Sunday, May 27, 2012

2012 Med City Marathons Results

70/427 Overall
6/32 Age
My 14th career marathon back in May 2008 was a fun experience. I was visiting friends in La Crescent, MN for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. I got little sleep that weekend, had to wake up at 4am race morning to get my packet, and then make the bus. WIth all that, I managed to win the race in under 2:55.
Flash forward to Memorial Day weekend 2012. I gave up speed a long time ago and settled more on ultra distances instead of marathons and I find myself back in La Cresent, MN. And once again, I decide to run the Med CIty marathon, but this time as a Badwater 135 training run. The weather forecast indicated the temperature would reach 90 degrees, so it was perfect for me wearing 3 layers of running clothes, hat, and gloves to mimic being -freaky- hot. Sadly, it was only 80 degrees when I crossed the finish line, but it was still a good training run.
The morning was very pleasant and overcast, with temperature in the low 60’s at the start. Within moments of the start, the sky opened up and was blue. The first 8 miles are pretty much straight east and of course I left my sunglasses in my car which was annoying.
When you are running a marathon and you want it to be an ultra marathon-feeling training run, you have to be creative. I wanted to beat myself down as much as possible so I would have to ‘work’ to finish well. As such, I didn’t do anything resembling carbo-loading the days before (in fact, I ate less than normal) I slept little the few days before the race and I consumed not a single calorie of fuel during the nearly 4 hour run, with water and electrolytes being the only thing I put down. Since it was not that hot at the beginning, I decided to work the first half of the race to try really hard to bonk as fast as possible, hoping to make the last part hard for me without glycogen and adrenaline. That meant going out with the 3:25 pace team from the beginning and hanging with them to the halfway mark. While 7:55 is not a super fast pace for me, it was in 65 degree weather with my winter running gear on.

At mile 14, temperature was now over 70 and my energy was starting to drop. I was drinking electrolytes in my hand held water bottle (refilled twice during the race) and drinking 2 cups of water at every aid station. By mile 18 I had seriously bonked and was dead tired, feeling about the same as mile 70 in a Hundo, as my ‘r
When running in hot weather your brain can do wonky things and I knew that, so I was paying very close attention to my ‘brain’ including doing simple math (“what is 6 time 9” level of difficulty) as a test of mental awareness. At mile 23 or so, I decided the math was getting just a little difficult so I downed some additional electrolyte pills and within a mile, my head was noticeably better. This was very much a training run, and yes, that was one of the important things I was testing. I love it when a plan comes together, and everything did, except the weather which did eventually hit 90, but 1.5 hours after I crossed the finish line.unning’ responded accordingly, walking about 30% of the time. Again, this technically was a marathon, but for me it was a serious ultra training run.
The post race support was awesome including a great spread of food including pulled pork sandwiches and beer. A quick shower at the local Y and then I had a quick lunch with Sommer, a good running friend who recently moved to the Twin Cities who was down to do the 20 mile training run (one of the options at this race). One of the cool things about facebook is I now have running friends all over the country, and I don’t get to see any of them as often as I wish. So when I do get the chance, it is always enjoyable.

Big ticket ‘lessons’
- Tape toes (like old times) when it is going to be hot.
- Electrolyte tabs always on you, do basic math in your head to test its function. Also, take some at first sign of muscle tightness.
- If you are going to use marathons as ultra training, enter them carbo-depleted.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 Qualifier Marathon Results

3:44:47 82/465 overall

This race was a nice small inaugural race that was only a ~2 hour drive away. In my 100in1 quest, I probably would have run this anyways, but I was asked to be an official pacer for it, which means I got a free entry, which makes it even cooler. This would by 3rd official pacing gig for the pacing company I run for, and I really enjoyed doing this. As a pacer, one of my responsibilities is to pull a shift at the ‘expo’ before the race.

