"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011 Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Recap

Let me start with the expo Friday and then move quickly to the actual race. As we (mom/dad/brother/sister -- all ran the half) headed up to Seattle there was a post on the race Facebook page announcing that Scott Jurek would be doing a Q&A at the expo. Good stuff, but he was on in an hour and we were still 2 hours away. We figured by the time we got inside he would be gone so we quickly dismissed any thoughts of hearing Scott or meeting him.   

The Rock'n'Roll check-in has been a breeze both years. They really have this down to a science. After arriving and getting our bib numbers, shirts and swag bags, we set off into expo. As my brother an I were wandering through the grossly overpriced race apparel I came around the side of clothing rack and who is sitting at a table five feet from me? Scott Jurek. He was signing autographs and talking to people and the line was only 6 or 8 people long, so I told my brother we were getting in line. He wasn't quite as excited but he was playing photographer so we got in line and eventually my parents and sister joined us.

Scott Jurek, ultramarathon legend
Scott Jurek: Nicest. Guy. Ever. Took time to talk to each person, ask different questions, and actually hold a conversation with each person rather than just signing the stack of pictures in front of him and moving on. Whenever someone wanted a picture he got up from his chair, came around to the other side of the table, took his time, kept talking and made sure the picture snapped was a good one before returning to his chair. Genuinely good guy. Back when this whole running thing started (just over two years now), most, if not all, of my family passed around a copy of Born To Run, which prominently features Scott and his experiences in the documented race. I don't know if the book got us all to start running, but it definitely got us through the initial hurdles of becoming regular and consistent runners.
Last Minute advice from Scott Jurek

When I came to the front of the line I asked him if he would sign my bib number instead of the picture. More than alright he said but before signing it he started talking to me about my running. After a time he said he was going to write "Dig Deep" on the bottom of my bib (and then sign the top) so that when I looked down at it late in the race it would serve as a reminder. He did the same for the rest of my family and then we posed for a couple of pictures. Cool stuff.
Travis @ Finally Airborne

When it comes to the actual race I don't have much to report in the first 15 miles. Aside from meeting up with Travis from Finally Airborne and passing my dad and two other people I knew from home on the bridge, the first 15 miles were pretty uneventful. I tried to treat the whole race like any other Saturday run and for the first 15 miles, that's really what it was. Nothing of significance here, just cruising along at a good pace feeling good. I pushed passed the halfway mark in a fairly easy 1:53:12. The Mile 15 marker comes up after leaving the downtown area and getting back onto the freeway heading towards Aurora Ave. It was here that I had the thought, "ok, this is where the race really starts."

I knew what to expect the final 11 miles: a couple miles of hills, two out and backs and a run to the finish line. The hill going north on Aurora Ave (approx miles 16-18) was taxing, but after running it last year I was more prepared for its length. Though I took a few brief walking breaks through the aid stations, I really tried not to walk. I knew I would be in the ballpark of 4 hours if I just kept going and that was the goal. I'm actually really pleased with how I pushed through the thoughts I had to walk, even if it meant slowing my pace slightly.

I didn't need to look at my split times from last year to know that I was running almost almost an identical race from a time perspective (once I got home and looked at how close they were, it's very interesting, as least to me). Last year I crossed the final split marker, at mile 24, 3:42:00. This year: 3:41:28. I knew that if I was going to beat last years time (and PR), I had work to do. I kept pushing, despite wanting to walk. When I finally turned off of the freeway onto the exit ramp leading to Quest field I was exactly 7 minutes from last year's time of 4:07:22. I knew about how far I had left and knew that it was going to be awfully close. I gave it all I had left (and started weaving in and out of people as I passed them). 6 minutes...5 minutes...4 minutes...man,it was going to be close. 3 minutes...2 minutes...I turned the final corner and could see the finish line up ahead. With my legs on fire and wanting to walk for just a second but knowing I couldn't, I sprinted (relative term after 26 miles) down Occidental Ave. 30 seconds...15 seconds...ahhh!!!....and through the finish line at 4:07:20. PR by 2 seconds.

There's a certain brain fogginess that kicks in immediately upon finishing. It seems like I'm thinking completely rationally all the way up until the finish line. I'm calculating split times and pace and generally aware of my surrounding, but once I cross, get handed a couple bottles of water, get my metal, and sit down about 20 yards later, its like my brain needs time to readjust. I saw my brother standing along the fence about 20 feet away looking at me, but it was all a daze. After a few minutes I got up, inhaled 7 or 8 bananas, a couple of oranges and about a half gallon of water and I walked off fine.

