Wednesday, November 2, 2011

36th Marine Corps Marathon, October 30, 2011

Arlington Virginia and Washington DC
Weather forecast: clear, mid 30s at the 8am start, mid 40s about noon.
the numbers:
Finish time 3:32:30. overall place 1339 / 20991, males 1128 / 12409, males 55-59  24 / 671.
mile splits according to my watch (26.31 miles)
8:43, 8:30, 8:17, 7:51, 7:48, 7:57, 8:14, 7:51, 7:50, 8:16, 7:50, 7:50, 8:01, 8:10,
7:48, 7:59, 8:01, 8:01, 8:03, 8:08, 7:59, 8:12, 7:56, 8:34, 8:07, 8:03, 2:34 (8:20 pace)
5k splits according to MCM
26:13, 24:42, 24:42, 24:42, 24:52, 25:01, 25:11, 25:56
1st half 1:45:48, 2nd half 1:46:42
the long story:
One hour before race time we met in the hotel lobby for a picture and the mile walk to the race start.  "We" included me and running friends Crystal, Kristal, Jill, Laurie; family supporters were my wife Rose, our son Matt, Jill's sister Lisa and Kristal's daughter Lindsey.
The walk included chatting about the impending challenge of 26.2 miles, encountering increasing crowds, security checks, Marines in uniform, parachutists bringing in the flag, a military flyover.  We stopped near the start line when the national anthem was sung and I choked up as usual.  Then it  was time for handing over our warm outer clothes, finding a place in the crowd of runners, peeling off the throwaway clothes.  On the start signal of a howitzer blast, we began shuffling forward until the crowd spread enough to begin running.  Upon reaching the start line, I started my watch.
My plan was to stick with the 3:35 pace group at least through the hills before deciding whether moving ahead of them would be sustainable.  I had a problem right away because I couldn't see the pace group.  So I did my own pacing, avoiding too much effort on the early hills.  In this section a large flag was suspended just barely over the road surface.  Many runners reached to touch it but I thought it was against flag protocol so I went around the flag.  My watch was set to track my progress compared to a pace of 8:10 per mile.  On the downhill following the first set of hills around mile 3, I went by a group marching in uniform and carrying packs.  The had signs showing USO DOC.  Then I caught and passed the 3:45 pace group and was not far behind my goal pace.  Soon I decided to not try to wait out my bladder and stopped for relief.  When I resumed running I was behind that big pace group and had to work my way around them again.
After crossing a bridge to the DC side of the river, we approached then entered the C & O Canal Park area.  I saw the escort vehicles and the race leaders coming the other way on a section where we passed - around mile 5 for me and mile 8 for them.  Soon there was another uphill that slowed my pace.  Along here I saw a lady running in a Santa's helper outfit.  There were other costumes including a guy running in a business suit and a Batman.  Beyond the hill was a downhill which helped me in catching up to my target race pace.  It was enjoyable to remember these parts of the course from the prior year and to think about what was coming soon.   When I got to the 8 mile mark or so, I tried scanning the oncoming runners for any of our runners though it seemed unlikely they would be that far behind.  And the bright sunshine made it a difficult task.
By now I had removed my earwarmer headband and was planning to take off my long sleeve top that was under the short sleeve shirt with my race number.  My knit gloves would stay on for the entire race.  And I was nearly done with my throwaway bottle of sportdrink.  I had figured it would last about 6 miles, then I would take a gel at miles 6, 12, 17, 22.  But it was at mile 9 that I finished the bottle and took my first gel, so I adjusted the fueling plan to take a gel at 5 mile intervals as water stops allowed.  The support plan was for our group to watch for us around mile 10 and 16.  This would be where I would drop my shirt since I didn't want to throw it away.  I watched the crowds on both sides for several minutes before I saw Rose waving on the left side of the road.  So I made the quick change, leaving the shirt and running while putting the other shirt back on.  My glasses came off but I managed to catch them with a little bobbling.
My pace was fairly comfortable and steady.  Occaisionally I had to slow down, but never needed to push my pace to stay on plan until late in the race.  We ran along the river awhile before coming to the halfway mark and a turnaround to head back toward the mall.  I saw the 3:35 pace group here and followed for a few minutes before deciding not to slow down to stay with them.  I hoped I wouldn't need to work to keep ahead of them later.  As I saw that mile 16 was coming up, I began watching for our crew again.  Finally I spotted them along the mall and stopped to ask how our other runners were doing.  I was told that they were fine and to keep moving.  I prayed some for each of our runners and for some other local runners I knew were doing MCM.
I began to look forward to "the bridge".  This bridge is a challenge and discouragement to many MCM runners.  The bridge has a series of slight uphills, little crowd support and seems to go on forever.  Last year my race plan fell apart on the bridge and I started walking off and on till the last mile.  This time I was running a lot faster and feeling a lot better.  It seemed like it took longer to get to the bridge this year.  I had forgotten what to expect through these miles.  At last I came to the bridge and continued on pace.  I had been thinking sometimes about how I was doing and whether to play it safe and ease up to just meet my 3:35 goal.  My decision was to not make any deals or compromises yet.  I reaffirmed that decision on the bridge.  My legs were tired and my calves were sore, but everything was working.  The bridge ends at Crystal City about mile 22 with lots of crowd support and places where the course bends back onto itself allowing one to see the runners ahead of them, and later those who are behind.  I kept busy looking for Laurie and Jill ahead of me and Kristal behind me.  I also realized that I had to work to stay on pace as I was beginning to slow down.  Just near the end of the doubled up race route I heard my name and was able to wave at Kristal.  She looked to be doing well.  I got a boost mentally from seeing someone I knew.
About 2 and a half miles remained and I was feeling good about how the race was turning out.  I was ahead of plan by more than 2 minutes and decided that I could and would try to maintain my goal pace of 8:10 or better.  I was hurting quite a bit especially my calves and wondered if I would get full blown cramps like so many other runners I had seen who stopped to stretch and or walk.  Dunkin Donuts was offerring Munchkins but I wasn't interested.  A lady in a red shirt passed me and I tried to stay with her for the last mile and a half to the finish.  Mostly this went ok until she picked up the pace near the end.  I had not seen the marker for mile 25 and was concerned about how accurate my watch was.  I didn't want to "kick" too soon.  I could see the last straight stretch but not the place where we turn up the hill to the finish.  The red shirt was pulling ahead.  Finally I saw the turn and began to push myself while the hill worked to make me slow down.  My breathing became heavy and my legs were really protesting the uphill.  I looked for the finishing arch but it was a long time before I could see it.  As the hill leveled out before the arch it seemed I could only maintain pace and continued on to finish.  Everything seemed to hurt and yet I was happy with a new PR.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Miles of Memories 5k Run / 5k Walk/ 10k Run

