Saturday, December 1, 2012

Texas Endurance Run 50k

Saturday - 50k. I'm here for a workout - not a race - figured I'd just jog with Bryan (They guy behind me in the pic) - he's a 3 hr'ish marathoner and since we jog together a lot it's easy conversation most all the race - we also work together so lots of topics and miles of silence are golden too - a great running partner. He says he's going for 8mpm'ish pace which I think is pretty fast - I only did 9 mpm's on my 50 miler here in February - add to that it's a warm/humid day with dew points above 60°F - but I just figure I'll go whatever pace he wants - he can't out run me - and just hang. We take off - 3/4th place - ease by 2nd after about 5 miles - finish the 10k loop and a full 20k loop without any change in position. We’ve been averaging just over 8 mpm up to there which I didn’t think Bryan was going to sustain – I’ll go another loop – I decide I need to feel the pain of Ultras if I’m going for 100. We notice first female isn't far behind at the turnaround to finish the 2nd loop so likely she’s catching us. Sure enough about 4-5 miles later at an aid station we take a little longer and she jets on by us like we were standing still – ok we were. A few more miles jogging then for the last 10k or so the uphills turn into walk breaks – then some of the flats turn into walk breaks too – Bryan’s struggling – but we’re still joking around and having fun. The trails were open to occasional mountain bikers and groups of hikers.

About 28.23 miles according to my Garmin – a group of 5-6 hikers plus a wiener dog on a leash happed along the trail going the other direction. A kid was pulling the wiener dog to our left so we could pass to the right. With my eyes a bit too focused on that wiener dog – I failed to land one step correctly – hit something – probably a root in the trail – and rolled the ankle – heard/felt a pop of some sort and knew I was screwed. After many many many explicative’s that I chose not to write here – I find I can do no more than walk – I could do that without too much pain – but any jogging was out. Bryan’s real cool to stick with me the last 3 miles/1 hour of hobbling – (looking at the aerial now I see I had a path to the finish of less than ½ mile but I didn’t know that so stuck to the run course). Get to the finish – get my finishers medal and finishers hoody and find some ice to knock down the swelling. When I finally get the shoes off the ankle’s the size of a baseball – doesn’t look good. I manage to drive home with my left foot and elevate my right foot for the 1+ hour ride home.

Splits -
10k - 2nd/3rd Place
50:54.007:57 min/m

20k - 2nd/3rd Place
01:41:30.008:07 min/m

20k - 15th/16th Place
02:49:31.0013:33 min/m

Total - 05:21:53.00

Shower and head to urgent care for X-Ray – Cracked Fibula – out for 3 months :(.

X-Ray's didn't progress quite as hoped.  At initial visit's diagnosis - Cracked fibula - the doctor indicated the crack fill in within a few weeks and be solid bone again within a couple months.  Over-anxious me I was trying to walk on it within 3 weeks and took my boot off so probably prevented that from happenning - after 4 weeks I was told to wear the boot another two weeks - after 6 weeks there was no filling in - really didn't look remarkable different.  Doc said it would probably just stay like that so may as well and try and run on it - so end of January I started running again and January 31st I did my first double digit run.  I've come back from injury outages a few times - I'm always pretty impressed how quickly speed bounces back.

After a few weeks my foot started hurting so I stuck to the elliptical/spin class for a couple weeks - still around  45 minutes per day on average - turned out I had just started wearing a shoe that was too narrow - fixed that and ramped up the mileage averaging 80 min/day with mileage up to 70ish miles per week.  Pretty neat to have speed back about like it was in November within just a couple months of training :).   Next Up - Hells Hills 50 miler - April 6th - need to get my Western States Qualifier - sub 11 hours.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Duel with the Sun - Ironman Florida

Duel with the Sun - Ironman Florida 2012

As sunrise just begins in Panama City Beach, there is a loud "BOOM" as the crack of the canon fires to send off thousands including myself straight into the ocean to start my personal duel - with the Sun. One-on-one - me vs Apollo the sun god - racing to the finishline. All indications were the Sun would set at a predictable time nearly 11 hours later - my performance at ironman florida was not to be quite so predictable.

Background: 18 marathons or more completed and 2 Triathlons – one sprint tri and an ironman (IMTX) both about 18 months ago. I'd had on my life goals to complete an endurance trifecta including Boston Marathon (done), Kona Ironman World Championships and Western States 100 miler endurance run. The first ironman proved to me a runner does not a ironman make - mastering the other 3 disciplines of a triathlon (swimming, biking and stomaching enough food) takes some work.

Ironman Florida 2012 appeared my best opportunity to get to Kona without flying expenses. A new age group this year meant a little less competition for Kona slots awarded to the top x finishers in each age group so there was kinda a feeling of now or never to sign-up. Advanced planning is required as these races are so popular. I had to have hand on mouse when registration opened a year before the race and submit the (overly complicated) application before it filled up which took 15 minutes for 2012's race (btw - it took less than 1 minute for next year’s race).

After registering I tried to forget about it and stay focused on my running adventures. I polished off 3 marathons (one 2:40) a fifty miler and loads of relay races and shorter distances before coming back to thinking about the ironman. In fact I was having good times with running and considered seriously bailing on the ironman. I had some idea what it would take to even have a Kona shot and as time came to start putting in the kinda training required I found motivation to add the other sports lacking. In the IMFL program this year there's an article profiling the "average" ironman describing 80 hours a month in workouts for 7 months - that's average mind you - at max max running training volumes I rarely - maybe never over 40 hours a month and usually I'll train about 3 months for a marathon - sometimes up to 4. I'd decided I was NOT going to put that much time into training - a Kona slot is just not worth that much to me - so instead I changed my goals to just have a good race - get to a "respectable" level of fitness and try to improve raceday execution over the prior ironman.

