Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Counting down until Chicago Marathon

Starting to make plans for Chicago and I'd like to go ahead and start packing, but it is still 10 days before I leave. I am however already looking at the 10 day weather outlook - I never learn.
This morning, it showed a low of 57 and a high of 79. This evening - it is showing a high of 67 and a low of 52. Why do I bother?

Lining up some family visits while we're there (my dad's side of the family is from there), wondering about dinners and where to catch some college football Saturday afternoon.

And, oh yeah - the race.
Been thinking more about running with my brother (and with people in general). I ran a 5k completely with someone for their 1st one and that was good. That was 9 years ago and ~6 minutes slower than my previous 5k's. I have run with my brother two other times - the Xterra 10k Scramble back in 2004 (was pretty comfortable the whole time) and the 2009 McDonald's Richmond Half Marathon in which we were well matched.
I know I am better prepared for longer distances right now than he is (his long runs have been minimal), and I have no idea how he'll handle the extra distance, but there is no telling how the race will go for us. Either way - I'll run with him as much as I can - even if it comes to walking us in.
I'm thinking we'll start at a 9:00-9:15/mi pace and see how long we can hang on. First of all - I am curious how starting that slow will effect my later miles.
I usually start off comfortable, but faster than I should, hang on as long as I can, and then slowing by a minute per mile from ~15 to mile 21 or so on. Let's see if that is true!

Myrtle Beach: Mile 15 - 9:06; Mile 21 - 10:23
Marine Corps: Mile 14 - 8:49; Mile 19 - 9:41
Charlotte: Mile 19 - 8:59; Mile 22 - 9:50
Windermere (Spokane): Mile 15 - 8:51; Mile 20 - 9:40
NYC: Mile 14 - 9:24; Mile 21 - 10:19

I'd love to run a near-even split one day. Doubt this will be the event for that.

Running since the Asheville Half has been so-so. Heavy legs one day, speedwork in a complete downpour (and still didn't have to think too hard choosing that over the treadmill) and a mediocre 13 miler on the weekend. At least my speedwork this morning was decent...hit my times (5x1000m at 4:16), but was only just a hair faster than the same workout 11 weeks ago.

Still wanting to pack...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Asheville Half Marathon Race Report

Race Website           Results


So my 2nd half-marathon in 6 days ( see my previous post) was in Asheville, NC. I ran this back in 2008 in 1:58:35 and although I felt I was in good shape this time around, I was only expecting around 1:50-1:55. I would have been happy with that as I had not really been running hills worth mentioning. At all!
Had my packet mailed to me and it was waiting for me on Thursday after 9.5hrs driving down from DC. Nice shirt (interesting color this year!) and a bib (#846).

Race day: drove the 1hr 20min from Greenville with no issues and found street parking (fed the meter for 2 hrs and hoped I'd be ok. I was.). Light rain was expected and it was a cool morning...50°. I was liking it.
GTC l/s tech shirt (only wore long sleeves for the GTC support), race-ready shorts, hat, 2 Gu's (vanilla) and my trusty Ironman water bottle. Asics 2150's (with very little mileage).

Did a little warmup and found a 1:50 pace group (8:23/mi) in the middle of the crowd just before the start. After my wonderful pacer in Maryland, I had high expectations here.

Race start:

Was pretty crowded (28 secs to pass the starting mat) thru the 1st few turns, but I stayed with my pacer and began to chat with him. I recognized the name and we talked about some other races and then the course. I heard it had changed in 2009, so I was unfamiliar with what was different except the out-and-back rose garden area was no longer a part of it. I soon heard "Cherokee", and will not soon forget it. Having recently watched "Band of Brothers" for the 2nd time, "Currahee" came to mind.
So we're running along and the pace feels fast to me, but the pacer says we're on track. I miss the Mile 1 sign. I miss the mile 2 sign. Still feels fast. Pacer is questioned on it yet again, but says we're right on track. We pass a Mile 2 marker, but the time is way off and I expect it is from the 5k? This is all hills...up and down. And up. This is where we hit Cherokee. It's a climb. Steep. I let the pacer go (still too fast?) but do well on the way up. I am trying to work on my descents, let me body go with the momentum and it seems to get better as the run progresses. Miss the Mile 3 marker. Huh? Do they have Any at all??
I start running near a girl named Trisha (who had some fans along the way) and we chatted on and off - that seemed to help us both. I pulled ahead soon though. We went thru the 4mile mark (I saw the marker!) in 30:11. Was that fast? YES! 1:20 faster than last weekend and that was mostly downhills. The 8:23 pacer was nowhere to be seen ahead of us and I was at a 7:32 pace? Are you kidding me? I guess I was too preoccupied with my pace to notice I was running by/near the Grove Park Inn.

