Saturday, May 31, 2008

2008 Newport marathon race report

Getting the Steamtown monkey off my back

5/31/2008, Newport, OR, 7am
Temperature: 52-54F, Cloudy
Humidity: 88%-77%

Background:

My last marathon PR was at Steamtown in Oct 2005. Ever since I haven't succeeded in getting in a training cycle or a race that would get me anywhere close to that PR. Eugene was my goal race for this spring but soon it became apparent that I would not be in shape to race it. I considered RNR San Diego as an alternative since it was going to be on my birthday. However, an average minimum temperature of 60F and shady logistics did not seem appealing. I had heard a lot of positive things about Newport so I signed up.

Training:

My training after a shoe version/orthotics issue, for 10 weeks after a January half was sketchy at best. Around the end of March my hopes of running a Spring marathon was very slim, especially after last Fall's St. George misadventure. I had reached a point where I needed a day off running after each run. So it only seemed natural to give the FIRST program a shot - 3 quality days and cross-training. Gradually, as a recovered I began to deviate from the program in terms of mileage and number of days of running. However, I kept up the cross-training.

The first signs of recovering some fitness came after I had run three straight weeks of 20+ mile long runs. My recovery from the long runs was becoming faster... I was signed up for Eugene so I decided to run it without going all out. I did not want another DNS after a race in March. Eugene proved to be a big morale booster. I ran the first half at LR pace and then gradually picked up the pace for the last half. Knowing that I could run a sub 3:30 marathon without going all out and being able to finish the last 10k strong (at 7:23 pace) was helpful.

I had one week until taper after Eugene so I decided to monitor my HR for signs of overtraining but run as much as my body would allow me (I had very little to lose). I ended up going into taper with the following 8 day sequence of runs: 26.2-10-10-10-12-12-22.6-23.6. I did not intend to run a 100 mile week or back to back 22+ milers but just went with the flow. For taper I decided to go with the Pfitz 18/70 volume.

My training could be best summarized as: Tue V02Max workouts with my running group, Thu FIRST MP/tempo workouts, a long run (generally 20+) and as many miles as my body let me run on the other days. My training for the marathon had been light but I tried to find positives - I had a strong run-up to the marathon, I had run 8 20 milers (including 5 22+ milers) and for the first time since 2005 I felt like my running was getting into a zone.

I generally kept very quiet about my running during this period. I was sure something would go wrong very soon and I would have to stop running again. I almost dodged the bullet until my last "long" run. Against my best wisdom, I decided to run with my running group. They did a route with a lot of concrete. This left me with an inflamed left arch with 6 days to go for Newport...

Goals:

This was what I was willing to admit to everyone who asked-
Ecstatic: Anything better than overjoyed.
Overjoyed: 2.5 year old PR – sub 3:18:40
Happy: Sub 3:20
Satisfied: Sub 3:23 (Eugene last year)
Livable: Sub 3:30
Minimum: Finish

However, in the last couple of weeks, I began to believe I had a shot/the fitness to go sub 3:15...

Pre-race:

As soon as I reached Newport I decided to drive the course. Most of the course is on a very quiet road. There were four cars in front of me - all with runners checking out the course :)

I decided to run my final pre-race 2 miler along the beautiful Nye beach. This run was very ominous. I was struggling to hold 8 min/mile pace at a high HR (agreed there was a strong head wind for a lot of the run) and my left arch hurt :(

After a huge bowl of pasta for lunch I really did not feel like eating any more pasta at the race dinner. Then I remembered financeguy's Buffalo race report. Just visualizing him running into a parked car was sufficient to not only get me to eat all the pasta on my plate but go for seconds.

Race-morning:

The short ride on the shuttle from the race finish to the start Yaquina state park was entertaining. There was a guy talking about his 180 odd marathon finishes. The guy sitting next to me was shooting for a sub-3:15 (I ran into him again at the finish. He did get his goal!). I confided that 3:15 was my optimistic goal too.

