Festivus Fat Ass Marathon 12/26/2010

January 29, 2011

I didn’t have much going on the day after Christmas so I decided to go for a run.  My friend Frank produced a low-key race in the “Fat Ass” vein (which basically means no frills…no medal, no shirt, no support).  The weather was near perfect and he needed 10 starters and 7 finishers for anyone looking to qualify for Boston or add Texas to their 50 states so I showed up to help make sure he had both covered.  38 started and 28 finished…most of the 10 who started but didn’t finish weren’t planning on doing the whole thing.

The course consisted of three 8.75 mile loops on the Brushy Creek Regional Trail (a la Frankenthon).  Knowing there would be no mile markers I went with the Garmin.  It died around the same time I did…mile 23.  I clocked a 4:06:10.  32 minutes faster than than CIM a few weeks ago.  I actually felt pretty good the whole time.  I approached it as more of a really long training run and, in that regard, got exactly what I wanted from it.

Several from the Ship were there.  Besides Frank…Scotty T., Big Jerie, Wayne/Cristy, Barbara, and Rachel (who finished her very first marathon) all showed up and ran the whole thing.

Kathy Cleary brought some of the best darn cookies I’ve ever tasted.  I’m not sure what all they had in/on them…but they exploded in my mouth in the yummiest way possible.  We annihilated the cookies, popped a few Shiners, and grilled up some venison sausage.  Seriously…does it get any better?

21st marathon.  11th state.  Running from an Angel is a scratch.  Jacksonville is next.

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California International Marathon 12/5/2010

December 16, 2010

I’m always shocked by the rapidity with which epic meltdowns occur.  Especially when it occurs early, or somewhat early, in a race.  Unfortunately, CIM is a “point-to-point” course…which means it starts at one point and finishes 26.2 miles away at another point (as opposed to a “loop” course which starts/finishes at the same place).  When you crash and burn on a point-to-point you really have no choice but to make your way to the finish line.  That pretty much describes my race on Sunday.

I approached this race much more conservatively than St. George.  I had zero intention of attempting to run a qualifying time for Boston…and it’s a good thing.  I was hoping and expecting to come away with a PR somewhere in the 3:39 range.  I strapped on the Timex and slapped on a 3:40 pacetat and headed out the door.

My splits were perfect through 10 or 11 miles.  Even at the half I was within a minute of where I needed to be.  That would be the extent of the positive news from the split front for the duration.  By mile 15 I went from running mid 8s to mid 10s (though I still wasn’t feeling bad).  By mile 16 I was taking walk breaks.

Shortly thereafter, my running buds started passing me.  Hillary had already gone by when the 3:40 pace group clipped me at mile 11, then C/M, then Sandy.  Sandy, of course, had to “check on me” (by bumping me with her shoulder) and “encourage me” (by issuing me a little nah-nanny-boo-boo).  As she sprinted off down the course (more hopping with joy than running) I yelled out that the RACE WASN’T OVER YET and that she’d better be checking over her shoulder for the next 9 or so miles.  A guy walking next to me on the side of the road (aka the shoulder of shame) looked me square in the eye and said, “Dude, your race is over.”  Why thank you, complete stranger!

Vance, POJ, Linda, Jerie, and Amber all must have passed me as well but I never saw them.

An interesting twist in this race was the fact that Kel was running the relay with Linda and a local girl (Ruthie, who Linda found via a relay matchmaker web site).  Kel had the final 5.7 mile leg and Linda thought she’d be handing off to her at around the 3:30 mark in the race.  I quickly adjusted my “plan” to try to arrive at the relay exchange within a few minutes of Linda and run in with Kel.

What felt like three weeks later, when I arrived at the relay exchange point, I made sure to make eye contact with every runner that was waiting for their partner.  I didn’t see Kel.  About 50 yards past the exchange I did see Linda.  That meant that Kel had a head start on me…and, depending on her lead, I may or may not be able to catch her.  Linda informed me that her lead was about 4 minutes.  I gave myself about a 1% chance of closing that distance over the remaining miles.

I ran continuously for a mile and a half and did not see her anywhere ahead of me.  I decided that I would try to pick it up a little more for another mile in a last-ditch effort to close the distance.  Within a half mile or so I finally saw her up ahead.  When I had closed the distance down to about 50 yards she took a little walk break.  When I got within 10 or so yards she started running again and I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to reel her in.  Fortunately I did and we made our way to the finish line together (kinda, this race has a split finish line…one for chicks and one for dudes).

I clocked a 4:38:47…about 56 minutes slower than St. George two months ago.  My streak of sub 4 hour marathons  in 2010 is over.  CIM was my 20th marathon in my 11th state.

An hour or so after the race we headed over to Pete’s and, you guessed it, ate well and pounded lots of beer.  I split my burger with Big Jerie who arrived a little late (after most of us had ordered) and was looking might hungry.

After an awesome night’s sleep, Kel and I met Corey and Ashley for breakfast at Capitol Garage.  Corey was raving about the tamale omelette that he’d had on Saturday morning.  When we arrived we discovered that their weekend menu is different from their weekday menu and there wasn’t a tamale omelette to be found.  Our waitress, Crystal, offered to “check with the kitchen” and came back with the best news I’ve heard in quite a while.  They would, in fact, be able to produce for me a tamale omelette!

Peer closely between the light, fluffy layers of whipped egg and tell me what you see.  Your eyes are not deceiving you…that is a whole tamale wrapped up in there!  What a treat!!  I am now a huge fan of the tamale omelette.

After breakfast it was off to the airport.  Kel was heading home and I was heading to DC for a couple of days of work.  Somewhere around midnight on Monday I arrived in DC.  Sometime around 4:45 pm on Tuesday my luggage arrived.  I did all but one of my meetings on Tuesday in blue jeans (dirty), a 2005 New York Marathon shirt (dirty),  and running shoes.  The hotel did have a toothbrush/toothpaste but no razor.  I hadn’t shaved since Saturday.

Next up is the National Marathon To Finish Breast Cancer in Jacksonville, FL in mid February…unless I squeeze in Running From An Angel in Boulder City, NV in early January.