The "plan" when I signed up was to train for IMFL after the Boston Marathon in April - that would have been 6 months - seemed adequate to get the job done if I really put my all into it - but instead I decided to (and needed to) slack off a bit until June - I was pretty worn down from lots of racing in the first third of the year and the body needed a rest. I was still running at a maintenance level volume and did a medium fitness kinda marathon in Anchorage towards the end of June (which was a blast) then thought I'd extend my slacking off/maintenance mode kinda working out thru July - finally in the first half of August I got on the bike and jumped in the pool to start picking up the other sports to do IMFL - 3 months is enough training for a marathon - I figured it should be enough to be at least "respectable" for an ironman. Here's the training I ended up doing:

So in the end about 10 hours per week average over 12 weeks - about 1/2 the "average" ironman does to train - and about 3 months instead of the average's 7 months of training. Although short of average, I felt pretty good about it delivering something respectable - beating the sunset seemed like a realistic goal for with what I had in the tank - sub10 hour is what it took for Kona in 2011 (actually 9:54) - I figured that was a <10 chance.="chance.">
SWIM: Swimming is by far my weak leg. A 25m pool at the YMCA was where 90% of my swimming was done. I'm sure with more focus I could cut down my swim time a lot but I really just wanted to do the minimum to get by because I just really didn't enjoy that part of the training - and this is all for "fun" afterall. I got two open water swims in the wetsuit and one full distance swim (in the pool) during the training. I was confident I could get by much like I did at IMTX although I was nervous about ocean swimming as I had never done that before short of playing in the waves as a kid or with my kids. Talk of Sharks, Sting-Rays and Jellyfish certainly didn't help. I arrived in Panama City Wednesday night and at least swam through the breakers a couple times Thursday/Friday mornings - but two 5 minute (somewhat fearful) swims was still quite different than 2.4 miles. But I figured I'd get over the nerves once the canon fired. IMTX's swim leg I finished in 1:32 - figuring the effects of ocean+wetsuit buoyancy and reduced crowds - I thought I'd be a bit quicker at IMFL.

The swim course is two loops counter clockwise into the gulf around some buoy about 1/2 mile out. When I got to Florida on Thursday the seas were very rough with a sea breeze to stir them up. By sunrise on raceday the sea was breeze was gone and the sea was calm which helped to calm my nerves. My wife and kids joined me race morning and after dropping off all the transition supplies and getting my bike all set up for the ride we were able to hang out on the beach before the start. I was given the advice from a long time ironman to line up way way away from the crowds to the right away from the buoy - can't go inside the buoy but can swim as far away from then as you like. Perhaps its commons sense but the distance to a buoy 1/2 mile away is pretty much the same if you move 1-200m down the beach - and the crowd difference is so much nicer.

A few last pictures with the family and I wade out into the water and wait for the "BOOM" (yeah - I thought it was a "beach" start but I guess you can wade out however much you want pre start). Duck under a couple breakers then pretty clear water - visibility ~5-10' - lots of room between swimmers - SOOO much nicer than Lake Woodlands in IMTX - I almost like this :). I'm able to get right into rhythm and crank out the strokes. I get around the buoy - a little more crowded there but not bad - accidentally go inside the buoy and get a quick re-direct by a guy on a surfboard - no problem. With about 1/3rd of the race down I discover a couple mistakes in my race planning 1) A little glide on the neck would have been a great idea, 2) Wearing my slightly too small bike shirt to save time during transition might was a bad idea. Whatever - a little chaffing – no big deal. That big hotel off in the distance keeps getting closer and closer:). Finally get close enough to body surf a wave in then up and run the beach for the 2nd loop. Thought I was cruising but a little surprised my 1/2 split was only 45 min - I was hoping closer to 40ish for the split - no big deal - I'm still delighted by such a pleasant swim - ok that's going too far but it didn't suck anyway. Back into the water - duck a few breakers and back to smooth swimming again. Each chaffing point becomes a little more painful with each stroke but there was really nothing I could do about it but keep going. Lots more of the same then I'm standing up and running up the beach pulling off wetsuit and stuff. 1:35'ish - again a bit slower than I'd like but I'm mostly happy it's over. It wasn't anywhere the euphoria of been DONE with IMTX - because it just didn't suck anything like that.

T1: To make this a quicker transition my plan was to just strip off the swim stuff, put on my bike shoes and go - with one exception - I MUST have my socks! The pros may do the bike/run without but I refuse to even try. I cross the swim finish and watch for my wife and kids and see some big smile and give back a big smile myself:


Then the strippers, a quick walk through shower and I'm jogging to get my transition bag. My wife tells me after that if we ever do another of these things she really wants to be a volunteer stripper - she just had a ball watching those guys and gals stripping off the wetsuits. I jog my way with my transition bag into the changing area and spend all the necessary time to put on my socks - toe socks (injinji) on wet feet take some extra time but I have such good fortune with blister resistance with those - they were worth the extra 1-2 minutes to me. Jog out in my bike shoes - get some sunscreen and a volunteer has my bike waiting for me - sweet - off I go.

BIKE: The bike training went pretty good. No crashes!! I got in one 100 miler and bunches of 50-80 milers on the weekends with time on the aerobars up to 4-5 hours at a time - amazing how time consuming biking it! I got to ride a bunch with my son Ryan which I enjoyed a lot. I practiced fueling unlike for IMTX - and figured I'd learned some things about how to do it wrong at IMTX so was looking for improvements. My best rides were in the 19ish mph range which for 112 miles - not quite where I got to for IMTX where I averaged 19.3 for the bike leg. Then I got the suggestion (thanks Tim Wilson) to try ZIPP tires - I'd never thought of that before but for $150 it looked like I could expect at least a 0.5 mph bump - Tim said even more - as much as 2 mph - but I didn't want to expect that kinda improvement. For fueling I thought I had a decent plan - I'd tested elements of it in training but never to full length at full volumes consumed.

