Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2016 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

Training Details
20 Weeks Total
1453 total miles
3 100 mile weeks
3 full distance training runs (2 at actual marathons)
7 20+ mile runs

Race Details
Finish Time 2:51:31
77th Overall
72/2412 Men
12/413 Men Age 40-44
First Half 1:23:55
Second Half 1:27:37

The short description of this race would be a solid 23 mile race and a really, really bad 5k. The long painful story follows.

First of all, I was very happy to line up healthy this year and finish the race. Last year I pinched a nerve and was unable to run the race after the best training cycle I have ever put together. The heart ache lasted for weeks and the disappointment was nearly unbearable. So, while the rest of this report may sound like a pity party, it's not. It's just an honest review.

My goal back at the beginning of this training cycle was to get back to the shape I believe I was in last year. I was pretty sure that a 2:47:00 marathon would have been a walk in the park. I think that if I was feeling brave I could have gone 2:45:xx. I was very anxious about how to get back into shape and I decided to hire a pro to write my training plan. I sought out a custom plan from Maximum Performance Running. I can't say enough good things about Mark Hadley, the guy who runs it. Check him out at his blog or twitter @MPRunning

I worked diligently toward that goal for about 15 weeks and it became apparent that I wasn't going to get there. But I did feel like if everything came together I could still hit 2:47:00. It's just that it was going to take a PR type effort and leave me spent. So my goal when I toed the line on November 5th, 2016 at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon was just that 2:47. That's a 6:22 - 6:24/Mile pace.

Once again we stayed downtown. I was seeded in corral A and It was a chilly morning, about 37* and no wind. This is perfect marathoning weather. I honestly couldn't believe how good the weather was. But 37* is a little cool for just standing around in. That being the case we stayed in the hotel room until the last minute and walked down and jumped in the corral with about 5 minutes to spare.

Once in the corral Garrett found me. I also see some other runners I know, Matt York, his friend Dustin, and Heather Weber. We all say hi and make a little small talk. I say I'm going for 2:47. Garrett and Matt both indicate they think they'll be a little slower than that.

Getting ready to start another marathon with Garrett.

First 5k 20:12 6:30/Mile
We get the start signal and we are off, slowly. We didn't realize how far back we were in the corral and the first mile is just wall to wall people. The first mile was 6:50ish. Way to slow. In the first and second mile I think I see every single marathoner I know. It actually started feeling a little ridiculous how many people I was talking to. I'm not a social guy. I don't have friends. But I in the first few miles here I feel like the kid in school who is friends with everybody. I saw Matt, Cliff, Glenn, Chad. At some point Garrett says "the moral of the story is you have a lot of fast friends." Yeah, I guess I do.

We hit mile 2 and I was averaging high 6:30s. Way too slow. I drop the hammer and I think Garrett has already decided he didn't want to run that fast. That's all right, it's just me today. Next thing I know there's Garrett. He decided to come with me and I'm happy for that. The marathon is a much easier beast when you have some one to work with. A few minutes later we catch up with Chad. He tells me he's going for 2:48. Cool, we'll run together for a while and see what happens.

Second 5k 19:43 6:20/Mile
I ran most of this with Chad and Garrett and there really isn't much to report except to say that I felt good, the pace felt good and I had high hopes for the day. I take a gel right at the 10k mark.

Third 5k 19:52 6:23/Mile
About mile 7 we split off from the half-marathoners. I was running with Chad still and I think Garrett started to fall off a bit. By mile 8 Chad had started to pull ahead some and I was running by myself but close to other runners. I know Matt must be close behind because I see a contingent of supporters from Kokomo and hear them call out my name and Matt's.

Forth 5k 19:47 6.22/Mile
Matt had caught back up to me and we ran side by side for several miles. Matt is an IronMan so I picked his brain a little about training and equipment. I have a draw to IronMan that I can't seem to kick. I was still feeling very strong at this point. Confident that my primary goal of 2:47:xx would be doable and entertaining going for it in the second half, putting up a big negative split, and getting in under 2:47.

Fifth 5k 20:00 6:26/Mile
I take a gel right at the half. Matt started to pull away as we turned back onto Meridian. I wasn't worried at this point. I assumed that either he was picking it up or my legs just needed a change of pace for a minute. Unfortunately, my Garmin wasn't a good indicator as it was bouncing thru a relatively large pace range. Whatever the case Matt stayed within 4 or 5 meters. I was still connected.

