Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Army 10 Miler - 2010

This was it - last race of the season! (probably.)  Hang on to your hats, folks, 'cause we're off!

Why I wanted to do this race:  I've done the Army10 before, in 2008 and in 2009.  Despite the hassle of getting in to DC (see below), it's a really well-run event.  I also like the ten mile distance - long enough that it's tough, short enough that I don't have to kill myself training for it.  Plus, I like supporting the cause.  Army-10 runners approach the race with fun (there are usually costumes out there) and a sense of awe (just look at the wounded servicemen and women who come out to run the course).

The Prep:  Coming off the marathon training, I was more prepared for this race than I'd ever been.

The Taper:  I took a few days off after Baltimore to soothe my legs, and just extended the taper.  I swam one day, ran another (felt tired), and then relaxed until Sunday.

The Gear:  I wore my good old Asics-2150s.  They've got holes in them now.  Don't worry, I did score a new pair on discount at the expo.

Race Morning:  Dawn broke clear and cool.  I know, because I was up to see it.  I met the Sixes at 5:10am, and we made good time to the metro.  We got the first train, which actually left the station at 5:45 (opening time was 6am).  Metro was kind enough to run the Yellow line all the way out to Greenbelt for that early hour, so we had a straight shot to the Pentagon.  Really, getting there was no problem at all.  Once there, we hydrated, checked our bags, and enjoyed the starting line sights.  Breakfast was a soyjoy bar and diluted cranberry juice, around 5:30am.

An awesome thing: they had water stops in the start corral, to make sure runners were hydrated.  Are these guys good or what?

Goal:  So what happened was... the plan had been to run nice and easy.  I just finished 26.2 miles.  Before Baltimore, I wasn't sure if I would be able to run ten miles the next weekend; however, I was feeling pretty good.  Dare I say... cocky?  I decided to start with my wave instead of hanging back, and found myself by the 8:30 pace group ('group' = one dude with a little sign).  I had wanted to look for the 8:00, but it was so crowded I just stayed where I was.

The Race:
  • The start was intense, as always.  The Army10 hosts one of the largest fields in North America.  There is no running over the line.  You shuffle, run, shuffle, walk, hobble, walk, and then you can run.  But people are laughing and waving to cameras, and we know the Warriors are just ahead of us - such a cool thing that I, at least, only felt happy to be there.  
  • Miles 0-3
    • Mile 1 felt fast - too fast.  I hit it when the race clock was at 12:00, but I had no idea how long it had been since I'd actually started.  Some dude behind me was yelling at the pacer for running a 7:50 (I don't think it was a 7:50, but it was probably faster than 8:30).  I ignored him and decided to keep going with the pacer for a while longer.
    • We crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge and the Lincoln Memorial by Mile 2.  It was a beautiful day - sunny, comfortable.  Amazing.
    • Right around Mile 2-3, I saw a few people go down.  I guess the streets were rough.  I heard the pacer warning about rougher roads ahead, decided to keep an eye out, and pull ahead.  I grabbed some gatorade at that stop, felt good, and turned up the pace a bit.
  • Miles 3-6.5
    • Right around mile 4, I realized I was holding 8s.  This would be a personal PR for me, especially at this distance.  I was psyched.  Now I just had to hold it for 6 more miles.  Helloooo gatorade.
    • I tried to entertain myself by picking people off ahead of me.  That seemed to work pretty well.  There were also military bands and lots of spectators, and no shortage of thing to look at.  
    • We passed the Washington monument around mile 5, and I realized it's been years since I'd been to see it.  I can barely remember.  I live 30-40 minutes away.  Kinda sad.  After that is a straight-away, where you can see faster runners heading back.  Wow.
    • In this segment I passed some warriors.  I can't say enough about how inspiring these people are.  There were runners with double prosthetics, runners in wheelchairs, etc.  They had a palpable affect on the people around them, kind of like...
    • The Air Force dude at Mile 6, who was running while playing tunes on a recorder.  Srsly.  He was cool.
  • Miles 6.5-9
    • I must have missed the mile 7 marker, because I was getting tired and there was no end in sight!
    • Mile 8 took us past the Jefferson memorial, but I didn't really appreciate it.  I was crunching numbers in my head, trying to figure out what time I wanted to see when I came in to the finish.  In retrospect, I wish I hadn't been so worried about it.
    • We crossed the George Mason Memorial Bridge, also the location of the mile 9 marker.  There were people with a cooler on the bridge, pouring beer for runners.  Win... though I didn't stop.
  • Mile 10
    • The last mile is a little deceptive.  The overpasses make these little rolling hills, and it curves so it's hard to really gauge how much is left.  I definitely started to slow down this mile.
    • I focused on my stride, shortening it for the 'inclines' and leaning into the down-slopes.
  • The finish
    • The route curves around sharply, and then there's the finish!  Awesome!  I turned the gas on the best I could and ran through the finish.  
    • The announcer encouraged people to keep walking, so I tried to.  The process was really smooth.  Within minutes I had water, my finisher coin, and food: bagels, muffins, bananas, granola bars, cookies, and more water.  
    • What was more amazing?  In the post race entertainment zone, they had even more food - sandwiches, etc - and people who walked around making sure that runners had water and gatorade.  They really seemed to anticipate the needs of the crowd.  There were even bags of extra bananas at the bag pickup. These guys run a tight ship.

