Sunday, January 18, 2009

Houston Marathon '09 - DNS - the non-racing Race Report


Houston Marathons over the last few years to me have marked the beginning and the end of the year. Typically Jan 1 is 90% done with a training cycle so it was not a logical finishing of the year - so the Marathon was the finish of MY year.

2007 Started with a 3:10 and ended with a 2:40 Houston Marathon. I had a stretch 2008 goal in the back of my mind to earn a spot as a local elite in the 2009 Houston Marathon. Right off the bat a surprise master's winner at the '08 Houston Marathon earned me the spot - I just love being on that list forever - true that it was among the slowest winning master's time in the last 30 years - but it was a lightning fast race for me.

2008 Started at that 2:40 - had some truly amazing running and racing that thrills me to reflect on ending with San Antonio Marathon in November. The Cherry on the Cake plan/dream had been to come back to Houston in the best fitness ever for another step change in performance (I was planning sub2:35 fitness and I think I had a good plan to get there although weather likely would have slowed a little)- but that was spoiled by injury.

To make the best of this - I elected to make the Houston Marathon 2009 everything it could be without the race......and it was awesome - let me tell you about it:


Plan had been my Sister and Niece (my biggest fans besides my wife/kids - both have travelled to 2 Bostons and NYC marathon races of mine to cheer) were flying in for my big race and I put them in the 5k Houston race along with my son to give them something "fun" to do while I was off racing. No change in the 5k plans but my plans got modified :-).

I figured I'd soak up all the Local Elite Perks I could - even if I can't run. Thursday night I went to a free dinner :-) and got to socialize with a few of the other local elites - even had them all sign my ITR magazine article that had a little bio on each of us that Jon Walk put together as a souvenir. I also got to spend a little time with the Course Director - Stan - who I run with occasionally up in Kingwood. Fun evening and that Greek Lasagna was good...

Friday I get my sister/niece from the airport and really enjoy hanging out with them for a while - we hit her with a surprise birthday party as it happened to be her last couple days of the 3X'er so we had to throw a bunch of over the hill embarrassment at her :-) and planned out 5k race plans and spectating plans - after all - I knew 20+ runners and was eager to live the run vicariously thru them.

Stan give me a call and invites me to be a part of the volunteer work supporting the marathon as he needs someone to ride in the lead police car ahead of the marathon. At first I was tentative about it - I really wanted to see them finish the 5k - but then after I mentioned to the family it became clear it was such an excellent way to kinda experience the race even though I couldn't run it - I couldn't pass it up - and my Wife/Daughter (designated spectators) promised to take pictures/videos. In fact this was very exciting way to experience the marathon.

Saturday we head down to the expo to grab the 5k packets and I figure since I'm there I'd go ahead and pick up my race packet too. I had to go to a special Elite Hospitality Suite to get it where the family raided the food spread they had layed out and I got to chat with a couple of the volunteers. The Race Packet was very cool - I got a special long sleeve shirt that has embroidered "Local Elite Athlete" and was felt really special when I saw my bib number --- NUMBER ONE!!!!! --- Pretty Cool. While down there I try to hook up with Stan by phone to find out my assignment and he turns around and invites me and all I have with me to lunch - we were all hungry and looking to go for lunch anyway so sounded like a fit. After some confusion getting to the restaurant we find ourself at a pretty fancy Mexican Food Restaurant with what seemed to be the Marathon Committee. We had a great time visiting with the Race Director, Brant, and other organizers of the marathon. I got a major ego boost when the Race Director comes up to me and says - "are you the 4:40 to 2:40 marathoner" - I guess Stan had been bragging on me [being the engineer I felt compelled to correct the numbers - 4:30 to 2:40 :-)]. That mega impressed my wife and sister that some stranger who is head of the Houston Marathon would know something about a me. Absolutely awesome company to visit with for lunch - everyone had a great time. And they even picked up our check and expensed it to the marathon - I really wasn't expecting a free lunch in addition to all the great fellowship - how totally cool!!

I learn my assignment for the Marathon - in the unlikely event the marathon route should be blocked for whatever reason - my responsibility was kinda the last line of defence should all other preparations fail - to make up a new work-around course on the fly that does not make the marathon route shorter - longer is ok but not shorter. Of course this translates to - in the likely event things go as planned - I sit in the back of a car and have no responsibilities whatsoever. Images of having to use this responsibility and leading the race into a dead-end street somewhere filled my mind - that would play interesting on the news :-). To get to the police car I would have to use my elite bib, #1 btw :), to get with the elites and get escorted with them a special route around the crowds to the front of the race.