6th 5k 20:15 6:31/Mile
My pace slipped a little but it wasn't because I was tiring, there is a lot of incline in this portion of the race. really its the one of the only areas that isn't just about flat. I still feel fine and it takes no convincing what-so-ever to tell myself that its just the incline and once we get to the IMA the pace will come back to the low 6:20s where it needs to be. I should have taken a gel by mile 19 but I missed it. I believe this plays a significant role in the way the rest of the race unfolded.

7th 5k 20:26 6:34/Mile
I roll thru the 20 mile mark and I try to drop the hammer. The problem is, there is no hammer. The gap between myself and Matt is now significant. I am no longer connected. He ran a hell of a race and negative split by a minute. So He was picking it up and I was slipping a bit. For the first time I have started to worry that I won't meet my primary goal of 2:47:xx. I am also worried that the rapid deterioration would even cost me a PR.

By mile 21 my pace had dropped to 6:44. From behind I hear Garrett! "Looks like you could use some help." I was very happy to hear that voice. In my mind I thought "Garrett has come to at least help me salvage a PR." He encouraged me and I tried to stay with him but my legs were going down in in flames. All I could say to Garrett was "The wheels are coming off." Through all of this I still did not realize that I missed a gel.

8th 5k 21:47 7:00/Mile + Finish
I saw my wife and daughter Kasey at mile 23. My wife said she knew it was bad because Garrett was pulling away from me and she has never seen me look so bad in a race. I was passed I don't know how many times here. My legs gave up but my heart and mind didn't. Each time I was passed I dug deep to answer and regain my position. The only problem was my legs would not respond and I failed each time. I never quit though. Ever. I kept pushing. It was bad.

Dying at mile 23

At mile 24 I realized what was happening. I realized that I had missed that gel. Marathoners know that the body is capable of storing enough energy to run for about 2 hours. Anything over and above that you have to supply during the race and at the appropriate times so that your body can make use of it. I was out of fuel. Commonly referred to as "hitting the wall." I took my last gel in hopes that it would at least help me in the last mile or so and keep this from getting even worse. Hopefully, I could at least trick my body into thinking it had some fresh source of energy to pull from and free my legs to move with a little more strength. It must have worked to some degree because while mile 25 was in the mid 7s and I was able to get back to the low 7s for mile 26 and under 7 for the remaining .2

So, I was on pace to meet my goal even to mile 23. I should have easily PR'ed. I keep going back and forth about was it the gel or is that just a convenient excuse. I really believe it was the gel because I felt good until I didn't feel good. I believe it was the gel because my mind and my heart still wanted it but I couldn't will myself to move any faster. In other words it was a physiological fail.

What's next?
I am signed up for the Celebration Marathon in Celebration, FL on 1/29/2017. I was just going to run this for fun but I am weighing the option of turning around on a short cycle and racing it to get that 2:47:xx. I'll take this week and next week to decide but at the moment I am leaning very strongly in that direction.

Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 Detroit Free Press Marathon

A couple of years ago my uncle, who lives about 30 minutes from Detroit, invited me to come run the Detroit marathon and stay with them. It wasn't going to work for me that year and it didn't work out the next year. But this year, everything came together and I was able to put it on my schedule as the final long run in a build up to the 2016 Monumental Marathon.

Planning started about 8 weeks ago. The marathon begins in Detroit and crosses into Canada for a few miles. That being the case you need official credentials to cross the border. I haven't been out of the country in years and so didn't have any of the various options. We decided to go ahead and just get full passports in case we decided we wanted to fly to France for dinner some evening. While the State department recommends 6 week lead time to get your passport we actually received ours in about 2 weeks. It was a pretty simple process.

The race was scheduled for 7:00 AM Sunday, October 16th, 2016. We headed to Detroit about 9:00 AM Saturday morning and arrived to the COBO center for packet pickup at about 1:00 PM. There is good parking right at the center's parking garage for $10.00. We don't know the area at all so it was 100% worth the price. We parked and were in and out of packet pickup and the expo in about 45 minutes.

My aunt and uncle not only provided a place for us to stay but provided us with the most important meals of the weekend. Pre-race and post-race dinner. A Sunday morning marathon means a Saturday evening vigil mass. So, we went to mass, ate dinner and watched some collage football before turning in around 9:00 PM for a 4:00 AM wake up.

We headed downtown about 5:00 AM for a 7:00 AM start. We were parked by 5:30 AM in a little 20 space parking lot about a half mile from the start line. All of the usual pre-race stuff; you know, hit the port-a-pot, take a gel and load up in the corral.

At 7:00 AM it was 66* and 83% humidity, making for a warm and humid day in Detroit. This race was taking the place of a 24 mile "moderate paced" run in my training plan. That being the case, my goals for the race were: First, run a strong pace between 6:50 and 7:00 miles. Second, run a very controlled first mile no faster than 7:00. Third, negative split the race.