At the start Joe found me. It was great to be able to talk to him in the final minutes before the start. He did scare me though by looking surprised when I told him it's a good thing that we did not need to worry about remembering to wear a chip at this race :) He was going for a sub-3:15 too. Both of us had PRs of 3:18 from 2005. Of course his was on a hot challenging Boston course, and mine was on a downhill assisted Steamtown course with prefect weather.

The weather could not be more perfect for running and the setting for the start more beautiful!

Race

mile 1: 7:12 (183)
As soon as I started running my left arch started to hurt. However, the more pressing issue at hand was that my shorts had started falling off. Apparently, the weight of the 6 gels I had stuffed into one small pocket was pulling it down. Finally, after a few attempts I managed to get the shorts to stay in place. The first couple of miles were through the town neighborhoods before passing through the start at the park again.

mile 2: 8:09 (174)
My arch pain had now become very intense. Like most runners I have a high threshold for pain but this was so acute I seriously considered stopping and quitting. It seemed unlikely that I would even be able to run sub 3:30 with this kind of pain.

During the race I was convinced that the first mile marker was off. But thinking about it now, given that I heard a couple of folks talking about running a 3:05 in mile 1 and that I got passed by hordes of people in mile 2, the markers were probably placed just right. I just hope no-one planning to run with the official 3:30 pace group (pacers run a relay) at Seafair sees this report.

mile 3: 7:38 (168)
As Joe passed me he said something very profound - "Our time goals will put us in the top 60 and we will end up passing 3/4 of the runners in front of us." Sounded good except that for now I was part of the 3/4 getting passed :)

This mile had us going over the Bay boardwalk. I can still distinctly remember how painful it was to run on the wooden surface. I came very close to ending my run here. It's just that it's very difficult to accept a DNF after travelling for a marathon.

mile 4: 7:51 (163)
We passed by the finish line, heading into the out and back along the Yaquina Bay and River estuary. We had to run up a short steep hill but at this stage it was pretty non-trivial.

mile 5: 7:35 (168)
mile 6: 7:32 (170)

The pain seemed to be easing or rather I was getting acclimatized to running with the pain. For the most part, for the rest of the race I was able to channel out the arch pain but I was never really pain free.

mile 7: 7:28 (171)
I remember reflecting on how scenic the course was but how I did not care. After the race I drove the course again to soak in what I had missed during the run.

mile 8: 7:22 (170)I saw the sign asking us to smile for the only photo-stop on course. Of course smiling for race pics/or even pics in general never does any good for me but I needed to get away from "Orange shirt guy" right in front of me. I don't know what he was thinking but he just would not let me pass. It almost felt like I was racing someone at the finish line of a 5k. I decided not to waste more energy and slowed down. Of course I passed OSG right after the photo-stop and when I saw him next after the turnaround I was well ahead of him. Oh yeah, and all this effort in trying to get a good race pic was a wash because the photographer got a pic of me with my eyes closed. (sigh)

mile 9: 7:21 (172)
I had my first taste of the HEED sports drink. I don't know if anything was wrong with it but I guess I am addicted to the sugary Gatorade and I like my sports drink having color. The color makes me feel like I am acquiring some "extra powers" kind of in the "Red Bull gives you wings" way.

mile 10: 7:23 (172)
mile 11: 7:37 (169)

The Oyester shooter stop. Before the race I had been debating whether to try some on-course (of course I would not have been trying to break the shooter record set last year). I had already had enough going on to introduce another variable to my run so I pass on it :(

mile 12: 7:30 (170)
The race leader, Sean Sundwall, passes me from the opposite direction. I remember him running St. George last year (he ended up winning with a 2:22 today vs. his 2:17 at St. George).

mile 13: 7:40 (169)
half: 1:39:09

It was encouraging that in spite of everything I could still get a PR out of this run if things went well from this point on...

