Monday, April 23, 2012

Windstrong, Windtastic, Windderful: The Lansing Marathon Race Recap

The weather was beautiful. Mid 30s. But the wind was noticeable early. The Redhead was there to cheer Lam and I as we were preparing to run the inaugural Lansing Marathon. Before the race we heard several speakers expound positively about “Lansing’s first ever inaugural marathon.” *And somewhere deep in the Department of Redundancy Department buzzers were flashing wildly.*

Soon the race began and we were off. I, as expected, pretty much blew my race strategy early by going 6:40 for mile 4, and then backing way off with a 7:21 for mile 5. At mile ten I wanted to be 1:10:50. I was 1:11:10. And I was happy with that considering over 6 of the first ten miles were into a wind that was steadily gaining momentum. From there on out, I didn’t look at my watch again. I was running on feel and I was feeling good.

Between miles 16-20 the runners headed directly into an even stronger headwind as we ran through the MSU farms. And this part of the race really wiped me out. Several times I was actually blown back or off to the side during this stretch. I could tell I was working hard keep my pace. By the time I got to mile 22, I knew the extra energy expended during those several miles into the wind (reaching over 20mph) were starting to take their toll. The last four miles felt rough. I held on pretty well, but I could tell I was slowing down.

Still, I never stopped and felt I pretty sure I was on pace for a PR. So…how did I do? First, one quick caveat; there are some good things about getting older. Like…your BQ qualification time jumps 5 minutes. Or stays where it was a year ago. And so, I’m happy to say I accomplished two of my three goals, I got a PR and a BQ. A 3:08:xx. I was a little shy of my ‘sneak in under 3:05’ goal. After the race I checked my watch and saw I was on pace through 22 miles, but the last four, including several parts into an even stronger wind plus some natural fatigue were too much to maintain that sub 3:05:00 goal. Who cares, I’m still very very excited.

A few last things. On Saturday, after the expo, Lam, the Redhead, and I did a little motivational chalking on the course. You can check out some of our witty remarks. We even left little love notes just in case this guy decided to cheer on his fellow runners.

(Lam doing a little motivating)

(You get what you vote for)

On race day I was very grateful to see several friends cheering me on…including the legendary Nitmos. My sister Gunior and the Redhead were right at mile 26 to give me some final inspiration—which was extremely needed. Check out these awesome signs. Also, a special thanks goes out to Neophyte who ran the half and was there to help stabilize me after the race.

It was also a good day for the Redhead who not only got a PR but was the first female finisher in the 5K! Check out her amazing story.

I was sad to discover that Lam was unable to overcome his foot injury suffered a few days before his travels out here. He made the difficult but smart decision to DNF after courageously toeing the line and setting a great pace. Having had to make a similar decision myself before, I understand how he feels. I really enjoyed the time I got to spend with Lam. He shares a similar outlook on approaches and perspectives to running, and I’m am hopeful he will get his foot better soon and return to Michigan to visit us again!

My left foot has four blisters, one of which is rather large, while my right foot has one huge blister—not to mention a few other running related minimal but somewhat uncomfortable ailments. I used socks I had worn several times before and the same shoes I had used on all of my long runs. Still, by mile 15 I just had to admit to myself that I was going to be the proud owner of some painful blisters after the race. Later Sunday I was reflecting upon the sensation of running and knowing you are forming blisters. I think it goes something like this: Foot uncomfortable. Forget about it for a bit. Foot hurts and you are positive you have blisters. Forget about it. Pain returns and you wonder how you amazingly forget about it just a few moments ago. Forget about it once more. Pain back again and resumption of wondering how you ever managed to forget about it. Repeat until race is finished. Oh the joy of running.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Taper Post

I don’t typically share my race goals. Oh well, here they are. Based on a very select few quality long runs and tempo runs, I’m going to try and BQ and PR my previous marathon best of 3:09:xx. I’m mostly prepared to do this. But who knows. All I can say for certain is that I’m very excited about this race.

My race strategy goes like this. Run the first three miles at 7:00 ±3 seconds. Run the next three miles at 7:10 ±3 seconds. I then plan on running two of the next four miles the same way, two at 7:00 ±3sec and two at 7:10 ±3 seconds. This should put me at about 50 seconds above a BQ pace at 10M.

I’ve never intentionally run a marathon slower in the first half. Typically I try to build as much ‘bank’ time as possible and, like a teenage boy about to get shanked before a gym class full of coeds, I hold on for dear life.

