Monday, October 3, 2011

30th Wineglass Marathon: Race Report

Sunday, October 2 was the 30th Wineglass Marathon, held between Bath and Corning, NY. This was my FIRST MARATHON! (Coincidentally, this was also my 30th race since I started running in 2005.)

Dude gets a cup of The Best Soup EVER.
Training and Race Plan: Well... the idea was to follow the Brooks-Hansons beginner plan, which was written about in the January 2011 Runner's World, and train for a 3:45 race (8:35 pace). Adam Buckley Cohen's article convinced me that high-fatigue, lower-mileage marathon training that focused on goal pace runs was the thing for me. Unfortunately, I started this plan by neglecting stretching, ignoring various trouble spots, ignoring the fact that I have never been able to safely run 5-6 days a week, and ignoring the fact that I just turned 40. One prescient comment on this article: "This guy has run 40+ marathons with a 2:36 PR. The results are based on a guy who has experienced everything up to that point. His legs feeling like crap at mile 22 says it all. To each his own, but this plan doesn't sound very successful." You do the math - maybe next time. Yeah, next time I'm 25 years old.

I started Week 4 of the 15-week training plan after the Vestal XX in June. By mid-August, I developed some tendinitis and calf pain below my left knee, and I wasn't stretching out my left hip. My longest run was over 18 miles on August 21. It was a good three-hour run, and a time/distance PR, but my left leg was pretty wrecked.

Then it started raining, and I don't mean the day before the race. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee blasted eastern and central New York with over 10 inches of rain each, causing catastrophic flooding and infrastructure damage. I worked almost 90 hours of overtime between August 28 and September 14 (in 17 years with NYSDOT, I had less than 10 hours of overtime).

I didn't do another significant run until September 17, and didn't do any more long runs. I did a couple of short tempo runs and 8x800 once, but I was probably prepared for no more than half the marathon distance at goal pace. Last week, I decided to step back my goal from 3:45 to just break 4:00. By race day, I was planning to run with the 4:00 pace group for 15-20 miles, then accelerate if possible.

Course: The course map is here: Wineglass course map (PDF). It's a point-to-point course, so if I came in under 2:04, it wouldn't be an official world record due to IAAF rules (shucks). They also had their first half marathon (eliminating the marathon relay), which conveniently started at the halfway point.

Saturday Expo: It's cool that a couple hundred of you ran Boston, but I'm sure you had another jacket you could have worn. It looked like a BAA meet-up.

Swag: Thanks for the nice long-sleeve tech shirt. It fits well and it has a unique color and logo that are very eye-catching. The champagne split was delicious. The bright blue poly bag will come in handy for grocery shopping.

Field: The full marathon was capped at 2,000 entrants, but only 1,447 finished. I'm sure many of the DNFs posted in the results were no-shows, although there's some discussion on the Wineglass Facebook page about possible chip problems and finishers showing up as DNFs. Also some confusion about people switching between the full and the half.

Weather: When we left the motel in Bath at 7:05 it was freezing cold and raining heavily. Needless to say my mood soured while we made our way to the Phillips plant. The rain slowly tapered off by 7:30 when I donned my garbage bag and walked from the parking area to the start. I met a couple of nice guys from NYC who seemed to also be fans of Glad couture - I hope they had a good race. The rain picked up around 8:00 as we stood around waiting for hundreds of people to trudge up to the starting area. I met a few people in the 4:00 group, and several first-timers. By 8:05 it was really pouring again and we grew anxious to start.

Clothing: I started the layering with a compression tank, then my heaviest long sleeve poly top, windbreaker and fancy trash bag. I had to wear my poly running pants instead of shorts - with the rain and cold, you have to lean toward preserving heat because you generate less when running more slowly. If anything happens that forces you to slow further, hypothermia is a real possibility. I stuck to my Saucony Fastwitch shoes because their light weight helps keep my legs fresh, and wore my Injinji socks to prevent inter-toe blisters. I also wore a light cap and gloves. Clothing choices seemed to be a success, as I was really never too hot or cold even though I was wet the whole time. My feet got soaked and my toes got cold the last hour, but no blisters.

