Monday, December 30, 2013

Race Report: HUFF 50K 2013

ORN: 6:32:01, R/W 3/1, then 2/1

Quick Summary:

The HUFF 50K on December 28, 2013, was a most enjoyable ultramarathon.  The weather was kind, very kind, the course was welcoming and the people friendly as always.

Gory Details:

The HUFF 50K has a long and storied tradition, both in Midwest ultra running and for me personally.  It's been around for 17 years now, a fixture on the calendar either right before or right after Christmas, depending on where in the week the holiday lands.

I first ran the HUFF in December 2004...9 years ago.  Here's a photo of me at the close of that race.  At the end of this post is my photo after this year's race.

The HUFF offers both the 50K and a 10 mile option.  I took the latter in 2004, only 8 months after I started my second era of running.  Before that date, I had not run farther than 8 miles in the new era and had never run on trails.  The HUFF that year served to show me I could run longer distances and also gave me a taste of the exhilarating and challenging elements of trail running.  It's a hoot to read my blog post from the 2004 race and see how my view of running has evolved.

Fast forward to this year's race, now in its third edition in a venue 25 miles north of the one I ran in 2004.  I've run all three of the 50Ks at the eponymous Chain O' Lakes State Park.  Both long-time readers of this blog might recall my deeply philosophical report on the 2011 race (with knee deep, 34F water throughout...still the hardest race I've ever run) and the happier (and shorter) report on the 2012 event (a pleasant day in the woods, with snow wafting down and me taking a hard fall).

I drove up the night before the race and stayed in Columbia City.  Given the new diet I moved to nearly three years ago now, the traditional runner's "carbo load" dinner has given way to a perfectly sized spinach salad for supper.  Thanks, Bob Evans, for having such healthy option on the menu!!

I checked into a motel, where the desk clerk remembered I had stayed at the same place the night before the Veteran's Marathon about 7 weeks ago.  That's impressive when someone remembers an individual like that.  After a reasonable night's sleep, I was up at at oh dark thirty and was parked in a primo spot at the race site at 5:45am.  I picked up my bib and stayed warm in my car, enjoying oatmeal and thinking about the day.  Or should I say "over thinking".

"Over thinking" is an issue for me generally and it all hit home for this race.  The temperatures were forecast to start in the low 30s and get into the mid 40s by the end.  That overlapped the temperature at which I shift from wearing tights to shorts.  Yet, the actual temperature, even before dawn was 34.  Back and forth I went, but ultimately decided to wear shorts, if for no other reason than to simply say I ran in shorts at the end of December in Indiana.  This proved to be the right was perfect to be in shorts all day.

My other "over thinking" didn't work out so well.  What shoes to wear?  I had brought two pairs of my usual Brooks Adrenilines with one pair modified with sheet metal screws in the bottom, as shown below (and blogged about here ).

My decision rested on what trail conditions would be.  From the weather and what trail reports were posted on-line, I expected to encounter mostly dirt with some mud.  So, I ultimately chose to not wear the screw shoes.  That proved to be a mistake, as I'll describe.  

The sun rose and the nearly 900 runners in all events (460 50Kers and the rest in a 10 mile loop and a 50K relay) gathered.  As usual with logistic delays getting people into the limited parking in the park, we started 10 minutes or so late.  During the wait, the assembled Marathon Maniacs quickly posed for a pre-race photo...sure good to see many of these folks at yet another event.  

The gun went off, we had a short run on a park road, then turned into the woods.  You can see me making this turn, towards the left in shorts, a minute or so into the race.

There was more than a little snow on the ground.  Unexpectedly,  a localized snow squall put about an inch of fresh snow on the ground in the park overnight.  As we began the race therefore, I quickly found I was running on packed, slick snow, pushed down by all the runners ahead of me, not the bare dirt I had planned on.  I was surprised by this and kept expecting it to clear.  This saga would continue.

Other than that, man, what a wonderful day it proved to be to run!!  The sun had just risen as we  headed into the woods.   The empty trees gave a constant view of a cloudless blue sky and the modest 7mph southwest wind was of no consequence and kept the temperatures warming.   The course along the lakes in the park yielded some fantastically beautiful views of the sun reflecting off the icy surface of the lakes as you can see in this photo one of my fellow runners snapped early in the day.

With more clarity of thought, I had decided  to use a 3/1 run/walk sequence, as that pace lets me go comfortably over long distances.  Once the crowd thinned by mile 3 or so, I shifted into that sequence and the day settled into a rhythm.

Around mile 5 or so, there was a stream crossing which represented the only real water on the course this day.  Here's the sequence when I came to can see the "conga line" forming to cross on the stepping stones rather than going calf deep through the stream.

That crossing done, the course just rolled along.  By this time, it was warming and I soon stuffed my bulky mittens into my fuel belt.  It was perfect to run in shorts.

During the final portion of the first lap of the 15.5 mile course, I reverted to over-thinking mode regarding footwear.  I had not put my screw-shoes into the drop bag at the start/finish line.  These homemade beauties were still in my car and getting there would require an extra half mile or so of running.  Should I do it?  You can see the internal debate.  I finally decided that I would swap the shoes, despite the necessary detour.  At least I had scored the good parking spot.

I came across the timing mat in 3:01:05, thrilled to be at 3 hours half way through.  I then dashed up the hill to my car, changed shoes, dumped my bulky mittens, texted my wife and nephew/brother John with news of the race so far and asked an unsuspecting but helpful passerby to snap this photo of me.  She admonished me to look enthusiastic...I guess an "over thinking" face looks worried, not happy!!

