Thursday, April 28, 2016

Race Report: Carmel Marathon 2016

Essentials:  3:57:19, a 9:04/mile pace; ran until mile 23, then 4/1 R/W to end

Summary:  The day was bright with promise.  Yet I violated a rule I know:  "Nothing new on race day" !!!  Thus, I messed up my fueling and, to a lesser extent, my hydration.  As a result, I fell short in my effort to qualify for the Boston Marathon, even though I set a PR for the marathon.  I learned  a lot.

Photos and longer summary:

Here's a brief description of the day and some pix.  Detailed analysis awaits at for the end.

Races in the Indy area have a nice rhythm to them, which I know well.  Up around 4am ish and on the road early.  Such was the case here.  It was more social, though as local running buddies, Jon, Michelle and Terri all joined up.  We met, got to the start area and had plenty of time to get situated.

The start area was quite crowded and I got in a little late but still was able to stretch in the grid.

The race started on time and off we went.  I was hoping to qualify for Boston and built a laminated pace chart with four columns:

It was on two sides, fitting nicely in the pocket of my race shorts, here's what the full chart:

There are four columns for two target finishes, each with an accelerated and a linear schedule.  The accelerated schedule allows for a 30 second/mile drop off in pace from mile 19 to the end, while the linear column is, well, linear.  The two target times are for 3:51, the time I think I need to get into Boston, while the other times were for 3:55, the official qualifying time for my AG at Boston.  In the race, then, I could check my time at any mile marker and see how it lined up.  My aim was to keep my splits between the first two columns.  You can see below how I did.

The race went generally well for me, as you can see in one of the free photos distributed by the race organizers (much appreciated!).

Jon did well, striding through the wooded portion of the race.

Michelle had a decent race as well, and qualified as a Marathon Maniac in so doing!  Even more impressive as she was 20 weeks pregnant as she did it!!

For me, I kept trying to pace myself.  For the first 4+ miles, I locked in behind the 1:55 half marathon pace group, which got me into a good groove.  Once the HMers broke off, I soon found a guy in a blue shirt who was going at just the pace I needed.  The groove was good and I just keep going.  I hit the HM mat at 1:54:51, a little quick but I felt good. 

I hit a low spot around mile 17 but found a second wind and motored through to mile 21.  I then started to feel the increasing temperatures, lost contact with the man in the blue shirt and wondered how the day would go.  I recovered a bit, but by mile 23, it was clear I wasn't keeping pace.   Try as I may, I couldn't keep going.  So, I backed off the pace, doing a 4/1 run/walk the rest of the way.  Amazingly, I still ended up with a personal record, by all of 4 seconds.  

And there is the human touch.

About 3 minutes after I crossed the finish line, as I was still near the finish line, I looked and there was the guy in the blue shirt!!  In some way, I had passed him late without realizing it.  The photographer captured the moment wonderfully...we had made it in a shared struggle.  

It was a special moment.  I don't know the guy, we talked very little on the course, yet shared the experience.  Spontaneous and joyful.  

A few minutes late, who should cross the finish line but Ralph, a local running friend of mine and multi-year participant in the Circular Logic Marathon.  

Ralph recently turned 70, farms several thousand acres in the area.  We talked racing a bit but spent more time, in the finishers chute, discussing his planting strategy for the spring season.  We are more than running and it's great to connect on that level.  

So, that was the race!!  Thumbs up for the PR and sub 4.  Meh for missing the day's target.  

I can live with it.  

The final results were encouraging.  I was 282nd of 684 total finishers, 224th amongst the 423 men and 2nd of 13 in my 60-64 age group.  Those were encouraging.

And, if you are still alive, here's my technical analysis of why the effort failed. 

Why did I miss my BQ goal?  This is long....

To help me learn, this is a unique and fascinating opportunity to compare Carmel Marathon (CM) with last November's Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (IMM) (my race report here ).  They have some similarities, dissimilarities in nature:

  • Both in Indy, thus I could sleep at home and drive down on race day. 
  • Both very real difference between them in the minor rolls both have. 
  • No appreciable wind for either...5-10mph winds in each, never a factor. 
  • I took salt tabs in each, at the 1, 2 and 3 hour marks on my stopwatch.  I also took 3 Alleve tabs at mile 19 in IMM, mile 15 in CM.  I've been using both of these for the past 4 years without problem.  
  • I had a time objective in both...sub 4 at IMM, 3:51 at CM
  • Both were target races for me, subject to much thought. 
  • Both carpooled with local running pals Jon and Michelle.
  • AND, the big similarity, total time.  IMM, was 3:57:23, CM 3:57:19, a mere 4 seconds faster.  Identical.    
    • Geek note...I had to do the calculations.  
    • This is 14,243 seconds vs 14,239 seconds...a difference of 0.028%.   I doubt the course was measured that closely and I'm sure I didn't run the courses to similar equivalence!!!!

