Monday, December 31, 2012

Year-End Summary-2012

A few year-end running reflections on New Year's Eve.

My aim in running is to simply run.  People ask me why I run and I simply shrug and tell them "I just enjoy running."  And the older I get, it gets even more simple.  And clear.

And fun.

It's satisfying, then, for me (a numbers type of guy) to see the numbers from this year's running backing up my gut feel that 2012 was a good hear.

On the aggregate, 2012 is the first calendar year I've ever run more than 1,500 miles.  Training and racing totaled 1,563.  Sweet.

My graph

Racing went well, too.   The year had 17 races including 2 ultras, 7 marathons (5 road, 2 trail) and a pair of half marathons.  No bonks and 5 of the marathons were in near-perfect conditions, allowing even more number crunching.

Other developments in the year of minor public interest yet notable in my mind include:

  • Trail running.  I'm enjoying training and racing on trails, more and more.  A long run in the woods on dirt is really getting to be more and more fun. 
  • Camping. I've never been much of a camper until this year.  What a fun way to go to a race, sleep in a tent the night before, wake up with the birds and go run?  
  • Shoe shift.  After years in the Brooks Beast, I shifted to the lighter Brooks Adrenalines in May.  It has worked well.     
  • Audio Books.  I've discovered I enjoy listening to books on my mp3 player during long training runs. 
And all of that is really minor.  

I just enjoy running.  And that's enough.

Happy 2013!  



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Race Report: HUFF 50K Trail Race 2012

ORN; 50km (31.1 miles), 6:26:45, 12:47/mile, R/W 3/1 all the way

Quick Summary

Boy, was that fun!  The HUFF 50K was a treat of a trail run on Dec 29.  It was what a winter event should be...runnable, yet on snow pack, well organized and a fully fair ultramarathon.  The volunteers were terrific and it was a wonderful winter's day in the Indiana woods.

Not so Gory Details, with photos

In last year's HUFF 50K race report, I droned philosophically, trying to capture the lesson from such a hard day. Summed up, last year's race was not what I signed up for...the mud and water was so severe it was impossible to really run.

Relax, dear readers; this year's race WAS what I signed up for!  It quite simply represented a very good example of trail running.  So, I'll spare you lots of words and show the day via photos.

I drove up to the Chain O' Lakes park area on Friday afternoon and joined a lot of fellow runners and family at race check in and a pasta feed at the nearby Lutheran camp facility.

It was a great spread, enhanced by some nice conversation, always a treat.  I enjoyed meeting Mary and Jeff and their three boys...Mary is a fellow Marathon Maniac and that alone provides for plenty of grist for the conversational mill.  But we had a lot more in common as well.   I also jumped in and helped make a stack of pb&j sandwiches for the race aid stations to hand out...this is an ultra, after all.

Did I mention it was a church camp??  Just like last year, I booked a bunk bed in their facility upstairs, which worked well.  I met Brian and had some fun chats.  Plus, only one of the other guys snored, so it was a decent night's sleep.  

I was up at 5am, out the lodge door before 6am and drove the four  miles to the state park which hosts the course.  Scoring a primo parking spot just above the start/finish line, I utilized my 12V hot pot to prepare a hot oatmeal breakfast.  

In an example of kaizen applied to running this year, I've figured how a recycled fast-food Styrofoam works as the perfect vessel to make oatmeal on the road.  Add a Diet Coke and boom, the breakfast of champions appears.  

The starting gun was set for 8:00am, which is pretty much the same time as sunrise in late December here at the west end of the Eastern time zone.  With the temperature in the upper 20s and little wind, it wasn't bitterly cold but the camp fire someone started was still a nice treat before the start.  

Mary and her family walked up as well and it was good to greet them again.  


The one-loop and relay runners got started a bit after 8am and the  350 of us running 50K queued up.  It was great to see running buddies Walt and Brian, above in the back of the pack.  

And we were finally off.  It felt good to get going.

Snowfall for the week preceding the race was around 4-6".  So the trails were fully packed all day.  Most of the day was in the woods, but this is one of the few open areas.

Five miles in, I was still feeling OK.  I guess that SHOULD be the case in a 31 mile race, right?? 

A topic of conversation all day was how different the course was from a year ago.  For example, this section, below, was a sea of ankle-deep mud a year ago.  

This year, we got through it so quickly I didn't realize it was over during the first lap till it WAS made a mental note to snap a photo the second time through.  Full, enjoyably, runnable.  

And more friends on the course.  Here's another Maniac from Indy...Elaine and I see each other at many Midwest races.  She's a gracious, friendly runner of continual good cheer. 

With a very runnable course, we could enjoy the views of the eponymous bodies of water which make up Chain O' Lakes State Park.  It was terrific...mere photographs don't do justice to the beauty of the day .

A fun moment came around mile 18.  A guy running next to me turned and said "Say, aren't you Joe?"  Amazing!  It was Robert, a guy I had met at this race a year ago when we shared the bunk room at the Lutheran camp.  He reminded me I had given him a plastic bowl for his oatmeal a year ago and he remembered it and remembered me!!  It was a treat to see him again!!!  Thanks, Robert!!

