Monday, October 26, 2015

2015 Valpo Half Marathon Race Report

This was my big tune-up race for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I always run a half-marathon at this point in the build up to the Monumental to get a final big fitness boost, a reality check on where I am at fitness-wise and, if all goes well, probably the most important aspect is the confidence boost that I get. I got one heck of a confidence boost yesterday, 10/25/2015, at the Valpohalf Half-marathon in Valparaiso IN.

Valparaiso is about 2 hours from home which is kind of right there on the line of driving on race morning or staying in a hotel the night before. This time we decided to get up and drive. Valparaiso is on central time which puts it an hour behind us. Meaning the 8:30 AM start was really a 9:30 AM start for me.  Making the decision to drive that much easier.

I have been dealing with some issues on the top of my right foot, which is probably extensor tendinitis, for the last couple of weeks. I saw my soft-tissue guy last Friday. He worked on it some and got me feeling quite a bit better and then I spent 2 and a half days loading up on Advil. The end result was that the discomfort was completely gone or masked for this race and became a non-issue.

I have noticed that before big workouts/races I spend about 16-24 hours in a kind of melancholy state questioning why I do this and in this case why the heck I am driving 2 hours to go run a half-marathon. I think it is how I deal with the stress of knowing that I am getting ready to put myself through a great deal of suffering. The melancholy aside, Everything went as planned in the morning. We got out of the house on time, the drive was smooth, and we arrived in plenty of time for check-in and warm up.

Standing at the start line I am going through a lot of self-doubt, a lot of internal bargaining, trying to get out of what I know is about to happen and just wishing we could start and get this over with. Racing hurts and when you are racing long distances like the half-marathon and marathon you are in for a long and grueling mental and physical battle. The start signal was given at about 8:32. 2 Minutes late, not bad.

The primary goal at this race was a new PR in the 1:20:xx (old PR was 1:21:07)  and the plan was to go out about 6:10 for the first few miles and then start tightening the screws to get to an overall pace of 6:06, finish strong and break 1:20 if everything was perfect.

Mile 1 -- (5:45) The course is looping around an industrial complex to come back by the start line. I lead for about the first half mile. I had no intention of going out this fast, in fact I studied my other half-marathons both good and bad and talked to myself about controlling the first mile and not blowing up. This is exactly what happened at Sam Costa back in March and that race ended bad and I missed a PR by less than a minute. But, the pace honestly doesn't feel that bad. I tell myself to bring it down before it's too late. About 1/2 mile in another guy takes command of the lead and I'm happy to let him. I'm already ready to ditch my gloves and I toss them right at the 1 mile mark.

Miles 2 and 3 (5:54, 5:50) Mile 2 is still in the industrial park and then the course heads out on a long stretch of a highway access road. I'm still too fast but I don't really have anything to gauge my pace with and it still doesn't feel bad. I'm still running in 2nd place. I'm starting to worry that I am going to blow up big time. I remember back to my last big workout. I found that repeating to myself "All day, every day" calms me down. So when my mind starts to wander to the negative I just tell myself "all day, everyday" until I feel calm again. But I still want to slow down a little closer to goal pace. I pass a grave yard and offer the race up as a sacrifice for the souls of the bodies buried there.

Mile 4 -- (5:52) I pass a small gathering of spectators. The guy in the lead is probably a good 1/4 mile ahead of me and I have no idea what kind of gap I have on 3rd place. I don't look back in races. It's a mental thing that admits vulnerability. I'm not giving you that if your behind me. So in small races I rely on hearing, seeing shadows, and the crowd. I listen to the crowd after I pass to see how long before they are cheering for someone else. Here, I didn't have to wait, the crowd said "Good job guys" so I knew someone was close and then I hear him and see him in my periphery. He glides by me like I'm standing still.

Miles 5,6,7 (6:00, 6:05, 5:58) The course goes out on some long, lonely country roads. There is absolutely nothing to distract me from the harsh realities of the accumulating lactic acid in my legs and the distress of my cardiovascular system . The pace is slowing down, the real suffering is beginning and I am starting to get worried.

I remember something else in mile 6. I have always believed there is a reason that I run. If you know me and my history it doesn't make sense. I have always felt that God gave me this and that He is with me when I run. I don't know why yet, maybe I never will but I truly feel like it is something that I am supposed to do. John 15 Jesus tells us that without Him we can do nothing but if we stay with Him whatever we ask shall be done. I pray to God to be with me and to help me and I acknowledge that I have become the runner I have because of Him.

Miles 8,9,10 -- (6:03, 6:17, 6:11)  This is a very tough stretch and I'm basically praying and repeating my mantra and bargaining. It goes something like this. God I can't do this, help! "all day, everyday", "1 more strong mile and you can shut it down and cruise in." I panic when I see my time in mile 9. I don't want to blow up. I don't want to go home disappointed. "Damn it! I knew this was going to happen." Then I think back on a recent training run and remember something very similar. I obstinately dug in and got back on pace. I do the same here.

