Sunday, September 26, 2010

9-26-10 Bellingham Bay Marathon

This is my favorite Marathon. All I expect from a race is accurate distance and timing. This has that for sure. When you add the scenic but very runnable course, the excellent organization and the enthusiastic volunteers, it just does not get any better than this. The size of the event is my favorite too. Large enough to feel like a real event, but small enough to not be lost in the crowd. Since running the inaugural race in 2007 (my Marathon Maniac qualifying event) I have come back each year. Some people grumble about the course changes every year, but the courses do seem to get better each time. This year has a major change, it is now point to point. We will not have to run the super steep California Street hill or the other hill on the trail. Less trail, but still 4 miles or so of nicely packed trail. No major hills.

Rain and wind at night. Drizzle and calm as I park my car in the dark, a block from the finish line. First bus is supposed to leave at 5:45AM. It is 5:30 so I wait in the car. Then the buses pull up and park about 50 feet from where I have my car. On the way out we get some course narration from the assistant race director. Too bad it is too dark to see anything. The start is at the Lummi Nation. We have the large warm/dry community center to wait in. Huge cedar beams and amazing totem poles. Members of the tribe come to welcome us. They sing and drum two songs for us. Then it is outside to the start line.
Start - I know some of the runners but no one who is about my pace. I will just run my own race today. I reduced my mileage in the past two weeks and think that I should have a decent run. My plan is to run a 9:02 first mile, then have the average pace drop to 9:01 at the end mile 2, 9:00 at 3 and so on. If I can do this for the whole race I will have a PR by three minutes. Not likely, but I'll pull back if it gets too hard and be happy with anything under 4 hours (9:10 pace).

Mile 3 - 8:59 pace, three seconds ahead of schedule. Feel great, holding back.

Mile 5 - No rain, nice views. Still on the Reservation. Big dog that looks like a wolf trots by. Real Bald Eagle soars overhead. Meet and run some with Maniac Tracy. Stick to my strategy and gradually pull ahead.

Mile 8 - New course has a 1.5 mile out and back here. Pedro sighting. Feeling fine. Have taken an extra gel, just to get the carbs in while I can. Surprised at the turn around to feel how strong the headwind is. Hunker down behind a larger runner,then we make a little pack with three others. I feel somewhat protected from the wind, but it probably is taking some toll. Hand slap Maniac Jill, running her 99th marathon.

Mile 13 - 8:50 pace. To lower the average pace to 8:49, I have to run a 8:36 mile here. It is starting to get harder to maintain the effort. If I had this race to do over again, I would back off right now and try to salvage 4 hours. Little did I know how bad it was soon to get.

Mile 14 - Somewhat surreal sight. Our race is fairly spread out, sometimes two of three runners together. But coming towards us is a mass of runners. Hundreds of them packed in tight and filling the road. We meet at an intersection where we turn left and they turn right. We have just merged with the much larger half marathon and they are only at mile 4. They started much later than us. The timing was nearly perfect though as they are going at just about the pace that I am going at. I am still trying to go a little faster each mile, and I do have to gradually pick my way through the crowd but it is manageable.

Mile 16- Rut Rho - I am getting very tired. Out of energy. Like I should be at mile 22. No way that I will PR. I'll ease up a bit and not worry about the time.

Mile 18 - Much worse. At an aid station (fantastic volunteers by the way) I try to down a gel and my stomach clenches tight three times. I avoid vomiting but it was very close. Otherwise my stomach had been OK, just tired legs and no energy.

Mile 19.5 - First walk break. There is so far to go and I know how tired I am, I will not even try to beat 4 hours. This is really really bad, one of my worst marathons ever. I wish I had some excuse. In retrospect I have a few ideas of what went wrong, too much to write about here. I keep a good attitude as the waves and waves of runners pass me by. Everyone I passed from mile14-18 is now passing me as I shuffle and walk a bit. I keep a fine attitude though. It is what it is, I am not injured and I will finish, not even in last place.

