Friday, December 03, 2010

Philadelphia 1/2-Marathon (11/21/10)

Summary: 1/2 marathon -- 1:34:59. 10/228 AG, 225/8412OA.

Long report:

I'd decided that I'd close my season this year with a 1/2 marathon. I'd already run a marathon in the spring, and I thought that training for a fast half would be beneficial in building stamina and speed for future longer runs and triathlons. Going into the race I felt good about my training -- I'd had a good series of track workouts and had tapered nicely. I'd even lost a few pounds in the previous month, thanks to some careful calorie counting.

After an uneventful drive up on Saturday, I got checked in, went to the expo and headed out to dinner. It was great to actually meet so many of the regular list contributors in the flesh.

Sunday morning I was up at 4 AM and driving in at 5:30. Got right off the freeway and into a parking garage, then a short walk to the starting area. It was a beautiful morning and I relaxed for a while, watching the hustle and bustle that's such a part of a big-city marathon. With 30 minutes to go I checked my bag, jogged for a while and worked my way up to the first corral.

Standing in the first corral, with about 16,000 people behind me, I reminded myself not to get too amped up, and seeded myself at the very back of the pack in my group. At 7 AM the horn went off and the journey started.

Debi had given me strict marching orders -- first mile at 7:30, then drop it down to 7:05 or so and go hard. "Quit thinking that you're slow," she'd said, and I was determined to break out of my usual conservative racing style (within reason, of course).

I settled in nicely during the first mile, right on pace. The weather was perfect, and I took off my fleece hat and tucked it into my shorts. Now I was wearing shorts, a short-sleeve technical shirt, home-made arm warmers and throw-away running gloves. Mile 2 clocked in at 7:08, as we headed across town. As we turned south along the river I passed the 3:10 marathon pace group and got some open space around me. We turned back and started back across the city. Some great crowds lined the streets in the central city and it was easy to feed off their energy as I kept the pace in the low 7's.

After crossing the river we turned onto the Drexel campus and passed a couple of rowdy frat houses. The first notable hills were here, and I had to push hard to keep up with the runners around me. It was a little humbling to try to keep pace with the marathoners who were shooting for times in the low 3-hour range. They were running easy, and I was having to dig deep to keep up.

Mile 8 was a tough uphill slog, and my speed was dropping, but I kept telling myself I just had to gut it out a little longer then kick the downhill to the river and the final flat stretch. I grabbed a gel at mile 9 (I'd forgotten and left mine in my checked bag) and choked down a little bit. I was into that stretch in every race where your body starts telling you it doesn't want to do this anymore.

Finally we hit the fast descent to the river. I picked up some time, but when I hit the flats along the river I could feel my speed slipping. I had a bad patch from mile 10 to 11, but rallied a bit and pulled my form back together when I saw mile 11. If I could just keep it together I could break 1:35. Off came the gloves and arm-warmers -- pitched to the side of the road.

After the 12th mile I sensed something behind me. I glanced back and saw the 3:10 marathon pace group. They'd gathered numbers and were catching up. I felt like a wounded elk being chased down by a pack of wolves. As I came to the turn-off for the 1/2 marathon finish I had to fight my way through them to get to the right side of the course. Then suddenly I was in the clear, with just a run past the art museum, a looping turn and a short straight to the finish.

I crossed theline breathless and totally spent. 1:35:03 on my watch, but the official results have my chip time at 1:34:59. A fun race on a great course, and then I went and got a cheesesteak sandwich. Good times all around.


Monday, October 04, 2010

Giant Acorn International Tri (10/2/10)

Giant Acorn International was the end of the triathlon season for me in 2010, and I couldn't have asked for a better day to get out and race. Comfortable water temps, wetsuit legal, bluebird skies, light wind and sun. Add a fast course, a strong field, plus SetUp Event's usual competent management.

To top it off, a big contingent of C-ville athletes were on hand, complete with tent and post-race goodies. It made for a fun Saturday at Lake Anna.