mile 14: 7:29 (170)
mile 15: 7:18 (171)

As a lot of folks were passing me from the opposite direction so I was getting antsy to get to the turn-around point.

mile 16: 7:32 (168)
Turn around point was at mile 15.4. As in many of my out and back long runs, I relished getting to the point where I could start heading "home". On a course like this with no crowd support it was great to see runners providing each other encouragement. I remember cheering for a wheelchair participant as he passed by.

mile 17: 7:10 (172)
I spent some time running with a guy who had his nickname "TJ" on his shirt. Everyone passing him from the opposite side was cheering for him. I just could not take it anymore (jealous?)! I had to get away from him!

mile 18: 7:28 (174)
There were some head winds for the next three or four miles but it wasn't too bad.

mile 19: 7:26 (173)
Another fleeting glance at the Oyester stop but I wasn't ready for any of that stuff today.

mile 20: 7:33 (174)
The last 10k was very lonely but peaceful. I did pass 5-6 runners; there were a couple of water stops and some course marshals but for the most part I was running on my own. I reminded myself several times that I needed to run 7:34 miles to get a PR. It was in these few miles that I would need to make all those 20 milers in training count. There were times when I was hurting (parts of my legs other than the arch of course - the arch pain was a given) but then I would feel good again. I focused on my form and staying mentally strong.

mile 21: 7:32 (173)
mile 22: 7:23 (175)
mile 23: 7:36 (175)
mile 24: 7:30 (174)
mile 25: 7:33 (175)
mile 26: 7:53 (176)

Dear god, Why am I being asked to run an all incline mile after running 25 miles?


mile .22: 1:26 @ 6:31 (179)
A downhill finish! A run down the steep hill from mile 4 and a sharp turn to the finish! I really appreciated the enthusiastic cheering from the folks at the finish. I was amused to see the official race pic of my approach to the finish. I had not realized that I was running with my fists pumped and teeth clenched :)

I saw Joe at the finish. He had a great run. I'm not surprised - can you expect any less from someone who's recently run a 100 miler and a 40 odd miler on the TM?

The clam chowder at the finish was a bit of a letdown (I guess I had unrealistic expectations) and I went with soda instead of beer (but I am thankful that both were offered).

Result:

Time: 3:17:20 @ 7:32
1st half: 1:39:09
2nd half: 1:38:11
Avg HR: 172
OA: 65/613
Male: 57/330
AG: 4/22

Newport:

I now see why everyone raves about the Newport marathon. The course is aggressively accurate, and fast (not pancake flat but that's perhaps a good thing). The importance of having such predictable weather (50F-55F) for a late May/early June marathon cannot be emphasized enough. With races like NYCM now costing $165+ you’ve got to appreciate the $50 Newport entry fee. The race field is capped to around 750 to keep the size manageable.

All through the weekend the atmosphere was very friendly. Whenever I saw a runner at the hotel, the aquarium, restaurants,... we ended up talking as if we knew each other. I think that would have been considered rude/crazy at Chicago :) On Sunday I ran into Lenore Dolphin (co-race director of YCRM and a horary maniac) outside my hotel. Bob Dolphin had just run his 425th marathon yesterday at age 78! As, she described the race weekend at her race in Yakima, I knew I just had another marathon added to my "must-run" list. I explained to her why I held off joining the marathon maniacs. I feared joining them would influence me to do insane things. However, she had a good point - MM had a good core membership at WA so it would enhance the social aspect of attending races...

The Awards ceremony at Newport is a fun experience. Most of the runners attend because a lot of nice stuff is raffled out. I missed getting 3rd in my AG by one place and a little under 3 minutes. Now that I move into the fast old geezers AG, it will probably be another 30 years before I have another shot :)

I'm sure I'll be coming back to run Newport and/or Eugene again in the future. While I try not to repeat marathons, I have access to very few quality drivable Spring marathon. There can't be too much of a good thing can there?

