couple of the miles were on the beach which was kinda cool.  The slope to the water was very slight, the breeze coming off the ocean was very nice, and the sand was very well packed.  I give that section a thumbs up for uniqueness!  Another cool bonus of this section was running with Bill Rodgers for about a mile.

Miles 11 – 15:  I clock my first true mile over 9 minutes at mile 13.  It surprised me a little since the couple of miles before and the couple of miles after were all in the 8:40s.  The average for all 5 was 8:56.  I was still running with what seemed like very little effort.  This section was run mainly through some neighborhoods that were off the beach.  There were lots and lots of people, mainly kids, handing out oranges and bananas.  I took both from most.  It was getting close to 9:00 am and I was getting hungry!

Miles 16 – 20:  There will be no more miles in the 8s.  The fastest mile in this section is a 9:06 @ 17 and I clip 10 @ 20.  I thought taking it easy early would save me some energy for later but, for the second time in as many attempts, that just wasn’t the case.  By this point I’ve eaten a GU, a half of a Snickers Bar, several orange slices, a banana, and a bite sized Luna Bar that was in the race packet.  Even with all of that and the reasonable temperature I am running on fumes.  Allegra catches me at 19 and I run with her for about 50 feet before figuring out that she’s too strong.  Within a mile I can’t even see her anymore…and that section of the course is long and straight!

Miles 20 – 26.2:  Mile 21 will be my last mile under 10.  After 23 I wouldn’t be able to get under 11…and that includes the nice downhill after the return climb up the overpass.  Oddly enough, the finish line came up quicker than I thought it would.  I vividly recall seeing the scaffold in the distance and thinking it was more of a gateway leading to the finish line.  My surprise gave way to relief as my quads and calves had had enough of the monotonous lack of terrain change.  I was officially toast and happy to be finished in 4:05:49.

After the shuttle bus ride from hell back to the hotel…we adhered to the timeline pretty well and managed to make it to the airport, claim our exit row seats, and were back in Austin by 6:15 pm.  I consumed several Coronas on the flight back to assist with cramping and recovery.  I tried to pay for each one but the flight attendant would not accept my payment.  I felt like a semi-famous country music star!

22nd marathon.  12th state.  12th fastest time.  Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA on March 20th is next.  It’s sponsored by a beer company so how bad can it be??

After peeling off a string of 7 sub 4 hour marathons I’ve now got a string of 3 that are over 4.  They are trending down though (4:38, 4:06, 4:05).  I plan to start making progress towards my ultimate goal of qualifying for Boston again at Shamrock.  It’s only 5 weeks away but that’s enough to get started.

3M Half Marathon 1/30/2011

January 30, 2011

I ran this race consistently from the time I started getting into running in 2000 through 2004 clocking the following results (paces):

2000 = 2:06:05 (9:38)
2001 = 1:48:10 (8:15)
2002 = 1:45:01 (8:01)
2003 = 1:49:41 (8:22)
2004 = 1:42:04 (7:47)

In 2010, after a six year break from the distance, I thought I had a pretty good shot at clipping that 1:42 PR and made a go at it at Angie’s Half Crazy Half Marathon.  The weather was rough and I crumbled after 7 miles.  I decided right then and there not to let another 3M go by without at least a shot at ratcheting down my time.

3M sells out regularly so I registered right about the time it opened in June of 2010…while my failure at Angie’s was still fresh on my mind.

I woke up this morning already having a pretty good idea of what the weather was going to be like…crappy.  I didn’t know how crappy until I actually opened the back door to let the dogs out.  Oh my.  It was 5:00 am and the temperature was already in the mid 60s.  The humidity?  At least 95%…maybe even 100%.  Somewhere in the distance I heard a chorus of goats tuning up to serenade me for 13.1 miles.

Kel was nice enough to “volunteer” to get up early and drive several of us to the starting line.  It can be a mess up there with roughly 6000 people converging…but we encountered no traffic at all.  She’s definitely in the running for the wife of the year award!

The race started on time.  You may find this an odd thing to report but it was delayed almost an hour last year.  The race announcer let us know that it as 73.3 degrees.  Thanks, Evil!  I had on my 1:40 pace band and timex…I was sweating before I crossed the first timing mat at the start line.  I ignored all that and set my sights on getting up to and maintaining a 7:38 pace…knowing full well the “maintaining” part was going to bring with it a lot of pain.  Here is a graphic representation of were/how the pain would ebb and flow:

The format below is Mile, Split, (Average Pace):

Mile 1 = 7:42 (7:42)
Mile 2 = 7:43 (7:42)
Mile 3 = 7:23 (7:36)
Mile 4 = 7:25 (7:33)
Mile 5 = 7:04 (7:27)

The first 5 miles are what I like to call “the good ‘ole miles”.  They would be a fond but distant memory by mile 6.  As you can see on the elevation profile, the first 4 miles are flattish.  5 is the first downhill of real magnitude.

Mile 6 = 7:59 (7:32)
Mile 7 = 8:13 (7:38)
Mile 8 = 8:26 (7:44)
Mile 9 = 8:35 (7:50)
Mile 10 = 8:49 (7:55)

At this point the 1:40 goal is out the window but I was still holding onto a thin thread of hope that the downhill on Duval would help me salvage a PR.  It was raining a little so if the humidity wasn’t 100% at the start it was definitely there now.

Mile 11 = 9:04 (8:02)
Mile 12 = 8:51 (8:06)
Mile 13 = 8:49 (8:09)
Mile .1 = :55 (8:09)

1:47:00 on the dot.  Not happy.

Next up, The National Marathon To Finish Breast Cancer in Jacksonville Beach, FL in two weeks.