Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Garry Bjorkland Half-Marathon

The Grandmas Marathon/Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon has always been one of my favorite races to travel to  I love the semi-quaintness of Duluth.  It has a little bit of an old fashioned feel to it, the weather in summer is nearly perfect (even though winters are long and miserable), it's a really scenic and pretty area and they even have wolves.  And best of all, it's a competitive race on a mostly flat course.

You don't want to go there in winter
This would be my third time racing in Duluth.  My first time was a decent race, my second time was the best race of my life and I was hoping I would perform well my third time.  Well, in my definition, meant 64:30-65:00 with pretty decent weather.

Before heading to Duluth, the weather wasn't looking ideal for fast racing.  It would be borderline warm and humid, with potential rain showers and a headwind for the entire route.  Taking that into consideration, I felt like I would run closer to 65:00.  Since the field was deep and competitive, I felt like there would be a big group of guys chasing the sub 65:00 Olympic Trials standard. So my plan was to hang with those guys and see what I could do at the end. 

But my main goal was to finish in the top 10, since that's how many people got prize money and I like money.  I felt like I was probably 10th-15th on paper, so with a patient and solid race, I felt like it would be a possibility.

Whatever happened to this guy?

I left for Duluth on Thursday and had a short 1:45 flight to MSP, where I was going to meet Steve Chu, Nik Schweikert and Brandon York, so we could ride up to Duluth together.  On the way up there, I had the two loudest women I've ever heard in my life yapping the entire time.  I even had my headphones on full blast and could still hear them.  I'm surprised they never shut up because people kept on turning around and looking at them, the lady sitting beside me had her fingers in her ears, the guy across from me complained to his wife about he now had a big headache and some lady even asked the stewardess for some headphones.  On the bright side, I finally got to watch John Wick, which was a really good movie and the stewardess even had some Biscotti cookies.

Don't mess with this guy's dog

When we finally all met up in the airport, we headed to Duluth, which was about a three hour drive after traffic and a pit stop to McDonalds, which was Brandon's first time eating there in several years. Since we all like to eat and it was past 8:00pm, we decided to drive straight to Vitta Pizza, instead of checking into the hotel first.  The pizza there is decent and they have a good selection of drinks.  Nik made fun of my grapefruit beer selection (as well as my raspberry wheat pick in Boulder a few weeks prior) but the kid ordered a beermosa the next day, so he has no room to talk. 

90 seconds? More like 15 minutes.

After dinner, we checked into the Radisson, I made Nik watched 21 Jump Street, since he's never seen it before.  And the next day, I made him watch 22 Jump Street.

On Friday, we just lounged around and after a shakeout run and a couple of meals, we went to the movies (I watched a lot of movies this weekend).  We were hoping to see Mad Max but it wasn't there anymore, so Jurassic World it was.  We saw it on a three-story tall screen and it was pretty decent and I ate way too much popcorn.

After finally seeing Mad Max, this guy was cooler than any of the dinosaurs in Jurassic World.

The conditions on race morning appeared to be better than expected.  The temperature was in the mid 50s and it actually felt a little chilly.  Accuweather said there would be a 9mph headwind but I didn’t feel like that would be much of an issue with all of the runners in the field.

Nik and I boarded the bus on we were on our way.  When we got there, we killed some time in the tent, I peed a million times and then we went to warm-up and were joined by Scott Mindel, who slightly resembles Kristoff from the movie Frozen.  We warmed up the direction of the course and I didn’t notice a headwind at all which was a good sign.  I got in about three miles before heading to the line for a few strides.

Stolen from

When we started, a ton of dudes shot off.  I tried to make sure I wasn’t going too quickly and was passed by a lot of people.  It felt like I was flying, so I checked my GPS and saw I was running about 5:00 pace.  I stopped being lazy and after a few minutes, I started slowly working my way up the field.  I settled in the back of a very large pack, of what I assumed was the 65:00 crew.  I didn’t feel very smooth at all and went through the first mile in 4:54 with an eight-man pack about 100 meters ahead.  I hung in the back of the pack for a little while until people slowly fell off pace.  Some dude wearing Vibrams was even hung on for a bit, so I was happy when I passed him.

I went through the second mile in 4:57 and was starting to loosen up some as I made my way closer to the front. Anytime there was a water stop, a few guys would go to the side to get some, so I'd use it as an opportunity to gain a few spots since I didn't take any water during the race.  But someone must have freaked out about the slowdown in pace because we dropped a 4:51 next mile,before getting back to the just under 5:00 range.

After 4-5 miles, I found myself behind the leaders of the pack and was feeling nice and smooth.  We went through  10k in about 30:40 and the pack down to about ten guys.