Reflections:

This was probably one of my toughest runs ever given how early I had to start dealing with pain. Thinking about it now I don't know how I got through it... Even though I only got a 1:20 minute PR, psychologically this is significant for me. This wipes the slate clean - I don't have to keep thinking about 2005 and Steamtown anymore. This run was also on the last day of my 20s - a period which has seen a lot of significant events in my life. So this was a nice way to wrap-up decade number three.

Going forward, I hope I can carry off from where I left off in the last few weeks of training for Newport. Ideally, I'll be able to spend a couple months in recovery/base building followed by four months of training for CIM. It's difficult to contemplate that I will have to wait at least 6 months before I can RACE a marathon again. However, isn't that what makes the marathon distance unique? It does not take much to get it wrong and you don't get too many chances to get it right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

2008 Beat the Bridge 8k Race Report

Husky Stadium, Seattle, 8:30am
Temperature: 59F
Humidity: 72%

I decided to run the BTB 8k as a tune-up race for Newport. I really had no idea about my fitness level so any data I could get would be helpful.

I had signed up for a blue bib (faster than 7 min/mile) pace so I really hoped I would be able to run faster than that. The theme of the race comes from the fact that the university bridge opens at 9:00am for a while. The challenge for the later runners is to make it past the bridge before it opens.

mile 1: 6:21 (163)
Having run so few shorter races, my general strategy for them is to go out as fast as possible and then hold on for dear life at the end. We passed the bridge for the first time. I was encouraged/surprised by the pace I was running at...

mile 2: 6:37 (180)
After running through the neighbourhoods we passed the bridge for the second time. I had beat the bridge!

mile 3: 6:46 + :15 (long) = 7:01 (180)
The only climb of any consequence.

mile 4: 6:22 (short) (180)
This was an out and back on the road outside the stadium...

mile .98: 6:38 @ 6:43 (180)
A finish in Husky stadium with the runners showing up on the mega-screen as they finished. Cool!
Chip: 33:02.2 @ 6:39
Gun: 33:16
OA: 145/4011
Male: 126/1970
AG: 31/411

All in all an encouraging result considering I ran 17 yesterday and last week was a mega-mileage week.
I loved this event and will probably run it again in the years to come. It had something for everyone (a walk, a fun run, the 8k appropriately started in waves, and a kids run). The race was chip timed with a $17 entry fee. I appreciated the option of not having to opt for and pay for another race T-shirt (the runners' race T-shirt stack issue :)).

Newport beacons - 13 days to go ...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New weekly mileage PR!

I hit a new weekly mileage PR this week. Digging up my old running log, my previous weekly PR was 81.55 in the week of 8/15/05. I was careful to monitor my HR for signs of over-training, while listening to my body. Next week as I enter taper I'll slash the volume and increase the intensity.

Mon-10.01 : Started off slowly, basically doing an inventory of my body after the marathon before settling into normal pace before the end
Tue-10.01 : This was to be a time trial but my coach stopped me after a mile. He indicated that training run or not 26.2 miles was a long way and I did not want to get hurt.
Wed-10.01 : The challenging part of this run was that it was 12 hours after yesterday's run.
Thur-12.01 w/8 @ MP : The encouraging part of this run was that I was able to hold or beat MP on tired legs. I got the feeling that I would have been able to hold MP for longer. Hopefully, taper does the trick.
Fri-12.01 : Nothing special about this run.
Sat-22.6 : Felt effortless. I could have gone on for a few miles more.
Sun -23.57 : This was a bit more difficult than yesterday's run because I did it without any fluids or fuel. I had not expected to go so long but I was feeling good so I figured what the heck - I was entering taper... What was great about this run was how low my HR stayed throughout.

