Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Race Report: Carmel Marathon 2012

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:33:25, R/W 6/1, 10:27/mile

Quick Summary

The Carmel Marathon went wonderfully.  A cool day on a flat course following adequate training miles added up to my fastest marathon since October 2006.  Even better was holding a steady pace throughout.  Photos and story below.

The Gory Details

The Carmel Marathon is in its second year, a flat, straight-forward run through this tony suburb on the north side of Indianapolis.  It fell nicely into my spring schedule and, since it is only an hour from my home, was essentially local.  

Race morning routine for runs in Indy is now very familiar.  Up at 4am ish, out the door and head south.  A local running pal picked up my packet the night before and we arranged a meeting spot at 6am near the 19 mile mark of the marathon.  This also provided a creative spot for me to stash a banana and some trail mix and still have time to score a really good parking spot one block north of the start/finish line.  With no real rush, I was able to get set and amble over to the Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatic photo op.  I'm in the last row, on the left.  It was fun to see a lot of Hoosier MMs gathered.

From Running-General

It was also a treat to run with the indefatigable and photo-driven Dave Mari again...Dave's ability to put names and faces together is amazing.  And he's everywhere!!

From Running-General

The race started right on time at 7:30am.  About 1,700 marathoners and half marathoners flowed seamlessly onto the city streets.  Temperatures were cool, in the mid 40s at the start with a 15mph North wind.  It was a perfect day to run, even though volunteers were really chilly.  

Race strategy looked like this:  With the cool temps, I decided to push it (for me, pushing it) which means a run/walk ratio of running 6 minutes and walking 1 minute and during the run segments holding a 9:45/mile pace.  I used this same strategy last November on a similarly cool day at the Veteran's Marathon, which panned out well.  Could I do it again?  The real test was just how deep into the race I could hold that plan.  

The course was, frankly, unremarkable.  Carmel is a lovely suburb with gracious homes and fine parks, all of which we wound around and through.  But, what more can I say??  It was a flat suburban race.  So, let me give you the stats.  

I held back early and hit the 10K mat in 1:05:14...on pace.  Temps stayed was mile 11 before I pulled off my sweatshirt and stashed it under a bush to retrieve later.  And I kept the pattern, hitting the half marathon mat at 2:16:44.  And it continued into the second half of the race.  I kept holding the 6/1 and had to work, regularly, to keep from running faster than 9:45 when I ran.

From Running-General

It was still chilly by mile 17, as you can see in the photo above.  The wind had its impact but didn't really bother me much.  By this time, I could feel my left IT band a bit but not to the extent I felt it at the Kal Haven race four weeks earlier.  There were a few folks to talk to but the 560 or so of us marathoners were pretty well spaced out.  I simply enjoyed the run.  At mile 19, I pulled my banana from the landscaping of a hotel, did it taste good at that point!

Mile 20 hit at 3:29:40.  I checked my Universal Marathon Pacing Chart and noted I had nearly 2 minutes in hand on a 4:40 finish.  Could I hold this pace and get well under 4:40??  Even, gasp, under 4:35??  I kept the 6/1, 9:45 pattern, still having to hold back during the run segments.  I decided I'd hold the pattern through mile 24 and then "let go" (as much as a slow 58 year old engineer can "let go").

A little way past the mile 24 marker, it was clear the Wall would not show itself on this day.  Around 24.5, I turned off my 6/1 timer and ran the rest of the way home.  Here you can see me around mile 25.3, in the artsy part of downtown Carmel.  A buddy of mine is fond of saying "I've never seen a jogger smile, so that's why I don't jog."  Well, here's proof, my friend!  I felt truly this relaxed and good with less than a mile to go.

From Running-General

The end sequence resembled that of the Chicago Marathon, consisting of a gentle incline to mile 26, then a corner leading to a downhill finish line.  While having nowhere near the numbers of Chicago, it was still a nice finish.  I continued to accelerate, feeling strong, and hit the finish line, genuinely excited.

From Running-General
Kaboom.  Marathon #27 in the books.  I find the finish of a marathon never gets old and is really, really fun every time.  

And the numbers were fun too.  My finish time was 4:33:25.  During the entire drive home, I was trying to do mental math to compare the first and second half times...but there were too many numbers.  It was worth the wait, though.  My first half time was 2:16:44.  My second half time was 2:16:41.  A negative split by 3 entire seconds!!  Sweet!

A further stat from the organizer was even more encouraging.  I ran the last 10K of the race a full 90 seconds faster than the first 10K of the race.  I've never seen anything like that in a marathon.  I guess I held back well enough.  