From there, it was back on the course.  And, within a quarter mile, I could tell the difference.  Even though the rising temperatures had melted some snow, the ground was still icy and the screws truly gripped a lot better.  I wished I had worn them from the start, both for the grip on lap one and to avoid the 8 minute "pit stop".  But, hey, we all learn.  

And lap two proceeded comfortably.  Mostly, I was alone in my thoughts with just a few conversations.  One of the funniest happened on a hill climb.  Many times, people have initiated a conversation with me based on a race t shirt I'm wearing.  But this was different...a lady I passed asked "So, did you enjoy the Bayshore Marathon?"  Wow, how did she know that...I'm wearing a Brooks night life vest with no advertising.  Then she said "I have a pair of socks like yours."  Sure enough, in all my trail runs I wear the socks which were a giveaway at that race with the race name knitted around the top.  And this lady actually spotted my socks!!  What a hoot.  We had a nice chat.  All due to a pair of socks.  

Mostly, though, the race was about the scenery and serenity of the woods, well captured in this photo.

The miles just kept clicking by on the second lap, which always amazes me.  How is it this thing came to be, where it is enjoyable to simply run and run and run??  I never lose the enjoyment of that fact.  

By mile 26 or so, I noted more labored breathing, accompanied by a soreness in my left hip, around the abductor muscles.  What to do?  I didn't over-think this too much, for once.  From experience, I knew I needed to keep hydrating and I also decided to cycle back from the 3/1 to a 2/1 run/walk ratio.   Mentally, I was a touch discouraged to hit the hit the 26.2 mile mark at about 5:29...gee, a five and a half hour marathon, that didn't do much for me.  But, hey, guy, this is a trail ultra and you also spent 10 minutes changing shoes and posing for a photo!!!  OK...let's just keep moving. 

By mile 27, the slower pace allowed me to recover and the good feeling came back.  The last four miles of the race were pure fun.  I ran well during the run segments, enjoyed the woods when I walked and was thankful for the whole experience.  About a mile from the end, I came by a four-way trail intersection which was familiar to me since this is my third time to run this course.  Not so for a young couple who had been just ahead of me for some time...they very nearly made a wrong turn and would have run three extra miles rather than heading for the final mile towards home.  They looked around, slightly confused, and asked directions.  I was able to help them and we all had a good laugh about the "brain mush" which happens after 6+ hours of running.  

And home we headed.  We crossed the park road for the last time and I ran continuously the final 3/4 mile.  There was a nice collection of runners and family around the finish area and the smiles and cheers truly helped.  I hit the finish line, feeling just fantastic and so thankful.  Marathon/Ultra #45 was done.  

My final time was 6:32:01, placing 249th of the 400 finishers and 8th of 15 in my AG.  It was my best HUFF 50K, by almost 5 minutes over last year's time.  In the days post-race, I had no pain, no soreness, just the usual tired legs, ready to get going again.

It's been a good year of running for me. It's been a good nine years of running.  It's nice to have the same race at both ends of the gig.  And we'll keep the gig going...I already have the 2014 HUFF on my race schedule.  


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Race Report: Veterans Marathon 2013

ORN:  November 9: 26.2 miles, 4:42:46, 10:48/mile, R/W 3/1

Summary:  The Veteran's Marathon in Columbia City, Indiana became an enjoyable long training run coming, as it did, only 7 days after a hard-run marathon.  It's amazing to me it could be so much fun to knock off two marathons in a week's time.

Gory Details:

Even after 40+ marathons and ultras now, I find it fascinating that the remarkable thing about a particular marathon is that there was nothing really remarkable about the race.  This was a nice long run on a sunny windy day with no pain, no wall, no hassles.  It was a small field, so I had only 2 or 3 conversations.  Most of the time I was by myself, enjoying the solitude of distance running.  So, since my experience was fairly unremarkable, I'll simply make a few remarks and add a few reasonable photos.
Pre-race with prime number bib

Since I had a business meeting the day before the race in the same part of NE Indiana, logistics were simple.  I booked a room in Columbia City, was up at 5, drove out to stash four bananas next to a fence post which we would pass four times, parked near the start line and lined up on time.  The race started with a bang, as a local cannon reenactment group fired off a blank howitzer round.  Off we went.

The course this year was simplified, with a single loop of 13.1 miles east of town which the marathoners ran twice.

Around mile 5

The cap I wore was the right weight for the day but, when running into the wind, I had to flip it around to keep from chasing it off into the nearby corn fields.

Mile 10..wind flipped my cap around

I finished the first loop in 2:18:17 and got a few smiles from the traffic police as I  headed for the second lap, saying "Hey, let's just do this again!"  But that's pretty much what we did...just do it again, only this time with fewer people and the 200 or so marathoners well spread out.

My map-reading skills helped the race prep, as the course layout had a one-mile ish segment which we traversed four times.  A particular fence post along this stretch was at miles 5, 9, 16 and 20.  The four bananas I stashed there were perfect for fuel and made for some funny looks each time I jumped down in the weeds and came up with curved yellow fruit.

The last five miles went quickly for me.  The mile splits were all the same as the rest of the second half but mentally they just zipped by.  We got back into the heart of town and it was over.
At the finish line

I was six minutes slower in the second half than the first (2:24:48) but I noticed both the men's and women's winners, friends Jason Gillette and his sister in law Laura Gillette, also had a six minute slippage over the last I felt OK.  Final time was 4:42:46, good for 134 of 206 overall and 12 of 21 in my AG (which stands for Almost Geezer, 60-69...when I turn 70, it'll be JPG, Just Plain Geezer).