I got to race early and snagged a sport near the end of my rack segment, got my gear laid out and hung out at the tent for a while, watching the transition area fill up with the usual assortment of contenders, newbies, and "just happy to be here" competitors. After liberal applications of Pam on my legs and wetsuit, I was ready to get started.

As usual, the gray hairs were near the back. Wave 6, in fact. The swim started in-water, then followed a triangular course with a long middle segment before we turned for home and T1. I felt smooth throughout the swim, and sighted pretty well -- easy because of all the people in front of me. Got a nice kick in the face from a red cap on the last leg, but otherwise no big issues.

Swim -- 28:54, 5/28 AG

I was determined to blast my transitions today, and I went hard through T1. The wetsuit came off quickly, and it was glasses/helmet on, grab the bike and go. It always surprises me how many people I see jogging or walking through transition -- I know I can't afford to give up any chance to make up time!

T1 -- 1:45, 1/28 AG

The bike started with a long run over the grass then a run up a hill on some pitted asphalt to the mount line. I was running barefoot, but it didn't seem to bother me any. I got on the bike, keeping it in the small ring for the first minute or so while I got my feet into the shoes and my breathing under control.

I enjoyed the two-lap course, and felt very good on the bike. Knowing the course for the second lap was a real advantage, and I upped my average speed on the second lap. I had a couple of 40-somethings pass me, and then played tag with a 51-year old who caught me on the second lap. He was a bit stronger so I let him go, figuring I'd get him in T2. It was one of my better bike efforts, but I've got to hit the bike harder this upcoming year if I want to be competitive (so look for me bringing up the rear on the Saturday rides in the future.)

Bike -- 1:08:32 (21.72 mph), 6/28 AG.

A flying dismount got me a few kudos from the crowd, then I booked hard down the hill into T2. I slipped my shoes on, grabbed my gear and headed out, keeping an eye ahead for the guy who'd passed me on the bike.

T2 -- 1:31, 1/28 AG.

The run was also a two-loop course, and hillier than I'd anticipated. At the first turn-around, I saw my bike competitor, maybe 30 seconds back, so I had some good incentive to keep it going. The first two miles came in at around 7:45 pace, but I started to fade a bit in the third mile. Fortunately I got a second wind as the second lap began and started picking up speed. Barry Young, a fellow C-ville triathlete (and Masters winner) went flying by at one point, causing the guy I was passing to say "that dude is fast." I could only agree.

By the last mile I knew I'd given it a good effort and was putting on as strong a finish as I could manage, hoping no one would sneak up on me. No worries -- I had space on either side as I finished.

I felt great about the effort on the run -- I was completely cooked at the end. The time was a bit slower than I would have liked, but I'll chalk that up to the rough patch in the middle.

Run -- 48:21 (7:41/mi), 5/28 AG

Overall -- 2:29:02, 4/28 AG

I felt good about the race. I figured I'd need to get under 1:30 to have any chance to place in AG, but that wasn't quite good enough. But no regrets, I gave it the best effort I had that day. It's been a good season, and an eventful year. Time to try and raise the bar for next season.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Big Lick International Triathlon -- 9/26/10

Summary: International distance. 2:37:57, 1/10 AG 50-54.

Long report:

The Big Lick International, at Smith Mountain Lake, has been around for over 20 years, but this was the first time I've ever traveled to it. The race has a reputation for being a pretty challenging course, with a lot of rolling hills on the bike, and a pretty challenging run course. Complicating the day would be unseasonably warm weather coupled with a late start -- meaning a hot, sunny run.

I rolled out of bed at 4 AM, loaded the truck and hit the road. Got to the race site with no problems, even before packet pickup had opened up. I picked up my packet when they opened, got marked, grabbed my chip, and snagged a good spot on the end of my rack. I puttered around for a while with my set up, then settled down to wait.

Since the race was serving as the mid-Atlantic Collegiate Championship, waiting was pretty entertaining. Lots of college kids running around in their team kit getting set up and pumping each other up. College tri teams are always an interesting contrast. Since they're strictly club teams, you'll see everything from serious young athletes, like the young lady from Virginia Tech with the P3 racking next to me, along with kids who are doing their first or second races ever.

