Sunday, November 30, 2014

Turkeys Trotting

Thanksgiving. A day of traditions. So for us runners, that means a Turkey Trot. A fun way to go out, have some racing fun, and justify the massive amounts of food to be eaten later.

For me, that meant the local 3 Mile race that I have done 9 times now in the last 15 years. It's very low-key, un-timed, with no winners or awards. Lots and lots of walkers and joggers. But of course, I treat it as a race. And my goal this year was a course record, which would be a lifetime PR since no one else does 3-mile races.

4 years ago I ran 20:27. Two years ago I ran 20:16. So my goal was to go sub-20. 6:40 pace. Barring that, I hoped to at least PR under 20:16. I figured I had a decent shot at it.

I had my own personal paparazzo there as well, as in addition to DW, JunBlack showed up to work on his mad photography skillz. He caught me in my pre-race routine as I put on my race-face.

DW caught me as I practiced my levitation

I found a buddy from my track club to start with, and soon we were off! I was somewhere behind this turkey.


But ahead of these turkeys,


Oh, there I am! Still happy and pain-free!

 Which didn't last for long. I kind of got sucked out with the big crowd and my first pace check showed 6:21. Too fast. I tried to relax, and slowed a bit. My track buddy was running with me, but started to pull away toward the end of mile 1. I had to let him go. It was too fast and I was hurting. Mile 1 was 6:37.

Which was very close to my goal of 6:40, although I hoped to do negative splits. But I was already just hanging on. Mile 2 was looking like 6:55 pace, so I tried to step it up a little, but my body was not having it. Just maintaining was the best I could do. Except "maintaining" meant a 6:54 mile 2.

So, it looked like sub-20 wasn't going to happen. But I could still hope for a PR if I could muster a kick. I headed for home, with the last mile one straight, flat road to the finish.

But I had nothing. People were pulling away from me instead of me catching anyone. I was just trying not to give in to the overwhelming desire to slow down and walk. When my extra exertion still showed a pace over 6:50 I think I felt defeated and just hung on the rest of the way. At least I didn't give up. Mile 3 was 6:52, and I finished with 20:29.

Here is a peek at mile 3 pain.


I'm back there somewhere. I ran all of mile 2 with that double stroller guy, and then he pulled away from me. Sad.


So, no PR, but not so far off. Still a good morning's work. Earned some credits for food-gorging later. Besides, there is always another race. Like the 10K coming up next week...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bouncing Back for a Half (Yet another RR)

It was a busy week.

After finishing the New York City Marathon Sunday, I had 5 days to recover before doing a Pikermi on Saturday on the other coast. Just living the dream.

Monday my legs felt not too bad for day one. I went for a long walk with DW and SIL to enjoy the Fall colors in New Jersey. Then I put the calf sleeves back on for the 6-hour flight back to LA.

Tuesday was my one day at work to catch up, and then I went out that night to celebrate my son turning 21. So I met him at a seedy bar and bought him a beer and watched hockey. First time we drank together. Kind of strange. I remembered the first time I had a beer with my Dad at a party. It signifies a subtle change in the relationship. Like we are now more equal.

Anyway, it was fun. And the start of another long weekend. Because it was time for my annual reunion with my high school buddies where we play golf, eat good food, drink a lot, and do a race. This year we were going to Santa Barbara. The guys all showed up on Wednesday and we drove up from LA to SB together to our wonderful rented house near the beach.

Thursday and Friday we played 18 holes of golf in beautiful settings. Like this.

My legs were recovering very well. And we used golf carts so that helped a little. Still, that's a lot of time on my feet and in the sun. Plus drinking and stuffing myself every night is probably not the best taper plan. But we were having fun!

Saturday was race day. Did I mention we were in the middle of a heat wave? Highs of about 80. But it was nice and cool and low 50's for the 7:15AM start. I felt bad for the marathoners starting at 7:30 and having to run past Noon.

The course meandered around town before a pretty good hill at mile 11 and then a downhill finish to the beach. Parts of it were on a nice bike path. It was very scenic and pleasant.