Post-race w/ Andrea and Boris

I did see quite a few people I know from local races.  I snagged this photo with fellow Maniacs Andrea from Wisconsin and Boris from Michigan at races end.

And that's it!  Another marathon done.  It's been an enjoyable stretch of racing during our fine fall weather, with five marathons, two half marathons, a 15K, a 4 miler and a 5K in 11 weeks.  I am fine, though, to not have another race until the HUFF 50K on December 28.

Thanks for reading.  Persevere.


Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Race Report: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2013

ORN:  November 2, 2013; 4:07:28, a PR!  Run (mostly), 9:27/mile

The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon is a well-administered race which, on a perfect day to run, afforded me the opportunity to set a PR in the marathon. I did not hit my sub four hour goal for the race but I was happy nonetheless. The marathon is an outstanding and relentless teacher.
Gory Details
This race was the second in a series of three this fall which I hoped would land with good weather enable me to make a serious attempt at getting under 4 hours for the marathon. I could not have been better served with the combination of course and weather I had on November 2nd.
The Monumental Marathon is in its sixth year. It represents a substantial effort by organizers to bring a "big city-style" marathon to Indianapolis. They have succeeded in many respects, as over 13,000 people signed up for the 5k, half marathon, and marathon.
I drove down the morning of the race. I had intended to go down by myself. However a wonderful surprise emerged when a neighbor (who knows of my enjoyment of running) phoned on Thursday night before the race and I asked if I could give a ride down to her nephew. Said nephew and his wife and three children were staying at our neighbor's house and no one was interested in dragging 3 preschoolers in the pre-dawn darkness to go stand in the cold while Daddy went running! This turned out to be a wonderful surprise, as Chris and I discovered much in common during our drive down. We are both old baseball players, he a pitcher/outfielder, me a catcher. The competitive juices we both stoked on the diamond from childhood through college we now flesh out via running. It was a treat to get to know Chris and also a treat to see him after the race and hear of his 3:27 time the first time he's ever run 26.2.
My race revolved around an attempt to get under 4 hours. I've written about this in previous posts and I had a strategy I hoped would work.  With a flat course beckoning, race day dawned dry , with temperatures in the low 40's. Perfect, a real path to hit these splits.
What I had not anticipated was the sheer size of the crowd wedged into running the city streets of Indianapolis. The gun went off precisely on time and the 10,000 or so half marathoners and marathoners begin a winding path through the heart of the city. While, on paper, the course went past many of the famous sights of the city, the turns and potholed streets required one to pay close attention in the midst of crowd. I knew I needed to keep each of my early miles at or slightly under 9 minutes. This proved difficult in the pack. My first five mile times were 9:15, 9:08, 8:32, 8:56 and 9:05. They added to exactly 45:00, on track, but more effort in bobbing and weaving than I had anticipated.
By mile 7 we had a little bit of space yet it still felt very crowded as we moved from having curb to curb to simply having a coned-off single lane of well-traveled streets. By mile 10, I was 29 seconds over my expected pace and even though the half marathoners had pealed off on their trip back downtown, the course remained crowded. I discovered not surprisingly that I kept running into that large pack of runners surrounding the four-hour pace group leader. I wanted to get slightly in front of them and did so occasionally. But merely walking through a water stop, which was part of my core strategy, often let them pass me again. At the half marathon mat, I was dead even with the four-hour pace leader but my time was 1:58:21. I went to Purdue and I can do math and I know that 4 hours divided by two is not 1:58:21! I think the pace dude was a little quick.
Shortly after the halfway point, we pivoted back towards downtown Indianapolis. Unfortunately, this course continued to narrow while the blob of runners at this pace remained the same. From mile 14 through almost 17 we were wedged onto one lane of Meridian Street, one of the busiest in Indianapolis. Much traffic zoomed by just outside the cones. At the 17 mile mark , I was a full minute behind my projected pace. Most of my miles where the 9:02 to 9:20. From miles 18 to 20, we wandered down progressively narrower paths and side streets, I was plotting just what I would be doing the last few critical miles.
I hit the 20 mile mark at 3:01:49 nearly 2 minutes longer than the 3 hours even I had targeted. As mile 21 stretched to mile 22 it became evident that the turnover I needed to keep the pace was not going to happen on this day. It was not a function of the weather or the crowds or the pace or anything. At this point I simply couldn't keep up with the rabbit chasing the 4 hour marathon.
Therefore I modified the plan hoping I could still get a PR. I reset my watch to go back to my run walk sequence, this time using the three minute run, one minute walk routine. As it has so often done, it restored my legs and gave me some confidence as to how I can finish. We turned back onto Meridian Street heading straight south into the heart of Indianapolis at mile 23, where I gathered my wits to see if I could get ahead a PR.
I hit mile 25 just under 3 hours and 56 minutes. I knew that if I applied myself I could certainly cover the last 1.2 miles in less than 12 minutes. So apply I did. It was just work at this point...block by city block, keeping it going, despite the wind in my face inbetween the tall buildings. We made it to the State Office buildings, two left turns and the finish line. I hit my watch and was thrilled to see the digits 4:07; a new PR on a legitimately measured marathon course I was thrilled.
Within about 30 seconds after crossing the finish line, a gentleman walked up to me and said "Joe Ely, how nice to see you!" I looked up and it was Bob Kennedy. I met Bob the year and a half ago when he ran our first Circular Logic Marathon, for which I am the RD. Bob is pursuing a wonderful goal of being the first man in the United States to run a sub four-hour marathon in each of the 50 states after turning 60 years old. Bob returned to Indiana to run the Monumental and succeeded, logging his 44th state a few minutes earlier, finishing in 3:53. Bob and I had corresponded quite a bit about the strategy necessary to consistently run marathons under 4 hours at our advanced age. I attempted to integrate many of Bob's hard-learned lessons. Some I did not execute as well as he did. Others truly worked well. Bob was both empathetic and insightful about my finish. It was really good to see him again. I admire the work he has done.
While the weather was perfect for running, I got chilled quickly while walking and chatting with Bob. So I headed for gear check, picked up the dry clothes I had left and walked to the Indianapolis Convention Center about a block away. It was wonderful to change into a dry shirt in a closed, well-lit, virtually empty, clean restroom! From there I walked back to my car, thankful my legs my feet and my spirit felt terrific.
In summary, I'm very pleased with this marathon despite the fact I did not get my supreme goal. I truly ran this race as hard as I could. I'm thrilled with the stat sheet I paste below (despite being the slowest "Ely" in the race!). I have complete peace that I "ran the best race conditions allowed", as my motto in running has been for a number of years now. Will I again attempt a sub four marathon? Right now I don't know, I have a hard time imagining running a marathon much better than I ran at the Monumental. And, if I never run a marathon quicker than 4:07, I'll be fine.
And this is one of the beauties of the marathon. It is so long, it is so hard, it extracts so much of you physically and mentally, yet is the fairest and most demanding teacher of any physical endeavor. And if we just keep learning from it, we are richer for it.
Persevere my friends and keep learning.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Race Report: Boilermaker Half Marathon 2013