St. George Marathon 10/2/2010

December 3, 2010

St. George is a lottery marathon…meaning you have to “apply” by a certain date and then, about a month later, they draw names to establish the field.  11,000 runners put in for 7,400 spots.  You can also put in as a group of up to five runners.  The Ship put in three groups, two of which were selected. 

The course is nearly perfect, theoretically.  It drops pretty good for the first seven miles, climbs for the next five miles, and then drops hard to the finish line (with the exception of another little rise at mile 19).  The climbs are manageable…with only the first mile and a half (roughly mile 7.5 to mile 9) of climbing at a steep grade while the balance is just grinding.  On paper, the mile 19 climb, while not in an ideal spot on the race course, should be somewhat of a relief after all the downhill running between 12 and 19.  It should also set you up for the final 10k which, on a day when the weather is cooperating, should be an awesome way to finish a marathon.  Notice the overuse of the word “should”.

Uncooperative weather.  Seriously.  If I had a nickle for every time an announcer said something to the effect of “this is the hottest it’s been in <insert large number> years” before a race I’d have at least a half dozen nickels.  My friends are going to stop running out of town marathons with me.  New York, Marine Corps, San Antonio, Eisenbahn, Mesa Falls, South Bend, and Nashville all had horrible weather on race day.  Most had awesome conditions either the day before or the day after but NOT on race day.  This year’s St. George, according to the announcer, was the hottest race in 15 years.  By Tuesday of the following week it would be 12 to 15 degrees cooler across the board…but that didn’t stop them from bringing out the bonfires at the start!

Though it was relatively cool at the start, I was sweating up a storm within a mile.  I, of course, ignored that and went on about the business at hand (ie grinding out miles at as close to 7:40 pace as possible in an attempt to qualify for Boston).  I knew it was a longshot but had to try.  Most of my running buddies have qualified recently and are running Boston in 2011…I didn’t want to be left out.

The format below is Mile, Mile Split, Overall Average:

Mile Split Average
1 8:10 8:10
2 7:49 7:59
3 7:37 7:52
4 7:42 7:49
5 7:42 7:48
6 7:20 7:43
7 7:37 7:42
8 8:28 7:48
9 9:05 7:56
10 8:07 7:57
11 8:37 8:01
12 8:42 8:04
13 8:41 8:07
14 7:34 8:05
15 7:56 8:04
16 8:01 8:04
17 8:02 8:04
18 8:04 8:04
19 9:21 8:08
20 9:32 8:12
21 7:57 8:11
22 9:15 8:14
23 8:48 8:15
24 9:03 8:17
25 9:11 8:20
26 11:36 8:27
0.2 2:11 8:28

I started very conservatively, got myself right on pace through 7, ran the big hill at 8 almost exactly as prescribed, ran 9 & 10 too slow, got back on track on 11, too slow again on 12 & 13, right on at 14, and 15 is where I knew I’d need to adjust my goal.

Some of you may be looking at the 15 split and thinking 7:56 isn’t too bad for that point in a marathon (when your goal is 7:40) but, let me tell you, that was a beautifully smooth, downhill mile that I ran pretty much as hard as I could.  The fact that I could barely crack 8 on that bad boy foretold of some major pain to come.

16, 17, and 18 are all gentle downhills that are just a pleasure to run.  With very little effort and on very tired legs I was able to keep it right at 8.  At this point the sun is out and the mercury is rising.  Mix that with the lack of shade and it was game on in the battle between body and mind.

The slight uphill at 19 was hard, much harder than the incline would have lead one to believe.  I spent the better part of mile 20 trying to recover.  21 drops like a rock…as do it’s close associates 22, 23, and 24.  As previously mentioned, I would love to run this course on a day when the high temp was around 40 degrees.

Just past the 25 mile mark, St. George has a 25.2 mile marker.  That’s a pretty cool touch because it’s very easy to look at your watch, add the time it takes you to run a mile, and ballpark your finishing time (much easier than trying to figure out 1.2 miles in a degrading mental state at 25 even).  That’s a long way of saying that at 25.2 it dawned on me that I could PR today…something I’d given up on several miles back after seeing all the 9s.  That was energizing so I picked it up a little.  Within about 1/4 mile my quads disagreed and both locked up completely (one of the downsides to running hard downhill).  I was forced to walk about 100 yds or so before they finally released.  It was at this very moment that Paul Williams, with whom I’d been volleying with for the entire race, caught me…again.  Paul encouraged me to start running and I did…kinda.  Really more sleestacking than running.  The finish line finally appeared in the distance but covering the ground between here and there was akin to slo-mo running in a bad dream where the target seems to be getting further away no matter how much ground you cover.

There was an awesome misting station just past the finish line.  I got in and stood there for what seemed like an hour.  I even got out, found a popsicle, and got back in.  I was thoroughly nauseated by the popsicle but that didn’t stop me from consuming the better part of it.  Once I extracted myself from the cool, flowing water I grabbed a coca-cola and laid down in the grass.  I had no plans of vacating that spot until they closed the park.  I had no desire to reunite with the shipmates that I knew finished ahead of me or the ones that were behind me.  I just wanted to lay there and pout…so I laid there and pouted.

What’s good for pouty, whiney babies??  Beer!

That was by far the coldest beer in the coldest mug I’ve ever had.  Once I started pounding them I couldn’t stop (kinda like what OU was doing to UT on the TV screen).  After about 5 (@ 20 oz per) with no warm fuzzy feeling forthcoming I realized they were probably 2% due to the altitude.  That’s ok…they were big and cold!

It was time to say goodbye to St. George.  Beautiful place, beautiful course, warm fires, cold beer, and (again) my second best time in a marathon ever (3:42:18).  The streak of sub 4 hour marathons in 2010 is alive and well.  The count now stands at 19 marathons (in 10 states).

Next up is California International…which is this Sunday because it took me two months to write up this report!

