Sunday, October 27, 2013

Race Report: Boilermaker Half Marathon 2013

ORN:  October 19;  13.1 miles, 1:58:03, 9:00/mile, run

It was nice to have a real race in my own backyard last week.  The Boilermaker Half Marathon covers familiar turf, starting and finishing outside Purdue's football stadium and touring West Lafayette, Lafayette, the Wabash River and the Purdue campus.

As a Purdue grad and citizen of West Lafayette, it was great to be part of this event.  As a runner, it also served as a dress-rehearsal for my attempt, two weeks hence, to run a sub four hour marathon at the Monumental Marathon in Indy on November 2.  So, my objective in this HM was to emulate exactly what I want to do over the first half of my target race coming up.

The weather was in the low 40s and it was rainy when I arrived.  About 10 minutes before the gun, the rain let up, runners quickly bustled out of the warmth of their cars and we were ready.  Just then, the son of some good friends spotted me and asked if he could run.  He had finished his first marathon just 6 days earlier, running a 3:31 at the Chicago Marathon.  He wanted to just "work out the kinks at an easy pace" and my 9 minute plan sounded good to him.  Off we went, with Ross and me in active conversation about all that is the Chicago was nice.
At around mile 4, Ross pealed off, looking for some other friends and I ran most of the rest of the race by myself, even though there were lots and lots of familiar faces to greet.  I really wanted to focus on hitting my marks and keeping the 9 minute pace with continuous running.  Both of you long-time blog readers will recognize this is a shift from my usual run/walk approach.

There were hills in this race, much more than I will see at the Monumental Marathon.  But they didn't seem bad to me at all, though others complained loudly about them afterwards.  I hit one odd spot, mentally/physically, around mile 8, when I wondered if this was really a good plan.  By mile 10, I was fine again.  This was a good reminder that I will hit ups and downs at this level of effort and my mind needs to remind my legs that "this is the plan...stay with it."

My mile splits worked out like this:

1-5:  9:06, 8:49, 8:48, 9:18, 8:32(downhill!)
6-10:  8:52, 8:42, 9:28, 10:12 (uphill!), 8:55
11-13:  8:53, 9:17 (last hill), 8:31

I hit the finish at 1:58:07.  My race stats were also encouraging, as I placed 472 of 1,285 overall (I'm seldom in the top half) and 4th of 16 in my brand new age group of 60-64 (did I tell you I turned 60 on October 9??!! Ha!).

Post race, I saw and talked with Stan, a friend of many years who began running a couple years ago.  What fun to see good people and have substantive conversations!!

My finish time worked to an exactly 9:00/mile pace...just what I want do to in 2 weeks.  If I can hold a 9:00 pace through mile 19, then hold a 9:30 pace to the end, I'll have a sub 4.  So, things are lining up for my second attempt at going sub 4.  We'll see how it works out and will report it all, right here.

Persevere, at whatever pace works.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Race Report: Heritage Trail Half Marathon 2013

ORN:   September 29, 2013:  2:49:30, run, 12:57/mile


It was inconceivable to me, even a year or so ago, I could finish, much less enjoy, two marathons and a half marathon in the span of eight days.  Yet it happened and the Heritage Trail Half Marathon on September 29 was the wonderful finale. Running this race with my oldest son David in his first ever half marathon and first trail race made it even sweeter.

NOTE:  This is the third in the series of three blog posts on 8 amazing days of running.  Here's the report of the first marathon and the second marathon.

Gory Details:

Last summer, my daughter in law told me she had decided to enter a local trail half marathon on September 29 as part of a long-term training plan.  She wondered if I'd run it with her.  Of course, I said, you don't have to ask me twice to run, especially with a family member!  She was concerned I'd run too fast...then I told her I was already registered for a marathon the previous day, so I'd certainly not be speedy.  The plan was on.  

Life zigs and zags however, as we all know and as my own recent racing schedule showed.  Such was the case for Susan.  The week before the race, she sensed this half was just not going to work.  So, she asked her husband, our son David, if he would like to take her bib and run.  While David has been running some, he's not gone much over 6 miles ever and wondered if he dared take on 13.1.  Further, the closest thing he'd come to trail running was some required overland hikes while he was in the Army.  Yet, he was game for an adventure, worked out the entry transfer with the organizers and we were set.  

This trail race is the closest thing ever to a "home court advantage" for me.  The total trail is about 13 miles long and extends in a long, gentle arc along the Wabash River.  If this arcing shape of the trail were an archery bow and you stretched the bow string from start to finish, my house would sit almost exactly at the midpoint of the taut string.  I can easily drive to either end in less than 10 minutes.  I run part or all of this trail at least 20 times each year for many of  my long runs.  So, I know it well and it is fun to run a real race on such familiar turf. 