ORN:  October 19;  13.1 miles, 1:58:03, 9:00/mile, run

It was nice to have a real race in my own backyard last week.  The Boilermaker Half Marathon covers familiar turf, starting and finishing outside Purdue's football stadium and touring West Lafayette, Lafayette, the Wabash River and the Purdue campus.

As a Purdue grad and citizen of West Lafayette, it was great to be part of this event.  As a runner, it also served as a dress-rehearsal for my attempt, two weeks hence, to run a sub four hour marathon at the Monumental Marathon in Indy on November 2.  So, my objective in this HM was to emulate exactly what I want to do over the first half of my target race coming up.

The weather was in the low 40s and it was rainy when I arrived.  About 10 minutes before the gun, the rain let up, runners quickly bustled out of the warmth of their cars and we were ready.  Just then, the son of some good friends spotted me and asked if he could run.  He had finished his first marathon just 6 days earlier, running a 3:31 at the Chicago Marathon.  He wanted to just "work out the kinks at an easy pace" and my 9 minute plan sounded good to him.  Off we went, with Ross and me in active conversation about all that is the Chicago was nice.
At around mile 4, Ross pealed off, looking for some other friends and I ran most of the rest of the race by myself, even though there were lots and lots of familiar faces to greet.  I really wanted to focus on hitting my marks and keeping the 9 minute pace with continuous running.  Both of you long-time blog readers will recognize this is a shift from my usual run/walk approach.

There were hills in this race, much more than I will see at the Monumental Marathon.  But they didn't seem bad to me at all, though others complained loudly about them afterwards.  I hit one odd spot, mentally/physically, around mile 8, when I wondered if this was really a good plan.  By mile 10, I was fine again.  This was a good reminder that I will hit ups and downs at this level of effort and my mind needs to remind my legs that "this is the plan...stay with it."

My mile splits worked out like this:

1-5:  9:06, 8:49, 8:48, 9:18, 8:32(downhill!)
6-10:  8:52, 8:42, 9:28, 10:12 (uphill!), 8:55
11-13:  8:53, 9:17 (last hill), 8:31

I hit the finish at 1:58:07.  My race stats were also encouraging, as I placed 472 of 1,285 overall (I'm seldom in the top half) and 4th of 16 in my brand new age group of 60-64 (did I tell you I turned 60 on October 9??!! Ha!).

Post race, I saw and talked with Stan, a friend of many years who began running a couple years ago.  What fun to see good people and have substantive conversations!!

My finish time worked to an exactly 9:00/mile pace...just what I want do to in 2 weeks.  If I can hold a 9:00 pace through mile 19, then hold a 9:30 pace to the end, I'll have a sub 4.  So, things are lining up for my second attempt at going sub 4.  We'll see how it works out and will report it all, right here.

Persevere, at whatever pace works.


Friday, October 04, 2013

Race Report: Heritage Trail Half Marathon 2013

ORN:   September 29, 2013:  2:49:30, run, 12:57/mile


It was inconceivable to me, even a year or so ago, I could finish, much less enjoy, two marathons and a half marathon in the span of eight days.  Yet it happened and the Heritage Trail Half Marathon on September 29 was the wonderful finale. Running this race with my oldest son David in his first ever half marathon and first trail race made it even sweeter.

NOTE:  This is the third in the series of three blog posts on 8 amazing days of running.  Here's the report of the first marathon and the second marathon.

Gory Details:

Last summer, my daughter in law told me she had decided to enter a local trail half marathon on September 29 as part of a long-term training plan.  She wondered if I'd run it with her.  Of course, I said, you don't have to ask me twice to run, especially with a family member!  She was concerned I'd run too fast...then I told her I was already registered for a marathon the previous day, so I'd certainly not be speedy.  The plan was on.  