Eisenbahn Marathon 8/28/2010

September 16, 2010

We nixed our planned excursion to Beaver Island when a crucial member of the travel squad succumbed to injury a month or so ago.  That ended up being a very good call as Beaver Island caught the fringe of hurricane Earl.  Apparently the runners dealt with 50 mph winds (with “sand and rain pelting bodies” in the words of the race director in an email that went out post-race).  No thank you!!  After a brief scramble to find a race either the week before or week after Beaver Island we settled on Eisenbahn in West Bend, WI. 

Eisenbahn is German for “railroad” aptly named due to the fact that the course is on a converted railbed.

In the days leading up to the race I surprised myself by how little I knew about it.  The course, the weather, aid station spacing…all of the things I would normally study and/or strategize about were a mystery to me.  I didn’t know until the Tuesday before the race that 20 of the 26.2 miles were on crushed limestone!  It wasn’t until I got to Wisconsin that I found out that it was a first year race.

I made a conscious decision to run this race as a training run for St. George (which is on October 2nd).  With that in mind, I decided to set out at a comfortable pace and hoped that it would lead to a sub 4.

A month or so back we had a newcomer, Mike, join the ship.  During a workout someone asked Al what his next marathon was.  When he said Eisenbahn, Mike chimed in that he grew up nearby…and then made an offer I’m sure he’ll regret for the next couple of years.  He alleged that his parents would love to host us (and by us I mean Al, Sandy, POJ, Linda, Frank, Shelley, and I) for spaghetti dinner on the Friday night before the race.  Never ones to pass up a free meal we immediately took him up on the offer.  On Friday evening we showed up at their beautiful home and were greeted with a fabulous spread of water, gatorade, spaghetti, salad, bread, and dessert!  Mike’s mom mentioned that we needed to bring up a few chairs from the basement so, being that I have only seen one or two basements, I volunteered.  What luck!!  As I made my way into the storage area of the basement I glanced over my shoulder thinking that someone was down there with me.  Well, there was and there wasn’t.  Over in the corner staring back at me was a life-sized, cardboard cut-out of Mike running the 800 meters his freshman year in high school!  Now, I know my mom loves me…but she doesn’t have any 6 foot tall cardboard “Jeffs” crushing fools on the football field from the old days.  After getting over the initial shock of how much more Mike’s mom loves him than mine loves me, I scooped up cardboard Mike and a few chairs and made my way back upstairs.  Needless to say, cardboard Mike was a huge hit with the rest of the ship.  We posed for many pictures with him but stopped short of setting him a place at the table!

Saturday morning came early.  The race started at 6 am.  The course was a point-to-point from the town of Eden back to West Bend so it required an almost 26.2 mile bus ride to the start.  We had driven to Eden the day before so we knew how to get there…unfortunately, the bus driver didn’t!  After a few gentle corrections from the backseat we got her on track and arrived with about 25 minutes to loosen up.

The race started and we took off down the trail.  After about 50 meters or so I realized I didn’t turn my watch on so I fumbled around to get it going.  I elected to go back to the garmin for this race as I wasn’t sure that it would be well marked due to fact that it was on a trail that didn’t allow vehicular traffic.  That fear proved unfounded as the course was marked every mile (and pretty darn accurate to boot).

1 0:08:37
2 0:08:31
3 0:08:30
4 0:08:44
5 0:08:30
6 0:08:43
7 0:08:38
8 0:08:38
9 0:08:52
10 0:08:41
11 0:08:38
12 0:08:40
13 0:08:29
14 0:08:46
15 0:08:47
16 0:09:04
17 0:09:21
18 0:09:11
19 0:09:36
20 0:09:54
21 0:09:40
22 0:09:46
23 0:10:14
24 0:10:13
25 0:10:11
26 0:10:00
0.2 0:02:25

You should be able to get all the Garmin related data here.

The course was supposed to be flat to downhill.  That was pretty much the case with the exception of some pretty hairy climbs at mile 5/6 and again at mile 12/13.  These were the only sections where you got off the trail and ran on rural roads.  As the course approached West Bend the crushed limestone gave way to asphalt to let you know you were almost done.  I knew after mile 25 that I would need to pick it up a little to clip 4 hours.  It also dawned on me that I did not start my watch right away at the start and I had no idea how many seconds my watch was behind my chip time.  The race clock said 4:00:11 when I crossed.  My chip time was 3:59:53.

My streak of sub 4 hour marathons in 2010 is alive and well!  My total marathon count now stands at 18 (in 9 states).

We departed West Bend shortly after the race and headed back to Milwaukee.  We figured spending the night there was a better plan for early morning flights on Sunday.  It also gave us the opportunity to visit Rock Bottom Brewery on the Milwaukee River for some post-race recovery.  I started with a Whitetail Ale and quickly graduated to the Whitetail Ale spiked with jalapeno before returning to the Whitetail Ale.  That evening we went to Miller Park to watch the Brewers play the Pirates, the Brewers won in extra innings (none of which we saw due to the fact that we left after 7).

You’d have never known Eisenbahn was a first year race by the organization and execution, nearly flawless!  It’s obvious these folks have put on races, if not marathons, before.  Packet pick-up was a breeze, bus transportation was sufficient, the course was well marked, the water stops (every two miles) were well stocked (with water/gatorade/ice) and well manned.  The weather was acceptable (low 60s at the start with humidity about the same). 

Next up is St. George on October 2nd.

Poconos Marathon 5/16/2010

June 16, 2010

After eleven weeks of not running a marathon it was good to get back on the road and grind one out.  For a guy accustomed to running one…maybe two a year I’m not sure when I crossed over to thinking that 11 weeks in between was “too long”.

After completing both the Texas Marathon Challenge and Marathons of Texas I was looking forward to traveling outside of Texas for a race.  Coach Al found a list of races that sported a high percentage of Boston Qualifiers (BQs)…which I translated to mean downhill and decent weather.  First up, Poconos Run for the Red in Stroudsburg, PA.