8 day total: 126.46
Max 7 day total: 102.87
Max weekly (M-Su) total: 100.24

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Eugene marathon 2008 report

Eugene, OR, 7:00am
Temperature: 40F(37F)-53F(45F)
Humidity: 89%-74%

Background:
In November I had signed up for Eugene as my Spring goal marathon. However, an orthodics/shoe version saga during Nookachamps caused my training to be sketchy for the next 10 weeks. I pushed back my goal marathon by four weeks to Newport. I decided to run Eugene as a "training run", having pondered about the pros and cons of this decision.

Goals:
A training run can only be effective if it does not impede training in the week following the run. Therefore, I decided that anything less than a 70mpw week following Eugene would mean that I failed to achieve my objectives for this run. I would be carefully monitoring my HR to judge my effort. I estimated that I would probably run a 1:52ish first half and finish around about 3:39.

Pre-race:
I started my drive to Eugene at 3AM on Saturday. This meant that I avoided traffic and I was sufficiently tired to get a good night's sleep before the run. I did stop at a rest area between Portland and Eugene to get in an hour's sleep. I had the "Krusteaz Pancake" breakfast at the Convention Center (where I was also staying). I could afford to eat whatever I felt like unlike the day before a real race!

Expo:
I attended three presentations to make sure I captured the Eugene flavor, which I missed last year.

PBS documentary on Bill Bowerman:
- His belief on the hard-easy principle.
- It was interesting to learn about how he was such an integral part of the birth of Nike.

Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story
- Pre's sisters introduced the documentary.
- Eugene is synonymous with Pre and vice versa.
- Hearing about Pre always leaves me with a sense of longing about what could have been.
- Right after the documentary I drove down to Pre's rock. Driving up that steep hill leading up to the rock almost felt surreal. It was so quiet just like it must have been on the fateful night.

Inverview with Dathan Ritzenhein and his coach, Brad Hudson
- The moderator did an excellent job in asking questions that would be relevant to the audience
- Recap of his OT qualifying effort
- How moving from altitude in CO to Eugene helped his training.
- His thoughts leading up to, during and after the trials.
- His seven gel fueling strategy for the trails.
- How he had tried out every minute element of the race during training
- How he knew about Shay's death 3 minutes before it was announced to everyone.
- His training: Where he trains in Eugene, 24 mile goal pace run, his training for Beijing (focus on pollution),
- He was nice enough to sign an autograph, and pose for a pic with me.
- He kicked off the race in the morning the next day.

Saturday market: I walked about enjoying the environment and the amazing weather.

Dinner: I went to the pasta feed with Jason. We spend about an hour and half afterwards chatting.

Run report:


I soaked up the environment in the minutes before the run - a start in front of Hayward field! Not wanting to start out too fast I lined up just in front of the 4:00hr sign. Luckily, Anu spotted me and I had a brief FE with her and Nagesh.

mile 1: 9:07 (150)
This was a slight uphill. We passed very closed to Pre's trail. The split was just right and my HR was in my recovery run zone.

mile 2: 8:20 (150)
mile 3: 8:08 (149)
The gleukos at the first water station tasted horrible. I think they got the concentration wrong since it did not taste as bad in the remainder of the race.

mile 4: 8:41 (155)
Enjoying running along the beautiful Amazon trail out and back.

mile 5: 8:26 (151)
mile 6: 8:12 (153)
I wondered why this area was so congested. Then I noticed the 3:45 pacer in front of me. I think he had gone out too fast...

mile 7: 8:16 (154)
mile 8: 7:54 (161)
I picked it up a bit on the uphill since i hate running hills with poor form.

mile 9: 8:30 (151)
I remember being able to see the leader pass by mile 15 from here.

mile 10: 8:18 (153)
It was a little windy and sunny but it's amazing how well-protected the trail was from these elements...

mile 11: 8:17 (155)
mile 12: 8:10 (159)
mile 13: 8:01 (158)
There was an elderly gentleman who tried to keep up with me for a bit. I didn't want to mess up his pace so I picked up the pace to ensure that he was forced to go back to running his race.

mile 14: 8:06 (158)
I spent some time admiring the beauty of the river.