My wife got this picture right before I headed to the corral.

1st 5k -- 6:51 (5k in 21:20 @ 6:51)
7:00 AM made for a predawn start which was just fine with me and the race started right on time as you would expect at a large race. They started the countdown, I stripped off my shirt, tossed it to the side and started moving up. Knowing that I wanted to be at 7:00 minute mile or slower for the first mile I kept my eye on the 3:05 pace group and tried to not get ahead of them. First mile was 7:01, sweet.

In mile 2 is a climb up to the ambassador bridge to cross the Detroit river into Canada. This is a nice grind and because I was holding my pace back and running much slower than my goal marathon pace I was running really strong and just passing people. This was a great confidence boost and I remember thinking that I needed to keep it in check and not blow a negative split. Once on the climb to the bridge and across the bridge there is a lot of border patrol. You could tell that they were checking bibs and doing their jobs but they were also being great marathon spectators and giving encouragement to the runners.

5k - 10k -- 6:52 (5k in 21:18 @ 6:57)
Now fully inside of Canada, we turn back north and head toward Riverside Drive. I've never been to Canada and it was basically just what I expected. The only difference I could see from the USA was that the speed limit signs were in kilometers. We ran along riverside for a couple of miles and made our way to the Detroit Windsor Tunnel.

10k - 15k -- 6:53 (5k in 21:38 @ 6:57)
If you weren't aware this is an underwater tunnel that runs for about a mile. I always do manual laps on my Garmin in a race so losing satellites wasn't an issue for me. Also, when a Garmin does lose satellites it draws a straight line from its last signal to the spot were it regains communication. The tunnel just happens to be a straight line so it even was able to stay on the correct distance once we climbed out of the tunnel. Took a gel right at 45 minutes.

Returning to the USA, at about the 8 mile mark, was great. There were crowds, music, and where I was they were even calling the names of the runners. A great boost of energy and motivation was the result. Again, I had to check myself and keep my pace under control. This is not a race for me. I needed to keep the pace at 6:50 or slower to ensure that I didn't need extended recovery and could return to my training for the Monumental. A look at my watch here had my over all pace at about 6:53 so not a whole lot of room to play with particularly if I'm going to negative split the race.

The course between the return to the USA and the half mark runs through downtown Detroit. I was hoping to catch my family down here. Sure enough, right around the 12 mile mark I hear Hannah. I am pretty much by myself here working between groups. Catching 1, leaving it and catching another. I easily make my way over to the left hand side of the road for a high-five from Hannah.

Getting a boost from a "Hannah High Five"
15k - 20k -- 6:51 (5k in 21:01 @ 6:45)
The course heads away from downtown and through some old but nice urban neighborhoods. The pace is picking up and I am confident that I will be able to hold and quicken the pace in the second half. At about the 15 mile mark there is a group handing out little 6 oz bottles of water. I grab 1 and it fits nicely in my hand and the mouth of the bottle makes drinking on the run very easy. I think I have a new drinking strategy for marathons and I need to find where I can buy these bottles. 

20k  - 25k -- 6:50 (5k in 20:59 @ 6:45)
Not much to report on this part of the course except that I was still feeling strong and was now fairly confident in hitting 3 hours and a negative split relatively comfortably. Being able to to drink from the bottle as opposed to dixie cups made drinking much easier. I took another gel right at 100 minutes.

25k - 30k -- 6:50 (5k in 21:11 @ 6:49)
Heading out to and on Belle Island there was a noticeable headwind and I had to work to keep the pace where I was. I wasn't going to let a little headwind derail my goal so I just dug in and did the work. I kept a close eye on my watch and if the pace started to drop I refocused.

30k - 35k -- 6:50 (5k in 21:27 @ 6:54)
The pace was dropping a bit so I knew that the work was beginning. It would take focus from here to the finish to meet my primary goals but I felt pretty strong and just knew that I had to put my head down and get to work. No problem, that's my draw to the marathon. It is hard physical work and I relish it.

35k - 40k -- 6:50 (5k in 20:56 @ 6:44/mile)
A couple of things helped here. I was ready for it to get difficult and mentally prepared for when it did. I knew there was just a 5k plus a little extra left so I was with in 25 minutes of this thing being over. A younger runner passed me. I don't like being passed especially late in a marathon. That's a point of pride for me. I get strong as people around me are falling off. I drop other runners late in the marathon, not the other way around. So when he passed me I made the decision to go with him. I stayed within striking distance through the run along the Detroit river back into downtown.

