Saturday, June 21, 2008

Majors Anchorage Marathon.

I sit in a state of pure delight as I fly out of Anchorage several hours after finishing the marathon. The marathon just had so much that came together perfectly – A few highlights:
  • Anchorage was a quick stop (less than 15 hrs to be exact) I planned 6 months ago on the way to a family fishing trip – when I signed up the plan was to jog it for fun – but after Boston in April I felt like I wanted to go after another race before the long summer so I decided to train hard for it and race it.

  • Training since Boston – a few hundreds miles of treadmill which actually wasn’t all that bad until the end when I just really missed the good outdoors which holds so much of what I love about running. I subjected myself to the treadmill to enable fast running training and to avoid the unnecessary and somewhat counterproductive (for a cold race) heat acclimation I would get running which was impossible outside due to the heat/humidity in Houston. Miles included tons of the fastest running I’ve ever done – somewhat enabled by the lack of wind resistance – but still the fastest I’ve moved my legs for the distances – felt like I was in GREAT shape – right at 6 mpm capable was my read on my capability at ideal conditions.

  • Travel plans were less than ideal but options were limited since I was using free frequent mileage to get to/from Anchorage. Specifically I had to accept a non-direct routing with an extremely short layover and I had to land around midnight night before the 8am race start-time – but on the other hand I was at least able to get first class for the trip up for a more relaxed pre-race journey and I have a good friend in Anchorage that was able to take care of details like getting my packet, picking me up at the airport and giving me a place to sleep before the race and drive me to and from the race – and extremely great company. Of course the travel didn’t go smooth – finally getting off the ground in Houston 50 minutes after the scheduled departure I was convinced the 40 minute layover had me SOL. I figured my best case was to catch a red-eye to Anchorage and get there an hour or so before the race, get to the race late, starting way behind the walkers and just enjoy a “fun run”. As it turned out running out of the plane upon landing and RUNNING (MP pace +) thru the airport at least 1/4 mile to the designated gate – discovering the plane had moved gates then running another 1/2 mile to new gate – I made the flight – all is SO GOOD!!! I slept like a baby on that second flight – combined with a few hours at my friend’s house and a 8 am start that felt like 11 am with the 3 hour time change – I ended up well rested and ready to race.

  • Morning pre-marathon routine all went like clockwork with some extra fueling and even a little 1/2 mile jog a few hours before the race just to be sure the legs were working after all the nights sitting on an airplane. I show up at the race ~6:45 with the most excellent weather forecast – overcast, low 50s, some drizzling rain, no wind whatsoever – what dream conditions – the drizzling ended up lasting about the first 1/2 of the race and felt absolutely wonderfully cooling and refreshing – the overcast stayed till the end and I think temps rose from ~50 to ~55 by the end – no way I could ask for better conditions.

  • First thing we see showing up to the startline is a Moose running thru the parking lot – I thought it looked big but my friend informed me it was likely a baby.

  • During my morning I read thru the packet material and find the winner from last year is running again this year (apparently an Olympic Qualifier - sub2:19er - who won with a 2:30 - there's a clue to the courses speed) – I also find mention that there is a marathon relay running with the marathon so I figured there would be people darting off at the beginning that I did not need to count in my placement. At the startline I try to figure out how to identify the relay vs full marathoners and apparently there is a small word on the bib that I never saw so it was just a unknown who in front of me I didn’t need to count in figuring out my place.

  • Race Plan – Run the first 7 miles (paved) at full marathon effort tracked by heartrate, Ratchet the effort back slightly for better footing focus for the next 9 miles of trail running – push the last 10 a bit harder than I would typically expect I could since figuring I had 9 miles of reduced effort on the trails.

