Thought for the Day

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Foothills 10K 2004

In July of 2002, when I was 43 years old, I ran a 10K in 43:41, and I thought I could easily get my 10K time under my age. I ran six more 10Ks that year, all in less than 45 minutes, but all over 43:40.
Until yesterday, I'd run four 10Ks at the age of 44, and all of them were over 45 minutes.
Yesterday's race was predominantly downhill, a very fast course, but with lots of ups and downs. I wouldn't describe it as easy, but i have to admit it was fast.

Downhill first two miles:

1. 6:17
2. 6:47 13:04

Mile 3 it starts to be rolling hills:

3. 7:10 20:14
4. 6:58 27:12

Mile 5 has the longest uphill, and my quads are feeling like stone.

5. 7:42 34:54

During that fifth mile, someone has latched onto me and is running on my heels.
He isn't really drafting, because there's no wind. I try to step to one side, but he follows me. I try to lose him on a downhill, and he drops back a little, but catches me on the uphill, even though I'm trying to pull away.
Sixth mile is more typical of the rest of the race, rolling, but with more down than up.
With about half a mile to go, the guy behind finally passes, and it's a highschool kid in a spiderman tee shirt. I'm relieved he's not in my age group.

6. 7:03 41:57

Coming into the finish I'm trying to kick, but I'm suddenly in a crowd of people catching up with me. I must have worn myself out because there's not much left as I cross the line.

6.2 1:19 43:16

I finally beat my age. I set a new masters PR. I ran a pretty good, even, fast pace. I know it was gravity-assisted, but it wasn't easy. I flew downhill, but I fought uphill, too. I was sore today. This is a USATF certified 10K course.

If it's at all possible, I think I'll run this one again next year.



Sunday, February 15, 2004

Desert Classic Half Marathon 2004

I got up Sunday morning and couldn't find my race watch. Couldn't find my favorite race shorts. Couldn't find my favorite pump pack for my insulin pump. Couldn't find my power gel.
Well, at least I knew that it was just a few miles up the 101 freeway to get to this race.
So I drove the one mile west to the freeway to find that it was closed. I had to take surface streets. I got there in time to hear the starting instructions and the gun go off as I was approaching the registration table. I walked over to the table and asked if it was too late to get into the half, and they said it was fine. A woman had just registered before me. Another guy came over and registered after I was heading to the start. I stopped and put my sweatshirt next to a lamp post, put the chip on my shoe with a plastic cable tie, crumpled up and stuffed my race number into my pocket, and started to run.
This was a very flat course, the first part looping through farmland usually used for cotton, but currently barren, and the later miles along the top of a canal bank.
The canal portion is loose dirt, and slows you down a bit, but it's a pretty fast course.
I had a lot of fun. I was passing people through the whole race, but it got harder and harder to catch them, and they looked more and more athletic, as I moved up through the pack. I had no clear splits. There were mile markers, it seemed like every two miles, but I wasn't sure when I started, and I wasn't using a stop watch. I was sure I was running a pretty good pace for me.
I ran this race as a training run for the Valley of the Sun Marathon next month.
I ran a ten mile hill run the day before, and I thought doing this race after that would be almost as good a long run. And more fun.
Anyway, I passed a runner near the 10 mile point, and he said, "That's the way to do it." Then he stuck on my heels as I kept trying to push it to the finish. I kept picking off other runners, but he stayed with me. Finally with about half a mile to go, he passed me, and said, "That's the way."
I tried to keep up, but consoled myself with the fact that by chip time I was probably five minutes ahead of him.
When I crossed the line, the clock said 1:45 something. I knew that wasn't right, but I didn't know until today that my official chip time was 1:38:58.
I'm pretty happy with it, knowing I can run a faster half. I think this was a good workout, and good for me psychologically.

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Guilt and Passion, Running and Racing, Sucking and Not

A lot of similar thoughts floating around here.

There's no reason for feeling "guilty" or like you are any less of a runner because you prefer one kind of race to another. That's a little like thinking you're not really an artist if you draw with charcoal but you don't sculpt in marble.
Actually, though, it doesn't matter if you even ever want to race at all. For a lot of reasons, I like to race, but if I could never race again, I would still run, and enjoy it.

I don't really like the comparisons made between marathons and 5 and 10 K races. It's apples and oranges. But apples and oranges are still both fruits.