Swim --

The swim was wetsuit legal and comfy at 77 degrees. My wave, the fourth, started on the beach. I lined up on the outside and found pretty clear going as we charged to the first turn of the triangular course. Not much to report on the swim -- I had a good rhythm throughout and no problems siting as I went along the course.

The swim ended with a quick jog up the beach, up a short flight of stairs and then a relatively long run to transition.

T1 --

After my last race, where I'd had some difficulty with my wet suit, I'd planned ahead. I'd trimmed 1 inch off the legs of my suit and applied liberal amounts of PAM on my legs and the inside my suit. Of came the suit, quick as a whistle. On with my glasses, then the helmet, grabbed my bike and trotted out.


T1 to the mount line required a short run up a pretty steep hill. I was a little breathless as I mounted the bike, but got riding and got my feet into my shoes without any problems.

Then the fun started.

Three times in the first four miles I dropped my chain. No rhyme or reason, except that each time I was in the small ring. Well, enough of that, I'll just stay in the big ring. After getting my wits back about me, I settled into a good rhythm, passed a couple of guys in my AG and was starting to enjoy myself. But the second half of the course is harder than the first, and my decision to stay in the big ring started telling on my legs. Still, I didn't want to risk another thrown chain, so I kept grinding away.

The last mile or so was a nice relief as the course sloped back down to the lake. I jumped off at the dismount and trotted down the hill barefoot into T2. Not the best bike, but at least I didn't panic too badly after the snafus at the start.

T2 -- smooth sailing.

Run --

No fun here. It was definitely hot now. The first mile was uphill, around 8:15 then picked it up a little on the next couple miles. But I didn't have any legs to go faster -- it was just suck it up and grind it out. At least most of the other people I saw on the course didn't look like they were enjoying themselves any more than me.

I managed to slog through a couple of difficult miles at 4 and 5, and picked it up some on the last downhill mile. Still, I was darned happy to see the finish line.

Stats --

Swim -- 29:15, 5/10 AG
T1 -- 1:31, 1/10 AG
Bike -- 1:13:43, 1/10 AG
T2 -- :57, 1/10 AG
Run -- 52:29, 1/10 AG

2:37:54, 1/10 AG


Monday, July 12, 2010

Colonial Beach Olympic Tri --7/11/2010

Summary -- Olympic Distance Tri -- 2:28:32; 2/12 AG; 35/120 OA male

Long report --

I'm going to skip the usual narrative report and grade myself with comments for each section. I'll throw in an overall grade and comments at the end.

Swim -- 32:52; 3/12 AG.

The swim was warm and wet-suit free. Actually the first time I've ever done Olympic distance without a wetsuit. I chose to start out a little on the easy side which was probably good from a pacing standpoint, but bad from the standpoint of traffic -- I really got jostled around badly on the first 1/6th of the course. Navigation was pretty good on the 2-lap triangular course, but I did drift badly off to the left on the end of the first lap.

I got out of the water feeling good, so I was able to scoot up the beach and into transition at a good pace.

Grade -- C. I swam within myself and at a good steady pace, but I've got to stretch what I'm doing in training -- maybe by finding some fast swim partners. My AG's winner put 3:28 on me in the swim. The race was never in doubt from that point on.

T1 -- 1:15; 2/12 AG.

Grade - A. Smooth, steady. Quick jog out with the bike and a trouble-free getaway.

Bike -- 1:07:06 -- 22.2 mph avg; 4/12 AG.

Although this had my lowest AG placement, it was my highest OA male placement, and significantly faster than my ride from last year. Drinking and nutrition were spot on, and I kept the RPMs high throughout the ride. I also caught up to, and passed one of the stronger female competitiors. Forget her name -- Bernardes, maybe? ;-)

Grade -- B+. It's possible I could have gone a bit harder, but there was the matter of a 10K run to follow. It's hard to say whether pushing the bike a little more would have helped or hurt. At any rate, I got off the bike feeling strong and satisfied with the leg.

