Monday, February 24, 2014

A P.R. Weekend: Mayors 5K and Cowtown Ultra

CIGNA Mayor's Race 5K
     This race was originally scheduled back in December but was cancelled due to the severe ice storm which also cancelled the 2013 Dallas Marathon.  Since I work for CIGNA, I had signed up for it for no charge.  I received an email a couple of weeks ago that the race was scheduled for the day before Cowtown.  I had never run a timed 5k before and was curious where I was speed-wise so this would serve as a test.  I ran an untimed 5k in the fall of 2012 which was organized by my employer and per my Garmin I ran it in 23:29, but since it wasn't an official race, it doesn't count.  
     I arrived that morning, with no idea what I would do for this race.  On the training schedule was a 2 mile run in preparation for the next day's ultra marathon.  I could just trot through it and be okay.  I had no idea whom else was running this race, I thought I would see a few of my coworkers there, and I did however they were there to volunteer, not run the race.  Thankfully, I received a message from one of our DRC coaches, Rick who was there to run the race.  He asked if I were going to race it, looked up my 10k time then told me what I should be able to run for a 5k per the McMillan calculator.  The calculator suggested I could average around a 7:45 min/mile.  I knew my fitness level had increased some since that last 10K I did in January, so I figured I would try to keep it around a 7:30 pace.  Rick and I set out for a 1 mile warmup run with strides and that got me going I think.  
Dallas Mayor's Race. Me on left with CIGNA 5K shirt on and to my left
you see former Dallas mayor and marathoner Laura Miller

     I lined up in the very front of the start line to avoid all of the traffic that usually comes with these races.  The weather was at a perfect 55 degrees, no wind and the sun had just started to peek over the horizon.  I started off, with the intention of not going out too fast.  As I still had to weave my way around people I couldn't really get a steady pace.  I got about a half mile in, looked at my Garmin and it was telling me that I was running at about a 6:25 min/mile, yikes!  I tried to slow it down some but had a hard time getting locked into a slower speed.  I was worried that now I would not have anything at the end.  I finally settled into the 7:30 pace that I wanted and amazingly was able to hold it all the way through.  By the time I got to the last turn I started feeling a little nauseous, and I had to run uphill a bit to get to that last turn.  I kept whatever pace I had, should have gunned it because some guy passed me right at the finish line.  I didn't know how important it was until I looked at the results later and saw that I finished in 22:55 and placed 8th overall.  I could have had 7th.  Darn it.

The Cowtown Ultra Marathon
     After completing my 3rd Marathon last February at this event, I had determined that I would run this marathon annually and make it my "A" race.  In last year's Cowtown Marathon, I ran it injured and wasn't able to give it a full effort, but I could tell that this was a very good race as it was at a time of the year where the weather is pretty consistent and I didn't have to travel out of town for it.  What I didn't know is that I would end up signing up for the Ultra Marathon 50K.  At my computer, I sat there looking at marathon vs ultra marathon for a good five minutes.  Then said, what the hell? Clicked 'registration complete'.  Oh boy, you have really done it now.  I had yet to run a 26.2 where I wasn't dying at the end, how in heck would I do a 50K?  I had a plan.  I just started using my head.  Running tons of miles was good, but not enough.  During the last portion of the Route 66 Tulsa Marathon, I paid close attention to what was hurting on my body, made a mental note of which specific muscles were failing me, then made a vow to myself to strengthen up whatever it was that was screaming so it wouldn't scream again.  I had already gotten advice to do some leg strengthening and/or weights from several folks already who claimed that it would really help with not hitting the dreaded  'wall' during races and also that it would help prevent injuries.  It really made a lot of sense, not it was time for me to heed their advice.  I had been doing some weight training on and off, not consistently.  So I wrote out a plan and stuck to it.  I originally had my plan where I did weights on my lower body on running days off, then after I came across this article- which consequently caused me to change everything I was doing.  Seemed so common sense. Torture your legs and let them recover on off days and they will get stronger.  And really I didn't do any strenuous lifting, just enough to make the run afterward a challenging workout.  Over the weeks I could feel myself getting stronger, each long run was becoming easier and easier.  There was one point in my training this season where I had two 26 mile runs back to back weekends and had no problem with either one and was able to get a fast finish in on both.  
Me and Jacqueline before race start