Life zigs and zags however, as we all know and as my own recent racing schedule showed.  Such was the case for Susan.  The week before the race, she sensed this half was just not going to work.  So, she asked her husband, our son David, if he would like to take her bib and run.  While David has been running some, he's not gone much over 6 miles ever and wondered if he dared take on 13.1.  Further, the closest thing he'd come to trail running was some required overland hikes while he was in the Army.  Yet, he was game for an adventure, worked out the entry transfer with the organizers and we were set.  

This trail race is the closest thing ever to a "home court advantage" for me.  The total trail is about 13 miles long and extends in a long, gentle arc along the Wabash River.  If this arcing shape of the trail were an archery bow and you stretched the bow string from start to finish, my house would sit almost exactly at the midpoint of the taut string.  I can easily drive to either end in less than 10 minutes.  I run part or all of this trail at least 20 times each year for many of  my long runs.  So, I know it well and it is fun to run a real race on such familiar turf. 

I got home from my marathon late Saturday afternoon, David and I worked out the time to meet at the start point and we met up an hour before the gun.  While it had been hot and humid the previous afternoon, contributing to the dehydration I felt in that race, we had rain through the early morning hours of Sunday and it continued to rain as we sat in David's car anticipating the race.  We discussed how muddy it might be...I suggested the extensive sand on this route would drain much more quickly than a dirt course.   David pulled up the radar and noted the rain was due to be finish just before the 8:10am half marathon start, and, even as he spoke, the patter of rain lessened.  Indeed, by the time the marathoners lined up and went off at 8:00am, the rain stopped.  Ten minutes later, the half marathoners we off and we even got a photo of the two of us crossing the start line, David leading the Ely Family Charge. 

It was so much fun to head into the woods with David and all the others.  The overcast skies kept the temperature right at 60.  The trail was indeed wet from the recent rain.  We had mud, some slippery, some puddles.  It's always interesting in such settings, though, to see how people react.  You can always tell those who enjoy trail running, powering through the mud and just getting on with it.  Others try to keep their shoes clean.  I was proud of David rapidly grasping the reality of a day on the trail. 

I let David set the pace on the single track trail.  And what fun it was to run along with him, chatting away, coasting through the woods.  It's hard to describe just how enjoyable this was.  The last six miles of the hot, road marathon the day before had been a grind.  The first six miles of this race, the next morning, were pure joy.  My legs felt fine, the pace was solid, and it could not have been more fun. 

Both the marathon and half marathon ran out 6.6 miles and then returned to the start, with the marathoners doing this route twice.  We began passing the tail end of the marathon pack and I saw several folks I knew.  Not the least was my second chat in two days with running legend Jim Simpson.  Jim was quietly doing marathon number 128 for his year and told me, with the wetness of the trail, he thought he'd mostly walk this one.  "I can't afford an injury," he said, "because I have about 50 more of these to do this year."  He's a dude...and is planning some 50 marathons in the remaining 3 months of 2013.  Wow.  

David and I got to the turnaround point, took a short walk, and headed back, continuing to enjoy the day.  The ground had had over an hour to dry by this return trip, most of the base was sand and so was much firmer now.  We actually found places to open up and run.  Around mile 9 or so, David really felt good and gradually pulled away from me.  It was fun to catch glimpses of him through the trees on ahead and then I couldn't see him any more.  We pulled through an aid station and I was happy to see he didn't bother to wait for me there...that meant he was running well and enjoying it.  I too enjoyed the final miles.  With about 2 to go, I still had plenty of spring in my legs, amazingly, so I opened up and ran in hard.  

David powered to the end and came across the line in 2:40:49 chip time (there is a 10 minute offset on the running clock below).  

It was great to see him waiting for me when I came across the line in 2:49:30.  

We quickly began comparing notes from the race, like a pair of veteran runners.  It was really cool.  David clearly enjoyed the race, the distance, the trail, the atmosphere, the runners, the chatter, the effort, the finish, the camaraderie.  I suspect, in a small way, he also understands his Dad a touch better now.

David also demonstrated one characteristic normally reserved for experienced runners; he planned his shirt just for the photo op at the end.   Look carefully at his photo above... I also zoom in on the front of his t shirt with this screen shot:

Yep, it's a salute to bacon, his favorite.  He's a fine son, indeed.

The race was a wonderful capstone to an amazing 8 days of running for me.    Words don't quite capture it fully but this post-race photo gets part of it.

Thanks for reading.  Persevere.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Race Report: Mill Race Marathon

ORN:  September 28, 2013;  4:52:53, 11:10/mile, R/W 3/1,4/1,2/1,1/1

Under a hot autumn sun just 6 days after running a 4:08 marathon, I ran the inaugural Mill Race Marathon in Columbus, Indiana on Saturday, September 28 in 4:52.  It went well early but the heat and leg fatigue took their toll over the last 5 miles.

NOTE:  This is the second in the series of three blog posts on 8 amazing days of running.  Here's the report of the first marathon and the half marathon.

Gory Details:

About a year or so ago, long-time running buddy Larry Wasson let me know he was shooting to run his 100th marathon in a new event not far from his hometown in southern Indiana.  I first met Larry on the plane flying back from the 2006 Portland Marathon and we've run into each other many times since.  With his invitation to this interesting race, I signed up early.

However, as I described in the description of my previous race, our son's visit on leave from the Army coincided with this marathon, so I didn't think I'd be able to be part of Larry's celebration.  But, in another zig and zag, our son had a late change in plans, shifting back his arrival by a few days.  Thus, this race was back in play.  This meant two marathons in 6 days...I decided to take it on.

To celebrate Larry's wonderful accomplishment, fellow Maniac Todd organized a dinner the night before.   It was a fun bunch to be with and the conversation ranged well beyond the usual talk of races, paces and laces.

