Saturday, October 20, 2012

2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon Race Report

This is my second year in a row running this race but there was a huge difference this year. I am in the first week of "taper" for a very aggressive marathon training cycle. Last year I decided to run this race about 6 weeks out and didn't do any real focused training. I had been running long runs of any where from 10 to 12 miles every week or so. This year because I am following a high milage training plan I have been running long runs once a week as far as 22 miles and runs of 12 to 15 miles 2 times a week.

I have been excited to run this race for a few weeks now. It is about 2 weeks out from my goal marathon so it was a great tempo training run with plenty of time for my body to absorb the physiological adaptations and make me that much stronger for the marathon. About a week ago my youngest daughter Hannah finished up the cross country season and began an intense off season training program on her own. I signed her up for the 5k as a baseline race for her to build her training program around. But once again we had a daughter missing, this time it was Kasey who was busy at her last cross country meet of the season. We missed her but she ended up posting a PR for cross country so it was worth it. Hannah PR'ed the 5k at 26:10 and took second in her age group.

The race is set in the city of Lawrence IN an east-side suburb of Indianapolis. The city is home to Ft. Benjamin Harrison and Ft Benjamin Harrison State Park. The race course spends a lot of time inside the park and the landscape of the park is a scenic oasis in the middle of Indiana. Really a very beautiful setting especially in the fall. The half marathon had 1802 finishers this year along with the 650 marathoners and the 600 5k participants so this is a mid-sized event.

The course is well staffed with water and gatorade stations and there are volunteers at every turn to help guide the runners and keep them on the right track. All of the volunteers seem to be great people and offer tons of encouragement to the runners. Not to mention they are just standing out there in the chilly, windy conditions for hours on end. You couldn't tell it though from their actions, words, and smiles. They look like they are having the time of their lives. I always try to make it a point to thank them as I pass. These races would be a whole lot different without all of the volunteers who give up thier weekend mornings to put on them on.

It was about 40 degrees and overcast this morning so the gear for the race included a long sleeve fitted tech shirt with a short sleeve tech shirt over the top (for warmth and pinning the bib to). Sock hat, gloves and shorts rounded out the clothes. I wore my Brooks Adreniline 12s and of course my new Garmin Forerunner 610. I made a last minute decision this morning to forego the heart rate monitor and I kind of regret that now that it is over because I really love analyzing the stats of my runs and would have liked to see what my heart was doing on the hills. When we arrived I got out of the car and ditched the sock hat, I could tell that it was already to warm for that.

I live about an hour from Lawrence and since the race offers morning of packet pickup and we learned last year that the city and race organizers do a very good job of traffic control and parking we decided to forego the additional costs of either two trips involving one to the expo Friday night and one to the race Saturday morning or the cost of a hotel for the night. That being the case, the day started around 5:15 AM for me. If you follow my training you know that this is sleeping in for me anyway. As a testement to how well orginized this race is, all went as planned we arrived, parked, did the packet pickup in plenty of time before the race. I did a little light jogging between the car and packet pickup location and called that a warmup.

My plan going into this race was to not get hurt, to not push so hard that I needed more than a day to recover but to get a good test of my fitness and preparedness for the Monumental Marathon in two weeks. Some other goals were to get control of my pace through the opening mile or two and to try to negative split the race and finish strong. I also wanted to and was pretty sure that I could get a sub 1:30 half marathon. Mission accomplished on all fronts.

I was in corral A and I started about mid-pack in the corral. Again, I wanted to control my opening pace so I wasn't worried about congestion, especially corral A type congestion. I controlled the first mile a little to well as I came in around a 7:00 minute mile so I picked it up just a bit in mile two. I remembered from last year that mile three included a hill that already had people walking so I knew I had that to contend with. Even though my goal race is supposedly as flat as a pancake I have included hill sprints in my training to help build leg strength and speed. While that allowed me to recover quickly after the hill, the hill still took it's toal on my pace in mile three pushing me back down around 7:00 minute mile.

