Wednesday, December 17, 2008

California International Recap

My marathon experience is coming in two parts: the first is race day itself and the second is the long and winding road I took to get there. CIM Pictures for those interested.

Part I now; Part II hopefully sometime around the New Year.

Part I

Through 18 weeks of training, I was very regimented in my miles, how I ran them, when I ran them etc. Structure was my middle name. However leading up to race day, I had what could best be charitably described as a "framework" of a strategy going into the race. My training left me confident that I could qualify for Boston but with no idea as to how fast I could go without crashing late in the race. As a result, I came up with the following plan:

1. Take the first 10 comfortably, preferably between 7-7:15/mi (thereby "banking time" towards a BQ).
2. Keep a strong tempo throughout the next 10, hopefully right around the pace established in the first 10 miles.
3. Empty the tank in the last 10k.

I wasn't completely sure what these parts would consist of time-wise but knew it would likely land somewhere between 7-7:15 pace. At least that was the hope going into race day itself.

Before that, I had to get to lovely California. I flew down Friday night and stayed with a friend of mine from college, her boyfriend and their two year old daughter. They always tell you to get the best night sleep two nights before the race. I decided to put that to the test via a two year old, a brand new aero bed and three cats. Saturday brought a few realizations: their daughter sleeps really well, cats can be fended off via squirt gun and I'm a bit neurotic in the days leading up to a race. After a leisurely morning and a great Mexican lunch, they took me to my hotel. I hit the lottery of hotel rooms; evidently I'd been upgraded to a suite, complete with HD TV, fridge, etc. Perfect for my plan on laying low and getting a good final night's sleep. The 4:15 wakeup call was going to come way too soon.

My only trip out on the town was to swing by the race expo, confirm my transportation options and grab a bite to eat for dinner. Since I was flying solo at this point, I really didn't feel like waiting for a table and eating a meal out with crowds of people. As a result, I stopped into a local deli and picked up a turkey sandwich for dinner. Not quite a bowl of pre-race pasta but I was fairly harmless and would do. As I made my way back to my room I had the following exchange in the elevator:

Very Fast looking Female Marathoner (VFFM): Is that your pre-race meal?
Me: Yep.
VFFM: What are you having?
Me: Turkey Sandwich.
VFFM: (incredulous look) Is that your normal pre-race meal?
Me: I don't really have a NORMAL meal per se. How about you?
VFFM: Pasta feed with my team. Gotta carb up you know!

Yes, that was the extent of the conversation. But nothing like having someone question your culinary choices 12 hours before you're running a race. Thanks for the support! :)

After a restless night, race day was here. A 4:15 wakeup call was met with me awaking at 4:14 and quickly answering the phone. I got dressed, had my peanut butter and matzoh (pre race meals of HMOTs everywhere) bundled up and headed downstairs. I must have been one of the last people to show up downstairs; that didn't stop me from running into the lady from the night before who asked "how's the turkey sandwich treating you?" Just fine thank you! With that bit of inspiration I was on the bus and headed towards Folsom and the starting line.

The weather on race morning was pretty ideal. Overcast skies and cooler temps made body temperature regulation a given. As a Johnny Cash fan, it was a nice bonus to be standing in the line at the port-a-potties, look up and realize I was looking at Folsom Prison. I got warmed up, had a last bit of gatorade, stretched and was ready to go. However, with this only being my second marathon (the other being 2004 Twin Cities), I once again made the mistake of waiting too late to ditch my clothes and get into the crowd. Subsequently I was stuck around the 3:50 pace group; an improvement of being back with the 4:30 group 4 years ago but still not ideal.

From there though things went surprisingly to plan. I ran comfortably, taking the uphills with equal effort over the first 10 and came through at a 7:04 pace. At about 3 miles I'd caught up to and passed the 3:10 pace group. For a split second I thought about just running with them and then decided that I felt comfortable at my current pace and was better suited to just keep the rhythm I had going. With that feeling pretty good I just kept trucking around that pace for the next 10 (I was only 14 seconds slower over the 2nd 10 miles).

