Sunday, April 29, 2007

2007 Eugene Marathon Race Report

[Note: The results section is your best bet to skip my ramblings in the rest of the report]

Eugene marathon, OR, 7:00am
Temperature: 44F-54F
Humidity: 93%-73%

Background

Eugene was the first marathon I was "racing" in over a year and a half. Considering the period before this for me, this was almost an eternity. I would probably have avoided any other inaugural marathon until they sorted out organizational issues. However, this was a marathon at Eugene the site of Olympic marathon trials and NCAA championships. There would surely have been a running culture at "Track town USA". As the organizers put it you'd be "running in the footsteps of legends". With people raving about the marathon along with the promised flat and scenic course I was convinced and decided to sign-up.

2006 was a dreadful year for me. After running only 300 miles in the first five months I tried to get back to things. The mistake I made was assuming that I could do things I was able to do in 2005 when I had a solid mileage base behind me. I ended up taking two steps back for every step I took. Finally, I decided that I needed some discipline. It was more like training for my first marathon. After spending a month of 20-30 mpw base building, I strictly followed the Pfitz 24/55 plan (which I knew I could easily stick to).

Pre-Race:

It was very nice of Oreska (Juan) to host our FE at his home in spite of his MIL having a stroke and the organizational responsibilities he had for the race. I met Geetah (Bill) and MangoAK (Donna) at the expo and we headed down to Juan's. It was fun chatting with everyone... Polar Bear(Jon), who was crashing with Juan inspired us with stories about how his running potential was discovered. The High Hopes hat was admired. Danny's amazing summer was discussed. Bill talked about his race record breaking 114 mile 24 hour run... RTB, other races experiences et al. Exactly why FEs are always fun. Finally, we were treated to Juan's culinary talents.

This was the first time I got to stay in a race hotel. It did mean avoiding a couple of hassles. I didn't sleep much the day before the race or the day of. I was awake from 2am. I could hear the college kids partying on the downtown streets from my room (but this was not what woke me up or kept me awake ...)

On race day morning as soon as I got off the shuttle in front of Hayward field start I saw Jon. This was cool! After he helped me solve my pre-race emergency of finding safety-pins to attach my bib we stayed warm in his car. Interestingly, his car was parked in prime location - right in front of the entrance to the porta-potties. It goes without saying that a majority of the runners would have observed two runners sitting in a car.

Goals:

In January I had run the RNR AZ half in 1:34:XX. At that point I had expected that with more training coming up it would be logical that I would be able to PR and improve my 3:18:XX marathon PR. However, 5 weeks out in the Mercer half (which is a little hilly) I ran a 1:37:XX! I was regressing... Also, for the next few weeks my quads were perpetually sore. Taper and PT sessions cured this soreness but after my last long run, 2 weeks out two new injuries surfaced on my right leg - an injury in the muscle connecting my quad and knee & ITB issues. I stretched like a maniac, got help from a PT, anti-inflammatories et al but I was going into the race with a possibly painful injury which had not been tested with a run longer than 12 miles. A DNF was a possibility. I would not be happy with anything above 3:30 under any circumstances. My race strategy was to go out by effort with my HR to guide me irrespective of what pace that might be...

Race:

mile 1: 7:40 (171)
As I took my first few steps I could feel both the injuries on my right leg acting up. Jon had told me about his 2006 RNR AZ marathon experience with a PF injury the day before. I wondered if this was the kind of suffering I was in for.

mile 2: 7:29 (163)
mile 3: 7:32 (166)
I ran into a couple of runners from Jon's running club. They were running the half.

mile 4: 7:32 (168)
I was beginning to get into my stride and the issues with my right leg issues seemed to have disappeared or maybe my brain had decided that it would be blocking out any messages sent by it...

mile 5: 7:43 (171)
This was the biggest hill on the course. Pre-race, I had told myself that I just needed to get through mile 1 & 5 and then I would be good to go. This hill ended up being pretty trivial. I guess at mile 25 it would might have been a "little" inconvenient.


mile 6: 7:37 (167)

I didn't see a mile marker as we crossed the bridge over the Willamette River for the first time. Later I realized that they had painted some mile markers and the 5k markers on the ground. Too bad they did not tell us about it. They were painted too small to notice accidently ...

