Monday, December 21, 2009

RR Jacksonville

Race Report
Sun, Dec 20/09
Jacksonville Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
Marathon #322
3:43:32 – 2AG

Oh – what a difference two weeks and forty degrees in temperature can make – exactly One Hour!

I had added this race to my calendar as a ‘required’ fast training run because I figured Singapore would be a long, slow run. However when Singapore turned out to be such a disaster it really shook my confidence. I wondered/worried if Singapore was just an exceptionally bad day or was my training program and conditioning also bad? Thus I was lacking a lot of confidence and motivation as I made the 5-hr drive up to Jacksonville on Sat.

I picked up my race packet and as I was checking into the host hotel I met a group of runners whom I knew from the Bradenton Running Club (neighboring city to Sarasota). They invited me to join them for pasta dinner which turned out to be a blessing since it was an enjoyable meal with great company and provided a distraction from my concerns.

Sun was M- day! The weather forecast called for COLD temps and high winds. It was fairly accurate. The skies were cloudy with a temp of 40 F and gusty winds at the 7 am start. It was very chilly with the wind so I wore a throw-away shirt and garbage bag over my race T-shirt and shorts to stay warm at the start of the race. It never warmed above 50 F during the race. On the bus ride over to the Bolles School where the race started I kept thinking “What am I doing here – I don’t feel like running a marathon”? I had little confidence and no motivation! But then I reminded myself that I had faced similar situations and feelings many times before and in most cases ended up running great races.

I decided to stick to my original plan/strategy to run a fast training run. I would go out at an 8:30 pace and hold it as long as possible. If I crashed – I crashed – but at least I would have an answer to my concerns/questions! I lined up at the start line with 2500 other runners (1000 in the Full and 1500 in the Half). As I lined up a few rows from the start line I found myself (coincidentally) lined up with the 3:45 pace group. I asked myself “Why don’t I just stay with that pace group”? They would prevent me from going out too fast and were running the pace I wanted. I don’t normally like to run with a pace group because my old bod experiences several ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in energy during a race and typically I like to let my body go with the flow and my pace may vary by 10 to 15 secs/mile as my body goes through these cycles whereas a pace group will run a consistent split/pace.

The pace group pulled me through Mile 3 in 25:21 and a split of 8:21 and I removed my garbage bag. When we passed Mile 5 in 42:13 and a split of 8:21 I removed the throw-away shirt since I had finally warmed up. There were a few times when I experienced ‘highs’ and wanted to surge ahead and a few times when I experienced ‘lows’ and struggled to stay with the pace group. But I forced myself to be patient and stay with the group. Another benefit was that I was able to tuck in and draft behind the group when the winds got nasty! I followed the pace group through the Half in 1:51:30 – slightly ahead of pace! The good news was that I felt good and found the pace very comfortable so I decided to stay with the pace group till at least 20 miles and then re-evaluate!

When we passed Mile 16 in 2:16:01 and a split of 8:27 I was concerned that over the next four miles I would face some difficulty with a severe ‘low’ that I usually experience during that section of every marathon? Sure enough, when we reached Mile 18 in 2:32:51 the group had lowered the pace to 8:20s and I started to suffer a ‘low’. I started to fall back but then resolved that I would stay with the group till 20 miles and I forced the old bod to catch up! We passed Mile 20 in 2:49:46 and the pace group started to slow down and break up. As most marathoners know/understand it was crunch time and the race was just starting! And luckily the old bod gave me a shot of adrenaline and a burst of energy and another ‘high’. Maddog wanted to surge ahead but I wisely told him to be patient and stay with the group. When we reached Mile 22 in 3:07:09 the split had slowed to 8:42 and the pace group (including the pacer) started to slow down and fall apart? At that point three of us surged ahead together and fed off each other until we reached Mile 24 in 3:24:29. I knew right then that a sub-3:45 was in the bag and that gave me a boost of confidence and energy and I finally let Maddog surge ahead and left the other two members of the group to cross the finish line on the school track in 3:43:32!

Needless to say I was very happy with both my time and performance. I had run consistently even splits throughout the entire race and other than a few normal ‘lows’ never experienced any serious problems/troubles! I had exceeded my expectations and regained confidence in my training program and conditioning! I stuck around the finish area long enough for a finish line photo and to check the preliminary results. The initial results only showed finish times to 3:35. I naively figured that the best anyone in my AG could finish would be just under 3:30 so I checked the results down to 3:25. Nada? Maybe I did win my AG?

Since I was in a hurry to get back home to attend a Christmas party with our running friends I rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower and then made the trip home in 4 hrs. When I arrived home I quickly searched the race website to see if results had been posted? I was surprised to discover that my time was only good enough for 2nd place in my AG. I was shocked to learn that the winner finished in 3:16! Damn - I could never catch that guy. No matter how much I trained there ain’t no 3:16 left in this old bod! I didn’t recognize the name but I tip my hat off to him because he is a World-class runner – definitely way out of my league!

