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.