My strategy, after reviewing the course profile, was as follows:  run the first 10 miles at an 8:30 pace, run the next 12 miles at an 8:00 pace, and try not run any slower than 9:17 pace for the final 4.2 miles.  Doing it this way would put me in the best position to take advantage of the course and squeak in with a sub 3:40 PR.  With that in mind…I strapped on the Timex, rolled out the 3:40 PaceTat, and hit the road to Tobyhanna (the little town that the race started in).  Frank and Shelley were nice enough to give me a lift to the starting line from the hotel so that I didn’t have to catch the bus 2 hours prior to start time.

Quick sidenote.  After disclosing my strategy to Coach Al, he thought about what I was planning and proposed the following three bets.  Bet 1 was that I would run mile 1 faster than 8:30.  Bet 2 was that the first 10 would be sub 8:30 pace.  Bet 3 was that I would run miles 11-16 at a sub 8:00 pace.  Of the three bets…I took him up only on the one that covered miles 11-16 (aka Bet 3).

The format for the splits below is Mile, Split, (Overall Pace), comment.

Mile 1 = 8:41 (8:41) – shoulda taken bet #1
Mile 2 = 8:25 (8:33) – a little more downhill than up
Mile 3 = 8:20 (8:28) – getting dialed in
Mile 4 = 8:36 (8:30) – missed 4 so this is the average of 4/5
Mile 5 = 8:36 (8:31) – missed 4 so this is the average of 4/5
Mile 6 = 8:36 (8:32) – nice rythm
Mile 7 = 8:37 (8:33) – running like a metronome
Mile 8 = 8:23 (8:31) – prepping for downhills
Mile 9 = 7:56 (8:27) – LOVED this mile
Mile 10 = 8:04 (8:25) – this one rocked also (woulda lost bet #2)
Mile 11 = 8:07 (8:23) – make it three in a row
Mile 12 = 8:04 (8:22) – ok, maybe four
Mile 13 = 8:17 (8:21) – more realistic
Half = 1:49:39 – perfect half per goal time
Mile 14 = 8:19 (8:21) – wow, this is kinda fun
Mile 15 = 8:26 (8:21) – still digging it
Mile 16 = 8:11 (8:21) – won bet #3…8:12 pace
Mile 17 = 8:23 (8:21) – starting to believe I can PR
Mile 18 = 8:21 (8:21) – really thinking it’s possible
Mile 19 = 8:44 (8:22) – hmmmm, maybe not
Mile 20 = 8:40 (8:23) – but then again
Mile 21 = 8:49 (8:24) – first substantial late hill
Mile 22 = 9:09 (8:26) – second substantial late hill
Mile 23 = 9:29 (8:29) – it’s just me vs the last 3.2 miles
Mile 24 = 9:28 (8:31) – doubt is creeping in
Mile 25 = 9:48 (8:34) – doubt is prevailing
Mile 26 = 9:57 (8:37) – really had to speed up to keep it under 10
Mile .2 = 2:09 (8:39) – thank you finish line

I’d rate the course as “as advertised”.  Lots of rollers for the first 8, lots of downhill for the next 12, and lots of rollers from there to the finish line.  I pretty much ran the race I set out to run and clocked a 3:46:48.

The list we were working off touted a 30% BQ ratio for this race based on 2009 results.  They just updated the list with 2010’s results and 30.9% of this year’s participants qualified.  Both are pretty impressive, ranking Poconos as #5 for 2009 and #2 for 2010 (2010’s ranking could change as more races are completed and calculated).  What’s even more impressive?  71.43% of the ship who ran qualified!  5 out of 7.  Frank, Michelle, Sandy, POJ and Al all punched their tickets…POJ for the first time!  Michelle and POJ also had significant PRs.  Sandy and I both ran our second fastest times ever.  Al ran his fastest time in his last 40 marathons.

Fast?  Yes!  Easy?  No!!

I walked back to the hotel to freshen up a bit before heading out to Barley Creek Brewery for a little recovery fuel.  I scarfed down a pretty good burger and rinsed my mouth out with their Rescue IPA.

After lunch it was off to Philly.  We spent the night there, checked out some historical sights in the morning, and blasted through some Philly Cheesesteaks from Pat’s and Geno’s.  Yes, they’re right across the street from each other so we had to try both.  Pat’s wins!

We all attempted to “run” up the steps to the Philly Art Museum (where Rocky sprinted up during one of the movies).  Here is coach Al making it to the top!!

And the view from up there back towards town.

We also saw the Liberty Bell.

And Rocky himself!

The girls then wanted to know if their butts made this statue’s butt look big.  Yes!

I hauled it over to the airport to catch my flight home.  Warning!!  The Philly Airport is a complete CF.  I was running a little late and could not believe the line at security.  They had 14, yes 14, scanning lines…3 of which were open.  We were in a long line that snaked back on itself no less than 8 times.  I timed the first leg at 7 minutes.  56 minutes to get through security.  I’ll never make it!!  I called Continental to see what my options were…the next flight out wasn’t until the next day.  As I made the final turn, they lifted one of the glass doors and opened a new line.  I was first up, through security, and standing at the gate with 5 minutes to spare.  Nice.

Next up?  Beaver Island in September.  This is a destination marathon and long training run for St. George in October.

I’ve now run seventeen marathons in eight states.  I managed to do four in 2009 and another four so far in 2010.  Interestingly, I’ve managed to run all of my 2010 races in under 4 hours.  Beaver Island will put that streak to the test.

Angie’s Half Crazy Half Marathon 4/11/2010

April 11, 2010

I haven’t run/raced a half marathon in over 6 years.  My last one was 3M on January 25, 2004.  If I recall correctly…I was in pretty good shape, the course was a screaming downhill 400 ft drop (the old course), and the weather was pretty close to perfect (dry and in the 40s).  All of that came together to produce a PR of 1:42:04 (7:47 pace) back then.

Fast forward to 2010.  I thought long and hard about signing up for 3M this year because it was on my birthday.  The race sold out before I could make up my mind.  After going out that morning and watching friends run the race I decided to find another half marathon close by to see if I could update that 6-year-old PR.  Angie’s Half Crazy Half Marathon popped up via an internet search.  The course looked pancake flat on the web site.  I also felt like I had a shot at decent weather (I knew it wouldn’t be perfect…just wanted decent).  I signed up and tweaked the training schedule a little to accommodate a race and set my sights on 4/11/2010.

