Monday, December 20, 2010

RR - Jacksonville

Race Report
Sun, Dec 19/10
Jacksonville Bank Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
Marathon # 339
3:42:36 – 1 AG

After running a pretty good race the previous week in Cape Coral I had mixed emotions about racing another marathon one week later. I felt that the races were forcing me into better shape but I was not sure how my body and ongoing recovery from UC would react to back-to-back races? I have run the Jacksonville Marathon three times and always enjoy a good time/performance because the course is flat and fast and attracts world-class competition. What I hate about the race is the long/grueling/boring
5-hr drive across FL - especially the 120-mile section on I 4 from Tampa to Daytona Beach. And to make matters worse a storm front moved into FL on Sat morning and I had to drive through rain the entire way! The Sports Manager was smart and declined the trip! However when I arrived in Jacksonville in mid-afternoon it was sunny and warm.

I drove to the race expo to register and pick up a race packet. Because of the uncertainty of my health I no longer pre-register for races because of the risk of cancelling and losing the entry fee – instead I wait and register at the race expo. After checking in at the host hotel I enjoyed a nice pasta dinner and retired early to rest from the long drive.

Sun was ‘M’ day! The course starts and finishes at the Bolles School in South Jacksonville and runs through nice residential neighborhoods along the St Johns River. The roads are narrow, shaded and protected from winds. It was overcast with a temp of 45 F and a light mist as I lined up with 2300 runners (900 in the Marathon and 1400 in the Half) in the dark for a 7 am start. I hate being cold at the start so I wore a long-sleeve throw-away, gloves and a garbage bag over my race clothes of T-shirt and shorts. Based on the results of my past two races where I started out fast for the first 20 miles and tried to hang on for the final 10Km I decided to try a new strategy - to run smarter and start out slower. I would go out at an 8:30 pace and see how long I could hold that pace?

I passed Mile 1 in 8:13 and discarded the garbage bag. When I reached Mile 3 in 25:03 and a split of 8:23 I was overheated! I discarded the throw-away T-shirt. I considered discarding the cotton gloves but decided to keep them for awhile – thankfully a good decision because the temps actually dropped during the race and it was colder at the finish! I passed Mile 5 in 41:46 and a split of 8:18. I slowed the pace 10 secs/mile and passed Mile 10 in 1:23:42 and a split of 8:29. My legs felt really good and I figured I could hold that pace for many more miles? I passed the Half in 1:49:56 and a split of 8:28. That was close to the same time as the previous week except now my legs still felt fresh and good so I continued to hold that pace. There were distance markers and clocks every mile that really help to manage your pace. There were water stations every two miles and lots of support and traffic control along the course. The race is well organized!

I passed Mile 16 in 2:14:23 and a split of 8:24 and reached Mile 20 in 2:48:47 and a split of 8:30. The strategy and slower pace were working – I was 2 minutes ahead of my 20 mile split in the two previous races – and my legs felt amazingly fresh and springy! I considered pushing the pace for the final 10Km? Nah! That would be dumb! I continued to hold an 8:30 pace and passed Mile 23 in 3:06:04 and a split of 8:27. However the legs were no longer feeling amazingly fresh and springy? Now I had to work to hold an 8:30 pace! But I knew right then that a sub-3:45 marathon was in the bag and the excitement of a great finish time provided a final jolt of adrenaline and energy. I tried to lower the hammer and push the pace for the final 5 Km to ‘guarantee’ a sub-3:45 but there wasn’t much ‘push’ left. When I reached Mile 26 in 3:40:50 and a split of 8:36 and entered the track at the Bolles School I could see the finish clock – 3:41 plus change (gun/clock time). I was determined to beat my course PR from last year (3:43:32 and my fastest time in 2009) so I sprinted the final 200 m on the track to cross the finish line in 3:42:55 (gun time)!

As I walked through the finish chute I suddenly felt COLD and began to shiver – the temp was only 44 F! I wrapped myself in a thermal blanket and immediately walked back to the car for my warm-ups and camera. When I returned to the finish area I checked the results and confirmed that my official (chip) finish time was 3:42:36. I was surprised to learn that was good enough to win 1st AG. Typically it takes a sub-3:30 to win my AG in this race but I guess no World Class competitors showed up this year? I didn’t care and gladly accepted the 1st Place award – it is difficult to win one in this race!

Needless to say I was very pleased with both my time and performance. I ran a smart race and was able to hold a smooth and even pace for the entire race w/o any problems. My finish time equated to an average 8:30 pace for the race! (How’s that for setting and accomplishing a target)? I beat my old PR in this race by one minute and ran my fastest time since the Dead Sea Marathon in April 2008! And it is all the more satisfying after a very difficult year of health issues when there were times that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to run or compete again! And note that it was marathon #339 and my 17th and final marathon for 2010!

I would like to run another marathon in a few weeks to see if I can keep improving and lowering my finish times? But alas the Sports Manager and I leave this week for the West Coast to spend the Holidays with our kids and grandkids. It will be difficult to train in the COLD and rainy weather in WA and OR. When we return to FL in early Jan we only have a few days to repack before we leave for a 10-day Caribbean cruise. I do not intend to run during the cruise and expect to gain at least 5 pounds so it will be interesting to see how I do at the Ocala Marathon in late Jan?

Stay tuned!