Weather forecast for the day was a 60/83F with dew points around 60 (translation hot and humid) with a light breeze building from near zero to around 5 mph WNW - little cloud cover so I can keep an eye on my queary the whole day. First part of the ride was into the small breeze going west. Pace plan was to be very easy the first 30 miles to help much needed digestion for the rest of the race and slowly step it up a little with a negative split effort over the bike. I figured below ~135 HR would be pretty easy - typically I was averaging 140-145 on my bike rides - sometimes up to 150 for a hard ride. Pace came in consistently 20+ mph despite "easy" and even a little headwind - these ZIPP wheels are very very cool! I'm zipping by everyone - advantage of finishing so far back in the swim is the majority is ahead of you waiting to be passed :). Turn north for a bunch of miles - cross'ish wind - then turn East. At the turn east there just so happened to be an oil tanker truck working its way by all the bikes and I had the nicest little 30 mph stretch tucked right behind it. I'm not real sure about the drafting rules regarding vehicles - it’s illegal to draft another cyclist but I don’t recall any rules about drafting vehicles - probably that is illegal but it was so much fun :). That really only goes on for a little over 1/2 mile before it's going too fast to keep up with. A bunch more miles East still feeling easy and still cranking out lots of 20+mph miles - turn south and now I'm very slightly creeping the effort up - still pretty easy. A nice tailwind creeps the speed up with some pretty fast splits as fast as 24 mph. A turn NE then around 50 miles in I was feeling pretty speedy with the average up over 21 mph - then there was the 5 mile out and back road that revealed my mistake #1 for the bike. The road was very very bumpy with lots of obstacles (bottle, CO2 bottles, spare tires) that had rattled off the cyclists ahead. My rigid steel frame did well to translate every bump straight to my rump. I didn't lose any bottles or anything else on this ride but I after it was done I took stock and something was very different. I didn't have the full power stroke in my legs any more - turns out the screws for my seat weren't tight enough and I lost a couple inches. It didn't seem too bad and there wasn't much I could do about it - I tried to pull the seat up a couple times but no way. A little more north then a turn for a good long stretch west - with a bit more headwind. I started thinking a bit less about negative split - my third bottle of fuelling was not as easy to take as the first two - taste seemed a bit off - harder to drink. I finish it down - but then energy level seems to be dropping. I cheat a couple times and take a break drafting. Take a South turn at the same spot I drafted the big truck - I'm thinking 4 hours 1800 calories consumed in 3 bottles - 450 cal/hr - not too bad - slightly less than I wanted. I stick with water for a while trying to clear the stomach. I chew on a ginger laced shot block also trying to settle the stomach down a bit. I'd planned 4 bottles of the stuff I packed on the bike but I couldn't take a sip of the 4th bottle. Instead I grab an Ironman Preform bottle from an aid station which I'd planned to be my 5th bottle at the end of the bike. I'm around 90+ miles in and I take a sip of this mango flavored Preform - yuck - what kinda flavor is that - within a couple miles I'm forced to stop and toss cookies - first and only time I unclipped the shoes - I get going again but energy is weak and my stomach isn't going to be taking any more Preform - or that 4th bottle of stuff I've got. In the last 20 miles or so I'm just cruising much slower - some tailwind so not TOO slow - sipping water - I at least chow down the rest of my ginger laced shot blocks so get a couple hundred calories - but by the end of the bike - I'm not fueled adequate to run a marathon.

Target for the bike was to get around 2500 calories consumed with maybe a 200 calorie buffer from the minimum I'd need for a good run. This would have had my Fuel tank around 60% full which would likely be enough to sustain a 7ish mpm marathon. Instead my gas tank was down around a 1/4 tank with maybe 1800 calories from the bike. I knew this run wasn't going to go very well - add in the heat/humidity of the middle of the day with the life sucking orb - going to be a long run.

Mistake #2 for the bike turned out to my fuel choice and maybe my mixing of it. Ultrafuel is a ~70/30 mix of maltodextrin/fructose - long chain Carbs are good for getting the high calorie/minute movement through the stomach - a pretty normal fuel for cyclists as far as I can tell - but I mixed it a bit too strong - instead of 6 scoops + 24 oz water I did 6 scoops and filled up the 24 oz mixer cup - so the actual amount of water was less than 24 oz since the powder took up some volume - I think it won't pass the stomach that strong until diluted down with the water I was drinking. Also I think the mixture might get rancid in the heat after a while. I took it out of the fridge at 5am and was drinking it until ~8 hours later. Although there is no warning on the Ultrafuel bottle - I notice on other energy drinks "Time, temperature, humidity....may cause fatty acids to turn the presence of carbohydrates" - 3rd ingredient in Ultrafuel is a fatty acid - Citric Acid - I'm betting my 3rd bottle baked in the heat for 8 hours had got rancid. I'd used this stuff on long bikerides but the longest one was cool weather so it was refrigerated. One 3 bottle workout in the heat I was wondering a bit about that third bottle - but I didn't get far enough to see the results. Live and learn - I won't choose that fuel again.

Overall I finish around 5:45 for the bike leg - I figure I probably lost 15 minutes or so getting sick.

T2: I'd planned no change but also threw in a running shirt in case I wanted to get out of the bike jersey top and I decided to switch shirts. Otherwise this transition was pretty much change shoes - a little lube and sunscreen - and go. The neck scar from the swim hurt like a mofo when the lady spread the lotion over my neck. I down a gu and some water while I jog out of T2 and off I go.

RUN: Training was pretty much low mileage maintenance kinda stuff. One 20 miler - several 15 ish miles - a couple tune-up races - 10k and 5k - the 5k was 17:22 - a bit off my 16:40 PR but not bad for the low mileage I was doing with my running time crowded out by the swimming/biking. I was hoping to be running 7ish mpm which seemed like a pretty easy pace.

I take first couple miles very slow - my plan was to live off the course so I didn't bring anything for fuel or drink to carry. In an ironman there's an aid station EVERY mile so should be plenty of options. I'd planned to alternate Preform/cola from the aid station but I did water for first couple to help get the GU down. On the third I tried cola - that didn't go so well - 100m later I'm doing another cookie toss to the oohs and awes of a large family sitting outside their home watching the race. The fuel tank is now bouncing on empty and I just gotta sit down for a second and get my stomach under control. I picked the wrong spot as I was picking burrs out of my shorts after I got up a couple minutes later. I walk/jog onward - mostly walk - the calorie options at the next couple aid stations (mango preform or cola) made me almost sick just to think about taking them so I opted for pretzels, a slice of orange or banana - after a couple miles I see the most softest looking grass in the shade of a building - the idea of a little siesta was just too good. I couldn't stay there long and move along - I start getting the fuel gage off empty - every opportunity for chicken broth was taken - managed to down another gu after a while - I start developing a run walk routine that I could sustain. Running too slow was problematic - I'm not used to it - so I was either jogging ~8 mpm or walking and after a while the routine became 0.2 miles walk then jog to the next milemarker then repeat. It was a long long long time. Sunset happens around mile 17ish and I recall thinking - ok - you won. But the sun was not gloating - give me a very nice sunset - after that sunset it got very very dark for me for a couple miles. I finally took the prescription sunglasses off opting for blurry vision instead of dark and just keep the routine going - 0.2 walk, jog to the milemarker...repeat. What a long long marathon - but I was getting my damn finishing shirt and hat!