Unlike my training runs (where I was notorious for not carrying water and scrambling for it whenever I could) I took on quite a bit of fluid; in fact for the majority of the race I felt a bit bloated as I'd drank a decent amount before the race itself. (the 19 water stops were definitely helpful as I could just take a cup a stop and not have to power walk/slow down to grab water knowing the next one was just around the corner) However by 20 I was starting to feel a bit "normal" again physically. The most notable part of the race through 20 was the man in his 50s who was doing what could only be charitably described as a "white man dance" to "Whoomp, There It Is" right at Mile 20. Disturbing and not what one needs when one might be trying to confirm the lack of hallucinations to that point!

The last 10k was a great challenge. In large part due to the one 24 mile run I'd done with a local group of runners who were shooting for sub 3:00, I wasn't worried about the mental aspects of the distance, I was more worried about whether I'd physically hold up. Instead I was able to ratchet up my pace 5-10 sec a mile over the last 10k. This included a final burst in the last mile created by someone walking across the street in front of me with their Schitzu, causing me to swerve, let off an internal wtf! and run just that little bit harder. It was a great feeling though in the last 10k to keep doing the math as I got closer and closer as to what the slowest time I could run to still get in under 3:10. When I hit 24 or 25 (can't remember which) and realized I could walk in, it really started to feel real. Finally, with the 0.2 to go I looked at my watch and realized I had a chance to break 3:05 so let it fly down the homestretch @6:19 pace to get in 6 seconds under the wire. I was able to negative split the race (in large part due to the advice gained from the Louis, Bill, Tim & Steve, the sub 3:00 guys I ran with) by almost 2 minutes (1:33:25-1:31:29).

Qualifying for Boston has been one of those life goals of mine so to achieve it feels really, really good. I can't wait to run Boston in 2010 and fulfill the other half of that goal. I told Becca that I split my motivations for the race into three parts: I spent the first 10 thinking about the baby to be, the next 10 thinking about her and the final 10k was a challenge/gift to myself for the ups and downs for the past two years. However at the end of the day, Becca was at the top of my mind the entire race. She has given me the support I needed to make this happen. I'm sure she's looking forward to having me back around the house a little more and to finally get working on that nursery that we're going to need by late March.

For the race geeks, below are my splits. As Becca said, I could always audition to be a metronome at some point :)


My splits:

Here's the short version:

Final Chip Time: 3:04:54
1st Half: 1:33:25
2nd Half: 1:31:29

Place: 321/5189

The down and dirty data:

0.2-6:19 pace for last 0.2 (or by garmin's estimation 0.33... doh!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ode to Brouwer's

Becca and I took advantage of a work trip last week to go up to Seattle, visit friends and hang out downtown. It was a great opportunity for both of us to decompress and celebrate a good 2008 and hope for a fantastic 2009. As part of the fun, Sunday we took the bus and headed up into the artistic Fremont neighborhood. We'd been given a recommendation to visit Brouwer's. It's a Flemish-inspired cafe that promoted its wide selection of Belgian beers and tasty food.

Needless to say from the picture above, it did not disappoint. The leather bound bottled beer list included SIX pages of Belgian beers. With these many choices, paralysis was bound to take hold so I left the choice in the hands of my handy waiter. A St. Bernardus Abt 12 and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, coupled with a Croque Monsieur and Belgian frites (with mayo, naturally) left me very happy. The third seasonal ale I had though left me ruing the 10.5% alcohol content of all three beers. Dude. However nothing a few more frites couldn't take care of.

In short it was a fantastic place to enjoy top notch beer and frites and heaven for someone like me currently taking a break from the training bandwagon. The added bonus is that I found out it is located less than a mile from my friend Mark's place.

With that, I'd like to honor Brouwer's with a Davis Haiku:

Seattle's Fremont
Brings Belgian Beers and Pommes Frites
Too Much Temptation


Becca found her Seattle nirvana via a slightly different indulgence:

I actually considered getting the 5 kg(!) jar of Nutella for her (look at those puppy dog eyes) but in the end was too afraid of emerging one morning to find her passed out in chocolate-hazelnut coma, spoon still in her hand....

