Monday, May 28, 2012

Race Report: Bayshore Marathon 2012

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:40:16, R/W 3/1 thru 10, then 4/1,  10:42/mile

Quick Summary

The Bayshore Marathon has most scenic marathon course I've ever none.  26 miles of Lake Michigan, friendly spectators and wonderful fellow runners on what turned out to be a perfect spring day to run.  A negative split by almost 4 minutes, even splits and a new experiment in pacing all made this a terrific race.

Gory Details and Pix

The Bayshore Marathon is a very popular race in Traverse City, Michigan, a resort town in the NW corner of Michigan's lower peninsula.  Runners World called it a top 10 destination race and I can see why.  I've been trying to get into it for three years and finally figured out this year I needed to register the day it opened.

Fellow club member Cory and I made the seven-hour trek on Friday and had plenty of time to drive the course when we arrived. was all I had hoped for.  During the drive I stashed bananas and some trail mix at miles 15 and 19 of the out and back course.  We picked up our packets, grabbed a light supper and sacked out.

The weather in much of the Midwest for race day was very warm.  Fortunately, we were far enough north to avoid the worst of it.  Temps were in the mid 50s at daybreak, cool enough for me to wear cotton gloves for the first 8 miles.

Cory had arranged a hotel just a quarter mile from the start line.  We were out the door at 6:15 and jogged over to the start line.  The jog was telling for Cory, though.  He had tripped and fallen while coaching his daughter's soccer team on the Thursday before the race and deeply bruised his tailbone.  It hurt and he was hoping it would ease up enough to let him run.  A 3:09 marathoner, Cory was antsy to run.  He said he would have to make a race-time decision.

We lined up and I couldn't resist getting a photo with a sign I never get near.

From Running-General

I lost track of Cory as I joined the crowd around the 11 minute start sign.  The gun went off right at 7:00am and we shuffled away, another marathon started.  But, about a quarter mile in, Cory caught me from behind, looking sad.  He decided there was no way he could go 26 this day, his tailbone hurt that badly.  It was a tough call but he had to make it.  We agreed we'd just meet up back at the hotel after I finished.  I really felt bad for him...a competitive and quality person, I knew it was disappointing for him.

My race day really is captured in three areas---the course, the people and the times.

The course is just fantastic.  A marathon is 26 miles long and, of necessity, most courses go through some less-than-lovely stretches.  But not this one.  The first mile wound through a college campus with graceful shaded streets.  Then we ran on three roads alongside Lake Michigan.  Beautiful lake houses lined these roads. Lots of the residents set up in lawn chairs.  Most had cowbells.  And more cowbells.

From Running-General

And the course just never quit.   There were no ugly portions.  The lake was beautiful.  The houses were terrific.  The people were fun.  The cowbells were plentiful.  The music was loud and fun.  It seemed before we knew it, we were near the turnaround.

I'm glad this course was out and back.  No way you want to loop when you have 13 miles that are this beautiful.

From Running-General

The evening before, I had stashed two bananas and a bit of trail mix in two places; under a pile of leaves near a culvert at Blue Water Road (mile 15) and behind a stone wall at mile 19, where we turned onto Center Road.  Both were perfectly ready for me on the return trip.  And yummy.  

From Running-General

The conversations I had with people during the race were just awesome.  I'm not sure I'll even get them all, but here are a few:
  • Brian, my local running pal with whom I ran the HUFF 50K, was there running as a coach for Team in Training.  We had nice chats before and after the race.
  • Larry Macon, the world record holder for marathons run in a calendar year, entered and I ran mile 3 with Larry.  He ran the Circular Logic Marathon here in March, remembered that race and we had a fun chat.  I asked him if he was on pace to beat his world record this year.  He said he was but didn't know if he'd keep the pace.  I suspect that means he will!
  • From Running-General
  • "Mad Dog".  Fellow Maniac Mark was out there and spotted me first at registration.  Mark ran Circular Logic as well and we see each other several times each year.  He's an animal and knocked off a 4:22 marathon.  
  • From Running-General
  • The Kalamazoo Crew.  I spent a lot of time leapfrogging a group of seven women from 'zoo who had trained together and were running their first marathon.  They were fun and had lots of questions.  They succeeded, too. 
  • Ron and Cathy were a couple from central Michigan with whom I ran a couple of miles, marveling together at the beauty of the course and reflecting together on the privilege of even being able to get out of bed each day.  
  • Don is a computer dude from near Detroit who quit smoking two years ago restructured a big portion of his life and was also taking on his first marathon.  His foot was hurting him, so he joined in my run/walk sequence for about 3 miles.  He was a cool guy.  
  • From Running-General
And then there was Kimberly.  