Final stretch - I'm jogging it in - I looking carefully to the right where the family is and see them and stop for high fives and a kiss. I hear "John Hill from Kingwood - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!" from the announcer - love it! - and something about get on across the finish and greet the family later:). I charge across quite happy to have made it to the finish of my second Ironman. I'm very very weak but somehow make it through the after race section with my own personal "catcher" holding me by the arm and walking me through making sure I'm OK.

I don't really have any "mistakes" for the run - I did what I could with the fuel gauge bounce on "E" - just can't run like that.

My wife and kids were great waiting by the finish for extra hours for me to finish the run. They got to see all from the leaders ~8 hours to me at ~12.5 hours come across the line. They enjoyed teasing me about the one-leg'd guy and the guy on the wheelchair and many overweight guys and girls that made it to the finishline before me. I remember that wheelchair guy - I had a 10 mile lead on him early in the run but he rolled by with many miles to go - I'm still wondering how he swam w/o legs - incredible.

I'm a happy finisher but I'm also so so weak. An hour line to get my drop bags nearly had me passing out - I had to sit a few times with someone holding my place. Finally I'm back with the family swapping stories and eating pizza - life is good again - it was so nice to have the family there - other then them I didn't know a sole in the race or spectating. We had some great times before and the next couple days playing in Florida - a nice little vacation.

So it's done - made a few mistakes which is OK - I was hoping for much better but mistakes are OK - things to learn from. Looking at the results it actually would have taken sub9:30 to get a Kona slot in my age group. After a 1.5 hr swim I'd need a 5 hr bike and 3 hr run to get in the ballpark which was not at all realistic. Even with a lot more training and perfect execution I doubt I'd get that low. The 50-54 AG didn't look a whole lot easier. Maybe the 55-59 AG I'd have a shot. Maybe I'll just wait a decade before thinking of taking any more Kona shots - I don't think I can get that much faster but maybe I can work on getting older for a while. Shift my focus back to what I love doing - running.

Next up - Kingwood Marathon - 1/1/2013.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ironman Florida Training Log

Miles Wk End'n Run Bike Swim hh:mm
0 4-Nov 37 143.8 2.8 15:08
1 28-Oct 29 69 2.6 8:42
2 21-Oct 41 89 3.5 11:12
3 14-Oct 34 122 1 11:32
4 7-Oct 54 108 2.8 13:50
5 30-Sep 44 118 3.7 13:52
6 23-Sep 27 172 2.2 14:05
7 16-Sep 9 154 1 12:48
8 9-Sep 24 49 1.2 6:44
9 2-Sep 21 125 0.5 10:24
10 26-Aug 42 15 0.7 7:27
11 19-Aug 2 84 8:59
12 12-Aug 7 116.7 7:45
Total 370 1366 22 142
Per Week 28 105 1.7 10:57
Per Day 4 15 0.2 1:33


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Anchorage Marathon - 2012

A quick recap from Anchorage Marathon.

I wasn't going for record times but wanted good strong grit from this race. Fitness hasn't been at a high since Houston back in January, tapering wasn't ideal with a fishing trip the entire week prior with lots of beer and late nite cards, and 10 days of mostly no running ending the week prior to fishing (about half from being too busy and half from a sprained ankle) - I was figuring I was around 6:25ish mpm marathon pace. But peak fitness wasn't my goal. My goal was all about having a good strong with all I've got kinda race - I didn't get that in Boston where I felt I'd squandered the opportunity giving into weak thinking - and that mental wimpiness has been knawing at me since. I wanted that all-out race at Anchorage. And I got it. No weakness any part of the race today. Gave all I had.

Ran the highest average heartrate for a marathon at 162. That's 1.5 bpm higher than my highest in the prior 14 marathons (which happenned to be 2008's Anchorage Marathon). Whether or not HR is any indication this was my grittiest effort or not I won't debate. But it sure felt as gritty as any race I've done before - I'll take it.

9th place overall and so glad I had a recent birthday so instead of 4th in the 40-44 AG for nada. I get the gold medal in the 45-49. Cool beans. 2:55:37 finishing time - about a 1 minute negative split. Temps weren't ideal averaging mid 60s - but soo much better than Houston running - felt great.

Here's the splits:

Distance Split time Avg HR
1 6:12 150
2 6:34 162
3 6:43 162
4 6:50 162
5 6:24 162
6 6:44 161
7 7:00 162
8 6:20 159 trail
9 6:25 158 trail
10 6:38 159 trail
11 7:14 160 trail
12 6:26 159 trail
13 6:55 160 trail
14 7:49 160 trail
15 6:28 158 trail
16 6:17 161 1/2 trail
17 6:24 161
18 6:22 162
19 6:29 163
20 6:39 164
21 6:44 164
22 6:30 163
23 6:33 164
24 6:36 165
25 6:41 166
26 6:51 169
26.48 2:49 (6:01) 173 (175 max)

1st half 1:28:18 160
2nd half 1:27:19 163
2:55:37 161.6

Temps - Start/End 59°/68°F
Elevation - +672 ft, -769 ft.

A negative ~1 minutes split - my second ever negative split with the first being this same race in 2008 with a -37 second split (2nd half is a little faster with more downhill and less trails). I think the HR was raising as the temps were creaping up last 10 miles. Execute pretty much as planned - back off a touch through the trails then step it up again after they were done - easier to see that in the HR data - pace data bounces all over with hills variations start to finish. Clearly the fitness is off 4 years ago with a 10 minutes slower time - but as a race - I think I ran it about as good as I could with what I had in the tank. Course factors add about 5 minutes on this race (trails and hills) plus the temps probably added 1-2 minutes from the ideal so I'll call it a ~2:48ish equivalent flat marathon - which is about where my fitness reads were saying the prior week. Good enough for me to feel good about.

