Thursday, November 29, 2012

NCR Marathon, a PR in Parkton.

I posted this elsewhere, so I might as well post it here.  Too long, don't read...

NCR is called a trail marathon, but the name comes from the rail to trail history of the path as opposed to a proper hiking trail.  The whole race except for about 3 and half miles at the start and very end are on the trail, which gradually climbs until the turnaround point.   The downhill to the trail at the start is nice, but everything that goes down must come up and the last mile and a half are a bit tough.  The weather should have been near perfect at 40 degrees, but there was a bit of wind and it really showed up for that last uphill mile.  Times seemed down from previous years, but I really can’t imagine the weather would have had that amount of effect on everybody.

The cycle was not what I envisioned when I picked the race back in the summer.  I was thinking I needed to use a shorter plan since I seemed to stagnate around May before Grandmas.  I had a summer of slack where I didn’t agonize over miles and ran my first 50k on a real trail (Catoctin – just wanted to finish –and did in 7:46).  By mid-August I jumped the miles back into the 40s but then came down with something and had an unplanned cutback week.  The miles were easier after that and I averaged a modest 46 or so over the core 12 weeks of the season.  Mileage peak was 68 4 weeks out with a 20 miler that felt right. Certainly the endurance had improved if the speed hadn’t.

I raced a good bit (probably too much) including a 15k and a half, both fastest in recent memory.  I also managed to run every day in October and then kept the streaking rolling to 42 days before taking a day off to taper for my final non-marathon race.  It was a good decision as I had a good day on the super flat course and registered a 40:16.  Taper was a bit unorthodox as I flew to Austin for the Formula One Grand Prix and didn’t much running in while down there.  The last two weeks were 31 and 21 and I took off the last two days (Thanksgiving and the day after).  Throwing out the 10k time I was fairly confident with the other times from the season I could attempt to run 3:18.  The plan was to try and go out in 1:39 and then if I still felt good on the way back, with the help of the gradual downhill, maybe pick up the pace.  NCR is a smaller race so there are no pace groups, and I was looking forward to having to figure it out on my own (I did purchase a Garmin and would have that assisting my efforts).  Besides in the previous races I was always looking to run times that weren’t anybody’s BQ so the pace groups were either too fast or too slow for my goals--3:30, 3:20.


Having just bought the garmin a couple of weeks prior to the race I am not quite a master yet and I managed to socialize too much at the start and when we were off I looked down and it had reverted to time mode.  I switched back but it had to find the satellites again and it was at least a tenth or two off at this point.  I got the idea right before mile 1 to end the run and start it again so at least I was on with the course mile markers.  But it wanted to shut down instead of reset and by the time I started it over it was mile 3.  So I don’t really know my first 3 mile splits.  There was a clock at mile one, but it might have been short.  For the other two I have approximate times and for the most part I was running just under 7 minute pace.  Working backwards from a garmin finish time of 3:00:36 combined with a chip time of 3:21:58 would mean a 21:22 split at 3 miles.  That sounds about right, given the splits that followed.

Guess – 6:55, 7:05, 7:08

Way too fast.  I could see the garmin and I consciously tried to back off.  But I couldn’t make myself do it.  I think the idea of letting a bunch of people pass at all once was bothersome.  I guess I’m a competitive jerk deep down.  Some folks did pass, but I was ok because I was running consistently and felt ok.  I could talk and felt relaxed.  My legs were another story.  I had some tightness in my hamstrings and my glutes pretty much the whole time.  But it was a comfortable level of uncomfortability, if that makes any sense.  Not much change in the trail as it gradually climbed from roughly 400 feet to 600.  I have done the NCR for training frequently and it never felt as uphill as it did on Saturday.  But the miles ticked away and I looked forward to the turn around.

7:15, 7:21, 7:24, 7:17, 7:26

Thoughts were creeping in my head that maybe I could hold this pace and have a breakthrough.  The 10k time definitely projected to a much faster than 3:18.  I passed a few folks, including the 2nd place female around the bridges under I 83.  The pace was creeping up towards 7:30, which was what I should have been running all along.  I held on and figured the gradual downhill after the turn would help out.