I got home from my marathon late Saturday afternoon, David and I worked out the time to meet at the start point and we met up an hour before the gun.  While it had been hot and humid the previous afternoon, contributing to the dehydration I felt in that race, we had rain through the early morning hours of Sunday and it continued to rain as we sat in David's car anticipating the race.  We discussed how muddy it might be...I suggested the extensive sand on this route would drain much more quickly than a dirt course.   David pulled up the radar and noted the rain was due to be finish just before the 8:10am half marathon start, and, even as he spoke, the patter of rain lessened.  Indeed, by the time the marathoners lined up and went off at 8:00am, the rain stopped.  Ten minutes later, the half marathoners we off and we even got a photo of the two of us crossing the start line, David leading the Ely Family Charge. 

It was so much fun to head into the woods with David and all the others.  The overcast skies kept the temperature right at 60.  The trail was indeed wet from the recent rain.  We had mud, some slippery, some puddles.  It's always interesting in such settings, though, to see how people react.  You can always tell those who enjoy trail running, powering through the mud and just getting on with it.  Others try to keep their shoes clean.  I was proud of David rapidly grasping the reality of a day on the trail. 

I let David set the pace on the single track trail.  And what fun it was to run along with him, chatting away, coasting through the woods.  It's hard to describe just how enjoyable this was.  The last six miles of the hot, road marathon the day before had been a grind.  The first six miles of this race, the next morning, were pure joy.  My legs felt fine, the pace was solid, and it could not have been more fun. 

Both the marathon and half marathon ran out 6.6 miles and then returned to the start, with the marathoners doing this route twice.  We began passing the tail end of the marathon pack and I saw several folks I knew.  Not the least was my second chat in two days with running legend Jim Simpson.  Jim was quietly doing marathon number 128 for his year and told me, with the wetness of the trail, he thought he'd mostly walk this one.  "I can't afford an injury," he said, "because I have about 50 more of these to do this year."  He's a dude...and is planning some 50 marathons in the remaining 3 months of 2013.  Wow.  

David and I got to the turnaround point, took a short walk, and headed back, continuing to enjoy the day.  The ground had had over an hour to dry by this return trip, most of the base was sand and so was much firmer now.  We actually found places to open up and run.  Around mile 9 or so, David really felt good and gradually pulled away from me.  It was fun to catch glimpses of him through the trees on ahead and then I couldn't see him any more.  We pulled through an aid station and I was happy to see he didn't bother to wait for me there...that meant he was running well and enjoying it.  I too enjoyed the final miles.  With about 2 to go, I still had plenty of spring in my legs, amazingly, so I opened up and ran in hard.  

David powered to the end and came across the line in 2:40:49 chip time (there is a 10 minute offset on the running clock below).  

It was great to see him waiting for me when I came across the line in 2:49:30.  

We quickly began comparing notes from the race, like a pair of veteran runners.  It was really cool.  David clearly enjoyed the race, the distance, the trail, the atmosphere, the runners, the chatter, the effort, the finish, the camaraderie.  I suspect, in a small way, he also understands his Dad a touch better now.

David also demonstrated one characteristic normally reserved for experienced runners; he planned his shirt just for the photo op at the end.   Look carefully at his photo above... I also zoom in on the front of his t shirt with this screen shot:

Yep, it's a salute to bacon, his favorite.  He's a fine son, indeed.

The race was a wonderful capstone to an amazing 8 days of running for me.    Words don't quite capture it fully but this post-race photo gets part of it.

Thanks for reading.  Persevere.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Race Report: Mill Race Marathon

ORN:  September 28, 2013;  4:52:53, 11:10/mile, R/W 3/1,4/1,2/1,1/1

Under a hot autumn sun just 6 days after running a 4:08 marathon, I ran the inaugural Mill Race Marathon in Columbus, Indiana on Saturday, September 28 in 4:52.  It went well early but the heat and leg fatigue took their toll over the last 5 miles.

NOTE:  This is the second in the series of three blog posts on 8 amazing days of running.  Here's the report of the first marathon and the half marathon.

Gory Details:

About a year or so ago, long-time running buddy Larry Wasson let me know he was shooting to run his 100th marathon in a new event not far from his hometown in southern Indiana.  I first met Larry on the plane flying back from the 2006 Portland Marathon and we've run into each other many times since.  With his invitation to this interesting race, I signed up early.

However, as I described in the description of my previous race, our son's visit on leave from the Army coincided with this marathon, so I didn't think I'd be able to be part of Larry's celebration.  But, in another zig and zag, our son had a late change in plans, shifting back his arrival by a few days.  Thus, this race was back in play.  This meant two marathons in 6 days...I decided to take it on.

To celebrate Larry's wonderful accomplishment, fellow Maniac Todd organized a dinner the night before.   It was a fun bunch to be with and the conversation ranged well beyond the usual talk of races, paces and laces.

It was neat to sit with Larry, a terrific guy, very humble and others-focused.  I was thrilled to be part of the celebration. 

A mutual friend in the group was Terri, a runner from my town who "blames" me for introducing her to the Marathon Maniacs!!  She also grew up near the race site, knows Larry and is a generally enthusiastic person.  It was a fun evening.  But the night before a marathon guarantees such events include no alcohol and end early!