Race: By the time the gun went off around 8:12, the rain had let up again. There was a nice downhill start and I hit my watch as I ran across the timing mat.

First hour: Kept on pace, met up with Andy from the Binghamton area who was also doing his first. We got ahead of the 4:00 pace group because we were slightly impatient and feeling good. Passed people going up the hill at mile 4 - a little early to be busting a gut and showing off! The trash bag came off somewhere in the first hour. About every half mile I noticed Andy and I would both squeeze the water out of our gloves. The rain kept up but I wasn't cold or feeling too wet.

Second hour: We stayed a couple minutes ahead of the pace group. Someone even mentioned that 3:50 was "just up ahead" but I didn't see them and I was in no condition, physically or mentally, to accelerate. Scenery was pretty limited but there were lots of spectators in the villages. Spotted my wife and stopped to give her a kiss around the 9-mile mark. I think it was still raining.

Third hour: Still not too bad. Andy was beginning to feel it around mile 18 and by mile 20 we got separated. Right around three hours I got passed by the 4:00 pace group at a water stop. It didn't really cross my mind to try to keep up with them but I got back on the road and kept plugging. I think the rain let up around this point. My pace was very steady through mile 20 averaging 9:07, with my fastest mile at 8:53 and slowest 9:24.

Fourth hour: As I said on Facebook, "I wouldn't call Mile 20 'The Wall,' but I wouldn't call it Puppies and Rainbows either." Although I was prepared to run right through this mythical Wall, my pace for the last 6.2 miles dropped to 9:45. I had been eating a gel every 4 miles and getting water or Gatorade at almost every water stop so hydration and nutrition were OK. But everything began to ache at the same time. The little muscles and tendons that had been feeling understandably overworked were joined by the big muscles. My fingertips went numb not from the cold but from tension in my neck and shoulders. I tried not to slow down or speed up, and managed to keep grinding. The Corning bike path was very nice, a refreshing change of scenery and lined with spectators, signs and a water stop.

Finish: I was not familiar with the finishing stretch, so I tried to pick out landmarks once we got off the bike path. The white and blue stack at Corning (with the glass blower on it) was a welcome sight. Then it was over a bridge, past Wegmans and a left turn down Market Street - a great sight, to see all those people lining the street and the finish line banners. I could actually hear people cheering for me - they lied and said things like "You look great!" which were actually encouraging. I spotted my Dad, then my wife, then the finish line mat, and I was done in 4:03:10. They handed me a bottle of water, a handmade glass medal and a mylar blanket. Somehow it's the iconic post-marathon mylar blanket that made it finally feel "real".

Finish line food was great - I saw cookies, cheese sticks, Gatorade and water, pizza, and hot soup. I'm sure there was more, but all I wanted was the soup. Within minutes I felt nearly human again and ready for the long walk to the car. Maybe it was only a quarter mile - get off my back!

Official Results:

Volunteer Report: They were all AWESOME to stand out there in the cold rain, handing out Gatorade, water and gels. The Girl Scouts, the handicapped kids, the H.S. cross country teams, regular people, gave up half of a Sunday when they could have been sleeping in, going to church, and watching football in warm, dry comfort.

Spectator Report: I understand, it's hard to hold an umbrella and clap at the same time. Thanks to the spectators who handed out candy!

Injury Report: Surprisingly, the left knee and PTT have not flared up - they actually feel pretty normal. However, both calves/Achilles and the hip flexors are not happy. My Clarkson School classmate Wally Murdoch reminded me to go for an easy recovery jog today and start getting the kinks out, but I'm not sure that's going to happen.

Time and Place: My time - 4:03:10; official time 4:03:09.67, 717/1447 (top 49.6% - yeah!), 87/128 in M40-44.

Conclusions: I couldn't do much about the lost training, which was probably good for my knee. No one could do anything about the weather, and I was as prepared as I could have been. Cold gels suck. Yes, the race was 2/3 mental and 1/3 physical - and this was only the last 6 miles. The first 20 miles felt like a nice long training run.

Overall, I consider this race a success. Please don't ask me right now if I want to do another marathon!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

41st Annual Vestal XX: Race Report

Saturday, June 18, was the 41st Vestal XX Road Race (20K, 12.43 mi), held in the Town of Vestal near Binghamton, NY. This was a B race, so lower your expectations...

