Tuesday, October 07, 2008

2008 Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

Lakefront Marathon
Milwaukee, WI
October 5, 2008

I ran the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee last Sunday, which was my 11th marathon finish. I wasn’t expecting to have a PR race this year as my training hasn’t been the best, but I was thinking that I could realistically get sub-4:45 or definitely under 5:00. I also wanted to enjoy myself and experience a new marathon course considering that this was the first time I have run this marathon.

On Saturday, Brian and I showed up at the expo and picked up our race packets. The expo was fairly small, though probably typical for this size of marathon, which is limited to about 2700 participants. After that we headed to our hotel to drop off our stuff before heading out again to have an early dinner. The first restaurant we tried was right across the street from the official marathon hotel, so there was already a long wait. Not wanting to stand around for very long, we decided to walk around and find something else. We settled on going to a Rock Bottom Brewery, which we assumed would have some good pre-race carbo-loading dinner options. After a very filling meal, we got back to our hotel and I ended up having a great night of sleep in spite of pre-race nerves.

The alarm went off at 5am and then Brian and I got ready and left our hotel at 6am to drive to the finish. Since this marathon is a point-to-point course, there were shuttle buses for runners to take to the start, which was at Grafton High School. We got onto a bus at about 6:30am, and were wondering whether our bus driver actually knew where she was going. Luckily those toward the front of the bus helped her, along with a radio call to verify our destination. After some confusion once we finally got to the high school, and we were able to stay within the warm confines of the school to await the start and do any last-minute preparations.

The rain that had been forecast was not present – yay! It its place was a beautiful sunny sky and the temps perfectly in the upper 40’s – ideal running conditions. With about 10 minutes before the start, we lined up in between the 4.5 and 5 hour expected finish time signs.

After listening to the national anthem being sung and a tribute to fallen runners by the race director, the gun went off to begin the race.

It only took Brian and me a little over a minute to cross the start line. I brought my camera with me and planned on taking pictures and video during the race. As for race strategy, I wanted to stay within a 10:30-11:00mpm pace for the first half, and then see what I could do in the second half. I wasn’t sure if Brian would be running with me the whole time, but we agreed at the start to run at least the first few miles together.

The first several miles of the course are run on rural roads with farms and a house here and there. It was rolling but not too challenging. Running with Brian made the time go by really fast. The last time we ran a marathon together was the Chicago Marathon last year, the “Heatathon” that zapped me both physically and mentally. This was a much happier, more laid-back experience.

My legs were actually feeling a bit heavy closing in on the halfway point, and I told Brian that I didn’t think I was going to speed up any faster at this point. I also told him to go ahead if he felt good, and that I would meet him at the finish. As we passed the halfway point, though, he decided that he wanted to stay with me and help me achieve my goal. We ran the first half in 2:19, so I felt that sub-4:45 was still within reach.

The miles were going by pretty well for me even as the course became more rolling. Then Brian said that his stomach wasn’t feeling very well at about mile 14-15. As we approached the aid station near mile 16, he said he was going to make a pit stop and that he would catch up with me. I decided to walk until he did. At this point fellow ChiADead Paul caught up to me and we chatted a little bit. A minute or two later around mile 17, Brian caught up and then we were off running again. Brian’s stomach felt better, but now the effort of continuous running on pavement was starting to take its toll on his legs. He has mostly done trail ultras which is different training than running a road marathon. I myself felt pretty good in spite of a little leg stiffness, so I tried to keep a steady pace. So now it seemed like the roles were reversed…that I was pulling Brian along. He told me to go on ahead if I wanted, but I said that I wanted to run this race with him. I was having fun and since it wasn’t going to be a PR race for me, I wanted to experience the joy of finishing a marathon together with him.

