Monday, November 25, 2013

A P.R. Ain't Nothin' but a Number - 2013 Williams Route 66 Marathon

So chalk it up, marathon #5 down. I missed my P.R. by a little over a minute. I would have normally looked at it as a big letdown, however I knew going in having a good race is not guaranteed. 
Leading up to raceday, everything was falling in place perfectly. I had followed my training plan, got in some great runs the last month, followed my diet plan and recovered from minor 'injuries'.
Hello Tulsa!
This would be my first road marathon trip. Tulsa was my choice this year after having such bad weather for the Dallas Marathon in 2012. The weather from what I was told is always cooler than what it is in Dallas in late November/early December even though the city is only a 257 mile drive up U.S. Hwy 75. I had a room booked for the Aloft Tulsa and was going to bring family however a mix up with the hotel and my reservation (long story) caused me to have to make some last minute changes. To avoid complicating things, family decided to stay behind this time and I ended up working out a deal to shack up with fellow frunners and DRC members Sanjay and Coach Steve. I rode in with Steve whose hometown is Atoka, OK which is a maybe a little more than halfway between Dallas and Tulsa. Steve gave me a pretty good autobiography of himself and pointing out different Hwy 75 landmarks which is his stomping grounds on the way there and back. We arrived to Tulsa had lunch at a pub where we met up with other DRC members Jamie, Jonno, Chad and Sanjay. This would become our weekend posse. After lunch we went to the marathon expo, got our race packets and checked in to the hotel. I could tell the temps were dropping because my teeth started to hurt. After kicking around all day, we all met up at an Italian restaurant with a couple other runners for some last stage carb loading, swung by Wally World for some last minute items then called it a night.
Race Morning
I was always told that the most important night of sleep is the night two days before the race rather than the night before. Well I did it backwards. I could sleep at all Friday, but slept like a baby Saturday. I woke up at 5:30 went downstairs and indulged in the hotel's complimentary breakfast then got dressed and started to prepare myself mentally for what I was to encounter in 2.5 hours.  We decided to leave our room about 20-30 minutes before race start as to not prolong standing in 23 degree weather for too long.  The worst part of the weather was the first five minutes after stepping into it.  Actually it didn't really feel that bad. I had on two layers, and that was enough.  I was able to check in my drop bag, make some last minute adjustments and squeeze into the corral as the national anthem was being sung.  Perfect timing.  
Race Start
My strategy was to run with the 4:00 pacer for the first 5K, hold a 9 min/mi pace until I got to around mile 18, then if I was feeling good, make a judgement call rather or not to pick it up from there.  I started out as planned following the 4:00 Pacer whom was chatting away to a friend the whole time non stop about kids, holidays, President Obama, you name it; never acknowledged the folks running around her. After the first mile my Garmin bleeped out a 9:14 split and that was enough for me.  Too slow.  I decided to take off on my own. The course started out hilly and never let up. I figured with all of the hill training I had done I should have no problems. There were numerous shout outs to 'DRC' as I was wearing my DRC swag proudly.  I got my 9:04, avg pace at mile 3. First task completed. Now all I had to do is hold a 9:00 pace to mile 18. How hard could that be? Well it wasn't, until I got to mile between mile 15-18. Along the way to mile 18 I was right on point with my hydration, fueling, and supplements. There was however a point at mile 14 where I experienced some lightheadedness. That went on for almost a mile. I had no idea at the time what caused it and you can see it in my splits, but I shook it off and kept going.  Now that I look at the elevation from my Garmin report, there was a steady overall increase in elevation at that point so maybe that had something to do with it.  I fluctuated my speed up and down the hills and did the best I could to try to average 9:00, sometimes I was above sometimes I was below.  The race support was awesome.  I took a 24 oz bottle of water with me and figured to hydrate as much as I could at the water stations.  It seems as every time I felt it was time to hydrate, there was a water station.  
Mile 18
Back to mile 18 from out of nowhere I started having lots of fatigue pain in my left quad. It slowed my pace down by at least :30. No bueno. I knew that the faster I could get done the better. Yeah okay, that's obvious but the longer I'm out there the more fatigued I knew everything else would become.  I looked back halfway through mile 18 to see if the 4:00 pacer was in sight and she was right there.  Damn.  Now I know how it feels when I'm pacing a race and I pass someone who had a goal of finishing before I do.  I hear a lot of expletives when they see me carrying a pacestick bearing the time that they were trying to beat.  That was very demoralizing at that moment.  I knew I would not catch them without injuring myself trying to.  So the only thing I had left was to try to break my personal record of 4:13:09 which has been my P.R. since my very first marathon.  
Gutting it Out
My biggest fear before this race was cramping up.  I knew if that happened, the race would be pretty much over for me.  I have cramped up at almost every marathon and half marathon I have done.  To this day I'm not sure if it is because of lack of electrolytes or lack of training at intense speeds.  I took electrolyte supplements during the race and it seemed to help.  Around mile 23 I could feel some pulling in my hamstrings giving a hint at cramping that slowed me down even more.  I could see I was either going to narrowly make or miss my P.R.  I felt like I couldn't let all the training I had done and traveling that far to run a marathon could go to waste.  My quad was really hurting, but I decided to deal with it no matter how uncomfortable it was.  I'm sure people could see the pain on my face.  Once I got to mile 24, all I had to do run somewhat of a steady pace to beat it.  I'm just now looking at my Garmin and how I produced a 10:14 pace at mile 26, I have NO idea.  I was able to sustain it until the last little upgrade just before the turn to the finish line.  I walked very briskly up that incline then tried to trot as fast as I could to the finish only to be rejected ten feet from the finish with a full calf cramp.  I stopped and drug myself across the finish.  4:14:14.
In Conclusion
All of the planets aligned up except Pluto. Pluto represented race conditions Sunday.  Not making excuses.  I did the best I could with what was thrown at me. What I have learned is that a personal record is just a number. A race result does not necessarily tell the story of all of the training, blood, sweat and tears that proceeded it.  It will fall one day, I will just be patient which is my middle name.  And when it falls I have a feeling it will fall HARD.  Looking forward, I am still in the best shape of my life and ready for the next marathon :)