But, all of my training on the third ‘official’ Lansing Marathon course has been between miles 6 and 22 or more. Also, I’ve been doing my long runs with a slow first few miles and then a 14M to 16M tempo run at pace goal. This has worked a few times. This has not worked a few times. But I’m going to try it.

At plus 50 seconds at the 10M mark, I’m going to try and average 7:00 per mile for the rest of the race—knowing that with some parts of the course I’ll be ±7 seconds per mile. This, of course, means two important things: 1) I’m going to attempt to pull off a slight negative split; 2) if I run perfect I’ll still be down a few seconds for a BQ. But I’ll let that figure itself out during the last 16M.

Now, for full disclosure, a few last things. I attempted to replicate this race approach with my 10M long run last weekend. Total FAIL. Seems trying to catch and pass the Redhead in the first mile coupled with running in the hot (but thankfully cloudy) Florida weather made this a total shit-show. Not the best of news considering my easy 4M run the day before under the angry FL sun was also a poop-performance. As of this morning, I cannot confirm the course is certified. For your own amusement, go look on their facebook page and see how many times people have asked that question and how it has not yet been answered.

Finally, I’m going to start a new marathon tradition. I’ve always loved seeing when someone has written something in chalk on the course. So, I’ll take a poll and ask you two questions.

What Should I Write?

Around Where Should I Write It?

Monday, April 9, 2012

A New Race Strategy

I struggle with racing. I’ve mentioned before how my two track coaches were hugely influential in my life. Both were Olympic caliber runners who were best friends since their time running together in college. They were also what you would call ‘old school’ (read: willing to verbally humiliate you and yell at you when you screwed up) and both were tremendously supportive and encouraging to the team as a whole and on an individual basis.

One of my favorite things a coach would say to me was “You’re too stupid to know you aren’t that fast.” My coach described me as a bulldog, I would just grab hold of the lead pack and hang on until I could try to outkick the pack in the last 200 meters. This was tremendously successful in races of middle distance, like the mile and the half, or during a 4x400 relay or 4x800 relay. (Note: I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that, some runners were/are so much faster than I am that I could never really latch on and run with them. Those runners were gone before I knew it.)

While I this was a successful practice to use when qualifying for the state meet or winning a medal at a prominent relay meet, this approach has caused me problems in the longer distance races. I’ve been able to, with some success, utilize this approach in the 5K. It is in the marathon where I have mixed results. If there is a pace group, it works. If there is no pace group, like Boston, it just doesn’t seem to work. Sure, other factors such as fitness and weather conditions will play a role; but it seems to me that, during the first half of every marathon I’ve ever run, I’ve dropped one to three ridiculously fast miles—fast being compared to my desired pace—as I’ve tried to chase down some particular runner. My ego says: “Not going to let that guy beat me to mile 6 or the marathon, or let that girl get to mile 8 before me.”

Win the battle, lose the war.

Sadly, this approach will apply—almost always—even when I’m running alone. Why? Easy, the watch and my expectations are enough to give me that attack and grind attitude. Last split was +15 seconds, next mile must be -15 seconds. Two things here: 1) intellectually I know it would be better to make up those added seconds over the course of four or five miles; 2) if I think ‘Go 30 seconds faster” (-15 to get to the desired pace and -15 to get even with the overall pace) I’ll almost always go 45 seconds faster. This results in tremendous swings in miles when the terrain doesn’t necessitate it.

So, this training session I’ve been trying something a little different. I’ve intentionally slowed down the first few miles of my long runs (1-3 miles for runs under 15M, 3-5 for 16-21 mile runs). Then I’ll pick up my runs to my desired pace for the remainder. Typically, I just try to run the entire long run at the desired pace. This sometimes results in going bonk at the end of a run. When I’ve followed my new strategy right I still end up averaging my overall goal pace. When I don’t I seem to drop a few killer miles in the first part of the run (splits about 15 to 30 seconds faster than desired pace) and then crash and burn at the end of the run.

There are no pacers for the Lansing Marathon.

So, the question is, can I let go of my ‘attack attack attack’ mentality for the longer races and find a more holistic and even approach?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The New(est) Lansing Marathon Course Description

The best way to describe the original route would be the ‘Cedar Street Route’ as 8 of the 26.2 miles were run on Cedar Street. The second course would be the ‘Delphi Route’ as the route went south on Aurelius Rd and then north on Pennsylvania to create a loop through much of Delphi Township. The newest route is best described as the ‘MSU Farms’ Route. This route spends significant time alongside or through the agriculture parts of the college (it was once called Michigan Agriculture College). Approximately 11 of the 26.2 are fielded miles. With the new course runners will be passing MSU’s beloved sheep farm. A place of particular horrors for me…as I learned the hard way never to run past that place in the spring without my shirt on. Oh the clippers, the clippers.

