Sunday, September 2, 2007

Virginia Beach Half Marathon 9/2/2007

For this Race Report – it being so close to my 1 year anniversary in racing (plus getting plenty of airplane time to kill on the way home) – you will have you suffer thru my year in review (the power of the pen) – or you can skip to the race stuff if you really want but you might find it a good read.


One Year Ago (9/1/2006) – I signed up for the Houston 2007 Marathon – goal – see how fast I could run it. I had already achieved the goal of finishing a marathon in 2006 (4:28) – next logical goal seemed to do it fast.

Plan – up the volume from last time and follow some of the stuff I’d read – for 2006 I was doing 3-4 miles one day mid week and a long run on weekend – I think it started at 5 miles then went up a couple miles each week. New plan – run more days per week – by the end of the first month I was doing 3 per day 5 days/week + 12 on the weekend and was able to maintain a 9 minute per mile pace on that 12 miler without exceeding 80% Max Heart Rate – all treadmill running (too hot for me at that time).

October I upped most of the 5 days/week to 6 miles and got the long run up to 18 miles and by the end of October I thought I’d test the progress on a ½ marathon – 1:39:54 – A 7:36 pace. For some crazy reason in my euphoria of running anything better than 8:00 pace – I happened to – for fun – look up the Boston Marathon Qualifying Time. I figured out all I had to do was run the second half the same as my half marathon and tell a 3 day fib about my age to qualify as a 40 yr old. I wrote to my extended family that I had a STRETCH goal – at the time I thought a goal stretched beyond all possibilities.

A little into November my knee started hurting so I took a week off. I did a couple 5 milers on it – very uncertain and tentative. Started wearing a knee sock I got at the grocery store (I don’t know what it’s called – covers about 10” of the leg from above and below the knee and gives some compression). I had signed up for another ½ marathon mid-November and decided to go ahead and run on the knee – see what would happen. I finished it – I found I could push the knee – but with my minimal running the prior 10 days I ran a slower 1:41:05 (plus it was hilly). Having that proof I no longer let the knee hold me back – just kept the sock on whenever I ran. Somewhere around this time I happened to pickup Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathon book out of a bookstore and found the 12/55 workout schedule only a slight step-up from what I was doing so started following that plan. Got a couple 20+ runs in with the variety of VO2max /tempo /recovery that is in the plan. Then came my last tune-up race – a 30k.

Finishing time 2:10:41 – 7:01 pace – WOW! It was perfect racing conditions – high 40s with a slight rain for the last couple miles. I ran it using the same Heartrate target I did for the first ½ marathon in October and pace was more than 1/2 minute/mile faster and for farther! I had a friend I hadn’t talked to for a couple years give me a call saying he saw me way ahead of him – he had been my marathon hero (only marathoner I knew actually but I knew he ran a bunch of them) and I was not just ahead of him but way ahead of him – got my head puffed up a bit. At that point I knew a Boston Qualifier was in the bag. Only 8 more miles to go after 30k and I could do them at 8:30 and still qualify without even fibbing about my age. A BQ all of a sudden became an easy goal.

Finished the training cycle, ran Houston 2007 – perfect weather – got my BQ with 3:10 – could barely walk after the marathon my knee hurt so much. I thought about putting Boston off until 2008, but quickly got the all clear from doctor (Xrays showed all the right thickness in the right places in my knee) so I signed up for Boston and started training (without the knee sock from here on out – I really think that think kept it from healing).

Somewhere after Houston I found the RT Marathon Forum (guess from my join data it was March 2007). What a wealth of information, experience and running excitement here. The Boston excitement especially was contagious and helped to build my expectations and anticipations like nothing else. I got so many tips about fueling and pacing and running hills and on and on and on along with a community of marathon pfreaks like I was becoming.

Fast forward – ran the race of all races in Boston, 2007 – I’ve talked about that enough on this forum so I won’t expand – but it was the race of my life – in the top few moments of any kind in my life. I will get faster but I can’t imagine any race topping Boston. 3:01:01. I really think it was a good thing I did not get sub-3 at Boston as I could easily have fallen into the post-sub-3 blues as some here have called it.

After the race my mindset about running changed at a fundamental level – it was no longer a “running phase” – it was something I just did/do/will do – I now say I’m a runner or a marathoner (with pride) – before I said I’m in a running phase or other non-committal forward looking words – different mindset altogether.

I ran another marathon a couple months after Boston – trying to get that sub-3 again – fortunately I think for me I still didn’t get it. So now I push to be as fast as I can be at New York and/or Houston (haven’t decided which is the A race but leaning strongly toward NYC with Houston the back-up instead of the A).