The miles continued to go by, and then we were running in a really beautiful section of Milwaukee right near the lakefront. The sprawling historic homes were a treat to look at, for sure. As we passed Mile 22, I was doing the math in my head and realized that we had about 50 minutes or so to finish the last 4.2 miles to get under 5 hours. I didn’t tell Brian that at the time, I just tried to keep us running a decent pace. After we passed Mile 23, I did tell him that we had about 39 minutes to run the last 3.2 miles to get under the 5 hour mark, which was still very doable. It gave us something to aim for and to keep going in spite of seeing a lot of people around us walking a bit here and there (it can be infectious :-)).

There was a nice downhill around Mile 23-24, so Brian says “time to take advantage of some free speed!” and barrels down the hill leaving me to eat his dust. ;-) Even a nice downhill won’t make my legs much faster than they were already going.

After the hill it is mostly flat until the finish, and I was able to catch up. Now we were contending with some lakefront breezes which didn’t matter much because we were almost finished! I was getting excited about being able to hold hands with Brian, crossing the finish line together. :-)

Right after we passed by Mile 25, I nearly did a face plant after tripping over a curb as I was crossing the street. I think I was a little distracted after taking the last picture with my camera, not to mention that I was probably dragging my feet a little bit at this point. ;-) I took two huge, leg-straining steps to prevent my fall…OUCH. That got my heart rate up a bit! We continue on, getting closer and closer to the finish area. The Mile 26 sign was now visible…wow, only a few minutes left! I took some more pictures and video and then put it away so that we could focus on the finishing stretch.

We clasped our hands together with about 10 feet to go and stretched them in victory to cross the finish line! Awesome! Our final time was 4:58, which I was really happy about. It’s one of my slower marathons, but one of the most enjoyable. I am so glad that I was able to run this race with Brian. We helped each other make this a great experience.

After some post-race photos and food, we started to head back to the car. As we were walking back, it started to lightly rain, which turned into more of a moderate rain once we got in the car. I’m so glad the rain waited until we were finished. :-) On the way home we indulged in some post-marathon pizza and then of course, a post-marathon nap. The best way to cap off what was an awesome Sunday!

Brian's Report is here

Race Website
Race Profile Map

Overall Race Results
Kelly and Brian

Link to Photos

Friday, May 09, 2008

2008 Miwok 100k Crew/Pacer Report

Miwok 100k Crew/Pacer Report
Marin Headlands, CA
May 3, 2008

I had the amazing experience of crewing and pacing Brian at the Miwok 100k trail race last Saturday. Earlier this spring we decided after Brian registered for the race that we would make a vacation out of it, so we decided to arrive in the San Francisco area the Tuesday prior and spend time being a tourist. We were able to tour the Miwok course aid stations and also go on a training run from Tennessee Valley to Muir Beach. Doing this really helped me know where I would be going as crew on race day.

The alarm went off on Saturday morning at 3:30am and we both got up and started to get ready. We left our hotel in Mill Valley as planned at 4:15am. Once we parked at race start at Rodeo Beach, Brian checked in with race officials and chatted with Tom Riley, a runner he paced last year at the Kettle Morraine 100 mile, and other fellow runners. I got our finish line drop bags ready and dropped them on the appropriate tarp. Pretty soon the race director announced that we would be walking over to the start line on the beach. Brian was excited, mixed with a little nervousness, as we approached the beach. I felt the same, and I could really sense the energy coming from all of the participants.

The race actually started about 15 minutes late because of the delay with carpooling people in from a lot over a mile away to help with the issue of severely limited parking at Rodeo Beach. At about 5:55am, the race began and off went the 300+ runners to begin their 62.4 mile trek. I saw them snake their way up the hill, single file.

After a few minutes, I returned back to my car and made my way to the Tennessee Valley aid station, which is about 11.9 miles into the race. On the way I stopped at a gas station to top off the tank (paranoia about running out of gas still lingered from the previous day’s scare) and to get some coffee and hopefully some sort of breakfast item. Unfortunately there weren’t many options, so I ended up getting some animal crackers and goldfish crackers that would end up being my only crew food for the day…something I will have to plan a little better for next time! I got to Tennessee Valley, parked, and was able to snap a couple pictures of the lead runners while getting Brian’s two bottles (water and Gatorade) and other items together.