Doubly nice was the gentle snow which fell for the last 10 miles I was on the course.  It was almost poetic in the wind-free wafting of flakes through the woods.

The only fly in the trail-running ointment came around mile 25.

On a down-slope similar to this one, the slick surface plus sharp grade led to yours truly taking a very ungainly fall.  A real thud, nothing remotely graceful.  I jammed my left wrist and arm pretty good.  While I laid there, at least five other runners attempted to stop and help me get up yet slid on by, barely keeping their own balance so slick was the surface.  They barely stayed on their feet.  I sat there for a couple of minutes, inventoried the damage, realized I only has a sore wrist and collected my wits.  In the only break I took from my 3/1 run/walk cycle all day, I eased myself to the bottom of the hill, walked a couple more minutes, then resumed running.  

Just beyond the bottom of the hill, I saw Tom again, a course marshal directing runners at a four-way course junction.  Tom was at this same spot last year and we hit it off then.  


Tom obviously knows distance running.  I mentioned my fall and he mentioned a useful fix:  5/16" hex head sheet metal screws, 3/8" long, #6 thread.  Drive them into the bottom of your shoes and get grip on ice and snow.  Gonna try it this winter for training runs.  I could have used it this race, for sure.  I've never run on packed snow for this long...and this is the main lesson for me of the day.

I got back on track soon and the rhythm returned.  Around mile 26 or so, a professional photographer snapped our efforts.

Shoot, the form was still decent...and nearly airborne.  

From this point, it was just a few miles and one more lakeside trail to cover.  

The finish was well considered, improving on last year's plan.  We had a full sighting of the finish area for over a half mile.  The energy and music drew us in...I ran the last mile continuously and felt good at the finish.  I crossed the line in 6:36:49, almost an hour faster than last year.  I placed 234th of 342 overall, 11th of 16 in Men 55-59.  I didn't get a negative split, but I was still pleased to have the first of the two 25K laps in 3:10:14, the second in 3:26:45.  

I was done.  And thrilled with the event...not a trace of the ambiguity of last year's run.  

I crossed the finish line with Justin, from Cleveland.  

He and I ran the better part of Lap 2 together.  We offered each other encouragement when we each needed it.  Late in the run, he really picked it up, terming it a "third wind".  I guess it's a long race when the second wind isn't enough!  It was great to congratulate each other.  

Over the 17 years of the HUFF, the organizers have built a great system, including a heated tent and terrific opportunity to hang our with fellow runners.  I took full advantage of this post-race, meeting up with Brian again, seeing Mary's husband Jeff, plus a lot of the folks with whom I ran.  Robert and I talked further...he had struggled with cramps but persevered.  As did every one else.  Any ultra brings out perseverance.  

And did I mention soup?  A famous part of this race and wow, did they do a great job of keeping it hot all day in such cold weather.  

Friends met, race debriefed, dry clothes on, warm soup inside, I hopped in the car for the 2+ hour drive home. 

And made one more nostalgic stop.  

This is a McDonalds.  But not just any McDonalds.  It is a Micky D's in the town of Wabash, Indiana, just off of highway US24.  This store sponsored and served as the start/finish line of my first race ever.   The date was November 11, 1978, just over 34 years ago.  I had just started running and they hosted a 5 mile event which I ran in 35:32 (yes, I even kept records back then).  I still remember the T shirt, a baby-blue cotton number with a lithograph of an exerting runner on the front who appeared to be in great pain, which I wore and kept for years.  I was smitten by the   race experience.  

So, on my drive home from my 6th ultramarathon and 34th marathon and longer race, my 121st race I have records for, I had to pull in, take a photo and be thankful for the good health and opportunity to run for all these years.  I still relish race day.    

Hope you've enjoyed the photos of a fun race.  Persevere.  


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Galloway's Run/Walk--Five Marathons Compared

Since 2007, I've been using Jeff Galloway's Run/Walk/Run method as my key strategy in training and in races longer than a half-marathon. As a student of systems, I've tried to learn from my experience.  I've also tried to pass along what I've learned so others might benefit.  Here's my first post on the method from September, 2008 and then my second from last December, which focused on the nuts and bolts of using this method.  And here's the post of the combined experience of Jeff and me in the same race, the 2009 Portland Marathon.  This post adds further data.

The data is, in essence, a lab experiment on Run/Walk which emerged this year, not by design as much as by the advantageous confluence of weather, course design and schedule. I think this might be helpful to those using Jeff's methods.

Five road marathons, all with similar courses in similar, advantageous weather conditions make this comparison possible.  I used different run/walk plans in each race, however, which makes for useful comparisons.  What might we learn? Here's the sequence and essentials.


It all started with the Carmel Marathon run on April 21, 2012 in suburban Indianapolis.  It is a flat course which happened on a cloudy day with temperatures in the mid 40s throughout and a 15mph north wind.  I used a 6 minute run/1 minute walk sequence through mile 24.5, then ran it in.  This yielded an official time of 4:33:25, at the time my second best marathon of this running era, plus a 3 second negative split.  My own race report is here.  My detailed notes on mile splits from the day are in this to expand.   Sorry, no amount of digital processing can improve my handwriting!