As the weather was nice and my plans changed late, I decided to camp the night before the race.  I'm really coming to like camping and it sure saves a lot of money when you run a lot of races each year.  I had a site way off by myself in the campground, slept well, was up at 5am and easily got to the race site 2+ hours before the gun.  The organizers handed out parking passes at packet pick up (really, really well-designed packed pick up, I might add), so I scored a parking spot, literally, 25 meters from the finish line.  Little did I know how grateful I would be for that closeness later. 

I registered for this race so early, I had forgotten they gave us the option to personalize our bibs.  So, I was thrilled to see my choice.  This was particularly nice since the race site is quite close to Purdue's arch-rival, Indiana University.  Boilermakers always enjoy tweaking the Hoosiers.  I had fun with this one all day.

When it works out, I really enjoy taking a slow, quiet walk around a race start area well before everyone shows up.  On this morning, I observed a familiar-looking pick up camper, parked incongruously near the start line.  California plates, unmarked, at a marathon race site.  It really looked liked the truck belonging to one of the most famous runners of our country, the legendary Jim Simpson.  I wondered if I'd see him.  

Race time grew closer and had a chance to see some fellow Maniacs and then pose for the obligatory Maniac prerace photo.    Here, I'm with Michael Hoyt, on the left, and Danny on the right.  I didn't get the name of the guy on far right.   Michael is quite the photographer, so I have him to thank for many of these pix in this post. 

Finally, the race started on time at 8:00am.  The weather was nice early but I knew the legs would be fatigued from the effort the previous weekend.  So, I settled into a 3/1 run/walk pace for the first 10 miles or so.  That seemed to work just fine.

A real treat happened during mile 3.  I saw a tall, thin guy just ahead of me and I realized it was indeed Jim Simpson.  I came up along Jim, introduced myself as the race director of the Circular Logic Marathon, which he had run 18 months ago and we were off on a wonderful conversation for the next half hour (photo of Jim and me at CLM).  Jim said he has now logged over 1,100 marathons lifetime and this race was his 127th of 2013, with 50 or so more to go.  Amazing. We ran three full miles together, had a great talk and then he urged me to go on ahead as he wanted to slow down a bit.  What a treat.  I embed down below a wonderful video of Jim from last summer in which we describes how he runs, eats and lives.  That video is the real deal.

From there, the race just kind of flowed.  Columbus, Indiana is famous for architecture which is both unusual and unexpected in a small Indiana manufacturing town.  We saw much of it and it was nice.  However, around mile 11 or so, we ran out of "town" to see and so did about 10 miles in open, unshaded, less interesting areas of town plus countryside with corn fields.  We even, literally, ran through the small local airport.  Yes...we ran right next to small airplanes warming up. At mile 10, I was on track for a 4:43 marathon.

At mile 12, I upped my ratio to 4/1.  In retrospect, that was not a smart move.  But it worked well for a while.  At mile 15, I had improved slightly to a 4:42 projected finish.  The open space and the meandering course was taking a bit of a toll for me mentally.  It felt like we were in a giant line for a ride at Disneyland, such was the serpentine nature of the course.  It's not easy to fit 26 miles of running into a small town, I know.  But I just started noticing all the winding around in this section of the race.

At mile 20, I was still on a 4:42 projected finish time, amazingly.  But that was the last time I could claim that.  By mile 22, the pace had slagged and by mile 24, it was clear I'd be over 4:50.  I actually moved my run/walk ratio all the way back to a 1/1, I felt so flat.  We were finally back in a shaded, residential area but no amount of water dumped on my head was counteracting the humidity and temps now in the low 80s.  Eventually, we made the final turn, the finish line was in sight and I ran the final 300m to finish at 4:52:53.  Amazingly, I was 14th of 28 in my age group of 55-59...I'm usually lower than half way, so I must have not been the only one affected by the heat.

But the real story of this race was still to come.

As I walked through the finish area, I found I was not terribly thirsty and had a touch of nausea.  I also didn't have enough wits about me to recognize this was a clue of dehydration.  I walked the (very short) distance back to my car, pulled the camp chair out of my trunk and sat down to pull my shoes off. feet both immediately cramped up, requiring much walking to ease.  This cycle of sitting, one or both feet cramping, painful walking continued for nearly 90 minutes.  I changed into dry clothes and really wanted to drive home.  But, every time I sat in the driver's seat, a foot would cramp and the safety issues were obvious.

I finally accepted I'd just have to wait this out, so I grabbed some money, walked a few blocks to the city's post-race street festival, bought a wrap that had some sort of filling and a Diet Coke and slowly had lunch.  That seemed to do the trick.  A half hour later, I was feeling better, walked to the car and headed home with no further incident.

This spooked me a bit, as I have had no such dehydration issues since the bad situation I had at the close of the 2010 Chicago Marathon (blog post).   In retrospect, I realized I simply didn't drink enough fluids early enough.  The cool start to the race faked me out.  I should know better but didn't on this day.

So there it is...marathon #42 and the second in a week.  But more fun followed the next day when I ran a trail half marathon with my oldest son!!!  Stay tuned and do persevere.

6 minute video of Jim Simpson.  Amazing stuff here!!