It was neat to sit with Larry, a terrific guy, very humble and others-focused.  I was thrilled to be part of the celebration. 

A mutual friend in the group was Terri, a runner from my town who "blames" me for introducing her to the Marathon Maniacs!!  She also grew up near the race site, knows Larry and is a generally enthusiastic person.  It was a fun evening.  But the night before a marathon guarantees such events include no alcohol and end early!

As the weather was nice and my plans changed late, I decided to camp the night before the race.  I'm really coming to like camping and it sure saves a lot of money when you run a lot of races each year.  I had a site way off by myself in the campground, slept well, was up at 5am and easily got to the race site 2+ hours before the gun.  The organizers handed out parking passes at packet pick up (really, really well-designed packed pick up, I might add), so I scored a parking spot, literally, 25 meters from the finish line.  Little did I know how grateful I would be for that closeness later. 

I registered for this race so early, I had forgotten they gave us the option to personalize our bibs.  So, I was thrilled to see my choice.  This was particularly nice since the race site is quite close to Purdue's arch-rival, Indiana University.  Boilermakers always enjoy tweaking the Hoosiers.  I had fun with this one all day.

When it works out, I really enjoy taking a slow, quiet walk around a race start area well before everyone shows up.  On this morning, I observed a familiar-looking pick up camper, parked incongruously near the start line.  California plates, unmarked, at a marathon race site.  It really looked liked the truck belonging to one of the most famous runners of our country, the legendary Jim Simpson.  I wondered if I'd see him.  

Race time grew closer and had a chance to see some fellow Maniacs and then pose for the obligatory Maniac prerace photo.    Here, I'm with Michael Hoyt, on the left, and Danny on the right.  I didn't get the name of the guy on far right.   Michael is quite the photographer, so I have him to thank for many of these pix in this post. 

Finally, the race started on time at 8:00am.  The weather was nice early but I knew the legs would be fatigued from the effort the previous weekend.  So, I settled into a 3/1 run/walk pace for the first 10 miles or so.  That seemed to work just fine.

A real treat happened during mile 3.  I saw a tall, thin guy just ahead of me and I realized it was indeed Jim Simpson.  I came up along Jim, introduced myself as the race director of the Circular Logic Marathon, which he had run 18 months ago and we were off on a wonderful conversation for the next half hour (photo of Jim and me at CLM).  Jim said he has now logged over 1,100 marathons lifetime and this race was his 127th of 2013, with 50 or so more to go.  Amazing. We ran three full miles together, had a great talk and then he urged me to go on ahead as he wanted to slow down a bit.  What a treat.  I embed down below a wonderful video of Jim from last summer in which we describes how he runs, eats and lives.  That video is the real deal.

From there, the race just kind of flowed.  Columbus, Indiana is famous for architecture which is both unusual and unexpected in a small Indiana manufacturing town.  We saw much of it and it was nice.  However, around mile 11 or so, we ran out of "town" to see and so did about 10 miles in open, unshaded, less interesting areas of town plus countryside with corn fields.  We even, literally, ran through the small local airport.  Yes...we ran right next to small airplanes warming up. At mile 10, I was on track for a 4:43 marathon.

At mile 12, I upped my ratio to 4/1.  In retrospect, that was not a smart move.  But it worked well for a while.  At mile 15, I had improved slightly to a 4:42 projected finish.  The open space and the meandering course was taking a bit of a toll for me mentally.  It felt like we were in a giant line for a ride at Disneyland, such was the serpentine nature of the course.  It's not easy to fit 26 miles of running into a small town, I know.  But I just started noticing all the winding around in this section of the race.

At mile 20, I was still on a 4:42 projected finish time, amazingly.  But that was the last time I could claim that.  By mile 22, the pace had slagged and by mile 24, it was clear I'd be over 4:50.  I actually moved my run/walk ratio all the way back to a 1/1, I felt so flat.  We were finally back in a shaded, residential area but no amount of water dumped on my head was counteracting the humidity and temps now in the low 80s.  Eventually, we made the final turn, the finish line was in sight and I ran the final 300m to finish at 4:52:53.  Amazingly, I was 14th of 28 in my age group of 55-59...I'm usually lower than half way, so I must have not been the only one affected by the heat.

But the real story of this race was still to come.

As I walked through the finish area, I found I was not terribly thirsty and had a touch of nausea.  I also didn't have enough wits about me to recognize this was a clue of dehydration.  I walked the (very short) distance back to my car, pulled the camp chair out of my trunk and sat down to pull my shoes off. feet both immediately cramped up, requiring much walking to ease.  This cycle of sitting, one or both feet cramping, painful walking continued for nearly 90 minutes.  I changed into dry clothes and really wanted to drive home.  But, every time I sat in the driver's seat, a foot would cramp and the safety issues were obvious.

I finally accepted I'd just have to wait this out, so I grabbed some money, walked a few blocks to the city's post-race street festival, bought a wrap that had some sort of filling and a Diet Coke and slowly had lunch.  That seemed to do the trick.  A half hour later, I was feeling better, walked to the car and headed home with no further incident.

This spooked me a bit, as I have had no such dehydration issues since the bad situation I had at the close of the 2010 Chicago Marathon (blog post).   In retrospect, I realized I simply didn't drink enough fluids early enough.  The cool start to the race faked me out.  I should know better but didn't on this day.

So there it is...marathon #42 and the second in a week.  But more fun followed the next day when I ran a trail half marathon with my oldest son!!!  Stay tuned and do persevere.