Although disappointed in a 2nd place finish I am still happy with my time and performance. I will continue my training program with confidence and motivation and lower my target to sub 3:40 for my next race in three weeks.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

TR - Singapore

Sun, Dec 6/09
Singapore Marathon
Marathon # 321 - Country #101 (new World Record)
4:43:41- 3 AG

I can’t say that I was looking forward to this marathon except that I would finally move off the century mark and complete Country #101. I visited Singapore five years ago and knew that the weather would be brutally hot and humid! The Sports Manager did not want to go since she had visited Singapore many times and was still recovering from her hip surgery.

Thus I made the long, 30-hr journey by myself. The journey was extended a few hours and I arrived at my hotel at 3am on Fri morning. When I exited the taxi it was hot and humid at 3am – I was already NOT looking forward to the race! I let the poor old bod sleep as late as possible and then proceeded to the race expo to pick up my race packet. There were 50,000 runners registered in four events – about 18,000 in the marathon.

I was not pleased with the race organization even before I left home. They had been very inflexible, uninterested and non-caring to assist me in obtaining bib #101 for the race. If you are not an elite athlete who can win the race they are not interested in helping you! When I tried to check the age group results for past years I learned that not only were there no age group awards for the race but they didn’t even post results for age groups! Thus my evaluation or rating for the race is LOW! Do not run this race if you are hoping for a PR (weather) or if it is a special milestone like race #100, etc! They could care less!

Packet pick up was well organized but the expo was pathetic! For a race that size there were only two booths selling running gear – the rest were hawking medical services and nutritional items? Fortunately the race booklet was good because there was very little info available at the expo!

Since I had toured the city/country on a previous trip I decided to buy a ticket on the hop on/hop off tour bus on Sat to visit a few interesting sites such as the Merlion (the city symbol) at Esplanade Park, the Singapore Flyer (new) and to check out the logistics at the start/finish area. The race started on the Esplanade Bridge and finished in front of City Hall. Once I was familiar with the area I was free to enjoy the rest of the city, enjoy an early dinner and go to bed early.

Sun was M-day! The marathon was the first race to start at 5:30am. It was HOT (high 70s) and humid (80%) at 5:30am as I lined up with 18,000 runners. There were only 3 race pens – sub 4 hrs, sub 5 hrs and 5 hrs+ with no controls. Thus I lined up a few rows behind the Kenyans and elite athletes to avoid getting boxed in. Because of the expected heat/humidity and no age groups or incentive to race I had decided to run ‘slow & easy’. I figured that I could run an easy 9-min pace for the 1st Half to take advantage of the ‘cooler’ weather and then slow to a 10-min pace in the 2nd Half. I ran the first 3 Km faster than wanted (15:55) because I was boxed in with fast runners. However at that point the course opened up and I was able to slow down. I passed 10Km in 55:30 but was already overheating? I slowed the pace to 9:30s in an effort to cool my body down.

However when I reached 15Km in 1:26:08 and a split of 6:08/km (9:45/mile) I knew that I was in trouble already. My body was burning up and I couldn’t cool off? I decided to let my old bod dictate the pace till the Half and started to stop at each water station located every 2 Km. I would drink one cup of water and dump two on me in an attempt to hydrate and stay cool. I passed the Half in 2:07:15. But the sun was up by then and the temps were in the 80s and I knew the 2nd Half would get ugly! When I passed 25km in 2:33:59 and a split of 6:36/km (10:33/mile) I knew I was in big trouble. My legs felt OK but I just couldn’t increase the pace – my body would not cool down and I had not yet made or had a need for a pit stop. I increased my water intake to two cups at each stop and dumped 3 or 4 cups on my body to try to cool off. I could barely run (jog) to the next water station w/o walking? It became a matter of survival. Run – or shuffle – for 2 Km, then stop for water in and on and repeat the cycle!

Around 37Km the marathon and Half merged to share the final 5Km and the course was clogged with walkers from the Half. Now I had to weave around thousands of walkers and that only exasperated the situation and the agony! I dearly wanted to join them in walking but needed to end the agony as quickly as possible. I continued to shuffle between each water station – then stop/walk - pour two in and 4 on- in a desperate attempt to stay cool and hydrated and finally crossed the finish line in 4:43:41.

I was so frustrated and disappointed with my performance and inability to recover and ‘run’ the race that I didn’t bother to stick around for any after-race festivities. I took a finish-line photo and returned to the hotel for a COLD shower just to cool off. I had planned to spend the afternoon exploring the city and taking a river cruise but the streets were so crowded with Sun/Xmas shoppers that I retreated to my hotel room to watch college football games from the USA and rest for the 30-hr return trip home on Mon.

The nice thing about ‘running’ so slow I have discovered is that my legs were not sore or tired after the run. I should be able to resume speed work in my training program sooner than expected to prepare for one more race in 2009. I decided to run a marathon in FL in two weeks. Hopefully I can run a faster race?

Stay tuned!