mile 15: 8:15 (158)

mile 16: 8:09 (159)
I am very sensitive about concrete and avoid it like plague during training. There was quite a long stretch of it here which was making me cringe but my legs weren't complaining...

mile 17: 7:56 (160)
I remembered how I had started having issues with IBS around here last year.

mile 18: 7:45 (165)
Dropped a Gu pack. It says a lot about the folks in Eugene that someone on a bike picked it up and rushed to catch up with me to give it back!

mile 19: 7:31 (169)
I finally saw the track where I had to make my pit stop last year. It was a little later in the race than last year since the finish was moved ahead to finish right in front of Autzen stadium. This avoided last year's evil loop around the stadium.

mile 20: 7:33 (168)
Having my nickname on my bib was great. I did get a lot of "Go Sub". From here till the end there were a lot of folks cheering the runners. After all this was track town USA...

mile 21: 7:39 (167)
I chuckled when a volunteer ran with me to make sure I got a cup of sports drink without having to stop. Now that's a dedicated volunteer (lesson for me at the Seattle marathon water stop :))

mile 22: 7:22 (169)
A kind volunteer hands me 3 packs of cliff shots. I had to throw two and just keep one :)

mile 23: 7:10 (169)
Now I'm having too much fun - I'll pay for it at Newport!!!

mile 24: 7:35 (173)
In some respects running my run in the way I was running it was kind of sadistic. Obviously, I was passing a lot of people and this might have been demoralizing for them. Some of them were nice enough have words of encouragement for me as I passed then and of course I returned the complement. Looking at there results later, there was no-one with a half split even close to mine who finished with or before me.

mile 25: 7:16 (173)
I continued to debate with myself about whether I should hold back. Then I reflected on how I was forced to walk 16:30+ min miles at St.George at mile 25 and 26. Live for today, worry about tomorrow later :)

mile 26: 7:16 (178)
I had cranked it up for this mile with a Garmin split of 7:01 which unfortunately was not in sync with the mile marker :)

.22 1:28 @ 6:40 (178)
I had not been looking at my watch time (except for the half split) during the run (just focusing on my mile splits and HR). Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a 3:29:XX as I approached the finish. I have always wanted to feel so good making it past the finish line of a marathon. Perhaps someday in a real race (but wouldn't that mean that I did not give it my best effort)?

Jason was waiting at the finish. He had run a sub-3 and was obviously thrilled. The shuttle ride back to the hotel was an adventure. I joked that we would have gotten back faster if we had run. Apparently we were supposed to get off in front of a night club to get to our hotel. We had to stay on the bus for another full loop. The shuttle driver did not seem too friendly :) We were in a hurry to checkout of the hotel. I gave up my seat whenever the bus filled up to the people who ran a real race.

Results:

OA: 281/1743
Div: 34/96
Male: 241/972
Chip: 3:29:43 @ 8:01
First Half: 1:49:02 @ 8:19
Last Half: 1:40:41 @ 7:41
20 mile: 2:43:49 @ 8:11
first 10k: 8:29
last 10k: 7:23
Average HR: 160

Drive back home:

Last year I had been hurting after the marathon so I did not get a chance to really enjoy the beauty of the Pacific coast. My drive from Florence all the way to Astoria was amazing. I went down the sea lion cave, had possibly the best seafood chowder I've ever had in Waldport, enjoyed the beautiful sunny day capped off with an amazing sunset.


Conclusion:
- I don't think I've ever felt so good during a race or a long run. I found myself smiling all the way to the finish line.
- Knowing that I can run a sub-3:30 without tapering or going all out sure gives me a boost for Newport.
- I think I will surely comeback to Eugene again to race the marathon. This is a great race!
- It was a beautiful day for running on an awesome course. It's not surprising that I know a lot of folks who ended up with PRs.
- If I do race this one again it would make sense to hold back a bit in the first half to take advantage of the very fast second half.

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