So I backed off a little as we made turn after turn (45 turns in this race). I had remembered some of the course so far, but I distinctly remembered the park by the Asheville Country Club. It's a nice section between Miles 5 and 6. Somewhere along here - I felt a little twinge in my right leg/groin. Just enough to notice it.
mi.4: 30:11
mi 5: 9:09 (39:21)
mi 6: 7:57 (47:18)

At mile 7 - we turned onto the Beaver Lake trail and it was nice to get off the pavement, if only for a bit. I could tell I slowed thru here, but I was ok with that. I stayed pretty steady the next few miles and was still only 1 minute off last week's race thru 9miles, but I felt that I could sustain this pace for a few more miles.
mi 7: 8:40 (55:59)
mi 8: 8:26 (1:04:24)
mi 9: 8:26 (1:12:51)

Trisha caught back up to me thru here and we stayed close to the end. It was a big help and definitely helped pull me along. And looking at the elevation chart above - this is where you needed all the help you could get! A hill that kept going and going...but we kept at it and hit the next mile marker. The rain started coming down a little more heavily thru here.
mi 10: 10:29 (1:23:20).

Whew! Now the downhill. As I said I thought I was getting better, and the next mile I think showed my improvement. Going so fast I guess I missed the fact that we were right beside UNC-Asheville.
mi 11: 7:05 (1:30:26)

Then, a pretty constant uphill on Broadway/Lexington all the way to mile 13 and the finish. That last half mile is where the wheels fell off before...wasn't going to let that happen this time. I will say now that the volunteers, water stops and people cheering outside their houses & on the side of the road were numerous and wonderful. 12 aid stations - that's how you do it!!
mi 12: 8:27 (1:38:53)

Kept it steady, even on the last uphill in downtown.
Don't know this runner, but it "almost" captures the incline

There are a few more turns after this hill and then a slight downhill thru a crowded "chute" of people cheering.
mi 13.1: 9:34 (1:48:28)

Finished 284/1259 (right about the exact same finishing percentage as the Parks Half)

I was obviously very happy with my time. For a day or so - I thought I had actually "beat" last weeks time by 30secs, instead of being 30secs slower. Either way - 10 minutes faster than 2008 and faster than I was expecting.
The rain stayed constant as I got some water and looked for food. Not a huge selection, but I grabbed a banana and pretzels and walked a bit. Grabbed my camera from my car and cheered on runners over the last quarter mile.
Overall: good course (if you don't mind hills!), great volunteers, decent shirt/finishers medal, poor pacer (mine at least - he finished more than 4 minutes ahead of his expected pace)
As a cool-down and to get in more miles, I decided to stop at Paris Mountain State Park on the way home (after 2 hrs with my aunt & uncle). I did my typical 6mi loop on the upper trails. Ran it strong and finished in 57 minutes...one of my fastest times for that route. :-)
Looking forward to more runs out there in November!

Monday, September 19, 2011

6th Parks Half Marathon Race Report

It only took a few minutes of looking at the website (www.parkshalfmarathon.com) to see this was a good race to enter. Put on by the Montgomery County (Maryland) Road Runners club, it goes from Rockville to downtown Bethesda - which just happens to be less than two miles from my in-laws house where we were staying.
2+ miles of road, followed by ~9 miles of the Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail and 2 miles of the Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch Trail. The point-to-point course winds thru numerous parks and finishes thru the Air Rights tunnel into a festival in the middle of downtown Bethesda. Throw in many pacing groups and a full post-race party and we've got a great event!
Short packet pickup note: Said there was no race-day pickup, but that was not the case. I had gotten mine the day before, which worked out well as I found my the newest model of my trail shoes (Asics 2160T) for a decent price.
Race day:
Got dropped off at 6:30am for the 7:00am start and checked my bag, drank some water and warmed up a bit. The 2,000+ runners were spread out and I found my pacing group - 1:45. Wasn't quite feeling up for a PR, but thought I'd give it a try on this net-downhill course. Couple of vanilla Gu's in my pockets, sleeveless Brooks shirt (~69° and 90% humidity), my Ironman handheld water bottle, and I was ready. They started in well spaced, small, divided waves every 2 minutes and ours was the 3rd wave to start. (This being 9/11 made the pre-race playing of our national anthem a little more reflective than usual). It was new (and kind of nice) to start at the very front and have somewhat of an open road ahead of us!
3rd Wave Start: I'm in the white shirt/hat 2 ppl behind the pacer (#40)
Pacer Ken E. was the absolute ideal pacer. Great splits, constant chatter, loud, constantly joking - he made you push a bit harder just to hear what he was going to say next. Our "group" of 5-6 stayed with him quite a while before breaking up.
The Course:

I feel the "net-downhill" is deceiving. The first 2 road miles didn't feel particularly as "downhill" as the 182' drop looks, even though our pace was a bit quick. We turned onto the paved trail which at times had some mud/water on it from the recent heavy rains from Tropical Storm (Hurricane) Lee. Miles 4-6 were rolling hills and included the "Silencer" hill around mile 4 - it was tough, but short, and I was still doing fine. I did wonder how long I was going to be able to stay with him. I was enjoying the trail and the group.
1: 7:42
2: 7:51 (15:33)
3: 8:03 (23:37)
4: 7:53 (31:30)
5: 7:59 (39:29)
6: 8:03 (47:32)