T2 -- :57; 2/12 AG.

Grade -- A. Smooth and steady. Shoes on, grab my hat, race belt and e-caps -- jog out.

Run -- 46:21; 3/12 AG.

Debi followed me off the bike into transition (yes, I passed her on the bike) and shouted at me to start easy. Good advice, since I'd buried myself on the first mile of the run last year. I kept the pace moderate and concentrated on form while I got my legs under me. My splits reflected this -- 7:30, 7:30, 7:23, 7:18, 7:30, 7:30 (pace for 1.2). Got about the right amount of water in, and more on my head as it heated up.

Grade -- B. I wanted to drop the splits consistently over the last 4 miles, but stalled out a little bit on miles 5 and 6. Some of it might have been lack of motivation. I was running most of the end of the run alone, without anyone to key on in front of me, and no one behind to push me. I've got to find an inner motivation to draw on when that happens. Overall pacing was good, though, and I think my running form held up very well.

Summary and Overall Grade.

A solid B. I think I raced very near the top of what I'm capable of doing right now. I liked the fact that the sum of the race was more than the parts -- it's nice when your OA placement is higher than either the swim, bike, or run legs.

Going forward I've got to decide where I'm going with the sport. It's fun be able to go out and place in my AG at local races, but the best guys in my AG are clearly stronger -- 1st had 5 minutes on me. And with more guys aging up next year, I can't count on taking home hardware unless I keep improving and pushing myself more in training.

I'll keep my nose to grindstone and see where it takes me.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Boston Marathon Race Report

Summary: 3:41:17. 8:27 pace.

Long report:

As you can imagine, I've been excited about the opportunity to compete at Boston since I slid under the qualifying standard back in February 2009. Excited mainly because running at Boston was something that I always assumed I couldn't do. "I'm too slow." "Real marathoners run at Boston." "I'll never run that fast." But as I slowly started to evolve from an overweight 40-something to a decent 50-something racer, it dawned on me that what had seemed impossible was possible, if I devoted my efforts toward the goal.

And now, here I was.

You could sense the energy in the town from the moment I stepped into my hotel lobby. Lots of fit-looking people casually lounged about in their apparel of choice -- the ubiquitous Boston jacket. We were all around town, eying each other unobtrusively on the T, clutching our race packets and Adidas shopping bags like they were our most precious possessions.

Saturday and Sunday were a whirl. Packet pickup, dinner and brunch with acquaintances from my email group. An excellent Italian meal in the North End on Sunday night (thank goodness I made reservations), then back to the hotel for a sleepless night.

Monday dawned bright and clear, cool with a stiff breeze from the North. Really couldn't ask for better. As I stepped off the T at the Boston Common I stopped and did a double-take. Runners everywhere, herded into lines by friendly volunteers, all waiting their turn for a ride on a yellow school bus to Hopkinton. I chatted up my fellow riders on the way out. A few vets, outwardly calm; a lot of first-timers, all nervously repeating "the advice" -- don't go out too fast!

At the Athlete's Village I grabbed a coffee and settled down to wait. I was number 14332, so second wave, first corral for me. The crowd thinned as the first wave departed, then finally it was time to start the hike down the road to the start. The energy in the air was palpable, and I made myself slow down as I walked towards my corral. The start area was like an ants nest that's been kicked over -- runners scurried everywhere, afraid they wouldn't get into their corral on time. No worries for me -- I slipped in with minutes to spare and took lots of deep breaths.

And we're off.

From the start the road was lined with spectators clapping and cheering. I couldn't believe that I was actually there, 26.2 miles from the finish, running down a two-lane road that would lead me through all this history and tradition. I had to reach up and dab my eyes so I could see ahead of me. Wow.

But now it was time to concentrate. They were right about the course -- it WAS a steep downhill. I held it back nicely through the first mile, around 8:45, then let it stretch out a bit for the second and third. Probably just a bit too fast there, with both in the low 8s.

5K -- 25:11. 8:07 pace.