Sponsored by Jersey Shore Hospital.  Held at Nippenose Valley Elementary School
Benefit Susan G Koman Foundation
I entered this race because a friend helped organize it, because it was held in my hometown area, and because my mother died from breast cancer.  I wore a pink t-shirt with a ribbon with Mom's name and 5 more ribbons with names for others who had breast cancer too.  These were for Rose's Aunt Kate, sister Carol, friends Ann and Erna, plus Dorothy the mother of my friend Brenda.  The shirt seemed too feminine for me but it was what I wanted to do to recognize these people.  The design was not so race friendly as I caught my fingers in the ribbon loops a number of times in the race.
The race was a week before the Marine Corps Marathon and I was in the middle of tapering for that race.  I felt I should be able to improve my PR for this distance, but the unknown factor was the unfamiliar and hilly course.  It seemed a 7:15 average pace should be possible.  My friend was in the know on who was signed up and had suggested I could win this race.  That is a strange thought for me and I worried I might end up in front and risk making a wrong turn.
All 3 races started at the same time, but the 10k start was about 50 or so yards ahead of the 5k start. We were all to start on the same signal, going in the same direction.
There were only 17 in the 10k.  One young 20-something guy looked to me like he was the runner to beat.  There were other older guys like me and 6 or 8 ladies.  I started out in the lead group of 4 on a slight downhill.  Just a minute or so into the race I thought the pace seemed pretty easy, "maybe I have a chance to try for a win".  Soon I checked my watch and realized the pace was too fast by about 45 seconds per mile and I dropped back in 4th.  About this time a young runner who I had not seen in our start area caught and passed me.  This runner soon passed all but the favorite I had picked to win.  Now I was in 5th.  So much for winning.
I decided to be patient, run my planned pace, and hope for the typical too fast start and later slow down by some of those ahead of me.  I passed one guy on a hill at about 1.5 miles.  Soon there was a turn where the 5k route split from the the 10k.  The young guy who had passed early in the race took the 5k turn so I was actually in 3rd place.
Maybe 100 yards ahead was the number 2 guy. It looked to me like he was struggling a little on the uphill but making up for it on the downhills.  I finally caught up to him about halfway and ran with him almost a half mile before moving on into 2nd place.  The course had the 5k participants coming the other way on this road so we got to look into their faces for a while.  I briefly saw the number one guy as he seemed almost a half mile ahead.  Soon I came to another uphill section and could not take the shortest line on the curve because the walkers were on that side.  By the top of this hill I was breathing quite loudly but was beyond the 4 mile mark where I wanted to start pushing my pace.  The following downhill let my breathing return to something less desperate.  I tried listening for footsteps hoping no one would come up to challenge me for 2nd.  Eventually the final turn approached and my watch showed 5.68 miles.  If the course was accurate I had just over a half mile to go.
This section was on a somewhat busy road and I was running on the 3 foot wide shoulder facing traffic.  This was retracing the start which meant something of an uphill.  As I neared the top of this section I could see the school and realized the course was long - maybe by a quarter mile.  For now I just kept pushing and was breathing desperately again, seeing a 6:50 something pace when I checked my watch.  Finally I reached the school entrance and the final 50ish yards to the finish line.  I saw some walkers coming the other way making the turn into the same driveway.  Rose was waiting 20 yards before the finish and snapped a picture while I pushed even harder.  Happily I was racing only the clock.
My finish time was 46:44 a little slower than my best at 10k, but my watch showed this course at 6.42 miles, average pace of 7:18. 
I finished about 2 minutes behind the winner and 45 seconds ahead of #3.  I found out the winner is the 24 year old son of one of my high school classmates.
There were probably 75 walkers and maybe 30 5k runners.  I understand they expected to be able to send $1000 from this event for breast cancer research.  Before the race started there was a talk by a local cancer survivor and after the awards a representative of the Komen Foundation spoke.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wineglass Half Marathon, Corning NY October 2, 2011

Official time 1:37:45, a new PR by about 3:45; my watch showed 1:37:41 and 13.18 miles.
I was able to finish strong, running the last 10k faster than my 10k PR.
Mile splits from my watch: 7:47, 7:38, 7:25, 7:23, 7:32, 7:41, 7:26, 7:29, 7:20, 7:26, 7:23, 7:08, 6:58, 1:06 for last fraction (5:59 pace)
Weather: 41 degrees and rain, light wind mainly from behind.
The long story...
Prerace: I had decided to run in this race because some co-workers were running and it is held in the town where our company was founded. There were 4 from the IT department: running Hari in the marathon; Rudy, Scott, and myself in the half marathon. Scott and Rudy live in the Corning area; Hari and I travelled there together on the day before the race.  Scott had picked up the race packets for Hari and I.  The evening before the race Scott and his wife hosted our group along with Rudy's family and Scott's training partner Lisa for a pasta dinner. It was a real fun time chatting about the race, the cold rainy weather, and of course carb loading.
Hari, Chuck, Scott, Rudy

Race morning we met at the Corning YMCA to carpool to the respective starts, dropping Hari at his then parking at the start point for the half. We got in line for porta potties then went inside a school for shelter from the weather until start time approached. I did my usual stretching then jogged for 5 minutes or so to warm up. In spite of the cold and rain I wore a short sleeve wicking shirt and shorts, but with hat, gloves and wool compression socks in consideration of the weather. That turned out to be about right, except the gloves would have served better if not made of cotton.  This race was 3 weeks after my goal race for the fall - Lehigh Valley Marathon. I had PR'd there and hoped to be recovered for this race for another PR attempt on the same training cycle.

