Category Archives: personal records

Tucson Marathon: Race Review – A Race or “A” Race?

It’s fifteen minutes before the starting gun and I can’t decide if I want to try to break my marathon personal record (PR) or try to shatter it. Now is not the best time to be thinking of such things. How did we get here? Let’s back up a few hours to Friday morning.

It pre-dawn and my training schedule has no running on it. For some silly reason it had me biking for two hours, but I had decided I wasn’t doing that days prior. I had a big race in two days and I needed to be fresh. That’s one of the reasons I was trying to start my car in the sub-freezing weather. The other was I was going to stop after work at the thrift store and see if they had any cheap gloves I could use as throwaways in Sunday’s race. But as Murphy’s Law would have it, whatever could possibly go wrong, did. My battery had died. In my typical c’est la vie fashion, I suited up for a 3.5 mile freezing bike ride into work instead and forgot about the gloves.

Sometime later on Friday, I remembered that I was supposed to have the traditional pre-race pasta dinner with @gazelle74. I “met” her on Twitter and had previously run with her on Mount Lemmon Highway. Being car-less is not usually a big deal for me; I typically drive once or twice a month. I tweet her asking if I could carpool with her to the race expo and start. Because she’s totally awesome, she agreed. Meanwhile, I forgot how I was going to get to dinner.

Allow me to digress and say that race expos are stupid. I go, get a bib and a goodie bag, and then leave. I’m not going to buy anything that they’ve marked up an additional 30% over their regular markup.

But back to dinner, long story short, I didn’t end up going. I was sad. I ended up eating a chicken breast, oatmeal, and a fruit salad. Yea! After dinner, I pretty much went straight to bed. One has to go to bed early the day before a big race, even though you know you won’t be sleeping well.

I woke many times during the night and finally decided to get up at 3:00 (yes, AM). Race start was at 7:30, so I had 4.5 hours to kill… sort of. gazelle74 was picking me up at 4:30 so we could get to the location where we’d get on the bus to shuttle us to the start line by 5:00. The bus ride to Oracle, Arizona was uneventful. I’m pretty sure I nodded off a few times on the ride. I guess I wasn’t that nervous after all.

We reach the start line with over an hour to spare. Much to soon to start any sort of warm up, so I do what everyone else is doing: take a poo. Even after what seemed like days standing in line for a port-a-potty, there was still a lot of time to kill. So I found a nice “tree” with a heavy branch that was about 2 feet off the ground to lay on and listened to some Metallica. 45 minutes pre-race and it was time to start the warmup. I love warming up for an event you plan to take 3.5 hours. It was nice and short, just a couple 100 meter jogs and walk-backs at the start line to get the blood going.

It’s now 7 0’clock and warmups are done. Nothing left to do but wait with the rest of the other 730 runners. It was about this time that I decided to set the pace time on my Garmin GPS watch. My previous PR for the marathon was at my one-and-only previous marathon. I ran a 3:50 at the Whiskey Row Marathon earlier in the year. I had no doubt that I could beat that, but by how much? I had been training using a “race pace” of 8 minute miles which is equivalent to about a 3:30 marathon and a 20 minute improvement on my PR. I decided not to mess with things, and set the watch at a 8 minute mile. This was now officially my “A” race of the year. Time to shatter that PR.

I find @gazelle74 and she’s lined up behind the 3:40 pacer. She had said her goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which for her age group was 3:40 (I think). But she said she was hoping for a 3:30 or better. Because I love the psychological boost you get when passing people, I always start further back in the pack and allow people to pass me at the start, since most people go out way to fast. So I started about 10 rows behind @gazelle74 and if her and my plans both panned out, we should cross the finish at about the same time.

I usually don’t remember a whole lot about what goes on during a race. I have other things on my mind, like: left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, etc. Or mentally doing the math to see if I’m on pace even though my watch does that for me. Or thinking about how this will be the last marathon I ever run. You know, those types of “deep thoughts”. I don’t understand the types of people that have full blown conversations during a race. Don’t you plan on using the energy later? Like the pair of guys that were talking about the movie Forrest Gump on Sunday. We were at about mile 3 and they’d been yacking for the past 20 minutes. Seriously guys, shut up and run.

