Monday, February 20, 2006

RR Gainesville

Race Report
Five Points of Life Marathon
Gainesville, FL
Sun, Feb 19/06
3:29:31 - 31 OA - 1AG

The Five points of Life Marathon – an inaugural marathon in Gainesville, FL with $10,000 in prize money so elite runners who train in Florida would be competing.
This was to be the final tune-up race/marathon in Maddog’s training program to get me ready for Sarasota. I was a wee bit concerned going into the race because I was suffering from a head/sinus cold and plantar fasciitis injury/inflammation in both feet. I figured the head cold would not affect me much but I was worried about causing further injury to my feet!

The sports manager did not want to go to Gainesville so I drove/flew the red rocket (Cadillac Allante) the 160 miles to Gainesville on Sat morning to burn the carbon out of the engine.
After picking up my race packet I explored Gainesville – the home of UF (University of Florida) and the Gators (football, basketball, etc). It is strictly a university town. I toured around the main campus and the downtown area near the main campus. The campus is very nice but the area around the campus is not – typical dumpy, run-down housing and a deserted/dilapidated downtown – not very attractive! I tried to drive part of the marathon course but the map was so bad that I could not follow the course through the city. However I soon discovered that there were a lot of hills in Gainesville! Any marathon course was going to have a lot of hills!

Sunday was M-day! There were two races – a Marathon and a Half. Both started at 7:30 am on the western campus of UF near the soccer fields. There were 750 runners in the Half and 250 in the Marathon – good attendance for an inaugural marathon. On Sat the weather had been sunny with temps in the 80s. But on Sat night a cold front from Canada collided with a warm front from the Gulf of Mexico and the collision was near Gainesville. The result was a temp of 59 F at the start with overcast skies and a light mist/rain that made it feel cool. The temps only changed/warmed up one degree during the race. No need for sunglasses or sun block! The only negative factor was a brisk 20/30 mph wind from the North.

Both races started together but the Half started about 1/4 mile ahead of the Marathon on the same road. That was a bad organizational decision because we caught the back of the Half Marathon pack within a 1/2 mile and spent the next two miles weaving in and out to pass most of the Half Marathon runners. I passed mile 2 in15.22 and the pack thinned out. The first 5 miles were very hilly including three BAH (Bad Ass Hills) so I was pleasantly surprised when I passed the 5-mile mark in 39:25. I noted that if the rest of the course was this hilly it was going to be an UGLY day? The brisk wind could have been a negative factor because it always seemed to be blowing into our faces but thankfully I was able to tuck in behind some Half Marathon runners and draft. There were a few more BAHs before I passed the 10-mile mark in 1:11:26. Around 11 miles we ran through the main UF campus and through the Gator football stadium. At 12 miles I passed a friend and member of the 50 States Club that I hadn’t seen in many years. John Bosung told me that he was close to finishing a major goal: to run 52 marathons in 52 consecutive weeks to celebrate his 52nd birthday. Gainesville was #50. You see – no matter how crazy/eccentric you may think I am – I can always find someone crazier!!
Near mile 13 the Half Marathon split off and I found myself all alone – I ran most of the 2nd Half by myself except for the final 10K where I passed several runners.

I passed the Half in 1:45:04 - right on an 8-min pace. I felt strong but knew that if the 2nd Half was as hilly and tough as the 1st Half there was no way I could /would run another 1:45! I would need to run a negative split to break 3:30! Fortunately the 2nd Half was easier – only 3 BAHs and about 6 miles of the course were on flat, paved bike paths that seemed easier to run on. The other 20 miles of the course were on city streets but I must compliment the race organization for excellent traffic control. They had coned and closed off at least one lane on 20 miles of city roads and the traffic control at the intersections was excellent!
I had decided at the Half that I would continue to push the 8-min pace till 20 miles and then do another gut check. I passed mile 15 in 1:59:39. After cresting another BAH at mile 18 in 2:23:32 I still felt amazingly good and strong and decided if I still felt that good at 20 miles I was definitely going to push for a sub 3:30 marathon. I passed mile 20 in 2:39:30. I still felt good – I only needed to hold the 8-min pace for the final 10K and I could break 3:30! I was going for it!

I started to catch and pass a lot of runners. Mile 23 – 3:03:47 – I had 26 minutes to run the final 5K! The final BAH was at mile 24 and when I crested that hill and passed the mile mark in 3:12:44 (an 8:56 mile) I was very discouraged. If that mile marker was accurate I had blown my sub 3:30 marathon! However I did not believe that I had slowed down that much even with the BAH – the marker had to be wrong! I decided to continue to push hard to mile 25 while hoping/praying that I was right! I reached mile 25 in 3:20:03 – a 7:19 mile! I had been right! It was time to break out the champagne! I had 10 minutes to run/crawl the last 1.2 miles. I was hurting and I was tired – but I was not going to give up! I would/could not fail or be denied because the opportunity to break 3:30 does not happen very often at my age. I begged the old bod to give me one last jolt of adrenaline and endorphins to suppress the pain and carry me through the final mile. It is amazing how much pain the human body can accept/endure when you know it will only last for 10 minutes!