40k - the finish
Now moving back downtown there were 3 hills to go over. Again, I was running about 35 seconds under goal pace so the hills didn't cause me much trouble. I caught and passed the guy that passed me back along the river and then set my sight on 1 more runner and caught and passed him as well. I  really took the pace down here and ran 6:44 in for mile 25-26.

The course measured 26.45 my Garmin, on the strava route, and on the online map used by the marathon itself. That's fine. I've got no issue with that. It's the course and it's certified. There are actually a lot of turns. All of these turns mean that errors in running the tangents could add up quickly explaining the extra distance on my watch. Additionally, since online mapping uses center-lines for measurements all of the turns mean that the tangents are lost and you are going to get a long measurement from those as well. All that being said, I let completely loose over the last half mile running at a 5:33 pace.

Marathon #14 complete!
I was very pleased with my execution of this race. Coming at the end of a training cycle before tapering and further at the end of a peak mileage week as the race itself capped a 100 mile week, I felt very strong throughout the race and gained confidence in my goal of a 2:47:xx time at the Monumental on November 5th.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

2016 Indianapolis Half Marathon

I ran the Indianapolis Half Marathon Saturday Oct, 8th, 2016 as a tune-up for the 2016 Monumental Marathon. I had the basic 3 goals for my big tune-up half marathon. The primary goal was to run in the 1:20s while the stretch goal was to run 1:20:00 and the lest I would walk away happy with would be 1:21:30. The goals were not just pulled out of thin air. I wanted to run 1:20:xx because if you plug that number into my personal equation for half-marathon to marathon time that puts me right at my goal of 2:46 for the full marathon. I wanted to run 1:20:00 flat because that would give me hope to break into the 2:45:xx for the full and the 1:21:30 would still give me a personal course record.

I was up at about 5:30 AM for a quick shakeout before breakfast. We headed out right on time and made our way to Lawrence, IN which is a little less than an hour away. It was a cool morning with a little wind from the north that would end up having a noticeable effect in mile 7. We arrived and parked, as usual at this race, with no problems at all. The parking is really well done here.

Once parked, we had about an hour until the start and since I already had my race bib we just waited in the car until it was time to head out for a warmup. I warmed up and made my way to the start area with about 10 minutes to spare. Took a gel and a couple of drinks of water. This is purely superstition for me before a half-marathon. I got into the corral and started looking around for familiar faces but wasn't really seeing any.

Earlier in the week I exchanged a couple of tweets with Glenn and we loosely agreed to work with each other in this race. I finally saw Glenn with about a minute before the race started. I threw my sweatshirt to the side and moved up a few steps, "You ready, Glenn?"

We got the start signal and were off on a loop around some refurbished, repurposed army housing that was part of Ft. Ben. I knew I needed to control the first mile. I didn't want to go out crazy and tank my race in this mile but I also knew that I needed to keep it under the goal pace because we had a significant climb in mile 3 and a good grind in mile 4. First mile in 6:14. Damn! not only was I not even close to goal pace I just lost 11 seconds. I tried not to panic and make it all up here. Just picked up the effort to try to get to goal pace. Mile 2 6:02, there we go, that's better.

Mile 3 has a significant hill and from looking at past efforts on this course I knew I wanted to be around 6:10.  Mile 3 came in at 6:17. What is going on! Again, just get back on pace. Mile 4 is a net uphill but it rolls so I am hoping I can just get back to goal pace here. Mile 4 at 6:08 so not quite but not a deal breaker. However, I have now run 3 of the first 4 mile significantly slower than the 6:02 I was hoping for.

In mile 4 a small pack had formed between myself, Glenn, and the 2 lead females. Mile 5 at 6:07 and mile 6 at 6:10. I knew here that 1:20:00 was out and in all likely hood 1:20:xx was gone as well. I only held out hope because the next 4 miles were net downhill and I was hoping to make up at least some ground.

We formed a small pack that would hang together for most of the next 4 or 5 miles

We made the turn to head North on Lee Rd and were met with a nice headwind. Lee Rd is just kind of open with nothing to slow the wind down. Faced with this I let 1:20:xx go and just dug in to keep running strong.  I had been too conservative in the first 2 miles and it was going to cost me not only my stretch goal but my primary goal as well.