The race: We waited for the race clock to tick down to start time, only to hear the race would be delayed 10 minutes until the marathon start was ready. Both races would share one race clock and finish line. The half marathon course was the second half of the marathon course. I decided to run with the pace group aiming for a 1:40 finish, averaging 7:38 pace. On paper it seemed I should be able to go under 1:40, but running that pace for 13 miles seemed rather daunting. I would guage my condition on the way and adjust later as seemed appropriate. Hopefully that would mean picking up the pace rather than fading or bonking.

As I stood near the pacer for our group, Dick Beardsley moved into the crowd to run the race too. Although he is a famous marathoner, he didn't act like he thought he was someone special. He interacted with others there just like any other runner.

One more countdown and we were off. The first mile felt a bit fast but was actually almost 10 seconds slower than average goal pace. The second mile included the only hill - a modest one - and with the downhill portion we were right on the number for this mile.  By this point I was feeling what might become shin splints on my left side. I had felt the same thing in my easy run the day before, but today I would run with it until it forced me to change.  Within a mile it stopped getting my attention. The pace group had a dozen or so at the start and gradually people dropped off the back. By mile ten it was just the pacer and 2 or 3 others. The course followed country roads between the few small towns we passed through. Almost the whole route was open to traffic with only a row of traffic cones separating runners and cars. Intersections were controlled for us and all turns had someone pointing the way. The spectators were rather sparse but the water table workers were enthusiastic and on the ball to take care of us.
I carried a throwaway 16 oz bottle of my own sport drink so I wouldn't need to hit the first few tables. Many of the tables had kids from about age 8 to 12 handing the cups of drink. Even though it was cold and wet, they were always ready as runners passed by. Whenever I was going to take a cup, I would look ahead and point to the girl whose cup I would take and say "thanks sweetie" as she released the cup. Then pause to walk for a couple steps to swallow before running again to catch the pacer.
The running was actually not dramatic at all through most of my race. I just kept reminding myself to think about the current mile, remember to "run like the wind - strong, smooth, free", and to trust in the Lord to be able to run and not grow weary.  Someone remarked when we were one fourth done, then at halfway, and the pacer announced "just a 10k now". I started thinking I would be ok at this pace and would consider moving to a faster pace for the last 5k. It seemed the pacer was thinking alot the same because our pace was in the 7:20s from halfway on. I wondered about the others he was to be pacing since we were about a minute ahead of goal.
Late in the eleventh mile I moved ahead of the pacer to test myself for the remaining portion. I ran a bit with one college aged guy who had been ahead of our group. He told me that he had raced the before and his coach didn't want him running this pace today. Then we heard footsteps and a lady joined us before going ahead a little. I commented that getting "chicked" is ok when I am running my fastest mile of the race. It's not like I'm fading or anything. Then the guy is telling me there is about a half mile including a bridge to go over and another half mile on Market St to the finish. So, it is now time to step up the pace some more. I go ahead of the guy, get "unchicked" and pass a couple more runners before the turn onto Market, the main downtown street lined with shops, restaurants, and some spectators.
My breathing is heavy now but I can see the finish arch 2 blocks ahead. And today will not be about coasting to the finish once the goal time is safe. So I push to an effort I think I can manage for a distance equal to 2 laps on the track. There were 2 runners ahead of me on this block of Market. I passed the guy who is apparently is fading, but the lady is about 50 yards ahead. I doubted I could catch her, but decided I will push to the finish with all I can.  And I began closing on her. I cross a street to enter the last block of the course and push to a sprint effort (though probably not really sprint pace). As I got about 10 yards from her and 40 or 50 from the finish, a female spectator shouts "race that guy, don't let him pass you!"  The runner kind of turned her head but didn't really change her pace, so I passed her and pushed myself to the finish at last.  And turn off my watch, and kind of choke up over having exceeded my goal.  My watch showed 1:37:41.  A race volunteer hands me water, another asks if I'm ok and points out the medical tent. The Dairy Princess gave me a bottle of chocolate milk; she was even wearing a sash and tiara kind of thing. Someone gives me a foil blanket and points the way to the checked bag pickup and the food areas.
Wow. Tired, happy, really tired.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lehigh Valley Marathon for Via – September 11, 2011

Finish time: 3:37:09, 8:18 average pace.  Positive split of about 1 minute.
Placing: 182 of 667 overall, 4 of 32 males age 55-59.

The story:
This was my goal race for the year and I waited at the start with local runner friends Johna, Amy, Laurie, Susan.  Along with welcoming comments related to the sponsoring organization, there was a moment of silence in observance of the September 11 anniversary.  A local first responder sang the national anthem.  The course began on the west edge of Allentown, went through a bit of Bethlehem and finished in Easton.  It followed the Delaware and Lehigh River Canal system which connects these towns.

My goal was to finish at least 5 minutes (preferably 10) under my BQ time of 3:45.  This would require an average pace of 8:24 (or 8:12).  Because of course changes and the forecast for humidity, my plan was to try for 8:15 to 8:20 pace to midway in the race, then pick up the pace as much as possible.

I carried my own homemade sport drink and planned for refills at 3 points on the course from my volunteer support crew – Brenda, Nikki, Anna, Trisha.  According to plan they would meet me around miles 6, 13, and 20 with my drink and honey based energy gel.