7:22, 7:25, 7:34, 7:30, 7:35

Half way, by my rough calculations would have been 1:36:10 or so. It was crazy fast.  The official time for me was 1:40, but I think that was wrong as I crossed the strip twice and it would make sense to have been on the way back (2nd female is officially listed at 1:35).  I kept the same level of effort that I had, and the pace per mile and hoped I could maintain 7:30s.  If I could it would be a big day.  I didn’t want to think about otherwise.  I had taken 2 gels (roughly 7 and 12 miles) and there was no sign of a stomach revolt at this stage (has happened to me before).  Given the gradual downhill nature of the course after the turnaround the times actually picked up for the next stretch.

7:27, 7:27, 7:16, 7:23, 7:28.

Crossing 16 was a nice feeling.  My first marathon at the age of 22 I had gone out aggressively and 16 was the point where I bonked hard, running ~2 hours for the first 16 and ~2 hours for the last 10.  Also last year at a decent White Rock race I drifted back around 17 and the pace group I was supposed to be behind caught and passed me around there.  This was a much smaller race and I was close to being alone for all this time.  2nd place female passed me back and I think someone else, maybe a relay.  I caught a few people though and was feeling ok through the big 2-0 even if the times started to slide slightly.

7:31, 7:46, 7:52

And there is the end of the fun.  I was sick of the trail.  I tried to take a gel at 18 but only ate about half.  I stopped at the water stop and walked it to the road crossing to make sure I got some fluid in.  Strangely I was really looking forward to hill at the end to change up the stride and use some different muscles.  The mental aspect of having 6, then 5 miles left was very daunting.  It was a pretty classic bonk and I just wanted to get through it.  I was constantly doing math in my head—if I averaged 8 the rest of the way I could run x.  If I average 8:30 it was going to be y. A couple more walking stops (less than 30 seconds) and the pace was solidly over 8.  I was holding together better than White Rock and I could feel the hill section getting close.

8:33, 8:29, 8:24

I think one of those miles didn’t have any walking, but the times were about the same.  It was real hard to make the legs move again when I stopped.  I knew there was bridge before the hill and I told myself I could walk across it, I also stopped on the hill where mile 25 was marked.  They had a clock with the overall time and it read 3:10 as I reached it.  3:18 had slipped away somewhere around mile 23 and now I could see 3:20 also slipping away.  But White Rock was 3:35 so I knew I could still massively PR.  Good thing for PRs.  The hill turned onto a main road and the wind hit my face.  Another turn and we’re on the final road.  Still more uphill and I took a final stop for a few steps as I passed 26.

9:42, 9:12, 1:40(?)

The clock read 3:21:30 or so and I struggled to cross the finish line.  It was 3:22 as I crossed, but I hope I was actually under with my chip time.  Not really much of a difference, but it sounds better to me.
I actually forgot to stop my watch when I crossed and it tried to keep recording my sudden plunge into inactivity.  It says 17 minutes for .3 miles.  I was feeling pretty out of it and sat down on the ground for a while.  I don’t know if I could have managed to make it even another tenth of a mile.  I know I could have run a smarter race but I also know I couldn’t have given really any more effort than I did.  So I’m happy.  The 13:36 PR helps a lot, too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

NCR Marathon - quick post

Full race report to follow when I have time.

My realistic goal time for the race was 3:18 based on a half a few weeks back.  Went out too fast (still making that rookie mistake), but really didn't start to struggle badly until around mile 21 when the splits went above 8 minutes per mile.  The last two miles are uphill (the marker for mile 25 was in the middle of the longest hill off the trail) and subsequently were 9:40 and 9:12.  I think the closeness of the finish meant I was able to tough out a slightly quicker mile for #26.  But that's where 3:20 slipped away.  Chip time wound up being 3:21:58, which is a 13 1/2 minute PR and that's always a good thing.  The disaster at Grandmas is in the rear view mirror, now.

I could have run smarter and probably hit the 3:18 goal, but there is no doubt I couldn't have tried any harder overall.  I struggled to make it even back to the elementary school for the post race festivities.  It's 2 full days later and I'm still very sore. 