Shortly afterwards, we reeled in Craig Curley, who fell off the lead pack that was quickly dwindling.  In a weird race moment, Benson Cheruiyot went to the side of the road, walked down an embankment and peed in the woods.  The guy lost about 30 seconds, which was a move that potentially cost him several hundred dollars.  I definitely would have peed my pants for that much money.  After doing his business, he joined our pack.

I was feeling a little giddy and debated taking over the pacing duties.  But I decided to wait until at least 10 miles because I had guys to run behind, we were still running 65:00 pace and I felt like I could make a big move if I waited.  Besides, my goal was to take a top 10 spot, so I decided to wait and not take any unnecessary chances.

Shortly after eight miles, there is a long, gradual hill.  A little over halfway up, Alan Peterson and some other dude shot off.  They were moving way too quickly for me to join up with them, so I was going to hang out at my current pace and hoped they would fall apart and that I could chase them down later on.

But I started to get passed and my legs wouldn’t let me open up at all.  I figured I was still running quickly and when I split my watch and saw a 5:17, It made sense why so many people were passing me.  To be honest, it was a little weird.  When I’m in really good half-marathon shape, I start to get tired around 5-6 miles, am really hurting around 9-10 miles, but I can hammer hard and hold my hand close to the fire and place a lot of punishment on myself.

This time, my legs weren’t hurting or in oxygen-debt. It was like I was stuck in a gear and couldn’t go any faster. It was very frustrating because I was losing ground with every mile and knew top 10 was out of the question.  After getting passed again a little before 12 miles, I went up an overpass hill, down the following hill and when I made a turn, I looked over my shoulder and saw one guy about 10 seconds behind, and Steve close to him.

I at least wanted to be the fastest half-marathoner in the Chevy Cruze (the car rental for the weekend), so I tried to pick it up and hoped I could turn on the rocket jets later, if needed. I ended up making it to the line without getting passed again to run a 65:52.  I was really frustrated with my time because I felt like I was much more fit than that, and lost a ton of time those last few miles. 

I was really scratching my head over this performance and being that I’m both runner and coach, I had to try and figure out what my issue was.  I felt better at 7-8 miles than I typically do in a half-marathon race, but I suddenly lost 15-20 seconds a mile. 

The best explanation that I can think of is that I haven’t done a lot of the long, extensive work that a half-marathon requires.  I had a good session the week before but that’s too close to be of benefit. Other than BolderBoulder and a 10k tempo before that, I really haven’t done much work at half-marathon effort.  And being that it’s so insanely humid and hot in Tennessee, I haven’t been able to get in a lot of longer running at 5:00ish pace. 

So hopefully it’s just an issue of not having much specific fitness, which isn’t a bad thing nearly four months out from your goal marathon.  As always, the work must continue without being a dramatic diva about it and making small adjustments and tweaks to the training to be better prepared next time.

But after a crappy race, Nik and I did our long, walks of shame back to the hotel (he didn't run very well either) and I killed some time lounging around and watching Silicon Valley in hopes to win Nik over to that show.

Probably my favorite comedy currently on TV

But on the way over to the hotel, I saw an Ethiopian guy finishing with the 1:30ish half-marathon crew.  He was seeded 4th and looked fast, so I checked out the results and he must have missed the start by 10-15 minutes and he ended up passing almost 6,000 runners in the first six miles (according to the tracking).  Man, I feel sorry for that guy.

Being that we just burned over 1500 calories and both like food, we decided to meet up with Steve, watch the marathoners close out the last mile and find some food.  The weather really wasn't that bad for the marathon crew (other than it pouring rain for a couple of minutes at the start) and they even had the wind change direction and give them a bit of a tailwind towards the end.  There were a ton of guys in the 2:15-2:20 range and it was a good race to do if you wanted to nail the sub 2:18 OTQ. Brandon ran a big PR of 2:18, my friend Tyler Andrews had a solid race in 2:17 and Ryan Cosens, who I raced at the Temecula Half-Marathon last November, nailed his OTQ performance with a 2:17. Michael Eaton nailed another clutch performance after his 65:00 earlier in the year, with a 2:18:00. What a difference a second makes.

Everywhere we tried to eat was completely swamped with runners, so we setttled on 7 West Taphouse.  Even though the waiter guy was your typical mopey hipster, they had decent burgers. But the best meal of the weekened was my  BBQ pizza at Pizze Luce, with my honey malt at Duluth Malt Shop being pretty impressive as well.

So race #2 of the season is down.  After an "A" performance at BolderBoulder, I'd have to give this puppy at D.  Next attempt at a half comes up in a few weeks.  Hopefully, I'll be back on the honor roll. 