It was a good race. I did PR, but still didn't break 4 hours. I did all I could do though and so I'm pleased with the outcome. As I replayed the race in my mind on the trip home I couldn't come up with any point in the race where I slacked off and mailed it in. Maybe I could have walked a little bit less through the aid stations but that would have saved me an extra minute or two at best. I know I didn't leave 7 minutes out on the course and so I'm content with the result.

In other news, while at the expo my youngest sister decided to sign up for the marathon next year if I would help train her. She's going to learn what sweating at 5:30am on a Saturday feels like. My parents also both signed up for the full and my wife may sign up for it too (more on that later. Stay tuned...).
Committing to Seattle RnR 2012!

It's a quick turnaround this week, with only 9 days between Seattle and the Foot Traffic Flat marathon on July 4th. Probably won't do much more than a 2 or 3 mile run later this week while trying to recover/prepare. July 4th also happens to be my 29th birthday so at some point in the day, after the marathon, I'm going to run 2.8 more miles to make 29 for the day. Just because.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

2011 Newport Marathon Recap

Two weeks ago I posted the anticipated weather forecast for Saturday's marathon. It called for showers, strong winds, stronger gusts, and temperatures in the low 50s. I lamented at the time that only in Oregon does the weather in June seem like late winter/early spring.
On Saturday morning as I stepped outside of my hotel room around 5:30 to gage the weather before I got dressed, there was an absence of something: cold. Generally the Oregon coast has a chill in the early-morning air, even during the summer. The breeze tend to amplify that chill. Not on this day. The air was warm and the gentle breeze warmer. I knew then that I would need to start adjusting my expectation for the race, as conditions were certainly not going to be ideal. I was not alone in this thought, as there was lots of pre-race chatter about the weather and how warm it was then and how hot it would get (in contrast, as I waited at the starting line last year I did so in the fog, shivering underneath my long-sleeve shirts and gloves).
The weather was the story of the day, no doubt. Reports are that at one point it reached 82 degrees on the course.  Perhaps not so bad in the abstract but in context it might as well have been 105 degrees. Newport hadn't had a day of 60 degrees in 2011. In the Willamette Valley, where I live, its been 50s and cloudy/rainy for months it seems like, though there has been a day of sun here and there the past few weeks. Bottom line, there's been no training in any sort of heat and nobody was prepared for a heatwave to show up on race day. More on this later.
Miles 1-5 went exactly according to plan, with mile splits of between 8:24 and 8:40. It would have been a beautiful morning for running if there weren't 21 miles still to go. This is the prettiest section of the course in my opinion. There's a few hills but you get to run through the streets of the beachfront shops and then down towards the ocean at the entrance to Nye Beach before making your way back to Yaquina Bay State Park where the starting line is located. After that you make your way under the bridge and into the heart of the waterfront area, running along the boardwalk past the various seafood processing plants (worst. smell. ever.) past the finish area and out of town to run along Yaquina Bay. It's really a nice few miles and goes by very fast.
Leaving town also means leaving most of the crowd support behind. I was able to maintain my planned pace through miles 6-11 and was feeling pretty good to this point, but the sun had come up over the hills and was becoming more intense. I was mixing in brief walking breaks every mile and was taking as much Gatorade as I could handle at every aid station, knowing I was going to need every drop of it later.
Miles 12 and 13 were a challenge and I fell below my planned pace a bit, but little by little I had banked enough time in the first 11 miles that I was able to reach the 13.1 marker right at 1:57, right where I wanted to be (and 9 minutes SLOWER than last year, when I made the deadly mistake of going out too fast). Unfortunately, despite my efforts to hydrate, I was starting to become dehydrated.
Mile 14 went smoothly as did Mile 15 for the most part. But between Mile 15 and Mile 16 a few things happened. There was an aid station at 15.2, a turnaround point at 15.4 and the same aid station coming back at 15.6. Because I was walking through each aid station, making sure I was drinking generous amounts of Gatorade, Mile 16 was slower that I would have preferred.
During Miles 17 and 18 my pace continued to slide. I had dropped into and 11 minute pace by walking the first part of each mile and trying to run the rest. It was so hot at this point. I knew I was dehydrated, even though I was taking as much as 20 ounces of Gatorade per station. I could feel myself getting a little loopy, my mind a little foggy and so I made my 2nd to last conscious decision of the day: slow down and make sure I finish. Whatever it takes to do that. I was not going to reach my goal of sub 4-hours at this point and it was important to take care of myself, manage each mile and get to the finish line.
It was about this time that I saw another runner being helped into a medical vehicle and taken off the course. She wouldn't be the last. In the last 8 miles I saw no less than 7 medical vehicles carrying runners off the course, and I'm sure there were more after I finished. It's always an unfortunate sight to see. You wish you could do something for them but there isn't. I felt particularly bad for the lady I passed at 25.1 miles. She was talking to the medical personnel and just couldn't go on. I so badly wanted to tell her she was so close and just to hang on a little longer, but she couldn't.
I worked my way through miles 19-25, walking when I needed to and running as far as I could, trying to keep a nice consistent pace, whatever pace that happened to be. Now that I've recovered and I'm thinking straight again, I question why I didn't and/or couldn't run harder or faster or longer. Why did I think I needed to walk so much? But being in the moment, being that tired and that dehydrated, my thoughts were far different then they are now looking back at it from the outside.
Just before Mile 26 I turned my music back on (I had turned it off around mile 18) and forced myself to turn up the pace (my last conscious decision of the day). I worked my way up the hill to the 26 Mile marker and knew at that point it was all downhill to the finish line. Calves cramping, I barreled towards the line all by myself, having passed everyone near me at the crest of the hill. I crossed the finish line and was done (I ran the final 1/3 mile at a 7:27 pace, which I'm pleased with, even if it was downhill). Because of the way the finish area is set up the crowds in the last 200 yards are concentrated and loud. Running down the hill by myself into this crowd that was cheering only for me was a cool experience.
Dehydrated and worn out but still a finisher
I finished in 4:34:38. Not a PR, but not a PW either. I was actually 15 seconds slower than last year (my mistake, I thought I finished last year in 4:35:23, not 4:34:23...had I known the correct time I would have worked harder to beat it), but I knew I had made progress. Despite the conditions, I had run basically the same time. And as opposed to last year, when I didn't pass a single person in the final 8 miles, this year I was consistently picking off people in front of me. 
I felt like I did everything I needed to do to be prepared. There are things I can't control, the weather being one of them. But of the things I could control, I feel like I did so pretty well. I finished 369 out of 705 overall and ran faster than the average time of all the finishers.
Now it's recovery time, but not too much. The Seattle Rock 'n' Roll marathon is just around the corner (now just 18 days away) and the Foot Traffic Flat marathon is just 9 days after Seattle.  I'm feeling pretty good today and will be back on schedule running normal miles on Thursday.
Thanks for following along. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Back For More