I ran this race my favorite way of running a race - no indication of pace - only HR - and like a robot just stick to the HR plan I've proven in the past I can sustain without worrying about the clock. Worked like a charm most of the way through varying terrain until last 10k or so where it felt OK to take it a bit higher. Not usually possible with most races that give constant updates along the way of the time but this race was small enough there were no splits given anywhere so I could rig the Garmin to just give me HR and distance with high/low vibrating alerts when I drifted too fast or slow - my prefered way to run these things.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beach 2 Bay Relay - Corpus Christi

Beach 2 Bay Marathon:

Time forecast for the relay race split between the 6 on team “Chariots of Striders” was based on 4x5:45 mpm runners and 2x6:10-15 mpm runners = 2:34 total time for the marathon or 5:53 mpm. Line-up in order of the running was Steve Schroeder, Andrew Sharenson, John Yoder, Tommy King Jr, Garrett Rychlik, John Hill(me) - That's an awesome line-up of runners out of Houston - a very competitive team and we were looking for a podium spot in the Master's division.

It was a hot day – that pretty much sets the scene for the last 5 races in a row for me. On this particular day by the time I ran my leg (~9:30am) it was 80°F with a Dew Point around 70°F. I’m still in a bit of shell-shock from the blazing hot Boston Marathon recently but this is actually hotter – fortunately I only get to run just under 5 miles in this marathon relay instead of the whole thing like Boston. Heat and Humidity overcame 1,050 people treated for heat exhaustion compared to last year there were 60 according to news reports the next day. With 2500 teams of 6 (15,000 people) – that’s around 1 out of 15 people – amazing since we “only” ran 4-5 miles each.

Our pre-race forcasts had me getting the baton at 9:06 so I timed my pre-race 5 miles of jogging around to finish about 10 minutes before. 9:24 was when I received the handoff to start my relay after apparently a late start at leg 1 plus we were all a bit slowed by the heat vs the time forecast. I’d counted 9-10 people through the exchange before my handoff so I started this leg in either 10th or 11th place and I could not see the next guy coming so figured he was pretty far back. Here’s my splits:

5:34/163 – I kept trying to slow down – I was targeting ~5:50-6:00 for the first mile but I couldn’t seem to get that slow – there was a pretty good tailwind this mile that about matched my speed so the air felt very still (and the heat felt hotter). A kid (High School?) caught up and passed me before the end of the mile which surprised me a bit since I was so much faster than planned and didn’t see anyone close and the handoff – he must have been flying that first mile.
5:53/174 – closer to my target pace – not feeling too hard yet - I'm all alone.
6:06/177 – I was hoping to stay in the 5’s but pace is slowly slipping – getting hard.
6:15/178 – getting real hard – man it’s hot. I resist the temptation to look behind to see if anyone was chasing me down – there’s no one for a long way ahead.
5:58(pace for 0.95 miles)/180 (186 max) – last ¼ mile or so a couple team mates get me motivated to sprint it in and I’m still not so sure if there’s someone coming up from behind to sneak past me at the end so the last ¼ mile was closer to 5:00 pace.

Total 5:57 mpm/4.95 miles (per Garmin – 4.89 miles per race website).

The magic moment as I’m running full speed for the finishline --- announcer calls over the loudspeaker “First Place Master’s Team from Houston” – YESS!!!!

Our final time was 2:40 (6:07) so we all averaged ~14 sec/mile slower than plan (did I mention it was hot). That's about 1 minute faster than last year's 2nd place Master's team which 4/6 of the team was on (not me or Steve) and also about 1 minute faster than my 2nd place team back in 2008. 11th place overall with 7 open teams and 3 junior teams ahead of us leaving us 1st place Masters! Great job guys!!

Others on the team certainly mentioned the heat out there – three of us had just run Boston so we were feeling the déjà vu. Leg 1’s out and back with 2500 packed together running opposite directions on the same stretch of sand sounded especially interesting. I think I managed to get two extra beers at the finish beyond my 2 per bib allocation so all was good in the post-race party.

That’s the 4th team victory I’ve been a part of this year. The other three were Houston Marathon Team Challenge – 1st Marathon, Texas Independence Relay – 1st Overall, Bayou Bash Relay – 1st Masters. There’s something pretty sweet about winning as a team – love it! I’ve got one more team challenge next month (track meet – Shell vs Exxon are the typical rivals for top spot) – hopefully we can bring home one more victory. Chances are pretty high that report will start “It was a hot day”. I do hope to get a cool race in next month to break this streak of hot races – after my fishing trip in Alaska in June I plan to hang out a couple extra days and run the Anchorage Marathon on June 23rd – I ran that race back in 2008 and found it a fun cool race so looking to repeat and maybe I can pull out a Master’s win up there since they define a Master as 45+, something to shoot for anyway.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Boston Marathon 2012

I wrote this a few days after Boston but I've only shared it with a smaller circle of people up to now figuring after some time I would perhaps be able to be a bit less "negative" about the whole experience.  I don't consider myself to be a negative person and most every race I've done poorly in I've shook it off pretty quick.  A couple weeks has gone by now and I can't say I feel much different.  The raw emotions of the day have diminished and I share a certain bond with other "survivors" of the 2012 Boston Marathon.  I would still do it again even in hindsight mostly because of the times before and after the race - and the spectators at Boston came out in extraordinary force to help us along in this record heat ...... well here it is:

kayry vs Boston - kayry 3, Boston 1.