6 minute video of Jim Simpson.  Amazing stuff here!!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Race Report: Back On My Feet Marathon

ORN: Sept 21, 2013: 26.2 miles, 4:08:55, 9:31/mile, R/W 5/1 (mostly)

Summary:    I took my first shot ever at a sub four hour marathon and ended up with a PR of 4:08:55 at the Back on my Feet 42K Relay and Marathon on September 21. I learned a ton about what effort will be required if I am to ever get sub 4 and had an enjoyable race on a perfect autumn day.  

NOTE:  This is the first in the series of three blog posts on 8 amazing days of running.  Here's the report of the second marathon and the half marathon.

Gory Details:

As Dwight Eisenhower famously said during WWII, "Plans are nothing.  Planning is everything."  This became evident as I got into the meat of this year's marathoning schedule, which I outlined a few weeks ago.

My first marathon of the fall was to be on Saturday, September 28.  But, about 10 days before that, we got the wonderful news that our youngest son, just back in the USA after a 9 month Army tour in Afghanistan, would be arriving at the Indy airport at 10:15am on Saturday, September 28!!  First things first, we'll be in Indy to welcome him home, as I didn't want to be on a marathon course as he landed!

I was fine with that; in fact that's why I had three marathons scheduled, knowing something could come up.  But then, a pleasant surprise.  A friend casually mentioned to me a loop marathon in Indy on Sunday, September 21.  I checked it out, and decided, on the Thursday before, to enter.  When I started running marathons in 2006, I marveled when I heard of people deciding to run a marathon on just a few days notice.  How can you do that??  Well, I guess you can and I did!

The weather looked favorable, so I decided to make this race my first shot at a sub four hour marathon.  I already had the plan in place, had done the training and it was only a week sooner than the race I had intended to try to go sub 4.  So, the plan fell in place quickly.  Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.

The 9am start in downtown Indy made logistics easy for me.  I "slept in" till 5:30am, enjoying a hot bowl of oatmeal at home while reading the sad news on the Sunday sports page of my Boilermaker football team being pummeled by Wisconsin the day before.

The 60 minute drive was easy, though parking was difficult.  It turned out, in addition to our marathon, there was a large charity 5K plus a sprint triathlon going on in the same area at the same time, with all three courses bumping up against each other.  Good thing the Colts were out of town.   It was a beautiful day, sunny, no wind and temps in the 50s.  One of the sponsors was the famous Mexican bread conglomerate with it's mascot, Osito Blanco.  How often do you get to run with a white bear in a chef's hat?   And they even gave me a single digit bib!!!! 

The race was a 12 lap marathon (2.18 miles per lap) in a large park area in downtown Indianapolis.  Most of the participants in the race were 2, 3 and 4 person relay teams but they also had a solo runner division.  I stashed my water and bananas just past the start/finish line, we lined up and off we went, pretty much on time. 

I executed the plan I described earlier; running the first 2 miles, then shifting to a 5/1 run/walk, seeking to run 8:30/mile pace when I did run.  I planned to drink 10oz of water with Nuun every two laps and grab a banana to eat every other time past the start/finish line.  The first 8 of the 12 laps went well and quickly.  The weather was perfect, I felt good and it was a matter of knocking out the miles.  At the halfway point, after 6 laps, I was at 1:57:14 and, since I went to Purdue, I know that is underneath a 4 hour full marathon pace.  

On the 9th lap, about mile 18 or so, I started to feel the race...not unexpected to feel it at 18.  I managed to keep my per mile pace at the required 9:04 level but it clearly took more work.  I had to really concentrate to keep the legs turning over properly.  At the end of lap 9, I was still on a 4 hour pace.  Lap 10 was more of the same and I finished it 23 seconds under a sub 4 pace.  

The 11th lap was tough, though.  Around mile 22, it just got tougher and tougher to keep the legs turning over at the necessary rate, despite my best efforts.  I had no pain but the energy was slipping away.  I gave away nearly 3 minutes to the sub 4 pace on this penultimate lap.  

As I headed out for the final lap, the legs just got heavier.  I did the physical assessment and the mental math (see the Purdue reference above), and it was clear I was not going to make up those lost 3 minutes on the final trip around.  It was also clear to me that if I merely kept moving reasonably, staying vertical, I would had a marathon PR in the bag.  So, I conceded the obvious and decided to enjoy the last trip around.  I wanted to express my appreciation to the several volunteers who had cheered me all day.  I also wanted to be present to absorb the last 2+ miles.  

I came around to the start/finish line, had nice encouragement from the many relay runners who were astounded someone would do this solo and hit the finish line just under 4:09.  A PR in hand on a beautiful day in the autumn in the Midwest.  It also turned out I was second in the solo division, so won a nice prize, a free night at the new high rise Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis.  Sweet.   

The marathon is a wonderful yet exacting teaches you much and gives no quarter.  On reflection, I realized I hurt my chances for a sub 4 by going out too quickly.  Even though this was my 41st marathon, I still get amped up on race day, especially when the weather is perfect and the atmosphere encouraging. Gotta remember that, dude.

I also wonder about my run/walk ratio and plan.  Pushing to a 8:30 run pace may be a bit much.  I am truly thinking about idling back to a pace of 9:00/mile even, walking briefly through water stops and trying to make a go of the sub four that way.  The next serious shot will be on November 2, again in downtown Indy, at the Monumental Marathon.  I will ponder this a good bit between now and then.

In the meantime, I have a 4:08 in hand.  This means I ran a marathon faster at age 59 than I did at age 27, my prior PR of 4:16.  That makes me smile and makes me grateful for the gift of health over many years.