I updated Brian’s pace chart he created in Excel with the new 5:55am start time (instead of 5:40am, when it was supposed to start) so that I could get accurate time ranges of when he would be coming in. His goal finish time for this race was 14 hours, which is the cutoff qualifying time for the Western States 100 lottery. Knowing that he usually goes out a bit fast, I made sure I was in position for taking pictures and getting him his supplies. Sure enough, I see Brian run down the hill coming into the aid station at 7:58am, which is actually not in his pace chart range of 12-15 hours. It’s a 10:45 (h:m) protected finish time. Woah! Brian tells me he feels good. We exchange bottles, I give him a GU, ask him if he took his S!Caps, tell him he’s going at a very fast 10:45 pace, tell him good luck and that I’ll see him at Muir Beach.

Then I got back to my car and drive straight to Muir Beach, which is only 4 miles from Tennessee Valley, so I have to hurry up, get there, park, and ready to do another bottle swap. It took about 10-15 minutes to get to Muir Beach. I parked in the beach parking lot and walked back to where the aid station was located, near the entrance to the beach park area. I stand along the trail and cheer runners on as they go past, still fresh-looking and in good spirits 16 miles into the race.

Brian approaches at about 8:53am, 3 hours into the race. He is still “off the charts” with an overall protected time of a little over 11:30. He looks great. I hand him his stuff, tell him his pace and that it’s 5.7 miles to the next aid station (Pan Toll). I walk with him a little bit as he takes his GU. After a few minutes I wish him well and run back to my car, fill the exchanged bottles, and make my way to Pan Toll, which is a longer trek up Muir Woods Road, then onto Panoramic Hwy. I pulled into the Pan Toll full-looking parking lot, hoping to get a parking spot quickly. Luckily I was able to get one without waiting. Phew! I went over to the ranger station to pay my $6 fee and then got organized for Brian’s arrival.

At around 10:13am Brian came down from the Old Mine Trail into the Pan Toll aid station (21.7 miles) parking lot looking a little tired. Miles 20-24 always seem to be rough for him, and the fact that the miles from Muir Beach to Pan Toll were mostly uphill didn’t help matters. He took a little bit longer here, and I got him some food and GU for him to take for more energy. I told him that he was now at a 12:30 projected finish time, slowing but still ahead of schedule. I walk with him through the parking lot and wish him well on his way up to Bolinas Ridge, the next aid station, in 6.7 miles.

I get back to my car and drive up to Bolinas Ridge, another 15 minute drive on twisty roads, through the beautiful redwoods. There are a lot of cyclists on this stretch. I also see runners that are running on the Coastal Trail on their way to Bolinas. I knew that parking would be a challenge at Bolinas, as there is a parking lot that fits only about four cars and then cars are parked along the road. Seeing the parking lot, which is pretty deep, I asked a volunteer if I could just park behind one of the cars here. He said I could pull behind his, which was one of the four cars. Since his wasn’t parked as far back as the one next to it, I decided to just pull behind that one, figuring that the car probably belonged to a volunteer who would be sticking around for a while. It was a great spot because I could see runners coming into the aid station and cheer them on while sitting in my car.

A short time later I got Brian’s stuff together and stood on the other side of the trail from where the car was parked to get a better view from the top of the hill of runners coming down. At about 11:50am, I saw him at the top of the hill and was able to get a video of him running down. He still looked great after running 28.4 miles and seemed to have gotten out of the slump he was in approaching Pan Toll. I told him he was on a 13:00 pace now, still ahead of schedule. I walked with him a bit down the trail past the aid station and told him to be careful of the big downhill to the Randall Trail aid station.

