Monday, November 17, 2008

San Antonio Marathon Race Report - Marathon #10

I love this finishing photo - you much click on the picture to see - has the family in the background - Susan - white hat and Ryan wearing my brown HighHopes hat, Kaylee is hidden by Mom. Combined with the time, the burst of excitement at finishing and knocking out sub2:40 and flying across the finishline. Love it! What a race - where to start - let's see - I was born..........a poor black child.............OK maybe that's not it (and who remembers "The Jerk" anyway).

For those who want to just skip it all and go to the results - Here You go. Results.

Brief version is I was 2nd for my age group but won the Master's race anyway on a technicality.

Guess I'll start with Saturday - we head out for the 3.5 hour drive around 10:30 am, my darling wife Susan, Kids Ryan and Kaylee and our dog Tyler (couldn't find a pet-sitter). After typical road stops we arrive at the Alamodome with a couple hours to spare to do my packet/bib-number pick-up. I leave the family in the SUV hoping for a quick pick-up - but with only a couple hours to spare - who am I kidding. I manage to navigate the crowds and get back to the family - they were definitely eager to get to the hotel. A volunteer made me feel pretty special as I traded a tear-off from my bib number for a T-Shirt with "Oh - my first Black bib - I think I'll save it" - now I understand there were only about a dozen of these bib's as they represented the Texas Showdown competition within the race. We get a ridiculously expensive hotel downtown for the extra perk of the family being able to walk to the finishline. Nice accommodations and almost worth the money - easy walk to the riverwalk and easy to find a restaurant for dinner - all was OK except for about 30 minutes of the alarms sounding and sounding and sounding in the middle of the night - man that thing was loud. Before and after the alarm it was a pretty good nights sleep.

Up 3 hrs early at 4:30 am to start my last carb-loading. Sometimes I like to do a little 5 minute jog at this time but the mid-30s persuaded me to skip this little ritual. Get my shower, Carbs and coffee, take the dog out for a little walk - then off to the shuttle for the ride to the Start. I get to the start line and all is OK - I'm ready to race - a few Pet Peeves about the race - but I'll keep those separate to not taint the race itself as the race itself was great.

The race - Perfect Weather - starts as a combined half and full marathon with dozens or so corrals holding nearly 25,000 runners that are released a couple corrals at a time. I'm in 1st corral so I'm released at the gun along with the elites.

Race strategy - 6:00-6:15 first mile then HR=164 thru mile 4, drop 1 bpm off the target per each 4 miles to the end - should give me even effort based on study of my previous races.

mile Split HR (per Garmin which typically runs 3-4 seconds fast per mile - can also be looked at on Motionbased if you prefer just the numbers without the rambles)

1 6:04 xxx I had targeted between 6:00 and 6:15 mile - I run with Chris Bittinger first mile as he's targeting 1:20 half which matches up with my 2:40 full target.

2 5:42 xxx Sam Rodreguiz runs by - I'd planned to run by HR at this point but because it was so cold - my heartrate monitor was still giving me bad data (I wasn't sweating enough to get a good connection) so I decided to stick with Sam - he tells me he's aiming for a 1:18 1/2 marathon so I figured 6 mpm pace could be a possibility today - I'd stick near him and give it a chance.

3 5:40 163 HRM is finally working - target at this point was 164 so it appears I'm at about the right pace - maybe a little slow - I end up passing Sam to stick to my target.

4 5:56 164 Right on target but I notice from mile splits I've got a fair amount of time banked already on a 6 mpm pace - the turbo-charge heat treatment run most definitely is working as I was ~20 seconds or so slower earlier in the week for this heartrate.

5 6:18 162 Target drops to 163 - An uphill on this mile - a very friendly and encouraging black bib eases by me as I slow on the uphill - seems to know me and it's bugging me that I can't place him.

6 5:48 159 Downhill I pass this black bib again - again he gives me encouraging words - I just say thanks and try to get back my speed back up to my HR target.

7 5:58 161 I notice I'm still banking time even though I'm not hitting my HR target so I kinda settle for 6 mpm splits as good enough and don't push the pace to get back on target - a hazard of seeing the time at each milemarker - without that info I think I would have pushed the pace harder to keep on target.