I hit the road just after 2:00 pm on Saturday for the quick jaunt south of Houston for the race.  After a quick stop at g-ma’s house in Smithville I arrived at the hotel just after 6:00 pm.  Packet pick-up was a snap.  I found a Lupe Tortilla about a quarter-mile from my hotel so that made choosing dinner a piece of cake as well.  After dinner I drove over to the starting line to get a feel for how far it was from my hotel (less than 2 miles).  That accomplished, I headed back to the hotel and settled in for a 5:30 am wake up.

I woke up before the alarm, made some coffee, had a little breakfast and headed to the starting line.  2 miles in about 30 minutes.  The race started about 8 minutes late due to traffic and long porta-potty lines.  The start was corralled by projected finish time.  Sub 1:45 was the fastest corral so that’s where I was…about 20 ft from the mat.

The course is basically a huge lap around The Johnson Space Center and University of Houston’s Clear Lake campus.

I’m still avoiding my Garmin for races so I went with the Timex and a 1:40 pace band.  I figured if I need a 3:20 marathon to qualify for Boston that a 1:40 half would be a good goal along the path.  7:38 is the pace required to run a 1:40 half (and a 3:20 marathon).

Mile 1 07:50.8
Mile 2 07:30.9
Mile 3 07:28.5
Mile 4 07:44.3
Mile 5 07:41.0
Mile 6 07:34.9
Mile 7 07:46.4
Mile 8 08:12.1
Mile 9 08:34.2
Mile 10 08:03.9
Mile 11 08:26.3
Mile 12 08:19.5
Mile 13.1 09:29.2

I was pretty much on pace through 7 when it started to really warm up and the 100% humidity began to take its toll.  I rallied a little at 10 but couldn’t maintain the pace necessary to tackle 1:40 or break my old 1:42 PR.  1:44:41 was all I could muster.

Travis ran a little smack on me a few weeks ago about not being in PR shape.  I thought that I was and bet him a case of beer on the outcome…so Travis will be enjoying a case of beer on me.

Next up, Poconos Marathon on May 16.  I’m planning on breaking out the 3:40 pacetat and running a PR (I wonder if Travis will go double or nothing?).  The course is right…I just need a freaking weather break.

Cowtown Marathon 2/27/2010

March 2, 2010

Marathons two weeks apart was probably not a good idea.

That being said, I’m glad I ran Cowtown (Fort  Worth) and am even happier that it’s over!  This marathon was not part of the original schedule when I decided to embark on the Texas Marathon Challenge.  Not finishing San Antonio left me scrambling for a replacement.  It seemed like every potential Texas race had some kind of conflict or deal-breaker associated with it…so running Austin and Cowtown two weeks apart was the lesser of many evils.

Knowing that the course was somewhat challenging, I thought this would be a good time to experiment with running an evenly paced race.  The weather was forecasted to be about as good as it gets so I strapped on the Timex and the 3:45 pace band (8:34 miles) and decided to give it a go.

I took off pretty conservatively to give myself a good shot at a slight negative split (ie the back half slightly faster than the front half).  I missed several mile markers and some were no more than painted numbers on the road (and in many cases there were multiple instances of the same number painted on the road due to prior year course adjustments) so I’ll spare you the usual split breakdown…there is no accurate info to be gleaned from them individually.

I went through the half at almost exactly 1:55 which, if I could negative split by a minute, would put me just a tad under my Austin time of 3:49ish.  I sped up a little after 13 (my sister Becky was there…thanks for the lift!) and was moving along pretty good through 17.  The 17 mile marker was way short which made 18 way long.  19 through 21 I slowed down just a tad but was still on track.  21 would prove to be my last mile under 9 minutes.  There seemed to be a lot of hills through here and they really started rolling (primarily up) from 24 to 26.  Weaving through downtown I passed the 26 mile marker at 3:57ish and knew that if I kicked it up a notch I could clip 4 hours.  I did and I did.

I managed to cross at 3:59:27.  The 2:05 back half was several minutes slower than the back half of Austin (where I made no attempt at negative splits).  One race does not an experiment make…but I doubt I’ll be trying to run even or negative splits again.  It’s just not my style.

Cowtown has the “runpix” technology like Houston.  There were six times as many runners in Houston but my placings in overall, gender, and age group were almost identical (by percentile) in both races.

  Houston Cowtown
Overall 26th Percentile 26th Percentile
Gender 32nd Percentile 31st Percentile
Age Group 37th Percentile 35th Percentile

The finish line area of Cowtown is pretty cool.  The first thing that greeted me as I walked through Sundance Square was a Wholly Guacamole truck/trailer where they were handing out little single serving guacamole packets.  I passed but thought it was worth a mention.  In the post-race food area you had your choice of donuts, muffins, fruit, powerbars, cereal, hot soup (courtesy of the Salvation Army), and Blue Bell ice cream!  I went for a bottle of water, a banana, and an ice cream.

I headed back to my room to shower and change but got a call from Scotty T. that they were already at Jake’s.  I settled on a fresh shirt and u-turned back to the finish area where Jake’s is conveniently located.  On the way over I grabbed a yellow beer from the Miller Lite girls.  It really hit the spot!

Becky met me at Jake’s and we found Scott, Paul W., and Lindsey already seated.  We quickly got the burgers, fries, and Shiners ordered.  The burgers were good (especially if you’re a fan of the poppy seed) but the stand out was, by far, the Shiner.  They came in these frosty, round glasses that had to hold around 18 – 20 oz.  I had two just to confirm that the second one would be as good as the first.  TJ showed up while I was still trying to tackle the burger.  I think I was letting the Shiner distract me too much.  Then the real highlight came…Paul picked up the tab!

