Wednesday, January 18, 2012

2012 Houston Marathon

2012 Houston Marathon and closing out the books on 2011:

After 3 DNSs in a row at Houston – 2 of which I’d earned a local elite slot in the race – I finally get to run my hometown marathon again. 4th time running it with the first three 2006 (4:28), 2007 (3:10) and 2008 (2:40). In 2008 I was the dark-horse – unknown runner in the area that dropped a surprising race and actually won the Masters division (>40). Now 2012 – 4 years older – maybe even a bit faster – I didn’t expect any master title today – even an age group award seemed a longshot knowing the fast masters in the area now and also knowing THIS 40th running of the race coupled with the Olympic Trials would attract other marathon enthusiasts to the city unlike a typical year and some of those enthusiasts would be fast.

Race goals:
A+ Sub6 mpm(2:37:17)
A PR(2:38:55)
A- Sub2:40
B+ Course Record(2:40:46)

- whatever the time I was hoping I’d come away with at least an AG Award even though there were 3 guys in my age group that had been beating me at races all year and who knows what out of towners would show up.
- I formed a team of running friends with the name “The Competitive Jerks” and I was talking up our team to win and even had Shirts made up that proclaimed “2012 Team Challenge Winners” so I certainly wanted those words to come true.

In my pre-race dreamland I had already started the A+ race report – it went something like this – “16 year old kid after a PE fitness test is called over by the track coach after running a sub6 minute mile….fast forward 28 years and 44 year old has now strung 26.2 of them in a row” – ok it needs work – but I guess I’ll save that opening for another day.

At the very last opportunity I won an elite slot into the race (in a 30k race in December) – 3rd time I’ve earned it – first time I get to actually run with it and I was going to savor every bit of it. Pardon me while I indulge in describing the great treatment in some detail:

- A low bib number – “46” – in a race with 13,000 signed up I had bib number 46 - actually that bib was only on my back – on the front my bib just said “HILL” with no number with a distinguishing color to signify “I am elite”.
- Free meals served at the Hilton – breakfast, lunch and dinner on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning – I only had Saturday Dinner – lots of good carb choices.
- Pre-race elite area on the 2nd floor of the George R Brown with our own private stock of most anything away from all the crowds down on the 1st floor with our own flush toilets – no wait.
- Escort to the front of the race where we had a bunch of portacans to ourselves – no wait even up to the last minute. Also baggage check at the last minute for any last minute items.
- I elected for forgo use of the 2:07 and 2:10 pacers in the race – nice of them to offer but I figured I’d just pace myself.
- Bottle placement onto 8 tables along the course – I had a gu taped to a waterbottle at 5 of them. They put them in order of bib numbers and since I wasn’t so fast as most of the elites by the time I got to the table my bottle was VERY easy to spot sitting almost alone.
- Post race directed back again to the elite area on 2nd floor to get most anything to eat/drink and get the bag from the startline.

Training for this averaged around 60 mpw for the back ½ of the year. First half of the year I had medical issues for the first quarter (diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondilitis - AS) wasn’t actually sure I could run for a while. Once I found how to keep the inflammation away with Meds (an ibuprofen equivalent) I found I could in fact run or bike or anything really at its current progression so I kinda decided I was going to do all I can while I can and I continued training and finishing an Ironman for the first ½ of the year. Then switched back to running again with Houston being the goal race. Summer basebuilding ended with a 50 mile Ultramarathon in September. After a couple weeks I started mixing in some quality workouts to sharpening up my fitness again to race a good marathon. I was hoping to up the mileage into the 80+ range but kept hitting physical restraints so had to settle with somewhat lower mileage. A very strong PR 5k at the end of October was followed by a rocky November nursing a pulled groin injury the resulted shortly after that 5k – I managed to pull out a pretty good almost 10k PR by Thanksgiving but seemed to regret it physically when I went for speed so I spent the rest of December/January limiting the top end of my speed around the 10M race pace kinda area – I didn’t run very many real long runs but my benchmarking kinda runs still gave me hope I had a good shot to be somewhere in my “A” ranges of times. The AS seems to be very under control although I get knocked out at random from running for a few days seems like about once a month and when it knocks me out I can’t even run around the block – once it made me miss a race and as it happens just 3 days before the marathon I started feeling the AS creep in and I had some fears I was done for but by raceday it had disappeared again so all was good again – sometimes a little biking seems to make the aches go away and I was biking around the streets on Saturday watching the trials which I suspect did the trick.

Trials were great fun – I could probably say a lot more but I think I’ll just leave it at that.

Race strategy was to start off at my A+ goal pace for the first mile then let the HR guide me if I could sustain that or had to slow down. I was going to keep track of any of the local masters out ahead of me but I was not going to try to stay with anyone – just run my own race.