From Running-General
Just past mile 19, she asked if she could join in my 4/1 run/walk sequence and we ended up running together all the way to the finish line.  It was her first marathon as well and we talked a lot about running, as you might imagine.  She felt tired and wondered aloud if she was hitting The Wall she had heard so much about.  As we chatted, I assured her the fact she was lucidly inquiring as to the vicissitudes of mental acuity at this stage of extended exercise assuaged any concern about the Wall which reduces your mental abilities to something only slightly above a Lake Michigan brown trout.   She really handled the final miles well, despite the fatigue.  The 4/1 run/walk ratio seemed to work well for her.  Our conversation expanded to interesting elements of her job, why electrolytes are important, the aforementioned cowbells, Bill Cosby's famous "We're Gonna Eat Ice Cream", the deeper meaning behind classic rock lyrics and why engineers are so geeky.  It was a ton of fun and sure helped those last miles go well.

Which leads to the numbers.  

This race was Part A of a two-part experiment to see if I can enjoy marathons only 14 days apart.  Part B will be a trail marathon in southern Indiana on June 9, the Indian/Celina Challenge.  So I decided to run Bayshore with an easier strategy I'd never tried before.  I ran a 3/1 run/walk sequence through mile 10, then shifted to a 4/1 for the rest of the way.  Boy, did those early miles feel easy.  And I was able to hold the 4/1 to the end, doing the last 7 along with Kimberly.  

It was only when I got home and could analyze the mile splits from my Garmin that I realized just what had happened.  In none of my previous 27 marathons have I had  such consistency of pace.  Every Single Mile of my race had a time between 10 and 11 minutes.  The slowest were miles 2 and 3, at 10:59.  The pack was slow at 2 and I was talking to Larry Macon for most of 3.  My average over the first 10 miles was around 10:48 per mile.  When I switched to the 4/1, the splits quickened a bit to around 10:35 on average.  

As we neared the end of the race, the pace improved. We passed many people and were passed by none.   Miles 23, 24 and 25 clocked through at 10:42, 10:30 and 10:27, respectively.  Just before the mile 25 sign, Kimberly looked at me and said "Do you think we can run all the way in?"  I said I was game but she made sure I turned off my timer. "I don't want to think about any walk break I might be missing!" she said with a verbal quickness further demonstrating she had not hit The Wall.  And off we took, passing even more people, enjoying the encouragement of all the people lining the route, motivated by even more cowbells.   In so doing, we logged the fastest full mile of the my day, doing Mile 26 in 10:04.  We just kept barreling along doing the last partial mile to the finish line at an 8:30 pace.  

My final time was 4:40:16.  I hit the 13.1 mile turnaround in 2:22:04, which meant my second half of the marathon took 2:18:12, a negative split by almost 4 minutes. Astounding.  Marathon #28, in the books.  

From Running-General
Post race was fun.  Gotta love the icy cold chocolate milk and fresh ice cream.  The race medal was terrific and the race T shirt fit and felt better than the vast majority of race shirts.  A quick shower, back in the car, recapping the race with Cory and home again.  My legs feel great, two days later.  

This is a terrific race...I recommend it and had a terrific time.  Thanks for staying with me for a long race report!!



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shoe Re-calibration

Much overthinking follows in this warned!!

As a practitioner of kaizen, both personally and professionally, I usually make small changes and evaluate.  Lots of small changes, regularly.  The big move??  Not so much.

Yet, sometimes kaikaku is more appropriate than kaizen.  Kaikaku means making a major change, well considered, a step which fundamentally alters a process.  And knowing the difference between the two is the key.

All this applies to running shoes, our most fundamental piece of equipment.  I've had two kaikaku moments surrounding shoes in the last 8 years. I may have had my third last Saturday.

When I started this era of running in May 2004, I had no clue about current running shoe technology, having not run regularly since 1990 or so.  After some false starts, I first visited a real shoe store in Indy in November, 2004, discovered Brooks and got into a pair of Adrenalines.  See the story here.

Those shoes worked wonderfully for me until the late fall of 2006.  After running the Portland Marathon that October, I locked up with regular ITB pain in both legs.  In February, 2007, I made another visit to a different running store and discovered the big, honkin' Brooks Beast.  See this story here.  The behemoth of running shoes, it gave me the super control I needed and cured the ITB issue.  I've gone through 14 pairs of Beasts since, with no injuries.  It worked.

Recently, however, I wondered, are the assumptions I made six years ago still valid?  The biggest change in that time is the weight I lost in 2010.  I was at 205+ lbs when I got the Beasts.  I've been at 175-178 since August 2010 and I can tell the difference.  Amazing how well running can go when you leave two bowling balls at home.  The Beast is designed for big guys.  Am I still "big"??  

