Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Moo City Marathon

I was to run with Andres for the duration of the race. Or so was the plan. We started right next to the Capitol with just over a 1000 runners making the full marathon field. No-one fighting for position. There was plenty of room for everyone. Andres looks at the 3:50 sign and likes the 8:48 pace, as his 3:30 goal has wisely been thrown out the window due to lack of training; his longest run was 10 miles. "I" think he can run 3:40. We are in between the 3:40 and the 3:50 groups.

The horn is blown and I take off at what feels like an easy stroll. Andres lags behind a few feet. I slow down so that he can catch up to me. He still lags. I have to stop and wait for him to catch up to me. First mile in 8:25. The 3:40s are just in front of us.

The next couple of miles are run in an average of 8:20 and now Andres seems to have settled on a nice pace. I am enjoying what would turn out to be a very scenic route. Right after six miles, Andres starts picking up the pace and I am the one lagging now. We are getting closer to the 3:40s and I have to push the effort to keep up with Andres. We pass them right after mile 7. He looks strong and I tell him that we're running sub-8:10s and he says that he's feeling good. We pass by his brother's house (right after mile 10) and we're offered brats but Andres just plods along.

A challenging hill right before the UW-Madison Campus humbles me, and a couple of female runners pass me. I would re-pass them on the way down. Now I am the one feeling good. Strangely enough, my legs felt pretty tired at the beginning but they feel okay now. I clock a couple of sub-8 miles and Andres is hanging on. We are running on a well-packed dirt trail now and I continue to pass runners.

We cross the halfway mark in 1:48:01. Negative splits should be a slam dunk. The thought of dropping out (as I did in Boston) hunts me for a few minutes, but once I reach mile 14, I know that the worst is now behind me. Andres drops back a bit. I continue the same effort; I don't want to slow down. I try to stay with a relay runner but he drops me fairly easily. I am still feeling good and passing a few runners here and there.

At about mile 17, there was this longish hill that slowed my tempo. I did get back on track on the downhill. We enter the arboretum area. Man this course has way too many turns :-( I skip the GU station as it does not agree with me. I have had two cliffshot gels and I will have my third and last one right after 18. The sporadic crowds are quite supportive. Some call out my name. Some hesitate and think better of it. One spectator even cheers me on in Spanish. Wonderful spectators.

At 21 I hit the wall. Not the wall that stops you point blank, but the wall that whispers that it is okay to walk. I know I will slow down, it is just a matter of by how much. I look at my watch and see that 8:30s will bring me at close to even splits. I think to myself that the last five miles will be a cool-down jog. It seems to be working. I am running next to a lake and the winds are fierce. Another runner starts a conversation. I comply and mutter that I just wish that I was at the 26 mile marker instead of the 24th we just passed. He says that I am a "lean mean running machine." I take it in jest. He asks the spectators to cheer the lean mean running machine. I manage to feel a bit embarrassed. The fact that you can see runners (more than a mile) ahead makes it a bit tough. I plod on.

I reach this tiny little hill that almost makes me walk, and as soon as I crest it, a female with a lime green singlet passes me. I had passed her a couple of miles before. Not a good sign. She is gaining on me. I try to keep her close. I pass a struggling runners who is walking and I encourage him to at least jog. He must have done so because he shook my hand when he crossed the finish line.

I am closing in on lime-green female. Where is the darn 26 mile marker. I know I missed it once I see the 13 mile marker. Only a fraction of a mile to go. I speed up a bit but my legs are done. Finito. I cross the finish in 3:35:33, and barely a 28 second negative split. Andres would cross it in 3:42:06.

In as much as I would like to say that I could have run faster than the 3:35, it is safe to say that not this day; this day I gave it what I had. My endurance is not where it was in December. I have a lot of work to do.

I really like this marathon; it was comparable to the NYC marathon with some challenging hills and a bit too many turns. The only disappointment I had was that while I was there I did not see ONE single cow. What's up with that? :-)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bay2Breakers 2008

I had wanted to run this race for the last ten years. Something always seemed to get in its way though. This year was going to be different. So I signed up early, lest the race filled up quickly. Not being familiar with their registration procedures, I did not know I could have ‘applied’ for a sub-seeded number. Alas, that meant I would have to weave though the partying hordes. This was okay since I was not there to punish my body.

But when I went to the expo to collect my bib, I saw a sign pointing to the solutions desk and decided on the spot to see if I could exchange the bib for a sub-seeded one. Lo and behold, it was a lot easier than expected and I walked away with number 611.

On Sunday morning, I left my hotel by Fisherman’s Wharf at 6:40 and jogged the two miles to the start. The weather-nauts had predicted headwinds from 7 to 14 mph, ouch.

The sub-seeded area was just behind the seeded and the elite areas, with plenty of space to walk around or to get a warm-up jog. Perfect.

Now that I was to have no revelers to blame for a slow time, it was only me and the demons who have haunted me of late. One of those demons is extra weight as I am 7-8 lbs heavier from my optimal weight. But there is very little I can do at this moment in time.

Not being able to hit some training benchmarks, I came up with a rather tentative goal of 7 mpm pace. I add an extra 30 seconds, ‘just in case.’ The goal is definitely on the conservative side as a lighter me should be able to run 6:45s for this distance; but that is just that, a what if? To break 53 minutes it is… and to beat my bib number.

I line up right behind two female centipedes and all the members look fast. To my right, Spiderman-one has running shoes that match his outfit. They all would leave me behind in their dust.