     The Cowtown, has a history of having consistent weather.  Perfect weather.  At least I had witnessed two years of perfect weather.  Last year when I ran it and the year before, I didn't run but remember that day reading buddies' posts of how great the weather was.  I was expecting near perfect weather this time, after having weeks of sub freezing weather.  Well, not quite.  The couple days before the forecast showed almost warm weather and high humidity.  It wasn't Dallas Marathon 2012 weather where the temperature was maxed at 69 degrees with 90 percent humidity, but it was not much better.  The temperature started in the mid 50s and rose to the upper 60s by noontime.  Humidity started at about 90 percent then dropped to around 70% during the race.  I know I sound like a meteorologist, but after having my dehydration events I pay very close attention to the weather now.  So seeing that coming, I was advised by my frunner buddy Jaqueline Smith to try out endurolyte pills.  Never heard of them, and I knew that trying something new before a race was risky, however she told me that they would cause me no stomach problems.  I have had such a long history with leg cramping.  Almost every major race I have run rather pacing or racing has involved leg cramping during some point of the race.  And I don't cramp like most folks do, I have severe spasms.  Once I have those, I'm stopped down quite a bit.  So I was willing to try this.  As I went on my 'race shopping' that I do every friday before a race, I picked up a couple of packs.  
     The night before I got adequate sleep.  I found I no longer have race anxiety before a race.  I used to have sleepless nights.  My worry was that I would oversleep and not wake up in enough time to make the 45 minute drive to Ft Worth to pick up my packet from frunner Jessica who had so conveniently grabbed it for me to save the double trip out there.  I did wake up on time, had a bowl of Malt O Meal, a Cliff Bar, got dressed and headed westward to Funkytown.  The weather at that moment felt good, but I knew later in the morning it would not be favorable, so I went ahead and popped two of the endurolytes, dropped of my drop bag, took a few pics and headed to corral #5 which I was assigned to.  I had lost the original folks, Jamie, Chad & company whom I had decided to run with in the crowd but I did find my buddy Jackie C.  She was running the half had no goal time to shoot for and said she would run along with me up to the point where the halfers and full/ultras split up.  
     Once we got going, I just told myself and Jackie that I was just going to run this thing like a training run and I just wanted to finish without falling over and dying.  We locked in on the 4:40 and 2:20 pacer for a good two miles, which got me warmed up then I decided they were not needed anymore, that I could pick up the pace a tad bit.  Jackie always makes for good conversation and we yapped and yapped until around the 10 mile mark where the split was.
Jackie and I at the Main Street bridge hill
 We said our farewells and good lucks to each other and I was on my own.  I started to have a few flashbacks to last years Cowtown where I was fighting leg pain and trying to shoot for a sub 4 marathon and was in complete denial that that was not obtainable.  This year, no pressure.  Whatever I finish with at the 50k mark was going to be a P.R.  Around the end of mile 14 I started to feel a little queazy, I think I was starting to get slightly dehydrated... maybe, so I decided to nip that in the bud right there.  I stopped at the first waterstop, took a potty break and then downed several cups of water, gatorade and had the waterstop folks refill my water bottle.  Looking at my splits below, that explains the downward spike in the pace at mile 15.  I moved on and caught up with one of my pupils, Austin who is in the 4:10 marathon training group of which I'm a pace leader.  He was struggling, so I gave him some encouraging words (I hope) and reminded him that this is his first marathon, that it would get better but was real with him and told him the worst is coming, but that he would finish.  Kept it moving and the next few miles were a blur.  I  can't even remember them.  I do remember there many waterstops along the way.
Jamie and I hurting at mile 30.
 This race wasn't lacking that at all.  Very well supported.  I do remember around mile 20 looking down at my Garmin and noticing that I was flying at an 8:20 min mile.  I couldn't believe it, but I knew I  had to slow it back down.  If I only had to go to 26.2, I would have kept at it, but I had nearly 11 more miles to go.
Tap the breaks buddy.  But it was feeling really good passing folks like crazy.  I passed by another frunner Jeannette and I guess I was flying so fast she had to call out my name because I did not even see her.  I backed up, we chatted a bit and then she stopped at a water stop and I moved on.  My plan was to get to mile 26.2, and turn the rest into a cooldown run.  There was a waterstop at mile 26 which supplied me with a cool towel and at that moment I realized the temperature had risen quite a bit.  Kept it moving and got to the mile 28 waterstop just before where the turnaround is for the ultra runners.  At that point, the reality had started to set in of what I had just done.  By then my legs were starting to be shot, and I knew that soon it was going to be walk-run the rest of the way.  I found Jamie shortly after that who was having issues as well and we walk ran it the rest of the way to the finish line.  

     Afterward I was thinking that this may be the craziest thing that I have ever done.  Until I find something else to top it, and I probably will.  Overall it was a great weekend, I will probably never have another one like it.

Earning my Spurs


  1. Woohoo, so proud of you, Clay!!! I enjoyed my first Cowtown experience, I will definitely do it again!

  2. Yep I love this race. Best marathon in the metroplex :)