After we parted ways and I returned back to the aid station. I figured I had about 3 hours to kill before I saw him again at this same aid station, so I decided to go back towards Pan Toll (no restroom facilities at Bolinas Ridge) for a little while. There was a parking lot/restroom in between at Rock Spring, so I decided to park there and get myself ready for pacing duties that would begin in Pan Toll a little later on. Since I wouldn’t have much time after I saw him again at Bolinas Ridge to get to Pan Toll, find parking, and get ready, now was my chance. I taped my foot where I had reopened a blister during our training run two days prior and got my bottle filled and what I wanted to take with me on the run ready to go. It seemed a little crazy to be getting prepared 2+ hours in advance, but I figured it would be good to do it and get it out of the way so that I can cheer runners in back at Bolinas.

I made my way back up to Bolinas Ridge and parked my car in the same spot, and cheered for the runners coming in. Lots of curious cyclists asked what event was going on, most were amazed at the distance these runners were travelling. One of the race course marshals controlling traffic would tell runners on their way back to Pan Toll that the uphill ahead was actually an optical illusion. That got a few chuckles out of the tired but still high-spirited runners. I was truly amazed at how well people were doing after nearly 43 miles of running. It definitely takes a special type of person after so many miles to show a big smile and have the energy to thank volunteers for being out here.

After a while I decided to get out of the car and stand near the aid station to await Brian’s arrival. I saw a few runners taking a break here, one of whom was debating on whether or not to continue. I think I had heard him mention that he had pulled his groin and was going to try to walk to Pan Toll and would decide there on whether he should continue (shortly after leaving the aid station, he came back and made the smart decision to DNF). I also was watching in amusement some of the kids who were water/GU2O volunteers. It’s funny what kids will do to pass the time during this time of event. :-) One of the girls was saying “only 20 miles to go” which got a few sarcastic smiles from the runners. ONLY 20 miles to go! 8-) She later switched her comment to “you’ve gone 43 miles, yay!” which I’m not sure is any better!

At about 3:06pm I see Brian approaching the aid station. He looks a little tired and mentions that he’s got bad blisters which have been bothering him for a while. He debated on whether or not to tend to them but then decided against it, not knowing if it would help matters at this point. He found a tree stump to sit on and I got him a couple cups of Coke and some salty snacks from the table, and then I reapplied sunscreen (looked like his neck was getting a bit of sun). He gave me his phone so that I could charge it in the car before we both head out at Pan Toll. At this point he was at a 13:30 projected finish time, still ahead of schedule. I urge him off the stump and out of the aid station and walk with him until we get to where my car is parked. I told him that I looked forward to pacing him at Pan Toll soon.

I got in my car and I drove down to Pan Toll, hoping that I would be as lucky as before and get a parking spot. Unfortunately when I pulled into the lot, there was a pickup truck already waiting for an open spot. He decides to park in a 15 minute parking spot, and then I see a car coming from the opposite direction (presumably from a parking spot). Sure enough, I drove around the one-way parking lot and pulled in to an open spot. Phew! I lucked out again. Now it was time to get prepared to start pacing. I went to the aid station and grabbed a GU for Brian, then walked around the parking lot a bit, stretched, and then stood ahead of the aid station to cheer on the runners and wait for Brian. My pacing stuff was ready to go, including Brian’s headlamp and my flashlight (just in case).

Familiar runners started to pass by so I knew that Brian would be coming through shortly. Finally, I see him start to come down the stairs at about 4:55pm, which is now slightly faster than his goal time of 14 hours. I mention this to him when he approaches and he responds, “Dang! We’d better get moving then!” We stopped at the aid station to get some more Coke for him and I grabbed some salty potato chips to stuff in my mouth to stave off hunger I was starting to feel.