Monday, December 15, 2008

Good God

And here I thought Portland was beyond hokey people in horrible holiday sweaters telling me the weather.

Monday's weather forecast

I stand corrected. Thankfully the Storm of the Century (i.e. a normal Minnesota winter day) is coming by Wednesday to increase the entertainment level.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It ends with a whimper...

With a four hour final that left me feeling a bit flustered, unsatisfied and disappointed in my performance, my MBA education is complete.  A few of us went out for a quick drink after class and I found myself a bit melancholy about the program finishing.  It's been two years of my life that has exposed me to many new ideas, professors both fantastic and horrible and 14 other people who I've gotten to know pretty well.  And suddenly it is done. 

I know there are plenty of new things on the horizon and I'll stay in touch with folks but next Monday is going to seem awfully strange. 

More about the successful marathon experience soon.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Peaking at just the right time

Back to writing. Hoping to have a lot more time to write as a lot of things in my life reach a peak.

First and foremost, my MBA education is two classes and one final away from its conclusion. This past Monday I (hopefully) successfully presented and defended my final project. As Becca can attest, this project took up an inordinate amount of time over the past 14 weeks but 41 pages, 20 PowerPoint slides and a 15 minute presentation later, my primary research on customer satisfaction for a local Portland firm is complete and if do say so myself, not half bad. I'm not the greatest public speaker by any stretch of the imagination but my final presentation was one of the first times I've felt truly comfortable up speaking in front of a group. Heck, I even transitioned to the wrong slide and was comfortable enough to quickly shift the topic, address the "new" slide and continue to move right along (the issue with shifting the order the day before the final presentation). I can definitely point towards this as one of the things that my MBA program has helped me the most with. Doing group projects and having to get up in front of people to present findings has definitely helped me become more comfortable with speaking outside of my more comfortable areas of 1-1 or small groups.

I'll likely have more to reflect on once I'm done with the program but getting my MBA has been a bit of a mixed bag. My classmates have been great; while some have put a greater effort than others into the program everyone is there to learn and when push comes to shove are willing to put in the time and effort to be successful. Now the amount of time or effort largely depends on how challenging our professors are. With Willamette's Portland program being a relatively new program, teaching quality has been a bit of a mixed bag. As a result, unless properly challenged the class as a whole tended to step up (or down) to the quality of professor. Additionally, with the program being new our class have had to deal with the program not always being well organized from certain perspectives. For example, as a student I should not have to be proactively asking for information regarding our final project in the weeks before we're supposed to start.

There's a part of me that wishes I'd tried to apply to the upper echelon business schools. But life is about choices; Becca and I had made ours to live in Portland and haven't regretted it one bit. With a new nephew here, another on the way plus our own baby 16 weeks away from joining us we're very happy to be here and within spitting distance of the family. And the program has allowed me to learn quite a bit, challenge myself in places, learn across a number of fields what constitutes good customer service, meet some very great people who I plan on staying in touch with and potentially even help me come up with a business idea or two. So with a slight tinge of what could have been, I finish my MBA program this Tuesday. Exciting stuff.

With one major mental milestone comes an accompanying physical one. I leave in about 7 hours to fly down to Sacramento and run the California International Marathon. Late in the summer during my effort to get in shape for Hood to Coast, I decided that now was as good a time as any to train for a marathon. Unlike my effort in the 2004 Twin Cities Marathon, my goal this time is not simply to finish. My primary goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon (since I'd be running it in 2010, my qualifying time is 3:15). My 20 mile training runs have been around this pace so I feel good about my chances of hitting this number. However, come race day it can be a completely different story. With a net downhill course however, I wouldn't be surprised if I make it well under the 3:15 number. For now I get to settle for being edgy physically due my tapering my mileage, neurotically mentally as i check and recheck my packing list and just generally ready to be done so I can start drinking beer and eating fried foods again.

The one constant through all of this? The support of Becca. She's been my absolute rock providing me everything from in depth counsel on my MBA work to chocolate milk and bagels after my Sunday long runs. Come Wednesday morning, I'm all hers again. And sweetie? I promise to start working on the nursery on Wednesday :)

Off to go catch a flight and run fast. More from the other side.