I'm prompted after finishing this year to ask such basic questions like why do I race these things. I really struggled answering that question for this race. I thought as long ago as January of bailing
on this race because I could not find my inspiration for it. This is my 4th Boston and the first 3 had me in love with this race. 2007 was the nor'easter storm year and my first Boston ever - what's not to be excited about for that and I was near tears crossing that finish at 3:01:01 - I get nostalgic with the thought of that perfect race on many levles. 2nd Boston 2008 was the year to kick butt on Lance Armstrong who'd been in my crosshairs for 6 months and three marathons - despite not quite the perfect race it was so awesome to beat him by more than a mile at 2:42:36. 2010 was a 26.2 mile party celebrating a LONG time on the sideline finally back running after ever so long logging mostly zero's for over a year and the Boston finishers medal after about 6 weeks of ramping up from zero and 150 miles of biking the MS150 the two days prior - the 3:10 at the finish was pure delight saying I can run again with near that same 2007 feel to it - a perfect experience.

With that backdrop 2012 had little hope to living up. I grasped for some motivation but there was no goal for this race that seemed could live up to the past. After a great effort at Houston in January achieving most all I wanted from coming back again from a shorter outage in early 2011 I looked ahead to Boston and kept asking myself what was my motivation for Boston? This is my 17th marathon (or more) event and I've always had some (sometimes lofty) goal that gave me inspiration and a lazar locked drive to train and race but it just wasn't there this time around. A few weeks after Houston I jump into a 50 miler because that inspired me more than training for Boston even
though I knew it would sabotage some of my Boston potential. A couple weeks before Boston I took on the challenge to try my best to help a team win Texas Independence Relay with disregard to whether that helped or hurt Boston - and we won which was awesome! For Boston I was grasping for straws. Training seemed to start coming together towards the last few weeks despite all efforts to sabotage it and I started to dream of a great race in Boston - some fire for this race was finally starting to grow - I know that running a all out effort race is in itself rewarding and picking off what seemed like low hanging fruit - the 2008 time of 2:42:36 - seemed within my grasp.

Then the forecasts starting 10 days out move from pretty good (50s) to not so bad (dry low 60s) to could be worse (dry low 70s) to this is going to suck (80s). You might think living in Texas that I'd be good at running in the heat but any who have raced against me in the heat know I'm easy pick'ns especially as the distances get longer. I'm not really certain if that a physiological disadvantage because I'm a pretty heavy sweater - or mental because I feel little inspiration when it's hot to do well - it literally seems to sucks the running life out of me much more times than not - or more likely a combination of both. But living in Houston I do race much more than I'd like in the heat and I know exactly how tactically to get top performance out of a race like that - but knowing and doing are quite different things. It's hard - any marathon all out is hard - but adding the heat is a very different kind of hard. I've read a lot of race reports of hot Chicago races or even things like Badwater and it does
nothing for me - there is not the slightest desire to do that. Maybe because I suffer in the heat so much living in Houston that I know that suffering all to well and don't like it. But here I am - 10 am at Boston with the announcer claiming it's already 80°F, I'm sweating and the race hasn't started yet.

Race plan - Pre-Hydrate, electrolyte load and fuel load as I would for any other marathon to be maxed out at the startline. Hydrate ~24 oz/hr - no less - a little more OK but only a little. Stay wet as much as
possible with dumping water on head, legs, neck, arms - everywhere - so the evaporation can cool you off. And keep the Heartrate from going too much higher than it would in a cooler marathon (~160 bpm for me). Pretty straight forward. I had my garmin set to vibrate when my HR hit 162 to keep things controlled - especially for the first half - I'd be OK with it buzzing continual for the last several miles if I felt the inspiration to go harder but early on the plan was to be controlled.

Here's how the splits played out:

1 6.05 152,
2 6.19 159,
3 6.30 159,
4 6.30 159,
5 7.03 159,

Pace is dropping but keeping the HR about where I want it to be - maybe a hair on the low side. Slower than I expected even accounting for the heat. As much downhill as there is in that first stretch and knowing how my recent HR vs pace goes in the Houston heat I was expecting faster. Sometimes I've seen races where the pace picks up for same HR after a few miles so maybe the speed will come.

6 6.49 158,
7 6.46 159,
8 6.52 157,
9 6.50 156,
10 6.59 155,

Paces still are pretty darn low and motivation to push is kinda dropping off too. I'm thinking back to warm 100% humidity day just a few weeks prior running 6:50s at about 150 HR and something here is just off - not going to be my day.

11 6.58 156,
12 6.46 154,
13 6.54 154,
14 7.33 154,

Major race highlight as my Cousin at family who live in Wellselly bring pitchers of cool water to dump all over me and a bunch of ice to cool me off with and smiling faces to encourage me - I'm really feeling cooled off for a few miles after that - loved it!

15 6.56 157,
16 6.31 152, (downhill)
17 7.12 155,
18 7.20 154,
19 7.06 151,
20 7.39 149,
21 7.55 153, (heartbreak hill)
21 2.39 .17 136,

I added a split here as I walked from my Garmin's 21 mile marker to the course 21 mile marker and tried to motivate myself to charge the last 5 miles. I thought I'd kinda banked a little energy with some low HR running up the Newton hills

22 5.55 157,

Charging down the hill - watch is vibrating as I'm over 162 for much of the mile - feeling like I'm going to salvage something from this race.

23 7.18 156, With some walking
24 6.58 154, With some walking
25 7.49 152, With some walking
26 6.57 156, With some walking

Major Highlight that can never be bad no matter how the first 25 miles
goes.......right on Hertford.....left on Boylson.

26.2 1.54 .33 163 (5:45 mpm pace - tried to bet the clock rolling to
3:05 chip time - almost beat it)

Total 3:05:00 (Garmin 26.5)

Ok - Boston will always have it's moments - it's a great race. Before and after the race there were many great moments with friends both from Houston, Kingwood and all over the country and some family up in Wellesley - see pictures below.  Although all that was great I found myself really missing having my wife there for all those moments this year as she has been for prior Bostons - she's been lucky for me when she comes - but look what happens when she doesn't. Moving all those great moments to the side and only refering to the race - the final tally to me is that this was without a close second:

The worst race ever - of any distance!