With this on my mind, I made another trip to a specialty running store last Saturday, a local shop which opened this spring just a few blocks from my house.  I lugged in three old pairs of shoes, two pairs of Beasts and my one remaining pair of Adrenalines.  Once more, the owner of the store spent a lot of time with me, not in a hurry, looking at my shoes, looking at me running barefoot on a treadmill, talking first and trying on shoes later.  I deeply appreciated the attention and care.

We observed two important things.  First, my pronation (inward foot roll) is now hardly observable.  Running barefoot showed a nearly neutral landing on my left foot and only a touch of roll on my right foot, despite my high arches.  Secondly, my foot measures to a size 10 shoe.

The first fact indicated that the Beast may indeed be too much shoe for me now.  The second fact indicated I probably had the wrong combination of shoe size and sock. I've been wearing size 12 Beasts and two pairs of socks--a thin liner sock and a very heavy outer sock.  As the owner pointed out, the "cushy" sock contributed to  more foot movement, somewhat like running on a sandy surface.

So, we dismantled these things and, after a lot of iterations, I returned to Brooks Adrenalines once again, this time version 12.  And, importantly, size 10 1/2.  A full size and a half smaller.  Wow...what difference will the mere size change make??

Inside the shoe, I am trying a very thin sock, the Balega UltraLight, size L.  I found the thin sock inside the smaller shoe worked.  It's also kind of a funky sock, in that it has a left and a right sock in each pair.  Further, the sock is made in South Africa, the place where I began running in 1978 and did my first two marathons in 1979 and 1980.  Gijima, bonkosi, gijima!  (Zulu for "run, people, run!")

This experiment will extend through this summer.  I have two marathons in the next three weeks...following the maxim "nothing new on race day", I'll wear the Beasts in both.  From that, we'll see how the new system rolls out on longer runs.

I warned you this post had some extreme overthinking.  Thanks for riding along!!

Persevere.  Shoot, you already did if you are still reading!!!


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Race Report: Wipe Out Obesity 5K

ORN:  6am--10 miles, trail, 1:56:32, R/W 6/1, 11:40/mile
           9am-- 5K race, 23:50, 7:40/mile

Fun races pop up all the time this time of year.  On Tuesday, I learned of an event which had a fascinating story- the Wipe Out Obesity 5K

It seems two fourth grade classes at our local school have been working on a multi-week project, culminating in a 5K race designed to raise awareness of childhood obesity.  In talking with one of the teachers, I learned how it was a cool learning opportunity.  They made a big, multi-week project out of it, with a structure, committees, reports, presentations, math, can see how you could incorporate a lot.  In many ways, they taught the kids project management skills without probably calling it such.  It was the type of event I wanted to support.  And I also wonder if I shouldn't hire some of these kids in a few years.....

The event was quite a success, as about 230 participated by either running or walking.  The kids did the announcements, wrote and delivered the pre-race speeches with all the details, down to thanking the grocery who donated the bananas and water.  They even led us all in stretching exercises before the race!!  To boot, they asked and got our mayor to show up and be the official starter.  It helps he's a pretty good runner himself but it was still a nice feature. 

All in all, the kids did a good job.  Somehow, the fact that registration a bit disorganized and it started 25 minutes late and a couple of course turns weren't too clear didn't really matter much.  The kids handled the stuff that seemed important to them and what they missed simply flowed from a lack of experience, which you'd expect for 10 year olds.

I had fun too.  With the Bayshore Marathon just a week away, I needed to get some decent miles in today.   So I did 10 miles on the trail to Fort Ouiatenon early, then headed to this race, with about an hour between.  As I ran the race, my own thoughts flowed back to my school days, particularly to Kenny Hutton, my High School math teacher who was mostly responsible for me becoming an engineer.  Mathematically competent but socially weak, one of his more "inspirational" maxims was his cynical statement to us "If you make the pond small enough, any of you can be a big fish."  With respect to running speed, today's race was a very, very small pond.    

I looked around at the start and didn't see many folks who looked like experienced runners, other than Mike, my work colleague, fellow engineer and former U of Toledo cross country star.  I suggested to him "You could win this, dude."  He shrugged but seemed open to the idea. 