Throughout that final mile I focused on pushing my tired/wasted legs as fast as I could and ignored the flashing/beeping of my heart monitor warning me that I was pushing the old bod at 100% Max HR. I blocked all pain receptors while reciting one of Maddog’s favorite expressions “Pain is only TEMPORARY – Memories are FOREVER”! When I made the final turn into the UF campus and saw the finish clock reading 3:29 + change a HUGE smile broke out on my face in spite of the pain. I crossed the finish line in 3:29:31! I had done it!
The last time I broke the elusive/mystical 3:30 BARRIER was in Minsk, Belarus (3:27:00) on July 3/04. I had just turned 60 so this was only the 2nd time I had broken that difficult/elusive barrier since turning 60! Somehow it seemed much sweeter? Maddog was right!
Needless to say I was extremely pleased with both my time and performance. I had run the negative split needed to break 3:30 and my time was good enough for 31st place overall and 1st place in my age group. Since it was an inaugural marathon I have the honor of holding the course record for my age group for at least one year although I suspect it might hold longer because it was a tough course.
Even though the awards were crappy (the old runner statue on a pedestal) I waited around to collect mine because I had worked so hard for it! (But it will probably end up in the garbage?)

I also proved another of those old proverbs “You don’t get OLDER – You just get BETTER”! Hopefully this story will provide some incentive/motivation for the rest of you old farts? The major criteria for such success are ‘staying healthy and injury-free’ and ‘to work/train hard’.

With regard to these criteria I am optimistic as I get ready for the Sarasota Marathon. The head cold will be gone in a few days and the plantar facsiitis actually seems to have improved since the marathon?
Sarasota Marathon – March 5/06 – inaugural marathon – my hometown – my target – my goal – the focus of Maddog’s training program for the past 10 weeks!

I believe I am ready!

Stay tuned for the next report!

Monday, February 06, 2006

RR Ocala Marathon

From left to right:
Norm Frank, John Wallace & Wally Herman before the Ocala Marathon. A total of 1833 marathons, two World records and one NA record.

Race Report
Ocala marathon
Ocala, FL
Sun, Feb 5/06
3:37:09 - 28th OA - 1AG

This marathon was planned as another tune up or training marathon in my training program to get in peak shape for the inaugural Sarasota Marathon on Mar 5/06. I had one concern during the week – “Would my legs recover fast enough after the Miami Marathon to be able to run a fast race in Ocala?” After a speed workout on Tue that included four one-mile bridge repeats across Ringling Bridge I wasn’t too confident? My legs were tired! On Thu I decided to go to my local torture chamber for a massage in the hopes it would help rejuvenate my legs? The massage did help but the masseuse – Attila the Huness – found a problem I didn’t even know I had? The tendons in both feet were very sore and tender – no doubt the result of wearing racing flats in Miami and the speed workout on Tue. Racing flats are very lightweight but don’t provide much cushion or support! I was on the verge of suffering plantar fasciitis in both feet – a very painful and slow-healing injury! I hope I discovered the problem in time to prevent it from becoming worse?
I will have to wear heavier running shoes with much greater support and cushion and continue to massage the inflamed tendons to get oxygen to them to help them heal faster. Anti-inflammatory drugs are not an option because they eat holes in my stomach! So I now have to balance my need/desire to train hard with the need to rest and give the feet time to heal. Well nobody said life was easy!

And I couldn’t cancel the marathon in Ocala because I had a friend - Dr Dick - visiting from Connecticut who had agreed to run the marathon with me. Dr Dick and his wife Dr Sue are members of the BBR (BookBachRock) – an informal running club we had in Dallas during the 80s & 90s before many of the members started to retire and move away from Dallas. My friend Frank, from Siesta Key also planned to run his first marathon since Boston in 2005. If you recall Frank is the runner/friend I paced through Boston ten months after his quadruple heart bypass. Everyone in the world thinks/says that we are both crazy so Frank and I came to the conclusion that the whole world is crazy and ‘we are the only two sane people left’! However Frank promised me at the end of Boston that he would follow his doctor’s advice and never run another marathon so I am not so sure about him any more?