Off we went – it was nice to start moving after sitting or standing for most of the day. The trail from Pan Toll to Highway 1 is mostly downhill, which I welcomed even though it caused a little bit of shin tightness at first. Sometimes I ran ahead so that I could take “front pictures” of Brian. So many times when we run together I take pictures of his back, so I wanted to balance it out a bit. :-) It was also good to run ahead, especially to make sure we were still going the right direction, since it seemed that this segment of the course had less pink ribbons marking the course. I encouraged Brian and noted that he was past his longest distance run of 50 miles. I could tell he was a in a bit of pain with the constant downhill – it’s ironic when the flat and uphill parts are welcomed since they hurt less to get through.

Once we were out of the woods, we crossed Muir Woods Road and we started an uphill portion of the race up to Highway 1. We were approaching the point at which the RD had noted that every year some people make a wrong turn but we knew it was coming after studying and tracing the maps prior to the race. A guy up ahead called back to us and asked if we were still in the right direction and we said yeah, it shouldn’t be too long before the hard left from this Redwood Creek Trail to the Miwok Trail. This part is pretty narrow as we brush past tall wildflowers and other plants, maybe some poison oak, but apparently I am not allergic. We walked most of this part as it was consisted of many uphill switchbacks. As we got to the more open area of the trail I made sure to look around me and take in the beautiful views. I was really glad to be out here, with Brian, on this beautiful trail.

We arrived at the Highway 1 aid station and I checked the time against Brian’s pace chart and told him he was now at about a 14.25 hour finish time now. I saw a quick look of disappointment which very quickly switched to a smile and he says, “that’s ok, I’m going to have fun the rest of this race.” I got him some Coke and when I turned around to give it to him he was sitting in a lawn chair. I smile, and say “What the heck are you doing sitting down?!” and shake my head. He asked me for a slice of pizza (yum!) and then I took a little video of him as he gave his feet a little break and had a few bites of pizza. He handed me the rest his slice which I gladly accepted, and then we thanked the volunteers on our way out of the aid station.

It was time for more uphill on the Miwok Trail. Brian knew that the downhill to Tennessee Valley would be coming soon enough. I knew from our training run the prior Thursday that this portion was pretty punishing. We continued to chug along, running occasionally when we could. We reached Coyote Ridge Trail and went up some more before going down, down, down the trail, then onto the Fox Trail. Brian is wincing every so often during this point, but trying to keep running to take advantage of the downhill as much as possible. I continued to run ahead at times to take pictures and videos.

We finally made it to the bottom of the hill, onto the pavement leading to the aid station. Just before the aid station, Brian pointed out this woman who had been cheering at different points on the course. When we approached her, he asked her name, which was Susie, and he thanked her for cheering him on during the race.

Now we were at the aid station, quickly got our bottles filled, and then headed up the trail past the stables for uphill segment on the Old Springs Trail. Only four miles to go! For me, the miles had gone by really fast. I was constantly in awe of our surroundings as well as Brian’s perseverance. The sun was starting to set as we continued on the trail. Brian was in great spirits knowing that we were almost there. A spectator mentioned we had only a couple of miles to go. We made it up the last hill, turned onto the paved trail and started the long downhill to the finish. It was the home stretch!

Brian actually welcomed the pavement as it seemed to be less painful to run on. I continued to run ahead to take pictures, and was able to look around at the views more because I could pay less attention to where my feet were landing. We could see the finish down below, definitely a welcome sight for Brian after over 14 hours and over 62 miles.

It was now twilight and the sky getting a little darker, but we luckily never needed the headlamp and flashlight I had carried with me attached to my water bottle. We made it to the bottom of the hill and while I tried to keep a steady hand with the camera to take video, Brian kicked it in and crossed the finish line in 14:27:33. Awesome! I was so happy for him. I caught up to him after the finish line and gave him a congratulatory hug and kiss, and then asked guy nearby to take our picture. What a great finish on a great day!

Brian found Tom, who was waiting for his friends to finish, and they chatted while I retrieved our drop bags so that we could put on some warm clothes. By now it was getting pretty dark and chilly. We then went over to the tent to get some post-race food and Brian’s race goodie bag. Luckily it was warm in the tent near the portable heater so we sat there while we ate and chatted with other runners. We then met back up with Tom and were introduced to his friends who had just come in. They graciously drove us back to Pan Toll where our car was parked. Thank you so much!!