Ok – enough Background many here have heard all this before in different pieces from me and are probably bored to death of re-hearing – on to the race:

Today I ran the Virginia Beach ½ marathon as a tune-up race to NYC. Purpose of the race was to get a feel for how fast I can be at NYC. Weather was ~70 start and ~75 finish. Seemed much more headwind than tailwind. Overall I got 1:22:45 (6:19 pace). To figure from that my target for New York – I temperature adjust the time to at about 1.5 minutes faster – probably some more credit for headwind is possible but I’ll ignore that – so I’m counting it as a VDOT 57.4. That closes the gap to my 5k VDOT to 1.0 which is the smallest gap I’ve seen before and is encouraging as the shorter races tend to be faster for me. Projecting my adjusted ½ marathon time to marathon potential at NYC (assuming good weather) – that is 2:49.5 – WOW – that would sure be nice!

Mile Pace Avg HR(max 187ish)
1 06:08.1 n/a garbage HR data
2 06:12.0 n/a garbage HR data
3 06:24.2 172 HRM started working - showed too fast! Easing back a bit (target was 165 but that felt way too slow so never got that low - tried to keep it below 170 – that felt like the right pace).
4 06:29.4 169
5 06:31.0 168 Intermittent Headwind – sometimes strong from Mile 5 thru 11 as it could get thru the buildings and trees. Crowds too thin for drafting.
6 06:40.9 169
7 06:32.7 168
8 06:31.7 168
9 06:01.7 172 Last 5 was planned no HR target restraint - go by feel (time to GO FOR IT!)
10 06:08.1 173
11 06:24.7 171 (especially windy – and tired)
12 06:11.8 172 That darn life-sucking Orb! - Beach boardwalk under the SUN for last 2 miles. Finally a tailwind but the SUN hurt worse than the tailwind helped. It made the final push extra hard but I did it anyway – gave it all I could.
13 05:55.3 175 (maxed at 186 – 1 bpm from my MAX – can you hear me panting)
13.1 00:33.0 182 05:29.8 pace finish strides in.

Official Chip Splits
5k 0:19:27
10k 0:39:27
10 Mile 1:03:40
11 Mile 1:10:07 (Not sure why they capture this split – I guess to keep people from taking a short-cut to the beach)
Finish 1:22:45 (6:19 pace total)

1st 1/2 42:01.6
2nd half 40:43.4
Split -1:18.2
Place 111/17009 (I like to say triple first)
Gender 95/7433
Age Group 8/1102 (Goal was top 10 – YES!)
AgeGrade 74.5%

HR race targets for warm races are much too low, however knowing HR was helpful in regulating constant effort once I “calibrated” it to the right “feel”. I still consider myself a beginner at this with only 1 year of “racing”. Without it for the first couple miles I was pacing for a 1:20 ½ marathon – had I not known early I didn’t have the juice for that pace (others I’m sure can know this by feel – but I can’t yet) – I possibly could have had a very ruff last half. Using it as a “restraint” for first 2/3rds of the race seemed to work well – found I had the juice to push in the last 5 miles. It’s possible the restraint was TOO restrained first half judging by the 1 1/3rd minute negative split – but I doubt more even paced could have improved the race by much more than a few seconds.

On the race itself – it was a well run race – good volunteer support, comical host at the start-line was fun, good music and cheering although to be honest – I pretty much had tunnel vision from beginning to end so don’t remember all that much – all the necessary post race stuff. I had a flight leaving 2 hours after I finished so didn’t stick around for the after race party – just enough time to stop by hotel, shower and get to the airport.

I’m up to 9-10 hours of running per week + a couple more getting ready and cool-down. Where did that time come from – what did I give up from a year ago? Probably about ½ the time came from sleep and the other ½ from TV time or other non-productive pastimes. A bit of it occasionally does come from family time with my wife and kids which I do regret – I try to keep that minimal but it does happen [actually the bigger issue with family time is more the time on this RT Forum vs the running time - but its always so interesting and I learn so much and get good advise. I’ll find the right balance here eventually but not knowing other marathoners the interaction here is very helpful - and humbling.] I’ll probably not be doing things like flying to Virginia Beach alone to run a race all that often as it takes almost 2 days away. But the fam is very supportive – I get the “wow” from my wife every now and then being ~35 lbs lighter than a year ago (I like that) and they love the big out of town races (Boston, NYC) and they come to all the local races as well - the longer ones anyway. My son’s even joined the High School Track team this year – I have no idea if he’s any good at running as he won’t run with me but its nice to see signs I’m inspiring him a little. Bottom line – quality of life is MUCH improved – the things I gave up were pretty worthless – the things I added are priceless – seems this Adult Onset Athlete Phase has become a good way of life.

Quote of the day from my wife today after the race – “If you like it so much when you finish a race – why do you start?”

I really don’t have a good answer to the WHY question in racing – but it seems to suit me just fine so I’ll keep doing it.

Cheers – John.