Mile Splits
Avg Pace


Steve taking a pic of all of his inventory.  Not sure how
 he toted all of that through the race, but it worked out.  He B.Q'ed.
Just before race start waiting in sub freezing temperatures
Some of the DRC Tulsa crew: Chad, Steve, Jamie, Jonno, Sanjay and me
And the medal.  #5.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Now What? 1 week to Tulsa

This is nerve wrecking now.  One more long-ish run tomorrow and couple more base runs and my taper and training is done before Tulsa on next Sunday.  I've been registered for this race since early summer, booked my hotel two months ago and I even have most of my race gear packed and ready to go.  Training has gone perfectly, all of the little dings and pings I had have gone away, even the pesky little hip flexor strain that was driving me nuts.  I feel better and healthier than I have ever in my life.  In my LIFE.  So what's left to do?  I think I already have a good race strategy and nutrition-while-racing strategy ready.  That forces me to look at little things that I shouldn't really worry about like what the weather will be like on race day and I even went as far as going through some of the course using Google Street View.  Bored with that, now.  I did find out that Tulsa is a beautiful city by the way.  What I should do is reflect back on this whole marathon training season, which for me started right after I paced the Big D Marathon in April.  Yeah, let's do that.  Thinking about all of the things that toughened me.  The hot hot summer runs where it's 97 degrees even at 9pm at night, the runs on grass and dirt hills at Norbuck Park, the humid trail runs at Northshore and Big Cedar, the dehydration incident- yes, the dehydration event, and the hilly routes thrown to us every other week in training at the DRC.  Most of all those few runs which I had to do on my own during the week but didn't feel like it, because my occupation had beaten me down all day long.  But I still did them.  Or getting up at 4am to get those runs in because I knew the wife would have me occupied with honey-do's after work.  I still got my ass out of bed.  Last but not least my running family whom I get so much encouragement and motivation from that can't even be measured.  I don't know what's going to happen next Sunday, but I can say I put (almost) everything I had into this training this season.  Of course there's that weeeee bit more that you wish you had done.  If I break my 4:13:06 P.R. that will be good.  If I break 4:00 I will be very happy.  If I hit my goal of 3:55 I will be ecstatic.  Any thing better than that I will be turning cartwheels at the finish line.  The only thing left to do is carry out my race strategy as well as I carried out my training. Unless something else strikes me to blog about next week, the next blog post will be the race report.  Stay tuned...   May the course be with me.  


