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.


Steeeve said...

Great running, John. Amazing that you note, retain and record so much detail in a race. From your description it definitely sounds - watch aside - like your PR marathon. Next is to find a nice flat course and get that six minute pace run done.

Old Man and mid pack runner said...

great effort and another great report.

squirrel1.1 said...

You are truly remarkable. Congrats on a fantastic race. It's so nice to see things come together like that.

Keep up the great running!

kayry said...

Hey Steeeve - thanks for checking in. Someone else mentioned they were planning to run that race and asked me to take good notes so I did :0).

I'm considering the - US Masters Marathon Championship next - if they will take me - I'm checking - TCM is not quite flat but definately faster than Anchorage.

kayry said...

Thanks old man and mid pack runner. Race was a lot of fun and the moose sealed the memory as a great one..

kayry said...

Thanks Squirrel1.1 - so many things can go wrong in a marathon (or before) - it is so nice when it all works out.

Rodney said...

I'm still amazed that we are the same age!! Thanks for sharing the blog. Great description of what you were thinking all the way through, but my favorite part is the "baby" moose that ran across the trail at the beginning. What's your heartrate now?? about 10 bpm???

kayry said...

Thanks Rodney - the wild animal factor sure made the race interesting. Actually the heat of Houston is getting the heartrate pretty high - did a lunch run today and man its hot here - I wanna go back to Anchorage :-).

Gaslight ;-) said...

Nearly cut off by a moose at mile 22- wow. That totally beats my twisted foot at mile 23.
Great race!
(found you from ELF's blog)

kayry said...

Thanks Gaslight - glad you enjoyed the race report - I really loved Anchorage.

That's absolutely terrible about the ankle at mile 23.

I don't know ELF but I did go find her blog since you mentioned it.

日月神教-任我行 said...