A few short hours later (after a brief, unsatisfying nap) nine of us (friends and family) headed over to Mariano’s Hacienda for fajitas and margaritas.  This place invented the frozen margarita (the original machine is in the Smithsonian)!!  A great meal with awesome company (Kelley, her friend Melissa, cousin Bryan, his wife Melissa, Becky, Matt, Darcie and Brody)!  On the way out we ran into Lindsey, Paul, and Scott again.  Thanks for the great recommendation, Scotty T.!

So, my five races for the Texas Marathon Challenge ended up being:

Marathon 2 Marathon, 4:09 (October)
Whiterock, 3:54 (December)
Houston, 3:56 (January)
Austin, 3:49 (February)
Cowtown, 3:59 (February)

I now have a reasonable 11 weeks until my next marathon, Pocono Mountains.  That race will kick off a series of screaming downhill races that I will run in an attempt to clip my old PR of 3:39 and take a stab at the 3:20:59 that a guy my age has to run to qualify for Boston.

What I have on the calendar now is; Poconos, St. George (lottery entry beginning in April), and California International (in May, October, and December respectively).

*edit/update*  I also have Beaver Island on the calendar in September…I forgot about it because it is not in the series of “screaming downhill races”.  It is purely a destination marathon.  My bad!  I’m also running a half marathon in Houston on April 11th.

Austin Marathon 2/14/2010

February 25, 2010

After running the Austin Marathon five times in a row between 2000 and 2004, I skipped it five times in a row between 2005 and 2009.  I decided to run it again in 2010 (though I’m not yet prepared to declare this the start of a new streak).

I was really looking forward to Austin.  The course would be familiar, having run portions of it a half-dozen times in training.  No travelling to get there.  Getting to sleep in my own bed.  The annual pre-marathon party at the house the Friday before.  Kel and Bailey being on the course at several spots (I think they made 4 or 5 stops).  No large cash outlay to get there/drive around/sleep.

Everything seemed to be shaping up nicely for race day.  Training went well, I got a good night’s sleep the two nights before the race, I was eating right, and even managed to drop a few lbs in the four weeks between Houston and Austin.  The weather was even being somewhat cooperative (decent temps…still high humidity).

I met Sandy, TJ, and Al on race morning and we hung out for 30 minutes or so prior to the start before heading to our respective corrals.  I seeded myself slightly ahead of the 3:40 pace group (led by my friend Jen who nailed the time perfectly).  I figured I would see them again at some point and asked Jen to give me a hard kick in the ass if/when that occurred.

The noiseless pyrotechnics went off and the masses headed south down Congress (and by “down” I mean up).  I’ve discovered a cool thing about excel and splits so I’m going to do something a little different.  Beside the split for each mile I’m going to put (in parentheses) my average pace for the race.  This is kinda cool because it illustrates, for me at least, why going out fast is so tempting.  I had on my wrist a 3:40 pace band which calls for an even pace of 8:23 per mile.

Mile 1 = 8:22 (8:22) – good pacing
Mile 2 = 8:19 (8:20) – going carelessly uphill
Mile 3 = 8:11 (8:17) – last of the initial climb
Mile 4 = 8:08 (8:15) – let the downhill begin
Mile 5 = 7:44 (8:08) – effortless
Mile 6 = 7:51 (8:05) – passed the Governor
Mile 7 = 8:06 (8:05) – received water and manpill from Jimi
Mile 8 = 8:02 (8:05) – heading past the rock
Mile 9 = 8:25 (8:07) – working the uphill on Veterans
Mile 10 = 8:26 (8:09) – running into the sun on Enfield
Mile 11 = 8:30 (8:11) – taking on the Expo rollers
Mile 12 = 8:42 (8:13) – ran w/ Aaron for a while
Mile 13 = 8:39 (8:15) – gets really flat through here
Half = 1:48:35 – probably going to regret this
Mile 14 = 8:39 (8:17) – hello POJ
Mile 15 = 9:03 (8:20) – that was a fake 9, had to stop for a sec
Mile 16 = 8:49 (8:22) – back on track, 3:40 group passed me
Mile 17 = 8:45 (8:23) – Great Northern is a long, straight street
Mile 18 = 9:04 (8:25) – that was a real 9
Mile 19 = 9:03 (8:27) – giving up on 3:40
Mile 20 = 9:00 (8:29) – hello Raul, LA, Jack, Jeanne
Mile 21 = 9:17 (8:31) – trying to keep it together
Mile 22 = 9:29 (8:34) – Alan rides along with me for a while
Mile 23 = 9:32 (8:36) – giving up on 3:45
Mile 24 = 9:45 (8:39) – c/m passes me
Mile 25 = 9:30 (8:41) – hello Dyana, Hillary, and Kirk
Mile 26 = 10:20 (8:45) – Sontag runs out of the crowd
Mile .2 = 1:45 (8:46) – thank you finish line

3:49:42…my second best marathon time ever.  On that course, on that day…I’ll take it.

This race also marked the completion of Marathons of Texas (Dallas, Houston, and Austin back-to-back) and earned me some extra bling.

We convened at County Line on the Lake for lunch around 1:30.  That place is so freaking good it’s absurd.  When I eat there I want to go home and destroy my pit with a sledgehammer.  Seriously, I couldn’t get any further from worthy.  I stuffed my gut, washed it all down with a couple of Shiners, and headed back to the house for a nap.

I honored my pledge to go “old school” at Austin and left the Garmin at home…opting for the Timex with a pace band.  I liked it.  I’ll continue to train with the Garmin and race with the Timex for the foreseeable future.

I’ve discovered a new wrinkle on the old pace band theme from a company called pacetat.  They’re basically temporary tattoos that you put on your forearm (or wherever) as opposed to the old wrap around pace bands (you know, the ones you see littered all over the race course around mile 21 as people start to realize that their goals were a little lofty).  I look forward to breaking one out at a race soon.  Poconos?

Next up is Cowtown on 2/27/2010.  It should be a good race…though I’ve never done marathons this close together.  Four weeks seems ok, two weeks is a little tight.  I’m leaning towards going for a 3:45 at even pace (8:34).