The Results:  I'm so glad that I ended the season on this note.  I blasted my PR by about 8 minutes, coming in at 1:19:29 (6.5 mile split = 53:31).  This is the first time I've had a sub-8 pace in a race of any distance.  I was tired when I was done, but I felt really good.

Post-race:  I already talked about the post-race events, but I walked around for a while and stretched.  Then the 6s, Sean M, and I went to Chopp't for some salads and soda, and metro'd back.  My legs hurt later, and my feet, but I think that was just because I put a lot of effort out after not fully recovering from the marathon.  And sadly... I think it's time to retire the shoes.

Thoughts on the Race:  I can't say enough about how well run this race is, and about how inspiring it is.  The expo is large and well-run.  The course is beautiful, the people are friendly, and I'm glad I got the chance to run this year.

Will I do it again?  Well, it kind of depends on what fall marathon I choose... but yes, I would very much like to do this race again.  And since it sold out in about a day and a half this year, I'll be sure to get in quickly if I do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baltimore Marathon - 2010

Why I wanted to do this race:  This was sort of a Holy Grail race for me.  Most of my training friends had done a marathon.  I thought I should do one, too.  Plus, I wanted to see if I could run the 26.2.  Ultras had some appeal to me (before I started training anyway), but I knew a marathon was the first step.  Finally, I have a sentimental attachment to the Baltimore Running Festival - it was the first 5K I trained for, and each year I've done increasingly more distance.  Since last year was the half... the full seemed like the next step.

The Prep:  Training did not go very well.  I wasn't very disciplined, though I did get some long runs in.  The last, a 20 miler in Columbia, went very badly.  This was three weeks before the race, and the last long run planned.  I didn't really have time to experiment with what went wrong.  Fail.  However, overall, I did get in several 16 milers, one 18ish run, and one 20 miler (at a 3:50 marathon pace).

The Taper:  I took it easy before the race, in part to recover from the 20.  A few short runs a week (no more than 5 miles), some swimming, and that was it.  Oh, and I hydrated like crazy all week.

The Gear:  I ran in my Asics 2150s.  I'd experienced chafing even with my running shorts, so I put on a pair of spandex beneath them.  I wore an old baltimore 5K underarmor shirt.  Since I planned to fuel with Hammer Gels (and not the Powergel on the course), I pinned Hammer Gels to the waistband of my shorts.

Race Morning:  Aside from a minor freak-out about how early we should get there, this went smoothly.  I packed a bag with a change of clothes, gatorade, water, snacks, and flip flops.  We took the light rail in, dropped our stuff at bag check, and made a pit stop.  Then we had about 25 min to get to the start - no problem at all.  Everything was clearly marked.  I took a gel and water about 15 minutes before the start.

Goal:  I had originally wanted to do a 3:45, but after the 20, decided to sign up for the 4 hour pace group.  However, after thinking about it that night, I left my 4:00 pace bib at home.  Why?  Well... I wasn't sure I could do it.  And if I fell behind, I didn't want to get upset about the goal on my back.  I just wanted to stick with the pace group for as long as I could.  I decided that I would try to make it until about mile 18-20, and then pick it up or slow down if I had to.  I wanted to have fun.  This would be my only First Marathon.