Training: Once again, I followed The Competitive Runner's Handbook Half Marathon plan, using a goal 10K pace of 7:30 (check out my training log and program at Google Docs). I was comfortable training at these training paces, and my base pace has steadily dropped from around 9:00/mile to about 8:40. Since Vestal is notoriously hilly, I added some distance, and hard hills to the longer runs. Running across the South Side of Binghamton to the B.U. campus and back was the key to my hill training. Since the Forks XV on March 27, I have run 230 miles.

Since I knew that marathon training was to begin in mid-June, I wanted to train easy and simply stay fit, going into Vestal with no hard time goal. I didn't crunch pace numbers or beat up the performance calculator, so I figured if I beat last year's 1:48:49 by "a few minutes," I would be happy.

Course: USATF has the  NY0743J course certification posted here. It's just a harmless loop!

Weather and Clothing: Very nice, especially since mid-June can get hot and humid. It was about 65 and overcast at the start so I wore my new Brooks shorts with the gel pocket and white sleeveless top. For about the last half of the race, I had my top pulled over my head behind my neck. Although I brought the NB940s thinking that I'd want the cushioning for pounding the downhills, I threw caution to the wind and wore my Saucony Grid Fastwitch 4's again (same as Forks).

Race: So I'm standing around the back of the starting pack, stretching a little and trying to stay loose, and expecting to hear some announcements. A 2-minute warning would have been nice but we never start races on time. All of a sudden, I can see runners' heads bobbing across the start line, so I figure "Oh shit!" and get in behind them. With fewer than 200 runners, it's easy to find a place, get moving and start moving up. The first mile is relatively flat so everyone treats it like a warmup jog.

I guess it's a good thing, but other than the start this was another uneventful race.

Here are the miles in detail (end milepost, time, description and net elevation change):
  1. 8:23: start at 860', up 25 ft to 885'
  2. 8:46: 1 hard hill, up 65'
  3. 8:16: start small rollers, up 50'
  4. 8:04: down 25'
  5. 8:18: up 55'
  6. 8:13: up 20'
  7. 8:29: up 50 ft to max elev 1100', up net 30'
  8. 8:02: start long rollers, down 75'
  9. 7:43: 1 good hill, net down 10'
  10. 8:02: down 25'
  11. 8:26: up 95 ft to 1065'
  12. 7:07: max elev 1080' at 11.3 mi then down 205'
  13. (12.4 mi) 3:06 or 7:45 pace: down 15'
This race is really two races -- a 10K with shorter, steeper hills (on local roads) that gets you warmed up for a 10K with longer hills (on a State highway). Fans of the "negative split" strategy would love this race! Once I got warmed up, my plan was to get into a 3-3 breathing pattern (3 steps breathing in, 3 steps out), which is around 8:20 pace. I was able to power up and down the hills using 2-2 breathing (while also passing people), then settle back to 3-3 on the flats. I was completely comfortable and warmed up by the turn onto Route 26 and kicked it up to 2-3/2-2 breathing.

Last year's pace for a 1:48:49 finish was 8:45, and I thought a good goal was to average between 8:00 and 8:30. The first couple of miles seemed inconsistent, but then it was good to see a few miles under 8:20 pace. After the turn, I was happy to see the pace get down around 8:00 and faster. Coming up on the 10 mile mark, I was trying to calculate my finish time. I knew it was going to be under 1:48, maybe by five minutes or so, but never thought about going lower.

I booked it down Rt. 26, passed a few more people, and made it across the line in 1:41:01 -- obviously something wrong with my watch... Average pace through 7 miles was 8:21, then 7:42 from mile 7 to the end; overall average pace 8:08.

Spectator/Volunteer Report Redux: You've got two hands -- clap 'em. And thanks for the pool water, Town of Vestal.

Injury Report: The left posterior tibial tendinitis had flared up again the week before the race and it's been nagging me since. I hope to ease into the marathon training without aggravating it. The Saucony's were fantastic - I give them credit for at least 2:00 of the PR and really only blame them a little for the PTT flareup.