Mile 23 - Running on the board walk over the bay was nice. Everything since mile 16 has been part of the old course. Now I am on the trail and run/walk some with Maniac Diana. Another out and back section. Then we merge again with the half course with whom we had split from back around mile 20. So now I am being passed by marathoners and leap frogging with the tired ones, but I am also holding pace with these slower half marathoners. Making the best of my sucky running, we slog it out toward the finish.

Mile 26- Starts raining harder. I make the final turn and run fast enough so Diana can not catch me. Satisfied that I finished, but nothing that I will brag about. Oh except that after reviewing the results and comparing to previous years I have determined that myself, Maniac Jill and three others are the only five people to have completed all 4 of the Bellingham Bay Marathons. Run enough and there is always something significant to report.


173rd of 401

8th of 30 in my age group (Men 40-44) that is odd.


Race#30 of 2010
4th Bellingham Bay Marathon

53rd Marathon or Ultra


Sunday, September 12, 2010

9-12-10 Skagit Flats Half Marathon

I feel just a little guilty running the half here, since I have run the full 26.2 each of the last three years and there will be many Marathon Maniacs who will assume that I am running the longer race. But a half today fits in better with my training plans, hoping to taper a bit and have a strong race in Bellingham in two weeks. Also the previous three years at Skagit have had hot and miserable melt downs in the final miles. No shade, high temps and a grind of a course. So I will run the half today and be all done before the blazing sun gets too high. Ha!! Here I am and it is raining. Off and on showers. Everyone is talking about what to wear. I opt for a light jacket and hat, both of which will come off after a few miles I am sure.

Start - After a half mile warm up I am ready to go and feel good. I cram into the start area but can not work my way up to where I would like to be. The race starts and it is slow going for a bit. At least the race is chip timed this year not that it really matters for me. I do like the custom "Skagit Runners" chip that is designed to tie into the laces and not run on the ankle.

Mile 1 - Sorted out and have room to run. Catch and run with Maniac Bob Hearn. This is fun; there a couple of marathoners I know who I can never run with because they are too fast. But they are doing the full and their 7:35-7:40 pace is just where I want to be. 7:40 would get me a PR of 1:40 and I think it may be possible on this flat course, but I will not be disappointed if I do not quite get there. Last night I told Jody that I would probably run a 1:42.
Mile 3 - Not raining, but the road is wet with some puddles. Run with Pedro, then Steve Walters. This is their holding back pace, but I am working hard. I am holding pace under 7:40 and while working hard it feels doable. I can't be much of a conversationalist at this tempo however.
Mile 7 - Made it to the turn around in good shape. Enjoy seeing all the other runners. Now it is showering and I get a little colder, but will leave the jacket tied around my waist. Huh. All of a sudden my legs feel heavy. Some right psoas discomfort, nothing I have not had before. But the sudden heavy legs was unexpected. Harder to pick my feet up and move the legs forward. I'm still going under an 8 minute mile, its just a lot harder now, and my overall pace is slowing.
Mile 10 - I could have run that 10 mile PR today as I am right there, but I don't think it should count if I had done it, if it is part of a longer event. I am still on PR pace for the half but I am slowing and I have serious doubts now. In addition the wind is blowing in my face. Its not super fierce but there is definitely a noticeable headwind. A woman passes me and her jacket is all filled with air in the back like a parachute. That must be adding to her toil. I work to catch up to a larger guy and do a little drafting. It really makes a difference. I try to not be annoying and get too close, but even from a few feet behind him the going is easier now. Well it is still very very difficult, just a little less so. After a quarter mile however he veers off to the side to get his picture taken from some friends or family and I go on ahead.
Mile 12 - I'm being passed by more people than I am catching. Legs feel awful. My form is bad and I will be more sore after this race than usual. PR is gone, but my finish time will be OK. Best thing I can do is keep working hard and hope that this is good training for the next race. Rain has stopped. I am very familiar with this course and am able to sense the finish and parcel out the energy accordingly. Thanks to volunteer Maniac Matt for hitting the timer right when I cross the line. And thanks to Race Director Maniac Terry for another quality event.