June 22nd-28th Training

Monday: 8.6 miles (6:31); 1.1 miles (8:40); 6.3 miles (7:12)

Tuesday: 6.8 miles (7:16); 1.9 miles (7:00). I was going to do a light fartlek and when I got started, it was 94 degrees with an insanely high 79 dew point.  After being soaked with sweat a couple of minutes in, I decided getting in 10+ miles wasn't smart, so I was going to try again in the evening. The only thing that happened then were storms.

Wednesday: 10.7 miles (6:26); 6.3 miles with 3xhill blasts(7:24)

Thursday: 13.6 miles with 5x1600m with 3:00 jog rest.  73 dewpoint for this one, and my shoes and socks were drenched with sweat. Ran: 4:47, 4:45, 4:43, 4:42, 4:46. 1st=rusty and not very smooth. 2nd=easy. 3rd=easier. 4th=easy but a little tough the last 300m or so. 5th=wheezing pretty badly the last 400m; 5.4 miles (7:42)

Friday: 10.6 hilly miles (6:36); 5.4 miles (7:26)

Saturday: 6.7 miles (7:45); 8 miles (6:56)

Sunday: 20 miles with 5 mile fast finish (6:11). Started out feeling like crap and it took me a while before I loosened up.  Was a little under 6:30 pace at the start of the fast finish and averaged 5:13 for the fast miles.  Felt pretty smooth aerobically, except for the last few minutes because I was getting pretty dehydrated with 1.5 miles to go.  Even had a little bit of a headwind for most of it. Nice run.

Week Total: 111.4 miles. Good week overall, even with a missed run.  My workout was solid and I was mostly pleased with my fast finish long run.  I'm jumping into a four mile race this weekend when I visit some of my family in South Carolina, so the volume will be a little lower than last week. Fitness is starting to come around and with 4-5 weeks of consistency, I feel like I'll be pretty fit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 15th-21st Training

Monday: 7.2 miles (7:42); 1.9 miles (9:35)

Tuesday: 12.1 miles with attempted progression. I was hoping to do two miles each at 5:40, 5:25, 5:103.  It was insanely hot and humid and my legs never felt good at all.  I made it almost to the end of the second 5:25 but my legs felt like crap and it was way too hot.  Saw Tom Dolan running, so I finished up a few miles with him; 5.4 miles (6:46)

Wednesday: 6 miles (7:18); 9.1 miles (6:51)

Thursday: 5.9 miles.  
4x400m strides with 400m jog in the 70ish range. Felt harder than expected; 4.1 miles (8:20)

Friday: 4 miles (7:32)

Saturday: 16.1 miles with half-marathon in 65:52. Not a good race.  Felt rusty for the first couple of miles, then really loose and relaxed through 10k.  I was running behind the leaders of a pack right at 65:00 pace and around 8.5 miles, my legs decided to quit working and I started running in the 5:15 range.  It was weird because I wasn't hurting or breathing hard, my legs just were stuck or something. Who knows?

Sunday: Fathers Day=day off of running and a good nap

Week Total: 71.8 miles.  A good bit of a down week as it was a recovery/somewhat of a taper week, which meant I could be lazy when I felt like it. I really thought I'd break 65 at the race but my lack of extensive work at 5:00ish pace showed.  I'd like to be in around sub 64 shape in about 6-7 weeks, when I begin my marathon-specific work, so I have quite a bit of fitness to build.  But goals don't really magically happen because you want them to, all you can do is try your best to train properly and hope things become aligned.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 8th-14th Training

Monday: 6.2 miles (7:08); .60 miles (8:28); 8 miles (7:02)

Tuesday: 7.3 miles.  I was going to do some tempo miles at the track but after getting there, the football team was out doing stuff.  I didn't feel like dealing with that, so I drove to the pavement track by my house.  Since I was in the car for nearly 30 minutes, I did a second warmup since my legs were tight and was going to try the workout on the pavement track, but my legs felt like crap and the first lane was over tomorrow; Skipped run (didn't have time)

Wednesday: 6 miles. I was going to do yesterday's workout as 10x3:00 on/1:00 off, but man, it was insanely over tonight; 8.9 miles with 4x1600m with 60s rest. Goal was six at tempo effort.  I threw in the rest to make it a little bit easier so I could get a feel for half-marathon effort/pace with reduced intensity and hopefully become a little more efficient at it since it's probably too late to build "real"fitness before next weekend.  Ran 4:56, 4:52, 4:51, 4:54 and it was super easy, which was motivating because the dew point was 66 and the weather was over 80. For dinner, I grilled some chicken legs and was lazy and didn't check their temp before taking them off.  I thought they had a pink hue to them because of the applewood smoke but after starting on my third, I saw they were barely cooked at all. During the workout, I felt like I was going to puke anytime I thought about the chicken, which was pretty much the entire workout.