As an inaugural, there were only ~500 marathoners, so the expo was pretty small. We shared the booth with the Motorola Motoactiv sales rep (we all got one to use/keep as they are a sponsor for our pacer company) Our job at the expo is to answer standard questions have about the pacers but with such a small expo, there were not a lot of people with questions. Right next to our booth was the famous Bill Rodgers, who won four Boston marathons and four New York marathons in the late 1970s. He has had a high end running store for many years in Boston and he is at this expo selling several books as signing autographs. We had some great conversations with him, and I even had him sign my race bib. It is always nice to meet real, honest, and friendly legends of your sport.

After the expo, the pacer team (7 of us) got together for a fine meal at a local italian restaurant. As always, the team was made up of very nice people, all with fun running stories. There were two first timers, and they did great the next day but they were understandably nervous mere hours before. The only pacer I knew from previous experience was Pacer Chris who I credit with helping me get into the pacing gig. He was the 3:10 pacer back in St. Louis a few years ago and I ran with him for over half the race and chatted with him about pacing. Within 2 months, I paced my first marathon in Fargo.

Race morning was un-exciting and early as we needed to get to the finish line and be bussed to start and be there roughly an hour before the gun. As pacers, we need to be very visible before the start if the race so people can find us and ask any last minute questions. It was going to get hot and we all knew it, and that was the most popular topic of discussion. This race was built to be fast (It is call the ‘Qualifier’ marathon for a reason) and the course itself was, but the weather was not going to have it. It started out pleasant in the low 60’s, but it would hit 80+ degrees by the time I rolled by the finish line, and got worse for the people behind me. It definitely took its toll on the runners. peaceAt the start of the race, as usual, I had a large contingent of people with me, about 40 which is huge considering there were only 450 finishers.

As a pacer, my job is to run my miles stone-cold-even pace. At each mile marker, I checked my watch and compared it to my handy pace chart which gave elapsed time for such a pace. I went back and forth in the range of 12 seconds under and 15 second over all day, which is pretty darn good. I normally drop about 40-50% of my runner by mile 10, and today was no different being down to about 15 people hanging with me. As we crossed the halfway point (which I missed by < 5 seconds) I was down to about 8 people holding on, but then the sun started to heat up everything and everyone and runners who were in front of me were dropping back quick. I was consistently passing people every few minutes as the temperature increased.

I was down to one lone person with me at about mile 19 and he hung on for only another mile and a half before he dropped back. As with most of the other pacers I had nobody with me the last miles. On hot days such as this, being a pacer is actually difficult. As you get tired and hot, you have to increase your effort at the exact right rate to keep your net pace even. It takes a lot of mental focus as the day goes on. I enjoy it as a challenge, though. I crossed the Finish right on schedule, 13 seconds before my goal time and was glad to finish when I did as the temperature was still climbing. The post race party was fun, including free beer, pizza and shaded tables. After I had my fill, I headed back home feeling good about yet another successful pacing assignment.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

2012 Kalamazoo Marathon Results (Or: Dress Too Warm on Purpose and Help a Friend)

47/702 Overall
6/75 Age
A few weeks ago, I was asked (and I accepted) to help crew an Italian runner in the 2012 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon. Running that race is on my bucket list and everyone says that if you want to get in, it really helps to have crewed/paced one before. To to start my training, I decided to run the Kalamazoo marathon wearing way too many clothes to mimic hot weather running. For a first attempt at such training, I think it worked quite well.

Misty and I decided to make a day of it in Kalamazoo and she decided o do the 5K walk while I was running the marathon. This is at least the 4th time we have done this and we both enjoy it. We left the house at 5:45 am and got to the crowded start line (Today there was a full marathon, a 1/2 marathon, a 5K run and a 5K walk) We got lucky and snuck into a good parking spot, grabbed our numbers and then I got dressed.

I wanted to be hot, and so for this first ‘test’, I wore 3 long sleeve running shirts, 2 pairs of running pants, a warm weather running cap, and gloves. It was basically the outfit I would wear if it was ~15 degrees out. Sadly, it was about 50 degrees at race start so I was not that warm at the start, but it would get uncomfortable which today was a good thing. Only a few people noticed my overdressing which is fine as I was actually trying to be subtle about it so as to answer fewer questions.