A turn around at mile 7.5 gives you a chance to see your position. I saw 3 guys out front with a very large gap between the next couple of guys in front of us. We didn't actually see the leader here as he was already in the park. I like this course because it breaks the race up very nicely. After you hit the turn around on Lee Rd you head into the Ft Harrison State Park which is a really nice place to run. I know that I have some more downhill before the next significant climb which encompasses most of mile 10 and culminates in a heart pounding steep hill just around mile 10.5

Somehow at mile 8 I thought I was in mile 9. I have run this race since 2012, you'd think I'd know the course by now. Since I had been overly conservative early and we were running on a slight decline, I was feeling pretty good and tried to take the pace down a notch. a few minutes later we hit the 9 mile marker. Ugh. I quickly put aside my mistake and just tried to continue with a strong pace.

In mile 10 there is a noticeable shift in the vertical direction and I could feel it immediately and my pace slowed accordingly. Somewhere in mile 10 the woman who would go on to be 1st female over all started to separate. Just a minute or so later Glenn started pulling away as well. We hit "the hill" and the separation grew. I just didn't have the strength to keep pace. Mile 10 would come in at 6:34, my slowest of the day by over 15 seconds.

Mile 11 I knew I needed to recover and just tried to keep the gap from growing any. I'd say at this point Glenn had about 20 seconds on me and had closed the gap with the 2 guys who had been running ahead of us all morning. Mile 12 we make the turn on 59th Street headed toward the finish. Glenn over took one of the guys who were out in front of us. My legs are coming back around and I focus on the guy between Glenn and I and try to start closing that gap with a hope of passing him before the finish. He's looking back, which is a good sign for me because it shows he's struggling and hoping he can cruise in. But he sees the gap closing and fights for it.

I ran mile 12 at a 6:04 pace and got with in 3 seconds of overcoming 8th place but he held me off just long enough. I ran the last .1 knowing that's were I'd finish. Hit the timing mat at 1:21:23, sign of the cross and call it a day.


Glenn, Ben, and me immediately reviewing the race

I failed to meet the goals of the day because I ran the first 2 miles too slow along with a couple of slow hilly miles and a bonus slow mile due to a headwind on what should have been a fast part of the course I had to settle for walking away achieving the least acceptable goal of the day, a personal course record. Still, I'll take some confidence away from this race. I could have held that pace a few more miles if I had to have so I think 6:22-6:25 is doable at the monumental especially with 1 more full marathon distance run as a strength workout next weekend at the 2016 Detroit Free Press Marathon where I'll just try to run about a 7:00/mile pace for sub 3:05 time.

Friday, May 6, 2016

2016 Carmel Marathon: Race Report

As you may already be aware I pinched a nerve in my right leg at the end of October. The pinched nerve kept me out of running for a full 8 weeks. During this time I cross trained like a boss with pool running, cycling, arc trainer. That might be good enough for some people to stay in reasonable shape but when I pinched the nerve I was in the best shape of my life. I was a finely tuned machine that was crushing workouts and destroying PRs and it would prove to not be any where close to enough to maintain that level of fitness.

I have always used an 18 week training cycle but this time the injury still had me relegated to the aforementioned cross training when the start of the cycle came around. By the time I was back to running I was really out of shape and there was no way I could jump into my usual marathon build up: 7 mile runs were leaving me feeling like I got hit by a truck. I decided to use an abbreviated 12 week cycle and use the 4 or 5 weeks I had until then to just to get my legs back. Over the course of this time I was able to build back up to a long run of 20 miles.

As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I was never 100% or even close to it through the entire training cycle. As 1 injury would clear up another would flare up. It wasn't until 5 days before Carmel that I was anything close to 100%. That being the case, to actually call it a training cycle is a bit of an over statement and I was just about as out of marathon shape as I have been since I started this lifestyle.

When I realized how out of shape I was I decided that somewhere around 3 hours would be OK and I would just use this race as a base strength type of run. Running was very hard throughout this whole thing. The long runs in particular would have been very daunting to have faced alone but I was blessed to have a friend to do long runs with. I ran most of my long runs with Cliff, a friend I met by going head to head in the last few miles of the Bee Bumble 10k in 2012. We have kept in touch via facebook and local races over the years and have talked about running together from time-to-time. I knew I needed some help to make it through the long runs so I got a hold of him and he obliged. It worked out pretty good since he was training to run the Boston Marathon around 3 hours as well.

Enough about the training, suffice it to say I was unable to get to prime form and knew that even 2:59 would be a struggle. Race morning was finally here and the forecast was for sunny 70* and no wind. Sounds perfect to you non-runners, huh? Sounds like miserably hot conditions for running 26.2 miles to me.

I met Garrett before the race and he was planning on running his usual 2:52. I knew we wouldn't be running together and after the start signal was given I watched him barrel off into the distance. With no PR to shoot for and not even a respectable time given my past marathons it was going to be a long day.