Once we got back to the hotel, Brian vetoed his typical post-run ritual of an ice bath and substituted it with a nice, hot bath followed by very carefully taking off the tape from his severely blistered feet. It was really difficult for him to walk, so I pulled him around in his “wheelchair” – the office chair with wheels we had in the room. It was hard not to giggle while I was pulling him around in this chair, which continued the next day while he recovered. As for myself, I was a little sore from the 13 miles, mostly my shins and calves from the uphill/downhill running and uneven parts of trail. Luckily I was fortunate that my pre-existing blister did not reopen (I think taping it helped), and I didn’t get any new ones, either. We both got massages on Monday, which felt great. Definitely a nice way to end our weeklong vacation!

Now it’s back to mostly road running and getting myself ready for the upcoming marathon training season. I will definitely continue to crew and pace (when possible) Brian at his upcoming races. I really enjoy it and it adds variety to my own training. The ultrarunning scene is fun and interesting to me…I’m sure someday I’ll take the plunge and do one myself. :-)

Brian's Race Report

Race Video

Race Pictures

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 March Madness Half Marathon

March Madness Half Marathon
March 16, 2008

I ran my sixth March Madness Half Marathon a little over a week ago. My training has been pretty sporadic since the Chicago Marathon, mostly due to injury, as I finally decided to take the time to treat my sciatica problems (aka PITA) that have been plaguing me for the better part of a year. So, my goal for this race was to have fun and get out there to see others running the race.

I arrived to the race about an hour ahead of time with Brian and Paul (thanks for the ride, Paul!). We walked over to the gym to pick up our packets and then went back to the car to keep warm. The temps were in the upper 20’s and breezy. After a little bit we went back to the gym and looked around for others. Kevin stopped to say hi and to say Janeth was warming up, and then we spotted Jim, whom Paul was planning on running with. We headed over to the start line with about 10 minutes to spare. Brian and I were planning on running together and we lined up towards the back. Brian had run 20 muddy miles at Clinton Lake the day before, so he was treating this as an easy recovery run for him. We then saw Michael, exchanged good luck wishes with him, and waited as the race started shortly thereafter.

After about 40 seconds, Brian and I crossed the starting line and began our race. I warned him that this race is a “fast runner” race, and that crowds are pretty sparse in the 10-11mpm range. My plan was to make sure that we didn’t run too fast in the early miles, which is tempting as we saw the mass of runners leaving us in the dust ahead. Brian looked behind us and noted that there were maybe about 10-15 runners there. I knew that there would be plenty more behind us once we warmed up and sped up a little in the later miles. The first two went by in 10:56 and 10:58.

Once we turned onto Hickory Nut Grove, Brian mentioned that he wanted to hit the restroom at mile 2.5, so he decided to run ahead and would catch up with me after that point. My legs weren’t quite warmed up yet so I was a little concerned he would run too far ahead, stop at the restroom, and then run ahead before I even got there, so I decided to speed up a little and keep an eye on him to make sure that I didn’t lose him. Mile 3 passed by a bit faster in 10:36, and Brian caught up with me just after the bend. On this stretch there was another runner who was doing a very frequent walk/run sequence and was leap-frogging with us every minute or two, which was actually a bit distracting. I told Brian that we should speed up to pass her. I think she slowed a little, since we didn’t do much to lose her in the next mile. Miles 4 and 5 went by in 11:00 and 10:28. Mile 6 at 11:27 was a bit slower but there was also a pretty sizable hill and I think we were trying to adjust for the faster previous mile.