Thanks for your support.  Persevere.


Monday, September 02, 2013

Race Report: Blueberry Stomp 15K, Labor Day, 2013

ORN: 1:22:04, 8:50/mile, R/W 5/1, 131 of 312 overall, 14/21 Men 55-59

Quick Summary:

The Blueberry Stomp 15K on September 2, 2013 is a fun race and, this year, proved a very valuable lab for me to experiment with pacing plans for my fall marathons.  The pacing worked, though the race also confirmed that carrying this pace through 26.2 will be a challenge.

Gory Details:

Why a 15K race in the middle of a stream of fall marathons and ultras?  Some necessary background follows as I go public with the plan brewing in my head (and legs) since spring.

I was utterly surprised by running under 4:30 in last April's Carmel Marathon when I only intended to go 4:40.  This altered my plans for the Wisconsin Marathon two weeks later where I ran a 4:17 to my further shock.  I started asking myself then "Just how fast could I run a marathon?"  These two marathons really rocked my expectations of just what I might do with the marathon.  As a result, I investigated several ways of projecting VO2max. Each said a sub four hour marathon was within my reach.  So, I've been working on a plan all summer.

The first step was to test some short distance racing.  In June, I ran 2 mile and 10K races on the same morning at the Hog Jog, with both times besting the targets I needed to project to a sub 4 marathon, even on a hot, muggy morning.  Next, I had to keep the miles up during the summer, which I've managed to do, culminating in a trail marathon on August 24.

The third domino in this prep was this Labor Day 15K.  Being a card-carrying nerd/running geek, I had worked out a specific pace plan for my run/walk method to carry me to a sub 4 marathon.  I've even laminated the mile splits for this pattern.  I carry this card in a pocket in my running shorts and thus, at any mile during a marathon, I can have a feel for my projected finish time.

The method I've concocted calls for running the first two miles continuously at 9:00 minutes each.  At the two mile post, I take my first walk break and then fall into a pattern of running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute for the remainder of the marathon, running continuously at the end if I feel like I can.  To keep the 9:00/mile aggregate pace, I need the 5 minute run segments to proceed at an 8:30/mile pace.  For miles 19 to 26, I give myself an extra 30 seconds per mile.(Trust me, I'm an engineer, I do numbers and these numbers all work.) If I hit all these perfectly, I will finish a marathon at 3:59:54.    So, the Blueberry Stomp 15K was a dress rehearsal...can I run this pattern for 9.3 miles on a warm day on legs which ran a tough,  hilly trail marathon 9 days previous??  This race was perfectly positioned as the decent test.

I've run the Blueberry Stomp 15K twice's about 90 minutes from my house and has a very scenic route with some modest, rolling hills.  I knew the race-day drill, where to park, how to get there, so that all helped.  I couldn't find anyone else interested in getting up before dawn on Labor Day morning, so drove by myself and got to the site in plenty of time.

Check in was super easy and I even caught the local high school girls soccer team posing for a photo before they ran together.

The gun went off pretty close to the 9:00am stated time after a very moving story of a cancer survivor who ran with us.  My focus was almost entirely on the pace throughout, though I did manage some nice conversations, one brief song-fest of the old standard "You Gotta Have Heart" and my usual jokes with bystanders about the quality of their morning coffee.   The hills on the course are modest and added welcome variety to the flatness of most of my training runs.  The weather was in the low 70s and, while some felt it was low humidity, it felt muggy to me.

But the pacing plan seemed to work.  My mile splits were as follows:

  1. 8:32
  2. 8:41
  3. 9:15
  4. 9:09
  5. 8:32
  6. 8:54
  7. 9:07
  8. 8:39
  9. 8:26
  10. Last 0.3 miles at 8:19/mile pace
My official finish time was 1:22:04, an 8:50/mile pace overall.  

I did the 5/1 run walk from mile 2 to the end.  I like doing that.  It breaks things up and my legs seem to thank me each time.  I used my HR monitor today as well and my overall HR was 138 bpm, creeping up to the mid 140s over the last 2 miles, which I ran too quickly. Yet, the HR usually dropped about 20bpm by the end of each 1 minute walk I didn't strain the ticker.  At the finish line, I felt fine...not winded at all, no bending onto my knees, was able to chat with other runners of my pace who really didn't feel like talking.  

So, what do we conclude from this experiment?  I think there are three points.
  • Yes, I can carry this plan on legs 9 days removed from a tough trail marathon.  But I need to hold back a bit...I got caught up a bit at times and will need to leave more gas in the tank.  
  • It will be tough to carry this pattern for 18 miles and then only give up 30 seconds per mile for another 8 miles.  Today, around mile 8 or so, I could feel fatigue setting in. 
  • Weather will be key.  No surprise with this conclusion but I will need a cool day to pull this off.  If it's over 60F, I don't think it will happen.  Maybe 4:10 but not sub 4. 
Experiments are good.  Especially for geeks.  

So, looking ahead, I am registered for three marathons this fall...I'm hoping one of them has weather that proves helpful.  On Saturday, September 28 I'll run the inaugural Mill Race Marathon in Columbus, Indiana.  November 2 has the Monumental Marathon in downtown Indianapolis.  A week later, November 9, has me running the Veteran's Marathon in scenic Columbia City, Indiana once again.  Each course is quite flat and provides an opportunity for a fast race.  Can I get sub 4 though???  I'll watch the forecast leading in to each race and will determine the expectation for each event.  But, we will give it a go.