  • Breakfast.  
    • I had my usual pair of turkey/cheese sandwiches for IMM, consumed 90 minutes before gun.  
    • I forgot said sandwiches for CM, leaving them neatly stacked in our fridge at home.  Instead, I had mostly carbs before CM...a brownie from Starbucks, an old Clif's Bar I had in my running bag and two bananas I charmed from the post race table people who were setting up pre race.  
  • Weather.   
    • IMM was just about perfect to my taste, starting at about 42F, ending around 50F.  I only dumped water on my head at mile 24.  
    • CM was good at the start, 51F, but rising much more quickly, to 72F by the time I finished.  I started dumping water on my head at mile 16 and kept doing so to the end.  
  • Hydration/ Fuel Execution.  
    • IMM, I wore my usual water bottle belt with 2 10 oz bottles, filled, with an 8 oz bottle of my homemade energy gel, or "JoeGu".  I took a swig of water every 3/4 mile or so, plus a shot of JoeGu at each mile marker.   I started grabbing some water from water tables as well, around mile 9. I didn't walk more than a few steps when I did take water from the tables.  From my belt, I drank a swallow or two as I ran.   I refilled the bottles once at mile 18.  I took JoeGu all the way to the end.  I had zero stomach issues. 
    • CM, I decided to decrease the weight I was carrying, so did not use the belt.  Instead, I walked through each water stop, taking about 4-6 oz of water as I walked.  As for carbs, I switched to the real Gu.  Jon helped me pack (4) gels very smartly into my tube sock arm warmers and I loaded the other two into my Race Ready shorts pockets.  I ultimately ate (3) of the six, consuming each one over about a mile as I ran, during mile 5, mile 11 and mile 15.  I started to eat the 4th gel pack just past mile 19.  It nearly made me puke, so I tossed it in a trash can at a water stop.  I didn't touch the other two.  I had marked stomach/lower abdominal cramps around mile 16-17.   That resolved by 19.  
  • Run/Walk vs. Run; Pacing Groups
    • IMM, I intended to use a 4:30/:30 run/walk plan.  Instead, I found there was no room to walk, the streets were so crowded with runners, curb to curb.  I fell in with the 3:50 marathon pace group instead and so just ran.  I kept with this group until mile 18, when I could not stay with them.  I then flipped to the 4:30/:30 and used that to the finish line. 
    • CM, I intended to run as I did at IMM, only walking through the water stops.  They had no 3:55 pacing group available, but they did have a 1;55 pace group for the HM.  So I found that group (equivalent to a 3:50 marathon) and stayed with them until the HM broke off at mile 3.6.  This worked.  After that, I found a couple of folks who were running the perfect pace and I settled in behind them.  When the wheels came off around 22.5, I went to a run/walk...first a 4/:30 but that was too much.  I dialed back to a 3/:30 and held that until the final turn, 300m from the finish line and I gave it all I could to the finish line.  I was spent at the end.  
Still with me??  Thanks. 

So, today, I reviewed my times at each mile marker in each race.   Here are the highlights, that tell the story,  to me.  
  • Mile 5:  IMM  44:51, CM 43:07.   I had a slow start at IMM and it really took me 5 miles to get my wits about me for the day.   No such problem at CM...had a good plan, more room and had planned.  Nearly 2 minutes quicker
  • Mile 10:  IMM 1:28:22, CM 1:26:47.  Still quicker.  Both races showed very steady miles, though, between 5 and 10, which is as it should be...that's a sweet spot, it should be easy.  IMM were at 8:42, CM at 8:43.  The quick start at CM still paid off.
  • Half Marathon, official times:  IMM 1:55:28, CM 1:54:51.  You can see the CM time is now catching up slightly with IMM.  Still, both HM times were well ahead of the respective days' objective.  I actually felt better, physically and mentally, at the half in CM than IMM.  I saw my time at the HM mat at Carmel and quietly said "Yes"...feeling confident, even allowing myself a small smile.  
  • Mile 15:  IMM 2:12:12, CM 2:10:13.  At IMM, I had my first inklings of a fade around mile 14.  Not so yesterday.  The gap between the two races improved to over a minute. 
  • Mile 17:  IMM 2:30:00, CM 2:29:00, still a minute advantage at CM.  In both races, though, the pace slowed through 16 and 17, logging my first 9+ miles.  But, at IMM, I just was getting tired.  At CM, by contrast, I was cramping and saw a loss of mental focus.  
  • Mile 20:  IMM 2:57:54, CM 2:56:03.  I faded badly at 18 at IMM but got a second wind after 18 at CM, getting back to  8:42 miles thru 18 and 19.  As a result, I had nearly a 2 minute advantage at CM compared to IMM.  I saw the 2:56 at the 20 mile marker and was really encouraged...could I hang on for the final 10K like I did at IMM??  I replayed the final IMM miles in my mind as we ran through a boring commercial area yesterday for these miles. 
  • Final individual miles...this tells the story:  IMM vs CM.. remember I had nearly 2 minutes in hand at 20
    • Mile 20   9:10 vs 8:54
    • Mile 21  9:32 vs 9:21
    • Mile 22   9:32 vs 9:33
    • Mile 23   9:42 vs 9:59
    • Mile 24   9:44 vs 9:57
    • Mile 25    9:43  vs 10:15
    • Mile 26     9:19  vs 10:20
    • last 0.2     1:58  vs 1:47
It really blew up at CM between 22 and 23.  I could feel it and it was remarkable; I knew what was happening and couldn't do a thing about it.  This is where we were coming out of a park/nature area with lots of construction.  The legs just wouldn't turn over.  It was gone.  