Night before the race played similar to marathon night-befores. I checked the weather - worried about the temperatures/humidities (sympathy taper madness for those running). To bed early but slept poorly, up in the early hours a couple times. During one of these I noticed I could set up alerts on the website so I set up for more than 20 runners I wanted to keep tabs on during the race to get text updates on my phone. On my own I would have moved the leaving the house up probably an hour but with 3 kids/wife/sister - 5:15 departure was as early as I could reasonably ask.

The Race Weather mid50s and Humid with a mild breeze. Seemed to cool and get drier a little at first but by end of 3 hrs it was low 60s.

Out the door 5:15 - get to VIP parking at 6:10 and need to rush a bit to get to the elite area as they were getting escorted at 6:20. I make it just in the nick of time seeing the elites coming out of the elite area and heading for the startline and I jump in line - since I had my bib I fit right in. I kinda walk next to Sell and Ritz (1st and 3rd American at the Beijing Olympic Marathon) and listen to them talk about their pacing strategies hearing lots of 4:xx mile this and 4:xx mile that. I notice Magdalena who I've been a fan of since I saw her at Boston lead by a ton for most of the Olympic Trials Woman's Marathon. Pretty neat to just walk next to these marathon legends. I only regret a little not getting up to the elite area 30 minutes earlier to hang with them instead of just walking out to the startline - but that's OK - sometimes great things are best in a sample size - although a bit larger helping would have been nice.

Get to the Startline area - I walk over across the front of the startline to see if I knew anyone lined up in the front - I saw one of my running club ladies and chatted with her a little - went back and found my Police car I'd be riding in for the race then just kinda stood around and watched the elite marathoners do their warm-ups. As the race time approached I load up in the back of the cop car (like a criminal). The guys up front were all business so there was little chit-chat thru the wall of plexiglass that separates the back seat which was fine with me - I wanted to just look around and soak it all in - cleaner windows sure would have been nice :-).

Gun goes off - I start my watch and we start rolling. Our car was the leader of the pack. Co-pilot in the front passenger seat maintained radio contact to all the other drivers in the parade of vehicles in front of the race and guided them all with descriptions of what to expect as we approached things on the course. He pointed out water stops, pinch points, turns, people that needed to be moved out of the way, which he had the motorcycle cops deal with, and other stuff like that. Behind us was 4-5 motorcycle cops and a couple Press Trucks. There was too much distance and vehicles to see the front runners most all the race except occasionally I could see the front runners off in the distance. A continual sea of eager spectators lined the streets. I was able to keep contact with what was going on with all the runners I was interested in with the text messages coming in for 10k, 1/2M, 30k, Finish splits. I could see the front group of 3-4 runners, then it was 2 runners by the 1/2 (I recall seeing 62:xx for the half and knew the course record was going down as expected) - then by 30k I could only see one runner running alone. The people lining the marathon route from beginning to end yet again impressed me - this marathon rivels Boston / New York in my mind for crowd support (ok not really to that extent - but not that far off either). By mile 24 we speed up to the finish and the job is done - I bid farewell to the front seat couple and make it to the finishline in time to see Merga finish up the race in 2:07:52 shattering the course record.

Meet up with the family and hear excited stories about the 5k race. My son dogged the first couple miles to stay with my sister/niece but then took off for the last mile running what he believes to be his fastest mile ever (~7 minute) to finish-up the race. My niece was excited to have run the entire 5k without walking and my sister was just happy to have the quality time running with her daughter the whole way. Get some cool video and pictures of their finish - Mom is VERY proud of Ryan taking off and putting down a good last mile (and so am I).

Now I get to play spectator - I had a whole bunch of text messages coming in and had some idea when to expect several of the runners I was watching for. We have some time so we move on away from the hussle/bussle finishline and find some open space around the 26 milemarker and wait for people we knew. Except for the Olympic Trials at Boston - this is the first marathon I've been spectator for so I was kinda looking forward to this different kinda experience of the race.

I almost miss the first guy I was watching for - Wilmer Bustillios - he killed my chip time in San Antonio but lost to my gun time so didn't take the Master's Check because of a late start. He most definately would have made roadkill out of me no matter what kind of dream race I might have run with a 2:32 marathon - his 2nd ever marathon I think - incredible - looks to me like he scored a cool $1900 from 3 different prizes - good for him as the late start in San Antonio probably cost him almost that much in prize money there. The 2nd place local master was Gerardo Mora who came in 2:43. There were a couple surprize out of towner masters in the race that came in 2:39 and 2:41. I suspect a good race out of me I might have got 2nd even considering likely a couple minutes slowdown from the wind/heat .... maybe - I will never know but I like to think so.