As Nitmos pointed out, I should be glad; I’ve been running these fields for years (both in undergrad and law school). The second route provided little in regards to shade, but long stretches of College Road produce good shade on the road (especially in the morning). Most of those parts have been removed. With the new course, there will be nowhere to hide from miles 15 to 21. And then not much after that. Also, the wonderful downhill you used to get after old mile 10 now become a .65M incline between mile 17 and 18. While this hill is not steep, it is long and difficult and without shade.

Here is the breakdown. The first six miles are the same, including the double hills going over the highway and then train tracks in mile 6. Then the course heads east along the first few farm miles. This east leg contains two hills, neither steep, and both about .2M long. Then the course gets flat for about 1.5M and then turns south. Here you encounter a longer and slightly steeper hill than in the previous few miles, but this hill is followed by a left turn and a pleasant downhill. You will then hit one more .2M hill, not remarkably steep, before you have several miles of flat-ish ground (nothing visually noticeable). This part includes running on a bike/running path that is paved.

The next noticeable hill is when the course turns left on Hagadorn and goes over the highway. Importantly, the 13.1M mark is in an industrial park with maybe three buildings (Atrium Dr.). So, don’t expect anybody there to reward you with being halfway done by cheering for you. From there, you have 4 miles of gently rolling hills before you hit the large hill in mile 18. Also included in this part is a very short but somewhat steep uphill as the runners head west on Willoughby and right before you go under the highway. I’ve already described the long difficult hill in mile 18.

After that, you run through more fields with no meaningful up/downhill. When the course heads south again on Aurelius, you will notice a smallish hill, and another after you turn west on Mt. Hope. From there, about mile 22, there are only four hills left. One as you run under a bridge just north of Potter Park Zoo (not much), a short but difficult one on Walsh, one heading north on South Washington, and one as you run on East Hillsdale Street during mile 26. I recommend you sell out up this hill. It is the last hill. When you turn the corner you still have some distance before you complete the race, but by then you should be able to see the finish and ride your momentum in.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Los Submarinos 5K Race Report

Today was the sixth greatest day of my life, today I ran for Twinkies.

While I’ve been playing up my frustration at the Lansing Marathon, my actual A-race of the season was this afternoon’s Ann Arbor Twinkie Run for ALS. I had prepared for this monumental race the way one would expect; I ran my 16 mile long run that morning followed by a hearty breakfast at Panera; after which I showered, put on a new set of running clothes, and headed to A2 to meet Racer there. As I entered the staging area I bellowed, “Where are you, you spongy, yellow, delicious bastards?!” ala Tallahassee. And then I saw it; the table filled with trays upon trays of those luscious crème filled “Los Submarinos.”

We were instructed to grab one and head to the start area; just as I was about to bite in to that little spongy brick of heaven a fellow runner warned that eating it before the race would cost me penalty of one minute. It was at that moment I aspired to become the first person in race history to finish with a negative race time via Twinkie consumption. Racer talked me out of this as we had planned to run the race together, but I now have a mission for next year.

It took me just over a half mile to eat the first twinkie as I tried to encourage my fellow runners by reminding them that this race was good preparation for the Krispy Kreme Challenge. Unfortunately discomfort was already high as was apparent in the lackluster response. Redhead would go on to utter, “You’re disgusting,” no less than thirty-six times over the course of the race.

As we reached the half-way point we were awarded our second twinkie; Racer passed on it, but I graciously accepted by shoving as much of it in my mouth as I could. My strategy was to pack my cheeks like a squirrel and hope it would melt without much effort. Minutes later I had the unfortunate experience of snotrocketing crème just as Racer ill-timed the question of what I wanted to do for dinner after the race.

We finished the race and were awarded a golden twinkie shaped medal, complete with three crème holes on the back. I searched the crowd for Twinkie the Kid to pick up my lifetime supply of Twinkies for my appearance fee, as discussed in my nonofficial sponsorship contract, but the race officials claimed to have no knowledge of this information. Weird.*

*Happy April Fool’s Day! This post was authored by the Redhead, but rest assure Spike did in fact happily consume multiple Twinkies at the race this afternoon.