Thursday: 8.9 miles (6:49); 1.5 miles (8:06); 6.4 miles (7:32)

Friday: 9.7 miles (6:47); Skipped run. Granted next week isn't a peak, per-se, but a slight reduction in volume this week won't hurt!

Saturday: 15.1 miles with 10 miles of 1/2 mile moderate, 1/2 mile fast.  With the dew point right at 70 and the temperature about 75, my goal was to alternate 5:30 pace and 5:10 pace, with a hard push on the last one.  I finished the ten miles in 52:54 (5:17 avg.) and was right on/just under pace for the first nine and closed my last 1/2 mile in 2:14.  This was much easier than expected and I feel like I could have run 15 miles without an issue. I ran this workout the week before Grandma's two years ago and ran 51:17 with a 2:08 last 1/2 mile.  It was a little warmer and more humid this go-around and I was coming off a much better training cycle and more fit.  This gives me more confidence for next week and I like where I am four months out from my marathon; 3.4 miles (7:26)

Sunday: 4.5 miles (7:47); 9.6 miles (7:01)

Week Total: 96.1 miles.  Was expecting the volume to be at 100-105 but I had 10-15 miles in missed runs, so I don't care.  On a good note, I had two good workouts in the first time in forever.  The heat and humidity is very deceiving, but I feel like I'm in 64:30 half-marathon shape.

The big goal for next week (really in a few days) is to run well in the Garry Bjoukland Half-Marathon.  Looking at the field, I feel like I'm probably around 10th or so, on paper.  I know I'm not in PR shape, so I don't care about my time.  The top 10 runners get money, so that's all my goal. Almost all of the runners ahead of me on paper, except for a couple guys, are high altitude based.  So I'm hoping for some warm and humid conditions.  If that happens, I feel like I can potentially chase a top 8 or top 5 spot.

If the weather is good, my plan is run with the 65:00 crowd through at least 5-6 miles before slowly breaking away.  Right now, it looks like it will be slightly humid (dew point around 60), with a headwind the entire way and potential storms.  I'll have to play it by ear but the weather will be just humid enough to make people struggle that last 5k.  If conditions remain as is, I'll hang around 5:00ish pace for a while and try to start picking people off the second half.

Too many people are naive about the racing conditions and try to force their ideal race in less than ideal conditions.  If you can run 65:00 in the presently forecasted conditions, I feel that you can run 64:00-64:30 when things are near perfect.  So my plan is to go out just slower than that and hope there is a big pack that sticks to their plan so I can continue to focus on people when things get long as I'm not one of the dudes dying.

I also really enjoy the town of Duluth and am looking forward to relaxing and checking out a couple of movies with some of running friends who will be racing there.  So if you want to check out Jurassic Park or Mad Max, track me down.

And I finally posted my Country Music and BolderBoulder race stuff below this.


Every year, BolderBoulder serves as the yearly reunion for the Newton Elite team.  We all have to try our best to be there but we can run as hard, or as easy, as we wish. Last year, I went from wanting to run it as a tempo, to going into a semi-jog until a woman almost caught me, then it was a tempo run again.  I haven't been chicked since 2008, so I didn't want it happening again.

Bonita Paul: The girl who whooped me in a local 10k almost seven years ago

Originally, Bolder Boulder was going to be my first major race of the season.  Even though I'm a sea level guy and am not a fan of 10ks, and especially hilly ones, I felt like I could place well.  My goal a few weeks before this was to run 30:30-30:45, which would give me a shot at winning, depending on who showed up.

One of the slogans of the race is "sea level is for sissies", so I really wanted to win so I could tell them "altitude is for sissies".  But since I was a Nancy for about three weeks of training, my new goal was to try and break 32:00. I felt like that would mean I was in around 30:00 track shape, and a semi-good place to be in, considering my last month of training.   I also wanted to take out two of my Newton teammates, Mike Andersen and Nik Schweikert. They are nice guys but I wanted to come out on top of the "Sea Levelers at Altitude" battle.

Our first battle in 2014.  Nik dominated

I got into Boulder Saturday afternoon, after having to work half of a day at school.  Nik and I arrived around the same time, so we rode into Boulder with our friend, Steve Chu.  After getting to our hotel, we hooked up with Mike and went on a run around a reservoir that was only a mile from our hotel.  

