Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kentucky Derby Marathon...Success!

Going into this week, I'd be a damn liar if I told you I was over the day that was Boston.  Obviously, it really sucked to come up short for what was essentially the third time (although this time I got to the Start line).  My confidence was kind of shot too as I had basically bombed my last two races.

So enter the Kentucky Derby Marathon.  I ended up being a last minute replacement for the 3:10 pace group at this race.  The same person who organizes the Baltimore Marathon pacers has also recently taken on this event, hence the connection.

Last year, this pacing opportunity was also a casualty of my stress fracture, and I was pretty disappointed I was unable to do it.  This year, I originally decided against it, but the opportunity presented itself once again, and I (stupidly or otherwise) agreed to do it.  All in all, it's a pretty damn good deal:

1. 1 free pair of any Asics shoe I want to do the race in
2. Free singlet, shorts, and hat
3. Free entry to the race
4. Two nights free at the Galt House Hotel (seemed to be one of the best in Louisville)
5.  Free transportation (if you don't fly)

Now of course, it isn't all fun and games.  I only managed 16 miles on the pair of DS Racers that I got only a couple of weeks before the race.  The shorts had no pockets at all, the uniform was an interesting orange color (which I loved, but other people, not so much).  The transportation was also basically a 9 hour car ride from Baltimore.

However, a free weekend in Louisville to do an easy long run is pretty tough to complain about.

On to the race itself, the pace group consisted of myself and one other runner, Keith, who has done many of these pacing events before and can do a 3:20 marathon off the bike in an Ironman (read: beast).  Between the two of us, we were banking that 3:10 would be a cruise through Louisville.  After some trouble getting into my corral (I was assigned C but needed to get in A), I finally managed to sneak in past the volunteers.  Apparently, even the 3:10 pace sign wasn't enough to get into the first corral...

After 15 minutes of standing around, COLD because it was going to be a nice day to run, we were off.  The course overall was pretty damn awesome.  The first 7 miles ran through downtown, and out into some neighborhoods.  There were few turns and generally wide open roads where you could fly if you were racing.  We then turned off to Churchill Downs (aka the race track where the Kentucky Derby is held), actually cut through some back entrance and came out onto the infield before running back out.  It was probably the most unique place I've run through in the middle of a race.

The mile markers in this race were terrible, with many being far off.  Keith's Garmin was also not getting a consistent signal, so we had to run most of the race on feel.  Through the first 8 or so miles we were essentially within 20 seconds of 3:10 pace.

Immediately after the horse track, we essentially slammed right into the split with the half marathon.   Most of our group peeled off as they were half guys just trying to get pulled along for 8 miles.  Our remaining group of 10 continued on into the now much thinner and more open road.

We hit a couple of light hills in Churchill Downs and around it, but then once again, ended up on a flat, wide open road for miles with no turns.  Another real fast section for racers.

A couple of things to note.  By the half way point, I was feeling better than great.  7:14 pace barely felt like an effort.  I ended up even carrying our pace sign (a flag on a long stick) almost all of the way, and it did not contribute to making me anymore tired.  Also, since the shorts had no pockets, I ended up pinning my electrolyes (Honey Stinger Chews) to my shorts, which worked out really well.  All these variables before the race certainly did not end up affecting the run at all.

But anyway, back to the race...  As we continued out on the flat and fast section, we saw the leaders coming back the other way, looking real good.  Eventually, we hit Iroquois Park, which would turn out to be the toughest part of the course.  We left our neighborhood and flat road behind for a few miles of rolling hills, with a real nice long one at the beginning.  The entire park was basically a forest, in complete shade.  It was quite the change from where we just were.

After finishing the hills and coming out of the park, we passed a terribly placed 15 mile marker and looked to still be right around 20 seconds behind (which is about what we were expecting).  Some of our group had gone ahead at this point, and others had fallen off, while a few brave souls still remained in tow.

After 15, we hit the same road we were on earlier, and continued running back towards Louisville on the flat straightaway.  By Mile 18, for reasons that are unclear to me, we temporarily re-merged with the half marathon race.  Since it started at the same time as our race, these were all essentially run-walkers who were going to finish around 3 hours or more.  Thankfully, cones kept them to the left while we continued running on the right.  We eventually merged together, but there was just enough room for our group to get by.