The Lesson?  I could hold a 6/1 for the entire race and feel very good at the end of a marathon.  I also learned I could hold even mile splits over a long distance.   In much of my training, I use a 4/1 and in previous races I had faded.  Not so at Carmel...very encouraging.


Marathon #2 took me to Traverse City, Michigan for the Bayshore Marathon on May 25, 2012.  It was a largely flat course with some minor rollers, run this year on a partly cloudy day with temperatures shifting from the low 50s to about 70 and no wind.  Since I was running a trail marathon two weeks later, I took a then-radical plan to shift my pace.  I would run a 3/1 through mile 10, then a 4/1 to the finish.  As it played out, I felt so good, I ran the last 2.2  and finished in 4:40:16, with almost 4 minute negative split. The second race in a row with no wall, feeling marvelous at the end.  My race report here.

The Lesson?  A slow, conservative start does nothing to diminish one's overall time and actually served as a "governor" to hold me back in the face of the adrenaline of a big race in a beautiful setting.  This confirms much of what Galloway has been saying for years.   Interestingly, when I shifted to a 4/1, I didn't really budge my overall average mile pace very much.  But I did reserve energy to make the later miles very enjoyable.  And the effort paid off in an enjoyable trail marathon in very hot, hilly conditions two weeks later.

Marathon #3 of this unique sequence of road marathons was the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY  on September 30, 2012.  It is net-downhill, point-to-point, unhyphenated, fairly flat course.  I got yet another good weather day, as it was cloudy with temperatures in the low 50s and no wind.  Knowing I was running in Chicago just 7 days later, I planned a 3/1 sequence through mile 16,  shifting to a 4/1, with a possible run at the end.  It worked so well,  I ran the final 3 miles uninterrupted.  I was rewarded by getting under 4:40, to 4:38:55 and another negative split.  I felt awesome at the end...still no wall, still no cramps, a truly fun marathon.  Race Report here.

The Lesson?  The understated start, this time, led to a truly improved per-mile pace when I shifted to the 4/1 and even better speed when I ran at the end.  Conditions certainly helped...a cool day is a good day for a marathon.  And I loved this race, it was just awesome.  And another real test awaited, 7 days later.


Marathon #4 was a big one, the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2012.  Chicago is well known as having one of the flattest marathon courses layouts in the world.  What was lucky was the weather; in recent years, Chicago has had very hot temps but not this day; yet again, I had a cool day to run.  Temps were barely 40 at the start and clouds kept it under 45 at the finish, with very little wind in the "Windy City".    Strategically, though, I was on new turf, as I had never run two marathons one week apart; how should I approach it?  I decided to keep the "easy early" view, running a 3/1 through mile through mile 18, then bumping to a 4/1.  My real hope, though, was to run, continuously, the final 3+ miles down Michigan Avenue.  For the first time in this marathon sequence, I altered the plan based on conditions...I sensed some fatigue at mile 18, so didn't shift to the 4/1 until mile 20.  It allowed me to recover a bit, though, and I did run all the way down Michigan Avenue.  Finishing time of 4:48:28, an 8 minute negative split.  I felt terrific at the end and truly enjoyed this world-class event.  My Race Report on Chicago is here.

The Lesson?  First, I could actually run marathons, enjoyably, on consecutive weekends.  Second, this pattern of slow early, quicker late, works.  Third, traffic mile splits were a bit slower than the week earlier largely due to dodging and swerving around my 40,000 fellow runners.  A 6 minute wait at a portapot in mile 4 had an impact as well.  


Marathon #5 of the year's journey was in north Georgia at the Chicamauga Battlefield Marathon on November 10, 2012.  It is a friendly course with just a few rollers on a partly cloudy day with temps from 38 at the start to 50 at the end, with little wind. Pacing was very different for this race though.  I ran the race with pals Wes and Darrell and we stuck together early,  running a full mile, then taking a 30 second walk break at each mile marker.  I stuck with the guys on this pattern through mile 4.5, but realized it wasn't going to work for me that day.  So I fell back, using a 3/1 through mile 13, then a 4/1 through 24 and a run to the end.  I got a reward for all this, however, with my 2nd fastest marathon of this era, 4:27:32.  I had no wall at all during the race but I felt it at the end, though, with some foot and calf cramps.  Race Report here

The Lesson?  The quick start, "banking" 4 sub 9:30 miles early, clearly helped my total time.  Psychologically, I realized around mile 16 I had a shot to get under 4:30, so I pushed the effort.  With no other race near term, I knew the day stood on its own.  So, I got the goal but the cramping at the end demonstrated that the effort took a toll.  And many times, that's OK.  


One other thing.  Many have wondered, openly, if adopting a run/walk strategy in training slows you down.  And I have some data on that too.

In between Chicago and Chicamauga, I ran a small half marathon not far from my home, the Muncie Mini Marathon in David Letterman's favorite town, Muncie, Indiana, on October 27, 2012.  I wanted some "speed work", using the term very loosely, as I'm not that fast of a guy.  I decided to simply run the HM continuously, shooting to go under 1:55.  Amazingly, the weather was great again, with temps in the mid 40s on a very flat course, though with a 15mph wind out of the north.  My race report is here and below are my mile splits:  

Finish time of 1:52:58 (8:38/mile average) was very encouraging.  And, yes, there is still some speed in there for a 59 year old guy. 