8 5:53 158 Target drops to 162 - but I'm not getting close to it - but still banking time or at least not using the time banked - so I don't push it.

9 5:55 160 Still not hitting target - but rolling with it - thinking about Anchorage Marathon where I backed off the 2nd 10k and was able to push harder on the final 10k so figuring I'm set up for a good final push with this energy reserve not pushing to the target (yes - I'm rationalizing running slower).

10 5:59 158 Exorcising demons was much more in this race than any other I've run - I just didn't seem to have the mojo/the hunger to really push it all out and kept having to battle thoughts of taking a walk break or turning off with the 1/2 marathoners. Although I wasn't getting on target - I count victory in not letting these thoughts slow me down.

11 6:05 157 Half marathoners have split off - I can now see who ahead of me is actually in MY race - much more spread out between runners.

12 5:59 158 Target drops to 161. Still not hitting my target - maintaining position in the race - occasionally getting passed and occasionally passing - but not really changing in position.

13 5:55 157 I don't realize at the time but I am able to maintain pace on these miles for less effort (lower heartrate) thru 20 because there is a slight decline and I think a slight tailwind.

14 6:02 157

15 5:55 158

16 6:02 157 Target drops to 160 Mental demon's seem to reverse - all of a sudden I feel all powerful - feel like sprinting but control that urge - perhaps that caffeine GU I took at Mile 15. I remember thinking this was where I eased off the gas at Houston Marathon - no feeling like doing that today.

17 6:07 156 I catch an Elite runner around here somewhere - I'm thinking he looks like a Kenyan - ok he was walk/jogging and holding his leg in apparent pain - recalling the Saturday night live joke I think to myself - "See John McCain - it is possible to beat a Kenyan in a race" :-).

18 5:55 158

19 6:05 158

20 6:08 158 Target drops to 159. 23rd place - Hit near the bottom of the gentle grade fall and come back for the final 10k back to the finish. Now I get the reverse of the benefit from 13 - now a gentle uphill, a couple rolling steeper hills, and a slight headwind - also temps into 50s instead of 30s,40s up to here might have caused slightly slower. I notice my 20 mile split is 2:00:41 - only 41 seconds to make up to get a 6 mpm pace - knowing I had banked some energy running a lower heartrates - it seems within reach. From here to the end I'm knocking out runners one by one.

21 6:10 157 I'm not getting the mile splits I want - now 51 seconds to make up - not going to happen in only 5 miles - start working out what is required to assure sub 2:40 - must hang on to that milestone at all costs.

22 6:12 158 Slipped a little more time - even giving up banked time on a 2:40 pace.

23 6:13 160 This mile I'm just struggling for a thought to embrace to get me to the next mile marker - for this one I chose Susan (My darling wife) to take me there - focuses in on the excitement she has at finishlines for me - works - gets me there staying on target - even a bit ahead of target on heartrate. Although I'm slipping on pace - not sure why.

24 6:17 161 19th place - Now I switch my inner voice cheerleader to my son Ryan - the cool acting but still very proud Ryan - come on Ryan - get me to 24 - he does - far ahead of my heartrate target - but I'm still loosing seconds.

25 6:13 162 Target drops to 158 - Now I switch my inner voice cheerleader to my daughter Kaylee - the rational, sometimes bratty (in a fun way) and never easily impressed - she gets me there - even stronger effort - but I'm still loosing more seconds.

26 6:12 163 Last mile - This one is mine - this is my race - no pulling back.

26.45 2:39 166 (5:53 pace) - 2 final turns to get to the finish - I come across a much slowed struggling elite woman - I kinda feel bad passing her but there was still a good amount of race left and I wanted to finish strong. Before the last turn there is a brutal uphill that is killing my legs but I'm pushing thru it with all I've got. Round the last corner and head for the finishline - scan the crowd for my cheering squad and finally see them just before the finishline - swoop in for high fives at full speed then cross the finishline - let out a big cheer for knocking out the 2:40 milestone -

Man that just felt so awesome!!