By Mile 19, we nearly went off course as a bunch of deceptive cones were placed on a road not part of the course.  Thankfully, we saw mile 19 and continued running through half marathoners.  By this point, we were bleeding the last few people that were left.  3 runners held on for a little bit, but eventually dropped off.  We also caught every single person that went ahead after the park (a valuable lesson for everyone, including myself, on proper pacing).

By 20, we turned off from the half marathoners to finish our last 10K.  By this point, no one was running with us.  It was just two fools in orange uniforms with one guy holding a "3:10" sign.  But, we made the best of it to help those we passed.  The last 6.2 of this course was completely desolate.  Crowd support was hit or miss most of the way, but now, there was basically no one.  We could see really far ahead, and everyone was so spread out and lonely that we could sympathize.  As best we could, we riled people up and told them to keep going strong.  Most were still running, but no one was running a 7:14 as we were passing people.

Miles 21-25 proved pretty challenging.  The course profile managed to "hide" the decent rolling hills over this section.  Keith and I both ended up picking it up, partially to get our 20 seconds back, and partially because the hills did start to hurt a bit.  My legs were never completely dead, but we both agreed this section wasn't all that easy, and it was better to get it over with.

As we continued to approach home, we caught what ended up being the 2nd place overall female.  She looked to be hurting bad, and was not too happy.  With some coaxing, we managed to get her to finish hard and still run a sub-3:09.  It seemed pretty clear she was originally going for the win, (2:53ish) but was happy for the push we gave her.

One other of our shattered group had managed to catch up to us in the last mile, and we sent him on his way to pass us.  As we approached the finish line, we crossed with a chip time of 3:10:10, well within our 59 second allowance.

We stuck around to congratulate some of the people we helped along the way.  Although no one finished with us, many did better than they would have by running with us.  This included a 62 year old man who ran a 3:12 and looking pretty damn strong on some of those hills back there.  It turns out he started running 30 years ago after quitting smoking and has gotten faster ever since.

After it was all said and done, I was very, very happy with how easy the whole thing felt.  I was never extremely sore or tired, and worked maybe just a little bit on some of the hills.  By Sunday, I was barely sore at all, and have continued to feel better over the day.  It was quite a confidence booster to know that 3:10 is cake, and that all things considered, I'm still in pretty good shape.  So overall, it was quite the confidence booster.  My day for the marathon will come sooner or later.  In the meantime, some Guinness, and a few shots of Bourbon (it is Kentucky after all) managed to round out the weekend.

With 6 miles on Monday, 4 Wednesday, 7.5 Thursday, and 40 bike Miles Wednesday....

Running: ~44 miles
Bike: 40 miles

When I have some pictures, I'll post them because everyone has to see these ridiculous uniforms we wore.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Now What?

Despite only "running" "16 miles" on Monday at Boston, I was pretty sore for the next couple of days.  I guess that race really did a number on me.  Since I'm not in any rush right now to be in shape, and had to spend two days in New Jersey for work, I decided to just take it easy. this week  One easy run followed Boston, on Friday, a 3 miler.

I kicked off Saturday by taking my bike back out on the road and doing 30 miles at an easy pace, but with some rolling hills mixed in.  I didn't feel like driving anywhere and just rode northbound from my apartment.  Anyone who knows Baltimore knows that North = uphill.  By the end, I felt as I expected, just slightly sore from not being on a bike in a while, but not overly so.

Running miles for the week: 19
Cycling miles: 30

Now what?  Well, that's a pretty good question.  As far as racing and/or pacing, here is what's to come:
Apr 28th: Pacing for 3:10 at the Kentucky Derby Marathon.  Considering I didn't actually finish Boston, and 7:15 is a pretty chill pace, I'm banking on this just being a laid back experience.  Plus, I could use a completed marathon for the Spring...

May 6th: Pacing for 1:40 at the Fredrick Half Marathon.  Note, a slower per mile pace than Kentucky.  This should also be easy money, and just a way to kick back and get some easy miles in.

May 12th: Cascade Lake Duathlon.  It's somewhat short, there is a 5K run at the end, and the bike course is hilly.  I figure I may as well do at least 1 this year, and might as well pick one that plays a bit to my strengths (hills on the bike and a reasonably long second run).  Plus, it gives me some motivation to get some bike miles in.

Beyond.......I'm signed up for the Baltimore 10 Miler if only because I've done this race each year since its inception.  That wasn't very long ago, this will be year 5, but I'm not about to break that streak now.