To finish five full marathons with flat courses on good weather days in one calendar year provides a very useful way to analyze running strategies.  All five were enjoyable without the "Wall".  Four of the five times, the last half of the marathon was quicker than the first half.  The only untoward event was some post-race cramps after the quickest of the five. 

This is a long post but I wanted to capture all this information in one place...those who are interested in run/walk might benefit.  If you have questions, you can see on the side how to contact me...feel free.  Thanks for reading.  

And, no matter how you run or walk or run/walk, please just persevere. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Race Report: Fight Hunger 5K, Thanksgiving Day

ORN:  5K, 23:24, 7:33/mile; a new 5K PR

It was a fun Thanksgiving Morning.  Our local Fleet Feet store did a wonderful thing by sponsoring the Race Against Hunger 5K.  I liked the simplicity and sincerity of this race...I liked it a lot.  No entry fee.  No T shirts.  Asked folks to bring some non-perishable food for our local Food Finders Food Bank.  

And did people ever respond.  Exceeding the expectations of the organizers, I would guess 300ish people showed up on a beautiful Thanksgiving morning in Indiana to run, walk and see friends.  In the entry area was a huge mound of foodstuffs brought in and that didn't include the big pile the store collected the day before at their shop.  They ended up with four truckloads of food and $1,400 in cash cool is that??  

The race was fun too.  Our son Matt is home for Thanksgiving and he was keen on running.  So, we jogged over to the start line, less than a mile from our house, hung out a bit and saw friends, including a few folks Matt remembered from High School.  He then moved up in the start pack, as he wanted to run it hard.  

I fell in with Tim, Vicki and daughter Abbey who have been friends for many years.  

And Tim pulled me along wonderfully.  Miles were 7:31, 7:43, 7:32 and a 7:12 pace to the end, to finish with a 10 second PR of 23:24.  Amazingly, it didn't even seem that hard...nice to have a personal  rabbit like Tim!

Matt took off early and did well at 22:30.  His conditioning has really paid off for him.  

It was a great start to Thanksgiving, both personally and for our community.  Terrific to do this with Matt as well.  I hope you all have/had a good Thanksgiving as well.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Race Report: Chicamuaga Battlefield Marathon

ORN:   26.2 miles, 4:27:32, various ratios, 10:13/mile

Quick Summary:  It was great to be with running friends.  Icing on the marathoning cake was it becoming my 2nd fastest marathon.

Gory Details:

This whole race emerged as a possibility early in 2012 when Darrell starting hunting for the next additions to his trek towards marathons in all 50 States.  Both of you long-time blog readers will recall Darrell and I first met in December, 2006 when I hosted his Indiana race.  We hit it off and have run at least one marathon together each year since.  For our race together in 2007, fellow blogger Wes joined us in Huntsville, Alabama.  We'd talked about all meeting up again and it all lined up for the Chicamauga Battlefield Marathon on November 10 in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta.  Darrell clocked his state #24, Wes and his wife DeeDee welcomed us to their home and I got to run in shorts in November.

Darrell, Joe, Wes--pre race

Logistics were fun.  Darrell priced all sorts of flights from Los Angeles, got a deal to fly into Nashville, which was on my way.  So I picked him up in Music City Friday afternoon, we drove on to Wes' house, started the conversations and were up at oh-dark-thirty on Saturday morning to get to the race site.  Wes had run this race several times and it is so good to have a local guide!  DeeDee joined us for the day with her keen photographic eye and thus all the pictures here are her high-resolution handiwork.  

The timing worked well...we got through packet pick up, necessary ablutions and  were in the pack of about 1,600 runners just a few minutes before the race started.  DeeDee knew what to expect at the start and positioned herself precisely to see the Civil War replica cannon blast to send us off.  No photoshoping here, folks...this is a great picture and done with perfect timing!!

New meaning to the term "starting gun"

The three of us discussed just what our race strategy was going to be.  Since we are all very polite guys, we all deferred to each other for the better part of the drive from Atlanta to the race site.  We settled on a rhythm of running to each mile marker, then walking 30 seconds.  With such a plan, we rumbled off into the woods through the beautiful National Park though which this race winds.  The day was sunny and crisp, temperatures around 40 at the start.  The course was all asphalt with just enough roll to make it interesting.  The conversation was great and we were enjoying it to the hilt.  The early miles clipped by in the 9:20s. 

At about mile 4.5, however, I began to sense in my breathing was quicker than I expect to see early in a marathon.  I mentioned this to Darrell and Wes; Darrell knows me well, took a quick look in my eye and realized I had settled the matter in my mind already.  We wished each other well and off they went.  I then settled into a 3/1 run/walk sequence and found my breathing back where I wanted it after a couple of cycles.  Of course, it meant the pace of 9:20ish for the first 4 miles was now to about 10:35 per mile.  But I sensed I was at a pace I could handle.  

Through it all, I was really enjoying the run through the historic Civil War battlefield setting.  The Park was full of markers commerating the units from both sides who fought on this ground.  DeeDee got a shot to honor my current home state here.  