Still at or near my PR pace thru 6. Three very flat miles along the trail thru more parks (Dewey Park, Ken-Gar Palisades Park, supposedly named for Garth Brooks and "famous" runner Ken Early) and I was at my limit...
7: 8:04 (55:37)
8: 7:56 (1:03:34)
9: 8:09 (1:11:43)

Even though the next mile was still pretty even, I slowed and needed a walk break. The humidity/temps got to me as they typically do and my legs got heavy. Mile 10 began my foot (right toe) pain that I've been experiencing lately. I watched the remaining 1-2 runners go ahead with Ken as I made the best of it. I was 30secs under my half-marathon PR from Spinx in Oct 2009 thru 9 miles and I knew that was out the window. I was excited to have been able to keep the pace I did for that long. Miles 11, 12 and 13 were all up...
~Mile 12: Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch Trail
mostly gradual with one big hill at Mile 11 taking us off one trail and onto another. (Later I would see a resident spraying down runners with his garden hose - where was he when I went by?!)
Mile 10: 8:47 (1:20:31)
Mile 11-12: 17:38 (1:38:09)
Mile 13: 9:04 (1:47:13)

Just before Mile 13, there was a group of boy and girl scouts passing out small American Flags (another 9/11 tribute) and we hit the Air Rights tunnel. Coming out of there was a good crowd, announcer and an easy final kick to the finish line. Finish time: 1:47:52
Finish Line
Got my finisher's stocking hat, bottle of water and checked out the festival tent. Watermelon, muffins, cookies, brownies, pasta, bananas, oranges...so many options! What a treat.
Misc stats:
333' elevation Gain, 440' elevation Drop
458 out of 2320 overall; 60 out of 209 age group (40-44)
Garmin data (obviously not mine)


Finish Line Festival

Post race: Took a leisurely jog/walk to the house, but instead of the short route - doubled back on the course 2.5 miles and got back on the Rock Creek trail into Rock Creek Park. I know it may be disheartening for some runners to see a finisher coming back toward them, but I cheered every runner on (at least those without headphones!). The ~6 miles home included 2 on (real, unpaved) trails, and the last road mile was all uphill. Felt surprisingly good that afternoon and even the following day!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Catching up

Three weeks until Chicago. Since Sept 1st - My weekday long run of 15+ miles went well. Even pace, last mile was fastest. My 2nd toe hurt on the last lap - not sure what to do about it. Looks like that week's track work may have been my last SC training run of the season with temps in the 70's - Thank You!! Couldn't quite hit my times for that run, but it was still good to attempt it. The next run (tempo) was down to 62° and was much better. 6mi at 7:55 pace.
Then came a trip to DC visiting family and friends. Being only 1 mile away from the trails at Rock Creek Park is always a good thing and I went out for a 6 mile jaunt early the next morning after arriving. even with some residual wetness from the Lee-rains, and high humidity - it was very enjoyable. I always say this after time off the trails - but I do miss them. After Chicago - I'll be there much more often.
So that Monday - I heard from my mother-in-law about a race up in Maryland on 9/11 (Sunday). Even though it was just 6 days before my Asheville Half Marathon, I looked it up. Parks Half Marathon put on by the Montgomery County Road Runners. A point to point course from Rockville to downtown Bethesda, mostly run on a paved trail called the Capital Crescent Trail. Sounded very nice, and reasonably priced for just a week before the race, so I signed up (see next post for Race Recap).
I obviously was not going into this with the freshest of legs, and although it was technically net-downhill, it was rolling, with a steep section around Mile 4 and the last 3 miles with a constant, slight uphill. I had initial thoughts on setting a PR (1:45:35), but wasn't quite sure I was ready for that.
So - did it happen? Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Skipping the long slow weekend run...kind of...plus: 10k-a-day!

Yep - Chicago is coming up on 5 weeks away and I am skipping my long run this weekend. Why? Because I am doing it on Friday morning (tomorrow) instead. I'm heading to Atlanta Saturday morning, returning Sunday evening visiting with my sister (lives there) and my wife's sister (there from Colorado) - and running will not happen.
So my alarm is set for 3:30am and this will be the longest weekday run before work. I've done 11 a few times, including yesterday and last week. I'm not looking forward to getting up, but with a pace 5-10 secs per mile slower than my 11 miler, it doesn't seem that hard on paper (of course tomorrow may turn out to be terrible...you never know).
My work is doing a "step" thing again, where they give you a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day (10k-a-day). I've worn it this week to test it out. (We did this last year, starting just before I ran Chattooga. Was that really only a year ago?!?). The 11 miler was about 15000 steps, but using their calculations based on the type of exercising you're doing - it would equate to around 27000.  My run tomorrow will get me started on the right foot with about 40000. Too bad 25000 is the max you can "earn" in a day - I think it is biased against marathoners.
One more long run (20mi) while I'm in DC the following weekend, the Asheville Half-Marathon after that - then 2 easy weekends until it's time to go race!