That is me and Garrett behind what looks to be a very grumpy half-marathoner

About a mile in I came up on another local runner, Matt York. He's an Iron Man and has a marathon PR just a couple of minutes faster than me. Matt is a smart runner and keeps a controlled pace early on. I figured I'd latch on and just run with him. It was working well for the first several miles. We were running around 6:35/6:40 miles and I was feeling pretty good. Matt and I don't know each other well so the conversation was a nice distraction.

At one point Matt said something to the effect of "Well, if you get too far ahead of me, good luck." I assured him I was running way too fast and this was going to get ugly pretty quick. I knew I was going to blow up but I decided to just try to hold this pace as long as I could and take what comes after. It'd be a good strength builder.

At around 8 miles or so, I saw Steve Williams who i met at this years Sam Costa. I knew he was shooting for 3 hours and a Boston qualifier but he looked like he was out a little fast and I just hoped he wouldn't blow up. Steve end up finishing right around 3 hours and got his BQ so good for him!

Around mile 11 the crash began. It wasn't a total and complete collapse. I just couldn't stay with Matt any more and my pace dropped to the high 6s as I watched gap between Matt and I grow larger and larger. At this point I just wanted to hang on for a 2:59:59 marathon. I kept that delusion for another couple of miles until it became apparent that my pace was just going to continue to bleed. It was getting hot and I was out of shape.

About mile 16 I saw my family for the first time and for the first time ever I saw Hannah before she saw me and I started calling out "Hannah!, Hannah!" Hannah had a bottle of water ready for me and it was a welcome sight. My oldest daughter Kasey took pity on me and threw her bottle of water on me and it felt like heaven. My pace was still dropping but seeing my family was a great boost and while I wasn't feeling real bad yet, I sure shouldn't have been smiling like I was for the picture.

From 16 to 25 I really lost a lot of time with my pace slipping well into the upper 7s for several of those miles. Not a whole lot to say about the final miles other than that it felt like a death march for most of it. I really tried to pick it up in the final mile and coming down the stretch I passed a guy who I had been playing leap frog with over the last several miles. In the final 1/4 of a mile I was ready to shut it down but there is Hannah yelling at me "Don't let him beat you!" I found that last gear for the last 90 seconds or so and was able to maintain my position and that was really the only running win of the day for me.

Yeah this was a bad race. Yeah, I was out of shape and a lot of people would say I ran a stupid race going out faster than even my planned goal pace that I figured would be too fast anyway. I didn't get any kind of victory and there was no glory at the finish line this time; only relief.

All that said, it was a great race because it was at this race that I realized just how connected I am to running. I mentioned a few people in this report that I met through running and I saw and spoke to even more people that I know because I run. I've got to say, I love the fact that I can go to a bigger race in a city I don't live in and see a bunch of people I know because we all share a passion for this crazy thing called the Marathon.

A couple of other great points on the day. First was that both of my daughters ran in the 8k and I always really enjoy when several of us get after it on race day! Also, it was Nattie Jo's first road race and I cannot wait to continue to share this experience with her throughout her life. Foot races are a big part of the life of my family and thinking about sharing that with Natalie and other grand kids yet to be named just makes me smile.

The marathon broke my heart in November and it beat me up pretty bad in April. That's OK because  Fall will be here soon enough I will have my revenge. Looks like I've got a lot of work to do before the Monumental to ensure that I punish the marathon for what it has done to me this year.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2016 Sam Costa Half-Marathon: Race Report

Saturday, March 19th, 2016 I ran the Sam Costa half-marathon. This was 1 week after running the 2016 Land Between the Lakes Trail Marathon. My quads were shredded from the descents and the trails and felt bad through Thursday. Also, at some point on Monday I noticed a flare up of my peroneal tendon that resulted in my right foot becoming very painful.

I started loading up on Ibuprofen on the Thursday prior. I know this isn't probably the smartest thing in the world but right now it is worth it to me to get some consistent running back in my training. My oldest daughter Kasey was running the quarter marathon so she rode down with me. There is a lot to like about this race and 1 of the best things is a very efficient race morning check in so there is no need for a separate trip to "packet pickup and expo", no need to get there super early either as there is ample close parking in the Northview Church parking lot.

Saturday morning came and my foot was a little tender but I was sure it would be manageable for the race. With the general inconsistent training over the winter, just coming off a pretty tough trail marathon a week before, and the threat of bad weather, I had absolutely no plan for Sam Costa this year other than that I knew anything over 90 minutes was unacceptable.