There were six of us running, and one goal was to beat the rest of them. Last year I was suffering from Plantar Fasciitis and two of the guys beat me at Savannah. This year I had my marathon recovery excuse, but I still I thought I could run under 1:40, which meant only one guy posed a serious challenge. M had a similar sub 1:40 goal so we started together.

The start was a bit of a cluster. It was on a wide road but the start chute was in only one lane to go over the strip and through the arch. They had a sign for "sub 10-minute pace" very close to the front! And we entered from the back. So we fought our way up as far as we could, but still had to maneuver around a lot of people the first half mile. But we settled in and went through 1 in 7:32. Perfect. Felt pretty good! But probably because it was all downhill (see above for elevation).

By the end of mile 2 I was already feeling heavy legs. Ugh, this must be marathon fatigue. I was maintaining pace, but it was harder than it should have been. I let M slip away ahead of me and that took the pressure off a little. 7:32 again.

The next few miles were flat and fun on the bike path. I settled in with a group of three other runners as a kind of peloton and it helped. Two had ponytails which helped too. M was maybe 30 yards ahead but I was staying about the same distance behind and felt OK. Legs felt heavy, but cardio felt good. 7:23, 7:21, 7:28

I slipped ahead of my group in mile 6 and I started to catch more people. M started coming back to me, so I used that goal to go catch him. He was huffing and puffing pretty hard, so I knew he wouldn't be staying with me long. We were starting to go up some long gradual hills here too. I dropped M and kept moving up. Six and Seven were uphill, 7:34 and 7:52.

The hill had me pretty tired, but I was channeling my marathon spirit from 6 days ago; where I would just ignore the fatigue and keep plugging. This was nothing compared to 26 miles! Endurance experience really gives you the mental strength to push through limits.

Miles 8-10 were mostly downhill so my pace picked up. 7:40, 7:27, 7:36. I knew there was one big hill to come, so I was trying to conserve and stay relaxed. Then we turned a corner and saw the big rise. I settled in to big-hill-shuffle pace. Kept my breathing under control and plugged on up. Before long I was over the top and catching my breath, ready to push it on in. Mile 11 was 8:24 up the hill.

The downhill let me naturally pick up speed, and I was just really enjoying myself. (Maybe I'm just remembering the joy now, and forgetting about the painful fatigue) But it was a beautiful day, I could see the ocean from the cliff, just wonderful. Mile 12 - 7:19

Then there was a big banner that said, "Run 25.2 miles for yourself, and the last mile for the veterans". And there was an old guy in uniform handing out little flags. Then the whole last mile there were hundreds of full-size flags lining the road. This was a Veteran's Day race. The last mile was downhill along the coast and I was moving along with another guy who was also pushing the pace. I waved my little flag and I thought about all the pains that veterans have suffered - lost limbs, burns, PTSD - and it made it easier to push through my little race pain and accelerate even harder that last mile. Mile 13 - 6:59

The last tenth was at 6:16 pace as I waved my flag and celebrated. 1:38:51!

 and then I relaxed

 I love racing.

Happy to beat my sub 1:40 goal (and my rivals) and have a great time doing it.

Later we all went out wine-tasting in the local wineries to wrap up the weekend. Life is good.

Breezing Through New York (NYCM RR)

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town. And I got to run across all 5 boroughs with over 50,000 like-minded maniacs. This race was everything it is hyped up to be. Despite cold, windy conditions that apparently cut the crowds down quite a bit, it seemed like a big crowd to me, and I loved it!

The dear wife and I hit the expo on Saturday, and it was crowded! But everything was still smooth and fast.

We ran into Katherine Switzer, and she was very nice. She's a hugger. Buy a book, get a hug.
I managed to meet up with most of the Loopster contingent there. MJ and I posed for the paparazzi.

And we grabbed Cheeky Runner out of the pacer station for a jumping pic. Because when you meet her, you have to get a jumping pic, right? Our camera failed, but maybe someone out there has a better one?

It was nice to see some familiar faces. KeepRunningGirl came down even though she wasn't racing, probably to absorb some Loopster mojo for her 50-miler. And 50Stater (Omar) popped in to get his state count to 20 (I believe). He is doing 3 marathons in 5 weeks I think!