The race has a big downhill just out of the start, then there is a challenging uphill in the second mile.  The flat and fast elevation profile had suffered a bit from the course changes.  A couple of miles of unpaved surfaces were eliminated from both ends of the course.  The crowd of runners seemed quieter than usual in the early miles; maybe it was the 9/11 anniversary or the common challenge we faced to get a satisfactory BQ.  About mile three I heard Johna and Amy coming up from behind and we ran together for a couple of miles until Amy stopped to answer a call of nature.

The course was relatively flat from here until we approached mile six by going up a ramp to a bridge.  After crossing the bridge we looped to the left and then back under the bridge to head downhill to the canal towpath.  On this downhill Johna and I came to the awesome YRat support crew.  I walked while I got my refills and gel while Johna continued running.  To get to the towpath we went under a train bridge with a train travelling on it.  The towpath was a bit narrow, only wide enough for 3 runners together.  This made for some occasional slowdowns until someone would break through or around to pass.  The towpath took a bit more effort to maintain pace but I was running easily enough and seemed right on plan although I was actually ahead a bit.  I apparently have a better memory for the pace I saw when checking my watch than for the time it showed at the end of each mile.

Around this time I started chatting with some runners about their race goal and learned we were aiming for about the same time.  I ran with a Cindy from Rochester for about 5 miles to my next support location about mile 13.  We were ranging between 8:21 and 8:06 pace in these miles and passed Johna in this section.  At Bethlehem the course left the towpath for some paved roads with some extra looping around and something like a detour through historic Bethlehem.  In this out and back section I saw Johna and then Amy who had really made up a lot of ground.  I noticed some old stone walls, building foundations and stairways.  I was expecting a big hill here, but I had misread the map so there was only a gentle uphill.  Since we were approaching my next personal aid station, I bragged about my support crew and the whole YRats group.  We eventually came to where The Crew waited with my second refill.  Again I walked through my aid station.  The pattern was Nikki swapping my sport drink bottles (even placing it in the bottle belt) and Brenda was ready with the gel and water to wash it down.  Anna took pictures and whooped it up.  Trisha stood by and watched the whole process; I wonder what she thought!

Across the river from the 14 mile mark I could see the old steel mill furnaces and smoke stacks from Bethlehem Steel.  The pasta dinner the night before had been just across the street from there.  Beginning with the second water table in the race I would walk long enough to get a cup of water, drink about half and dump the other half over my head to keep from getting too warm.  These water tables were 2 to 3 miles apart.  The relay exchanges were a little more exciting with more people and noise.  Some aid stations had junior cheer leaders for the runners.  I guess they normally cheer for youth football teams.  Mostly they looked at each other while cheering and not at the runners. 

By midway I was a couple of minutes ahead of the Garmin virtual partner.  This was where my pace was to pick up and that’s how I thought it went.  But on reviewing my splits, I was a little slower in the second half.  For most of the rest of the race I was trying to stay under 8:10 pace.  About mile 15 I told myself it was only one 90 minute race pace tempo run like in my training to the finish.  This was supposed to be comforting, but didn’t quite do it.

After the 3rd relay exchange the course moved from towpath to an almost single track path.  This caused more congestion and slowing unless you were willing to run the edges to pass.  That’s what I did and for several miles swapped places back and forth with a Marathon Maniac.  My legs were tiring and getting sore.  Eventually they seemed ready to cramp, especially the lower quads just above the knees.  Like other times this increased until the end of the race.

About mile 20 the path ended on a gravel road with a short quick uphill turn and there I found the YRat Crew.  Here Anna brought out washcloths that were soaked with ice water.  These were so refreshing while I took in the other refills.  I walked considerably longer this time before resuming my run.  Six miles remained.  Just a 10k run.  I felt sure I could keep the 8:10 pace or better.  After a mile or so on gravel road the course moved to paved roads.  The first part of this was a steep uphill of 50 yards or so.  I chose to walk this.  Then late in mile 23 and a good part of 24 we had a long difficult hill.  I didn’t see how I could run this faster than walking, so I walked again.  Of course my pace dropped off a lot. 

Then a spectator or volunteer told us there was no more uphill.  I hoped he was correct.  The road did level out and turned downhill a bit.  Someone said there was only a mile and a quarter to go, but my watch said it was a mile and 3 quarters.  It also said I had been running 3 hours and 26 minutes.  If there was only a 1.25 miles to go I thought I could do that in 9 minutes.  But it was my watch which was correct.  I have found more often that my watch thinks I completed the race distance before I got to the finish line, so I decided to wait for my finish line push until I could see the line.  A couple more turns and the finish line came into view.  And there was also a side road out and back to do before heading to the finish.  Maybe it was now within 3 quarters of a mile.  I was pushing myself harder but my pace wasn’t increasing nearly as much as the effort.  As I finished the out and back part I saw Cindy from Rochester entering the section and didn’t think she would make her 3:40 goal.  She missed by 37 seconds.  One last turn and just the final 2 tenths up a small hill to the finish.  I knew I could push the pace that far and “charged” the line, passing 5 or 6 runners.  I stopped my watch a couple steps past the timing mats and saw 3:37:11.  I had a nice PR, sub 3:40, and a chance to rest.

And The Crew met me again, providing more nourishment and encouragement.

Mile splits according to Garmin:
1 to 13:  8:08, 8:21, 8:24, 8:19, 8:14, 8:18, 8:24, 8:26, 8:08, 8:21, 8:07, 8:06, 8:11,
14 to 26.2: 8:30, 8:20, 8:13, 8:20, 7:56, 8:17, 8:43, 8:11, 8:07, 8:35, 9:18, 8:11, 8:08, 0:52
Miles 1-13 totaled 1:47:27, 14-26 totaled 1:48:49.  Plus the point two in 52 seconds.