Out of fear of aggravating my foot and the treat of nasty (cold rain) weather, I skipped any kind of warm up. We hung out until about 8:50 AM and I walked to the start line and kind of jogged around mostly to try to stay warm. It was about 35* so just standing for 10 minutes didn't seem like much fun. The race stated right on time and I went out at about a 6:10 pace and held this until my shoe came untied around 2 miles in. I made note of the first people to pass me so I could focus on regaining position. I lost about 30 seconds to the shoe and spent the next mile or so catching up.

I think this is not to far after the shoe lace incidence
It was easy to know who I needed to catch up to because he was wearing the exact same shoes as I was. Pearl Izumi Road N2s in purple and black. You don't see much PI gear at road races in central Indiana and It's a shame that the running community isn't more aware of the PI brand. They make good, comfortable, high quality products.  I caught up to him around mile 3 and settled into his pace. Over the next couple of miles we formed a small pack with another guy and a woman.

Miles 3,4 and 5 each I still had no real plan. As each mile ticked off I would say to myself, "1 more mile and we'll count this as a solid tempo run and relax the rest of the race." But I was glad the pack had formed because it made me work a little harder than I planned and I just kept ticking off the miles and hanging on to the pack.

We hung together through about 10 miles and then the rest of the pack started separating. Having gone into the race with no plan and it being late in a race where I had worked harder than I intended, I couldn't muster the mental power to answer so I let them go. Even with my pace beginning to slip I was able to pick off 4 runners over the last couple of miles.

About a mile left to go. I like arm sleeves, they make you look fast...

In the final 1/2 mile, I was passed by a runner who was obviously finishing very strong because I hadn't seen him the entire race. The very end of this race features a nice uphill and makes for a gut wrenching finish. I have run this race 3 times now and this uphill makes me want to puke every time.

I finished with an official time 1:25:01 a little more that 6:00 minutes slow of my PR. During a normal training cycle I would have used this race as a tune up and I would have been gunning for a PR but this isn't a normal training cycle and I'm nowhere close to half-marathon PR shape. So, I am pleased with the result and will chalk it up to a good hard run in my quest to rebuild lost fitness. This run also gives me confidence that I will be able to eek out a sub three hour marathon at Carmel in April.

Another race in the books

Monday, March 14, 2016

Land Between the Lakes Trail Marathon

The weekend, March 12, 2016 I ran the Land Between the Lakes Trail Marathon. This marathon is run along with options for 50 miles, 60k, and 24k (a little over a half marathon) at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky which is a little over a 5 hour drive from my house.

I ran, and won, this marathon last year but due to heavy snow and rain in the weeks proceeding it last year it was moved to the roads. So, while I ran it last year, this year was truly my first "trail' marathon and I had no idea what I was in for.

As with last year, the purpose of this race was "marathon-as-a-training-run" for Carmel Marathon in April. The goal was to finish the distance and need as little recovery as possible after. Meaning I wasn't planning on going into this and trying to win. I knew I wanted to run slow enough to keep the damage to a minimum.

So my plan was maybe 7:30 for the first half and 7:15 for the second if I felt good. That is a minute slower than my marathon PR and about 25 seconds slower than I have been doing long runs in this cycle. This goes to show my inexperience with trails.

We started right on time and in fact it caught me a little off guard. I was just kind of hanging out chatting with Hannah, who was running the 24k, and all of a sudden I see the front of the pack start to organize and we are off. I'm a Pearl Izumi ambassador, know as a ChamPIon. As part of the deal we get some gear to wear at races. One of the shirts we got is super visible and very recognizable and I spot 1 near the front of the pack. I make it my goal to catch up with this guy and find out who it is.

The first and last 2 miles of the race are on the road getting to the trail from the start and getting back to the town of Grand Rivers for the finish. The rest of the course is an 11 mile trail called "Canal Loop." While I am no trail runner, I would expect that this trail would be considered "technical" since switchbacks, tree roots, rocks, creek crossings, and dead fall were in no short supply.

I cruised through the first 2 miles to the trail steadily picking up the pace. I ran right around 7:00 for the second mile and felt great. I got to the trail right around 2 miles and the pace dropped as expected. once on the trail it was 95% or more single track. I fell in line behind a couple of other guys that were also running the marathon distance. In the first couple of miles the trail was hard packed and I felt like I could have run faster but it was hard to pass and with my inexperience I wasn't sure if I should so I just sat tight in that position trying to figure things out.

After a few miles I started getting frustrated with the pace and wanted to pick it up some. I found a decent place to pass, called it out and went around off the trail. The trail hadn't been super difficult to this point and I was still feeling good plus I knew I wanted to catch up to Pearl Izumi guy.