Then we met up with Fenwick Razzleberry, Christine.Eliz and Jen.M.Yee (all new meets for me)! It was great to meet them, and of course they were exactly like I expected them to be (osom). We braved the cold and rain and headed downtown for a tasty lunch. We talked about the weather and what to wear and race strategy - the usual. And probably a bunch of other cool stuff that I forgot about. And the obligatory photo op.


Race day!

I was staying in New Jersey at my brother's house, and he dropped me off at the start, which amazingly was very simple! The site does not encourage it, saying you have to take the assigned buses or ferry, but I would have had to be at the bus before 6AM. Instead we drove right up on side streets after 7:30 and I got out a block away from where the buses were unloading. Piece of cake! It was low 40's and VERY windy so I was bundled up in throw away sweats, gloves, hat and a garbage bag.

I found my way in through security, where we had to take off our watch for the metal detectors. It was smooth and everyone was in good spirits. Still lots of time to kill before my 10:05 start. Seemed like 1/3 of the runners were international types. It was cool to see the flags and uniforms and hear all the languages. Everyone was excited to be there! I got some free coffee and bagels and a banana and relaxed for a while. But first, let me take a selfie.


The other Loopsters were nowhere to be found, due to later start times, so I just chilled. Or tried not to. Eventually we moved into a corral and started stripping down as we walked onto the bridge. Nervous chatter and lots of smiles. The bridge is a unique and cool start to the race. And the ridiculously gusty winds made it quite the adventure! I was near the front of wave two, so once we got going, I had plenty of space and enjoyed the parade! People were holding up their phones and filming the start or taking pics as they ran. It was fun! Kind of like this:

Bridge start
The wind on the bridge was insane. Gusts would literally move me over by a foot or two, or knock my foot into my other leg. A few hats got blown off. I was trotting and laughing and smiling. The view of Manhattan was incredible. Most people were too serious, but I was having fun, even put my arms out like an airplane for a while. Just enjoying the moment and trying to go slow on the uphill first mile.

Race strategy: My goal was sub 3:40 (8:20 pace). I wanted to try and start slow to delay the inevitable bonking, since my training was less than perfect. I averaged 35 miles/week for the last two months, so I didn't really have the endurance for 26.2. But I was close. I figured I would just run easy as long as I could, have fun, and hope I didn't fade too bad. Of course my "easy" long runs usually turn out to be about 8:00 pace because I have a hard time backing off....

I don't have all my splits because after the race my Garmin decided to delete them all. But I was watching during the race, so I'll give my best memory of them. Plus I have the 5K splits from the website.

We crested the hill on the bridge before mile 1, and I was just over 9:00 pace. Yay! Good job! Then mile two was coming down the bridge, and it was steep! And the wind was more behind us then blowing at us, so mile 2 was 7:40. Oops! I was trying to relax and go slow! Promise!

By now the sun was out and the 45 degrees felt pretty nice. I ditched my hat, extra shirt and gloves by early in mile 3 and was down to shorts and a tee, plus calf sleeves. I was very comfortable and was surprised by all the clothes people continued to wear for the whole race. Temp was perfect. I never got hot or sweated much, but wasn't cold either.

Brooklyn was awesome. People lined every road and cheered. A lot. They really made it fun and easy to enjoy the run instead of thinking about silly things like fatigue and pain. As I tired, all I had to do was acknowledge people with a smile or nod, or stick my hand out for high fives, and I would get instant bursts of adrenaline. I probably slapped hands with over 100 people. It always picked me up.

I hit 5K in 25:15 or 8:07 pace, which meant I was now running sub-8. I would try to relax and ease off, but 7:55 felt pretty easy. The next 3 5K splits to 20K were at 7:55, 7:49 and 7:55 pace. Just cruising. I hit the half in 1:44:10 or 7:57 pace. Awesome. There's a camera guy! Woooo!


The winds were occasionally gusty, but not too bad. I did tuck in behind runners frequently to draft, but never for too long because I didn't want to be creepy. I looked for KeepRunningGirl near her home in Brooklyn but there were just too many people. The sights and the bands and the people made it very fun, even when the fatigue started to set in. By mile 10 I was already feeling tired in the legs. It took some will to keep up the pace. There were a few little hills to get over, and the ups would make me feel like I was fading, but then the downs always replenished my mojo, and my pace would return to about 8:00.