Anchorage Daily News : 15 minutes before the race

The Race - 1289 Finishers:

1 6:13 147 Targeted this mile 6-6:15 – wanted a relaxed starting mile and got it – ended the mile with 7 in front of me (one Girl I recognize as last years winner at 3:01 from a photo in the packet).
2 6:07 163 Slight incline – Girl gets cautioned by someone to not go too fast and slows down and I pass her – 6 in front of me – I’m wondering how many are relay runners – I know last years winner was up there but I was kinda hoping all the others were relayers and I was in second.
3 6:17 163 Steeper incline - I’m trying to hold my HR target and with the rolling hills I would trade places a couple times with a couple guys together in front of me (slowed more then them on the uphills and faster on the downhills).
4 6:20 163 Continue the incline.
5 6:14 162 A little more climb but the two in front of me split up and I pass one of them on a downhill.
6 6:07 163 Guy I pas is sticking on my tail and we are closing on the other guy.
7 6:34 163 Incline – guy behind me is dropping back and the guy in front hands off to another runner (relay) who darts off farther ahead – from this point in the race all the way until the finish I don’t pass anyone and no one passes me. I know there are 5 runners in front of me but I have no idea what my place is except at least one is relay so I’m at least in 5th but I’m hoping I’m in 2nd.

From mile 8 thru ~15 I am running on what is called the “Tank Trail” – picture a 2 lane dirt road with gravel rocks (1”+ diameter) that are very uncomfortable, challenging and risky to run on. The 8 miles is generally spent targeting places where the road has warn down so there are no rocks or the rocks are pushed into the dirt enough to make a flat running surface – in most places this is very narrow strips of the total road that randomly move from middle to right to left – in effect you end up weaving from right to left to center of this wide 2 lane road for 8 miles trying to stay off the rocks as much as possible – very inefficient – but it definitely made me grateful to have my trainers on – this would have killed my feet in racers.

8 6:05 160 As planned I backed off the effort a bit on the Trail – faster because it’s a decline – weaving around on the tank trail.
9 5:59 160 more decline – more weaving
10 6:15 160 ditto but flat
11 6:30 160 uphill
12 6:16 159
13 6:21 159 Estimate the half at 1:22 although there was no official split.
14 6:56 160 big uphill
15 6:22 158 This mile is run on a narrow path full of potholes and puddles from the rain and slippery spots – extra care required.
16 5:53 157 Finally some road – steep downhill towards the end.
17 5:37 159 Hill continues down for whole mile – hey haw.
18 5:58 160 more roads – flattening out.
19 5:59 160 I run by a bank on this mile that shows me the time – 9:40 – I allow myself to try to figure out how fast I’ve been running and somehow convince myself I’m on pace for a 2:38. I had been watching no pace up to now and this was the first clue I had to how fast I was going – kinda empowered me a bit.
20 6:05 161 I was running stronger per heartrate than I expected I’d be able to and kept hitting the high alarm from here to the end (target was 158) – felt ok so I went with it.
21 6:14 161 Lots of weaving thru the Anchorage university – some on trails – I made a couple wrong turns – quickly corrected by those around me. Someone shouts out to me that 2nd and 3rd are just ahead (guess I’m not in 2nd).
22 6:12 161 MOOSE steps right out in front of me about 20 yards away – path is the width of a bike path and she is blocking the left side – I had only a split second to decide and with my momentum going forward I elected to cut to the right side of the path and run by the moose – she was eyeing me pretty close but didn’t charge me. I was so tired I really had not energy to change my pace and somehow I think if it had run me down I might have been kinda grateful I could stop running. In hindsight I don't think I had a better option - had I stopped abruptly instead of just flowing buy I think that would have been more threatening.
23 6:12 161 I am counting down the miles one by one – just strong for one more milemarker.
24 6:03 160 I lost count on the milemarkers and wasn’t sure if I was going to see 23 or 24 – Glorious Day to see 24.
25 6:21 162 The hardest mile mentally – seemed so long.
26 6:36 166 I CURSE that last 100’ climb they choose to punish us with at the END of the race. I’m motivated to go for it by a runner ahead I can pass – I take him down and then see another one ahead – I am charging up this steep hill with ½ mile to go and my legs are screaming at me in pain – I get another runner and see another ahead – then I figure out that we had merged with the ½ marathoners – these would be 1:40 ½ marathoners I am passing – I thought I was getting some of those 5 in front of me.
26.2 5:37 pace 169 (174 max) – Race it in to the finish and see for the first time how fast I’m running – I am just slightly disappointed to see 2:43:xx ticking away – but at the same time I know I’ve put everything I had into this race and that was all it was and I feel great.

