Saturday, May 2, 2015

No Boston Magic

I wanted to share a few quick thoughts on the Boston Marathon. It's been about 12 days now and I'm glad I went, but I likely won't return. The downhill pounding didn't treat me well despite my specific preparation and strength work going in.

The weather was tough too. High winds (headwinds) and some rain. Even on a perfect weather day, I just don't think this course lays out well for me.
I made a conscious decision not to adjust my pace or race plan for the weather. Even 10 days later, I still have no regrets about that, especially considering that the uphill (slower) part of the race in Boston is the 2nd half.  I ran my first half marathon in 1:16:23. That's 2:33 marathon pace, which I believe I'm capable of running (just need to put it all together).

I had trouble finding a good rhythm at Boston. I was fighting the wind and looking for a pack to settle in with for the first 7 or 8 miles which just cost me too much energy. The wheels started to come off around mile 17. My pace slowed enough that I was getting passed by way too many runners in the last 8 miles. Even my college teammate Doron Clark from Minneapolis passed me about mile 25!
I finally finished in 2:41:53 which put me in 353rd place. Out of about 30,000 runners that's not so bad I guess.

I was shivering and suffering the entire walk back to the apartment with my buddy Ryan. But luckily, a hot shower and a meal seemed to cure most of my suffering. Of course, there were sore hips and quads for the next couple days. But that's expected after a downhill race.

I'll hold off on doing an in-depth analysis of the race organization, expo, and so forth. In short, I wasn't impressed by the logistics, "27th Mile" after-party, or security (why are so many people passing through security and boarding the bus to the start line carrying bags and extra pairs of shoes if there is a no-bag policy in place??).

The bottom line is I just didn't feel the magic at Boston. Maybe it's because it wasn't a struggle for me to qualify, maybe it's because I'm a midwestern guy and Boston doesn't feel like home to me, maybe it's because I hate the 10am start time, maybe it's because I don't like the downhill pounding of the course and just didn't run well on April 20, 2015. Maybe all of the above.

All that being said, I had a good time riding the city bus and exploring Boston by foot. My Lincoln Running Company teammate Ryan Regnier and I stayed in a studio apartment in the South End area less than a mile from the finish line. It worked out really well because we had many restaurants and a nice neighborhood lined with brownstones and historic churches right outside our door.
I also got to spend a little time the airport with another of my teammates, Austin McKillip and his family. Even his mother and mother-in-law were there. Yeah, he's totally whipped.
Oh, and the JFK museum was worthwhile. That's about the only touristy thing we did that weekend.

Hope to add some pics from Boston here soon.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Getting Greedy In California: CIM Race Report (12/7/14)

Wow! I need to get back on the blogging horse here. It's been about 2 months since I had a disappointing run out at California International Marathon (CIM) and then floated into the holidays without giving an update on what went wrong.

I'm not going to over-analyze this race (wait, I probably am) but here are the high points...

I flew out with my Lincoln Running Company (LRC) teammate Ryan Regnier and met up with other teammates Brian Wandzilak, Tom Nichols (now living in Denver area), and Eric Noel (now living in California). 

Ryan Regnier and me at the Expo (above) and a shot from the shakeout run we attended.
We did the usual expo thing and had some fun there tasting Nuun flavors (I still don't like Nuun) and chatting with other runners. It was a great expo. We ran around downtown Sacramento and found it to be a pretty average city. The Old Town Sacramento area near the river was unique and packed with candy stores. Just what we needed going into a marathon!!

Ryan Regnier and I drove the course the day before the race and hid some water bottles along the way that we could find on race day. I was surprised to see that the course was not very scenic. The majority of the race was a run through a suburban scene of strip malls, tire shops and chain restaurants. I guess I had heard so many people compare it to Grandma's Marathon that I expected it to be more scenic and less suburban.

The highlight of the day before the race, though, was hanging out with Ryan Regnier's aunt Jean who lives about 30 minutes outside Sacramento. She took us to a local diner for pancakes and then drove us through the beautiful rural areas of nut trees and vineyards that are just outside Sacramento.

Despite Ryan's aunt Jean being nearby, we stayed at a Holiday Inn (which was crappy) to be near the bus pickup area on race morning. It worked out well and the bus got us to the start in plenty of time.

I was feeling good and healthy going into the race.
I had led in with a solid 2:38 at Des Moines Marathon (October 19) and then mileage weeks of 55, 106, 110, 114, 87, 79 and then 53 the week of the race. I had even suprised myself and run a 1:12 half marathon in early November during a 106 mile week (at the Good Life Halfsy in Lincoln, NE). 

Hindsight being 20/20, I see now that I was aggressive by taking this 1:12 half to mean I could run 2:30 or 2:31. My goal early in the fall was simply to PR. Anything sub-2:35 would have accomplished that. But after my 1:12 half marathon, I believed my own hype and those stupid online pace calculators. I had adjusted my official goal down to 2:32 but secretly wanted to run 2:30.

The weather was great on race morning. It was around 50 degrees (I think) and cloudy/cool at start time. I had planned to run this race without trying to pace with teammates. Nobody's goals were close to mine. We had some guys looking to run 2:22 and others looking at 2:40. 

The gun went off and I got out in 5:45 for the first mile and was happy with that considering it is a downhill mile. I followed with a 5:53 which put me right back on pace. My problem came during miles 3 and 4 where I got antsy and picked up my pace to 5:38 and then 5:36 as I tried to find a good pack to run with. 

I certainly did find a good pack. As I continued to roll along and talk to a couple guys in our pack of about 6 runners, I found that they were all 2:28 or 2:29 marathoners. I realized about mile 7 that I was punching above my weight class but was actually pretty comfortable in the 5:40-5:45 pace we were running so I made the conscious decision to just carry on as long as I could.

I was remarkably even with my pacing thanks to the pack. Miles 5-17 were all in the 5:41-5:47 range.
I began to fall of the pack around 16 miles and realized that I wasn't actually slowing down but my pack had started to pick it up in order to run negative splits. We had split 1:15:04 at the half marathon, and most off my pack would end up running 1:14 for the second half of the race and finish in the 2:28 to 2:30 zone.

I turned miles 18 and 19 in 5:59 and was really feeling those quick early miles (3 and 4). 
For mile 20 I fell to 6:18 and mile 21 was worse. I had hit the wall hard and my legs felt like stone. I probably would have tried to jog in for a 2:40+ finish time if I hadn't seen my teammate Tom Nichols struggling just as bad as myself right at mile 21. 

But I caught him and we decided to drop out together. We hung out awkwardly near the water stop and eventually found a spectator who was headed to the finish and he gave us a ride to the finish line. We got there when the clock was about 3 hours. We were able to find our teammates and the rest is history. Congrats to those who did finish CIM. I just got a little greedy.


5:47.1  28:42 at 5 miles
5:41.6  35:45 at 10k
5:42.3  57:15 at 10 miles
5:43.2  1:15:04 at Half
6:18   1:55:42 at 20 miles

2:02:29---Did Not Finish (DNF), dropped out at mile 21.

Note that I don't appear in full results but my splits are there if you search my name.