Time and Place: My time - 1:41:01; official time 1:41:15, 64/178 (top 36%), 8/15 in M40-44 (first race in new age group!).

Comparison to Last Year: This was only my second time racing this course. I didn't even do any training runs on the course even though I really wanted a refresher. The long, hilly training runs must have worked -- the course seemed much less daunting and the hills seemed shorter and not as hard, even Glenwood-Rt. 26 and Pierce Hill.

Other Race Predictions: I am registered for the 2011 Wineglass Marathon on October 2. This race was a HUGE confidence booster for breaking 4:00.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

38th Forks XV: Race Report

Today was the 38th Forks XV (15K, 9.32 mi), held at Chenango Forks high school near Binghamton, NY. This was my second A race of the year, following the January Freeze 10K series. My goal time was 1:12:?? or about 7:45 average pace.

Training: I followed the Half Marathon plan from Bob Glover's The Competitive Runner's Handbook, using a base 10K pace of 7:30 (check out my training log and program at Google Docs). This was my P.R. pace goal for the January Freezes; the best I did was a new PR of 47:22 (7:37 pace). I figured that this would be a good pace to stick with since I was seeing regular improvement. I trained 180 miles for this race and have only skipped a few workouts since January. I did all but one of my speed workouts and missed one long run.

Course: USATF has the course certification posted here (the piece of NY Rt. 12 shown is about 6 miles north of Binghamton). The course looks simple enough - basically one big loop - but it's known to be hilly; there are major hills near mile 2, 6.5 and 8 (killer!). Having run the Vestal XX, this one seems pretty easy.

Weather and Clothing: Cold (about 34F) and breezy for the end of March, but this race is always a weather crap-shoot. Base layers were long pants, long sleeve top and windbreaker. The fleece headband came off rather quickly, but gloves stayed on until about half way. Wore my Saucony Cheatin' Shoes today.

Race: This race was basically uneventful! I settled into a comfortable pace by Mile 2 and was hitting around 7:40. Check out my mile splits at Garmin Connect (missed Mile 7 because I was getting water). The miles passed quickly and easily and I paced myself by my breathing, mostly 3-3 for the first 5 miles, then 2-2 for the rest. The finish was probably breathing 2-1 but it's hard to stay coordinated when you're running that hard. I was doing some time checks around Mile 7 and thought 1:12 was still a good goal. When I crossed the line with the clock reading 1:11:__ I knew I had CRUSHED IT FOR A NEW P.R.!

I still cannot figure out how other people pace themselves -- I passed people nearly the whole race (maybe 35 total) and seemed to keep a fairly steady pace. The hills were really not a problem, either, and I passed people by grinding up and flying down. Wind gusts near the start, Mile 7 and the finish were worse than the hills. Thanks to runner Bob K., who pulled me the last mile which we did in about 7:10. He was NOT about to let me get in front of him!

Spectator Report: You've got two hands -- clap 'em.

Injury Report: My left posterior tibial tendinitis had flared up over the last month and the whole area has been pretty tender and crunchy. I've been rolling and icing it, and the pain was almost gone by this morning. The less-supportive Saucony's were very comfortable, and I don't think the PTT is going to flare up at all. Otherwise, no significant strains to speak of - the abs and legs feel mostly fine. (Should I have run harder?)

Time and Place: My time - 1:11:09; official time 1:11:13, 67/249 (top 27% - best place ever??), 8/15 in M30-39.

Other Race Predictions: I use the McMillan Running Calculator to predict race performances. This race predicts a 5K in 22:06, 10K in 45:55 and Marathon in 3:35:28. I seem to do better at longer distances. I am now certain that I can break 4 hours in the marathon if I can just stay healthy. For those of you who missed the announcement, I registered for the 2011 Wineglass Marathon on October 2.

Other News: Volunteering on December 31, 2010 satisfied my requirement for TCRC's Grand Prix. Based on my best five races, I was the ninth and last qualifier in the Male Open class. I believe I win a mug.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Leaf Peeper Half Marathon: A Race Report

So... it's about time I started writing these race reports such as my triathlon-doing, ultra-running blogging friends do. I guess a half marathon is long enough to justify a couple of hundred words?

