Monday, February 23, 2009

Start Spreading the News...

Dear Alejandro ,
We are pleased to confirm that you have been accepted for entry into the ING New York City Marathon 2009. Our records have been updated to reflect your acceptance.

Big grin on my face :-D

Yesterday I found myself racing my first 8K. Not having done much speedwork of late had me guesstimating a 7 mpm pace. I warm up for two miles and do two strides at perceived goal pace.

I lined up about four rows deep. There are a whole lot of pre-teens and sub-18-year-olds. The "gun" caught me off guard and I just follow a rather large mass of runners. I hope to reel most of them in. The first mile is a smallish loop that has some challenging rolling hills, 6:37. I can only dream I can average this pace. The "fade" is expected to come later. Mile two is a straight away that appears deceivingly flat; it is not, 6:49. Then we work our way around a larger loop and a monster hill is just in sight. [It might not have been that big, but my legs definitely complained] I set my sights on three sub-teens. I finally catch them after cresting the hill, 7:08.

For some reason, I tend to run better in downhills and the next 1.97 miles had a nice gradual decline. I start passing a runner here and there; I am still running strong, 6:20. The last stretch is practically mile two, but in the opposite direction. I am running next to a bearded runner. Exchange a couple of sentences. He is fading a bit. I get an adrenaline rush. I push the pace a bit more. The gag-meter is redlining. I force myself to lower the effort, as I know I would have to make a full stop to toss my cookies. The gagging feeling stays with me. One younger runner passes me as we make the turn into the parking lot where the finish is. I tell him to "bring it home." He thanks me. I increase the effort for I do not want anyone else to pass me, not this close to the chute, 6:01 (6:12 pace). 32:55 by my watch, 32:57 official tag time.

I am quite happy with the result. It shows that I am not as slow as I think I am.

The food provided at this event is the BEST I have ever seen. Pizza from BJ, brownies from ClaimJumper, salads from Cali-Pizza Kitchen, breakfast tacos, smoothies from Jamba Juice, and more!!

A 12-year old beat me by more than FIVE minutes!!! He ran 27:43 (5:36 pace)... Amazing...

Have a nice week!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

One Good Run

I have been hesitant to post a goal for Boston. And my ol' legs just don't seem to have the same pizazz they once seemed to have. I went so far as to join the Boston sub-3:10 thread at runners world. But then the sysop changed the look and feel of their forums. And magically, there was no record that I had ever boasted I could run sun 3:10; I mean, I had a hard time running a sub 3:18 in 2006 on much younger and readier legs; what on earth was I thinking? On top of that I am not following ANY structured plan; I am just trying to get at least two quality runs and sustain the weekly [read weakly] mileage in the 50s.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. I had 15 on the menu. 8 mpm seemed about right, but I would not worry too much if I ended up 20-30 seconds per mile slower. I started a bit fast [for me] as it was a bit cool and windy. I had a tailwind for the first 1.7 miles, then as I entered the man-made channel the wind was suddenly on my face. Not too strong but it kept me honest [whatever that means]. My stride felt fluid and quick. I hit the three mile mark in 24:15. Can I sustain this pace? Even with a headwind?

The bike trail is clearly marked every quarter-mile. And I notice that the pace is getting a tiny bit faster. Next three mile segment is completed in 23:28, or 7:52 pace. WTF? I am dreaming or what? I also feel really strong. I kept on wishing I felt like this during race efforts.

On the next quarter I check my watch and I am now running 7:40 pace. And this with a headwind. That means that I should be able to run 7:20s on the way back. I hit the hairpin turn and now the headwind is a tailwind. Nice. In an effort to drop the pace to 7:20s I notice I am working a bit harder. This three-mile segment is run at 7:30 average pace, 22:30.

Then the unthinkable happened. The notion of working harder went away and my breathing was as relaxed and even as it has ever been. My pace dropped to 7:10s. It was short of amazing. Where was this coming from? Two days earlier I had to cut a tempo run short as I could barely survive three miles in just under 21 minutes. Penultimate three-mile segment, 21:34 [7:11 pace]. The runner's high was just beginning. I exit the bike trail with a low 7 mpm pace. And I hit a headwind. No matter. I am on a natural high. One mile to go. My left knee ached a bit but not enough to slow down. I finished the last segment in 21:05, almost the same pace as my tempo run two days ago. 1:52.52, roughly 7:31 pace. Needless to say I was on cloud nine :-)

So what? I had ONE great run... what does this mean in the bigger scheme of life? It means I will go for a sub 3:15, which would qualify me for London 2010. Incidently, I signed up for Berlin 2009 and will sign up for NYCM 2009 [as I already have a qualifier].

I leave you all with a picture from the Surf City Marathon. Happy running.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Pacing 3:30 Surf City Marathon Runners

I was feeling a bit anxious as this was my first attempt at pacing. This time it was not about me; it was about those runners who wanted to tag along and run 3:30 or as close to it as possible.

My ride had Frank (a team member who was carpooling and who was pacing the 4:10 group) and I a bit nervous as the cars did not seem to move and it was already 6:30. We were a little less than a mile from the start. Marathon was to start at 6:50. I asked Frank if we should start jogging to the start and he said yes. On our way there we had to make a pit stop. We left that pit stop with about three minutes to go. We could hear the Anthem being sung. As we approached the start, we hear that the wheelchairs are given the green light. I wish Frank good luck and I head to meet the other 3:30 pacer... with only 30 seconds to spare.

Right away the pace felt surprisingly easy. I tried to maintain an 8 mpm pace. At 10 miles I was a bit ahead with 24 seconds banked. At twelve my feet started feeling tired (wore shoes w/ 250 miles on them) and my left knee was bugging me. At this point I was about 10 seconds behind the other 330 pacer. Then at 13, this kid tells me that he intends to run with me for the rest of the race. He was a god-sent savior as my mind was beginning to struggle (I have only ran longish once since the NYCM - 17 miles at 8:24 pace). Travis and I hit 20 miles in 2:39.43 or 17 seconds ahead of the intended pace.

I just stayed with him and finally around mile 21 I was given a zip-lock with orange wedges that did the trick. I felt renewed. I had taken three hammer gels at 5, 12 and 18.5. So nutrition-wise I was fine. Maybe the high humidity in the first half dehydrated me too much.

In the latter miles, the other pacer and I encouraged two runners to pick it up as they looked strong. We ended up finishing in 3:29:54. Not too bad says I.

It felt really good to have been able to "help" two runners achieve PRs and to encourage Travis as he was fading at the end. Would do it again in a heartbeat. One negative was the misplacement of mile markers. They threw me off a couple of times, but was able to adjust.

I must note that running a marathon is so much easier on the mind as on the body; racing is tough, really tough.

Temps were cool and foggy during the first twelve miles and they warmed up a bit after 13. 50F/82% at 6:50, and 60F/53% at 10:20.