The race organizers had more than the usual challenges to make this marathon happen.  There was damage to the towpath/trail sections from hurricane Irene and then more heavy rains from the next tropical storm.  They had to change both the beginning and end of the course and get it recertified so that the Boston hopefuls could use their time to qualify.  This was completed less than 24 hours before the race started.  They did a great job of communicating the status and changes to the runners.

local coverage has photos showing some of the course, one pic of Susan Graham-Gray

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marathon Pacer Report

Bob Potts Marathon, York PA   Sunday May 15, 2011  6:30 am start

I was pacing for running friend Brenda, with whom I have run many hundreds of miles over a few yearss.  She was going for a 3:55, to exceed her BQ requirement by 5 minutes.  I thought if we averaged 9 minute miles to the turnaround at about halfway, we could make the goal with only a little increase in pace on the return trip.  We ran with Mike who hoped for sub 4 hours.  The day started overcast in the low 60's, with showers predicted.  It was quite humid and warmed up into the 70's.  Conditions proved troublesome for some, as a couple runners were taken to the hospital. 
The weekend was like a field trip for our run group. We had rooms at the same hotel, carpooled, went to dinner together. Six of us running, three there to support us, and a couple more showed up for the race.
For the start, we crowded near the front since there was no chip timing.  My watch showed 2 or 3 seconds as we crossed the start line.  We had trouble throughout with uneven pacing.  (Yep, that was supposed to be my job.) 
The race started on the streets of York and the first several blocks were downhill.  That combined with being up front meant we were going too fast.  We kept agreeing out loud that we were going too fast, but only gradually got close to our planned pace.  As we slowed we were constantly being passed by other runners. 
Still, I thought the pace was fairly comfortable and I enjoyed the run for the entire first half.  Lots of chatting, jokes, etc.  I was not carrying any drink or nutrition, depending on the aid stations, walking each one to get a cup or two.  (I would do that different next time and carry something.)  Brenda and Mike were each carrying their own nutrition items.  We saw our great crew at about mile 9.  I took some of my honey gel mix and a drink of water.  Thanks to Rose (my wife), Denise, Kristal! It was a real boost knowing you were there.  Nikki and Dagmar were there cheering too.   
We did some guessing of where we would see the leaders on the way back and the same thing for which mile Jill would appear.  She looked to be doing great when she came by.  Now and then I would refill a water bottle for Brenda at the tables in addition to getting my own drink.  One of these times was just before the turnaround and I was pushing a little to catch up to Brenda and Mike, so I was last in our little group to make the turn.  Volunteers handed out gels at the turnaround and I took one for later.
Now for the return trip where we would go a little faster.  I thought we should delay our pace increase since we had run some fast miles early and were something like 30 seconds ahead of plan.  Soon we saw Crystal and Anna looking relaxed and happy on their way to the turnaround.  Mike stayed with us through something like 15 miles.  In spite of saying we would not speed up, the pace picked up a lot for a couple miles.  I will blame it on a story from Boston that I told to Brenda.  Reliving the strong memory got me going faster.
We continued on, passing back through aid stations and coming to our crew again at mile 18.  Brenda decided to switch from her water belt to one with her coconut drink, so I ran ahead to get that for her and take care of my fuel/drink.  Denise had nice cold, wet washcloths ready that were so refreshing. 
Nikki began running with us there.  By then Brenda and I were working to keep pace and by mile 20 or so we were beginning to struggle/suffer.  It was great to have Nikki's help.  She was fresh emotionally and really chatty, while we were on the decline.  She took over caring for Brenda's water bottle and doing the talking/story telling.
Gradually we had to focus only on the current mile. Nikki did the encouraging/chatting, I tried to set the pace.
It seemed to me that Brenda was really suffering and I wondered if we could make the goal time.  I was hearing her breathing now even though we weren't going so fast.  I was hurting too.  I prayed we would somehow make it.  My watch had been acting up and I was doubting whether the pace display was correct.
We slowed for a couple miles and I insisted Brenda walk the aid station to drink and recover a little. By 3 or 4 miles to go, it seemed from the miles remaining and the clock-time that we still had a shot if somehow we could keep to 9 minute miles.  So we kept on, Brenda silent and with an expression of misery (though still running well), Nikki saying "you can do it!", and me in front pacing & listening to make sure they were keeping up.
Eventually we were into the last mile and just trying to stay on pace.  Then onto the road, up the hill to the track and a half lap to finish.  As we made the last turn, the clock showed we had about 30 seconds and we pushed to the line - with seconds to spare.  That we met Brenda's goal was more than I can take credit for, surely an answer to prayer.
Congrats to Brenda for running an impressive PR, getting her BQ, and age group award. 
She proved again what she is made of.  And it's more than just sugar and spice... 
Jill also achieved an impressive PR, getting a BQ by 10 minutes.  These ladies have given me reason to go for a faster BQ of my own so we can go to Boston for another group fieldtrip.

mile splits according to my watch. (after the middle of the race it was showing some paces I couldn't believe, so not sure how well these match Brenda's numbers)
8:14, 8:41, 8:54, 9:04, 9:13, 8:53, 8:59, 8:53, 8:46, 8:54, 8:48, 8:57, 8:54, 9:04, 8:32, 8:33, 9:06, 8:51, 9:19, 9:18, 8:33, 9:47, 9:25, 9:04, 9:09, 8:42, 8:50(0.26)
My new realization of marathoning: 15 happy miles, 5 or 6 miles of work, and the remainder is suffering.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Boston Marathon April 18, 2011

It was a very satisfying and challenging event for me.  For months I looked forward to this race and did my own style of research/analysis preparation to the max.  My training miles and effort were higher than last year when I ran my qualifying time.  The event organization was very good, the spectator support was amazing.  The course was tough.  Here’s a summary of my race experience.