All the pre-race plans worked like a charm - fueling, hydrating, training, turbo-charge - all worked great. Race execution itself was a just little lacking as I let myself fall off target for much of the race - probably gave up a couple minutes but I didn't have the "fight for it" spirit to grab that last bit of potential I believe is available to me - that's OK - I knew pre-race I had started other races with more mojo and I was a bit untrusting of myself - but I didn't give-in - and finished the race strong - feeling very good about the effort I got out of myself. Still wondering who is that nice black bib. Need to figure out how to get that greater desire I had in earlier marathons with the better training I have now to really deliver it all.

That's about all I've got for now - thanks for reading - here's the Results. Thanks for reading - John. A little video with a few seconds of me at the end crossing the finish....

San Antonio Marathon Pet Peeves List

Before I get to my race report - I had to dump my rants about the race - so here they are:

Inaugural event of 33,000 signed up (~24,500 finishers) - expect a few things to not be quite perfect - overall I think they did a GOOD job pulling it off but there are definitely opportunities for improvement for next time - a few that come to mind for me:


  • Website didn't have all the information - had to look at both website and emails to piece it all together - should have updated website to incorporate the later information sent out on email. For example - there was nothing on the website about live tracking however I do now see it was in an email - I told a couple people there was only Start and Finish time recorded as that was all that was indicated on the website that I could find. Another example - no mention on the website about prize breakdown that I can find although it also was in an email - that particular email had proofreading issues - for example it listed Masters 1st - $500 - with a comment next to it "Do we need this" - creating questions in my mind now if there even is a Master's prize.

  • Expo - I went 2 hours before close - a little late so I was expecting it to be crowded - but it was a bit overly so in the packet pick-up area - had to keep us in a holding area before getting into the pick-up area for a while before we could get into individual corral lines.

  • "Calling Texas Bests" for the Texas Showdown - this was listed on the website as "We invite athletes who have run under 2:47 (male) and 3:15 (female) for the marathon & 1:15:30 (male) 1:26:30 (female) for the half to submit their resume for consideration of elite athlete status." So I thought I was in with "elite athlete status" - from other races I've had an invitation this included VIP benefits (Twin City Marathon-2008 which I didn't end up running, Houston 2009 coming up in January) - for this race it was only a black bib number - ok I also got free entry because I also qualified for complementary entry with a sub 2:43 prior marathon. The VIP thing really was not that important to me - but it would have been nice and I think they should have done it for the ~10-15 runners that entered the program.
  • Shuttle to the start - worked perfect for me leaving at 5:30 - no waiting at all - I heard some pretty bad experiences from those who thought showing up for a 6:30 shuttle was plenty of time to make a 7:30 race start.
  • BagCheck - when I got there there were many UPS buses not there yet and the ones that were there didn't know which letter bag they were collecting. I recognized a couple glitches in the system I heard very quickly and decided I was going to be first to check in my bag to avoid the glitches. 1st glitch was the buses were being loaded by last name alphabet - I was hoping by corral number since the 1st corral would likely have a shorter check in line. 2nd - the UPS trucks were arranged similar to the New York Marathon fiasco last year with the a line of trucks on both sides of a narrow road forcing all the runners down the center to line up in a congested center that could become a huge mess. After recognizing check-in was not going to be a smooth quick operation I decided to go ahead and get out of my warm gear and load up my bag and check it in a first opportunity. Once the rest of the UPS trucks arrived and they started marking them with the last names that would load - I projected which truck would be mine and ended up 3rd in line about 1 hour before start with only a trash bag to keep me warm - but better to shiver than be caught in what I was expecting to be a fiasco given another 30 minutes or so.
  • Start - excellent - went off without a hitch (ok it was 15 minutes late for some reason - but that's ok).
  • Race - good aid stations, enthusiastic volunteers, clocks on every milemarker (I would have rather not had that but that's just me - I prefer to fly blind), clearly marked course, good separation of 1/2 marathon from marathon last 2 miles.
  • Finish - don't know - they pulled me into VIP thinking I was 3rd Texan (1st ran so fast they missed him whizzing by) so I didn't get to go thru the normal post race stuff - missed my finishing photo but that was more than made up for by a free beer :).
  • Family Meeting - very clear.
  • Baggage Pick-up - a brutal long line - a regret of mixing 1/2 marathon and marathon together is near all the 1/2 marathoners finish ahead of me and I must wait with them to get my bag - I kinda wish the marathoners could be more separated but there's probably no better way to do this - just a hazard of running half/full marathon races.