It was around this time that I started to feel foot pain that I actually experienced on and off since our ChiADeads training run on that same course on February 23. It was a dull ache that started on the outside of the foot and radiated towards the inside, all in the mid-foot area. It wasn’t bad enough to stop running, so I kept going and tried to focus on other things. Overall I was having a fun time running with Brian and enjoying the sunny (albeit still chilly) day. We started to speed a bit and were passing quite a few people, especially on the uphills. Miles 7, 8, and 9 went by in 10:33, 10:16, and 9:55, respectively. Not bad!

In spite of the lingering foot pain, I was still feeling pretty good. Then we got to the big hill at 9.5 and powered up that, leaving about 10-15 runners (all except one of whom were walking) in the dust. :-) With that hill and the water station (Shot Blok break for me), the split was slower at 10:54. The next mile was 10:34…and only two miles to go!

As we turned onto Mink from Rawson Bridge, my foot felt a bit worse and took me a little by surprise. Ugh! We had to slow down a little on this stretch and saw mile 12 with a 10:43 split. By then I was in the zone and wanted the race to be done at that point because of the foot pain (didn’t want to make things worse), so we sped up and the pain stabilized as the endorphins kicked in. ;-) We got back onto Three Oaks and pushed harder, see mile 13’s 9:57 (good!) and push towards the finish. Brian, always the gentleman :-), let me go through the finish chute first -- one of the very few times I have/will finish ahead of him in a race! -- with a finish time of 2:19:12 (officially 2:19:52). Not a PR, but a solid, well-executed effort nonetheless! We met up with Paul and Jim near the finish and congratulated them on their PR performances. It looks like everyone had a great race, as later on in the gym, I found out that Michael got a PR and that Janeth won overall female! Great job, guys!

Afterwards we met up at Panera Bread for a post-race lunch. Then Paul drove me and Brian home. After the race I was limping a bit, so I iced my foot, took some ibuprofen and then took a nice, long nap. :-)

My next race is the Shamrock Shuffle, but I won’t be racing it. Since I’ll be running with Brian in the last 10 miles of the Clinton Lake 30 miler the day before, I have a hunch my legs will be a bit sore from all the hills. It should be a fun-filled weekend!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2008 P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon

PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon
Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe, AZ
January 13, 2008

I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon on Sunday. I didn't have any PR expectations for this race since I got really, REALLY lazy over the holidays with my training. In the 14 weeks since the Chicago Heatathon, here are my training stats:

  • I ran 23 times with an average of 11 miles per week
  • I ran 10 long runs, with only 1 run over 12 miles – the 20-miler with Paul a few weeks back
  • There was just one week where I actually ran 4 times and stuck to my schedule

I contemplated switching to the half marathon instead, but because I had a pretty decent long run with Paul, I figured I would give it a shot. It would be a low-pressure, “walk-if-I-need-to” race. I decided that I would be happy with a sub-5 hour finish. I wanted to start out a little aggressively with the pace to bank a little time, and then see how things went later on. I don’t usually like to run a race like this (my marathon PR was a 1:xx minute negative split), but I knew I would be slowing down towards the end.

Saturday night came, and I actually started getting pretty nervous about the race. Luckily I had been at my dad’s house for a couple of days and had gotten plenty of sleep on the two nights before. I woke up every hour until the alarm went off at 4:30am. My dad and his girlfriend, Jane, and I left at 5:15am to get to the race start in downtown Phoenix. They live in Sun City West, so it took about 50 minutes to get there. We parked and killed time by walking around and then when it was time we headed over to the start corrals. They wished me luck and I made my way into the corral and stood next to a guy dressed as Elvis. Of course I had to get a picture taken of him and me. ;-)

At 7:40am the race started and off we went. Unlike Chicago, it only took a couple of minutes to cross the start line (only 6500 runners in the marathon compared to the 20,000 half marathoners). We headed north on 7th Ave. after about a half mile and we would stay on this road until mile 5. During these miles my legs felt a little stiff and my shins felt tight. I know it usually takes about 3 miles for my body to get warmed up, so I wasn’t worried about it. This time it took 4 miles. My splits were 10:40, 10:54, 10:34, and 10:55.