In short: I finished with a time of 3:45:34, just over my goal of 3:45.  I started a little faster than planned and was working too hard too soon but managed to keep plugging away to the finish.
Overall place 12124 of 23879 finishers, gender 8554 of 13806, age group 435 of 1132.
Mile split paces from my watch: 8.23, 8.12, 8.13, 8.20, 8.31, 8.29, 8.23, 8.31, 8.21, 8.21, 8.29, 8.20, 8.29, 8.39, 8.34, 8.43, 9.00, 9.12, 8.47, 9.10, 9.34, 8.26, 8.25, 8.35, 8.18, 8.32, 2.36 (0.39 mi watch)
5k splits paces from BAA results: 8:12, 8:29, 8:25, 8:28, 8:48, 8:59, 9:05, 8:30, 8:22 (last 2.something k)

The long story…
My goal was to average 8:30 per mile pace until the hills starting around mile 16.  I planned to give back a little time in the hills and finish with an overall average pace of 8:35.  But I hoped to be strong enough to run the last miles enough faster to go under 3:45.

The first 3 or 4 miles I couldn’t go slowly enough to keep my planned pace.  Runners are cautioned about running too fast during the first several downhill miles at Boston since that will cause problems later.  I knew what to do, but couldn’t seem to do it.  Hundreds of runners passed me through those miles.  I averaged 8:12 pace for the first 5k. 

I was feeling too warm by mile 4 or 5.  By mile 8 it seemed like I was feeling the effects of starting too fast.  Or maybe it just wasn’t going to be my day.  My legs felt they had worked too hard already.  So mentally I started doubting myself and remembering how I faded badly at MCM.  Already I was thinking about what I would tell Rose and Keith later on the course and what excuses I would have after the race.  But there was also a voice saying ‘this is THE Boston Marathon, you can’t just slack off without giving it a real try’.  I was still able to run at goal pace, so I would not do any excuse making yet.

I began thinking through the things I could do to cope with what felt wrong and I started making adjustments.  Stick to the planned pace.  Drink more Gatorade and water, dump water on my head and upper body for cooling.  Walk through aid stations to make sure I drank more than I spilled.  Take my energy gel on schedule.  Look forward to what I know is coming up - Wellesley College scream tunnel at mile 13/14 and family at mile 22.

And I thought about those who sent encouragement, well wishes, inspiration.  Would I be willing to say I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough?  And I switched back and forth between preparing excuses and telling myself ‘don’t give up yet’.  Then, beginning in the hill section I decided to make use of the spectator support.  Since I had my name on my shirt, running near the side of the road gave people a chance to cheer for me by name, and they did.  Probably I heard my name at least a thousand times.  That really helped.  And high-fiving little kids and big ones.

To my surprise, the hills were not so bad.  It seemed the change in running stride was good for me.  (Looking at my miles splits, I can see why the hills didn’t hurt much.  I really slowed down; for one mile I was a minute off average goal pace.)  After Heartbreak hill, I scanned the crowd for Rose and Keith.  Even though they were where we planned and I looked right at them, I never recognized them with my eyes or ears.  But, looking for them for an extra mile or so kept me distracted from thinking about whether I could continue.

Beginning in the hills and increasingly toward the finish, I was passing other runners.  Some stopped to stretch.  More and more were walking.  As I watched the miles slowly click off, I began to think I could finish on goal.  While my legs hurt a lot, they were working ok.  Then I realized that my gps watch was measuring the distance a little shorter than the course markings.  I couldn’t do the math mentally to figure out how much time I had to gain to make up for that.  I had finished the hills thinking I was only 5 seconds behind plan and guessed making up 30 seconds would be enough.  My last half mile was fastest, around 7 minute pace, but not enough to break 3:45.  My watch said I ran 26.39 miles rather than the 26.2 for the marathon.  (At 7 minute pace, a tenth of a mile takes 42 seconds.)  

As the course approaches the finish in downtown Boston, the crowd builds as well as enthusiasm and cheering volume.  I was amazed at the cheering for me specifically by name.  More than 12,000 people had already finished and yet people still looked for my name and cheered as if they were waiting just for me to come by.  It felt like I was a star.

It was so good to run through the Boston Marathon finish line and I was glad that I had not given up when things got tough.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The hay is in the barn for Boston

My final track session today was not much of a workout.  Just some 1200 repeats at goal marathon pace.  Well I guess they were a little faster.  My goal pace is 8:30 to 8:35 and my average was 8:28 today.
I don't know what finish time I can expect.  Looking at my training over the last couple of months, I think I should be able to PR at Boston.  That will require going under 3:42, an average pace of 8:28 per mile.  For now my plan is to run at a pace to make another BQ time which would be 3:45.  If I can speed up some after the dreaded Newton hills, maybe it will bring a PR.
And since some friends will run the Bob Potts Marathon on May 15th, I hope to run that one too and go for a time of 3:40 or faster.  Of course that race will depend on how I recover from Boston.
I have been reading all I can about running the Boston Marathon and the details of getting to the start, surviving the wait, etc.  I am excited.  And I think appropriately afraid of the work ahead.
Oh marathon racing! What sweet and frightening anticipation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Next race: Boston Marathon April 18, 2011

I am in the final weeks of training for the Boston Marathon. 

This is a goal race for many marathoners and I was really pleased to have qualified last May.  I increased my training and completed the Bob Potts Marathon in York, Pennsylvania with a time of 3:42:01.  That was a little better than the 3:45:59 required for men aged 55 to 59.

So here I am training to repeat as a qualifier this time at Boston.

In addition to the run training I am searching the internet for tips on pacing, overcoming the hills, and all the logistic challenges of getting to the starting line on race day along with about 27,000 other runners.

It might be my only appearance at Boston since it is getting harder to qualify and even to register.  I hope to make a pleasant memory on marathon weekend and especially on Patriots Day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It runs in the family!

Running - It’s in my family tree.

About 8 generations back on my mother’s side there was an ultra-runner. Tracing back through her father, Oscar Marshall, we can find Edward Marshall.  He was recruited to go as far as possible on foot in 18 hours in order to set the boundary for a land purchase in what is now eastern Pennsylvania. 