As I toed the starting line of the 2010 Newport Marathon, my first marathon, I thought I was prepared. In many ways I was: I had put in the appropriate amount of miles, including three 20-milers. I was eating healthy and had tapered as the experts said I should. I had spent time thinking positive thoughts, envisioning various parts of the race and what it would feel like. I imagined the feeling of crossing the finish line. I had a goal in mind. I thought I was as prepared as I could be.
And then the starting gun went off and for the next 4 hours and 35 minutes I endured the butt-kicking of a lifetime.
I finished, but not the way I had hoped or imagined. And now a year later I'm ready to do it again.
I'm terrible at golf, but I tend to watch the biggest tournaments on TV occasionally. Quite often the commentators will comment on a player's ability to manage the course, identifying which holes to attack, which to play conservatively and groups of holes that can make or break a round. Those that rise to the top of the leader board are those who can manage the course the best, minimize their mistakes and execute a solid plan. Managing 26.2 miles is no different.
I'm more prepared to manage the course this year. Mentally I can break the miles up into 2, 3 and 4 mile increments with the aid stations, halfway mark, and turnaround points. I know where the inclines are. I know how many turns there are through the city streets in the first four miles (18 of them) -- and how much further I had to run last year because I ended up on the outside of many of those turns. I have a good idea of which miles will be faster and which will be slower and have what I believe is a solid plan to navigate those differences and finish in a desirable time.
Physically I'm better prepared with another year of consistent and constant running under my belt. Instead of one year of running experience I now have two. My body feels good and strong. I have a more realistic goal in mind this year due largely to having run 20 miles or more 16 times instead of just the three I had done prior to last year's race.
All the training is done now. I'll leave for Newport tomorrow and make my way to the starting line early Saturday morning. Is a 26.2 mile sub-4 hour victory lap through the streets of Newport in store? We'll see.