As we passed through Ashland and a rowdy biker bar I eased off the pace a bit. Hold it back until Framingham and then lock in, I told myself. The downhills leveled a bit and we passed over a few easy rollers. I tested my legs a bit on some of the short uphills and felt strong. So far so good.

10K -- 51:09. 8:15 pace.

Framingham now, and we passed the train station. The crowds have never gone away, and now they're growing in size. I've never done a run with so much enthusiasm and energy along the way. You almost feel as if you're being carried along by the crowd's support. The miles started clicking off smoothly now, all right in the range I was looking for. I was into a smooth routine -- hit a water stop about every 16-17 minutes, rotating between Gatorade, water with Endurolytes, and a gel packet. On through Natick and yet bigger crowds.

15K -- 1:16:39. 8:15 pace.

Now a crucial section was coming up. A downhill leading into Wellesley, followed by the half-way mark. I reminded myself not to get suckered into picking up my pace. Relax and enjoy the attention of the young ladies. As I approached Wellesley I realized it was true -- you could hear the girls screaming a half-mile away. My rock star moment approached.

Wellesley was loads of fun--virtually every girl held up a sign saying "Kiss me, I'm...." How could I not oblige? So, my thanks for the kisses from all five of you.

20K -- 1:42:14. 8:15 pace.

It was time to gather myself for the test to come. I passed the 1/2 marathon in 1:47:43, and concentrated on keeping in control, saving myself for the Newton hills. The miles were sliding by in a blur by now, a steady repetition of screaming crowds, waterstops, and repetitive footfalls. My confidence was growing with every stride.

25K -- 2:07:45. 8:15 pace.

Here it was -- the steep downhill I'd seen on the course maps, leading into the first hill. Down we went and then I started up. It was time to put it into my hill gear -- shorten the stride, swing the arms, eyes on the road, not looking up. Emotion got the better of me -- I was at the Newton Hills, ready to run and take it home strong, and I had to brush away tears from my eyes. I started passing runners and fed off the energy. Over the first hill, gather myself, and then over the second, relaxing my stride and regathering on the downhills.

30K -- 2:33:20. 8:15 pace.

Number three was steep but short. The effort was starting to tell on me now, but I felt confident. One more climb, then downhill to Boston. Heartbreak Hill appeared, with all its mad insanity. The BC students were enjoying the day with gusto and cheering us on like a pack of howling wolves. I couldn't help but be caught up in the energy of it, and went over the top of Heartbreak Hill as if I'd won the Superbowl -- high-fives, fist pumps, yelling out loud. YES! I'd done it -- now just hold it together.

The long descent began. I tested my legs. Sore, but not too bad, so I relaxed on the downward slope and gather myself for the final push. I ran conservatively as the road descended into Brookline.

35K -- 2:29:56. 8:17 pace.

I'd lost a little bit of time on the last two hills but as I hit Mile 22 I felt confident I could get back into rhythm and click off 4 miles at around 8:05-8:10 pace. That would get me my ticket for next year, and at that moment I wanted nothing more than to come back and race here again. Mile 23 told me a different story. The legs and body wouldn't respond any more. My pace was slowing. I tried to grab onto every runner who passed me and match pace, but it was no good. Mile 23, Mile 24, Mile 25 -- each hammered home the depressing truth. I was cooked.

40K -- 3:27:45. 8:22 pace.

There's nothing more deflating than watching a goal slip away at the last moment. I kept running for pride if for nothing else. Finally the turn onto Hereford, and the final stretch onto Boyleston. Huge crowds still, cheering like maniacs for the middle of the pack. No sprint to the finish for me, but I held it together for the obligatory two fists in the air victory salute.

26.2 -- 3:41:17. 8:27 pace.

10405/23126 overall (seeded 14332),
964/1894 in M 50-54
7572/13354 overall men

Any disappointment in not punching my ticket for next year or getting a PR was pretty short-lived. I'd gotten to Boston, and I'd given it a good effort. No regrets, only amazing memories.

(What next?)