That isn’t to say I’m a grouch on the course. Every law enforcement officer directing traffic got a smile and a “thank you” no matter how tired I was. The officers during the last mile or two may have missed out on the smile, but not the thank you. I was hurting bad and couldn’t smile and the thank yous probably sounded more like “rouhfb jdf”. The same goes for all the spectators who came out with cowbells. They got a smile and a “needs more cowbell“. Once on Oracle, there was a guy that was drafting/pacing off of me that started saying the same thing every time we passed a cowbell. It was fun because they’re be ringing their cowbell, I’d say more cowbell so they’d ring louder, then the guy behind me would say more cowbell and they’d ring even louder! It was great and a real boost. But if I could give one suggestion, there should be more cowbells in the last mile!

The guy that was drafting off me, probably for a good 5-6 miles, never did pass me so I don’t know what he looks like. Maybe he’ll read this blog and say “hey! that was me!” If so, introduce yourself or you’ll forever be known as “The Drafter”.

The only other individual I remember during the race was “The cougher”. I swear, this guy was coughing the entire time I was within earshot. It was somewhere on Oracle after the out-and-back to the Biosphere when I heard the first cough. I remember thinking “that must suck”. Then another. And another. It continued as I passed him and until the coughs faded away in the distance. If I was continually coughing around mile 15 I think I’d pull out. I don’t know if The Cougher ended up finishing, but if he did, he’s tougher than me.

Then there was “the gazelle”. I only saw her once during the race on the out and back to the Biosphere. At that point she was behind the 3:15 pacer, but ahead of the 3:30 pacer. I was thinking, WTF? I still hadn’t caught the 3:40 pacer even though my watch, and my brain, said I was exactly on pace for a 3:30 finish. Gazelle was on a super fast pace. She ended up finishing in 3:20 and easily qualified for Boston. I never did end up catching her. Gazelles are fast.

My race was looking real good until mile 24 when I hit the proverbial wall. Not head on, but more of a grazing shot. It was getting warm and the course had flattened out and I just couldn’t hold my 8 minute mile pace. I slowed to about a 9:13 pace, while the heart rate continued to climb. It maxed out at mile 25 at 180 beats per minute! I knew I was pushing hard, but I’ve never had that high of a heart rate while running so slow before. Then I did actually hit the wall. Speed plummeted along with heart rate with about 1.25 miles left.

I ended up crossing the line shuffling along at a 13 minute mile pace in a time of 3:31:11. So I didn’t end up making my goal time of 3:30, but I did shatter that PR by almost 20 minutes. The caveats being that this course was downhill and downwind pretty much the entire way and the other one had around 3000 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Plus I was in much better shape for this one.

As I crossed the finish line, volunteers stopped me to give me a finishers medal and take my picture. While I appreciated it, I would have appreciate it more if I didn’t have to stop because I had to use the port-a-potty again and now my velocity was zero. I finally did manage to get moving again and it took me about 10 minutes to walk from the finish line to the port-a-potties, which I’m estimating were about 50 meters away. After successfully voiding myself, it was time to make it to the food tent. But there was the problem that my velocity was again zero! Grrr. 10 more minutes to reach the food tent. Along the way I ate my last ClifBar for the needed calories so I wouldn’t collapse.

Met up with @gazelle74 after stuffing my face and hopped on the bus back to the parking lot where the car was. Along the was there was a set of stairs (down) that some finishers were taking two at time. I was thinking it was going to take me 20 minutes to get down them. Per my SOP, I let gazelle74 go first so I’d have that mental boost as I passed. But just like in the race, she pulled away and was waiting at the finish as I staggered across.

Once on the bus, I sat next to a guy that looked in fairly decent shape. I asked what his time was and if he’d beaten his goal. Turns out he didn’t have a goal time (huh?) and he finished in around 4 hours. I wasn’t really listening, because I’m mean like that. Anyway, while he’s jabbering my brain is calculating the time necessary for a 4+ hour finisher to get to the bus, and I conclude that he must have went straight from the finish line to the bus at a normal walking pace. As we got off the bus, this guy didn’t have the normal post-marathon shuffle and appeared to be fine and dandy. It was at that time that I decided on Rule 1:

If you can walk normally after a race, you didn’t run hard enough.

I don’t care if it takes you 40 minutes to finish a 5k or if you’re an elite ultra-marathoner, you should be hurting after a race, otherwise it’s just a long run.