Before the race I thought I was 6 mpm capable for the marathon and this race was about 3-4 minutes slow. After the race I'm thinking this was a little harder than that - maybe 5-6 minutes slow and nearly 6 mpm equivalent effort on that course – but between the hills and gravel trail and curvy sections thru the university. Or maybe that's just what I want to believe - guess I need to go prove my speed on a flat course somewhere :-).

But regardless – this was one of the best races I’ve ever run – Perfect Weather, Scenic, Wildlife Encounter, Feeling I put my all out there, Plan the run – run the plan – it just has the most perfect feeling having finished it.


2:43:56, 1:22:33/1:21:23 splits by my watch, 4th place overall - they actually gave me a fifth place award plaque in the awards ceremony but the online results show 4th so I suspect they accidentally counted a relayer and corrected it after.
1st place 40-44 age group (ok – yes 45 year old was in front of me but that’s not in my age group).
1st place for a non-Alaskan - I thought there was an award called the Visitors Cup – I found descriptions saying “A special award known as the Visitor's Cup is presented to the best performance by an out-of-state female and male.”

My one complaint on this race (minor) is the website is silent on what are the awards given – I even emailed them before the race asking what they were and got no response. I was surprised to find they gave an award plaque to the top 5 and they gave me one (albeit the wrong one) – somehow I figured it was only top 3 – I wish they were a bit more transparent on what are the awards – I’m forced to go look at prior years and find things like the “Visitors Cup” only to find they don’t do that any more.

Pet peeving done – great race – all around fun time – I count it as my best marathon race to date – perhaps not on the clock but factoring in difficulty definitely my best race – now time to catch fish.

Fishing Report

The view from our little cabin of a sunset around midnight:

The big Halibut catch - Dad caught them both but my brother Andy and Howard take the credit in the picture - a few other smaller ones on the boat that they actually caught.

Dad pulling in a big King:

Doug pulls in a Pike.

Here's my King Fish.

Spencer pulls in a King - Mine is Bigger

Ok - really I was holding Spencer's fish - I didn't catch a King - but I caught the biggest Lingcod just didn't get a picture (too big ~4.5 feet range so couldn't keep - keepers are 32-42").

Summary - ~500 lbs of fish meat about 1/2 halibut, ~200 lbs of Salmon (Sockeye and King) and a little lingcod and rock fish - and some fun pike fishing (catch and release) - figuring about 1/2 lb per generous serving that's about 1000 meals between the 6 of us - that's a bunch - and I don't really like fish all that much - I only took home about 10 meals - but others took home the rest. Not a bad weeks work.

Followed the fishing trip in Yakutat with a climb up Flattop Mountain in Anchorage with Dan - a good workout (I never get to wear my cool Boston Jacket/Hat in Houston):

Thanks for Reading - John.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Handycapping the Race - Anchorage Marathon 6/21

Race Goal - Run a good race with whatever I show up with at the startline - put it all out there. Placing in the race seems a possiblity depending on who shows up based on prior results:

-------1st----- 2nd---- 3rd--- Temps
2007 2:30:47 2:38:33 2:40:51 61°F
2006 2:36:21 2:44:35 2:49:07 59°F
2005 2:34:18 2:40:59 2:42:25 54°F Rainy
2004 2:33:50 2:49:57 2:53:07 63°F

Pacing Strategy:

Race breaks up into a few parts:
  • Miles 1-7 - paved bike path - rolling hills a net climb of a couple hundred feet with a couple fast downhills - I'll try the first mile a little slow but not enough to get swallowed up by the crowd on the narrow path - ~6-6:15 mpm - than try for a heartrate target (~162) keeping the HR steady rolling up and down the hills.
  • Miles 8-13 all loose gravel trail Quotes from prior runners ["stay on the winding tire treadmarks" "carefully choosing steps" "watch out to avoid tripping and twisting ankle"] - Grade ranges to +/- 4% but mostly gradual ups/downs. Focus is going to be to protect my ankles - planning to back off the effort slightly here - drop HR target to 158-9.
  • Miles 14-15 Hard Packed Dirt - elevation peaks out about 300' over the start - short steep section 7+% grade and -6% downhill. Keep HR target around 160 but keep fast control on the downhills.
  • Miles 16-25.6 - bike path thru university rolling hills with net down. Drop HR target to around 158 but keep fast control on the downhills - higher HR if it feels ok.
  • Mile 25.6-26.2 - ~100' climb to the finishline - whatever I've got left (That's just wrong to put that hill at the end!!). See what's on the clock.