Beyond that..................??

I have thoughts and dreams, a few ideas for training schedules, and some ideas for races.  But right now, I've got nothing set in stone.  I'll have a better idea in the first weekend in May exactly what it is I want to do.  Here is what I do know:

-The marathon has not been kind to me, but sooner or later, it has to come together

-My most recent time is "only" a 3:02, which gives me last choice for Boston 2013 or 2014

-Despite some struggles of late, I'm still riding a wave of PRs and overall solid performances from Mid/Late July on (definitely excluding marathons)

-I need to learn to stay in control when I start to peak, feel strong, etc.  I seem to be very good at running myself into the ground.  Once I get a good streak going, I always end up piling on too much and paying, one way or the other.  The one time I got it right, I blew away my marathon PR and went from a 3:09 to a 2:44  I've gotta learn to keep myself in line!

So, stay tuned.  A plan will materialize soon.  But for now, I'm taking the next couple of weeks to not worry about PRs, racing, mileage, or any of that, just getting others to their goals, getting some bike time in, and letting myself recover.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Wilted...Like a Flower! 2012 Boston

Despite my best efforts, I ended up becoming a victim of, rather than a witness to the carnage that was the 2012 Boston Marathon.  Going into the race, I decided to go out at 6:30 pace, and if it felt too hard (due to the heat), I'd back off and just enjoy the ride.

With temperatures forecast to reach 85+ degrees, I diligently hydrated, stayed out of any heat and took it easy all weekend.  I ran around 30ish  miles all easy, in the week leading up to the race.  On Monday morning, I woke up pretty confident and feeling pretty good.

After taking the bus from Hopkinton State Park to the athletes village, I relaxed for a couple of hours, having my usual pre race food, remaining calm, and somewhat excited.  By 9:10, they called wave 1 to the start.  I dropped my bag in the buss and walked the ~1 mile to corral 1.  A few guys I run with/race with were there and we all discussed our plans.  Plans ranged from taking it easy, to going for it anyway.  I fell somewhere in the middle.

At 10AM, the race was off.  I already knew the heat was going to suck, I was sweating just standing in the corral for the 10 minutes before the race.  Boston certainly lived up to its reputation with great spectators.

Mile splits that I took:
6:19, 6:23, 6:31, 6:28, 6:37, 6:35, 6:52

I went out just a tad fast, since it is quite downhill early.  I did reel it in though and sort of settled in.  Aside from the official course water, all kinds of people had their own water to hand out, oranges, towels, etc, etc, etc.  It was actually really cool (not temperature wise).  I made sure to stick to my rough plan of taking a few sips every stop, and grabbing a second cup to dump on myself.

I even took some unofficial stuff, and for the most part, through the 10K, felt reasonable.  Then things started to go south, fast.  I went through mile 7, having decided to back off 6:30 pace and just try and cruise in.  I figured, if I caught myself soon enough, I could still enjoy the remaining experience.  I shut off my watch after that, to try and just put it on cruise control.

My stomach and intestines slowly started tying themselves into knots, my feet started throbbing (probably from being swollen), and I started to feel "out of it."

By about mile 9, despite my chill pace, I kept feeling worse and worse.  Finally, I decided to walk for a little and see if I could gather myself.  Everything from that point on was a disjointed run-walk, as you can see from my official splits on the BAA website, with times of 8-9 minutes per mile and slower.

I started getting passed by some of my training partners/running friends and actually felt really bad that I couldn't even compose myself enough to run with them.  Every one that passed me tried to pull me along, and I just couldn't get myself going.  I am still very grateful you all tried!

The famed Wellesley girls got me through their section; you really can hear the screeching almost a mile away.  After passing the half marathon point, Dave P., caught up to me and tried to get me going again.  My left hip (and most of my leg muscles) were not cooperating with all the starting and stopping I was doing.  I stayed with him for a while, but it was getting harder to breathe, all while the cramping in my mid section was not going away.

Finally, I reached mile 16 and just had it.  I was getting dizzy, couldn't drink anything because it was just making me sick, sunburned myself pretty good (I rarely burn), and all in all, could not fathom death marching into Boston.

Thankfully my parents were there, and after sitting in the shade for 30 minutes (feeling even worse, but eventually getting better), felt good enough to at least limp to the car, go get my stuff in Boston, and go back to the hotel.