10k: 47:10
mile 7: 7:44 (165)
When I picked up my race packet I was pleasantly surprised to see that the marathon bibs had ours names on it. For the average person in the US attempting to pronounce my name is not too far from what you'll go through when you'll attempt to pronounce 'zzsbzz' at FEs :) Up till this point most of the crowd was cheering for "Mike, Dave, John ..." around me or sticking to generics. So I chuckled when a female attempted to cheer for me by my name and then immediately remarked to her friend - "I surely butchered his name".

mile 8: 7:39 (166)
mile 9: 7:35 (167)
I missed mile markers for this and the next mile which probably were painted below.

mile 10: 7:39 (167)
The half marathoners split off during this mile. I found myself running alone without Mike, Dave or Bob. I was treated to some individualized generic cheering (though attempts were made to pronounce my name).

mile 11: 7:49 (168)
I finally saw a mile marker. So this split includes the Garmin offsets for the previous two miles. A guy running in front of me was clearly relieved to see the mile marker(thank you Garmin).

mile 12: 7:41 (166)
The half marathoners rejoined us. There were folks talking about just one more mile to go, being almost done & their last kick. In my head I was going - "La La La. I don't hear you."

mile 13: 7:30 (166)
half: 1:39:55
A sub-3:20 was surely on the cards. Based on my HR in comparison to my previous marathons, I felt I had been pretty conservative thus far. A PR would take some doing but I told myself that in my PR race my half split was 1:40:XX.

mile 14: 7:43 (167)
The course for the next few miles is very similar to the Vermont City marathon. Views of the river through trails. I remembered running into RunningFatMan (Henry) at mile 14 of VCM. It was sad to think of what happened to him a few months after the race...

I was startled when I heard someone pronounce my name correctly! I had to turn back to marvel at the impressive achievement.

mile 15: 7:40 (166)
Before the start Jon and I met another guy wearing TX shorts (like Jon). Both of them had started off in the front. I saw him struggling. I asked him if he was ok. He just said - "Hamstring". I told him to keep pulling before I moved on.

Again, another female pronounced my name correctly. I thought - "Wow! This is quite a roll we have going here..." This would not last though. Mispronounced attempts (which I am very used to by now) and generics prevailed for the rest of the race.

mile 16: 7:38 (167)

GI issues started flaring up. This has never happened to me during a race, even during the 5.5 hrs of the Knickerbocker 60k. I'm wondering if I could hold on till the finish... Gradually, I realized that I'd have to stop. I begin looking for a porta-potty but I couldn't see any around!

I was also getting conscious of the amount of running we were having to do on concrete. Luckily, my right leg was holding up pretty well.

mile 17: 7:44 (166)
mile 18: 7:47 (164)
mile 19: 9:48 (158)
I had to stop for the first time in any race. What made matters worse was that the porta-potties were in a small stadium. I had to run 0.2 extra miles to get to and from it... Maybe someone forgot to move these?

This was effectively the end of any time goals I had... Though I am glad I stopped. It felt so much better as I started running again.

mile 20: 7:43 (165)
mile 21: 7:53 (165)
I found myself running with a guy in a blue shirt. It was sort of an implicit agreement. We were running together, side-by-side but we never spoke a word to each other. An official race photographer remarked - "Nice job pulling together". I hope he got a snap of us since I'm curious to find out how this guy's race ended. I had to leave him at a mile 23 water stop as he stopped but it surely helped to run together.

mile 22: 7:43 (166)
mile 23: 7:50 (169)
mile 24: 7:44 (171)
What was encouraging was that I passed a guy, who was looking very strong in front of me before I stopped at mile 19. I ended passing quite a few folks in the last 10k which is always nice when you are not struggling yourself.

mile 25: 7:49 (172)
At the very least this was not a struggle to the finish - I felt pretty decent through the end. Looking at my splits I wonder if I could have pushed a bit more after my pit stop even if it would mean a more painful finish. I guess if a more meaningful goal was on the line that would have happened. I guess at these stages the mind does play a part and motivations like PR, BQ etc. can do amazing things. After I stopped I didn't really seem to care much about my mile splits unlike before the stop (I was still trying to finish as quickly as possibly but there was no – “This split was only a X:XX!”)

mile 26: 7:39 (175)



The last mile was around the Autzen stadium. I couldn't help wondering how much cooler it would be to run inside the stadium than outside it...

mile .2: 1:46

Avg HR: 166

At the finish I saw Jon & Bill. Jon ended up with a great finish time which could have been an amazing time if not for his hammy seizing up. Bill's half was impacted by his 114 mile run just a couple of weeks back ...