By most ways of measuring it, of course it is harder to run a marathon. Assuming you are trying to get the fastest possible time, a marathon takes longer to run, longer to prepare, and longer to recover.
You can say that you've run a very hard 10 K. You might say it was as hard to do as a marathon. But imagine running that 10 K after running 20 miles. Would that make it easier?
It's interesting to me that elite marathoners will often comment on how tough it must be for those who are running hours after the leaders finish. I don't think there is the same sympathy for 30 and 40 minute 5 K runners. It is just easier to run that distance.

From running track, cross country, and 5 and 10 K road races, I know that other distances present their own challenges. Racing a mile, you try to squeeze every fraction of a second out of every stride.
Running a 5K, a loss of focus for a few yards can make a noticeable difference in your time.
Running a marathon, at least at my pace, is completely different. I'm not at all concerned about the seconds passing early in the race.
What's important is that I feel comfortable. There's no time to be that comfortable in those shorter races.
If the first lap of a mile is easy, you're not racing. When you come to the end of a 5 K, you should be out of breath and exhausted.
But then when you get 20 miles into a marathon, you have a different kind of exhaustion, something you will never experience in a shorter race, and you will have miles to go.

But I was a runner for about 25 years before I was a marathoner. I'm really not much of a marathoner now. And I'm not an ultra-marathoner.
I'm not less of a runner than I would be if I ran ultras. I wasn't less of a runner than I am now before I ran a marathon. I'm not less of a runner than I would be if I was faster.
It's all just different races, or different kinds of running. Marathons aren't for everyone. Racing isn't for everyone. It's all good.



Sunday, February 1, 2004

Pacific Shoreline Marathon 2004

time
--------
3:51:09

overall
--------
251/768

men
----
198/516

div M40-44
-----------
53/113

My wife pointed out that I've done a lot of marathons on the same road, what they call the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH in Southern California, or Highway 1 or the Coastal Highway in Northern California. It's the highway that hugs the coast from Mexico to Canada.
The San Francisco Chronicle Marathon, which I've run twice, usually has a stretch on the Great Highway, that part of Highway 1 on the edge of the beach on the west side of San Francisco. I say "usually" because that marathon course is always changing. I've run that marathon twice, on two different courses. It has had at least 10 variations since the 70's when it was first run.
Big Sur is essentially all on Highway 1, from Big Sur to Carmel, one of the most awe-inspiring roads in the world. I've run that twice.
Late last year I also ran the Long Beach Marathon. It isn't run on the PCH, but crosses over it and back again. And I've run the Golden Gate Headlands Marathon, on trails, dirt roads, and minor side roads between the Coastal Highway and the coast.
Then, of course, this past Sunday I ran the Pacific Shoreline Marathon in Huntington Beach.

It was just cool in the morning, not really cold. The prediction was that it would be in the 40s F, and that seems about right. I checked in my sweats and went down to the start with about 5 minutes to spare. The start was about ten minutes late, but I was just starting to get a little chilly, hopping up and down and tucking my arms into my t-shirt to stay warm.

* marks time at timing chip pads

blood sugar 180

start north on PCH

1 mile
8:07

Hoping to run 8 minute miles to run a 3:30 and qualify for Boston. 8:07 was a good, relaxed start.

2 miles
7:32
15:39

3 miles
7:25
23:05

4 miles
7:40
30:45

I knew I was going a little faster than I wanted, but I think there was a slight downhill grade. The speed I was going felt very easy.

onto beach multi-use path

power gel

Local school kids were manning the water stations. For the most part they did a great, enthusiastic job. There was a problem the whole day, though, with over-eager volunteers crowding out so far onto the course that runners had to go farther to get around them.

6 miles
15:13 (7:37)
45:58

* 10K, 6.2 miles- 47:28
pace = 7:39

The lead runners passed going in the other direction. Because this course is back and forth, this happens several times. It's exciting and provides a boost. I probably didn't need to get any more excited, still exceeding my pace.

7 miles
7:30
53:28

9 miles
15:27 (7:44)
1:08:54

turnaround

10 miles
7:44
1:16:38

power gel

11 miles
7:51
1:24:29

I noticed I was slowing down. We were out of the crowds of spectators and running a long, straight path by the beach. No real distractions, but I thought I was losing my focus.