Chevron Houston Marathon 1/17/2010

February 11, 2010

We moved to Austin in 1999.  After being here for 11 years, Austin feels like my hometown.  So much so that when people ask me where I’m from…I say Austin without hesitation.  I was, however, born in Houston.  It is strange driving into a town where I have so much history yet feeling no different than arriving into any other “out-of-town” destination to run a race.  Very strange.

On Saturday, we arrived at the Simpon’s house where we would be staying for the weekend.  The Monday following the race was MLK Day.  I didn’t have to work and there was no school (so we’d be able to spend two nights). We spent the afternoon visiting the expo for packet pick-up and attempting to drive the course.  Kel wanted to try and see me a few times during the race so we plotted a few points and crossed our fingers that she would be able to navigate to them on race day.

We got back to the Simpson’s that evening and were greeted by an excellent dinner of grilled chicken breast and spaghetti!  Mr. Clint worked magic on the grill!  The chicken was moist and delicious.  Mrs. Sharon handled the spaghetti and it was out of this world!  I washed it all down with a single Coors Light and hit the sack in anticipation of an early wake up.

On the way into downtown, my little brother (who was already at the start getting ready to run his first marathon) called to let us know that the traffic at the closest exit was gnarled and told us where to exit and how to get through downtown to avoid it.  It worked out perfectly and Kel was able to drop me at the Hilton to meet Al, Sandy, POJ, TJ, C/M, Allegra, Ryan, Daniel, and Sontag about 45 minutes before the start (I know Paul Williams wouldn’t approve but it was more than enough time for the rest of us).

There is a running axiom which dictates that you don’t “try out” new gear on race day.  You should always try it out on a long run first.  The reason is simple…shoes/socks can cause blisters and shirts/shorts can rub or chafe.  I was concerned that I wouldn’t see Kel at our prescribed points along the race where she would be handing me my “crack” (crack = Enervitene).  I thought the answer to that was shorts with pockets along the back to tote the crack myself.  I found a pair and did one or two short runs in them to make sure they fit well and moved with me and, satisfied that they would, wore them for this race.  Mistake.  I never actually put the three packets of crack in the pockets during my short test runs.  Immediately upon exiting the hotel I knew it wasn’t going to work.  The shorts were falling down and I hadn’t even broken into a slow jog.  Wanting to be optimistic…I ran a little and, sure enough, my pants hit the ground.  Gold in my mouth, hat turned sideways, going downtown with my pants on the ground. 

I ended up having to carry my “crack” in order to keep from exposing my crack.

I wouldn’t discover the bigger mistake until after the race and suffice it to say it was horribly unthinkable…and it took 10 days to properly heal.

Winding through downtown looking for our starting corral was interesting.  We finally stumbled upon it (accidentally I’m sure) and did some last minute stretching.  I looked over near the corral fence and spotted my offensive line coach from college, Coach Amick!  I’ve run into him a few times over the years at different races in Austin but it had been a while (probably because I haven’t really raced in Austin in four or five years).  We quickly caught up, I introduced him to the shipmates that were close by, and then the starting gun fired.  I guess it’s time to start running!

Mile 1 = 8:50 (decent pace but very crowded)
Mile 2 = 9:00 (so crowded that I stop to pee)
Mile 3 = 8:24 (TJ passes me)
Mile 4 = 8:12 (starting to sweat…not good)
Mile 5 = 8:18 (running behind a girl who starts to look familiar)
Mile 6 = 8:23 (figure out the girl is Rachel, funny)
Mile 7 = 8:21 (pass TJ and get caught by Sontag)
Mile 8 = 8:27 (Sontag is running the mini, their u-turn coming up)
Mile 9 = 8:35 (see Kel for the first time…nice job, honey)
Mile 10 = 8:38 (always nice to knock out the first 10)
Mile 11 = 8:39 (second 10 underway, feeling ok)
Mile 12 = 8:49 (long shady section with a cool breeze)
Mile 13 = 8:47 (C/M catches me)
Mile 14 = 8:36 (C/M and I sing a journey duet together)
Mile 15 = 8:31 (running with C/M is starting to hurt…bad)
Mile 16 = 8:47 (bye C/M, she’ll hang 12 minutes on me by the end)
Mile 17 = 8:58 (see Kel, my mom, and both of my sister-in-laws)
Mile 18 = 9:14 (cracked 9 at the same point as Whiterock)
Mile 19 = 9:25 (saw Sprouts and Kirk somewhere around here)
Mile 20 = 9:30 (somebody find me a finish line)
Mile 21 = 9:28 (energized by being caught by the 3:50 pace group)
Mile 22 = 9:48 (bonus visit by Kel, lost the 3:50 pace group)
Mile 23 = 9:47 (ship cheering section; Art, Sprouts, Hills, Kirk)
Mile 24 = 9:52 (think I might be able to hold ’em under 10)
Mile 25 = 10:10 (think wrong, same spot as Whiterock again)
Mile 26 = 9:45 (again with the fear of getting caught by Sandy)
Mile .2 = 3:24 (sweet relief)

Total Time = 3:56:48

A little slower than Dallas but I’ll take it!

The “runner’s only” finish area inside the George R. Brown Convention Center was nice.  I made my way to the water and then found a banana.  I recall reading about the hot breakfast on marathonguide.com and thinking about how good that sounded (on paper).  When I went through the area where they were serving it I almost hurled.  There were many people enjoying it, though, so I hurried through so as not to spoil their breakfast.

I grabbed my finisher’s shirt (nice Under Armour) and mug (a little small for beer but it’s cool) and started looking for the rest of the ship.  The more I looked around the worse I felt.  I quickly turned my attention to finding Kel and made a mad dash for the exit.  I napped a little in the car and was feeling better by time we got back to the Simpson’s.  We headed over to Lupe Tortilla where several shipmates had gathered for a late lunch prior to hitting the road back to Austin.  After downing a couple of fajitas and Shiners…things were starting to look up!

The Austin Marathon is next…followed by Cowtown two weeks later.  I’m really hoping for good weather at one or both.  My marathon PR is now six years old and I’d really like to give it the updating it deserves.  I’ve decided to lose the Garmin and go with the regular watch and a pace band at Austin.  Old school.

