Sunday, June 29, 2008

2008 Seafair marathon pacing experience

7:15am, Seattle-Kirkland-Bellevue, WA
Temperature: 70F-78F
Humidity: 57%-45%

Having finished the Seafair marathon both of the last two years, this year I decided to run as part of the official 3:30 pace team. I was assigned the hilly third leg so I had a decision to make:
i) Start at mile 13.1 and pace leg 3
ii) Start at the beginning and run 19.6 miles at 8:01 pace

Under normal circumstances I could have easily accomplished the latter option. However, this was a very tough course, it was a going to be a hot day and I had not really recovered well from Newport. I made the fateful decision to go with option ii) since I wanted to cross the 520 bridge (one of the main highlights of the new course this year).

I went down to Bellevue square at 5:15am to take one of the first few shuttles to the start in Husky stadium. This ended up being a smart move since they had a major fiasco with the race shuttles later on. Even after delaying the race start by 15 minutes (on this hot day), they still could not transport 400 people to the start before the timing mats were removed. There were accounts of long lines for the shuttle after 6am.

At the start, the roads were open to traffic till the very last moment. As a result no-one had any idea where the actual race start was. As pacers we were being asked by runners, since we could be expected to know where the start was. When the race start sign was finally put up ALL the pacers were asked to come to the front (so people would need to pick it up after the start to catch up with us?).

I had to lend my Garmin to the 1:30 half pacer since he had left his on a local bus (trying to acquire a satellite :)). So for the first 6.5 miles I was "blind" and had to "trust" the pacer for this leg, Paul. While I did not have my HR reading, 8:00 pace was not feeling easy in the heat. I did not really enjoy crossing the 520 bridge as much as I had expected.

After the first leg, I had expected the course to be relatively flat. The scale of the elevation map on the website was wrong and that had masked some difficult hills. These were not helping me. By mile 10 I was struggling. The pacer for leg 1 had dropped out and the pacer for leg 2, Pat dropped out at mile 12 (they had intended to go all the way through). I had to get to mile 19.6, whatever happened. Then at around the half point the 1:30 pacer started running with me (Jason was going to go all the way and had intended to stick with the 3:30 group). I told him I was struggling and asked him if he could pace this leg. He told me he was not sure and that I should go on for a bit more. Finally, after 14 miles or so I told him I was stopping and requested/forced him to take over (I had handed him a 2 minute buffer which would be handy with the hilly last 10k in the heat). I gave him my Garmin again. When I stopped a couple of runners following me shouted out - "No, you cannot stop. You are my target". I pointed at Jason and told them to follow him. Perhaps if Jason had not caught up with me I may have gone on and I just had a couple of miles before I hit the down hills.

I got someone to give me a ride to mile 20. I walked over to make sure that Jason made it and the pacer for the last leg, Meren took off in time. I also saw them at the finish.

While our pace group made it in time I feel pretty horrible/guilty about this experience. I guess I went with the decision I did because I knew that Jason and the first 2 pacers intended to go all the way with the 3:30 group but I did want to fulfill my responsibility. If I ever pace again I will make sure there is a 0% chance of me not making it by i) Either pacing at my long run pace OR ii) Just running a single leg.

From the organization point of view this marathon had other issues with incorrect mile markers and possibly the course being short. They had also run out of water after a bit. However, I think the new course has a lot of potential and this can be a nice marathon. As we saw for Chicago last year, when we have record temps, the organizers have to deal with a lot of flack in spite of their best efforts. I am sure they will get things figured out next year. Personally, I have another score to settle with this course.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

2008 Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon race report

7am, Vancouver, BC
Temperature: 55F-57F, Cloudy
Humidity: 72%

I rated my experience with this race last year as one of my best of the races I've run. Consequently, my decision to run this again was not difficult to make. In addition my cousin was going to join me from AZ - this was to be a goal race for him. Even though my recovery from Newport was pretty slow I had to run this one.

We stayed at the host hotel (the Sheraton, Wall St). The view from the 24th floor was pretty neat but it also gave us a perspective on how unplanned the city's high rises were. On the race day morning we were able to avoid driving by taking the hotel shuttle to and from the race. I spent the time to the start taking snaps from the window of the bus.

The toilets at the start were in the UBC student center. The age old adage of not blindly following the flock proved to be true. There were huge lines on the ground floor but the toilets in the second floor were empty! This race requires a CAN$ 2 donation to check in bags (I had to get a couple of loonies for US $ at the hotel lobby - it sucked that my US $ was now worth less than the CAN $).

There was no corralling at the start so I had to wait on the pavement to jump in ...
mile 1: 7:13 (183)
I spent the first couple of minutes navagating through the crowd. After Newport I had just run 39 miles at a pace of 9:00-10:30. I did not know what pace I would be able to run at or if I would even be able to finish. I had hoped at the very least I would not end up with a PW. Luckily, I seemed to be able to switch into race mode.

mile 2: 6:51 (185)
A downhill mile. I saw the Kenyan leaders pass by on the other side.

mile 3: 7:15 (186)
mile 3.27: 2:02 @ 7:35 - 5k (186)
mile 4.27: 7:42 (185)
Climbing up the incline was not as easy as it should have been. It also sucked that the 5k marker did not sync with my Garmin...

mile 5.27: 7:10 (185)
mile 6.27: 6:58 (181)
mile 6.44: 1:04 @ 6:24 - 10k (180)
These were the down hill miles which included the steepest decline on course. We also passed the music station.

mile 7.44: 7:33 (184)
mile 8:44: 7:32 (186)
mile 9:44: 7:30 (185)
mile 10:44: 7:36 (188)
Last year it was pouring for the latter half of the race but today we had a clear view of the beautiful waterfront (Howe Sound)! There were a few climbs to negotiate too. There were quite a few people cheering as we passed the interesting Kitsilano neighborhood.

mile 11:44: 7:47 (186)
Like last year, I had nothing for the climb over the Burrard Bridge. It was a struggle till I reached the peak. There was an elderly gentleman in front of me who was embarrassing me by throwing in a kick here.

mile 12:44: 7:30 (188)
mile 13:39: 6:58 @ 7:19 (190)

I was glad to see the finish line in Stanley park. Aerobically, I had nothing left. I was left to reflect the fact that I ran Newport at the same pace three weeks back.

Avg HR: 186


Clock: 1:40:01
Chip: 1:38:48 @ 7:32
AG: 36/194
Male: 251/1516
OA: 313/3584

The medal this year was top class since it was the 10th anniversary of the race.

My cousin ended up with a HUGE eleven minute PR! He was obviously thrilled. After showering up we got in a quick trip to Victoria before returning home. At the race expo, I got a flyer reminding me that 2009 is the 30th anniversary for the Victoria marathon - so that increases the incentive for me to run it :)

I loved this race on both the years I have run it. Hopefully, someday I will be able to do justice to this race by getting in a good run on it.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New York marathon lottery

After getting rejected in the lottery in 2005, I made it through this year! Of course after paying $165 in entry fees I intend to run it with a camera at an easy pace and soak in the experience.

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