Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Race Reports: Carmel Marathon, RUTS 12-Hour Endurance Race, April 3 & 10, 2021

Race Reports-Carmel Marathon, RUTS 12 Hour Endurance Race, April 3 & 10, 2021

These races on consecutive Saturdays formed a planned experiment and the experiment was successful in that it showed me what I wanted to know.   The question?  Just what is my current endurance limit?   

Carmel Marathon, April 3, 2021

I’ve run this race maybe eight times now in it’s 11 year history.   A flat-ish course through tony suburban streets on the north side of Indy, it was the first “real road race” I’d run in 18 months.   Weather was chilly, with increasing winds all morning straight out of the south, getting to 20mph by the end.   The atmosphere was great, though, as about 4,000 runners showed up for the combined 5K, 10K, HM and Marathon distances.  It has been a long, long time since this has happened due to Covid and the collective spirit was great.  People were very careful to wear masks pre-race and the grid was way spaced out.   More than a few folks were there to attempt a BQ ahead of the April 20 opening of Boston Marathon registration.   

I was hoping to run with the advertised 4:35 marathon pace group. Alas, that pacing person didn’t show up. So, I fell in with the 2:15 half-marathon group to try to find a groove and this worked wonderfully through 13.1...hit the halfway mat at 2:14:23...spot on. Then, I was on my own.

It soon became obvious my HM pace had been too quick.  By mile 16, I was really feeling things and had to shift to a run/walk pattern and it was a slog through mile 23.  It was striking to me just how long it had been since I had run a road marathon.  I had forgotten about navigating runner traffic, getting in and out of crowded water stops and keeping my wits about me.  Amazing.

I had a treat around mile 23, though.   Work colleague and running friend Michelle had run the HM, had to stick around Indy to get her Covid vaccination later on Saturday, so she ran out to mile 23 and ran in with me.   It was a pleasant pick-me-up.   We talked at length about several work-related topics of interest and it helped to take my mind off of my poor performance.   Retrospective examination of my splits showed I ran faster too once she showed up.    These final miles were directly into the wind, adding some extra work but the final two tenths measured at a 8:50/mile pace.


Official time was 4:47:44, an aggregate pace of 10:59/mile.   I was 839th of 1061 finishers, 538th of 661

men and 10th of 18 in M65-69AG.   Not really very good results...I had hoped to be much closer to

4:40 but I didn’t run a very wise race.  

RUTS 12-Hour Endurance Race, April 10, 2021, Evansville, Indiana

Yeah, so you then ran even longer a week later?   Indeed.   That was the essence of the experiment.   On “tired legs”, how long could I run?? 

This race was a first-time event and happened to be in the town our oldest son and family now live.   So, I could spend the weekend with them and run...a nice combo.   

I ran a 12 hour race last June and enjoyed it.   I had a modified strategy based on what I learned and

I was keen to see how it would work.   A simple plan...do a run/walk sequence of run a minute,

walk a minute and see just how long I could maintain that pattern.  I gave myself permission as well

to “recover while moving” which is a fancy way of saying “walk more if you need to”.   

The course was a 1 km loop in a new city park on Evansville’s east side.   Yes, 1,000m...so round

and round we went.   I backed my car into a spot right next to the course and had all my fluids, PB&J,

oatmeal/raisin cookies, Sun Chips, nine shirts, four pairs of socks and two types of jackets stowed there.

  And I needed most of that pile.   

We started on schedule at 8am.  123 people paid registration fees for the three time frames offered

(3 hour, 6 hour and 12 hour).  Only 71 people showed up and started, 53 of whom ran the 12 hour event.  

Weather was quite the factor on this day.   It was cool and cloudy most of the day with temperatures in the mid 50s.   Being a new park with no large trees on a high spot, it caught all the wind...it steadily pounded us between 15 and 25mph all day.   It drizzled much of the morning, a light but steady moistness.   It dried off from about noon until 4pm, when we had a 20 minute heavy downpour and then the temperatures dropped into the mid 40s by the end...still windy.   The wind was relentless and became wearisome over the course of 12 hours.   

The run/walk strategy worked quite well for nine hours.   I was comfortable and kept steady mile splits of around 11:30/mile through mile 21.  Miles 22 to 37 were around 12:20/mile.   From mile 38, it was more walking than running and the pace was from 14:30 to 15:30.   I hit major distance marks, with the half-marathon in 2:38, Marathon in 5:27 and 50K in 6:34.

In the midst, it was a treat when our son, wife, her dad and all three of their kids came out to watch me run for a while mid-afternoon...they managed to arrive during the most lovely 30 minutes of weather we had all day...fun to see them and sense their real encouragement! 

Somewhere around mile 46, near the 11 hour mark, 7pm, I felt fully depleted for the first time all day.   I had really wanted to NOT stop at all but rather to keep moving for the entire 12 hours   But the wind kept pounding and so I stopped for about 15 minutes, sat in my car out of the wind and collected my thoughts.   I was pretty close to done but I really wanted to get in 48 miles.   So I got back out and mostly walked for another couple of miles and when my Garmin hit 48, I finished that lap and called it quits, at about 11 hours and 25 minutes with 48.1 miles.     In retrospect, I could have continued to walk for another 35 minutes but my mind was really done with it and I wanted to head back and see my family.     

Results showed I finished 15th out of the 53 12-hour starters.  I was very pleased with that position.   Identical, proportionally, to my finish in the 12 hour race i ran last June.The top three men ran 73.6, 66.8 and 65.7 miles respectively.   Those guys just never quit running.  The top three women ran 51.1, 49.4 and 47.1 miles.  It was impressive to be with all these amazing athletes   Only about 20 of us were still present on the course for the final hour.

