Thought for the Day

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Desert Classic 30K 2005

I did all right in the 30K on Sunday. I know I said I would probably do a 5K close to home, but this is the way it worked out.
I still haven't qualified for Boston, even though I've been about as close as you can get. There's a local marathon, the Desert Classic Marathon, on February 19th. Last year, this race was a mess. The location of the race wasn't settled until days before it was run. I'm not sure if it was ever certified.
So, because I wanted to take another shot at qualifying for Boston, I wrote an email to the Arizona Road Racers to find out if the permits were all in place and the course was certified. And I asked for details about the course.
They assured me it would be certified, they had the permits, and I could try out most of the course by running the 30K on Sunday. So even though I ran a very tough, hilly, 10 mile trail run on Saturday, the National Trail in South Mountain to Buena Vista and back, I went out to Surprise to run this 30K on Sunday.
It is all on one road, out and back. It's a gradual uphill on the way out, so downhill coming back to the finish. It's all in the bike lane, as wide as the car lanes, which is plenty wide enough for a small race like this.
I decided that my goal was to run a consistent pace, whatever I could manage. I thought it might be around 8:30 or 9, but I wasn't having any trouble keeping it close to 8 minutes per mile.
I was glad I had my Garmin, as the mile markers were all messed up after 3 miles. Up to that point, they were the same mile markers used by the 5K and the 10K.
From the 4 mile marker out they had mixed up the placement of signs for the out and back, so on the way out, they were .3 miles off, and on the way in, they were .6 off, until you got to 15 miles. A lot of runners without any GPS or good sense of pace and distance thought they were running a terrific pace until they ran a mile and a half between the 14 mile and 15 mile markers.
It wasn't until I hit the turnaround that I realized that one reason I had been able to keep up a good pace on the uphill was that I had a tailwind. Unfortunately, when I turned around, it became a headwind. It wasn't terrible, just always there, varying between noticeable and significant, all the way back.
All the way out, whenever the hills started to get to me, I told myself, "This will help you on the way back. It will be so easy." I didn't feel an earthquake, but there must have been some kind of geological event, because somehow the road had tipped the other way while I was running, and it ended up being uphill both ways.
Somebody caught me from behind near about mile 12, and I pulled in behind him for a while, drafting. Not wanting to be a parasite, I got ahead of him after a while and let him follow me. We traded off a couple of times and caught two other runners this way.
Then he picked it up in the last couple of miles. I didn't have it in me to go faster. I started to do the same drafting then leading with one of the runners we had caught, but he got away from me in the last mile. I was within a few seconds of him at the finish, and it turned out he was third in my age group.
I would say that I could have beaten him if I had tried harder, but truthfully, if I had challenged him, he probably would have given it more kick at the finish.
So I ran it in 2:32:34, an 8:12 pace, which I think is fine two weeks after Tucson and 24 hours after a hard trail run.
And I think I will try the Desert Classic Marathon in February. This may be a course I can do better on.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

St. George Marathon 2005

Got a minute? Or half a minute?
Look at your watch.
I love the Saint George Marathon. I have never run a better organized race. To give you some idea of the organization of this race, (I know you're not going to believe me when I say this, but it's true.) there were more than enough porta-johns at the start of the race.
There were also more than enough cheerful, helpful volunteers at every water stop along the way, and at the finish.
Look at your watch again. How much later is it now than when you looked before?
Time. There it goes. tick...tick...tick...
St. George is famous for the bonfires to keep the runners warm out in the desolate desert before the sun comes up. It does help a lot to create a warm atmosphere in more ways than one.
I started with two friends I trained with who were going to run a similar pace, Jen and Clint. It was Clint's first marathon, and somewhere before the third mile he decided we were going faster than he wanted to. I'm surprised because he was always pushing the pace in training runs. I expected him to finish ahead of me.
On this course, there are lots of downhills, but also uphills. You lose 2600 feet in elevation over the course, but you lose elevation, gain elevation, lose more, gain less, lose a little more...
There's no place to get bored or stuck in a rut. The course is surrounded by magnificent volcanoes, canyons and cliffs, and the terrain is constantly varying. It is one road for 99% of the distance, but it is curving back and forth and rising and falling the whole time.
We stayed pretty close to the pace we needed over the hills in the first half, but after we went over the "last" hill at mile 21. The downhill stretches always ended with a curve and a slight uphill, so we weren't just letting gravity finish the race for us.
Coming up on the water station at mile 23, I could see that I was going to have to push to finish in my goal time of 3:30, so I told Jen I was going to run to the finish, no more water stops. She got water and I didn't see her again until after the finish.
With about a mile and a half to go, my calves started to twinge. It's a familiar feeling. They start to clench and a shiver of dread goes through me.
I tried to run on as hard as I could, without asking my calves to do anything except relax. I turned the last corner and took a last look at my watch, telling myself I would not look again. There was about half a mile to go, and I might just make it in time.
A few hundred more yards on I couldn't keep my calves from cramping without assuming a kind of straight-legged running form. I was limping in as fast as I could, but when I could read the big clock at the finish, it did not look like I was going to make it. I took a last look at my watch and knew it wasn't going to be.
I needed 3:30:59 or less to qualify for Boston, which I have been trying to do for two years. I ran it in 3:31:21

Missed it by 22 seconds.

I've thought of a dozen things that might have made a 22 second difference. One thing I know is that I stepped off the course to pee at about mile 16. If I could do it over again, I would wet my shorts while running. Anyone else think about doing this?
I guess the race is behind me now, and it's time to move on.
I've been telling everyone I'm 90% as happy as I could have been. I cut more than 11 minutes off of my PR. It's not really bad to be satisfied with that.

Thanks for your time.