I don't know how to say that strong enough.  I can't seem to find anything redeeming in this race.  I've searched for something I could say that had some meaning "at least ______" but I can find nothing to fill in that blank.  Of course many did much worse and many even could finish with medical issues and dehydration so I suppose I could say at least it wasn't THAT bad - but that's a pretty low bar - I'm in shape and heat acclimated and know how to handle the heat - there was little risk of that for me.  One think I can say - Boston yet again generates very strong emotions. My emotions are almost as strong to the negative as 2007 and 2010 were to the positive. I've been on the verge of tears for days now for this race and even had to stop and shed a few tears as I was writing this last paragraph.  Boston kicked my ass and that coming from a race I've come to love - hurts somehow extra. The feelings whether positive or negative certainly makes me feel alive - I learn a lot about myself running these things whether the outcome is positive or negative.  That's why I run these things - it doesn't always have to be a win to still be a deeply memorable experience - even a loss is way better than not playing at all. I have no idea when I'll do this race again but I can't see ending on that note - and whenever I overwrite this experience with another I'm certain yet again Boston will deliver some very strong emotional reaction.....I love this race.

Here's a few pictures:

My cousin Doug and family who live in Welleseley and cooled me off big time at the 1/2 way.

The Houston Striders Gang - got to hang out with them for Saturday Night dinner and the bus ride up to Hopkinton.

The Kingwood Gang - we had our own Pasta Party on Sunday Night (I don't think I've ever tasted such good Spagetti).

Sunbathing in Hopkinton before the race.  Prior years we'd be bundled up near freezing.

The Running Friends facebook group.

After the Marathon was done - I needed constant beer to get out of my rut - hanging with my roommate Jeff (sitting) and a few of his friends.

Fast forward a few hours - and time for more beer with the Running Friends facebook group - cool people.  You can see I'm such a sore looser I won't even wear the finishers medal and shirt like others but rather pick my CIM shirt and ironman hat - races I had more fond memories from.  I finally wore that shirt at a Relay race yesterday so I guess the sores are healing.

More beer - next day Neil and I went to lunch at Cheers.  Although no one there knew my name - it was pretty cool that most all in the photos above did - some really nice times hanging with all!

And always magical moments no matter how the first part of the race goes - moments of dreams.

Time to turn the page - this was my 17th marathon or more completed and I don't have another goal marathon in the foreseable future (at least for 12 months) so kinda a bummer to end this marathon chapter like this - but not all endings are happy - sometimes you just gotta turn the page anyway and look forward to the next adventure.  The next target for me is IM Florida on November 2nd - gotta get my swim and bike legs working again.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Texas Independence Relay

Team: More Pain Please!!
Results: Overall Win!!

There is no "I" in Team.

Running is certainly usually an individual sport but here we are - twelve of us out to try to be the fastest team to run from Bastrop, TX to the San Jacinto Monument 203 miles away. Much of the race I liked to think was generally around the "Runaway Scrape" back in 1836 where Sam Houston's Texas Army fled from the pursuing larger Mexican Army that Santa Ana led to their ultimate demise at the battle for Texas independence where the San Jacinto Monument now sits today. We had our own "Runaway Scrape" to do as the #1 seeded "Dollz n Towel Boys"(DNTB) started the journey just 5 minutes after us and we wanted to keep that pursuing team in our rear view mirror - more than 5 minutes back at the finishline and we win with the fastest net time.
2:15pm on 3/31/2012 - the race is on.

There's a little history between these teams as both were contenders in the 2011 race although neither the DNTB nor MPP came away victorious despite both setting course records over prior years. DNTB finished 2nd and MPP finished 4th with a roughly 11 sec/mile advantage to the DNTB team - but neither the 1st nor the 3rd place team showed up in 2012 so the contenders for this year were pretty clearly down to these two - DNTB is a predominately Dallas team and MPP is a predominately Houston Team - of course there is always Houston/Dallas rivalry so here we go - like the Texans against the Cowboys.
Team MPP:

Team DNTB:

Team Captain, Jace, largely retained the 2011 team although there were 3 new runners recruited to be a part of the team to replace runners that couldn't repeat and then a last minute replacement for a 4th runner that finally faced reality that his sore achillies was just not going to let him run the race and stepped instead into the drivers seat for one of the vans (Thanks Ian!!). I was one of the new recruits and didn't really know anyone on the team except a couple I'd seen at a couple races - as I understand someone (John Spiller I believe) came up with my name from meeting me at a race, another (Tom) did some google searching, found my blog which has a facebook link then sent me a facebook message inviting me on the team. I was initially reluctant with the Boston Marathon 2 weeks later but after a week or so of thought I was intrigued to be on what I saw as a kinda-sorta competitive team - I must admit a 4th place team wasn't really so impressive to me but what the heck - might be fun.

A few weeks before the race I send Jace an email asking if there was any draft plan out there for this race so I could get an idea of what kinda workload I was piling into my weekend 2 weeks before what to me was a more important race - Boston Marathon 2012. I told him I'd probably be sandbagging just a little so I didn't wear myself out too bad for Boston but still figured I'd deliver a better than team average 6:00-6:15 pace on my legs - to which I received a reply "That's disappointing" - which initially pissed me off and got me to the edge of bailing on this group strangers. But after a couple email exchanges I came to understand better that Jace had put a lot into forming a "contender" team vs what I'd kinda viewed up to then as a 2nd tier team. My attitude shifted more as I met a few of the guys in a pre-planning meeting - pretty cool guys - and some pretty fast too - I'm closer to the midpoint of the team than the top - and according to the official seeding our team is rated 2nd fastest team on the field according to what runners put down in their race entry - only one team to beat - the little Competitive Jerk in me is starting to get fired up about our chances. I finally come around - this is worth giving my all - 110% effort - and move Boston down in the priorities - I can quite possibly have a great race there too - who knows maybe even better - but going for a win at TIR was an inspiring goal.

Jace really formed a great team and organized us well working out the best potential time balancing the variables to two vans of runners. Initially the plan was somewhat straight forward with a pretty much straight 12 person rotation of 36 legs then the fastest 4 doing the last 4 legs but with the last minute swap out changing Ian for a replacement that had certain conditions/restraints made that simple plan more complex. Our 12th man - Jose Lara was committed to running a 5k race on Saturday Morning in Houston and agreed to meet up with the team Sunday morning as we rolled into Houston - knock out back2back legs for 11 miles - rest a couple hours - then run the final leg to finish out the race. That made us an 11 person rotation for a couple cycles then a bit of a mix around for much of the second half of the race to work the legs in. Although not so simple - still a great plan to maximize our potential with 4 out of 5 of our fastest runners running 4 legs (Jose was fast guy not doing 4 because he had the 5k race too) and the other 8 running 3 legs for the total 40 legs. I just barely made the cut to be one of the 4 leg runners.