Around mile 8, I saw DeeDee by the side of the road.  She asked where Darrell and Wes were.  They should have passed you already, I replied.  She was dissappointed to have missed them, yet perplexed, as the field was well spread out by this point.  Just then, behind me, I hear the two of them shouting "How did you get ahead of us??"  We were all befuddled, remembering a slight detour a mile or so previous to add a bit of distance for the half marathoners, who zigged while the marathon course zagged and then met up again.  Much to their dismay, the two of them took the wrong route and added about a third of a mile to their day.  It we commiserated a bit and off the two of them went again, DeeDee snapping a photo of our better angles as we ambled off.  

Mile 8--reunited briefly

I continued with my 3/1 pace, just enjoying the day and feeling good.  The course was scenic and varied between wooded areas and open fields.  The sun was brilliant, there was no wind and it seemed like things were lining up for a good race.  

Typical scene along the route

As I finished the first of the two grand laps through the park, I decided to see if I could accelerate a bit.  After hitting the 13.1 timing mat in 2:12:40 (itself encouraging), I bumped my run/walk pace to 4/1 and saw my mile times drop to nearer 10:25.  I hit a wonderful groove.  And isn't it so interesting in marathons how the deeper you go, the more quickly the miles seem to click by.  Before I knew it I was at mile 16, still feeling fine.  

About this time, I pulled out my universal pacing chart, did some math and realized I had a legitimate shot at going under four and a half hours for the marathon.  I had seriously wondered if I could ever get under 4:30 again...I'm not getting any younger and that usually means not any faster.  On reflection, I realized I'd need everything to line up well to get under that mark and today was the day; a friendly course on a cool day with fresh legs.  If I was to get it done, this was my shot.  The race quickly became competitive...with myself.  

I saw DeeDee once more, she handed me a timely banana and it was time to focus for an hour towards the finish line.  

Mile 19-mugging for the camera, asking for a banana

Fine tuning the math as I moved along, I realized a 4:30 finish simply required me to hold the current 10:20 pace to the finish line.  So I stayed with the 4/1, conserving energy, knowing the Wall might hit but also knowing it didn't have to.  I also decided, if I felt good at the time, to run the final 2.2 miles if I could and, gasp, get well under 4:30 on this day on which conditions were all favorable.  

And so it came about.  Miles 18-24 went smoothly.  I had only one twinge during this stretch in my left quad for about 30 seconds -- one walk cycle took care of that.  My last walk cycle came as I saw the mile 24 marker just ahead of me.  I turned off the beeper and leaned into the race, absorbing what was happening.  Mile 25 was fun, at 9:41, taking me to the point I could hear the loudspeaker from the finish line drawing us home.  I hit a little fatigue during mile 26 and it slowed me to a 9:52 but by that point I had only 385 yards to go, which clipped by at a 9:00 pace.  Marathon #33 was in the books.  

Done--first glimpse of finish time.

When I saw the time on my watch, it was a thrill. I appreciate DeeDee capturing my joy in this photo.  4:27:32.  Indeed, well under four and a half hours.  This was the second fastest marathon of this running era, bested only by the 4:21:01 in Portland in October, 2006.  And, I reminded myself, I ran continually in that race, wiped out my ITB and didn't run for nearly 4 months afterwards.  

I should add that I did feel some ill effects from the effort.  I had some cramping in my feet and calves post race, which I had to walk off.  They did fade, as water, electrolytes and food helped.  But I have not seen even minor cramping during recent marathons in the 4:40-4:50 range.  Yet the cramps were worth it...I got under 4:30, the target that became visible with 10 miles left in the race. 

We three amigos met up and basked in the now 60 degree sunshine.  There is something special about getting through such a physical task, sane, thankful for the privilege.  Even better to share it with friends.  

Darrell, Wes, Joe, post race, happy.

Thanks so much, Wes, for hosting us, DeeDee for tolerating these guys invading your life, and Darrell for being a pal.  It was terrific to be together.  

Persevere.  And if you can do it with friends, all the better.  


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Race Report: Muncie Mini Marathon

ORN:  13.1 miles, 1:52:58, run, 8:38/mile

This half marathon was a bit of a quirk.  In a busy fall running schedule, I signed up to fit in some "speed work" in the midst of a series of marathons.  The race site was in scenic and famous Muncie, Indiana, about a two hour drive from home.  It was a small race, with marginal organization but it accomplished what I had hoped.

No fancy strategy on this one...I wanted to do a 1:55 and pretty much ran an even pace.  The route was an out and back (mostly) along a terrific rail-trail.  Dead flat and smooth, it allowed us to run comfortably.   The small field of only 139 people spread out quickly.

From Running-General
Post race at Muncie Central HS.

And that was pretty much hard, finish strong, get in 2 minutes ahead of plan, hop in the car and drive home.  A nice fall Saturday in Indiana.  I don't think I'll do this race again, but it worked well this year.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Race Report: Chicago Marathon 2012

ORN:  October 7: 4:48:28, 11:01/mile, R/W 3/1 thru 20, 4/1 thru 23, run the rest

Brief Summary:  How can I summarize the Chicago Marathon?  It's a massive event, a world-class event, a 26.2 mile street party, a mecca for the best, a magnet for first-time marathoners, a fund raiser for every cause knowable.  And in the midst of 40,000 of my closest friends, I managed to complete my second marathon in a week feeling very good at the end.