The race: - I got off pretty strong – very little traffic – I had some side stitches first few miles but I pushed through and they went away. I was banking some time under 6mpm for a while but I wasn’t watching pace at all – just trying to keep HR in the zone and eventually that zone was a bit slower than 6’s – and even still felt a little hot for so early in the race. At mile 5 I got my first bottle off the elite table where I had a chololate gu – which I’d never tried before but they didn’t have my first choice – vanilla – for my first bottle so I picked something else. That flavor proved a mistake as I felt like throwing it up for the next mile or so (yuck). All the other bottles had Mocha flavor Gu’s which I’ve always loved with that caffeine boost in a race. I make it to the ½ way seeing a split just off ½ my PR and I feel like I’ve worked the first half just a tad too hard so a negative split seemed very unlikely. I had a few miles here and there where I felt really good over the next 10k or so – I think the caffeine boost was working – but by 20 I was laboring. I worked hard to maintain effort for that last 10k and for the most part I think I succeeded. In normal painful delirium I run that final stretch – pick out my wife in the crowd waiving like crazy and give her a few high 5s then finish up to score a 7 second course record.

Here’s the official splits along with the HR data off my Garmin:

Split Diff Pace AHR MaxHR Place/Split's Rank
5k 18:23 5:55 157.1 162 35th/35th
10 19:08 6:09 159.3 162 55th/82nd
15 18:59 6:06 158.9 161 59th/80th
20 19:01 6:07 158.7 161 63rd/68th

13.1 1:19:38 6:04 158.5 162 64th

25 18:53 6:05 159.9 162 62nd/61st
30 19:24 6:14 160.1 163 64th/66th
35 18:52 6:04 161.6 164 61st/48th
40 19:34 6:17 163.6 167 63rd/48th
26.2 8:25 6:08 167.6 171 60th/42nd

2nd 13.1 1:21:01 6:11 162.1 171 xx/51st

26.2 2:40:39 6:07 160.3 171 60th

I think the 30k marker was a little long and 40k had some hills plus I was getting kinda tired :).

I was trying to hold a 160 HR which felt a little aggressive the first 10k but I went with it – started feeling too hard for so early so I kinda backed it off a hair the 2nd 10k then started feeling OK again the 3rd 10k and just too darn slow for the last 10k. Turns out my HR was drifting up even though my speed didn’t change all that much which I suspect is because I was getting dehydrated – that was kinda unexpected from a marathon run in the 40s but when I looked closer at the weather while I was running it kinda starts making some sense. Weather (from 4 different weather stations near the course with points shown for when I was closest to the corresponding weather station). I raced from 7am to 9:40am:

This is a rather unusual weather pattern actually – more typical is the Dew Point (DP) stays the same such that as the temperatures heat up the humidity drops – but for this race some moist air happened to roll in at the same time as the temperature was rising in the morning so the result was the humidity for this race appears to have stayed high for the entire race. Not such a huge factor as when it’s 60 or 70 because there is still a significant amount of convection cooling in the 40s but without any evaporation the sweat rate will be much higher – so with that the heartrate data make a bit more sense – I WAS getting dehydrated – and knowing how sensitive I am to the heat it seems pretty likely to me this high humidity cost me at least the A- goal – quite possibly the A goal – but the A+ goal was not available to me today.

After I finish up I see the Elite Coordinator and he confirms what I already knew – only ONE other local elite 40+ was ahead of me – and since he was 45+ I thought just maybe I’m in the AG award area. It felt awesome to knock off 3 of the local rivals who’d been beating me all year. The 45+ guy (Wilmer) I didn’t really feel like I had much chance at beating although as it turns out he finished just a few seconds off my A+ goal – I thought he’d be much farther ahead. I’m jazzed – I ran all I had – no matter what’s on the clock all I can do is run all I’ve got and I felt like I stepped up and delivered it – and just maybe I’m in the running for an award. I get back to the elite area and John Yoder is up there and pays me a huge complement by kinda shaking his head in disbelief that I beat him after he has so dominated me (by much more than a little) in at least 4 races this year – the “Competitive Jerk” in me just flying on cloud nine. I head back up to the hotel (a few steps away as we were in the host hotel) to meet up with my wife and puppies (we had two in the hotel room) and I was eager to find out both how I ended up in the Age Group standings and how the team “The Competitive Jerks” ended up doing in the team competition. I find out I’m 6th AG which I initially disbelieve – after all I beat everyone I knew in my age group – how could there be 5 guys I didn’t know about – finally I give in to paying the $6 internet fee and log my computer in and sure enough – I’m 6th. Even a local “dark horse” I’d never heard of before who had an amazing PR race – sound familiar? - yeah that was me in 2008 – what comes around goes around. Ok – no individual award – how about the team – I look up how my teammates did and find we’ve got a 1st (Wow Corina!) 2nd (Tim) 3rd (Dee) 6th(Me) 7th(Gio) 13th(Ilana) place in different age groups. Since only top three scores count my 6th won’t count so I didn’t weigh the team down (nor did I help it). Two other teams I was worried would be competing with us I looked up and we totally dominated them. I figured it unlikely there were any dark-horse teams out there that slipped past my research so it looked to me like we not only got the win in the Marathon division – we got the overall win too!