Preparation: Here is my training log on Google Docs. My last long runs over 10 miles were 12 on July 4 and 10.25 on July 11. Draw your own conclusions. Having not run much over the last... uh, several months, actually, relative to this new, longest race distance might not have been too smart. This race WAS a late decision, though.

Course: The Cortland Leaf Peeper Half Marathon starts and ends at Yaman Park in Cortland, NY, and is a simple out-and-back along country roads. The first 4+ miles are flat as pee on a plank, then there is a series of hills - tiny, medium, and UGH! - between about mile 5 and the turn-around. This is a mixed blessing for me as you will see. Also, there was some discussion about whether the course was about 1/10 mile long - I calculated my paces based on a long 1.2 mile last leg and 13.2 mile total.

Race: It was cold but clear this morning with a predicted high around 60 degrees, the kind of weather that makes you grab every piece of athletic gear you own. At race time, you could end up in shorts and a tank, or you might need pants, a long sleeve shirt, jacket, hat and gloves. Well, it did warm up quickly after a half-mile jog, so I ended up in shorts, T-shirt and gloves - perfect! I passed a few runners who might have been slowing and overheating in their heavy gear.

I wanted to run the first half around 8:30 pace, then get down around 8:00 pace on the way back. However, the breeze was deceptive (to those not paying attention?), as outbound we ran with the wind, and while it was refreshing on the way back, it had a definite effect on speed and energy consumption. Splits going out were 8:26, 8:22, 8:29, 8:38 and 7:39 - avg. 8:18. Then there was an absence of mile markers, so miles 6-8 in 24:44 were 8:15 pace. Remaining splits were 8:20, 7:58, 8:23, 8:38, and 1.2 miles in 10:03 (8:22) - avg. 8:20. Total time 1:49:45.

The middle three miles are where the hills were so I think I did well to maintain pace, and even pick up a little on the downhills. I will pass people chugging uphill, then fly past them downhill. Then they catch me on the flats. Especially if it's into the wind. I think that's all there is to say about that.

Barefoot Runner Report: Saw one guy in what looked like VFF KSO's and a woman in Sprints. They both finished ahead of me. Not sure if anyone else was going minimalist. You can easily spot the VFF's, but if someone wants to wear a minimalist flat, who's to know. Also, I did not spot any Luna huaraches.

Injury report: My lower abs and hip flexors have been sore the past couple of weeks. The abs seem to have worked themselves out today, but the hips are still achy. My left hip is always tight and it throws lots of things off - my left hamstring gave a little complaint around mile 10, but there were no lasting effects. I have always been the poster child for DOMS. I expect to be sore tomorrow, and lucky to walk by Tuesday. P.S. Do not pin a gel to the inside of your shorts where it can rub on your skin. You will get a boo-boo.

Overall: 65 out of 187, including early starters/walkers; 13 out of 23 30-39 AG. 1:49:53 official time, my time 1:49:45. (Someone please tell me why it's so hard to get actual chip times at the start!)

Recovery: My darling wife is making me beef stew. Yum. No, you cannot have any so do not even ask. I expect to enjoy some wine this evening then sleep in tomorrow. CORRECTION: We appear to be having beef bourguignon. All of the wine went into the stew. Frowny face.

Thanks to my TCRC friends Chris and Sue for the ride. Congratulations to Sue on 2nd place AG! (I won't say which AG. I'm a gentleman that way.) And congrats to Chris on 7th of 24 AG. Props to Cortland YMCA for putting on a good race and getting the weather to cooperate - check their web site for complete results which are, amazingly, already posted. See you again next year.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

End of Week 3: You Can't Fight Physics

Well, that was fun while it lasted. I know that I now have the strength, stamina and flexibility to complete the rest of the training plan, but the little matter of a stiff big toe is bringing everything to a halt. Don't believe me?

A bunion is "an abnormal enlargement of the joint (the first metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTPJ) at the base of the great or big toe (hallux)." It's usually either an inflammation of the bursa around the joint, or bony ridged growth around the ends of the bones meeting at the joint. A dorsal bunion, which forms on the top of the foot, limits upward bending of the big toe. In the running stride, this limits the push-off from the big toe unless the foot or leg does something to overcome it.