Really it seems to have been a land steal that was filled with scheming and deception. Although Edward Marshall was employed for this purpose, it is unclear whether he knew of the dishonesty involved.  In fact he probably didn’t even receive what was promised for his efforts.  And he paid dearly in the subsequent months or years.  His family was attacked in the backlash to the land grab.  Edward’s wife and son were killed and a daughter severely injured.

Being a runner myself, my interest is in his impressive physical accomplishment as an endurance athlete.  It seems curious, even ironic to me that this run was part of a plan to get land from Indians for white settlers.  I am descended from these white settlers, yet I have at least one Indian in my family tree.  Nancy LeBree is in the line of my mother’s mother - fewer generations back than Edward Marshall.  You might say one of my grandfathers was involved in stealing from one of my grandmothers.

The following excerpt is from  A google search for ‘walking purchase’ or ‘Indian walking purchase’ should yield several other sources to read about this.
According to Steven Harper’s Promised Land, the 1686 treaty gave the settlers claim to land north of the previous treaty’s boundary line between the Neshaminy and Delaware rivers for “as far as a man could walk in a day and a half.” On September 19, 1737, three strong runners, James Yeates, Edward Marshall, and Solomon Jennings, began, in the words of Lenape interpreter Moses Tetemie, “what ye Indians call ye hurry walk.” The native spectators noted the quick pace and unexpectedly direct route the three were taking, and according to W.W.H. Davis, “showed their dissatisfaction at the manner in which the walk was conducted, and left the party before it had been concluded.” The approximately 65 mile “hurry walk” proved so grueling that only Edward Marshall managed to complete it, who Davis writes, “threw himself at length on the ground, and grasped a sapling which marked the end of the line.” Marshall’s athletic feat, combined with liberal interpretation of how the boundary line should be drawn to the Delaware River, took from the Lenape an area slightly smaller than Rhode Island.

The route was surveyed in advance and even cleared to allow maximum progress. The runners were accompanied by horseback riders who brought along food, drink, and other supplies. Yet there were rivers to cross, mountains to climb, and rough ground to cover.

I learned of this part of my family history only last summer. While reading about what Edward accomplished, I felt that I wanted to repeat his effort. Of course it will be impossible to retrace the exact route due to highways and other development since the 1700’s. I hope to follow the route as much as possible and meet the same time limit. I have been in contact with members of a hiking group that does a weekend hike to retrace this route. My intention is to join their hike and learn enough of the route to be able to do the run myself with a few friends along for support. Hopefully I can do this near the date of the original event.

My longest single day efforts have been 33 and 50 miles. I will need to step up the training to have a chance to measure up to my great-great’s example.

What a goal race this will be!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Happy Birthday to me - now 56 years old.

I'm celebrating today.  Glad for another year started.  Enjoying the day.
Running and breakfast with friends.  Cards, electronic messages, some gifts.
Dinner with our younger son and 2 brothers/families visiting for cake & ice cream later.
Today's devotional reading written by Rebekah was about birthdays and making each day count for God's kingdom.  That's a great thought for my birthday and every day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Holiday Lake 50K++ a great day for running