It was pretty nice and running on dirt was different from my usual concrete and pavement I tend to run on.  They even had some prairie dogs, which I tried to catch.  The sign said your pet couldn't chase them, but never said anything about people.  After the run, I saw we ran a couple of segments on Strava, with Clint Wells leading one of them. It was only about a quarter mile long at just over 5:00 pace, so our plan was to go back the next day and take his record down.  But we got lazy and never did it. You got lucky, Clint.  And on another bad note, Mike jacked up his hip flexor and probably wouldn't be able to race.  Was it a fake injury because he feared his whooping he was going to get?  I'll let you decide.

The rest of the weekend, we hung around, had team photos, I bought some stuff at the Newton Running Lab and I noticed that there are a lot of Subarus and girls with nose rings. There weren't a lot of bearded people though.  In Tennessee, nearly everyone has one, men and women included. 

On race morning, I warmed up just with Nik for a couple of miles because Mike was still feeling gimpy. And the weather was only 42 degrees and dry as can be.  That's the complete opposite of Hendersonville, so I was pleased.  After a warm-up, I like to knock out some strides about 10 minutes before the gun, but since BolderBoulder is insanely large, they have to make sure everyone is behind the starting line on time.  That meant exactly zero pre-race race strides.  I guess a plus of that is that I'd be a little more flat early on, so I wouldn't go out as fast.

Finally, the gun went off and a bunch of dudes shot off, including a red Power Ranger. I checked my GPS and saw that I was under 5:00 pace, so I relaxed a little bit.  Everyone tells me that dying at altitude is no joke, so I wanted to make sure I ran conservative early on.  

After about 1k, the pace up front really slowed and I found myself a few seconds behind the leaders.  I was right beside Steve and Nik and mentioned that I was nervous being this close to the front.  If everyone would have kept on hammering, I could focus on my own individual pace.  But when you're stuck in a large pack, it's very easy to be "tricked" into a faster pace as the guys at the front slowly put down the hammer.

I went through the mile in 5:03, which was perfect, since I planned to go out around 5:05.  I felt good and could still see the leaders.  In the second mile, I was able to make up some ground and moved up a few spots.  The second mile is more difficult than the first but I came back with another 5:03.

I was pleased with my position and felt like I was around 20th place and could still see the leaders about 100m ahead of me.  I felt like I would eventually slow down to the 5:15-5:20 range, but I surprisingly went through the third mile in 5:14.  It was a bit of a slowdown, but the third mile is the toughest on the course.

On the fourth mile, I could start to feel some fatigue crawl in.  I was hoping that it wouldn't be the beginning of the end. And to make matters worse, I was in a bit of no-mans land with a large, strung-out pack a good bit ahead of me, with one only guy near me.  I went through the fourth mile in 5:08 and was ready for the downhill running to come. 

I could see a couple of guys about 15 seconds ahead of me, so I planned to see how close I could get.  I was slowly chipping away but I was running out of time because we were getting near the stadium, which was where the finish line was.  Right near six miles, you have to climb a short hill, which is nasty enough at six miles into a hilly 10k but at over 5,000 feet in the air, it's rough..

I had my eyes set on two guys about 50 meters ahead of me and my plan was to turn on my old man rocket boosters and try and reel them in once we got onto the football field.  As soon as we entered the stadium, I noticed the grass was covered by some white plastic crap, which I guess was designed to protect the grass.  There were a lot of little puddles all over it and anytime I tried to accelerate, I immediately started slipping.  I had to slow things down so I couldn't bust and wasn't able to gain any ground on the guys ahead of me.  So instead of closing out the last 200m like a maniac, I ran it over 5:30 pace.

I crossed the line in 11th place in 31:36.  I was happy with my time because it was well under 32:00 and I feel like I would have broken 31:30 if it wasn't for that stupid white surface.  I was also the first sea level guy and only about 30s behind 3rd.  Ben Payne won the race in 30:41, which was in the time window I felt like I could have run if I would have kept up the hard work those lazy few weeks.  But he ran 9:30 for the last two miles, with a 4:42 last mile, so I'm sure he could have easily run well under 30:30 if he wanted.  

Before my race, I was expecting to take some more down time after this race.  Running wasn't going well and due to some non-running things I was mentally burnt out, with no motivation.  But this race turned things around for me and the march goes on.

Country Music Marathon x 3

The Country Music Marathon is probably my favorite race of the year.  Almost every runner/walker in the area does it, it gets a ton of coverage and it's the only time you get to run through the streets of Nashville and not get hit by a car.  It's also the race I get asked about the most and everyone knows me as the guy who has won the race the past few years.  They could care less if I somehow ran a 61:00 half-marathon somewhere.  As long as I win this race, they think I'm the man.

It wasn't the focus of my season and I had bigger races planned afterwards.  But it's a race where winning is important to me and I would race flat-out if the situation called for it.  They do a great job of showing the race on all of the local TV channels and my school kids enjoy seeing me try and win. And this year was a little more special because I had a lot of pressure on me to win for the third year in a row.