I plan to avoid looking at pace for the race - just watch HR and effort - that seems to work well for me - pace just seems to be a demoralizer no matter what it reads fast or slow so I'd rather not look at it.

Between the hills and the 8 miles of trail running I'm figuring the course to be ~3-4 minutes slower than flat pavement.

Forecast for the race 8am 57°F, 10:30am 61°F Partly Sunny Dew Point 47°F Wind 4 mph. Weather is looks very much like Boston which I found to be a bit warm for the last 1/3rd of the race so extra focus on hydration for the first part of the race - no aid station from 4 to 7.1 so I'm considering carrying a 16 oz bottle of gatoraid to start so I can just skip the 2 and 4 mile aid stations. After 7.1 aid stations every couple miles should be fine.

Training cycle has gone exactly as planned - no injuries and generally feeling like I can run faster now than I ever have before. Slight worries about how the treadmill running will translate to the road - I've notice I'm a bit more clumsy outside as I've taken the road for granted on the treadmill without watching out for obsticles (got tripped up by a small stick in the road last week and skinned up my hands and knee - minor - no big deal). I've manipulated the temperature of my last few workouts to see if I can turn on the turbo-charge for raceday. I'm expecting to be able to hold around 6 mpm equivalent flat pace so adding the hills and trails factor in that could put me pretty close to my PR - a PR on this course is probably a longshot but not outside the realm of possibility.

I travel up on a 6pm flight tomorrow (first class for reduced anxiety) with one layover arriving in Anchorage around midnight - quick cab ride to a friends house up there and a short nap and on to the race at 8am. 3pm I again fly out of Anchorage down to Yakutat to go fishing for a week - a great way to spend post-marathon.

48.5 hours to go.

Likely I won't have internet access until I get back ~6/27 but feel free to look up how I did:

Mayor's Marathon

Monday, June 16, 2008

Anchorage Forecast for 6/21 8am Race Time

Let Taper Madness begin - Weather Obsession Tracking for Race Time:

Accuweather forecast for Marathon morning - 8am ~15% 10:30am ~40% from low to high:

6/20 8am 54°F, 10:30am 59°F Cloudy/Rain Dew Point 47°F Wind 4 mph
6/19 8am 57°F, 10:30am 61°F Partly Sunny Dew Point 47°F Wind 4 mph (like Boston but less wind)
6/18 F Low 51°F Sat High 69°F 8am 54°F, 10:30am 58°F Partly Cloudy
6/17 F Low 51°F Sat High 69°F 8am 54°F, 10:30am 58°F Mostly Cloudy
6/16 F Low 51°F Sat High 69°F 8am 54°F, 10:30am 58°F Mostly Cloudy
6/15 F Low 53°F Sat High 69°F 8am 55°F, 10:30am 59°F Mostly Cloudy
6/14 F Low 53°F Sat High 69°F 8am 55°F, 10:30am 59°F Mostly Cloudy
6/13 F Low 53°F Sat High 73°F 8am 56°F, 10:30am 61°F Cloudy some sun - a little cooler please :-)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

USCAA Reginal Track and Field Championship - 2008

Rice University - Corporate Competition - 3rd time I've participated on the Shell team - 2nd time in this event (other time was Nationals in San Diego last July) - last year our team finished 2nd edged out just slightly by Exxon so we were out to do better.

The Team - Pre-Race:

My event was the 1 mile open - I traded to be on this team instead of a 3k run earlier - I really wanted to run a mile race so I was able to trade with another teammate and he ran the 3k. Last year there were several sub5 mpm runners so I was expecting some good competition. Goal Sub5 mpm. Scoring for the team event was top two team places are added together and lowest team score wins. Start Temp 87°F w/ 73°F Dew Point.

Take off - I'm feeling pretty relaxed around the first turn in 2nd place with my teammate just behind me. On the 2nd turn it seemed natural to go ahead of 1st place so I went ahead and took over the lead thinking someone behind me was sandbagging and was going to blow by me any second - finish the first lap at 74 sec.