Before leaving Eugene, I decided to have one last look at the legendary Hawyard field. Interestingly, I found Bill and Donna also there taking pictures...

I returned home taking the byway along the Pacific coast. The natural beauty was quite impressive!

Results:

Chip time: 3:23:57 @ 7:47

OA: 214/1496
Male: 180/837
AG: 35/119


Conclusion:

I was very impressed by the organization of the marathon considering that this was its inaugural year. This is not surprising considering they had dedicated/knowledgeable volunteers like Juan taking care of things. There was great crowd support, which will only get better in future years. The course and atmosphere was very similar to Vermont City.

Not getting a PR while disappointing was not a surprise. I should be happy that the injuries I was carrying into the race did not act up. The time lost due to GI issues was disappointing but I'll be more careful in future. Things could have been worse.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the St. George lottery. If I get in I will be motivated for the training even if the prospects of a PR look bleak. It would double up as a nice vacation!

Meanwhile, the curse of a Steamtown PR continues :) (I can think of at least four others with long standing Steamtown PRs who should be able to relate to me)

Friday, April 27, 2007

The last few moments...

This feels almost like my first marathon - I'm at work but all I can think of is the marathon in 36 hours. It's been over a year and a half since I've RACED a marathon so this is not surprising...

The weather forecast for the race is perfect:

How my race pans out totally depends on how my right leg will behave. All other components of my body seems to be in great shape. I have not tested this injury out on a long run so I'm hoping it eases up after a few miles... We'll see.

I need to get all my stuff ready in the evening, buy some bananas and dried fruit. I'll get in a 2 miler early tomorrow and then drive to Eugene. Hopefully, I get to check out a couple of tulip shows and some of the Oregon coast on my way back on Sunday...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Marathon week

(5,5,3,X,X,2)=15; Week 24/24 (in 23)

I've made it through the 24 week program! Irrespective of how the marathon turns out I'm happy that I had the discipline to stick with it to the T. There have been days when I did not want to wake up in the cold or run in the rain & wind ...

I will be deviating from the last week of the Pfitz 24/55. I'll be sticking to what I've done for all my previous marathons. It too late to shut the barn door when the horse has bolted. I can't see any sense in putting in a bunch of miles in the last week ...

Mon - Cloudy, 54F, GA 5: My right leg is still iffy. I hope it gets better in the next 5 days else the marathon might end up being tedious, perhaps even a DNF. On the positive side, my left leg seems to have almost completely recovered and everything else is OK (touch wood + fingers crossed).

Tue - Cloudy, 50F, 5 w/3 @ MP

Wed - Cloudy, 51F, GA 3: Almost there :)

Sat - Sunny, 51F, 2 @ MP: I could feel my right leg but it's the best it's been in a while so hopefully I get through it. I didn't feel as stiff as I normally do after a 2 day break but that's probably because I've been stretching like a maniac. I went to sleep at 3:30am partly due to my drier refusing to work! I've not got to hurry to Eugene!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Taper Week 2

(X,7,8,WS,5,12,X)=32; Week 23/24 (in 23)

This should be a straightforward week. Three rest days. The only difficult workout is the VO2 max w/ miles repeats @ 5k.

Tue- Cloudy w/sunny breaks, 47F(42F), GA 7 w/8*100m striders

Wed- Treadmill, VO2Max 8 w/3*1600m @ 5k; 2 min jog in between, 2 miles @ LT: I felt pretty good for the first 2 mile repeats but the 3rd was tougher. This was my last run @ faster than MP.

Thurs - Rest: I actually ended up spending an hour stretching and on some light weights in the gym. After this marathon I will cut down on the cross training, work on strength especially upper body and increase my miles...