We got out of the park and back into the commercial area at about mile 23.2 when I noted the 3:55 pacing group passing me.  This was my final attempt.  "Hey, Joe, c'mon, hang with those guys and you might BQ anyway, even if it isn't enough to get entered! You have less than 5K to go!!  C'mon, man!  Dig Deep!!!  Let them do the work, just stay with them!!!"  My mind was willing.  I fell in with them, the pacer and three other intrepid runners.  It was hard work though and, after about 500m, I was panting and it was clear I couldn't stay with them for another 3 miles.  The legs could not execute what the mind requested.   I recognized this, fell back and chose to simply do the run/walk the rest of the way and accept how it went.  I was OK with it...the legs just wouldn't go.  It was a good final 3 miles to reflect on the day, the training and where to go next.  I think that's why I was OK with it all by the time I got to the finish line.  

Looking at the comparative lap times above, you can see the difference in the two races.  At IMM, I flipped to a 4:30/:30 at 18 and carried that all the way to the end.  While I fell off earlier than at CM, the falloff was not as pronounced.  The 9:44 I did in mile 24 at IMM was my slowest all day.   At CM, I was stronger though 20 but crashed more deeply.  And it felt like a crash, though I've bonked far worse in other races (two with you, John, remember Los Angeles and our 2010 Chicago).  But, given the day's objective and hope, the crash felt further at the moment.    For spite, I ran as hard as I could from the mile 26 marker to the finish line yesterday.  At IMM, I slowed down to bask in the moment.  You can see the difference above.  My wife adroitly noticed this and said "Joe, that's why you got the 4 second hustled at the end."  She's good.  

Early conclusions.  My early thoughts, with a day and a half to ponder.  I give you two full permission to question and offer input and alternate fact, please do.  You both know me and understand all this and want the best for me...thank you!!! 

In descending order of importance, to me:
  • Weather matters.  It might be the biggest factor.  CM looked good in forecast but the additional 8-10 degrees which actually happened, though unanticipated in the forecast, mattered.  Put another way, IMM weather was sooooo perfect...I may never find another weather day that good and I'm so glad I got my first certified sub 4 that day!!
  • Hydration/carbs.  Joe, listen to yourself...dude, carry the water belt.  Use your own dextrose/sucrose concoction.  You are not from Kenya.  The pound and a half the belt adds won't matter.   Take water at the water stops too, might keep you from having to refill.  But, still, it's not a crime to refill.  
  • Breakfast.  Early protein is likely helpful.  Those two sandwiches on race day have proven themselves, over and over, since 2011.  Gotta not forget them. 
  • Pace.  Not fully sure about this but I'm wondering if I was simply too quick early at CM and would have been better to hold off a couple seconds per mile to save it for the end.

On sharing this information with pals Jon and Michelle, they each made some central observations. 
  • Nutrition.  Jon did the  math on my eating (and non eating) on race day and calculated I was likely down by 500-800 calories (gross) by mile 23 and, worse, having swapped some protein in the (missing) turkey sandwiches for simple sugar calories in the brownies, the quality of nutrition was down.   
  • Temperature.  Michelle (a fellow engineer, as well as a friend) adroitly cited this study, pointing to a 2% to 3% reduction in times as temperatures move over 60F.  Doing the math, she pointed out that my 3:57, reduced only by 2%, would have left me with a 3:52, likely enough to get into Boston.  
So, what to do with all this??  Easy.  Make a better list and don't leave the good sandwiches in the fridge.  And be content to carry the water and my own energy concoction. 

Wow, if you are still with me, I'm impressed.  I write this blog to help capture what I learn.  If it helps (or entertains or puts to you to sleep at 3am without use of drugs) others, all the better.  

Persevere.  With or without a sandwich.