Celebrations continue all day – I had great fun meeting lots of people I only know through facebook/online land and also seeing many I only see at races too. Heard lots of good racing stories including the good, the bad and the ugly – as there always is after such a race.

Later I look a bit closer at the teams and yep – there WAS a dark-horse out there – a ladies team in the ½ marathon that dominated very large age groups and ladies ½ marathon age groups are the biggest age groups of any of the three races run that day so winning there gets more credit than the age groups where we won. IF I had moved up to 3rd in my age group – which is also a very large age group very comparable – we would have won – as it turns out that would have only taken 21 seconds to move from 6th to 3rd – but quite frankly – I didn’t have 21 more seconds in me in that race – I delivered all I had – and no other team mate had the opportunity to close the gap to them so in the end there are no excuses – we got all we could get – we did win the Marathon Division so the T-Shirts are still right:). Here’s our team picture – the Marathon Division WINNERS:

Corina, Ilana, Dee, Neil and Me. Also on the team were Tim and Gio. Congrats Marathon Winners!!!

Final results:
60th Place out of 7675
53rd Male out of 4856 (chick’d by 7)
9th Master beat by both a 41F(master chick’d) and a 55M (gueezer’d).
6th Age Group out of 814
3rd Local Master
2nd Local in 40-44 Age Group (who is this Brian Haskett? Congrats on a great race!!!)

Team (by my own unofficial accounting – awards ceremony in February):
Team Impala – ½ marathon:
F43 1st/789 = 1.3
F43 2nd/789 = 2.5
F32 6th/999 = 6.0

Total 9.8.

Team Competitive Jerks – Marathon
F45 1st/351 = 2.8
M47 2nd/678 = 2.9
F 41 3rd/492 = 6.1

Total 11.9.

I was M44 6th/810 = 7.4. 22 seconds faster I’d be 3rd for 3.7 which would have won :(. No other runners on the team had a realistic chance to close the gap.

2nd Overall out of many
1st Marathon Division out of many

Email from Houston Marathon:

Dear Corina, John, DeeAnn, Giovanni, Ilana, and Tim,

Congratulations! The Competitive Jerks is the winner for the ABB Team Challenge: Marathon Team.

We hope to see you at our ABB Team Challenge Awards Dinner. It will be held on Thursday, February 9th, at 5:30 PM in the Cadillac Bar.

Again, congratulations on a job well done!

Houston Marathon Committee, Inc.

In the end I don’t really care about the awards although they are fun little trinkets that come along with a little luck – I love to run and I loved knocking out another good strong all-out marathon and hope I can keep being a Competitive Jerk for many years to come – it’s just fun:).


PowerGoat said...

Awesome! Teach me your training ways, oh master, as I'd like to take a shot at a 2:45 this year.

Congrats, Kayry!

kayry said...

That doesn't seem like a tough challenge for you - I'd think after you're peaked out for the marathon - that could be your 2nd day's marathon time (like Michael Wardian's last weekend combo 2:21/2:31).

Bert said...

Impressive! I need to find the chest belt for my Polar HR Monitor, looks like there is definitely something to be said for hear rate pacing!

PowerGoat said...

Okay, I'll take a 2:40 then!! I am hoping to lower my 50k time (and marathon time) and so I need to get faster. While your shorter race times are a bit faster than mine, I'd love to hear what you think are "important" types of workouts to do to get ready to go fast for that long. Can we chat using the "Cone of Silence"?

Frank said...

A truly unbelievable story, being exactly the same age, I don't see me running at the speed you do! Incredible. Congratulations!! Frank.

kayry said...

Bert - good luck with HR Pacing - it's a bit of a trial and error process - this is my 12th marathon with the HRM and I'm still learning stuff.

PG - got you message - your certainly coming from a different direction from me (from long ultras down to a marathon) but I'll share what I do to sharpen up the speed for something so "short" as a marathon.

Frank - Thanks - it's been a pretty cool ride going from zero to 60 (vdot). This race was my 3rd time doing it starting from scratch in running fitness - it's been a thrilling ride each time.

John Yoder said...

John, you ran an awesome race. Congrats! Great story! Any chance you'd like to run Beach 2 Bay in May?