Gory Details:

Why the Chicago Marathon?  Why two marathons in a week?  My wife isn't the only one who asked this question.  When registration opened in February, I didn't even bother to mess with it.  I was put off by the high registration fees, the sheer size of it, the associated expense for housing and parking and just plain wasn't interested, even though it is only a little over 2 hours from my home.

But then I spent a weekend with Cory.

Long-time readers of this blog might remember my weekend to the Bayshore Marathon last May.  Cory, a very enthusiastic runner, mentioned he had run Chicago 14 straight  years and had figured out how to do it more efficiently.  Hmmm, I said to myself, if I ever do Chicago again, I'll do it that way.

Fast-forward to late August.  A runner who had registered for Chicago had an injury which made it impossible for him to train.  Did I want the bib, a mutual friend asked me?  Once more I went Hmmmm.    I was registered for the Wineglass Marathon in upstate New York just a week before Chicago.  Could I run two marathons in a week?  I wondered if I could tag along with Cory- could I tap into his logistic experience and cut the total cost of the experience?

The answers were "You'll never know till you try" and "Yes."  I was in.

Part one was Cory's pure enjoyment of going to the Expo on Friday every year, just to see what is available, especially the freebies.  He picked up my bib, saving me the trip and hassle of fighting my way through that mob in downtown Chicago.

Part two was doing the race inside a single day.

Race Day came early...I was up at 3:00am, in Cory's driveway at 3:30am, picked up an hour with the time change and were safely parked in the Millenium Parking Garage near the Start line by 4:40am Chicago time...nearly 3 hours before the Kenyans would cross the starting line.  Cory and I put the seats back and slept for an hour before starting pre-race prep.  After waking up, I fixed some hot oatmeal, using my mobile set up for race-morning eats.

From Running-General

The garage filled up and I guess neither Cory nor I looked like marathon rookies.  Total strangers kept walking up, knocking on the windows and asking us questions.  At the right time, though, we finalized the preparation, put on our throw-away sweats and headed for the starting corrals.

This race is so big, it has three entrances to the starting area.  Cory, a speed merchant, earned a spot in corral C, thus he got to go in entrance 1. We parted here, warmly wishing each other well.   My bib was for corral L, which was an appropriate spot for my expected pace, conveniently.  But that meant I walked over a quarter mile back to entrance 3.  Since all the corrals above "K" would not even be allowed to edge towards the start line until 8:00am, there wasn't a lot of rush.  I had a nice conversation with Bruce and we slowly made our way to the start line.  At about 8:16, I crossed the start line and my second marathon in a week was underway.

I truly didn't know what to expect, so my race plan was flexible.  The weather was wonderful, one of the best years in memory for this race, with the temp right at 40 at the start, not much wind and mostly cloudy skies.  This was a ton better than the 88 degree temps which I described in my Chicago 2010 race report.  So I settled on using a 3/1 run/walk ratio through mile 18 and then evaluating.  My deepest hope for this race was to make the turn onto Michigan Avenue (mile 23.5) and run with joy, enthusiasm and no pain to the finish line.

The race simply unfolded.  I found a rhythm earlier than I anticipated I would, feeling pretty comfortable by mile 3.  Periodic inventories of "how am I feeling?" from the feet up came back positive.  The fans in Chicago are huge; virtually continuous and 3-9 deep in many places near the heart of downtown.

What strategy there was to be in this race came "naturally".  Around mile 4, I really had to find a delay really possible.  Alas, others had similar needs and I stood in line a full 6 minutes, watching thousands pass a few feet away.  Once finishing, I pulled back into the stream of runners and was shocked to see I was just behind the 5:25 pacing group!!  Wowzers, that was no where near my 4:50 target!  How to recover, in the midst of the mobs of runners?

I ran through one walk break, passed the 5:25 group and assessed my plan.  I reminded myself I had run another marathon just a week before.  So, I chose to stick with the 3/1 ratio, be patient and enjoy the ride.

Which I did.  A funny moment occurred around mile 8 1/2.  Running through a row of bars and cafes, one was blaring the local TV broadcast of the race.  On the screen was a reporter interviewing the winner of the marathon, asking him about his strategy in the last 3 miles.  Wow...he's already done, breathing easily, giving an interview and I am a mere eight and a half miles into the race!!  Yeah, that's how big the race is, how fast a 2:04 marathon gets over and how far back in the back I was!

We got back downtown, made the turn west and hit the half-marathon mark.  I was very pleased to see my time of 2:28:27.  That meant I was picking up some time without expending too much effort.  I was pleased with how good I was feeling.

We got to the 15 mile mark, the spot when the wheels started to come off the wagon for me two years ago, and another conscious inventory came up positive.  I was feeling comfortable, gradually passing the 5:10 and then the 5:00 pace groups.    The miles kept clipping by, just under 11 minutes each.