So, the race went well.  I had fun running.  And one more fun thing.  

As I was pulling out of the parking lot, I saw a familiar face walking from the finish line.  It was Jim Simpson, the veteran marathoner who I met when he ran the Circular Logic Marathon in March.  I had heard he was running and was so pleased to see him.  We had a wonderful chat.   It turned out this marathon was his 898th lifetime marathon.  He was headed to Ohio the next day to run the Earth Day Marathon, then on to Delaware the next weekend for his marathon #900.  Wow...900 marathons.  It's amazing.  We reflected on the gift of health, the ability to get up each day and the even better gift to be able to run.  It was a wonderful chat with an amazing guy. 

Next race for me is the huge Half Marathon in Indy on May 5, where I'll run with a buddy I used to work with and 35,000 of our closest friends.  Then it's to Traverse City, Michgan on Memorial Day weekend for the Bayshore Marathon.  Two weeks after that, a trail marathon in southern Indiana.  

It was a good day to run in Carmel.  Thanks for reading along.  



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Race Report: Circular Logic Marathon 2012

The inaugural Circular Logic Marathon happened!!  The germ of an idea which hit me during a cold, windy 20-mile run in January, 2011, took root, engaged a handful of others and bloomed on Saturday morning, March 31, 2012 as a full-fledged marathon.  Here's the essential story, with lots of photos and a couple of short videos.

Running during the winter in Indiana can be a miserable experience.  Cold, rain, slush, grey, wind.  On such a day over a year ago, I wondered how I could do something to both encourage my fellow midwesterners to run through the yuck AND how I might "give back" to the running community by organizing a race.  I run so many races...each one has an organizer and many volunteers...I needed to do my part as well.

My original effort was to organize an indoor marathon on the very nice 200m track at Purdue's Lambert Fieldhouse.  I got the support of our running club, made efforts from February through October of 2011 to gain Purdue's approval but, alas, could not gain any interest from the key university authorities.

Sensing the need for a Plan B during the summer of 2011, I wondered if we could do something outdoors.  I regularly run through a city park and realized one day certain trails could be connected to form a loop which, to my eye, measured about 1 mile.  I ran this loop with my GPS and, indeed, it was one mile.  I traced it carefully on Map My Run and found a way to make it exactly 1.0 miles.  Could we do it?

Late last fall, I proposed this idea to our running club's officers and got their backing; to the city Parks and Rec department and got their enthusiastic support; and to Jake Franklin, a local guy who owns a race timing company, whom I knew I'd need to have to count laps accurately.  It all fell together amazingly smoothly and quickly.  So, I cobbled together a race website, posted the date on, Marathon Maniacs site and a few other Indiana sites, used a measuring wheel to get the course at 1.00 miles, sat back and wondered if I was truly crazy this time.  Seriously, Joe, would ANYONE actually sign up for a marathon consisting of 26 trips around a one-mile loop in late March in Indiana?

They would.

Race Day came at last.  We had 85 individuals sign up for the marathon, 75 of whom toed the line for our 9:00am start.  In addition, we had a free-form marathon relay which attracted 16 teams consisting of over 80 individuals.  Temperatures were in the upper 40s, with overcast skies and only a mild breeze on a flat course...ideal running conditions.

The wife of one of our relay captains sang the National Anthem, one of our original running club members rang her U of Wisconsin cowbell to start the race and off they went.

After the pack crossed the start line, I stood there for a moment with a buddy of mine who was helping with the timing.  "Mat, we are actually having a marathon!  It's really happening!"  It was quite a moment for me and it was cool to share with a friend.  Reality returned quickly though, and I headed backwards down the course to make sure we got the first lap done correctly.  We added the Point Two miles onto the first lap, involving a short out and back about 3/4 of the way around the park.  That all worked perfectly, thanks to some terrific volunteers at that key junction.

And so the race was started.  I was astounded how well it went.  Space won't allow all the observations but three things turned out to be very special to the runners.

Litter-free Hydration.  I wanted to try something only a loop race allows...having zero paper cups for water.  We asked all our runners to bring their own water bottles, marked with their bib number.  Then we put them in numerical order on a table where they could grab it each time round, if they wished.

And what a menagerie of bottles it was!!  Really beautiful, in an odd sort of way.  Every shape and size, all lined up.

When runners came past, our water station crew, about 8 people in all, would spot the number and hold out the runners own water bottle.