Again - overall these issues were minor for me - but I do think there are opportunities for improvements. Considering their self proclaimation this was the largest inaugural race ever anywhere - I think they did a GOOD (but not excellent) job.

San Antonio Marathon Results

I'll come back and make a race report but for now - just the results:

Time 2:39:23 (PR by 1:23) (VDOT 61.7 - also a PR of any distance)
Pace 6:05 minutes per mile
Place 17th/7526
Gender Place 14/4015
Age Grade 81% (Nationally Rated)
Division Place 2nd

Prizes -
1st Place Master $500 (based on gun time - would have been 2nd $250 if based on chip time)*
Texas Showdown Place 4th (prizes stop at 3rd by the guy in 16th place 1 minute ahead of me who collected the $500)
6th USA (prizes stop at 5th also by that 16th place guy who collects $200)

Awards -
2nd Place Age Group (based on chip time)

* A bit of a hollow victory here - I won this on a technicality as it goes by gun time. Wilmer Bustillos actually beat me by 3 minutes Chip Time through a ton of traffic apparently starting the race 15 minutes after me and weaving thru crowds of people - very impressive as a Master on what appears to be his debut marathon - at least the first marathon I can find on record - he's been beating me quite handily in shorter races and I kinda hoped he wouldn't move up to the marathon.

I happened to notice Wilmer is signed up for Houston although the website doesn't say which race - if the marathon - there is high probability of him making roadkill out of me.

So I get a free race - very cool - as the $500 about equals the hotel and other travel expenses.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Health Check

Cholesterol check at work today - indicates one of the many nice byproducts of being physically active:

.....................Mar 06 May 08 Nov 08...Norm..Optimal
Good Cholesterol(HDL)...52......64......72....>40......>60
Bad Cholesterol(LDL)...151.....105......71....<129.....<100
Total Cholesterol......229.....180.....157....<200


Diet has still not much improved as I live off still about 1/2 my meal eating out - with much of that fast food.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Weather Obsessing - San Antonio Marathon

11/16 Actual Weather from Weather Underground History for race:

Race time 7:45-10:25

Time----temp---Dew pt-hum-wind---------sky
6:53 AM 35.1 °F 19.9 °F 54% NW 3.5 mph Clear
7:53 AM 37.9 °F 23.0 °F 55% WNW 5.8 mph Clear
8:53 AM 48.9 °F 21.0 °F 33%Calm Calm -----Clear
9:53 AM 52.0 °F 21.0 °F 30%SSW 6.9 mph Clear
10:53 AM 55.9 °F 21.0 °F 26%SW 5.8 mph Clear

In a word PERFECT

11/14 Saturday Night Low 36°F E@6mph Sunday High 73°F S@8mph
Dew Point ~30
7am 41 wsw 6
8am 51 sw 6
9am 62 ssw 7
10am 67 ssw 8

11/13 Saturday Night Low 42°F E@9mph Sunday High 70°F S@10mph
11/12 Saturday Night Low 42°F E@9mph Sunday High 70°F S@10mph
11/11 Saturday Night Low 42°F N@9mph Sunday High 70°F N@10mph <--less wind please 11/10 Saturday Night Low 36°F N@11mph Sunday High 62°F N@12mph <--I'd like to lock in 11/9 Saturday Night Low 44°F N@ mph Sunday High 70°F N@ mph
11/8 Saturday Night Low 51°F N@ mph Sunday High 70°F N@ mph
11/7 Saturday Night Low 51°F N@ mph Sunday High 72°F N@ mph
11/6 Saturday Night Low 40°F N@ 8mph Sunday High 68°F N@ 14mph
11/5 Saturday Night Low 46°F N@ 5mph Sunday High 78°F N@ 5mph
11/4 Saturday Night Low 41°F N@ 6mph Sunday High 74°F N@ 4mph(So much nicer forecast than yesterday)
11/3 Saturday Night Low 57°F

above Per Accuweather 11/15 Saturday Night Low, 11/16 Sunday High