At mile 18, I assessed whether or not to bump the ratio to 4/1.  I felt just a bit of fatigue in my quads, so opted not to change and reassess at mile 20.  We got to mile 20, where a bank thermometer stands guard (which showed 51F, a wonderful contrast to the 88F I hit at the same spot in 2010), and I decided now I could bump the pace a bit.  Remarkably, the 4/1 felt better than the 3/1 at this point.  I kept passing people.  We motored through Chinatown (always a fun point), headed out towards US Cellular Field.  In these miles, I was very happy the advertised banana handouts were available.  While I usually like to stash bananas along the course the night before a race, I opted not to try this on Chicago's South Side on Saturday :-).  The bananas were perfect...I ate four half-bananas between mile 17 and mile 23.

We crossed the Dan Ryan freeway, wound through ITT and, marvelously, there was the left turn onto Michigan Avenue.  I could not get the grin off my face as I approached the inventory was only positive and I realized my goal for the race was virtually in hand.  I made the left, gave a high five to a spectator, turned off my beeper and proceeded to run continuously the final 3 miles.

And what a run it was down Michigan.  It was everything I had hoped it would be. I was smiling, basking in the atmosphere of this world-class event.  Mile 24 clicked off at 10:16.  Around mile 25, I passed the 4:50 pace group--another milestone.  At the mile 25 marker, my watch showed a 9:30 fastest yet for the day.  I was passing many, many people, having to weave my way along.  Eventually, I could see the final right turn of the race, and I knew it was nearly over.  We turned on to "Mount Roosevelt" (as this, the sole hill of the race up Roosevelt Avenue, is humorously called) and midway up, I hit mile 26 with a 9:16 mile, the fastest mile of the day.  A left turn, a short downhill and the marathon was done.  4:48 and change...I beat my goal, felt terrific and finished marathon #32, my second in a week.

Post race was just fun, as it always is when you feel good at the end.  I grabbed some food, called my wife, shot off some texts and made my way back to the car.  Cory was waiting for me...he's so fast, he had a tight hammy and still ran a, he's good.  I pulled on some warm clothes, we walked to a pasta place on Michigan Avenue for a post-race-carbo-load and then drove home.  I took a shower and went out to dinner with my, what a fun, full day.

The race was more than I could have hoped for.  The two races were astounding.  I was incredibly blessed to have nearly perfect weather on consecutive weekends, which certainly helped.  Amazingly, I had no blisters, no soreness, no pain, no physical problems at all in the days after Chicago.  I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to run.

There is more to add about run/walk and race plans but that will wait for another post.  Thanks for enjoying this with me.



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Race Report-Wineglass Marathon and 5K

ORN:  September 29:  5K, 37:30, 12:06/mile, R2/W1
           September 30: 26.2, 4:38:55, 10:43/mile, R3/W1 thru 18, 4/1 thru 24, run the rest

Brief Summary:  What a wonderful weekend with my sister, brother-in-law and wife in the beautiful fall colors of western New York!!  It was a fabulous time to be together.  And, by the way, I ran a 5K with Anne and enjoyed the most excellently organized Wineglass Marathon as well!   Both races went marvelously yet the time with family was the best.   Lots of photos follow. 

Gory Details:

Last spring, my sister Anne invited me to consider running the 2012 Wineglass Marathon in Corning, New York.  She did so because a) she knows I like marathons, b) she and her husband Dan live just five blocks from the finish line of the race and c) she thought it was time enough for me to come visit them.  So I wrote back and added a fourth reason.  Anne began running herself last winter and I noted the organizers had added a 5K race the day before the marathon.  "How about you and I running the 5K together and it's a deal?"  We quickly agreed and the plan was set for a family get-together for no good reason other than simply being together and running.  

Gretchen and I drove out on Friday and it was terrific to see Anne and Dan.  She had picked up our bibs for the 5K and my packet for the marathon, so we were set.  Friday night saw Anne and I fully engaged with race planning for our epic 3.1 mile journey through downtown Corning, including the necessary ritual of overthinking just what layers to wear for the low 40s temperatures predicted at start time.  This, of course, provided great entertainment value for our spouses.  Gretchen is quite used it but Dan found it particularly amusing to see "the two Ely kids" willingly throw themselves into such inane detail. 

Of course, we had already started working on this detail months earlier.  One of our older sisters, the family historian, had found an old photo of Anne and me taken on her third birthday, which made me almost six years old.  Anne scanned it and had it put on the back of our T shirts...and here you can see the video of us donning the clever, matching shirts on race morning.  

We then stepped onto the deck for the details of the shirt backs.  She always has been way cuter than me.  

We walked to the start and it was so much fun for me to share a running event with my sister.  About 200 of us lined up to run.  Anne knew a lot of folks, since she and Dan are very involved in Corning community activities.  The gun went off and we found a 2/1 run walk to fit well for us.  We enjoyed the beauty of the morning and being part of what was a big sporting weekend in Corning.  Anne was also happy we weren't last.  Thus, it was a highlight at mile 2 for us to pass a mother/daughter duo, both much younger than us, even though the Mom was planning to BQ the next day in the marathon.  Shoot, she even looked fast...but we left them in our metaphorical, active-voice-loving, hyphenated-adjective dust.  

There was a nice crowd at the finish line and Anne hit her target time, feeling good and enjoying the entire event.  What a treat this was!  Gretchen and Dan enjoyed watching the two of us enjoy this I suspect had more than a few chuckles. 