I continued watching people come in. I was tracking 3-4 competitors, 8-10 from my running clubs, 4-5 from the running times forum and 3-4 co-workers and got to see many of them come by and give them big cheers. A mix of everything in the results from first time marathon awesome races (2:51 from one guy, 3:07 from another) to a co-worker who came out for just a work-out with Austin being the goal race and surprized himself to get a huge PR and almost qualify to go to Boston (missed by 39 seconds :( ). The good, the bad and the ugly - it was all there. What a way to experience the marathon and I thuroughly enjoyed every minute.

Got home and watched the recorded version. Saw the US dominate the 1/2 - Meb 1st, Ritz 2nd, Magdalena 1st for the Half. Saw the course records go down both male and female in the full. And saw a bunch of people I knew in the recording too.

Great race and lots of fun with my out of town guests.

That's all for now - I'll probably add some pictures later.

Thanks for reading......John.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fueling for a Marathon

Ok - I've had this question 3 times now so I figured I'd just write down my answer to make it easier to reply next time :-).

How do I fuel for a marathon.

I've tweaked my fueling strategy with each marathon but actually for Marathon #10 (San Antonio) I've got no new things I thought of to do better so I would plan to do exactly the same thing at the next race:

Pre-race plan...

Cut all Caffeine for 7 days (to increase the impact of it on raceday - also helps sleeping).
Turbo Charge Run Three days Out (skip to the bottom of this if interested on what I did for this - probably not a good idea to try something you haven't tested in training).
Minimum Protein/Fat for Th/F/Sat - targetting >75% calories from Carbs. Short easy runs on F/S with meal right after - best time to load the muscles - right after exercise.
Hydrate - target clear urine on race day - but don't over do it as too much washes away electrolytes.
Pretzels - carry a bag around on Saturday to munch on to help increase electrolytes.
Dinner - finish 14 hours before race start-time - pasta dinner is my typical.
Keep hydrating until bed.
Awake 3 hours from start-time - 5 minute slow jog (optional) followed by 2x16 oz Ultra Fuel (200g Carb, 800 Calories) - I used to do 4 hours and more Ultrafuel but I've cut to this for last two races without regrets so I'll stick with it.
Airborne - to try to pre-empt the tendency to get sick after a race.
45-60 minutes pre-race - cup of coffee.
10 minutes pre-race - 12 oz PowerAid with 2 S-Caps (I tried 16 oz at Anchorage and had some minor cramps first couple miles, 12 oz at San Antonio and no problems)...
Mile 5 - GU
Mile 10,15,20 - Caffenated GU
Hit all aid stations - drink energy drink if mouth is not sweet (from the GU) and hit water if it is - I get what I can without slowing - much ends up spilt.
Finish - 2xEnsure waiting for me in the bag I checked - down them when I get the bag to help recovery.....get in warm cloths quick...

That is all - fwiw....

Good luck out there guys!!!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Good Luck Houston Marathoners - I'll be cheering from the sideline...

As some of you know - I'm sidelined for the Houston Marathon this year :(. I'm more than a little bummed about this.

Within a week after San Antonio it was clear I could not run - I misdiagnosed for a while trying all the wrong things to get better until finally around New Years with MRI results the diagnosing became Sacrum Ala Stress Fracture (top right of diagram) and a Athletic pubalgia. Quickly I could do the math - 6 weeks out of shape already, 8-12 weeks out with SFX (I've heard the Sacrum heals a little slower than other SFX) and unknowns around extent/severity/importance of the other thing that may not be improved with the rest (I'm exploring the under the knife options but can't see going that way without knowing I have to and I won't know that until I'm actually running again).....The course ahead on running is uncertain with the second thing but at the minimum for the sfx I'm out 2-3 months healing, 2 months build up and 4 months training = 8-9 months before I'm ready to do another race.

First time being injured (really) since I started this marathoning venture a few years ago ....guess I was over-due to experience this side of the sport too...but it will pass....

