Sunday, May 04, 2008

not a day for a PR

... but I got one. No BQ -- not even close -- but still I'm pretty proud of this race. Mother nature and the course just weren't going to make a BQ possible.

I traveled up to Frederick the night before and stayed in a hotel. Halfway there I realized I left my Garmin, so I got a bonus hour of driving (and burned an extra $10 in gas). I didn't let it bother me though. Still, part of the motivation for getting a hotel was not having to drive 2+ hours on Saturday just to pick up my packet. How hard is race day pickup? Well, I got my stuff no problem at the expo.

At the expo, they had put little yellow stickies on the hilly part of the elevation map saying "it's not really that bad." I chatted with one of the pacers and got the "oh, it's the scale" response and I said something like "but that bump is over a 100 feet in mile 17." He smiled and say, "yeah, and in only half a mile." That's like a 4% grade. From the expo, I drove the hilly section of the course. Holy *****, are they **** kidding me? I figured I'd easily lose 3-5 minutes in here.

I checked the forecast and it was the same on Saturday night as it had been all week. A cold front was supposed to come through with some (possible thunder) showers, leaving low winds, low humidity, and temps in the low- to mid-60s.

I slept darn pretty well. I probably slept better than I did in California. (This marathon thing gets easier over time I think). I got my stuff on, went outside, looked up at the stars and said, "Where the *** are the clouds?" There was barely a cloud in the sky. Oh, crap. I think the cold front didn't come through overnight. The lack of cloud cover did bring lower temps though (it was 52 at the start). 52 or not, I knew with the hills, sun, and rising temperature in the second half though that I would slow considerably. If I wasn't running easily with the 3:10 pacer in the first half, I doubted I'd have a chance at 3:15.

I just decided to run my race. Before I got within shouting distance of a BQ, this was something I was pretty good at. I lined up between the 3:10 and 3:20 pacers and off we went. I started catching the 3:10 pacer in the first mile (and so did the 3:20 pacer), but I could tell he was slow. I hit the first mile at 7:35. After a couple of miles, the heart rate monitor had settled down and I stuck on 170 bpm. I kept steady at this effort in the first half letting my heart rate ease up to 172 at the half. The splits bounced around a little with the rolling hills (fastest 7:20, slowest 7:40).

A couple of things happened along the way in the first half. At mile 8, my right hip and upper quad starting to hurt. The pain didn't go away and started to grow. I very seriously considered dropping out at the half. The other thing that happened was wind came out of nowhere somewhere around mile 11? 12? Looking at wunderground, It went from "calm" at at 7:44am (race started at 6:30) to 11.5 mph gusting to 20.7 at 8:06 am (the next recording).

I hit the half at 1:38:39 (7:31 pace) and the real work began. It was getting pretty hot. It just got over 60 but there weren't many clouds and the sun was beating on our heads. We were also heading east with the wind at out back, which felt dead calm. I had some moments where I felt flush and realized I was going to have to manage my heat. I didn't let my my heart rate drift up quite like I normally would to keep pace at this point and my miles 13 through 16 were a little under 7:40. I also discovered a great trick. I would pour water on my head at each aid station which my semi-spongy Nike hat would soak up. It actually stayed pretty cold and I'd wipe my head and neck with when I felt hot. Worked great.

Mile 16. Uh oh. I just kept up the effort up the hills, but not letting myself red line. You just had to eat these minutes. At mile 18, the 3:20 pacer caught me. I thought I'd hold them off longer. They were running even splits, uphill and downhill. I'm glad I didn't run with them. I would put distance on them on the downhills and they'd catch me on the uphills. Finally at around 21 they left me for good on a long uphill. At a little shy of 22 we come back to the highway to head west back to the fairgrounds (map).

Holy crap, where did that **** wind come from? Checking wunderground, the 11.5 mph at our tail had turned into 20 gusting to 25 straight in our face! The rest of the race was just battling the wind and passing people. I got some miles in here back under 8, which I'm pretty proud of given the conditions. At mile 24, I witnessed the mile marker go down from the wind. This is one of those big wood easel-type markers. Boom. Down she goes. Running by the 24 mile mark at the time was coolrunner leitnerj, whom I subsequently passed about a half-mile later. I said hello and thought about running in with him just for grins, but my calves were starting to spasm and I thought they'd lock up if I slowed down. Plus, they call it a "race." I felt good to finish ahead of him since he's run 3:08, but of course he ran Boston 2 weeks ago, a 10K the day before Boston, and a tough 50-miler the week before that.

It was only 7:56, but I thought I ran mile 26 pretty nicely and even had a semi-sprint to get through the finish before it ticked over to 3:22.

This shows my time/place at the timing mats.

Clock Time3:21:57
Chip Time3:21:50
Overall Place50 / 923
Gender Place44 / 581
Division Place7 / 102
Age Grade62%
Total Pace7:42/M
6 5M Rank80
6 5M Time48:45
6 5M Pace7:30/M
13 1M Rank70
13 1M Time1:38:39
13 1M Pace7:31/M
21M Rank64
21M Time2:41:51
21M Pace7:42/M
24M Rank56
24M Time3:04:25
24M Pace7:41/M
Finish Rank50
Finish Time3:21:56
Finish Pace7:42/M

As you can see, I slowed down, but not as much as most people, and picked up places the whole way. I finished 75th last year, so I'll take it. 50th then was 3:17:47. I'd believe a 4 minute difference in course/conditions. It wasn't exactly easy last year either. They laid down all the mile markers before the race because of the wind. It was definitely windier but the course wasn't nearly as hilly and it was cooler and overcast.

Full splitsahol for my like-heart-rated friends.

7:35/157, 7:21/168, 7:31/170, 7:34/169, 7:26/170,
7:26/171, 7:23/171, 7:28/171, 7:34/171, 7:32/171,
7:26/172, 7:38/172, 7:43/172, 7:40/173, 7:31/173,
7:29/173, 8:04/173, 7:35/173, 8:14/174, 7:53/174,
7:42/173, 7:56/173, 7:57/174, 7:40/176, 8:10/176,
7:58/175, 2:24/180.

17 (8:04 mile) is the first "hill" mile. The mile markers must have been a little off because I was definitely better than 10 minute pace for the last 385 yards (definitely < 8 min/mi). My average heart rate was 172. I've raced 7 marathons with a HRM and I've average 172 or 173 in every one of them.


aharmer said...

Great work in brutal conditions Greg! I think you said it's a PR'll get that BQ when Mother Nature cooperates. You obviously ran pretty smart today with the continuous progression through the field. Good job!

Mindi said...

Wow. Terrific race and it sounds like you really enjoyed it. Congrats and recover well!!

Adeel said...

A PB is a PB. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

Adeel is spot on: A PB is...especially in tough conditions. Celebrate my man!!

Greg said...

Thanks for congratulations, guys. I hope it came through that I was happy about my race. I feel like I trained well and ran a smart race. That was enough to make me happy. I guess I'm an intellectual first!

Looking at the results, a 3-minute positive split is a badge of honor. Only one guy in my age group passed me after the 6.5-mile mat and I passed about a dozen.