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!)


SeattleDan said...

Tag! you're it!

Luv you guys! Happy New Year!

Tammy said...

oops! the link is:

Anonymous said...

In the immortal words of Harry Caray, “Holy Cow!” (I would use more colorful language, but you guys seem more, er, family oriented.)

3:04?! That’s damn impressive. I’ve run the Chicago marathon 4 times, and my best time was right around 4:35. I am duly humbled. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, and Brian, for reaching your goal. That is an impressive time. "Hi" to Becca. I hope all is going well in the baby dept.