Again - for those racing next weekend - I'll be rooting for you!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Important things I'm learning about Ironman Training

In my new quest (maybe) - I've discovered one of the most important things of this new venture:

how to brag

[I found this online and thought it was too hilarious not to share]

Before I started to train an Ironman, I bought a training plan; I read books on hydration and fuel replacement, I listened to endless hours of advice from elite and pro triathletes. This information did help me finish, but it did not teach me how to correctly brag about being an Ironman.

My friends and I came up with a six phase program which will aid you in bragging about your Ironman . Use this plan from the moment you register until well after the race is complete for the most bang for your bragging buck.

Sign Up Phase: For most Ironman events, you have to register up to one year in advance. This gives you plenty of time to brag about doing an Ironman. During this phase, you must let all of your non-Ironman friends know you can't hang out with them anymore, because you just signed up for an Ironman. If you don't have any Ironman friends, then go to a place where runners or bikers hang out. Look for the Ironman symbol (M Dot) on their training clothes. An Ironman would never be caught running or biking without their Ironman stuff.

Training Phase: Training for an Ironman can be compared to having a part time job. You must let everyone you meet know this. This can be accomplished by sighing loudly at work, mumbling how tired you are because you just biked 100 miles, because you are in training for an Ironman. You can also skillfully steer the conversation with your neighbors and co-workers to your Ironman training. Here is an example:

Neighbor: "Did you hear what President Bush said this week?" Lee: "Were you aware that President Bush is a biker? I just biked 100 miles today. I am training for an Ironman."

Co worker: Lee, are you working late tonight? Lee: No, I have to get up early to do a 20 mile run.

I even once rang my neighbor's door and when he answered, I said "Sorry Bob, can't talk to you now, I am training for an Ironman."

One Week before the Race Phase: You need to let your neighbors and co-workers know you will be gone for a little while, competing in an Ironman. Once again, you can steer the conversation to your Ironman race.

Neighbor: "Wow Lee your lawn looks great!" Lee: "My lawn is going to look bad this next week; I will be competing in an Ironman."

Race Expo Phase: You must buy as much Ironman merchandise as possible. For years we saved our money to send both of my boys to private college, but sacrifices must be made. Both Derick and Ty will be going to junior college now. You must buy enough Ironman clothes to cover every day at work and training. You must also buy plenty of shirts for your spouse and children. They will also spread the word that you just finished an Ironman.

The Race Phase: At you can setup automatic emails and cell phone message notifications of your Ironman timing splits. You can use all of the entries in your email and cell phone address book. Include everyone regardless of whether they remember you are or not. It just does not matter, because you are an Ironman.

Post Race Phase: The finisher medal can be worn for one day per the number of miles raced and everyone knows that an Ironman is 140.6 miles. So wear that medal for 141 days (always round up as opposed to rounding down your finishing time). Your children must be trained to say, "My daddy is an Ironman. He gave me this shirt. He's an Ironman." This must be emphasized over and over with your children. I did not do this after I ran the Boston marathon, and Derick, my oldest boy, told everyone at his day care that his grandma ran the marathon. Your spouse must memorize all of your splits (swim, bike and run). You must also include both transition splits as well. Instead of wearing a shirt which states, "I am with Dummy", your spouse will wear a shirt which says, "I am with a stud Ironman". All conversations must be steered to your Ironman race.

Co-Worker: "Did you hear about the new work policy?" Lee: "Nope, I did not; I was racing in an Ironman."

For at least one month you can say, "Well, I 'm only going to run easy today, I just did an Ironman." When someone brings up a subject of hardships suffered, you need to remind them that you also have suffered through hardships while training and racing in your Ironman.
You can also use these ideas to brag about other races, but please only brag about races which are longer than 13.1 miles.

1. it's a joke, folks.

2. kind of.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 look ahead - a new direction

Time for a new frontier - marathoning has been my goal/quest for 3 years now. Time for something new.

The next Quest --- I want to finish a strong ironman - possibly this year (if I can get into one) or at least be conditioned ready this year.

No clue whatsoever how to achieve the goal but that's what I want to do next so I'm going to figure it out.

This last week I've collected some baseline data on my abilities - I've got a long way to go. Appears my steady state paces for the two sports I need to go learn are:

Swimming - ~60-70 seconds per 50 meter
Biking - ~17-18 mph (on my son's schwinn - I guess I need to go get a bike).

Looking at what it takes to get a KQ (Qualifying time to Hawaii) looks like I need closer to 21-22 mph on the bike (for 112 miles) and 60-70 seconds per 100 meter swim (for 2.4 miles)....I've got some major work to do....looking forward to the new journey...