Finish - Quick change of clothes, then I drive out to mile 23 to watch the runners go by. Fun times being a spectator and seeing some of the same people I was just with.

67th place of 421 runners and walkers
race# 209

Saturday, September 4, 2010

9/4/10 Over The Narrows 10 Miler

Since my first 10 mile race in 1997, this distance has been something of a bad luck curse for me. On a good day, with a reasonable level of fitness I should be able to beat my time of 1:16:20. In my seven attempts to best that time I have had no success. Icy conditions, tired legs, recovering from injury and my severe dizzy dizzy spell have occurred during the ensuing ten milers. Hard to predict a finish time for today's race. This is an inaugural event although I have run across the bridge for the Narrows Half, I have never run it as an out and back. The start and finish in Gig Harbor is a new location for me. I know that there will be some hills. I also know that I have somewhat tired legs from last week's marathon.
Start and finish is at the uptown Gig Harbor shopping center, specifically we have the Galaxy Theater for packet pick up and rest rooms. Makes for plenty of parking and a warm place to wait if needed. I consider buying a giant popcorn but decide that it probably is not wise. Big event, nice T-shirt and I will get a medal if I finish, all for $30. It was drizzling when I left our cabin at Hood Canal, now it is just very dark with clouds. Half mile warm up and off we go.
Start - Line up near the front. I'll try to hold a 7:30 pace but I am sure I will lose it on the long uphill on the other side of the bridge. Start in the parking lot with a quick left turn to a long gradual downhill.
Mile 1 - Wow, we have been going downhill for sometime. This is not going to be an easy finish. Running hard but not all out. Run a little with Maniac Ron. More downhill, then some up, through a tunnel I never knew existed, then a screaming downhill to the bridge.
Mile 3 - Maniac Pedro catches up to me and tells me how fast I am. He is too kind. I can hardly believe that I am at mile three and still even with Pedro. Strong side winds blowing across the bridge. This is my third time running across the Narrows and by far the windiest conditions. Pedro on my right and slightly ahead, I try to draft him, but it is not doing much good.
Mile 4 - As soon as we get to the hill on the far side he eases ahead. I try to stay with him but just can not do it. Now the long uphill. Slowing for sure I try to focus on form. Nearing the top, here comes Maniac Ginger heading back. She is so encouraging, telling me that I am close to the top. Yes she is right, there is the crest of the hill and I make it across the street and around the flagpole in Memorial Park. Now I get to go downhill.
Mile 5 - Flying down the hill. Getting the pace back to about 7:30. Kimpossible, Maniac Marie and Marci sightings.
Mile 7 - Now the uphill slog. I get passed by a couple of runners, but also pass a few. No talking, just trying to hold on. Thankful for the relatively flat part through the tunnel.
Mile 8 - I have a shot at that PR. Try to keep running hard. Its just tough on the uphills. Sometimes after a race I think back and wonder why I did not run faster/harder at some point. I decide to keep on working hard so that I will have no regrets.
Mile 9 - Look at the watch. I have a chance. Have to run about an 8 minute mile, not sure exactly. Too bad it is all uphill. Well almost. The last 0.15 miles is downhill through the parking lot. I'm not holding back, but I know that when I make that final turn and head downhill I will be sprinting as hard as I can. If the watch still says 1:15 (it does not show the seconds after an hour) then I have a chance.Otherwise I will back off slightly and not go all out at the end. I make the turn and the watch still reads 1:15
Mile 9.85 - A few steps into the parking lot, a quick look at the watch and it reads 1:16. Now I am running as fast as I can and loving the downhill. There is the finish line and the big clock ticking away. So disappointing to see 1:16:19, 1:16:20, 1:16:21 and 1:16:22 as I cross and feel like vomiting. Pull off to the side thinking I may throw up, but recover soon enough. Ginger and Pedro telling me that I did great. Argh that was tough. I should feel fine about my effort and finish time considering the course, and I do. I really do not think that there is anything I could have done (except to not run a marathon the week before) to have gotten a better finish time today. But it would have been so much more satisfying to have been about three seconds faster.
Nice event that I hope to run again.

54th place of 393