So my plan was obviously to get the win.  I wasn't marathon battle-ready but I would at least try.  If I was going to be able to get an "easier" win, my goal was to go after the 2:26:00 or 2:24:00 time bonus, depending on the weather and how I felt.  My goal was to come out of the race feeling strong so I could continue my training for the spring racing season, so a few extra hundred dollars wasn't worth the extra fatigue.

After school on Friday, I went to pick-up Kate from daycare and then headed downtown to get my bib number, as well as my school's packets for the kids run the following day.  Since I hate dealing with downtown traffic and am too cheap to pay for parking, I parked by the pedestrian bridge.  The parking is free, but it's well over a half-mile walk to the expo.

My daughter was a champ on the long walk there and we made it the whole way without complaint. At the expo, I did a short little interview with one of the local stations and I was able to meet the guy in charge of the race.  My biggest worry was the expected weather...bad thunderstorms that would get worse as the race went on.  There was a chance the race could get delayed, have all of the marathoners switched to the half or cancelled all together.

My biggest fear was for the race to start as planned and early on in the race, have them decide to move everyone to the half.  Since there were some tough half-marathoners in the field, I would be too far back to do anything and would get smoked in front of all my kids and be the laughing stock of the school for the next year!  But the dude in charge said that wouldn't happen and if they did switch people over, it would be the slower marathoners.  Hopefully that would be true.

It was a long walk back to the car, especially being that I had to carry a large box, which put my 11 inch biceps to work.  And Kate complained the bridge was making her tired but after a long walk, we finally made it.  I didn't get home until after 7pm, so I decided to run by Chick Fil A for dinner.  It's not exactly the meal of champions but your pre-race dinner should be more of a matter of comfort and what won't jack you up, not some fancy high-carb crap.  Chick Fil A has never caused me issues and I find them to be delicious, so I had no shame.

Since the interstate exit backs up a lot for this race, I wanted to make sure I left my house by 4:30am, so that meant a 3:45am wake-up.  I put my wife in charge of the alarm and made her check it one more time before bed, just to be safe.  Luckily I woke up on my own right at 3:40, because it turns out my wife set the alarm for Monday morning.  That would have been awkward.

I got to the race pretty early and we sat outside for about an hour before the VIP place opened up. Luckily it wasn't raining yet and it was pretty comfortable out there, if not a little chilly.  Once the VIP place opened up, I got to hang out inside and drink some coffee and kill time before my short warm-up.  And after checking the weather, it looked like things were blowing over and it may not even rain at all.

My buddy, Steve Chu, finally arrived, so I jogged around with him and then ran into Joey Elsakr, who ran with us some before heading to the start.  Some lady wouldn't let them into the first corral since their numbers started with a 2. Corral 1 was for bibs 1000 and over and after trying to explain to the lady that all the comped half-marathoners started at 200, she finally let them in.  I'm glad we didn't get escorted out in handcuffs.

My race plan was to hang out around 5:30 pace (2:24ish pace) with Joey and then see how I felt at halfway.  If a 1:12 was easy, I'd shoot for the 2:24 bonus.  If not, I would have a nice sized cushion and slow it down to a 2:26.

When the race finally started, Joey and I stuck together while a bunch of half-marathoners shot out front.  I was checking my GPS and saw that we were rolling pretty quickly and I didn't want to get sucked into too fast of a pace.  So I slowed down and we went through the first mile in 5:35, which was probably about 20-25s seconds behind the lead group.

Shortly after the first mile, I noticed a Kenyan looking over his shoulder a few times.  Since he was running with the half-marathon leaders, he caught my attention as a potential marathon runner.  Why else would he be looking around when he was in the front pack?  I asked Joey to use his 25 year old vision to see if he could tell if the guy had an orange (half-marathon) or green (full marathon) bib. We could never get a good look at it but I saw him take a cup of water a little over 1.5 miles in, which set off the sirens in my head (unless he was just really thirsty).  I went from a relaxed groove to being stressed out because some dude I didn't expect was not only in the  race but about 100 meters ahead of me. And I would have to potentially race the marathon all-out. Talk about a high stress situation!

I decided to drop the pace down to the 5:20 range and I ended up catching him about three miles in. As soon as I caught up, I realized the Kenyan mystery man was Geoffrey Kiptoo, who I raced at the Frostbite Half-Marathon in February.  I started to make some small-talk not only to be friendly but to see if I could figure out anything about his fitness level. I knew he had a full marathon planned two weeks after our February showdown (and since he was two weeks out from a marathon, he probably had it in cruise control) and when I asked him how it went, he said he didn't run it because the weather was bad leading up to the race.  That didn't tell me a lot about his condition but my plan was to stick my nose out and stick with him.  I didn't want to give him any breathing room and my plan was to beat him straight up, rather than have him build a big lead, struggle home and then have people question whether I would have won if he started slower.