On the way home, the gazelle tried to convince me to run Mount Lemmon Marathon on April 29. I was still a little delirious and may have agreed to do it. I’m planning on racing a full bike season this year, and this is right near the end of the season. So I’m not sure. I’d love to do it, but I was thinking I’d have until fall to train for it since the first 2 years were run later in the year, right during triathlon season, which may be why they changed the date.

All in all, this was a fun race. I plan to run it next year and set a new PR and hopefully BQ. Actually, I want to run a sub 3 hour marathon here next year. Is that too much? I don’t think so.

I’d love to read others thoughts about this race, so if your wrote a race report and want a link, post in the comments.

 

 

 

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Filed under marathon, personal records, race reports, running, tucson

Breast cancer awareness races

This weekend I ran two races. On Saturday I ran the 2nd Annual Pink Ribbon 7k and on Sunday I ran the Catwalk 10k. Even though I have run for over a year now, and racing for over 6 months, I have done neither a 7 kilometer nor a 10 kilometer race. That means I would have set 2 personal records (PRs) this weekend even if I would have walked the course. My hip having mostly healed, I didn’t walk the courses.

The 2nd Annual Pink Ribbon 7k took place on Saturday 22, 2011 and started on the track at Cienega High School, ran along the road for a little ways, and ended on the track at Empire High School. The tracks were obviously flat, and the road was slightly downhill the entire way. To make things even faster, we had the wind at our back the entire way on the road. In addition to being my first 7k (about 4.3 miles), it was also my first point-to-point race. When I started my morning, I didn’t know that, as I didn’t read the course description well enough. This meant that I got to the race with enough time to warm up, but not enough time to board a bus and then warm up. Luckily for me, the race started a little late, probably because many other people didn’t realize that they’d be shuttled to the start line.

After arriving at the Cienega track, I needed to decide how my hip was doing and what the plan was for the race. After a few 100 yard jogs, I decided that my hip was feeling good and I should try to run this at “race pace”. I set my Garmin for a 7:30 minute mile on the virtual partner option. Then did some 100 yard sprints to get the heart pumping. That’s enough warm-up for a 7k. I started the race about 10 rows deep consistent with my strategy to start slow and then pass people during the race.

This isn’t the best strategy to run the fastest race possible. However, there is a definite psychological boost when you pass another runner and a letdown when you get passed. So I try to keep my passing of others to a maximum and my getting passed to a minimum. Also consistent with usual during races, everyone started way too fast! I started near a 6 minute per mile pace around the track. Whew, by the time I exited the track I was well ahead of my planned time. Nothing exciting happened along the road. I did get passed by a couple of other runners, but I ended up passing more than I got passed. I was saving a little for the last mile when I planned to up the pace to my threshold heart rate. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the length of the race. I thought it was a little over 5 miles, so I was going to push the pace at 4.5 miles.

This gives me an opportunity to complain about races that are advertised in metric units (kilometers) but have signs in imperial units (miles). Argh. Please keep to one unit system please. Also, why a 7 kilometer race? I guess that’s because it was about the distance between the two high schools.

I finished the race in 31:52 at an average pace of 7:19.5 minutes per mile. This was good enough for 19th place overall and 3rd in the 30-34 male age division.

The next morning I had another race, the 10th Annual Catwalk 10k at the University of Arizona. This race was mostly on the university campus on a flat course. It was actually two loops of a 5k course, but was a little short according to my Garmin. As with the previous day, I wasn’t sure how fast I should go. I was feeling pretty good at race time, but the previous night I had a quart of ice cream and pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies for dinner and M&Ms for breakfast. That’s hardly the type of nutrition that will fuel a good race.

Therefore I decided to just run the race by feel. I set my Garmin to heart rate mode instead of virtual partner mode. Like the day before I started a few rows back in the pack. The pace at the start felt fast. Looking at the data from my Garmin, it was slightly slower than the previous day, probably because the course was a little narrower. After things got stringed out, I settled into a pace that kept my heart rate near 170 beats per minute.

During this race, I didn’t get passed once even while passing many people during the race. That psychological boost keep me going strong the entire race. It feels good seeing that next runner up the road and reeling them slowly in and then passing them. I don’t recall anything notable occurring during the race. I thanked all the police officers volunteering that were working traffic control on the course.

