Saturday, March 29, 2008

Race Report: Sam Costa Half Marathon

ORN: 13.1 miles, Run, 1:58:27, 9:03/mile

Race Summary

A perfect day for running led to as satisfying a race as I have had in two years. A negative split, running at, but not over, the edge in a race that just “flowed” made for a terrific event.

Race Details

The race was part of a marvelous day. Gretchen went with me on this trip and we spent the entire day in Indianapolis. Out the door at 7, having marvelous conversation watching the sun slowly appear above the flat eastern horizon, we got to the start in plenty of time. The race attracted about 500 runners in both a half and an (unusual) quarter-marathon, so bib pick-up was a very simple issue. No timing chips, no goodie bag, just a simple long run.

I’d been watching the weather in Indy and the forecast was acurate. The day was sunny and cool, with temperatures in the mid 30s by the start of the race and it barely made 40 by the time we finished. After registration, I settled on which set of shirts I’d wear, Gretchen chuckling at my angst over such issues; I had already decided though to wear shorts (being part of a distinct minority with bare legs).

In mid-December, I wrote up Analyzing the Rocket City Marathon, the result of which was a new goal for races: “Run the Best Race Conditions Allow.” Today was my first application of that goal. What would these race conditions allow? The weather was near perfect; only a 15mph East wind marred the sunny, cool temperatures supporting a great race. I was fresh, uninjured. The pack was small, allowing a good rhythm. The course was quite flat and I knew it, this being the third time I’ve run it in four years. So, putting this all together, I decided it was quite reasonable my “best race” today would be a sub 2 hour run. I haven’t been under 2 since June, 2006 and was anxious to see if I could do it again. So, I made three decisions.

First, I chose to run rather than use the Run/Walk. Second, I opted to not wear my heavy Brooks Beast motion-control shoes and wore instead a pair of Brooks Adrenalines with only 60 miles on them. Even though they don’t control pronation like the Beast, I figured one race would not trigger a permanent problem. Third, I used the Virtual Trainer tool on my Garmin to keep me on pace and mentally prepared to hold back through the first 5+ miles in order to hold the pace steady at the end.

Goodness, after all that navel-gazing, it was great to finally start the race. (You were wondering if I was ever going to get to the actual race description…)

The course is a giant figure 8. The top loop is “Once Around the Gravel Pit,” a large excavation operation suppling much of Indianapolis. I took off easy and the first five miles clicked by in 9:10, 9:02, 9:19, 9:08 and 9:10. I felt very smooth and enjoyed the run. Even though the Brooks Adrenalines are a training shoe, they felt like racing flats compared to the clunky Beast. I felt light-footed.

Around mile 6, I fell in with a couple of ladies running near my pace but ever-so-slightly faster. I still felt good and pushed pace slightly; as a result, miles 6-9 came through at 9:04, 8:55, 9:16 and 8:50. The 15 mph wind was at our backs for miles 6-8 and it was a help. I still felt good and was feeling more and more confident a sub-2 was a possibility.

The second loop is “Parade of Beautiful Homes” as we then wound through the upscale, gracious, brick-faced homes of the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel. (Indiana note: We pronounce the town “CAR-mel,” as in corn, not like the trendy city just north of San Francisco of “car-MEL.” This is Indiana, of course). During this section, the miles really started clicking off, as I fell into a groove and just held the pace. Miles 10-12 popped in at 9:05, 8:53 and 9:04.

When I passed the 12 mile marker, I tried to push the pace up just a bit. I picked out a few runners ahead of me and gradually gained on them. With 0.4 to go, we turned up a hill, the east wind now directly in our face. I pushed it anyway, passed several folks, came around a corner to see the finish line and was thrilled to still see a “1” on the official race clock. Gretchen, my nephew and his two kids were there cheering and I motored across the line. The last 1.1 mile went at 9:28, an 8:37 pace, my watch said 1:58:27. The sub 2 was in the bank.

Subsequent analysis was encouraging. The overall pace was 9:03. While it is hard to be specific about negative splits without a measured midway point in a half marathon, I did figure this. The first 6 miles took me 54:51, or 9:09/mile. The next six miles took me 54:07, or 9:02/mile. The last 1.1 was at an 8:37 pace, so I’ll call it a negative split. I’ve never run a negative split before; I now know the appeal…what a rush. Not a single person passed me in the last 5 miles. My slowest mile was 9:19 and that included a quick trip to the porta-potty in mile 3. My quickest mile was #13 at 8:44.