So now what?  Well, my first reaction was.."fuck this marathon stuff, I'm done!"  I've since back tracked from that a little.  More on that later...  And as far as my now unfinished business with Boston, I do have my fall NCR trail marathon time of 3:02ish, which is a bit borderline.  But, more on that later too.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fate? No. Bad luck? meh. Just Suck it up!

I am beginning to notice a pattern here, or just a massive coincidence!

I first qualified for the Boston Marathon on Nov 14th, 2009 with a 3:09:12 at Richmond.  As it turned out, race registration closed the day before, months earlier than it ever had.  So I waited until September of 2010 and registered for real, being one of the crazy people responsible for it filling up in 8 hours.  Then, I managed to suffer a legit injury for the first time ever.

Fast forward to 2012, I'm registered yet again, and get slightly side tracked by getting sick for the first time in years.  And now finally, with Boston just a mere few days away.....

The weather forecast is for nearly record breaking highs, likely to make this the second hottest Boston Marathon on record, and the hottest full marathon (though not the hottest race) I will have ever run.  I don't believe in fate or some grand plan, but damnit if someone really doesn't want me to do well or run this race, they should just tell me!!

Regardless, 872 days, 7 completed marathons, 1 marathon PR, 6280 miles, 15 pairs of shoes, and a few dozen races later...I'm here and I could care less what high pressure pattern Earth's wind patterns have decided to dump on Boston.

The plan: respect the heat, respect the fact that I missed some running, but also understand that I probably needed a few days off anyway.  There is also exhibit A:

The end of a 20 mile race I did back in September.  My shorts are not soaked with water, that is definitely my own sweat.  The high that day was 80F, and the dewpoint hit 67F or higher.  There was also almost no water on the course, half the stations were unmanned, and I wasn't losing 2nd place to stopping for water.  If I can survive that race, I'll survive this one too.

My badass white Falls Road Singlet is going to be so freaking sweet on race day as will the shortest shorts Brooks sells.  Combine that with making sure to take water, actually eating the honey stingers I bring with me, and staying true to my plan of going out in the first 3-5 miles at 6:20-6:35 pace without getting carried away, and I'll make it.  The cards will fall where they will after that based on how I feel, how much I'm sweating, etc, etc, etc.

I've waited too long to let some less than perfect training or a less than perfect day ruin it for me now!

Saturday afternoon, I'm off.

For those scoring at home, my bib# is 609; should have some kind of runner tracking up.

To anyone else reading this who may be running Boston (or any other hot race), good luck, and stay hydrated!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

At Long Last, the Final Week has Arrived

Without getting too dramatic, this week has been quite a long time in the making.  I've been waiting since November of 2009 to both have a bib and be healthy to run Boston.  And apparently, the stars have aligned, at least well enough.

This week was infinitely better than last week.  I can now run about as far as I would expect without being so sore that I can't walk.  Whatever is going on with my left quad and/or back is still a problem, but as long as I "give it respect" it isn't getting any worse.

I didn't quite hit 50 miles for this week, but honestly, it probably doesn't matter at this point...

Monday: Rest.  Took the conservative route after my first double digit mileage run in a couple weeks.

Tuesday: 10 miles total with 5xmile at 5:50 pace.  It was nice to step foot on a track for the first time in 3 weeks.  I kept the rest to a lap jog in between and except for one 5:40 (opps), the remaining 4 miles were between 5:50-5:52.  It actually got easier as I went on, and overall, everything felt about what I would have expected.

Wednesday: 10 miles, easy.  I felt decent afterwards, though in hindsight, probably should have run a little less.

Thursday: Rest.  I woke up to a stiff and painful quad again.  Rather than make it worse, I just canned what would have been an easy run anyway.

Friday: 3 miles, easy.  Quad was still stiff and painful.  Thankfully I had the day off from work, so I basically sat around all day (still being productive, studying for the GREs) with heat and compression on my leg.  By the afternoon, it felt much better.

Saturday: 6 miles, easy.  The quad felt better with no pain during this easy run.

Sunday: Once again, I woke up with a tight quad and back.  I'm seriously considering ditching my mattress because it's old as freaking crap, and clearly, must have something to do with this.  After some light stretching and some more heat, it felt better again, so I decided to get a final long-ish run in.