Dallas Whiterock Marathon 12/13/09

January 12, 2010

It was a long four weeks between San Antonio and Dallas.  I needed to get the stink of the DNF in SA off of me but the days seemed to just crawl by.  I spent the final 10 days anxiously watching the weather forecast that was shaping up to be, well, borderline crappy.  While the temperature was looking good (mid 40s), the humidity was looking to repeat SA’s near 100% reading.  WTF?  Seriously.

My friend Corey agreed to make the pilgrimage north to pace me to what I hoped would be a 3:40…or something reasonably close.  Though he was fresh off a sub 10:30 effort at Ironman Arizona, he felt recovered enough to do it.  For those who are unfamiliar with Ironman distances, it goes something like this; 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run.  For the record, his marathon split at Ironman was a 3:45…AFTER swimming for almost an hour and a half and biking for a little over five hours!!  Amazing…and impossible for me to wrap my brain around.

Saturday morning we hopped in the truck and knocked out the 200 mile drive to Dallas.  It was uneventful, for the most part, with the possible exception of several cars pulled over heading both north and south whose occupants were handcuffed just off the shoulder while DPS officers performed thorough searches of their vehicles.  The first in the series being a south bound Mini Cooper with a middle-aged yuppie looking couple.  Who mules drugs in a Mini?

The host hotel was the Hyatt Regency…I never knew that big ball in the Dallas skyline was their restaurant:

Every hotel employee that I could see had on a Dallas Whiterock Marathon shirt AND they were giving automatic late check-out the next day of 4:00 PM!  Awesome!!  Very nice touches.

Packet pick up was a short walk to the Dallas Convention Center.  There were no lines and we zipped in and out in no time flat.  Very cool for a race of 20,000…especially after my last couple of large races (both Rock & Rolls) had lines just to get in line!

On the way back to the hotel we made a quick detour through Dealey Plaza where JFK was assassinated.  They have Xs painted in the road where both shots made their impact.  I waited until traffic cleared, stood on the second X, and snapped a photo of the window from where the shots were fired.

The actual window is the second from the top on the far right.  Morbid.

From there we met up with Al & Sandy and headed over to Scott’s for a pre-race pasta party.  Scott has a great house and it was PACKED with shipmates who were in town for the race.  The food was excellent!!  Salad, lasagna, pasta, bread, and dessert.  Way to host, Scott!

The race had an 8 AM start time…which was kinda late but did allow for a no alarm wake up on Sunday morning.  The temp/humidity was about as forecasted (mid 40s/100%).  The race started and finished at American Airlines Center (where the Stars and Mavericks play) which made for a nice place to hang out before the race and a good place to meet up after.

There is usually a fly over by some fighter jets just prior to the start but it was too foggy so, without much ado, the gun fired and off we went.  As mentioned, I wanted to take a shot at a 3:40…which requires an 8:23 pace.  I set the Garmin virtual partner at that mark and started banging out the miles.

Mile 1 = 8:43 (not bad considering the traffic)
Mile 2 = 7:57 (I’ll be paying for that later)
Mile 3 = 8:13 (coming back down to earth)
Mile 4 = 8:27 (better)
Mile 5 = 8:27 (metronome)
Mile 6 = 8:24 (I pass C/M and Allegra)
Mile 7 = 8:27 (metronome)
Mile 8 = 8:16 (down hill)
Mile 9 = 8:19 (more down hill)
Mile 10 = 8:25 (beginning the loop around the lake)
Mile 11 = 8:26 (keeping the heartrate @ 140 around the lake)
Mile 12 = 8:31 (so far it’s working)
Mile 13 = 8:21 (even at this pace)
Mile 14 = 8:28 (passed the half in 1:51:30…not bad)
Mile 15 = 8:45 (dialing it back a little for the climb out of the lake)
Mile 16 = 8:38 (steady)
Mile 17 = 8:57 (steady)
Mile 18 = 9:25 (rock band playing Helter Skelter…max age = 12)
Mile 19 = 8:53 (C/M passes me)
Mile 20 = 9:46 (Jesus  H, whose idea was that hill??)
Mile 21 = 9:47 (please don’t break 10, please don’t break 10)
Mile 22 = 9:24 (finished climbing)
Mile 23 = 9:46 (I’m officially toast)
Mile 24 = 9:54 (it’s only a matter of time before I break 10)
Mile 25 = 10:12 (told ya)
Mile 26 = 9:28 (I start thinking Sandy is right behind me)
Mile .2 = 4:14 (Garmin showed .44 of a mile not .2)

Total Time = 3:54:46  (not a 3:40 but (a) a sub 4:00 and (b) my third fastest time ever).

The minute I stopped running I knew I was in for some nasty treats.  I was quite ill and couldn’t walk through the finish area very well at all.  I headed over to the post-race area for a bagel, banana, breakfast bar, and some water.  I was fighting the urge to sit down but ultimately lost the battle.  As soon as I sat my right calf and left shin cramped simultaneously…my right foot was cocked to the right and my left foot was pointing straight up at my face.  The good news was it wasn’t the type of cramp that hurt.  Eventually they released and both calves started spasming aggressively.  It was like an alien v predator battle going on between the medial and lateral heads of the gastrocnemius…while the soleus spectated.  Frank and Corey helped me up and my right quad cramped immediately.  The bad news was this was the type of cramp that hurt.  I walked it out and headed inside for some ice cold beer.

From there we caught the shuttles back to the hotel.  Most showered (I’m not naming names) and we headed to Twisted Root for some burgers and beer.

Any place that advertises a “slap yo mama good burger” better deliver and I wasn’t disappointed.  The Western Burger (jalapeno, jack cheese, bacon) rocked!  Thanks for the recommendation, Scott!!  After washing it down with a Shiner it was time to hit the road.  Corey bought my lunch AND agreed to drive home!  Nice!!

All in all a good experience.  I’m happy to have knocked almost 15 minutes off my most recent time.  I’m looking forward to another shot at 3:40 in Houston…in 5 short weeks.