Subjectively, I hit the elusive “sweet spot” of running in this race. I truly don’t think I could have run this race much faster. The entire effort was out there on the course; no regrets at all. I held the pace as hard as I felt I could for the entire distance. It felt under control…I was pushing it but not over the top. Scrapping the run/walk on race day worked just fine. The shoe change worked and I think had a role. While I felt my feet hurting a bit around mile 11, there seemed to be no damage afterwards. I have no idea when or if I’ll next find such a perfect combination of weather, course and preparation…so I’m glad I took advantage of it today.

I got a hot shower at my nephew’s house, four blocks from the finish line; it was also a treat to see his two sons, John and TJ, above. Gretchen and I then had a 2 hour lunch with old friends, did some shopping and had a marvelous day together in the city; she’s a gem.

Does it get much better? No, it doesn’t. Thanks for savoring a wonderful day with me.

Persevere. No matter what the day holds.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Boogity Boogity Boogity

ORN: 5 miles total, with 1 at 9:08 tempo

Boogity Boogity Boogity!
Let’s go racin’, boys!

With apologies to NASCAR legend and announcer Darrell Waltrip, I’m using his catch phrase to celebrate getting to race again. It’s been a long winter and finally, Saturday, I get to run a race, the first since the Rocket City Marathon on December 6.

The Sam Costa Half Marathon kicks off the road racing season in central Indiana. It’s a smallish race of 200-300 with few frills and good organization. The weather is looking about perfect, projecting sunny skies and temps in the low to mid 40s. Shorts and long sleeves will work.

I’ll post a report over the weekend. It’s great to look forward to something besides just a long training run this weekend.


PS. Technical note: I've added a feature for email subscription to this blog...see the box on the left. If you don't like RSS or bookmarks, you can get these breathless, timeless, riveting, awe-inspiring blather via email.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Snowfall

ORN: 6.5 miles total; 5K time trial, 24:49, 8:02/mile

The schedule called for speed work this weekend, a 5K time trial at 25 minutes. We had no local races this weekend, so I did it by myself this afternoon.

After a 1.5 mile warm-up, I reset the Garmin “Training Assistant” for the target distance and time and took off. I was pleased to hold a consistent pace, with mile splits of 7:57, 8:03, 7:59 and 0:51(at 7:44 pace). I was surprised to discover myself running in snow; during mile one, it opened up and the white stuff was pelting me pretty hard. Easter doesn’t necessarily mean spring in Indiana. I was disappointed with my form; I felt like I was wearing clown shoes during the second half of the run. My clodhopper motion-control shoes felt very heavy and clunky at the (very fast for me) 8:00 minute pace. Jed Clampett might have liked the form but most Kenyans would have averted their eyes. I did a gentle run back home and was pleased overall, since there are no style points in running.

The highpoint of the day came earlier, though, as our grandkids had spent the night. My wife, The Very Creative Grandma, set up an inside Easter egg hunt for the 4 year old twins first thing this morning. She hid the eggs, they searched, I took photos. Then the twins had an alternate idea; they would hide the eggs and she would find them. It was hilarious; as she started to look, each of them would direct her to the eggs each had hidden. “No, Grandma, over here!” and the excitement was palpable. The boys illustrated something beautifully human about needing to be found.

Miss B is 21 months old now and didn’t really get the whole egg hunt deal. But she didn’t need to; she and I just read books and enjoyed the morning. And face it, three little kids in fuzzy PJ’s is enough in and of itself.

We got the kids dressed for church and enjoyed a wonderful Easter together with the larger family later in the day. Easter is a marvelous day to remember what Christ did for the human race. I hope you had some opportunities for quiet reflection today.

Persevere, whether in clodhoppers or fuzzy PJ’s.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Simple Perseverance

ORN: Saturday; 14.0 miles, 2:19:20, R5/W1, 9:58/mile

One of the joys of running, to me, is when a long run is unremarkable. Such simple joy happened yesterday. The schedule called for 14 miles. I ran 14. The miles were steady, I finished strong (running the last 1.3 miles, at a 9:24 pace) and could have gone longer. And it really wasn’t a big deal. Even the wind, overcast skies, and 42 degree drizzle didn’t matter. I just ran.

Which brings me to a fascinating blog post by my favorite marketing writer, Seth Godin. Here it is in its entirety:
Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying.
Persistence is having the same goal over and over.

Running teaches this. More specifically, running injuries teach this. I had some major issues with this in both early and late 2007. Right now, blogging buddies Sarah and Darrell both would love to have consistent unremarkable runs. And they will. Yet, they are both assessing their tactics to get there. The goal is consistent…the method is fluid.

And one of the cool things about blogging is telling and reading stories. We have much to learn from each other.

Persevere. On remarkable and unremarkable days.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Planning the Rest of 2008

ORN: Rest Day

Sat down last weekend with my trusty running calendar, training schedules and started noodling on races for the rest of the year. Amazingly, much alignment led to some cool plans.