The Queensboro bridge at mile 16 wasn't as steep as I feared. I just took it down a notch and powered on up. Getting tired. but still moving along. The views of Manhattan were great again. And then we got to go down and I looked forward to 1st Avenue and Manhattan.

But the crowds there were almost silent! I tried to wave them up to a frenzy, to little effect. It was the only disappointing part of the race, since I had heard it was so loud there. But it did pick up later. Ritz told me later that the crowds were MUCH quieter and smaller than normal. Still pretty great though.

20-25K were 8:13 pace but that included two bridges and ended at the top of Queensboro bridge. 25K-30K was 7:58 pace. Still got it at 18.6 miles!

It was windier in Manhattan, as the tall buildings made for wind tunnels. I was definitely very tired and my legs felt heavy, but I just kept plugging. My Garmin got messed up on the bridge so I was checking my real time at the mile markers as I was within seconds of 8:00 pace. 2:08 at 16, 2:16 at 17, 2:24 at 18, 2:32 at 19. Then another bridge into the Bronx. It wasn't much, but I was fading. Hit 20 in 2:40:20. 8:01 pace.

This was virtually a repeat of my Boston splits, where I was sub 8 through 18, hit 20 at 2:40, and then fell apart to finish at 3:45. But I felt a lot better today. I hadn't walked at all and didn't really want to yet. And I had kind of promised Ritz I wouldn't walk in Central park, so there was that. But I was slowing. Mile 21 was about 8:35 and mile 22 was close to 9. I did walk through one water stop there to get one last good drink of gatorade. I had fueled pretty well today. Good breakfast, 3 GUs, lots of gatorade. Seemed to be working. 30-35K was 8:38 pace.

We got to 5th Avenue and it was a mile long hill before getting into Central Park. And the hoped-for tailwind now that we were going South seemed to have turned around. Worst winds of the race. One gust at an intersection was like 50mph crazy! At this point I wasn't looking at my pace. I was just committed to keeping running, and not walking. And that helped me pass a lot of people. I slowed, but I was still moving OK and felt like I was going to do this. And I knew my family was in the Park waiting for me.


DW made me a sign. And my parents drove up from North Carolina for the race. For 30 seconds of seeing me trot by. Crazy.
I FINALLY crested that long 5th avenue hill and got into the pleasant Central park curving road and some downhill. I was past mile 24 now. I knew I was going to beat my goal and get a good time. I just needed to hang on and get it done. Because I was really fricking tired! Still, no real blisters, no cramps, no chafing. Just very sore muscles. Then I saw the family and swung over for some high fives. I didn't want to stop for even a hug, because I was worried about cramping or losing the little momentum I had, so I kept on plugging.

Then there was only about 1.5 miles to go, and I just had to keep on swimming. One step at a time. I didn't feel good. I didn't look good. But I was happy.

35 to 40K was 8:54 pace, and the last 2K were 9:29 pace. Yes, I was fading fast. I actually started to get blurry vision in the last mile, and foggy brain, and tingles in my back. I thought maybe I would be that guy who collapses at the finish line. So I slowed down more to be safe and just shuffled to the finish, where it all got better. I had seen these finish roads often on TV over the years, and now it was me turning that corner, me climbing that little hill, and me throwing my arms up at the finish!


Still flying!

3:36:02, 8:15 pace. Considering the hills, the winds, and my minimal training, that was an A+ result for me! I was ecstatic. May be the most fun I've ever had in a marathon. Placed 5,655 out of over 50,000!

I survived the long walk to the poncho and met up with my family. We walked to a friend's penthouse not far away, where I was able to shower and relax. My legs were not bad for post-marathon! I ended up walking over a mile that night and felt fine. After a bit, DW and I met up with the NYC Dashing Whippets party. Because I was not coming to New York without seeing Ms. Ritz!

Had a great burger and a beer, and ran into this Loopster.


And Ms Ritz hung with us for a while and shared her race story. Always so much fun to be with her. And I got to meet her husband too. Bonus!
 All in all, a wonderful weekend! Thank you Big Apple! Hope I can do it again sometime!