Once the pack spread out I was only passed a couple of time in the rest of the race. Once was during mile 4 where another runner came up beside me and struck up a conversation. I was happy to learn that I could pass a talk test at this point of more than one or two full sentences. We talked a little about training and after finding out he hadn't run this course before I warned him about a nasty hill around mile 10.5. He started to build a gap and the competitive runner in me wanted to surge, close the gap and drop him. But we were only at about 4 miles or so and I had a plan and I was sticking to it. This is not my goal race and I wanted something left in the tank at the end. I gritted my teeth and let him go.

From this point on there is not a whole lot to say about the race. A few minutes after my conversation I caught sight of my wife which always raises my sprits and motivates me. There is a joke in my family that there are pictures of everyone else running but never any pictures of me. Even though she tried to rectify that in the last race I surprised my wife with my finishing time and she missed getting a picture even then. This time she was ready and caught me by surprise right around 4.5 miles and got my picture.

Mile 4.5 2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon
My wife finally got a picture of me running.
From here until mile 11 I kept a pretty even pace right around 6:30 with a few miles a little faster and a few a little slower, all in all even. Mile 10.5 offers a pretty nasty hill especially that deep into the race. There were two runners ahead of me well with in striking distance and I felt that if I could maintain an even effort I would get them by the top of the hill. I was able to pass both runners and I also closed the gap a bit on my friend from mile 4. I began to visualize catching and passing him over the next 2.6 miles.

The full and half split right before mile thirteen and as I caught up with another runner I asked which he was running and found that he was doing the full and that it was his first. Again, happy to pass a talk test with full sentences at this pont. I offered him some encouragement and we split. Me heading for the finish and he for the next 13.5 miles.

The gap between my new friend and I was continuing to close and I noticed that he was beginning to look back. I caught him with less than a mile to go we talked a little more and he said that he had gone out to fast and was running out of gas. From here we could look diagonally and see the finish line. I pointed it out to him and encouraged him to dig and finish strong. As I pulled ahead he encouraged me and I called back and told him to hang with me. We made the turn for the last .1 and I had plenty of fuel left. A friend on, Cesar, had pointed out that based on my recent 10k performance I should be able to get under 1:28:00 for a half. I was a little worried that I wouldn't get in under 1:28 so I gave it everything I had in that last .1

I finished with a new PR by 4 minutes and 45 seconds at 1:27:22 for 2nd in my division out of 112, first in my AG since first in the division actually placed in the overall, 26th out of 1802. This was another great race. I have confidence in my pacing strategy and ability to execute it for the upcoming marathon. I have gained additional confidence in my physical fitness and preparedness for the marathon and I have gained more respect and trust inthe training program that I have been following. I think all of the psychological boosts that I recieved today will help over the next couple of weeks as the marathon begins to loom large.

My only regret is that my plan for the marathon includes fluid and nutritional intake and I should have practiced that today. Instead I took absolutely no fluid for the entire race and no nutrition. In retrospect I wish that I would have used the race today to practice that.

I know I will run this race again next year, I am just not sure at this point if I will do the full or the half. I'll do something though because the Indanapolis Marathon and Half Marathon is a great race, at a great time of year, on a great course!

2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon.
Placing in our age groups. It's a fun family activity that we like to do some Saturdays.
2012 Indianapolis Marathon and Half Marathon
Finishing Kick!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Prayer for True Worship

This prayer came to me a few weeks ago, has been running around in my head quite a bit and I find it helpful when I realize that I am practicing religious habits out of habit rather than out of love, devotion, and adoration of God.


I don't want to be a whitewashed tomb. (Matthew 23:27)

Breath life into these dry bones (Ezekiel 37:5)

that may worship you in spirit and truth (John 4:24).