I finished in 43:27.6 at an average pace of 7:00.6 minutes per mile. This was quite a bit faster than the race the previous day, which shows that I could have gone harder on Saturday. Actually, after the race on Sunday I felt that I could have gone faster still. Luckily for me, I have another 10k race coming up on Saturday! I’m going to try for a new 10k PR, which shouldn’t be too hard.

My goal for next Saturday is to finish in less than 40 minutes (6:27 min/mi pace).

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Filed under 10k, 7k, personal records, race reports, running, tucson

2011 TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler

It’s been a long time since I last raced! And up until a few weeks ago, it had been a few months since I’ve run at all. I’ve been doing a lot of cycling lately getting ready for a 2012 race season as a 30-year-old rookie. I figure by summer 2012 I’ll be racing in the Tour de France. I’ve got that sort of natural talent on the bike. I have genetics to blame I guess. I’ve also recently broken my arm… while riding my bike. I was supposed to be doing spin-ups, where you put it in an easy gear and see how fast you can pedal. I was doing 1 minute on then 1 minute off when all of a sudden a stupid thought jumped in my head. Myself, I thought, let’s through in a 1 minute sprint just for fun. So I did. I was on the Rillito River Path in the early morning and there was nobody else out there, so I wasn’t endangering anyone else. But as I go around a corner I should have been able to make, I lost traction and bit it. I got a little road rash, but when I fell I came down weird and broke my humerus up near the shoulder. It was in a place where they don’t put a cast on it, and not serious enough for surgery. So the doctor gives me some pain pills and tells me to HTFU.

But back to running news. I’m scheduled to run the Omaha half marathon on September 25. Remember that I really haven’t run since July. So I started up as soon as I felt comfortable after the broken arm. That turned out to be about a week and a half ago. The TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 8-Miler is my first race since July 3 when I did the Firecracker Triathlon. Those that were keeping score at home, will remember I finished 300 out of 303 in the swim. After that, I had one more swim lesson that I had already paid for, and I haven’t been back in the pool since. With the arm, I’m not sure when I’ll get back in. But If I want to do triathlons again, I really need to work on the swim part.

there I fixed it: wrist band

Broken wrist band on the Garmin

Even with the race on today (Monday), that didn’t mean I got to take yesterday off. Nope. I rode in the foothills and then did four repeats up Sabino Canyon road. (Garmin Connect) When I got home, I tried taking off my GPS watch but failed miserably and broke it. As it turns out, the Internets tried to warn me that the wristband on this watch tends to fail after about 6 months, but I wasn’t listening to the Internets when I bought it. 😦 So with nothing better (read: duct tape), I made do with some safety pins. Yup, fixed it right up. It actually worked quite well. I’m proud of myself for thinking of that at 5 in the morning before I’d had any coffee.

So with a broken watch, I headed out the door and drove 17 miles to Saguaro National Park East where the race took place. It’s funny driving 17 miles to run 8. Not haha funny, but some other kind of funny. As it turns out, I had to park about a mile from the start line. So I got my warm up in running from the car to the start. Not that I needed to, but the race didn’t start on time because the ambulance was late. It was impossible to know that at the time though. So I, and the rest of the over 1000 racers, had a few minutes to twiddle our thumbs.

post race portrait

Post race self-portrait

Then we were off. It was a cloudy day in Tucson; a very rare event. I took advantage of it by wearing my dark sunglasses. Oh well, I could see just fine. As usual at these large events, the start was a mess with slow pokes lined up near the front that you have to weave your way around throughout the race. I had my nice GPS on, which tells me exactly how I’m doing in respect to a planned pace. Actually, once we got about 1/2 mile down the road, the pace steadied into about a 8 minute / mile, exactly what I was hoping to finish in. I was drafting off of a couple ahead of me that seemed strong. They were chatting away and the guy had a GPS on too and he was constantly looking at it. I got to wondering if he was way ahead of his time or way behind. Almost on cue he says, “we’re going way too fast”. Doh. So much for pacing off them. I pass them, and then start passing everyone else that started too fast. After that point, I was only passed once, about a quarter mile from the finish. There’s a mental boost for each person you pass, and a corresponding let down when you get passed, so I try to do the passing. I don’t get why people go out so fast if they can’t maintain that pace. Whatever floats your boat I guess.

flyers

Flyers for something...