 Short version: I finished in 5:58:02.  No problems.  Fun experience.  2 loops 16.67 miles each.
Long version:
My friend and running  partner Kristal and I talked about this race when I was undecided about my training and racing priorities for 2011.  Her interest is what got me to recognize that I wanted to do the race again even if it compromised some other priority.  I decided I wanted to do this one for fun more than focusing only on hard training for a spring marathon.  Running should be mostly fun shouldn't it? 
So we got signed up and then another of our running friends Brenda signed up too.  Brenda and I had run HL together last year, just beating the cutoff by 7 minutes.  We also would be meeting Rebecca, who Brenda had roomed with a year ago.
I had some nervousness about the race due to IT band issues I developed in this race last year and again during the JFK last November.  Just a week before this year's race my IT band tightened up and I had some painful inflamation in my hip.  Physical therapy relieved the symptoms, but who could know if they would return.  However, I was feeling good and strong for race day.
My race plan was to run what felt like my normal long run easy pace on all the flats and downhills and to hike the uphills.  I expected this would mean running alone mostly and resigned myself to that.  I also had a bit of worry that I would have some physical breakdown and would be wishing for Brenda and Kristal to drag me in.
The race starts on the road with about a half mile moderate effort uphill section, then into the woods.  There was a backup of runners here and it was slow going on the mostly single track trail with so many runners being careful in the dark.  This continued as it became daylight until around the first aid station (AS).  (there was an AS about every 4.25 to 4.5 miles).  I reached this one in 46 minutes and was happy with that.  I figured if I was not much more that 45 minutes between AS that would be a good finish time.  I wanted to finish under 7 hours and thought 6 and half was possible.
There was more room by now, running on logging type roads and I was able to run at my intended effort and that meant passing people.  I would talk a bit with some runners as I came alongside and then continue passing in a minute or two.  The stream crossing was not bad as the water was low in the riffles, not quite shoe top depth.  A lady crossed ahead of me using the trash bag waders approach.
At each AS I picked a few cookies, some chips or pretzels, banana sections, PBJ, whatever it seemed would taste good and be ok for fuels and salt.  I carried a sandwich bag so I could load up and eat on the run or walk out of the AS.  And I refilled my bottle with their GU sport drink.  Sometimes I drank water there.
After the third aid station I started wondering when I would see the leaders since the second loop was run in the opposite direction.  I checked my watch and immediately stumbled, almost falling.  (It might have hurt less to fall than catch myself.  I did this trick again a while later)  The leader came by at 2:09 when I was probably between mile 13 and 14 and he was at least 5 miles ahead of me.  The second guy came by 2 minutes later, then more and more runners.  I was coming down a steep section when I saw another friend Rick on the way up.  I continued on with the same approach as planned and wondered sometimes if my running pace was too fast and I'd pay for it later.  I did notice tightness in my left thigh and hip flexor and glute area.  That made me wonder too.  Passing oncoming runners near the lake was kind of tricky since the trail was narrow and on a hillside.  But it was much better than last year with crusted snow on both sides of the trail.  I saw Rebecca about a mile into her second loop with that much to go on my first one.
I got to the halfway AS around 2:52, refilled, found my dropbag and changed shirts and hats.  I left that AS at 2:56.  Then I remembered the salt pills Kristal had shared so I took a couple of those.  And thinking about my tightening leg, I took a couple of tylenol tablets a little later.  I had decided to try to run where the trail sloped down to the right as much as possible to allow my left foot to roll in more and take a little strain off that IT band.  So that gave my something to think about.  Early in my second loop I passed Kristal and Brenda and that brightened me up.  We exchanged brief greetings and status info and continued on.  After that I reflected on how nice it was to see my running pals and wished I had asked for a hug.
There was soon the dam to re-cross and a big wooden stairway to climb and some nice views.  I noticed the day was beautiful and cheerful.  It seems to me there is more or tougher climbing in the first half of the second loop and I made sure to walk those parts.  My concern about overdoing it on the first loop had me being cautious by now.  And my feet were sore on the bottom, especially the heels.  The frozen ground was lumpy in spots and I think that's why my feet hurt.  I rubbed some topical pain reliever on my IT band trouble spots as a preventative measure.  I was still able to run mostly as planned and each AS seemed to come sooner than expected.  At one of them a lady said "welcome back" and that seemed nice - as if they were there waiting for me.  Going to the middle AS this time there was a long hill to climb on a forest road.  It must have taken at least 10 minutes to walk that one.  I tried keeping the pace brisk and when things leveled out I was happy to have walked that one even though it seemed to take too long to get up the hill.  I took 2 more salt tabs and 2 more tylenol.  My quads were sore, but everything was still working.
Then the course was mostly runnable (by my measure) for longer sections and I was able to make good time.  I was surprised that I had energy for running still.  This section was really tiring and discouraging a year ago.  I didn't pass people as often, but still was catching up to some.  Just before the last AS I recognized Rebecca ahead of me and realized she must have had some problems for me to have caught up to her.  She had her own IT band issues slowing her down.  We were in and out of that AS about the same time and I was able to keep running.  It seemed possible to finish under 6 hours and I now wanted to do that.  I knew we eventually would go down to the lake before climbing back up to the paved road that was downhill to the finish.  So the plan to run everything except uphills continued.
There was at least one more climb in this section than I remembered.  Of course there was nothing to do but continue and there wasn't anyone to whine to.  Eventually I caught up to a 3 runners and followed them up what turned out to be the last climb from the lake.  I chatted a bit with the lady just ahead of me and then at the 1 mile to go mark where the trail leveled out I had a little more in the tank and pulled ahead.  Soon I could see the paved road.  But I had forgotten that the trail parallels the road for a while, so more running to do.  Along here I turned my ankle for the only time in the race and it really hurt at first.  It made me pray "please just get me to the finish".  Soon out onto the road and downhill to finish.  I had decided I would not chase anyone down but settle for keeping my same effort.  I think 2 younger guys passed me on the road and I passed one runner.
On through the finish line, shook hands with the race director and waited for Rebecca who finished a couple minutes later.
I was happy to be done and pleased with my finish time.
Everything about the race was done well.  Congrats to Dr Horton, staff, volunteers, runners.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Holiday Lake 50k++ Ready or not, here I come

An ultra that is good for beginners and has a couple of extra miles beyond the 50k standard.  It is a nice race from my experience last year.  Even though that included about 6 inches of granular snow on the course.  And stream crossings that make for wet feet.  And a finish time less than 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  And an IT band problem surfaced that took some months to resolve.  It is a pleasant memory, really.

I have felt that my training is going well in preparation for the Boston Marathon April 18th.  A fun run on trails would give me a longer workout that should add to my fitness.  And some of my best friends in running are doing the race too.

Then, after last Friday's 6.5 miles, my left IT band starts to get my attention.  Inflamation at the top of my thigh bone that became increasingly painful through the day until I was limping.  Ice. Skip my usual running Saturday, Monday, Tuesday mornings.  Seemed to be much better 

Went to physical therapist yesterday who massages/grinds the nearby muscles into mush and prescibes more ice and only treadmill runs till the race.  Maybe running the left side of the roads is giving me trouble on my left side.  I did get to run 2 miles on the treadmill in the PT office.  The only pain was what the massage gave me.  Two more treadmill miles this morning, then circuit class.  And I feel so much better.

Ok, I am not really trained to race 50k on a trail.  But I do hope to run it at a comfortable pace and finish at least an hour ahead of the cutoff.  And I expect to hurt if only from the long effort.  And I plan to pray my way to the finish.  Even if I don't have a physical breakdown.

Monday, January 24, 2011

First post

Ha! So now I am a blogger.  Here goes the first post of ChuckRuns.

I don't have a real message or thought to share.  So a little about me...

Married since 1973, 2 grown sons, am just passing the middle of my fifties.  
IT professional.
Christian (trusting in Jesus for eternity,  plus here and now) since 12 years old.

I have been running for almost four years.  I started in a YMCA bootcamp program so I could get in better shape - both fitness and visibly.  I really liked the fitness gains and the comraderie of the group.  So I have been at it ever since.  More than half of my miles are run with friends.

My last 3 years have had increasing mileage totals: just under 1000 for 2008, 1500 for 2009, 1919 for 2010.

I have done races from 5k to 50 miles and especially like marathons and trail running.
Preparing for the Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011.

My one training rule (sort of) is to do no more than one out of breath workout per week.

Ok, enough.  Go run, it's good for you.  Even just a little.