On Sat morning the East Coast Chapter of the BBR (Frank is an honorary member) drove north to Ocala to pick up our race packets and drive the marathon course. I have run this marathon twice before and remembered most of the course that is on narrow two-lane roads with lots of rolling hills through the scenic horse country of Florida. After our course tour I introduced Dr. Dick and Frank to two of my running mentors who were running Ocala – both are legends in marathon running: Norm Frank (age 74) from Rochester, NY is the North American record holder for the most marathons (905) and Wally Herman (age 80) from Ottawa, Canada has run 670 marathons and is the world record holder for the most countries (98)! They are both very nice gentlemen in addition to being running legends.
After a traditional pasta dinner we retired to bed early – I had upgraded Frank to a hotel suite (much nicer than our roach and mold-infested room in SoBe last weekend!

There were two races – a marathon and a Half – with a total of 500 runners in both. Both races started at 7am on Sun. The weather was much better than we experienced in Miami last weekend as expected – temps of 45 F with a high of 64 F and light winds forecast. It was sunny and 54 F when we finished the marathon. Dr Dick and I planned to go out at an 8 min/mile pace and Frank planned to follow the ‘Galloway method’ – a combination of walking and running. Wally and Norm had started the marathon two hours before the official start because they would take about 7 hours to finish.

Dr Dick and I lined up on the start line with the Big Dogs which was a mistake because they pulled us through the first 2 miles in 15:35. I forgot to mention that Dr Dick is 10 years younger than Maddog and a faster runner when he is in shape so I was concerned about keeping up with him. He, on the other hand, had not run a marathon since last Oct and didn’t think he was in good shape and was concerned about keeping up with Maddog? We decided a sub 8-min pace was too fast so we threw out an anchor and slowed down the pace. A few hills in the next few miles helped and we passed mile 5 in 40:18. Around mile 7 we were joined by two runners from Florida. One was in Dr Dick’s age group and was trying to run a 3:35 to qualify for Boston. We ran together for about 3 miles and passed mile 10 in 1:20:47. We were averaging an 8:05 pace but I knew at that point that the old legs did not have the ‘spring’ or energy to run a 3:30 marathon so I started to slow the pace down and let our new friends pull ahead.

Dr Dick and I passed the Half in 1:46:23 and I commented that I could not run another 1:46 for the 2nd Half! It was obvious that the old legs had not fully recovered from Miami so I slowed the pace down some more because I did not want ‘to hit the WALL’ again in the last 10K. We passed Wally and Norm around 16 miles and I started to struggle around 18 miles. Dr Dick was still running smooth and easy so I told him he should leave my tired old ass behind and try to catch the Florida runner in his age group. I figured that he would win or place in his age group if he beat that runner? He was concerned because his longest training run this year was 20 miles and he would soon be approaching unchartered territory so he preferred to remain cautious and conservative with his pace. We passed mile 20 in 2:44:20 and I knew that even a 3:35 was not going to happen – and I didn’t care! My legs were tired and tight and both feet were hurting but I still felt that if I ran smart (and slow) I could avoid the painful WALL! I slowed the pace to 8:30s, focused on blocking all pain and ignoring the shameful cries from my legs to stop or walk and continued to push through the hills! We reached mile 23 in 3:09:47 and my slowest mile of the race (8:50). I urged Dr Dick to push on ahead and catch his age group competitor but he didn’t think he could do that without draining his legs and he had a home club race next weekend that was more important to him. So he stayed with me and used running pysch tricks to urge me on. I decided it was time to suck it up, hurt a little more and push the pace to get this pain/ordeal over with as quick as possible so I managed to lower the pace to 8:30s for the next few miles and then pushed the pace down to 8:15 for the final mile to cross the finish line in 3:37:09. Dr Dick finished 1 second before me for 27th place overall and I finished 28th! Two women beat us but my time was good enough for 1st place in my age group (2nd place was 20 minutes behind me)! Dr Dick finished in 4th place in his age group – that Florida runner had finished 3rd in 3:33 and qualified for Boston. Dr Dick wasn’t sure he could have taken those 4 minutes off his time?

Since Frank’s goal was to finish under 5 hours we drove back to the hotel for a quick shower and then returned to watch Wally and Norm finish in 4:44 (actually 6:44 with their 2-hr early start) and Frank finish in 4:57! He was very happy to beat 5 hours! I was happy to see him cross the finish line - ALIVE! After a quick shower for Frank we drove back to Longboat Key to enjoy a long HOT soak in the hot tub with lots of beer while I slow cooked a ton of prime rib on the BBQ to provide the necessary protein to help our muscles recover and heal.

We all enjoyed the very scenic marathon and course through Florida’s horse country. The marathon was very well organized – mile markers every mile, water stops every 2 miles and lots of volunteers along the course where needed for traffic control and directions. I will probably run this race again next year.
The only bad news of the day was:
a) my feet were very sore after the race and may slow down my training program as I try to avoid a serious problem with plantar fasciitis
b) The Seattle Seahawks lost the SuperBowl

Fortunately my next marathon/tune up race is not scheduled till Feb 19th so I have a few weeks to recover and hopefully get rid of the plantar fasciitis problems.

Stay tuned for the next report!