Miles 11 and 12 -- (6:08, 6:07) With all of the "time in the bank" I know the goal is with in reach. The distance left is manageable in chunks and my hope is renewed. Right about mile 12 I take control of 2nd place. The guy who initially lead in the 2nd half of the first mile is crumbling. He had already surrendered 1st and now was unable to rally and cover when I passed him. This renewed me yet again. With a mile to go there was no way I was slowing down and giving him the opportunity to retake 2nd.

Last 1.1 in 6:50 (6:05/mile) Feeling thankful the end is just minutes away and knowing I was going to break 1:20 easily I start to feel elated. I make the turn and see the finish. A look at my watch tells me if I dig in here I could even break 1:19 and crush my previous PR and the day's goal. I dig in hard. My whole body is on fire and my stomach is revolting. It doesn't matter. It's literally less than a minute to the finish line. I cross the finish 2nd overall to a fist pumping 1:18:55.

All-in-all I was very pleased with the day and confident in my ability to meet my goal at the Monumental. The fitness is there and I have developed some reliable mental strategies to get through the rough patches, rally and to get back on track. I am disappointed in my lack of control early and hope to really focus on that at the Monumental.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

20th Annual Indianapolis Marathon

Last Saturday, 10/17/2015, I ran the Indianapolis Marathon as a training run in my build to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. I have run the half marathon at this race for the last several years and have used it as a tune-up race and final fitness gauge for what has always been my "A" marathon, the Monumental.

This year, the calendar proved a little challenging. This race is usually at the end of my first week of taper. So, I can use it to gauge where I truly am and I am rested enough to run a PR effort which usually results in an actual PR. The way it worked out this year though it was at the end of my biggest block of training both in quality and quantity. Leaving it a full 3 Saturday's out from the Monumental.

I have come to rely on my wife as a manager/coach and when I pointed this out to her she had a solution as usual. She suggested I run the full marathon as a final strength workout and find a half-marathon the next week to run as a tune-up race. 21 days is plenty long enough for me to recover from a marathon run below full race effort and a half-marathon the next week would still allow me to get the feedback I am looking for regarding fitness and race readiness. Bonus, I've never ran the full here before and this is the 20th and final running of the full. From here on out it will only be a half and 5k.

My plan was to go out and run somewhere around 3:10 to 3:15. Garrett, you remember him from my other race reports I'm sure,  and I had emailed a few times so I knew he was planning on running and looked forward as usual to meeting up with him. I also knew there was a good chance he was going to run this as a full out race and we probably wouldn't be running together. I was a little bummed about it but I also knew that Garrett's PR showed he had the potential to win the thing so I encouraged him to go for it.

Race morning we left the hotel a little later than we should have. Traffic was backed up in the parking areas so I jumped out of the car to head to the start area while Mary and Hannah parked. I arrived with about 1/2 hour to spare and found Garrett sitting beneath a tree all zen like. The man has no fear of the marathon, I'm sure of it. Always calm, cool, and collected before the race. We spent a few minutes catching up on each others running over the summer. He's had a good summer and I have no doubt he will have a good race. I see some other friends and exchange "good lucks" and head to the corral.

It's cold

As I said, I'm planning a nice steady strength effort today so I'm not real nervous, I just know I've got a nice long run in front of me. It's probably the coldest morning of the season so far and I keep on my long sleeve tee shirt to start the race. As usual at this race we start right on time. I'm out and the environment has me a little to fast, around 6:50/mile. I figure I'll settle into a slower pace over the next couple of miles and don't worry to much about it.

I strike up a conversation with a guy in the first mile. His name is Blake and He says he's under trained but hoping to be able to pull out the full distance today. I tell him my plans and we kind of agree to run together.

Mile 1 -- 6:46. My watch auto laps and I realize that I didn't shut the auto-lap off. I usually do manual laps in a marathon because the Garmin gets ahead of the mile markers and that will wear on you late in the race. Too late now though. The pace is way faster than planned but I was sure it was just the energy of the start and then loosing track of pace while settling in to running with someone else. I always loose track of pace when I've got company on a run. I tell myself to slow it down some.

Miles 2 - 3 -- (6:49, 7:08) are the first pass through Ft. Harrison State Park. The first significant hill in the race is during mile 3. So, I hadn't really got control of the pace like it looks like I might have. The effort is still harder than planned. So I'm still kind of trying to find my groove. I am starting to warm up and thinking about when I can ditch the long sleeve shirt.

Mile 4-7 -- (6:58, 6:51, 6:53) I ditch the long sleeve shirt at mile 4 at an aid station and see my wife, for the first time, just a minute later. I see a couple more spectators I know from CKRR here as well.