There's a saying I remember from structural analysis - stiffness attracts load. If you push on an otherwise flexible wood-frame building that contains one steel column, the steel will take up most of the stress because it cannot be displaced as far as the wood without requiring more force. If all the toes are flexible but the big toe is stiff, the big toe will do a disproportionate amount of work.

The muscle and tendon which plantarflex the hallux come around the inside ankle bone (medial malleolus) like a pulley and attach about three inches up on the posterior medial side of the tibia. This insertion point will get inflamed and painful from all the increased work the big toe has to do, and that's the case with my left foot.

The only way to correct the dorsal bunion is with surgery called an osteotomy, of which there are several types depending on the technique used to cut and shorten the first metatarsal, and named for the surgeons who invented them. There are ways to reduce stress on the hallux, one of which is to simply raise it with padding. This allows the big toe to remain straighter on push-off and moves the push-off point from the toe to the front of the metatarsal. I've had this type of padding before but forgot that it may be of some use.

Time to call the podiatrist and see if he can fix me ASAP.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

End of Week 2: Great Weather, Sick Dog, 30 Miles

The heat and humidity have broken. The fog cleared and the sun came out this morning around mile 1.5, but it was dry and breezy. You cannot ask for better summer running weather.

Mac's elbow hot spot has come open (gross!!!) and we are keeping it wrapped and the dog in the Cone of Shame. I expect that he will need surgery this week to have it cleaned and stitched together. Time to return cans and bottles!

I still have some doubts about completing the entire training plan. There is a left medial shinsplint issue that did not respond to an injection of anesthetic three weeks ago and flares up if I'm not careful (running too far in the Asics, running in the new 850's). But I will keep running according to the plan and see if I can get in to the podiatrist again soon. I appreciate that the plan gives me something to shoot for and is designed to build steady improvement. I know I can run the prescribed paces, I did well in the Vestal XX (relative to a flat marathon), and I can already feel the benefit of the increased weekly distance, although I need to get more sleep!

This was the lightest week on the schedule (the schedule I started 2 weeks late) - only 28 miles planned. I count my warm-up and cool-down so all told it was almost 30 miles. Today's 10-mile easy run was good - I had to use forced walk breaks to keep the pace just above 10 minutes/mile. Nine miles helped me warm up for a 7:48 last mile (shh! don't tell the plan!). Week 3 starts including strides in the easy Tuesday runs and adds a marathon goal pace (9:09 MP) segment to the easy Friday run. Long/easy run pace dips just below 10:00/mile.

Mileage update: 29.95 for the week, 52.75 for July, 525.15 YTD.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day 11: Hot Weather, Sick Dog, and a Time Trial

Today is Day 11 of the 98-day 4:00 marathon training plan. This is an "easy" week, only 28 miles.

I'm home with a dog who licked himself a new... hot spot. Damn near licked his elbow clean off. Now he's a hot dog with a Cone of Shame, some cream, and lots of pills. (Don't worry work people, this is vacation time! Despite the fact that he is a family member, I'm not sure this is eligible for FMLA leave.)

On the training schedule today is a one-mile time trial. This will be done on the treadmill with the heart monitor. Next one's in four weeks so I can check progress. I would like to start charting average HR vs. average pace to get an idea of fitness. Temperature should also be factored in - anyone got any ideas how to chart fitness like this?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Once More, with Feeling

Another test post to see if FB can dig it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Still Running Over Here

But not so much on the blog these days. You will find me on Facebook posting about runs, rants and the other junk you've all come to expect from me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Racking Up the Miles

Hey kids! June was a good month - 65 miles - and July is off to a good start. I ran 14 miles on July 4th when we were in Massena, the dullest out-and-back you can imagine! OK, the scenery was decent, and it was overcast so not too hot, and nutrition and hydration were fine, and I love my new Garmin HR monitor, but it was a tough 2+ hours and I got badly chafed in two not-entirely-unexpected places. On the way out, I wanted to keep my HR below 170 and needed some walk breaks, and the way back was into the wind while I wanted to negative split - so more walk breaks.

Mileage update: June - 65 miles; YTD through July 4 - 407 miles.