Already signed up for Flying Pig in Cincinnati in May.  Not sure about a BQ attempt (I have to run 3:10) but I will probably go out like it, again.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Anatomy of a Streak

I'm currently on day 38 of a consecutive running streak.  I do believe it's the longest for me personally, but much shorter than some, I know.  The idea of the streak itself sometimes is enough to keep going, even just to get around the neighborhood for a minimum of 3 miles (I consider 3 the minimum for a streak, if you you the mile as the minimum I might have a much longer stretch cause I do that with my dogs pretty much every day).  Some of the highlights of the streak:

Day 1 - Saturday September 29 - 3.44 miles
A run around the neighborhood the night before the Falls Road 15k (where I ran 1:04).  Did not feel so well in the morning so I waited until the evening.  Needed to run, but didn't really want to do much.  Pace was super 9.

Day 4 - Tuesday October 2 - 8.3 miles
Track night at Gilman.  An improvised 5 mile tempo workout at marathon pace, with 3 miles of warm up and cool down.

Day 7 - Thursday October 4 - 3.1 miles
The shortest run of the streak.  I was leaving for Dewey Beach for the weekend and managed to run for 28 minutes while doing laundry for the trip. 

Day 9 - Sunday October 7 - 16.2 miles
A long run at the beach the day after doing the Dewey Goes Pink 5k.  I originally planned a 20 mile run, but having not built up to that, I did 1:10 out and 1:12 back along Delaware Route 1, from Dewey to Bethany and back.  Mostly flat except for the Indian River Inlet Bridge, about 6 miles in and 10 miles on the way back. 

Day 15 - Saturday October 13 - 10 miles
My leg of the Baltimore Running Festival Relay.  The easy leg, 7 miles of downhill and flat course.  I ran somewhere around 6:30 pace and then 3 extra miles after to get more miles done. 

Day 16 - Sunday October 14 - 10.7 miles
I called this the 'nostalgia run' where I returned to Catonsville where I lived in 2003.  A rail trail turned out to be a lot shorter than I was expected and I circled around neighborhoods and Catsonville Community College for 95 minutes until I called it a day. 

Day 20 - Thursday October 18 - 3.9 miles
A run purely to keep the streak alive after band practice.  Rather than running from where we practice I stopped in Bolton Hill on the way home and ran around Mount Vernon to get the run in.  Was feeling under the weather as well for this one.

Day 21 - Friday October 19 - 9 miles
Ran later in the evening after walking the dogs in Patterson Park.  The weather was decent for the walk, but a storm rolled in (complete with tornado warnings) and 65 percent of the run was in the pouring rain. 

Day 22 - Saturday October 20 - 9.5 miles
Bought a Garmin Forerunner at Target and immediately used it on a trail run.  The knees were aching a bit after the previous day's run through the city so I went to the trail to run somewhere softer.  Ran until the GPS said 9.5 and then stopped. 

Day 26 - Wednesday October 24 - 6.6 miles
The RM Classic.  A 5k run on the Gilman track instead of the usual track workout.  Posted a sub 20 minute time and did some extra miles. 

Day 30 - Sunday October 28 - 14 miles
The Oktober Lauf Fest Half Marathon in Philadelphia.  Ran this to try and set a PR, which I did by some 80 seconds.  Tough course in Pennypack park, including a trail section that cost at least a minute or two.  Drive up was in the beginnings of Hurricane/Superstorm/Post Tropical Frankenstorm Sandy, but the race itself was dry and a bit chilly.

Day 31 - Monday October 29 - 4 miles
Early afternoon run after Sandy had arrived.  It was raining.  It was windy.  It was kinda fun.  The Garmin shows several pace spikes when I stopped to pull garbage from overflowing storm drains.  Yes, it was that kind of crazy.

Day 34 - Thursday November 1 - 5 miles
After running every single day in October and setting a new best for miles in a month, I was not motivated to do this run.  Dragged myself around the neighborhood for 5 quite slow.  But it was something.

Day 36 - Saturday November 3 - 20 miles
A 20 mile run as the final long run of my marathon training.  Around the northside/strongside full of Druid Hills and other fun things.  Followed on Day 37 by a cross country 8k out in Linganore that was hill and tough.  But got through them both.

The streak will likely die this week as the marathon taper is on the horizon, but it's been a fun ride while it lasts.  And the next one will likely be longer.