Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Slacker Redeemed

Just so I don’t create the illusion that it’s all sticking-to-the-plan and never a missed workout in my world, I completely blew it two weeks back while on business travel in San Jose.  I went from my two-a-day triathlon training, to one 8-mile run in the span of 5 days.  Yes the days were long, and yes the time-change was messing with me, but there really wasn’t any excuse.  I packed all my running gear, the weather was nice, but I got lazy and embraced the sloth.  It was both guilt-riddled and glorious.

Thankfully once I got back to NC I got back down to business.  Running is going well, biking is good and I’ve been able to get off the trainer and on the road for the last couple weekends, and swimming is slowly getting better.  I’ve started studying the videos for Total Immersion, and it seems to be helping.  Still don’t feel like my form is great, but I’m able to go more than 200 meters at a time without sucking wind, and I’m disliking trips to the pool less with each outing.  I ordered an Xterra wetsuit yesterday, so hopefully I’ll be heading out for an open-water swim in the next couple weeks.  Not a fan of cold water, so it’s not going to be pretty.  We’re running about 20 degrees below normal for this time of year, so even though I have little room to complain compared to most of the folks up North I’m still crossing my fingers that Spring will hit soon.

Signed up for the Monticelloman Olympic Tri in Charlottesville, VA on May 5, so right now that’s the first official triathlon on my calendar, and of my life.  I may sign up for a local sprint in late April.  Undecided, and not really excited about yet another race fee.  Outer Banks Flying Pirate Half coming up in 3 weeks, and I think I’m going to run it hard to see what kind of a half-marathon time I can do.  I’ve only run one other half-marathon, and I was pacing a friend in that one and really just passing the time until the Irish Pub opened on St. Patrick’s day.

Honestly … most of my races end up being about passing the time until the bar opens. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Myrtle Beach Marathon Recap - All Good

I decided to let this race sit for a couple weeks before putting together a recap.  Immediately after the race I felt great about the whole experience, but I wanted to look over the data and break things down to find those things I would have done differently.

After some reflection, there really isn’t much of anything I would change.  Based on my preparation and training, I think I squeezed out about every ounce of effort and performance I could have on race day.  There’s no such thing as a perfect race, but I truly felt like I didn’t leave anything out on the course.  It took 6 marathons and 2 ultras to finally feel that way at the finish, and it's a nice feeling.

I’ll try and recap the race as succinctly as possible.  The weather was outstanding – about 40 degrees and clear at the start, with some wind, but not enough to really have much of an effect.  We got to the race about 30 minutes before the start, and were able to stay in the car and stay warm, which was a nice change from my usual routine of 2 hours early and walking around freezing.  I settled in just behind the 3:35 pace group, since that was around the time I was hoping to post.  I hadn’t done a specific marathon plan, but had kept my mileage fairly high while doing a triathlon training plan, so I didn’t really know what to expect.  My long runs had gone well, but I hadn’t pushed the pace in a long time.  I figured I’d hang around the pace group for the first few miles, and see how things felt.  Great anthem, strange pre-race appearance of an elephant (some sort of wild animal theme this year), and we were off.

First half of the race - flat and fast
As usual, the first mile was pretty congested, so I hung behind the 3:35 pace group and tried no to trip anyone or be tripped.  By mile 2 the crowd was thinning, and the 3:35 group felt a little slow, so I moved out ahead of them figuring I’d see them again later.  I never saw them again.  I settled in at a pace between 7:45 and 7:55 a mile, was feeling good, and fell in with a group that was holding that pace consistently.  After about 6 miles my legs were feeling good, and I was starting to think this might be a solid PR day.  I also really needed to pee.  Decided I’d hold it for a bit since there weren’t a lot of options to take care of business.  I was running without a Fuel Belt or an iPod for the first time in a race, and although it felt a little naked, it was forcing me to pay attention to how my body was feeling, and so far it was all good.  I kept the sub-8-minute pace going until the half-marathon runners peeled away around mile 12, and then the bathroom and nutrition could wait no longer.  Bathroom, gel, water, and powerade at the mile-12 marker, and then I was back at it for the always eventful second half.

Second half - beach views and getting warmer
Miles 12 through 17 continued right along the beach, with nice views and lots of sunshine.  Spectator support was kind of sparse, but enthusiastic.  The volunteers at the water stops were great.  Lots of them, and very supportive.  I’m a fan of having names on the bibs.  It adds a lot when people are cheering for you by name.  After my pit stop I was able to get back to sub-8 pace pretty quickly, and continued to feel good until mile 21, when I took another quick stop for a gel and some hydration.  I was still feeling pretty good, and knew at this point I was looking at a PR.  I also started upping the game a bit, and thinking about going under 3:30.  I decided to step the pace up and roll the dice.  Worst case I would flame out in glorious fashion.   Better to burn out, than fade away.

The last 5 miles, like most of the race, were nice and flat.  This is the point in most races where I turn up the music to try and distract myself from all the people going through various types of distress, especially cramping.  With no music to turn up, I just focused on the pace and my breathing.  Once I hit mile 25 I knew I had a shot at sub 3:30.  I didn’t want it to come down to the wire, so I stepped up the pace for mile 26 and ran a 7:18 split.  Finally, I broke into what felt like a sprint for the last .2 miles.  I’m guessing it didn’t exactly look like something out of Chariots of Fire, but I did manage to pass several people down the finishing chute, and crossed the line feeling completely spent.

Final time: 3:27:00.  My favorite part of the race is my splits for the last 5.2 miles.  I finally had something left for a ‘kick’ at the end.  Not much, but something.

My friends and I also set a significant PR in the beer tent after the race.  This wasn’t the usual “here’s one watered down low-carb, gluten-free, organic, almost-beer, and now you can get more for $10 each.”  This was 5 different kinds of beer, no tickets, no rules, just right.  We rehydrated in style, went home for a quick nap, then met up with some more friends for good food, good drinks, and much poker into the early morning.  Easily the best marathon day/night I’ve ever had.  Thankfully the race was Saturday morning, because by 2PM Saturday the beautiful race weather had turned into pouring rain, and by 8PM the rain had turned into a rare snowstorm in Myrtle.  The next morning it was 28 degrees, with an inch of snow on the grass, and howling winds.

I would HIGHLY recommend this marathon to anyone, new to the sport or a seasoned veteran.  Very flat course, outstanding organization of the expo and the race, awesome volunteers that really seemed like they wanted to be there.  Swag included a nice tech shirt, a toasty fleece blanket with the race logo, and a very nice finisher’s medal.  The beer tent was a winner, but they also had pizza, and bagels, and muffins, and pretzels, and Smartwater, Powerade, chocolate milk, Krispy Kreme, etc.  They didn’t mess around with the post-race refuel.

I’m guessing I’ll be back to run this one in the future.  I managed to catch a monster cold right after getting back home, so I took a full week off from all activity, and I’m back into triathlon training again.  2013 is still my year to give tri’s a try, but a 3:27 only puts me 12 minutes off of a BQ time, so I’m thinking 2014 might be the year I try to get a BQ.  Don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but it never hurts to start thinking about new goals and challenges.