Van #1 - Ian (Driver) - runners (in order of first rotation): Dan, Sydney, Stephen, Evan, Tom and John H.(me) - on paper were were the slightly faster van by ~10sec/mile on averages.

Van #2 - Charles(Driver) - runners: Nikki, Claudio, Jace, Geoff, John S.

Here's how it all played out:

 LegsMilesSplit PaceTotalPaceLead over Dollz n Towel BoysSplit Conditions
(aka excuses)
Team1-522.33 22.336:00 Very hot/humid/LSO(life sucking orb - aka direct sun w/o shade or clouds) into the wind with some hilly legs.
Me64.946:1227.276:028min @Leg 8
very hot/humid, LSO, strong headwind (15mph), net uphill, 2 miles of it on dusty dirt road about like running on an inch of sand.  Not so tasty as cars go by.  Translation - it sucked - but I ran my heart out anyway.
Team7-1650.846:1078.116:073min @Leg 14After Leg 9 cuts crosswind - Cut out the LSO at sunset around Leg 11ish
Me174.555:5882.666:0711min @leg17
Cooler though still humid, down to ~10mph headwind, net uphill.
Team18-2647.756:05130.46:07-3min @leg23 as one of ours got cramped.One more leg of headwind then crosswind for the rest.
Still cooler though still humid, crosswind and flat - Best running conditions of the day for me.
Team28-3856.16:15192.96:0910min @leg35Mostly crosswind - A couple legs on trails - humidity peaks at sunrise around leg 33ish.  Heat of the day builds as the LSO moves up.
very hot/humid, LSO, flat
Team405.325:59201.56:0825min @finish or about 8 sec/mile
very hot/humid, LSO, flat on busy road.
TotalMine  19.26:01  
TeamThe Rest  182.36:09  

In the final ~30 miles it looks like the DNTB team slowed down with the last official split coming in around 30 sec/mile slower than they'd been doing the first 170 miles - seems like they'd eased up knowing we were out of reach. Jose Lara sealed the deal. He'd run his 5k race on Saturday (which he WON at 15:56) then knocked down his 2 leg 11 miler at 5:50 pace Sunday Morning then closed out the race at the hottest part of the Sunday Race with 6 mpm for the final 5. I heard the DNTB runners that were standing at the exchange where he didn't hand-off were kinda stunned how fast this guy was and he didn't even hand-off - so nice to have the fresh legs closer Sunday Morning.

Although 164 teams started this race with some starting as early as 6 am Saturday more than 8 hours ahead of us - we passed them all. The evidence along the way was the portajohns - very used at the aid stations initially - cleaner and cleaner as we went to the point I had to unwrap the toilet paper at the end.

10:53 there are 13 people (including 2 drivers) on the finishline waiting for Jose to finish out this race (really - there wasn't another sole out there - we'd even beat the official timekeeper to the finishline).

Jose seals the deal winning his 2nd race in two days. And we are done. Yeah it was kinda like Sam Houston getting pursued by Santa Ana - in the end Sam Houston kicked a$$ and won the Texas Independence and in the end we did the same. Very happy to have come away with the victory - but also just a little tired - occasional spurts of cheers and hurrays were intermixed with a bit of a weary shuffle through the post race festivities.

There's a post race epilogue - victory walk to the San Jacinto monument we shuffle along through and a party set-up of sorts at the monument

- which I can imagine becomes rather rip-roaring after there are more than a single team at the finish. For about 30 minutes we go through the motions posing for pictures,

congratulating each other, eating free pizza, accepting a few accolades by the volunteers at the finishline the we wonder back to the vans. As we head to the vans the DNTB's are doing epilogue journey to the monument and we all kinda naturally form a line giving high fives to all with a "good race" good sportsmanlike gesture as we head to the vans and they head to their pizza. If it wasn't so hot out and I wasn't so eager to fall on a pillow somewhere it would have been kinda fun to swap stories for a while. Home bound where after a quick shower I fall on my pillow and hours and hours fall away then have a quiet margarita with my wife to toast the victory.

Several Thanks to go around:

Ian - thanks for driving - initially terrifying but eventually you won me over - take care of your achilles!
Tom - Thanks for inviting me to join the team - turned out to be a lot of fun! Your motivating cheering with a few hundred meters to go was great to get a couple good finishing kicks out of me - I really appreciated that and you look like a professional traffic cop out there stopping cars too.
Sydney - you're an amazing gal to put up with 6 smelly sweaty guys all day - and man did you kill your legs - Jace had you down for way too slow.
Dan - Thanks for organizing the van and getting all the stuff and letting us all crash at your pad for a couple hours - that was priceless. You are one FAST dude! Good luck in Chicago - sub2:40 seems a cake-walk for you.
Evan - you're the far traveller among us - hope your trip back to San Francisco went smooth - I'm still considering Bay2Breakers despite your not so inspiring words about it - clearly it's a 4fun kinda race. Man you rocked your legs!
Stephen - Thanks for teaching me a little on how to do 100 mile races - hope my rattling you with questions wasn't offputting - I really appreciated your experience. And as I said out there - your marathon time is way too slow - no way your only a 2:45 marathoner the way you dominated your legs - you're certainly way faster than me. Good luck at IM Texas next month! And I hope to see you at Rocky Raccoon 100 next year - maybe we can do a training run or two together before so I can learn a few more secrets to success.

Captain Jace - Well Done! You deserve several victory laps alone for assembling the winning team. It was really a pleasure to be on your team!

Sorry I missed the opportunies to visit with the rest of the Van#2 people much. Thanks to Charles for taking lots of pictures!!

Of course to all the Race organizers and volunteers along the way - you put on an awesome race overcome some major obsticals along the way - awesome job!!

Way to go Team: "More Pain Please!!"