The Race:

  • Start - Mile 6
    • The start was crowded, but I kept up with the pace group.  I missed the first water stop - it came up fast, and was just a few tables of water.  There was no time to get over.  
    • By the time we hit Druid Hill Park, I felt like the pace was fast.  I realized that the pinned gels were bouncing and hitting my arm, which actually left cuts on my right forearm.  Ouch.  Oh well.
    • Once I got some gatorade at mile 4, I felt much better.  I liked this part of the course.  Every time I felt like I wanted a down hill, it was there.  And the park was pretty.  I kept the pace group in sight and downed a gel with water at mile 6.
  • Mile 6 - Mile 13
    • Here, I stuck closer to the pace group.  I realized that they were going through the water stops faster than I was, so I got up to the front pre-stop.  This meant I could grab some gatorade, walk a few steps while I drank, and then catch up without sprinting.
    • I liked this portion of the run, too.  Fed Hill was a great neighborhood to run through.  I knew exactly where we were going, where the turnaround would be.  
    • I planned to take a gel at mile 12, but the water stop came up early - more like 11.  I quickly ate the gel and tried to get a little water down.  I didn't want to lose the group, because I knew we'd be meeting the half folks and that would get crazy.  Plus, the pace leaders were very helpful.  They pointed out potential hazards as they were coming up, and talked about what we had left.  When we hit Mile 13, we were one full minute ahead of time.  I couldn't believe how fast it went by.
    • One unexpected hazard: traffic cones.  For some reason, there were cones along the whole route, in the middle of the street.  This may have been to keep runners to one side of the road, but it failed.  Instead, runners ran on both sides (they had to.  There was no room otherwise), and collided with the cones.  I saw at least six people wipe out.  It was ugly.
  • Mile 13 - Mile 21
    • This was where it got a little rough.  The meeting point (mile 16) was really crowded and really crazy.  It was hard to keep track of the pace group.  I did my best, ducking and weaving (probably being a jerk).  However, I knew that there were hills coming from 16-22, and I wanted the pack to help me through.
    • Mile 16 at Patterson Park, I had spectators!  Yay!  Thanks Clint, Ken, and Justin!
    • Right around this point, I started taking water and gatorade at stops.  I knew I needed the electrolytes, but I also needed the water.  I was thirsty, and the gatorade was too sweet.
    • I was feeling pretty good as we approached Lake Clifton.  I knew this part of the run.  I took my last gel just before the relay point, around mile 18.  I was digging in now, and really glad to hit the flat part of Lake Montebello.
    • Around Mile 20 (a short marker, by the way), I saw the Sixes.  Yay!
    • Mile 21 seemed to take longer (because it was long, but also because I could see the whole way around the lake, which made it seem longer).  When we came out from around the Lake, I was starting to drag.
  • Mile 21 - Mile 23
    • This was a really rough part.  Coming out of the park, we hit some more rolling hills.  My legs were tired, and after the flat, even small hills hurt.  I do remember running through/by hopkins, but by the time we hit 22, I couldn't make my legs move fast enough.  The pace group was starting to pull ahead.
    • I took water and gatorade at the next stop.  And then I went to the bathroom.  Yay hydration.  It was cool, there was no line.  I gave myself a pep talk, grabbed a little more water, and started running.  I could sorta see the pace group.
    • Once I began running, I realized I wasn't going to catch them.  I decided to focus on my form and getting through the next four miles.
  • Mile 23 - Mile 26.2
    • Running by myself was a lot more lonely, though I occasionally talked with the people around me.  My real focus was just the next stop.  I walked the whole length of the next two water stops, and then continued running.  There was one part (just after the Howard Street Bridge) where my hands started tingling.  I walked a block, felt better, and started running again.
    • I did score some gummy bears running through Waverly.  Yum!!
    • By the time we hit down town, I was thrilled.  I was also amused by the evangelical guy outside of Lexington Market.  Really?  You're going to preach to me about salvation, after I've just run a marathon?  Ok.
    • I saw signs for Camden Yards: 7 blocks.  I started counting down.  I knew that wasn't the end, but that it was closer.
    • Once I hit the ballpark, I couldn't keep the smile off my face.  I wasn't moving fast.  There was definite shuffle.  But I tried to pick it up while in the chute.  I just focused on the finish line, and I was psyched to see the clock. 
    • I ran over the finish pad and into the runners corral.  And I tried to keep my legs moving (even though there wasn't room to move) so I wouldn't pass out.  I didn't. Win!