I always tell people I'm a rhythm runner and have trouble adjusting pace.  While running with Geoffrey, he would constantly do little surges and I'd find myself running in the 5:10 range for extended periods of time.  It didn't feel too tough but I knew if I kept it up, I'd pay for it later. Anytime I'd drop back a little bit, he'd motion for me to come back up with him.  I didn't want him to think I was a chump and drafting off of him, so I obliged.  After 11-12 miles, I decided to quit playing with fire and gave him about 10-15 meters so I could focus on my own pace and not get sucked into a pace that would later destroy me.  It was tough to give him a lead, being that people were watching at home but I knew it was the best decision.

Miles 15-19 or so have a lot of long climbs, then after they are done, you go through a series of quick turns.  My plan was to hang back on the tough stretch, hope Geoffrey would get an adrenaline boost from dropping me and taking the lead and then wear himself out on the hills. And once the turns started, I'd make my move because it's easier to "hide" during that stretch.  

I went through halfway in 70:29, three seconds behind Geoffrey.  Shortly after that, we had a quick u-turn and I found myself right beside him.  He asked me if I wanted to try and break 2:21 but I told him it was too hot and hilly for that, but he could go ahead.  I was hoping he'd take that as a sign of weakness and press again but the pace quickly started to slow.  About 14-15 miles in, I ended up taking the lead with no response from him.  I didn't want to reverse things and be the one who died over the hills, so I stayed conscious of my pace and effort and focused on my own race.  If he was still there in the later stages of the race, I would be ready to throw down.

I spent the next couple of miles checking over my shoulder and I even got called out by one of my fourth graders a few days later since I constantly remind them not to look over their shoulder in their cross country races and gripe at them when they do.  But while I was checking to see what he was doing, I also hoped he would look at it as a sign of weakness.  I knew he was struggling some and if he took my glances as blood in the water, I was hoping he'd pick it up and try and chase me down, wearing himself out even more.  It was more of a big bluff than anything else.  But as the race wore on, I continued to increase my lead, which resulted in me relaxing it even more.  

I got through the tough stretch feeling ok over the hills.  And from a guy who normally hates and struggles on hills, I took it as a good sign.  I like running through the East Nashville part of the course because there's plenty of people cheering for you and supporting you, which helps the rising fatigue and temperature not feel as bad.

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After you go through East Nashville, you dip into Shelby Bottoms for a few miles before beginning the long stretch home.  About the only thing I like about this part is that there's plenty of shade.  It's a bit of a lonely stretch and there's a couple of little molehills that feel more similar to mountains 20+ miles into a marathon.

The great thing about being right behind the press truck is that you have the time clock right ahead of you.  I constantly did the math after every mile marker and saw that I could slow down to 5:45s and still run sub 2:24.  I put on the brakes a little bit more and split a 5:54 for the 23rd mile.  That was frustrating because it didn't feel too easy and I didn't want to miss 2:24 by just a few seconds.  I ended up running 5:30 for the next two miles and it turned out, the 23rd mile was long and it was really closer to a 5:37.

Finally, I crossed the line in 2:23:34, netting me the 2:24 bonus, with Geoffrey having a rough last 10k to finish about ten minutes behind.  I was happy to see my wife at the finish line because security there is hardcore and it took me literally over an hour to find her last year.  I got interviewed a few times and since I hate boring interviews, I tried to spice it up a little bit. I can't figure out how to embed it, so here is one of them.

I was really happy to pull off the third win and I'm also glad there was a little bit of adversity this time.  And I'm especially glad it was a Kenyan so people will stop asking me why a Kenyan never runs!

I really wasn't sure how I would perform since I only had a few long runs and really no marathon-specific work or much workouts at all, so I was pleased with how it went.  Using my often-resourced conversion formula, I feel like I'm in about 2:17 shape after this performance, which is a good sign. I feel like I could have run a 2:20, flat-out today and with weather in the 60s on a really hilly course, I feel like it's worth a 2:17 at Indy Monumental, Houston, or somewhere like that.