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Product Review: Garmin Forerunner 610

For my 40th birthday my wife got me, among other things, a Garmin Forerunner 610. I have never done a product review before and decided to do this one because after using the watch a single time I could see how much potential it has as a training tool. What can I say, when something positively impacts my life I want to share it so that someone else may benefit too. Instead of a single post however, there is so much that this watch does that the review will actually be a multi-part post of at least two and maybe more. It's hard to say because I find this watch more useful every time I run. A few key features that I want to hit in this post are the user interface, the GPS, and the lap/split functionality.

First off, the user interface is very well done. The 610 is a touchscreen device and initially I thought that the touch interface was going to be problematic because it didn't seem responsive enough until I read the manual and followed the manufacturers recommendation on how to interact with it. Unlike most touchscreen devices we are used to the 610 is designed to respond to touches by finger tip instead of the full finger pad. Once I read that the interface became much more responsive. I have even used  this watch several times with gloves on. The performance is no different and that will be valuable come this winter.

The main components of the user interface and menus seem very intuitive  I didn't need to read the manual to find where to go to start running, to view past  runs, or to set up basic information. Some of the more specific things in the interface didn't quite make sense to me until I fumbled around. Like how to turn off the auto-scroll feature during a run. Not to get to far off track but the auto-scroll feature scrolls through the various training screens. I thought it would be nice so I turned it on and found I didn't like it. I wanted to turn it off but couldn't get it figured out while I was on the run. Still, I never needed the manual, just a few seconds to think about it.

Speaking of the training screens, the 610 can have up to four screens that display data about your run however you want to set it up. I have found for me the default set up is just right. During a normal run the primary screen I use is the main training screen that displays elapsed time, the average pace for the current lap and the total distance. I occasionally flip to the time of day screen and the heart rate monitor screen and flipping through the screens couldn't be easier, just swipe on the screen left or right.

Being able to see the screen and make out the data is very important. You would think that goes without saying but when using the back light on my previous watch the smaller data displays were very difficult if not impossible to make out. How the back light affects the display is crucial to me as I run almost exclusively in the dark. The 610's back light causes no problems what-so-ever because all of the data is displayed large enough to make it out even while running. Furthermore, the back light uses the right color/brightness combination so that it actually makes it easier to see rather than harder. On that note, one very useful feature for me on this watch is the "always on" back light. The back light can be set to stay on a certain number of seconds after pressing the light button or to stay on until you press the light button again. For me, leaving the light on allows me to just glance down to see where I am and refocus on my running.

The 610 is a GPS enabled watch and the technology is built right into the watch itself meaning no external GPS receiver to lug around. Even with that the watch is very comfortable to wear and weighs an acceptable 2.75 ounces. The watch fixes on satellites quickly and by and large seems very accurate. The only exception to that is that it seems a little off in the first mile or so. Thinking about this I have to wonder and will probably research whether this is a result of the quick "fix." Another nice thing about the GPS on this watch is that the display shows to the hundredth of a mile and is updated every second. Which means you know exactly how far you have gone at any point.

The final feature of this watch that I want to touch on is the lap/split functionality. Again, on a running watch this seems like a no-brainier but my previous watch didn't do laps/splits at all. Not only does the 610 do laps/splits it can do them automatically based on whatever distance you choose. Again, I found the default set up (1 mile) to be perfect. Not only is this a great feature for analyzing the run when you are finished but since the watch alerts you on every "lap" and displays your average pace for that lap it is a great tool to keep you on your goal pace for the workout. So far this feature has been very helpful to me and I wish that I would have had that kind of feedback throughout this entire marathon training season.

So far I am really enjoying this watch. The user interface is intuitive and well designed, the GPS gives the kind of accurate feed back that is helpful and the lap/split functionality is a great motivator during the run as well as a useful tool for analysis after the run. Some more in-depth features of this watch that I am excited to detail in coming posts include interval workouts, custom workouts, virtual racer and the Garmin connect site where you can upload and analyze all of the data the watch collects.