Second lap just keeping it steady - wondering why I'm in front and hearing someone right behind me that I figure out from the cheers of spectating teammates is my teammate - cool 1st and 2nd. Finish 2nd lap at 75 sec. Note the Tiger Shirt - Exxon - sitting behind us two:

Third lap continuing the pace - seems I'm creating some separation - finish the lap at 74 sec.

Forth lap still feeling plenty of gas so decide to pour in whatever I had left to the last lap even though I had the win pretty locked up - I wanted a good time - finished the lap 70 sec.

Total 4:53 - first place - teamate got 4th so team score was 1+4=5 which takes the race - Shell Wins. A new PR for my mile (not counting High School) and the highest VDOT race I've done since Houston Marathon at 61.0.

Later I did an 800m relay - first leg. Temp up to 91°F. I was motivated to finish quickly as there was announced right as I lined up that a car was going to be towed and it kinda sounded like my car. Rather than bailing on the race - I ran the race - I had a pretty good lead after 2 laps pretty much from the start with splits of 66/69 for a total 2:15 then handed off the baton and jogged over to my car. I hear later our last 2 legs brought it home for the win. Another PR for my 800m and an even higher VDOT than Houston Marathon - a new VDOT PR albeit at a very short distance.

They didn't tow my car but as it turned out I had to call AAA myself instead of them as my keys were locked inside :-(. After a 1/2 hour or so I get my keys just after awards.

For awards - I get 2 gold medals for our team wins on the two events I was in. Even better SHELL takes home the victors cup with a pretty definitive score lead over 2nd place EXXON. All is good.

While I'm messing with the car I miss the finishing photo:

A good time overall and getting within 25 seconds of my HS mile and 9 seconds from my HS 1/2 mile PR is pretty cool. But these short races hold nothing fullfilling in comparison to a REAL race distance - true of all distances less than 26.2 miles :o).

Thanks for Reading.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Alaska Video from Past Fishing Trip

Alaska video from the past ...... I set up some fish I'd caught on the rocks on the side of the river and set up the camcorder to record what happenned to it - watch it - it's worth it (turn on the sound too):

You can stop it after about 3.5 minutes - I couldn't figure out how to chop off the rest.

Enjoy John.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

PR Running Last Sunday

I was just reflecting on last Sunday's 20 miler run and realized I set PRs in every distance from the 5k to the 30k on that run:

-----PR-----Fastest in that 20 miler----Seconds off PR
5k---16:55---16:50 (miles 16-18)------5
8k---28:57---27:07 (miles 16-20)------110
10k--35:11---34:24 (miles 15-20)------47
10M-1:05----57:22 (miles 11-20)------442
1/2--1:18:11-1:16:24(miles 8-20)-------107
30k--1:58---1:50:51 (miles 2-20)-------429

That was one incredible workout on reflection considering it was not a race effort. I was getting a little skeptical of my treadmill speed so doublechecked everyting - I checked calibrations again while running on it - right on - also checked the angle and found a 1/8" downhill per 4 foot (sits on carpet so the heavier front is sinking a little more) or 275' drop over 20 miles - translates to a 2 second per mile benefit in the 20 miles. Per VDOT 70°F gives me a 5 sec per mile debit vs less than 60°F. Lack of wind resistance (entered as a 10 mph tailwind) gives me a 23 second per mile benefit - so net vs outside should be 23-5+2 - 19 sec/mile easier on the treadmill vs outside. So instead of 6:00 mpm average it was more like 6:19 average and the MP miles averaged more like 5:46 instead of 5:27 - but still - I'm quite happy with that pace and hope I can get anywhere near it on race day.

I did my last longrun today - 17 miles with the last 5 at MP (~161-162 HR) and first 12 at E (~150 HR). It went almost identical to the 20 miler last week for a total average of 6:04. I was currious to see if I could de-acclimate to the heat (treadmill running S-Th in cooled down house - I did not have the extra speed vs HR on any of these runs) than do a one day acclimation (F - 12 miles Hot/Humid ~7 mpm - mostly Easy although pushed a couple of the miles), Easy Sat (6TM) than see if the speed would show up again on Sunday - worked like a charm. A couple times before I've been less successful making this turbo-charge show up on demand but I think the difference now is the extra focus on hydration between Friday and Sunday.