The mayor fired the gun.  All the kids bolted off but faded after a couple hundred meters. Mike and one other guy predictably took the lead.  But, to my surprise, by the half mile mark, I was in 5th place.  How did that happen?  I looked at my Garmin and saw "6:40" on the pace.  Oh my.  So I backed off, wanting to basically see if I could carry a sub 8 pace.  Eventually the brother of one of the organizing teachers caught and passed me but that's how it finished out.  My miles were 7:17, 7:50, 8:11 and the last tenth at a 7:47 pace, with my overall time 23:50.  I was 6th place overall out of the 200+ participants.  Had they had age groups, I would have easily won my division, as the first 5 runners were one HS kid and four twenty-something guys.  To go sub 24 after doing 10 trail miles early was nice.  After I got home, I noted this was the 2nd fastest 5K I've ever run, just 15 seconds off my PR.  Who'd a thunk it??  

After finishing, Mike, who did win the race, and I watched many others finish.  Wow.  I was surprised how many, many people were totally and completely gassed after doing 5K.  Toast.  I knew a lot of them and they were struggling.  "Man, I barely survived" was the common theme.  

And I think that may be the success of this event.  As my wife pointed out when I got home "If 2 or 3 folks left and said 'Boy, I gotta do something to shed some pounds and get in shape' it's all worthwhile."  And the kids just might have caused that to happen.  It ain't just childhood obesity with which our society has to deal.  



Monday, May 07, 2012

Race Report: One-America Mini Marathon

ORN:  13.1 miles, 2:19:59

This race, the biggest half marathon in the nation,  is just an hour down the road from me.  It was the 9th time I've run this race and was the most fun I've ever had.  While there were nearly 32,000 finishers, it was my time with two others making this race so special.

Back in January, a former boss of mine from my previous job connected with me.  Stan had recently begun running regularly and we had some good chats about it, resolving to try to run a race or two together.  He then entered this race and asked if I'd like to run it with him.  While I had not planned on running "The Mini" (as it is known around here), the chance to run with Stan was a real draw, so I signed up.  Stan's been a friend for a long time and I really looked forward to being with him.

As we corresponded, it turned out Stan's daughter Rachel was also planning on running.  Rachel had actually worked for me at that company, so I knew her, albeit a decade ago.  So, all the logistics lined up and, race morning, we met at their hotel in Indy and began our most excellent day.

From Running-General

When Rachel had worked for me, she was just out of high school, a quiet, bright kid, working part time and going to school as well.  Fast forward ten years; she subsequently married and now has three kids, ages 6, 4 and 2 years.  As we caught up, she described how she discovered how much she came to enjoy running.  So much so that she ran through most of her pregnancy with her second child;  "I even ran two miles the day I delivered him!! Not that fast, though!" she told me!!  "My midwife told me it was OK!!"  Wowzers.   She continued to enjoy running, a hobby she shares with her husband...that's a requirement for a lot of the cooperation to get any sort of training done!  Both of them had hoped to run this race, but Craig's ITB flared up.  Rachel did the training, though, and this was her first attempt at a half marathon.

Stan, Rachel and I lined up together in the middle of the throng, in corral M.  We originally intended to run together.  It took about 14 minutes to cross the starting line and off we went.  Around mile 1.5, Stan eased ahead and enjoyed his own pace, finishing his first half marathon as well, in 2 hours flat.  I decided to stay with Rachel, however.  It was fun to catch up and run a race non-competitively.

The early race went smoothly.  We got onto the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the signature element of this race, a full lap on this most famous of all car racing courses.  We chatted with each other, other runners and enjoyed the time.  Here's a video I shot on the front stretch of the IMS, about mile 7.5 in the race

And lots of folks paused to kiss the famous "Yard of Bricks" that marks the start/finish line of the IMS

From Running-General
The trip back downtown is often a challenge in this race and this year was no exception.  The day was warmish and very humid.  I could tell Rachel was hanging in there but tiring.  We walked some, stayed fluidized and mostly I was trying to monitor how she was doing so she could finish.  I was really proud of how she instinctively made adjustments along the way.  Around mile 10.5, she asked me "Is it normal for my legs to feel like mush now?"  I assured her it was normal and asked her if she was lightheaded or dizzy at all. Not at all, she responded.  "OK, you are tired but not are fine."

We carried on and made the final left turn, meaning one mile to go.  We took a walk break and then Rachel looked at me with a sly grin and said, "Let's do this!"

And off we went.  I let her set the pace...and wow, did we start moving.  We were passing people left and right.  I peeked at my Garmin to see the pace down to 9:10, then 8:45 and ultimately 8:20 as we neared the finish line.  Utter joy...she finished strong and nailed her first half marathon.  Check out this photo, about 2 minutes after we finished.

From Running-General

It was a treat to run together.

From Running-General

We met up with Rachel's Dad and husband afterwards and went out for breakfast for more conversation.  What a treat.

So, a great day, making something very personal out of a huge event that can be quite impersonal. I had so much fun and what a treat to be with good people, good friends, good folks for many years.

Persevere.  The best friendships do just that.