12 miles
8:19
1:32:49

back onto PCH

13 miles
8:05
1:40:54

* 13.1 miles, 1/2 mar.- 1:41:44
pace = 7:46

14 miles
8:00
1:48:54

I felt really good about my pace over those two miles around the half marathon and the turn back onto the highway. 8 minute miles were going by like no big deal. I hadn't checked my blood sugar, but had been fueling based on previous experience. I decided to test to verify I was okay.

blood sugar 115

glucagel

My blood sugar was okay, but it wasn't even a little bit high, so I knew that I was burning glucose as fast as I was taking it in and I would go low if I didn't do something.

15 miles
8:28
1:57:22

I had been ahead of pace the whole race, got my blood sugar and ate a gel during that mile, so a little over 8 minutes was fine for me.

into hills

There was one short, steep rise on the highway, then around the corner inland into neighborhoods, and hills.

16 miles
9:03
2:06:25

17 miles
8:53
2:15:18

I wasn't happy with what was happening to my pace, but it was easy to blame it on the terrain. I was thinking to myself, "It's not supposed to be easy. Focus. Pump your arms. Keep up the pace."

into the park

19 miles
16:44 (8:22)
2:32:02

I thought there were a lot of kids on the beach, but there were even more in the Huntington Beach Central Park. There were way more kids than were needed to provide water. Most of them were just cheering and shouting encouragement. It was really helpful at this point in the race.
I was able to run pretty well over the slightly undulating, curving trails through the park. It always seems like I'm going faster in a park like that anyway. I was happy when I finally saw a mile marker and could check my time. I thought I had a chance if I could run fast coming down from the neighborhoods back to the highway by the beach.

20 miles
9:07
2:41:09

out of park

At 2:41 just before leaving the park, I had was behind my goal pace, and feeling like I was just hanging on. I tried to tell myself it was possible if I was just tough enough, but I didn't feel tough.

22 miles
20:34 (10:17)
3:01:43

There was probably a fast mile and a slow one in the 20 minutes between mile 20 and mile 22. There was a significant hill approaching mile 22. It was making it hard to imagine finishing close to 3:30.

hammer gel

* 22.1 miles- 3:02:48
pace = 8:16

23 miles
11:06
3:12:49

This was a mostly downhill mile, but the best I could do was not good. As my goal time disappeared, my motivation faded, too.

back onto PCH, headwinds

When I got back onto the highway, there was a fairly good headwind that would have been annoying if I was just out for a run. At this point on this day it was like the final insult, the last straw. I ran into it for a minute before I gave in to the urge to turn around and force my way through it running backwards. I had four empty lanes ahead of me, so there was no danger. People were catching up and passing me, but I don't think I could have run faster going forward.
I counted off a hundred steps, then turned around and started trying to run again. I thought about tucking in behind someone and drafting, but no one was going slow enough for me to stick with them.

24 miles
13:40
3:26:29

At some point while I was trudging along, someone came along from behind me and started to pass. I decided to try to run with him for a while. I quickly found that it was too easy to run with him and I left him behind and started passing some of the other runners.
I probably ran part of this mile at a 9 minute pace or better, because I know I started it at a 13 minute pace. I don't know where that energy came from, but I will try to remember where I found it in the future.

25 miles
10:24
3:36:53

* 26.1 miles 3:51:09
pace = 8:53

blood sugar 106

I've never been to a marathon where providing food and water at the end was handled so cavalierly. One year at Silicon Valley, they made us walk more than a hundred yards to get to the food. But the water was right there, and they told us where the food was.
At Pacific Shoreline this year, I walked out the end of the chute looking for water and there was none in sight. I asked an official who gave me imprecise directions. ("Over there.") I didn't find out where the food was until after I had gotten a shower and come back to get a shirt for my Mom.
I would heartily recommend this race, though, for the weather, the scenery, the crowd support, the lack of a huge crowd, the presence of a moderate crowd, great organization in general, just a couple of rough spots. Looking at reviews in MarathonGuide.com, every year people complain that the course map doesn't show the mileage at any points along the course, and there's no elevation map. But they don't change it.
I can't be too unhappy with this. I still haven't qualified for Boston, and this was the last chance to do it for this year. But this was my third fastest marathon, and it was only 3 weeks after the last one.
I had fun. It was a beautiful day in a wonderful little city. And I have that incredible Medal.
This race does leave me believing that I can run 3:30 if I take more time for the preparation and do it right.
I'll have to think about my pacing, too. It just feels so comfortable to run around 7:45, and so uncomfortable to force myself to slow down more than that in a race.

Oh, well, I will run the Valley of the Sun Marathon in six weeks. It should be good.