Fri- Cloudy, 51F, Recovery 5 w/6*100m striders: The 10 day forecast for Eugene now stretches up to 4/29. There's very little variance in the weather for the next few days - lows mid-40s, highs mid-60s. Given that the race starts at 7am I doubt that temperature will be a factor. So I just need to worry about wind and rain. So far the prediction is for a 10% chance of rain and 9mph winds i.e. perfect conditions.

Sat - Cloudy, 60F, Medium-Long 12

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ibuprofen, Bengay, a broken promise, rest, ice, pt and whatever it takes...

(X,7+XT,8,X,4,8,16)=43; Week 22/24 (in 23)

Eight months back I promised myself that I would stay away from anti-inflammatories or other types of painkillers. If I could not run without them I would not run. I stuck to that promise till this week. My quads are still sore - I can't remember such a long stretch of sore quads ever. While I can get through my training runs with this, I doubt I'd get through a marathon without this being a factor. So I've got to do whatever I can to recover - ibuprofen, bengay massages & icing. I'm also keeping up the pt visits. Taper should also help...

Tue - Cloudy, 45F(41F), GA 7 w/8*100m striders: It's been a few days since I've run in the morning. When I woke up I tried to convince myself that I would run in the evening but then I saw the sun! That must have been an optical illusion or I must have been dreaming since once I got out for my run all I saw was the typical Northwestern clouds. There's something about a morning run - it just feels refreshing...
PM- 60 min XT

Wed - Cloudy, 58F, GA 8: It was in the 30Fs when I woke up in the morning so I went back to sleep. I started my run at around 7:15pm but got in most of it before it got dark. It's nice to see a lot more runners on the trail...

Fri - Treadmill, Recovery 4 w/6*100m striders: I really didn't feel like getting wet today at recovery pace so I hit the TM.

Sat - Cloudy w/Sunny breaks, 53F, 8 w/4 LT: Nice run. When I was in the midst of my LT run, I saw a sweet kid on a stroller smiling at me. She reminded me of my neice when she was 2.

Sun - Cloudy, Sunny, 53F, Medium-Long 16: A beautiful spring day! The flowers were blooming. After the first few miles my run felt very comfortable and my running form was good. I could feel my right quad from the beginning of my run and the left to an extent. I think though that I will be fine for the marathon because of the flattish course. If I had to deal with downhills I would have been screwed. First half: 8:21, Second half: 7:52.

Monday, April 02, 2007

St George Marathon lottery

(XT,8,8,XT,4,10,17)=47; Week 21/24 (in 23)

I mailed my entry for the St George Marathon lottery yesterday. Ever since I had to spend a night in the Salt Lake city airport (watching the tourism Utah ads) I've been hoping I make it through this lottery. This is supposed to be one of the most scenic marathons around. I would also be able to combine this with a tour of the awesome Zion national park. Driving down to St George from Vegas would just add to the fun. (Fingers crossed for the lottery results on May 7th)

Mon - 10 min XT (at PT) + 60 min XT (Gym)

Tue - Treadmill, 8 w/5*600m @ 5k, 90s jog in between: The intervals felt comfortable. I ran 3 miles at tempoish pace after that.

Wed- Cloudy, 52F, GA 8: It was a very busy day at work. As a result I couldn't start running before 7:30pm. I got in about half my run before it became dark. I saw three others running in the dark. Spring seems to be bringing more people to the trail which is nice.

Thur- 60 min XT

Fri- Sunny, 70F, GA 4 w/6*100m striders: More like a summer day...

Sat- Cloudy, 63F, 10 GA w/4 LT: I had intended to run another 15k time trial at hopefully a faster pace than last week. However, after 4 miles I noticed that I was having to work too hard to just maintain last week's pace. This was so demoralizing that I stopped and stared at the river for about 5 minutes and then eased through the remaining miles. At this point I'm tired, disappointed and hurting. I've got to finish what I started in November - get in the last few runs and ease through probably a 3:30 marathon.

Sun- Sunny, Cloudy, Rain, 62F-55F, Long 17: 16.43 @ 7:53 & 17 (including last hill) @ 7:56. At the very least this long run was faster than 3:30 marathon pace with much lower than marathon HR. When I started the run it was sunny and warm, but by the end it had transformed to windy, rainy and cloudy. I started off with a bottle of Gatorade for the first time since last summer. This ended up being a smart move since I was sweating more than normal when the sun was out.

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