I start running at what feels tempo, and promptly I feel heaviness in my chest. Is it GERD acting up for having consumed a pizza full of jalapenos for dinner two nights ago, or the curry chicken I had for lunch the previous day, or both? I definitely cannot run for over 50 minutes feeling like this, so I must have backed off subconsciously. I hone in on a stocky female who is running strong, just a few steps ahead of me. It was in this first mile that I sighted the first of several naked revelers/runners. Mile one, 6:48. Cool, I banked some seconds.

I had devised a plan of running two seven minute miles, then run as slow as eight for the third mile and come back with 6:45-6:50s for the remainder of the race.

Several spectators are jumping into the race, some with bibs, some without them, many had customs. At this point Spiderman-two passes me. I momentarily think it was the seeded spider, but this one had white running shoes. The stocky female is getting a few steps farther away from me. Up until now the course is fairly flat. Mile two, 6:53. I am still within goal range.

We are now in Hayes Street and I can see the top of the last terraced hill. The Autodesk centipede is cresting it. Damn, those guys are fast; they have already put five minutes between us. I begin the hills and while the average incline is 11+% they are a bit steeper when you consider the flat intersections. My quads start to whine and scream at me. I actually gain some on stocky female. The hills are definitely tough and I struggle in spite of my short stride. I am using my arms. Fortunately, the crowds are fantastic. Several people are drinking and it is tempting to walk over and join them for a beer. I see two females covered with rep paint. That’s all they were wearing… and running shoes. I have drilled my body into not looking down at the pavement when I am struggling. But these damn hills force my head into submission. I really have to dig deep to not walk. I am almost to the top. The problem with these terraced hills is that it seems that you’re about to crest the last one, and ‘thump’ there is another one on top of this one.. and another one. Argh! Mile three, 7:52. I know; they royally kicked my arse.

The road flattens out to my delight. A female wearing a Hawaiian dress is running by my side. I welcome her company. We do not converse. The hills have left with us with beat-up quads... and egos. The pace seems right but I am a bit disappointed as I see I have ran the fourth mile in 7:05.

We are now inside the Golden Gate Park, on Lincoln Avenue. Hawaiian woman is still running with me. I shift to a higher gear as I need to get into the 6:45s. In the process, Hawaiian woman is dropped. So is Spiderman-two. Mile five, 6:53. Finally a sub-seven minute mile; not what I wanted to see but I am okay with it.

Luckily, miles six and seven have very nice down-hills. It is here where I can get back some of the time I lost in the Hayes hills. I manage to pass a few runners. Only one would pass me. I continue gaining on others. Spiderman stays behind me as I hear spectators cheer him up. Mile six, 6:28. That’s what I am talking about.

I pass a struggling bronzed-runner and encourage him to stay with me. He has very little in the tank and does not respond. I am feeling elated. The road seems almost deserted as only a few runners are pounding the pavement. The really fast folks have already finished and only some of us mid-packers occupy the road. I am feeling stronger by the minute. Mile seven, 6:28. Funny, both six and seven ‘felt’ identical, the splits confirm it.

There is just a tad less than half a mile to go. We exit the park and have a clear view of the breakers as we turn into the Great Highway; the finish banner is so close, yet so far. I increase the tempo a bit. Spectators cheer on Spiderman-two and I can hear him panting, getting close to me. Damn. The competitive instinct in me kicks in and I increase the effort even more. I manage to hold him off and the last 0.46 miles is clocked in 2:49! (6:05 pace) Final chip time= 51:19 (6:53 pace).

As I am walking to grab a water bottle a volunteer hands me a white hat. It would not be until later that I would notice it had ‘top 500 finisher’ embroidered on the back, right below bay-to-breakers 2008. Nice.

Now, from the last 2.46 mile splits one can see I still had gas in the tank. I believe the reason for that is that it took two miles for my quads to recover from the infernal Hayes hills. All in all, B2B is an excellent race. I had a blast and cannot wait for next year and perhaps a sub-50 minute finish. And being that this was the first 12K I have ran, it was also a PR :-)

By the numbers: 290th OA, 35th AG. Nude runner sightings: twelve Males, three Females.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

HRM- Part Deux

So I have given up on using the HRM as a guide. Lemme 'splain. Two days ago while attempting to run 10 miles at a 'decent' pace (read: 7:10) the damn thing, or really the chest strap restricted my thorax from expanding fully, forcing me to slow down prematurely; so I have decided to drop the darn thing. That's my story and I am sticking with it.

Now for more important factoids. When I raced CIM I sort of promised Andres that I would run the Green Bay marathon. I did not fully commit because Bay-to-Breakers was that same day, and I have been dying to run that race, if not to get the HR up, to check up all those weirdos who run sans clothes :-) What to do with the quasi-promise you ask? I called him and told him I could run the Madison 'thon the following week if he was up to it. He said: of course! And that's how I booked my flight to MOOdison, wisCOWsin. HIS goal is to run 3:30; we'll see how he does :-)


Saturday, May 03, 2008


My running has a tendency to hit snugs from time to time. As such, it is time to look for something different that will spike up my training. A few years ago I was given a Polar 625SX and I have decided to put it to good use, sans the foot pod. I want to build up mileage and run a few quality runs here and there, trying not to burn out using the HRM as a guide.

Last Wednesday I tried 24X20 seconds with 60 second-recoveries in between and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The run ended up lasting for 12 miles. I want to do this kind of workout once every two weeks; we'll see how it goes.

As for the pain outside my left foot during the B*ston marathon, it appears that it was caused by a lose fitting shoe... stupid is as stupid does... it just goes to show you that sometimes the most basic things in life can inflict pain if not done right.

So what's in the horizon for me? The marathon du medoc for one as I already bought a non-refundable flight to Bordeaux. This race will be run for fun with no time goal, just to have fun and to drink as many different wines as possible. Can you say: Alkie? :-)