There wasn’t really anything exciting during the race. Garminsays I gained 502 feet of elevation during the short run. There was one big-ass hill. My heart rate averaged 159 bpm and I maxed at 175 bpm. I could have gone harder, but I didn’t know that since I’ve been out of running so long. At about the 7.5 mile mark I passed a woman who was severely dehydrated and needed help walking. I hope she made it back to the ambulance okay. Other people stopped to ask if she was alright. Being a jackass, I was just glad I moved up another place. The results aren’t online yet, but unofficially I think I finished in about 1:04:00. That depends on how they time it. My watch says I finished a few seconds under my 8 minute per mile pace. So, yeah.

race schwag

Race schwag

The end of the race is always the best part. Okay, so it isn’t always the best. The best part is when you get your schwag! There was no schwag at packet pickup and I was disappointed. Only a bib and a sleaveless shirt. I wore the shirt the same day when I did a 13.1 mile run that started at 5:30 at night. That was not smart. But back to the schwag! After the race, I picked up some free orange slices, a Muscle Milk, an Activate Workout, and a Julie Bar.

Since I was smart this time (who’d have thought), I properly brought these three items home for a proper review. The oranges were oranges. I didn’t think I needed to review them. Plus I needed some quick energy for the drive home.

First up, I tried the Activate Workout drink. The flavor that the woman handing them out recommended was their raspberry citrus. I don’t see that on their website, so I’m not sure how to order it if you’d want to try it. The nutrition label says there are 5 calories in the entire bottle, so it’s mostly water with artificial flavors added. They also add a few vitamins and minerals. They have 8% of the recommended daily values (DV) of vitamin A and C, 100% DV of vitamins B6, B12, niacin and pantothenic acid, and 480% of vitamin C. Their gimmick is that they “store” the vitamins in the cap and not actually in the water and you have to release and “activate” them before drinking. It’s a fun idea, but I’m sure there’s no scientific evidence that water dilutes vitamins or minerals. Or that they need to be activated. The flavor was okay. I actually prefered my plain old water in my reusable water bottle. Considering that this sells for $9.20 for a pack of 4, I would not recommend buying it.

Next up was Muscle Milk, their light (presumable low-fat variety?) chocolate version. I’ve had Muscle Milk before. The first time was about 10 minutes after I finished my first marathon. It literally made me want to puke. I don’t remember what flavor I had. The second time was about 10 minutes after my last race, a 5k. It didn’t make me want to puke, thank goodness, but I don’t remember it being exactly good either. This will be the third try, and they may get their third strike, we’ll see. Once again, it comes in an individual plastic container. Thank goodness it’s recyclable, as is the Activate bottle. Looking at the ingredient list, I see a whole bunch of crap like Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Acesulfame Potassium, and Sucralose. Sounds nummy. As with the Activate, it’s mostly water with adatives like “nutrients found in natural milk”. That’s right, this isn’t actually milk. Just milk-flavored water. It does have quite a few vitamins and minerals in it though. If that’s your thing. If you eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and a little lean meat you’ll get all the vitamins you need. But at $2 each, it’s strike three for Muscle Milk. It tastes okay, but is definately not worth the price.

Last up is the Julie Bar. This is actually a locally owned business here in Tucson, so I’m hoping it tastes good and I can support them! That said, the sample I got was of the PB&J variety. The nutrition label says it’s made out of organic dates, organic raisins, and organic peanuts. 3 ingredients, now that’s my kind of sports food. The little sample only has 57 calories; a full sized bar of the same flavor would have 170 according to their website. My first impression is that it is definately not as sweet as the Muscle Milk. It doesn’t exactly taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it doesn’t taste bad. I thought that the peanuts would be more of a butter than they were. They were basically small chucks sitting in the raisin and date goo. I think if they had been put through a food processor it would have a better consistency. But that’s just my two cents. This is definately something I’d carry on a long bike ride or run. Or even have by the side of the pool on those long swim workouts (of which I’ve had none). The flavor is subtle, which is needed during intense physical exertion, so that’s a plus. It provides a calorie punch in a small package. Packaging is a negative again. I’m not sure how to get away from it, but each bar is individually wrapped in plastic. At $25 for 12 bars (online), it’s a little expensive, but for a small start-up company marketing locally, that’s to be expected. Add to that price at least $5.75 for shipping too. I’m not sure how much they cost in local businesses. All-in-all, I would recommend this product. I look forward to taste testing other flavors.

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Filed under 8 mile, personal records, product reviews, race reports, running, tucson