Monday, December 13, 2010

RR - Cape Coral

Race Report
Sun, Dec 12/10
Mangrove Marathon
Cape Coral, FL
Marathon # 338
3:47:38 - 1 AG – 12 OA

After a good race in Cocoa Beach a few weeks ago I immediately added speed work and intensity to my training program in order to improve my time and performance at the next race. Things progressed smoothly for the first week but then started to fall apart. On Sun night we had a guest from CO and (perhaps) imbibed a wee too much? I decided to do an easy 10-mile run on Mon to flush the poison out of my system. However by the end of the first mile I was sucking for air and totally fatigued? Surely a hangover can’t affect me that badly? I had to run/walk and struggle to finish the 10 miles! I was concerned that I might be experiencing a relapse or flare up of the UC? On Tue I Had planned to do speed work but instead just ran an easy 10 miles which I was able to complete w/o walking so that made me feel better. So On Wed I decided to do the speed work – however by the end of the first mile I was again sucking for air, feeling totally fatigued and both feet were so painful that I had to turn around and walk home? I felt like I was running around Lake Dillon (9,000 ft) three months ago? Now I was really concerned. Should I call the GI doc and ask what the Hell is happening or give it one more day? On Thu I tried a speed workout and was able to run a fast 6 miles and felt good? I decided to rest for the next few days and run the Mangrove Marathon on the weekend as scheduled.

On Sat the Sports Manager and I drove 100 miles south to Cape Coral, FL. The race was a new/inaugural marathon/half marathon. I was not expecting much – the website was not well designed or informative. I didn’t realize until the day before the race that there were no formal age groups (the age groups were 0 to 99?) or awards except for the two winners in each race? The expo and pasta dinner was held on Fri night – two days before the race? Thus I picked up my bib and race packet at a local running store called the Run Shoppe. There were no last-minute race info/details in the packet and the volunteer couldn’t answer any of my questions about the race start, water stations, etc? So the SM and I drove to the start/finish area and part of the course to get some idea of the logistics for the race and explore Cape Coral. Cape Coral was a big disappointment! There is nothing to see or do!

After a terrible pasta dinner (at one of the supposedly best Italian restaurants in town) we retired early. Sun was ‘M’ day. The weather was forecast to be cool at the start (52 F) with wind and storms later in the day. The race was supposed to start at 6:30 am. I lined up with about 300 runners (100 in the marathon and the rest in the Half) by 6:15am. The race start was delayed 30 minutes! That provided extra time to find a toilet in nearby Cape Harbour Marina since there were only two portable toilets for 300 runners? I expected bugs/problems with an inaugural race but this was not looking good?

The sun was up by the time the race started – that was a concern because that meant it would be warm by the end of the race! The course consisted of two half-marathon loops. The first loop followed a route through residential streets in the SE section of the city. After the strange past week I wasn’t sure which body would show up at the start line – the ‘bad’ body that suffered fatigue after one mile and felt like shit or the ‘good’ body that felt good and could run fast? Thus I went out at an easy 8:30 pace. After the first mile and no problems I figured the ‘good’ body must have shown up so I lowered the pace down to 8:20/mile. I passed mile 5 in 42:13 and a split of 8:14. The course was fast and flat and the weather was ideal during the first loop/half – sunny, temps in the high 50s and only a light breeze. There were distance markers every mile – and they were accurate (one of my few compliments for the race) – and water every few miles. I passed mile 10 in 1:23:50 and a split of 8:18. I was cruising at a steady 8:18 pace by then and decided I would hold that pace until the Half and re-evaluate. I passed the Half in 1:49:53 and a split of 8:23. I was pleased with that time but knew right then that I could not hold that pace through the 2nd loop – probably not even till 20 miles. The 2nd half-marathon loop followed a route through residential streets north and west of the city. I decided to run the 2nd Half smarter and slow my pace down by 15 to 20 secs/mile and hope that I could hold that pace to the finish line? The temps had warmed up into the high 60s and there were no water stations from mile 12 through mile 17? Five miles w/o water and it was getting hot – and I and several runners were getting pissed off! When I finally reached a water station at mile 17 in 2:33:52 and a split of 8:53 I screamed at the volunteer to call the race director and get some water stations deployed along that 5-mile stretch! I was concerned about slower runners behind us because it was getting warmer and I did not want to return over those (final) 5 miles w/o water – a dangerous possibility of dehydration!

I reached the final turn-around at mile 19 in 2:41:25 and a split of 8:42. I calculated that if I could hold a sub 9-min pace for the final 7 miles I could easily break 3:50 and might come close to 3:45? What I didn’t calculate was the storm front moving in sooner than forecast. When I made the turn the wind picked up and started gusting about 20/25 mph – directly into our faces! What a bitch that final 7 miles was! I tried to keep my pace below 9 min/mile but 9:10s were the best I could manage into that fierce head wind! At least the race director had responded to our complaints and had deployed 3 more water stations over the final 5 miles. When I passed mile 23 in 3:18:12 and a split of 9:04 I knew that I couldn’t break 3:45 so I eased back on the pace and cruised to the finish line in 3:47:38.

After taking a mandatory finish line photo I checked for results and wasn’t surprised to find none – even though the race was timed by chip? I was later able to confirm official results (along with age groups?) at the website for the running store? I finished 1st AG and 12th Overall.In spite of the problems with the race I was pleased with both my time and performance. I enjoyed a great tempo run for the first Half and was able to run the 2nd Half smart and smoothly w/o suffering any problems. I need to improve my capability to hold a fast pace for the entire 26 miles but that will come with more speed work and races. My finish time is now back down to the same level it was in the spring of this year – and pre-UC/illness. I believe I can break 3:45 by next spring!

Since I didn’t suffer any problems during the race and felt fine at the finish I think I will drive over to Jacksonville, FL next weekend to run my final marathon for the year.

Stay tuned!