This is a good stretch of the race and goes by pretty quick. Back on the main road through Lawrence, 56th street, a couple of turns and on to the first turn around. Here you get to check out the competition. I didn't see Garrett so I'm guessing he's doing well and hoping I'll get an update later in the race. The pace is still faster than planned but I'm feeling pretty good so I decide to make peace with it and quit chiding myself for running too hard.

Miles 8-11 (6:54, 6:50,6:50,7:08) Back in Ft Harrison State Park. About mile 9 or so another runner joins for a minute and and then throws out a "I think I'll actually run a little faster" and starts to pull away. Instinctively, I want to show this guy what I've got and make him sorry he challenged me but I tell Blake that I've got to keep myself in check. I'm not running a PR today so any harder of an effort will only server to sabotage my goal at the Monumental.

There are several aid station through here and the running is pretty easy until mile 10.5 which offers the toughest hill in the race and that's reflected in the pace of 7:08. Once you crest the hill its just another couple of minutes until you are back out of the park and heading for the half/full split at mile 12.

Miles 12 and 13 (6:42, 6:37) I'm keeping an eye on the guy from mile 9 and even though I know better my pace quickens and I'm keeping him in sight and not letting the gap get too big. I just didn't realize it at the time. I see Hannah finishing off her mileage for the day and ask how she did in the 5k. She lets me know 25:30ish. That was pretty solid coming off an xc PR just about 12 hours ago. I also see my wife and toss her my sock hat as I am getting pretty comfortable with the temperature.

We split from the half-marathon here and head back into Ft Harrison State Park. I'll be honest I half expected to loose Blake here but he's a trooper and by heading into the park and not off to the half split he commits to the full distance. It's an out and back from here and the thing about an out and back is once you're out you've got to get back, so you might as well run.

Miles 14-17 -- (6:37, 6:39, 6:41) The path gets pretty narrow and I'm glad we are out in front. I wouldn't want to run here in a large pack. Somewhere in here we find out we are 14th and 15th in the full. I'm still keeping the guy from mile 9 in my sights and it shows in the pace. About right around mile 17 the gap completely closes and my instinct is to drop him. I get right beside him and chide him that it's no time to start to fade, we are almost done. As the words come out of my mouth I realize that I am racing this guy. I have a little talk with myself about how this isn't the goal race and all I came for was the distance. I back off and let him go as he seems to get a boost from my little pep talk. I'd love to see his splits because I think he took my advice and dug in.

Miles 18 -20 -- (6:47, 6:49, 6:51) Letting the adrenaline go and bringing the pace back down. I'm not racing today, I'm not! I see Garrett he's coming back from the turn around he's probably a mile and a half ahead of me and is running in second place. He looks strong and I yell some encouragement his way and tell him his position. I'm psyc'ed for him.

Blake is starting to really struggle at this point. His face is as red as can be and he sounds pretty miserable. I ask him how his last 20 mile run went and he says he had to walk a good portion of it. I think to myself, this guy is a beast. He hasn't made it through a 20 mile run in a good long while but he's keeping up with me an I'm running a pretty strong pace. Probably what a lot of coaches would call a steady state pace.

Miles 21, 22, 23 (7:06, 7:12, 7:20) Blake is starting to come undone and I try to slow the pace and help him survive. I'm trying to talk to him and get him out of the dark place I know he has to be in in his head. He refuses to stop or walk and again I see just raw determination. It's one thing to go out and run a good marathon when you've trained for it. But it is impressive to see someone soldier through a marathon they aren't trained for. I have admiration for both. The training it takes to run a strong marathon shows grit and determination and single mindedness that a person commits to for a long period of time. Running a marathon untrained or severely under-trained shows a quality of tough mindedness that is really beyond compare. About mile 22 someone tells us we are fighting for 10th. By mile 23 I'm running in front of him and keeping an eye trying to not drop him. But he is unraveling quickly.

Miles 24 -- 7:36 At some point in mile 24 I look back and Blake is no longer in sight. I spend the rest of the mile trying to let him catch up but to no avail.

Miles 25, 26 --(6:42, 6:27) With Blake having dropped far enough back that I couldn't locate him I decide to drop my pace and just get this thing finished. Just after leaving Ft Harrison State Park for the last time I pass another marathoner and take control of 8th place. As usual I hear Hannah before I see her right before the turn to the finishing stretch. She waiting for a high-five and I oblige. Coming down the stretch to the finish chute there are 4 half-marathoners that I can easily pick off. So what, they are 3 hour half-marathoners. Road kill is road kill and I've got to get them :)

All-in-all it was a great day. Great weather, a good solid long run, my marathon friend Garrett took 2nd overall and I made a new running friend and even under-trained he ran the full distance without stopping or walking. Looking over the data for the race I am very excited by the dang near perfect even split that I ran (1:30:37 for the first half and 1:30:57 for the second half) For a race where you aren't planning to PR I'm not sure you could ask for much more.

Garrett taking 2nd place. Good job Garrett!

Happy with a solid long run effort