The spring is looking nice. Though Indiana is hardly the cynosure of running, we have this year five, count ‘em, five half marathons in a span of 9 weeks in the Hoosier State. All within a short drive for me. And I’m entering them all.

I’ve listed them in the side bar. Sam Costa, The Mini, and Sunburst have been around for a while and I’ve run them each at least twice now. The Mini in Indy is the nation’s largest half marathon and is the Super Bowl of Indiana running for the year, with 35,000 people trying to do 13.1.

However, the Indiana University HM and the Geist HM are new. The IU HM used to run in the fall, but now flipped to the sping, running through the Indiana University campus. The Geist is hoping to pick up the folks who did not get registered for the Mini; it is two weeks after and about 15 miles North of The Mini site.

The Sunburst race now will be a family event, as my nephew is flying in from San Diego to run it with me. We have many Notre Dame connections in the family; it will be fun and emotional, I’m sure.

If I was a real glutton for punishment, I could do 7 HMs in the same 9 weeks, as I could swim the Ohio River to run in Louisville on April 26 and then slide to Cincinnatti for a HM on May4, making a double weekend. As I planned, I toyed with the idea of doing a HM and Marathon back to back in 2009 on that weekend...but that's too far out for the moment.

Then, the rest of 2008 races fell into place, as I start to build distance after 5 HMs in the spring.

On July 5, I do a new thing; a 6-Hour Trail Race in southern Indiana. Have no idea how that will go in the heat, but I thought long and hard about it a year ago; this year, it is on the calendar.

Three marathons occupy the fall. I’ll go to Dayton, Ohio for the United States Air Force Marathon on September 20. The Indianapolis Marathon a fall bargain, an hour from home, on October 18. Then, Darrell and I will meet up for our 3rd annual Early December Blogging Runner Meet-Up Marathon (that’s the 3AEDBRMUM for short), this year in Memphis for the St. Jude Marathon on December 6. Join us!! We had a blast in Huntsville last year and in Bloomington, Indiana in 2006. We’d love to have a group!

With the races set, I penciled in all my long runs for the year. It may vary somewhat…but, amazingly, it fits. I’m excited and just need to keep myself healthy.

For me, planning is half the fun…so I guess I’m half way there already.

And plans help me persevere.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

March. Finally, it's March.

ORN: 11.5 miles, 1:57:19, 10:13/mile, R4/W1

Mercifully, February ended and, we hope, a turn for better weather is on the way. Our local weather dude reported we had more storms and fewer sunny days this February than any on record. Boy, it felt like it too. Two more storms in the past week added further depressing evidence to the facts.

Running was slim the past week too. I tried to go out a couple of times but had a seeming bruise on my left foot which hurt quite a bit. I took it easier, went out for a simple two mile run on Friday without pain. February ended up with 66 total miles. Better than January’s 55 miles; had this week gone better the difference would have been higher.

The schedule called for a 5K time trial today but I was antsy to go long. It was a balmy 44F, 6 degrees above my cutoff to wear shorts. It was fun to be in shorts, running past little kids on their sleds, sliding down snowy slopes. I ended up doing 11.5 miles. The foot pain was gone. It felt good.

March 1 is also the anniversary of one of my favorite childhood stories. I grew up on a cattle ranch in Nebraska; perhaps surprisingly in that rural setting, I grew to love Baseball, thanks to my Mom. Especially the Yankees; Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Roger Maris, Clete Boyer; all were my heros. I played baseball all the way to college, I still umpire and listen to any game on.

In our small school system, Mrs. Johnson taught us 8th grade science but her real love was Nebraska history, which we heard about as much as phloem and xylem. We also already knew March 1 is the anniversary of Nebraska’s admission to the Union. So, at the start of science class on that first day of March, Mrs. Johnson, with a big smile, asked us “Class, what is important about this day?” I knew the answer she wanted, but, in a rare moment of quick thinking, I saw the chance to get one-up on my teacher.

I shot my hand in the air enthusiastically and she called on me. “Yes, Joe, what is special about today?” I beamed, my opportunity sitting there like a batting practice fastball: “Today is the start of Spring Training!”

Mrs. Johnson turned red and upset. Yet, she couldn’t do anything; I had answered the question correctly. My baseball-loving pal, Pat Engles, sat next to me hardly able to control his laughter. It was my moment. And I still enjoy it, every March 1.

Years later, Mrs. Johnson ran into my mother and went on and on to her about what a fine science student I was. Selective memory is a wonderful thing.

Persevere. Even if you have smart aleck, baseball-loving students around.