We walked downtown for a cup of coffee, ran into even more 5Kers and marathoners, which was cool for Anne to feel part of.  Saturday afternoon, we visited a museum near the start of the marathon in nearby Bath, NY, then drove the point-to-point marathon course on our way back to Corning.  I was thrilled with what I saw from the car...a very runnable, visually-appealing course.  Naturally, as is my custom when possible, I stashed a banana around mile 17 and another at mile 22.  More chuckles from the back seat, but, hey, I can deal with it.  

Marathon race morning came after a reasonable night's sleep.  I slipped out of bed without waking anyone, fixed some oatmeal and walked to the buses parked at the finish line.  It was so cool to amble through the dark and quiet of an early Sunday morning...the proverbial calm before the storm.  I caught the second bus to the start line.  The ride out to Bath was enjoyable as such pre-race bus rides often are...the chatter of excited runners, comparing notes, some nervous, some quiet, some trying to wake up, some trying to calm down.  The start was kind of in the middle of nowhere but the organizers nicely arranged for a county truck garage to be open for us to stay warm for the hour or so before the gun.  

The race started right on time and we were off.  Boy, I appreciate accurate and prompt start times.  

My race strategy for Wineglass recognized this race was Part 1 of a two-part experiment;  could I run two marathons in seven days? I was scheduled to run the Chicago Marathon the following Sunday, October 7.  I'd never run 26.2 so close together.   How would I manage this race in order to enjoy the final three miles down Michigan Avenue in the Windy City a week later?  

From my experience in May at the Bayshore Marathon, I decided to use a 3/1 run/walk through mile 16, then, if I felt OK, bump that to a 4/1, and then, depending on how I felt, running the last mile or, gasp, the last two miles, continuously.  The flat, net-downhill course certainly helped.  The most helpful thing, though was the weather; low 40s at the start, mostly cloudy, with no wind...doesn't get much better than that.  

The early miles went well.  Had some nice conversations and, as usual, once past mile 5, the miles really started clicking by.  

Before I knew it, we had passed the halfway point, with my watch showing 2:22:39.  I was pleased with that, felt fine, and kept the plan going.  Around mile 16, I had a marathon "first"--my phone rang and it was a work colleague back in Indiana calling with a question about a project in my area which she was organizing over the weekend.  I don't think I gave away that I was actually in Coopers Plains, New York running a marathon as we discussed the pros and cons of an equipment purchase unexpectedly required.  It's great to work with good people and I assured her she'd make a good decision and I'd back her choice.  I had a disappointment at mile 17--my banana was not to be found...but not a big deal...I stayed with my homemade "gu" and still felt fine.  

At mile 18, I had a decision to I uptick to a 4/1??  Evaluating from the ground up, it sure seemed like a good decision...this day was rolling out well.  I reset my watch, maintained my running pace at 9:45 on my Garmin, but doing more of it.  Predictably, my aggregate per mile pace dropped from the upper 10:40s to the lower 10:20s.  Not predictably, I found myself feeling better and better as the miles ticked off a little faster.  Whether psychological or physiological, I don't know but it was real.  My banana at mile 21 along the Painted Post Bike Path was right where I stashed it and provided a boost for me and entertainment for fellow runners and a few spectators.  A public service I seek to provide.

We were now into the outskirts of Corning proper.  Thanks to the course tour the day before, I knew right where I was in relation to the end.  I was still feeling good and, as I approached mile 24, I decided to turn off my beeper and run the rest of the way.  And, man, what a trip the last two miles were.  At mile 25, my watch showed a 10:09 mile, followed by 9:32 at mile 26, my fastest of the day.  We crossed the bridge nearing the finish line, under the watchful eye of Little Joe (no relation), and I was pumped.  

A final left turn onto Market Street awaited and the pace quickened.  I scanned the gathering crowd for my family and what a boost to see them.

Anne was in full voice and full cowbell mode.  

Technologically prepared, Dan caught the final stretch on video, a wonderful memento to have...thanks, Dan!

And thus I crossed the finish line, grateful and humbled to have finished marathon #31,  doubly grateful to have had it happen in the midst of a beautiful creation and along with family.  

My chip time was 4:38:55, officially.  A negative split by over 5 minutes.  Amazing.  

My family looped around the finish line and found me about two minutes after I crossed the finish line, leading to this impromptu "interview" with Dan.  

Epic stuff...I'm sure Al Gore would be honored.

After the race, I had a second conversation with Pascal Radley.  He saw me in the truck garage at the race start and introduced himself, which I appreciated.  Pascal ran a 4:02 at the Circular Logic Marathon (where I'm the RD) last March and we had great talks before and after the race.  He ran a 4:30 at Wineglass which was his 47th marathon during 2012. He said "I'm livin' the dream" and I guess so!

How cool to finish a marathon, then take a short walk to Anne and Dan's home to clean up and enjoy the rest of the weekend.  I had no blisters, no soreness, no pain; a marathon with no "wall" doesn't always happen this way but when it does, it is sweet.

As I said at the outset, the weekend was a wonderful time with family which happened to feature a very enjoyable marathon.  Gretchen and I headed home early Monday, as I shifted my running sights to the Chicago Marathon...would part 2 of the experiment blow up or would Michigan Avenue be kind?  Stay tuned.