See if I can make it work for Anchorage on 6/21.

Picture of Anchorage:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Weekend Running

Part 1 of 3: Race for the Pennant 5k.

Saturday 7:45 was the Race for the Pennant 5k race. I went into this race feeling a bit disadvantaged to the competition having done no speed work in months and also mostly avoiding the heat running on a treadmill for most of the last month so the goal I had was to just get an Age Grade award which included a family pack 4 tickets to an Astro's home game - but no PR likely given the weather. There was also 2 tickets advertized to just run the race but I'm afraid I might have tossed that - I sifted thru the packet and only found the Shirt to be something worth keeping and I tossed the rest of my packet so probably tossed the 2 free tickets - oh well - guess the kids won't be bring friends to the game. Anyway - a little pre-race warm-up - run into a couple of the Mind over Master's team and hang with them a bit then grab my spot at the front line. Race had 1547 finishers and was typical warm and muggy - Average 78°F with ~80% Humidity. Sean Wade lines up next to me on the start just before the gun goes off. We're off.

Split Pace HR
0.5 5:14 157
1.0 5:24 171
1.5 5:26 175
2.0 5:38 177
2.5 5:44 179
3.1 5:26 181 184 max (that's the highest HR I've seen in 6+ months)

Nothing too memorable during the race although the finish had this really nice downslope that fires right into MinuteMade Park where the Astro's play. Pretty neat to finish to 10s of thousand of chairs - (even if most were empty). I ended up 13th place with a time of 17:08 and as it turns out I WON my age group which gets a pair of shoes added to the 4 tickets :-). Sean is in my age group but he won the race so he took the Open Prize (round trip airlines tickets) and one other Master - Joe Flores took the Master's title (he's in the 45-49 AG) which left me with 1st place for 40-44s. I wasn't able to stick around for the awards as I had a couple more race I had to go to so I'm hoping those prizes aren't "must be present to win" - I could definately use new shoes.

Part 2 of 3: USCAA Reginal Track and Field Championship - 2008 - Tune-up Meet

This event is actually 6/14 with several companies represented but for Saturday it was just us (Shell) and Chevron competing for practice. Things got going around 10 am - I ran a 800m and a 1600m practice race which turned out to be very non-competetive - I got a 2:19 in the 800 not pushing too hard but winning by 20 seconds or so and a 5:30 in the 1600m not pushing at all but again still winning by ~45 seconds or so. The real meet on 6/14 should be much more competetive - I'd like to knock out the 5 mpm milestone in that.

Part 3 of 3: Sunday Training Run 20 miles - 15 Easy, 5 Marathon Pace

This one proved the highlight of the weekend for me. I ran this on a treadmill with extra emphasis the day prior on being hydrated and with the benefit of several hours on Saturday working hard in the heat so a little heat acclimation boost showed up. Target for first 15 was to keep 150 bpm, last 5 target was 161.


1 6:36 127
2 6:18 145
3 6:12 148
4 6:15 148
5 6:14 149
6 6:12 150
7 6:14 149
8 6:12 149
9 6:12 148
10 6:03 148
11 6:02 148
12 5:58 150
13 6:02 150
14 6:03 150
15 6:00 150

16 5:26 156
17 5:23 161
18 5:28 161 (That's a 16:50 5k PR Pace!)
19 5:29 161
20 5:31 162 (That's a 27:07 8k PR Pace!)

That turned out to average 6:00 mpm pace which is the fastest I've covered 20 miles ever including both Houston and Boston marathons - and the first 15 miles were run at EASY heartrate (150) - it was quite a step change performance - I'm thinking the magic combination was the 3 hours of working out in the heat + focus on hydration - boy if I could get that combination right on race day it would be something. To see the step change - here is the above data compared to all my treadmill running since I got the thing:

Just a side note but it is interesting to see the impact the heat had on my pace in that 5k - 5:30 average pace in a 5k with HR 170-180 bpm and next day 5:30 pace at a HR of 161.