Then things started to feel smooth and I passed by mile 5 in 9:51. Nice! I actually surprised myself with a sub-10:00 split. We turned right onto Missouri, which carried us through the next few miles. I felt pretty good, I was in good spirits, and I was actually closing in on the 4:30 pace group. The bands and the cheer squads that were out there made it fun, too. My pace hovered around 10mpm in middle part of the race. I felt like I was in cruise control. It was fun seeing Camelback Mountain in the distance, too, knowing that I would be hiking there in a few days. I also eventually passed the 4:30 pace group. I still assumed that they would eventually pass me later on, but I figured I could push a little harder and try to delay that passing. ;-) Miles 6-13 were clocked at 10:06, 10:12, 10:13, 9:55, 10:31, 10:10, 9:46, and 10:04. The only negative thing at this point was that my PITA (sciatica) started hurting, just a little, at around mile 8. Luckily it wasn’t a big issue and didn’t affect my stride or slow me down too much.

I pass the halfway point at 2:14:52, which I was ecstatic about, to say the least! The time flew by and I was still on cruise control. Miles 14 and 15 were still at a pretty good pace, 10:00 and 10:07. Then my race changed…it wasn’t really a wall. I guess my lack of training finally had caught up with me. I was starting to hurt a little, but I tried to run as much as I could. I still was only walking at the aid stations, just a little longer this time. My dad and Jane had found themselves near the mile 21 marker, so I had that to look forward to over the next miles while I passed through Scottsdale. Miles 16-20 splits were 11:06, 10:42, 10:43, 10:21, and 10:43. During this stretch the 4:30 group passed by me for good, which I was fine with. I didn’t even try to speed up to hang onto them. As I was turning left onto McDowell from Scottsdale Road, I saw my dad and Jane, who were all smiles. I stopped briefly for hugs and a picture and then continued on. At this point I was doing the math to estimate how much I could slow down and still come in under 4:45 – a time I thought was a really optimistic but unrealistic goal I had in mind in the days leading up to the race. It’s amazing how much number crunching make the miles pass by and you don’t even realize it. ;-) Miles 21-24 were 11:31, 10:44, 11:19, and 11:30.

Yep, I was definitely slowing down. Strangely, though, I was fine with it. I knew at this point I would definitely come in under 4:45, so I took time to take pictures and enjoy the bands I was passing by. Turning onto University Drive, now in Tempe, I passed mile 25 in 11:42 -- my slowest mile but still under 12! – and then finally mile 26 in 11:26. Only .2 to go! I pulled out my camera to take more pictures, and then this woman, a fellow marathon participant, offers to take a picture of me with my camera. At first I declined because I felt guilty for slowing her down, but she insisted. I handed her my camera and then she ran up ahead and snapped a picture, gave the camera back, we exchanged congrats, and then she headed to the finish. I took a few more pictures in the final stretch and then crossed the finish line with a time of 4:38:04! (Last .2mi was 2:19)

After I finished, I called my dad and told him where to find me and then we headed back to Sun City West to shower and nap before heading back out to see Kool and the Gang at the post-race concert. :-)

Of the 10 marathons I’ve run, I believe this is the 4th fastest marathon. Needless to say, I am very happy (and amazed) with the result. This race was a lot of fun -- perfect weather, really flat, and different scenery than I usually see living in the Midwest. It was great getting supportive GO KELLY text messages from Paul (thanks, Paul!), along with a couple of phone calls from Brian (thanks, Brian!). I am also glad that my dad and Jane were a part of it, too. They enjoyed cheering for all of the runners and their day passed by just as quickly as mine.

Having a race like this definitely gets 2008 off to a good start! My next target race is the March Madness Half…once I get back in town I’ll need to climb back on the consistency bandwagon and do some real training to get myself back in PR shape!

Here are some pictures I took during the race:
Kelly's Marathon Photos

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