Sunday, November 3, 2013

DRC Half Marathon (pace job) race report - 20 days til Tulsa

Before the start of this season I decided I would be part of this race whether I was racing it or pacing it.  I raced the 2011 DRC Half which at that time was my 2nd ever half but skipped this event last year in 2012, still not sure why.  Never again.  It is hands down the best organized half  marathons in the area and I just found out one of the oldest half marathons in the country.  I'm trying not to be biased but it's true.  Sorry, Rock N Roll Dallas.  That makes me even more honored to have the opportunity to pace this event.

     As usual, I couldn't sleep the night before.  I may have gotten in 4-5 hours sleep which is adequate, and this was the end of daylight savings time so by setting the clocks back an hour we all gained an hour of sleep- or an extra hour of wake for me.  I went ahead and got out of bed around 4:30 am and fixed a light breakfast, got my gear together then left to get an early parking spot.  I met up with the rest of the pace group at the DRC tent and grabbed the 2:05 pace stick which was what me and my co-pacer Jackie C. was assigned.  We had new pace sticks, ones that seemed to be lighter and more wind tolerant.  And they looked great. There was a nip in the air, the temperature at start was exactly 50 degrees.  I had a long sleeve shirt on over my orange TEAM DRC singlet.  I was thinking I would be freezing when I took it off, but it felt great out there.  One thing, I noticed I put my shorts on backwards.  How I did that and didn't notice I have no idea ha ha.  I ducked into the DRC tent and put them on correctly then found my co-pacer.  We lined up in the corral and as we were waiting for the start, dailymile friend Meg popped up.  I got a quick pic with her and wished her well.  I then looked around and noticed that I was surrounded by most of the folks from my 4:10 pace group, A.K.A "3:70".  We had a large group run with us in general.

Race Start
     Jackie brought two different pace bands to wear on our wrists.  One with even paces and one with negative splits.  She asked me which one we should use and I recommended the even splits as I checked out the newly designed course and it looked as if it would be fairly flat with little elevation changes.  I was correct.  75 percent or more of the course was on the lake.   Once we got out of the initial race congestion, it was easy peasy.  There were a couple small hills but nothing major that you couldn't get through if had been training for it.  I tried to pace slowly up the hills and pick the pace up going down.  I would check and look back ever so often and notice the same faces behind me.  Good to go.  We got a little ahead at one point but as you can see by our splits below, we pretty much nailed it all the way through.  We needed to stay at about a 9:25-ish pace.  My 4:10 group stuck with us through most of this race and a few of them took off toward the end and broke their personal records.  At the end I had numerous people come up to me and thank us for pacing them through the race.  I love hearing that and that is what it is all about and why I love pacing.  The official results, we finished with a chip time of 2:04:53.  It don't get too much better than that.

Post Race
     Post race food was OK but I was grateful.  Freebirds was there handing out tacos and In-and-Out Burger were handing out burgers.  There was a beer tent set up as well.  If you were patient enough to wait through the long lines, you got refreshed.  Legs felt fine a little tired probably due to I ran 11 miles at a semi fast pace the day before.  Overall a great race, nicely organized.  Pacing is going great both in racing and with my group.  Training is going well.  Hoping this season ends as well as it seems it will.

Me and Meg from dailymile, our first meeting
ever just before race start.

Me and Jackie, approaching the finish line
 about to nail our target time.

Garmin splits, we held it pretty steady throughout.

Free burgers after the race from In-N-Out Burger