And since I'm posting this about two months late, I'm not going to post about my post-race plans because they already happened.  But some random facts/data:

  • Gels Taken=4
  • Water= Probably about 16-20 ounces...I can't drink out of cups well and I find I don't need a lot of water
  • Faster Mile= 5:12
  • Slowest Mile=5:54  
  • Shoe Used: Newton Distance Elite...the blue ones, which look way more cool and have a longer tongue
  • Cadence: 179 spm
  • 1845ft of gain, 1878 ft. of loss...downhill course!
  • Garmin 620 reading=26.40 miles...over 99% accurate!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 1st-June 7th Training

Monday: 8.9 miles (6:29); 2.1 miles (9:04); 8.5 miles (6:48)

Tuesday: 9.4 miles (6:42); 5.4 miles (7:07)

Wednesday: 5.7 miles (7:16); 13.1 miles with 4800, 3200, 1600 with 3:00 jog rest. Ran this in the evening and my goal was 15:00, 9:40 and 4:30.  Ended up running 14:52, 9:37, 2:51.  First two intervals were pretty easy but my stomach started hurting on the last few laps of the 3200m.  In the attempted 1600, I got out in 66, then my stomach really started hurting, which slowed me down to a 2:15 and then I pulled the plug because I felt like I was going to throw up or my stomach was going to explode or something. Ok workouts, but I would have liked to finish well...stomach was jacked up the rest of the day.

Thursday: 5.7 miles (7:14); 2.3 miles (9:13); 9.4 miles (7:00)

Friday: 10.6 miles (6:31)

Saturday: 17.2 miles with the Franklin Half-Marathon. The dew point was right at 70 at the start and the weather was in the low/mid 70s....not good running conditions for an insanely hilly half, without much shade.  My goal was to run a moderate 5:30-5:35 until the top of the huge hill about halfway and then start a progression, where I worked from 5:20ish to 5:00ish.  My legs felt flat from the beginning, I crawled up the big hill and after that, I punked out and averaged over 6:00 pace for the rest of the race to finish in 1:16:55.  My breathing was fine but my legs did not want to run at all. Never have I run a race and wanted to be done with it more than this one.

Sunday: 5.4 miles (7:12); 9.2 miles (7:09)

Week Total: 112.9 miles. Biggest week in a long time.  I started twice weekly elementary cross country practice this week and if those MUT runners can count all those insanely slow miles as part of their training week, so can I!  I was pleased with the track workout but bounced back and felt like crap a few days later.  It was probably just a combination of the recently ramped up training and the weather.

I'll get in a solid workout or two this next week and hopefully my fitness will continue to climb.

I also need to quit being slack and post my recap on Bolder Boulder and the the Country Music Martahon, which was a long time ago.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May 25th-31st Training

Monday: 12 miles with BolderBoulder10k in 31:36. Really good race for me because I didn't think I'd break 32. I'll do a more extensive recap by the end of the week but went out conservative but was mostly stuck in no-mans land after the first half, as a huge pack was about 100m ahead of me and I was mostly alone, other than the guy who finished right behind me.  Balanced splits were: 5:04, 5:03, 5:14, 5:09, 4:54, 5:05, 67.  I was going to turn on the turbo jets the last .2 miles, but it's finished on a football field, with some hard plastic crap over the grass, which had water all over it.  Anytime I tried to pick it up, I'd start to slip.  That crap cost me 5-10 seconds.

Tuesday: 9.2 miles (6:52); 5.4 miles (7:04)

Wednesday: 10.7 miles with 8xstrides (6:23); 6.7 miles (6:14)

Thursday: 6.1 miles (7:34); 9.1 miles (6:54)

Friday: 12.6 miles with 20x400m. Since this was my first time doing this workout in a LONG time, I was hoping to hit around the 68 range.  Plan was a minute jog but it was really soupy outside and after the first 2-3, I was already spitting foam and really thirsty.  I then decided to take 3:00 rest after every fourth. I ended up with "mile" splits of 4:30, 4:29, 4:27, 4:28, 4:26 and total time of 22:22.  I felt sloppy after the first few but they never really got any worse, so I was happy with my recovery.  My legs got a little heavy on the last one, so it was good timing with the volume.  The football team was on the track almost the entire time and the coach would always yell at them if they got in lane one and even apologized to me a couple of times.  I'm finally eating my street track cred around here; 5.4 miles with 3xleg circuit(7:17)

Saturday: 8 miles (7:08); 3.4 miles (8:02)

Sunday: 9.4 miles (7:25). I was going to do a long run with a little fartlek at the end but my legs have been insanely tight/pretty sore since the leg circuit.  I skipped it for two weeks but thought I'd be ok with three sets...obviously not. I was thinking about running again but my legs were still really tight and achy and I felt like jogging at grandma pace for 45 minutes wasn't worth the risk of having something get yanked on too much.

Week Total:98 miles.  Really good race and solid workout.  Granted, I don't think I'll be in killer shape for the half, but I'm more fit than I thought.