The Results of the Experiment

So, class, what did we learn here?   Since January, I had been seriously toying with the idea of entering a 100 mile race this coming autumn...there are several I can get to easily.   So, I needed to see just how I would do, on tired legs, through 12 hours.   Would I feel good enough to realistically think I could repeat it again, all night, in the dark, to get 100 miles done??   I had to try.   

And the answer is, no, that’s not realistic.   And I’m fine with that.   Because the answer is also, yes, on tired legs I can go 50 miles.   And that’s nothing to sneeze at.   All useful.   Class dismissed.   

Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Race Report: Groundhog Day Marathon 2021

ORN:  26.2 miles, 5:48:11, 13:17/mile; R/W 3/1; 74th of 97 finishers overall, 1st of 2 in Men 65-69.  


Groundhog Day Marathon, Feb 7, 2021

It's no surprise Grand Rapids, Michigan has heavy snow and cold temps in early February; this described conditions for this six-lap marathon.   Tough, powdery footing effectively turned it into a trail race.  What WAS surprising was that decent layers allowed it to be surprisingly comfortable and a marathon in the snow was an enjoyable long run.  

A few details

I ran this race for the first time in 2020, which turned out to be the last big race we’d have for quite some time amidst the Covid pandemic.   So, I decided to have a go again in 2021, wanting to get in some racing after so many cancellations.     Running buddy Jon and I also had our first road trip in over a year; that alone was worth the trip.  We drove up on Friday, got our bibs and slept reasonably well.  

This race commemorates not so much Punxsutawney meteorological prognostication as it does the movie by the same name.  The theme of the same thing, repeating, captured what the RD felt about running six equal-length laps for a full marathon.   For me, I thought, “Only SIX laps?  How stimulating!”   

The course is in a city park along the main river of the city of Grand Rapids, conveniently named the “Grand River”.  The first two miles are quite flat, directly above the river bank.   The course then loops meanderingly over a few rises and dips for 2.4 miles back to the start/finish line.   

This is relevant since GR had had at least a foot of snow in the few days ahead of the race.  And the parks do not plow the portion of the trail along the river, preserving it for cross country ski activities.   Thus, the first two miles of each loop was running in a narrow, single-track path based on the footfalls of runners ahead of me.   This improved for about a mile and a half of the loop back to the start/finish but then got more complex again as the final portion was in a windy spot that continued to drift from the 15mph west winds that picked up as the race went on.   The entire course was thus run on 100% snow pack...it just varied a bit as to how deep and fluffy that pack was.   

The RD did a good job to allow the race to happen and still encourage social distancing. He communicated a lot with us and opened the start mats at 7:00am and allowed people to start anytime they wanted between 7 and 8am. Jon and I decided to start around the time we had daylight, 7:25am. The hardest part of the entire day was choosing to get out of the warm car into the windy, cloudy, dark 12F and start running.

Off we went, though, Jon doing the HM and me the full.   We wished each other well and took off.   

I wore my trusty "screw shoes" and was really glad I did...that extra traction helped a lot, particularly where the snow was packed.

I immediately discovered the depth and bad footing of the deep portion of the path along the river.   By a mile or so into the course, it was clear to me it would be best to regard this as a trail race, not a road race...the footing was everything we find on a trail event, as each step landed differently and you had to watch carefully to avoid doing a very cold face plant.    

So, I modified my expectations, dialed back to a 3/1 run/walk and realized the day’s objective was to finish, enjoy it and avoid injury.    Many of the portions of the wooded section were very pretty, with snow clinging to every twig. 

And that’s pretty much the way the marathon went.   Not much exciting to describe...just lap after lap.   

I was pleased to eventually get my lap times...they were consistent through the first four and at least the last two were equal, meaning I was steady from mile 18 to 26.2. 

Laps/Pace  (~4.4 miles/lap)

1   54:32, 12:29/mile

2   56:25, 12:55/mile

3   56:56, 13:02/mile

4   57:30, 13:10/mile

5    1:01:24, 14:03/mile

6    1:01:23, 14:03/mile

Much slower than a year ago but such were the conditions. "Run the best race conditions allow"...it still holds.  

Jon had the car well warmed up and we headed home right after I finished.   I felt fine, not having the stiffness I usually feel after sitting the car ride home from a race.  I’m not sure why, as the footing was so uneven.  But I’ll take it.   

Three running hacks were of minor note but I’ll mention here:

Cookies:  At the HUFF 50K, I noted how helpful a couple of oatmeal raisin cookies were to chow down during the event.   So, I tried that again, making a tasty bunch of large, chewy cookies to eat rather than some gel.   Winner...I ate one or two each lap and it was great fuel.   I’ll keep doing this at races where I can stash them along the way.   

Running vest;   For years, I’ve tried to get a good system for carrying water while running.   I’ve had several belt systems but I didn’t like the way they sat so heavy around my waist.   I got a running vest with a water bladder but, man, that takes a lot of energy to such the water out of the bladder and, besides, it was only water you can put in a bladder.   But, it occurred to me, I could still use the vest without the bladder and carry water in the front pockets.   Boom...worked great at Groundhog.   Made up my favorite electrolyte, put it in an 16oz soda bottle and that was all I needed...the weight was negligible on my shoulders and it was wonderful.   

The Cooler becomes a Heater:   With the lap format, I knew I could set up my own aid station.   But how to keep fluids from freezing in the upper teens?    I turned my small cooler into a “heater” by using no ice and tossing in a couple of hand warmers to raise the temp above freezing.   Worked perfectly.   

So, that’s it.  Don Kern and his crew do a great job organizing fun racing in the Grand Rapids area and we're all the better for their efforts.

Thanks for reading