Misty and I got to the start line and while I was waiting around, I found John Y, my barefoot running friend. He was standing in socks, but had planned on ditching them right before the race. Sadly, John is moving in a few weeks and I will miss him dearly. A really nice guy who I enjoyed chatting with on long runs. After I chatted with him, I kissed my lovely wife goodbye and I moved up closer to the start looking for another friend, Brian Walsh, a runner that I met at a RUT fat ass race last fall. A graduate student at UofM and avid (and pretty good) ultra runner, he actually ran the No Wimps challenge (1/2 + 50K) last weekend like I did, so it was nice when I found him again. After chatting with him for a little while we decided to run together at the start and I figured I would play it by ‘feel’ not knowing how the extra clothes would affect me. His marathon PR is 3:39, which is slow considering what he is capable of in both shorter and longer distances. He had told me in previous conversations that he just can’t figure out the marathon distance. I decided early that I was going to try to get him to a new marathon PR so people would stop giving him grief for such a slow marathon ‘record’. I knew it would take my mind off my own heat issues and staying with him chatting for the race would make it fly by, and it did. Thats called a ‘Win-Win’.

The race course fairly simple, running all through Kalamazoo area including Western Michigan University. There were a total 14 well run aid stations, each with dozens of anxious and excited volunteers. There were a few thousand runners total of all the racers, but the crowd support was as awesome as the aid stations. Always cheering, even us strangers throughout the race. I swear every intersection had 2-3 police officer/EMS/fire-fighters holding traffic for us runners. It is rare to see a city come out and support a race much more than this. Having seen too many under-supported races in my career, this was great. I helped that is was a beautiful day.
Brian and I crossed the 1/2 marathon split at about 1:37 which made Brian happy, but it was mile 20+ that he was afraid of as that is where he usually blows up. The temperature did slowly increase all day and I didn’t start feeling really ‘hot’ until about mile 17. At its worst, I think it ‘felt’ about 95 degrees in my running outfit, even though it was only ~65 degrees out. I try to learn something new every race and what I learned this race was I need to wear more clothes if I want to mimic 100+ degrees. Granted, had I wore the ‘correct’ amount for this experiment, I probably would not have been able to hang with Brian, so I guess that made it all ok.

The course contained a handful of loooong hills that all seemed to be late in the race and were of course, not fun. As we came up to one particularly long hill at about mile 21, seeing it spurred Brian to say ‘I would be ok with walking this hill’. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of ‘No’. We had slowed a little and took a little bit of time at aid stations, especially the last handful to get extra water. I ended up drinking about 2-3 more than I normally do in a marathon, and Brian drinks a lot all the time. They had water and something called ‘Gu Brew’ which is Gu’s attempt at a gatorade-style drink. I was unimpressed.

The crowds grew as we approached the finish cheering us on and we both came in faster than expected, so both our wives missed us as we crossed the finish line. I had told Misty to start looking for me around 3:30, and well, Brian’s PR is 3:39. So when we rolled in at 3:23, there were no friendly faces nearby, but they were very excited when we -did- find each other. Love all around.

A funny thing happened when I did my handstand. The timing mat (which is where I normally do it) was slippery and I failed on my first attempt. So, for the first time, I backed up 6 steps and did it again, this time with better success. There is probably no photo evidence of either attempt, but it’s the principle, damnit.
Beer!We wandered over to Brian’s car (the local beer garden) and chatted for a little while talking about the great day. Misty and I said our goodbyes and headed off but not before I was able to get a quick shower before leaving for lunch. Misty after finishing the 5K had gone back to the car, cleaned up and even took a nice nap before I even crossed the finish line. I was jealous, but it is always awesome to see her at race end.

We had a few hours yet before we got kids back, so we had a relaxed late lunch at local Applebee’s where we sat and took our sweet time eating our meal while we played pinochle, our favorite 2 person card game. It really was a great excursion with an awesome race, quality time alone with my lovely bride, and a beautiful day. I hope to run this one again, and you know how infrequently I say that…