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.