The results: I crossed the mat a little after 4:04, which was awesome!  My chip time ended up being 4:02 and change.  Based on how I felt around mile 22 and the end, I'm really happy with that.

Post-Race:  The worst part of the race was actually the post-race runner's area.  There wasn't much room after the finish to move around.  I basically hit a wall of people waiting for those shiny blankets and the medals.  I got both, and then started for the food - only to realize that the food lines were crazy-long.  I got in the shortest one (for soup), and just had that.  It was perfect.  I needed the salt.  Thankfully I'd gotten water along with my medal.  I decided to leave the race corral and go find Matt.  Worse case, I knew I could buy food - but at the time I wasn't hungry.  I even gave the beer tix away.  Sigh. We caught the light rail home, where I did eventually get food and discovered all the places where chafing happened. Ouch.

Thoughts on the Race:  This was a really great experience.  I thought the pace group was awesome.  I had no idea that 4 hours of running could go by so quickly.  I loved the support of the neighborhoods, and other runners as well.  I knew almost every portion of the route - I'd either run, walked, or driven those roads, which was cool.  I also think that it helped, knowing what was coming.  I had no stress, I just knew what I needed to get through. I do wish the finishing area had been better organized, but I'm happy with my time.  

The best part about the finish?  Finding Matt in the reunion zone and giving him a big hug.

Will I do it again:  Definitely.  I'm hoping I'll be better able to stick to a training plan.  Part of my challenge with the long runs is that I'd never done those kinds of distances before.  Well, now I have.  I'm not sure the 26.2 would have gone as well on an entirely new course.  We'll see.  I want to do Marine Corps in 2011.

So how do I feel now?  I ate like crazy on Saturday, I was so hungry.  My feet, hamstrings, quads, and hips really hurt for the first two days - however, it was all muscle ache, nothing that feels like an injury.  I'm still sore a few days later.  I do feel like I need more sleep, so I'm working on that.  I took Sun-Tues off, and I'll be swimming tomorrow.  Thursday will be the first run back, and then I'll have a nice easy run at the Army 10 on Sunday.

I'm glad I did the marathon, and I'm looking forward to the next one.  Thanks to everyone who supported and encouraged me along the way, especially Matt, the Sixes, and Team Duzy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Warrior Dash - 2010

The full blow-by-blow account is here, but I wanted to mention Warrior Dash in this blog as well.

Why I wanted to do this race:  I heard of this race a few times last year, but Matt's excitement about it pretty much sealed the deal for me.  I was looking forward to something different, and also an event we could do together.  And a mud race just sounded fun.

The Prep:  Nothing beyond my normal routine.  In fact, this was technically my marathon taper.

The Gear:  All the things I read recommended wearing quick-dry fabric, because the mud/water obstacles would make us cold.  I wore an orange Columbia Tri shirt, black mesh shorts over cotton spandex, and old sneakers (blown out a while ago).  I planned to donate the shoes at the end of the race.

Race Morning:  We had to leave kind of early (8:45a for the 12:30p wave) because the race was so far away.  I packed a bag with a towel, a change of clothes, and some snacks.  We picked up the Sixes and headed north, stopping briefly to fuel with Chick-Fil-A (another reason why this was a great race.  We could do that!)  We met up with our friends in the parking lot (great timing) and inside the race area, which was really well organized - bag drop, etc.

The Goal:  Have fun.  And don't break an ankle on the obstacles.

The Race:  Pretty much summed it up here. 

The Results: No idea.  And that's cool.

Post Race:  We sat and enjoyed the beer, turkey legs, and bands for a while.  There was some great people watching.  It was also a fabulous day - awesome just to sit outside, even though the dirt probably prevented any hope of actually getting a tan.

Thoughts on the Race: This was a really fun, not very fast 5K.  Many of the obstacles weren't nearly as tough as the website made them out to be, but that was ok.  There were some surprising challenges.  I thought the best part was running the Warrior Dash with my friends.

Will I do it again:  Sure!  Though maybe not next year.  After all, we have Tough Mudder to look forward to.