My son David, who helped at the table, captured it best when he said "Dad, it made every runner feel like an elite champion!"  Indeed it did.  The volunteers got to know the names of each runner.  So, each time past, the runner got some personal encouragement, as well as a custom refill of water or Gatorade.

About 30m down the course from the water station was the key to all this.  We stationed laundry baskets there, into which the runners threw their bottle.  Our crew then carried the baskets back, refilled the bottles getting low, and put them back in order.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Here's a 45 second video of the whole process, featuring several fellow Maniacs, to boot.

We got fantastic feedback on this worked way better than I had imagined it would.  Runners just LOVED the personalized service and thought it was awesome we left no litter.  Indeed, cleanup was a breeze at the end.  Sara, who led the effort, and her team perfected the process continuously throughout the race and we have a whole list of things to do even better next year.  But I get ahead of myself.

Personalized Bibs.  The second thing that seemed to make the race go well was our bib system, another idea that hit me during one of my long runs last summer.  In races, we always wear bibs on the front of our shirts.  But, as runners, how often to we see the FRONT of another runners shirt?  We normally only see the back of shirts.  So, I thought, since we'll have more than normal back-seeing on this loop course, so why not make a second bib for each runner's back with their name and home town, so folks can get to know other a bit more easily?  I found a bib making company who was game for this and so we did it.  You can see this bib, along with our race medals in this short video I shot on my dining room table the afternoon before the race.

And some of the bib names were just plain funny:

Amazing what a simple thing like this brought to the race--it really made it personal and let people connect much better with each other.

Another thing we did with the bibs was allowing people to pick their own bib numbers.  That was a hoot...many people had special numbers they requested.  The most clever of all was the one selected by Bryce Carlson.

Bib problem there.  But look closely at the bib in the picture.  Right after he registered and picked 314, he emailed me and asked if I would take a marker and add a decimal point to the bib, which I did once they arrived.  Bryce correctly figured out he could be 3.14, the mathematical constant pi, the perfect number for someone running the Circular Logic Marathon (not to mention thrilling me, a Purdue engineer with clear nerdy tendencies).  And, the bib apparently was key...Bryce won the race, leading from wire to wire, nearly a mile ahead at the end!  Here I am presenting the trophy to him!!

Lap Counting Team.  The third thing that worked well and became personal was our chip timing system and people.  At the start/finish line, Jake had his RFID system set up to read the chips attached to the back of each person's front bib.  This eliminated the need for a timing mat, something which might prove a trip hazard after 26 trips across it.

At the finish complex, Jake had two flat-screen monitors set up and he programmed his system to put up, on each screen, the name of the runner detected along with the number of laps he/she had completed.  Our runners loved having this reliable count, every time around.  In addition, it told them the name of whoever was near them at the crossing, further enhancing getting to know people.

In addition to the electronic timing, we also had a back up...four folks with clipboards and pencils, whom you can see standing here as Deb Thomford, our women's winner, knocks off another lap.

Jake had this idea, knowing we needed a secondary way to reliably count laps.  He divvied the field up into quarters and each person had those numbers to keep track of.  Again, the counters got to know the runners and greeted them enthusiastically each time around.  It was a special part of the race for all our runners, they wrote and told us.

And, while all of these things made the race personal, the course itself helped.  Family and friends could see their runner every lap.  Many kids jumped in to run a time or two around the course.

I was personally honored that two of the most enduring names in marathoning joined us in our inagural race.  Jim Simpson, the legendary marathoner from Huntington Beach, CA and Larry Macon, the world-record holder for most marathons run in a year, both ran our race.  What incredible gentlemen!!  They were as encouraging and gracious as could be.  The two of them, along with veteran 50 state marathoner Russell Cheney walked the last 8 or so miles together and were the final of our 65 marathon finishers.  I was humbled to be able to give these terrific guys their medals at the end, as the sun finally came out on what became a beautiful spring day.  What a treat to meet them and be with them.

From Running-General
Russell not only ran the race but he and I have had a wonderful email conversation since on ways to further improve the event.  It was a terrific treat to have them with us.

If you'd like more race info, look at our YouTube Page, our photo/video page, and the race participants' comments on

It is quite an experience being a Race Director...very different from being a runner.  It is a lot of work, more than I expected, both before and after the event.  But, then again, I was hoping for 30 runners to show up...and we had over 160 participants.

The big question:  Will we do it again??  Yes we will.  Set the date:  Saturday, March 23, 2013.

Once more, a reason to train through the winter.  Once more, a chance for me and others to give back.

And a chance for all of us to persevere.