Monday, September 22, 2008

Half-Mary and Where I am.

I was looking at this half as more than just a training run; I was looking at it as the affirmation I need to take the monkey off my back come November. That would mean I would have to finish in a time no slower than 1:33:10, or 7:07 pace. You see, I have made it a goal to cross the finish line in sub-3:20, and a 1:33:10 half would predict a 3:16:30. Yes, I am leaving some room for a positive split.

When I signed up for this race, I was only thinking I wanted to see where I was six-weeks out. I did not know how many runners would turn out, but I certainly did not expect to see only 79, several who chose to start a half-hour early as they were walking. Actually, only about 60 runners toed the line with me. I looked around to see if I could spot the really fast folks and I could only make out one with a Navy singlet (he would go on to win it in 1:18).

There was this other guy who had asked if the course was flat. He was slim, and had a long sleeve. He had what I mistook for cross-trainers for they were all black. I did not think he would be fast as I questioned his choice of top and shoes.

The three of us formed a small pack that would dissolve quickly. I am running third and before I can settle in, a woman passes me. I say: go get them. No response. Not a minute later I get passed by another runner, this time a guy.

They slowly widen the gap. He passes her. I wonder if long-sleeve guy, now running in second place, will last; if he is for real; mefigures that if he is, he will last past three miles at that position; he is.

I won't bother with the splits only to mention that the mile-markers were misplaced so they will not offer a window into my even pacing. By three miles I can no longer see long-sleeve guy and the third place guy is only 20 secs ahead of me. I keet the same gap up until eight, when he speeds up a bit and I slow down a bit.

The course is as flat as a course can be. The cool ocean breeze is refreshing. The temp was 58F at the start and 65F at the end. Almost too good to be true. It was up to my old legs to do the rest.

My breathing is controlled. My form feels smooth and fluid. I have not felt like this in a race in a long time. Will it last for the entire 13.1?

He's going the distance.
He's going for speed.

I am about four minutes ahead of the number six runner. I don't think he can make up that much time in the next 5K. My watch reads 1:08:40. Damn. There is a chance that I can break 1:30. My legs are beginning to feel stiff. My form no longer feels fluid; it feels awkward. Number three guy (4th OA) has a minute on me now. No way will I catch him.

The miles are getting longer, if you know what I mean. I keep glancing at my watch. Did I push the pace too much? I did not think I could run 7mpm pace, much less sub 1:30. I dig as much as I can, but I am inevitably slowing. It's hard to know how badly I am slowing as I can't trust the markers. My watch reads 1:28:XX and we still have what appears to be more than 500 meters. I concentrate on my form and try to relax the shoulders.

The right hip-flexor, the one that has been given me so much trouble the last year only ached for miles 2-5; it also seemed to affect the right piriformis. Overall, I ran sans major discomfort.

I make the last turn and my legs start turning over quicker. I thought they were done. It wasn't much of a kick but it felt like it :-) I cross the finish line in 1:30:12 (6:53 pace) in fifth place OA and second in my AG.

Where did this come from? I think it came from everything going well in a race. From the cooler weather, to the flat course, to better trained legs. Interestingly enough, the 50 miles I ran last week (including this race) averaged 7:32... essentially my goal MP.

After the race I got to talk to long-sleeve guy (Dan). And boy was the guy for real. He ran a flat 5K not too long ago in 16:43 (six weeks ago), and is training for guess what race? NYCM! He is looking to run sub 2:55. His shoes ended up being all-black asics trainers. And his final time was 1:22, even with a detour -- as he missed a turn that must have cost him two minutes.

41 days and counting.

Keep running y'all!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Marathon Du Medoc

To call this a race is a mistake; at least for those of us who chose to slog it rather than race it as there were some really fast folks who race it well. It is really a marathon inside a party. And what a party it is. If you ever get the chance of doing it, you will not regret it; I guarantee it.

On to the race. The already stated goal of a sub-5-hour finish was half in jest as I did not think it would take me that long to complete the distance. And I did complete it in less than that, but let me tell you: it was not easy. The course itself was a bit more difficult than I expected as it contains several rolling hills, most notably leading up to the Chateaus. The over 7000 runners and the narrow roads made it all that more difficult to get a rhythm. But I did not really care. I was there to have fun. And fun I did have; lots of it.

I lined up about half-way and it was a minor mistake as I found myself practically walking for almost the whole first K. No matter I said to myself. I will pick it up to 9mpm pace as I also want to get some training benefit, for at least 30K or so. And I did pick it up. Methinks that I was running 8-8:30 pace when I was "running."

The culprits for my brief stops were the 23 wine stations. You see the organizers have the support from all these Chateaus who willing give away their wine to any runner who wants it. And they don't really mind how much wine you consume at their expense. My guess is that the wine itself is of the Chateaus' lowest quality, albeit still tasty.

As soon as I saw one of these stations I had two servings, not realizing its future cumulative effect. I was also spending more energy than the pace I was doing as I was dodging participants left and right. Finally, around the 7K marker I have some "breathing" room where I don't have to zig-zag. My splits get progressively faster, even with the wine stops. Ah but it was not as rosy as it should have been. I started feeling dizzy by the 17K marker and I knew I was close to being drunk. If I continued as I was doing until then I would not finish. I had to change my original strategy. I started drinking more water and just taking a couple sips at the wine-serving Chateaus. It helped as I felt back to normal 5K later. Alas, my mind was not okay as I started walking short portions. I continued the gallo-walking for the rest of the party, err I mean run, with the exception of the last two+ Ks.

For most of 30K I was frog-leaping position with this guy who had a Sumo-wrestler costume, and I just could not let him beat me. Finally, the weight and the overheating got to him right after 30K. I would not see him again.

At around 35K, there was this wall (see pic) whose bricks were made of wooden wine crates. Nice touch :-). It right around this point where I was expecting the oysters and the ham and the steak. I would have to wait until the 38K for the ham, the 39K for the oysters (where I had two chased by what else but white wine) and just before the 40K marker I had three cubes of medium rare beef; again, chased by wine, this time red. Boy was it good!

I was really glad I was about to complete my 39th marathon as I was really, really tired. Even when I was taking my time. I reached the 41K, running mind you (or at least it felt like running), and a volunteer hands me ice cream. Nice.

I try to pick it up for the last K and change. I spread my arms mimicking a plane. I complete the "best" 26.2 miles of my life in a pedestrian 4:24:16. But who's keeping score; not me.

When I crossed the finish, I was handed a nice duffel bag, a bottle of bordeaux and a poncho. And of course, a finisher's medal.

My only complain is that I probably will not do it again. But one never knows what awaits in one's life :-)

For a nice pictorial check this link. This is where I borrowed the pictures I used. It is worth visiting it as the pictures really tell the story.

Now to resume my training for the NYCM.