14 miles total, I kept most of the miles between 6:40 and 7:00, and tried just a couple at various paces between 6:15 and 6:35 to get a feel for race day.  I seemed to feel the best in the 6:30s.  Slower than that felt like dragging and faster than that felt too hard.  Without actually revealing a plan for the race, I at least have some idea of what to start out with.

Total Mileage: 43

If it wasn't for my troublesome quad, I would be a bit more at ease.  I doubt it will be a problem, and I've waited too long for this anyway.  I'm certainly not in any condition to try for a sub-2:40, and a PR might be pushing it.  Overall, I'm aiming for just an intelligently paced race where I go out conservatively and let the cards fall where they will on the second half.  On a perfect day, I think I can still PR, but I'll take pretty much anything under 2:55.

My two real goals for Boston:
1. Enjoy the moment (finally)
2. Prove to myself that I can run a well paced, reasonable marathon in the ball park of my now somewhat old PR

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Warranty Repairs

This was one of the more interesting weeks I've had in a while.  It started off terrible and had me extremely concerned, but ended on a high note.  Going into Monday, I had taken a total of 8 straight days off, and did not run 10 of the last 11 days.  I needed a few days for sure, but probably not that much.  I had also lost a little bit of weight from being sick, which threw a curve ball into everything.  Loss of weight is really, really bad for me being that I barely crack 140 lbs as it is.

Monday: 7 miles.  I felt pretty bad for the first few miles, but by the end, hit a bit of a groove.  Within a few hours though, my quads were PAINFULLY sore.  It was as if I hadn't run in years.  By Tuesday, my quads were in so much pain I could barely walk.

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: 7 miles, easy.  My quads still hurt pretty bad, but I decided to run anyway.  Went with the usual Wednesday night crew and felt somewhat better as the run went on, though my legs were having nothing of the downhills.

Thursday: 7 miles, easy.  My quads were still bad going into this run and got much worse as it went on.  By mile 5, I seriously considered walking from being in so much pain, but I finished.

Friday: Rest.  I woke up and could barely get out of bed, my left quad feeling as if it were strained.  Thursday/Friday of last week, I kind of felt it strain pretty badly (from doing nothing because that makes sense) and thought it was ok going into this week.  Apparently I was wrong.

A good deal of ibuprofen and as I discovered through trial and error, heat on my lower back eventually cleared it up.

Saturday: 6 miles total with 1 mile somewhere around 4:55 pace.  This was an interesting day.  I was part of the timing crew for a half marathon Back on My Feet put on.  As part of the day, the organizing group set up a 14x 1 mile (with 1 runner going 0.1 miles) relay to try and beat the overall winner.  I was the second leg, brought us from 3rd to 1st with a 10 second cushion, but it didn't last as our relay ended up 22nd overall in 1:36.

Regardless, I was worried going into this event that it would be a mistake and originally planned to just jog it.  After warming up though, I felt really good and just went for it.  By the time the day was done, my legs for the first time, didn't feel as if they had been stabbed by sharp objects.

So at the last minute, I joined the TWSS crew for an early Sunday morning long run...

Sunday:  ~13 miles total.  The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, a rather big and fast race was being held today.  A bunch of us met up at the College Park metro station (old stomping grounds) and ran from CP to Washington DC to cheer on some of our teammates.  It was an early start, 6:20AM, but worth it.  We took the metro back afterwards.

It was cool to be back in College Park for the first time in a while (I went to UMD), and to run on some of the trails where I did my first long runs in preparation for my first marathon...National in 2008, where I ran a 3:49.  Oh those were interesting days...

Equally importantly, despite running in the cold and standing in the cold cheering for people (in minimal clothing), my legs felt pretty good.  I did a couple of pick ups while we were running around the course, and although those runs didn't feel stellar, on the whole, the soreness was nearly non existent.

I'm certainly moving in the right direction, especially considering Boston is a mere 2 weeks away.  I'm pretty resigned to the fact that I have to revise my goals slightly, but it almost feels as if a giant burden has been lifted from my shoulders.  I'm honestly not even going to announce a goal going into the race.  I'll keep it to myself, and make sure I run such a pace that I'll be able to run from start to finish and take in the experience.

Total: 40 miles

For next week, I'll try 50, and maybe a relatively easy workout just so I remember how to pick it up a bit.  There is no need to taper down I think, I'll just kind of get my mileage back to what it would have been had I been tapering from higher numbers.