The trail seemed to constantly ascend and descend with no real flat sections and after 4 or 5 miles on the trail i realized that 7:30 would not be a conservative pace and I start lowing my expectations and doing math. As I said I think the trail would be considered technical and as such I kept my eyes mostly on where my feet are landing trying to avoid rocks and roots and making sure I clear any dead fall. In the early miles of the race I was trying to keep my shoes dry by being precise with foot strikes near puddles, muddy sections, and creek crossings. I would give up on that entirely in the latter miles.
Around mile 7.5 and still mostly clean

In a road marathon I am cognizant of every mile. I always know were I am. With most of my concentration being on trying to stay upright on the trails though my awareness of the distance was more vague. I think somewhere around mile 10 I finally catch Pearl Izumi guy and we exchange names and talk a little. He is Troy from Louisville. He seems to be a pretty experienced trail and ultra marathoner and I find out he's running the 50 mile race. I comment on the fact that his pace is pretty nice especially for a 50. (Troy ended up winning the 50 mile race in a little over 7 hours)
My wife recognized the shirt and got a picture of Troy, another Pearl Izumi Champion, who went on to win the 50 mile. 

I run behind him for a few miles but notice that I am really getting on his heels on the ascents. My pace just keeps slipping and I again grow frustrated. I find a decent place to pass, call it out and try to slide by without contact. My inexperience shows again though as I bump into him.

We reach the second half of the loop and the trail seems to get more difficult. The footing is not near as good, the inclines seem steeper, the switchbacks more frequent.

Its not long before I realized the pass was selfish and a mistake. While on any thing resembling flat or uphill I am fine, I don't have the skill to bomb the descents and he apparently does as I can hear and feel how much my hesitation on them is messing with his rhythm. He's very cool about it though and doesn't say a word. Finally I ask him to please pass and he does.

We hit the beginning of the second loop and I could tell that the footing had gotten much worse after everyone had been through once. My legs were starting to get pretty fatigued and I knew it was going to be a long second loop. My mind started to look ahead at how far was left. I knew that was a mistake and this is where the trail really helped. It was much easier to refocus my mind on the here and now with the ever changing trail, the challenge of landing my feet on the clear over and over again and whatever scenery I was able to take in.

I was still behind Troy but now when I got close to him on the ascents I was happy to just back off. I didn't want to get upfront again because when we hit a descent he was flying down it while I was taking it very cautiously.

Not much to say about the second half except to emphasize how bad the footing got in some places. Also, my Garmin was really having trouble measuring accurately and as such had my pace much slower than it actually was. I say this because I really was getting mentally beat  up seeing paces as slow as 10:00 and 12:00 minute miles. The prospect of a time greater than 3 hours and 30 minutes just really beat me down. At this point that's where I thought I would wind up.

About mile 20 (according to my Garmin so really more like 21 or 22) we hit a humongous patch of mud. Running was a real struggle and it was all I could do to remain upright. Again my inexperience showed. I couldn't get through this patch running and actually had to stop and walk just to stay on my feet. Troy, on the other hand was able to blast through and that was the last I saw of him.

My metal game was gone at this point and I was feeling pretty defeated. It looked like I was looking at 3:45 if I could even get back into it somehow. Then, all of a sudden I'm back at the road with a sign pointing me back toward town to the finish line. From the course description I should have only had 2 miles to go but my watch is right at 23 miles. So I must have read the course description wrong. Another metal beating.

My mind was shot, my legs were shot, my spirit was nearly defeated. I saw my wife and daughter at this point and it lifts me a little but I was struggling bad and the boost didn't last. All I want to do is walk but I couldn't let them see me walk. They drive past toward the finish and I think "once they are out of sight, I'm walking." My wife pulls over and get some more pictures. My legs die and I walk anyway.
On the roads heading to the finish. I was really struggling here.

Hannah knew what was going on with the Garmin since she had run the 24k and yells out the window that my turn is right up the road. I find the strength to run again and hit the turn. It was about a minute after the turn until I could see the clock. That was the most welcome sight in a long time. I can see enough to know I'll get in under 3:30 and I am happy and pick up the pace as much as I can to try and somehow finish strong.

3:27:26 and 4th overall. My slowest marathon by over 13 minutes but given that it was on a trail with mud and hills and roots and hard passing and given that I am just really getting my marathon strength back after an injury sidelined me for 8 weeks completely and various other issues minor injuries have kept me from training consistently since the end of September, I'll take it.

I learned a lot. Trails ain't roads, descending is harder the ascending (at least for me), a Garmin can't be trusted in the woods on trails with lots of switch backs. I also learned that while I do love running fast on the roads, there is a part of me that loves the trails too and I'll be looking for more trails to run.