Friday, October 22, 2010

Closing up shop

This sunday October 24, 2010 is my last planned race for the year. It takes place in Cinncinati OH, Stone Steps 50K. The course record is 4:16:27.; that is an average of 8:10 for 31 miles with a total elevation climb of 10,000'. My PR is 4:43:47; my plan is to just go all out with the front runners. See how they handle the course and everything.  Not sure if I can go the distance, but I will lock in and go as far as I can with them.  A lot of running is pain management and we all hurt in the race. This will be my moment to see how I can block out it while matching stride for stride with the leaders. 

My 10 year old daughter has confidence in me and looked me deep in the eyes then said, "you better take first or second place. If not you will bring shame to the family." A lot of runners have a coach that motivates them. I have a 10 year old that holds nothing back and expects performance. When I don't meet the goal the answer is always the same, not acceptable try harder.  I find that a reality. When I achieve the goal then we celebrate and when not achieved we move forward to improve.

So stay posted to see how this all plays out.............................

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Motoring in the Motown

Detroit Marathon October 17, 2010
Paced the 4:45:00 group; Finished 4:44:58

Standing in the corrals on this fall morning the temps were very favorable.  A lot of first time marathoners were excited as we discussed the plan to cover the 26.2 mile journey.  Within minutes the race was in motion and Eminem "Lose Yourself" was blaring through the speakers.  The corrals were sent out in two minute waves. So after about 16 minutes of slow progress my group was nearing the start line waiting for the chance to take on the course.  Suddenly, it was our time and we were up to speed right off the line. I hit the first mile split at 10:40. This was 13 seconds ahead of the goal.  So I got the group slowed down and before I could do anything more we came to dead stop just before we started the climb onto the Ambassador Bridge. It was a slow stop and go process in crossing the bridge.  Once we were on the decent into Canada we were making up some of the 80 seconds that were lost in the first three miles because of the congestion on the single lane of the bridge.

Passing through Canada it was a beautiful fall morning. The sun was now up and the temp was ideal. Lots of cheering as we made our way towards the Windsor Tunnel. This tunnel brings you back into Detroit under the the Detroit water. It is officially the only underwater mile in any marathon.  I practiced for this moment by learning to count my strides.  I explained to the group I can not talk in the tunnel because I need to count since the Garmin wont receive a signal.  Checking the race results it posted an exact 11 min pace through the tunnel. I had counted a 10:55 pace, but I very happy with that. Not to shabby for being a human Garmin with only a 7 second variance to a prescribed pace.

Well now we were back in the states and eight miles done.  The group was still all together and the camaraderie was building. Everyone was supporting each other as we stayed on pace.  Coming into the half marathon mark I was only 23 seconds behind the goal.  I had figured out from the bridge how I was going to cut that 80 seconds without sacrificing any of the runners. The plan was working I had only lost two at this point and with another 13.1 miles to go cutting off 23 seconds was just a mere two seconds per mile.

A good friend of mine jumped in at mile 13.5 and kept us company through mile 16.5.  At one point one of the runners in the group fell back. My buddy went back and got his spirits back up and by mile 17 the runner was back with us. He said that my buddy had really encouraged him and pulled him through the low spot he was going through in those two miles. I was really excited to hear that. As always in miles 15-18 Indian Village is one of the most supported areas! The residents come out and give out candy, cheers and beers!! I skipped on the beer and went for the jelly beans.  I knew there would be more beer in the later miles. Just before leaving the village I high fived Benny from Benny and the Jets. How cool was this day going to get? I mean really, right on schedule, great weather, a great group and now Benny.

Heading into Belle Isle the sun was warming up a bit but not to the point where it gets uncomfortable. The Isle also has a lot of wind on it. I encouraged the runners to drink enough because the lack of shade.  Everyone was staying hydrated and around the isle we went.  As we left the isle one of the runners in my group made her move. She held back through the first 22 miles as we discussed and was looking remarkably fresh. Her goal was to beat her boyfriend's time of 4:43:00. I gave her the needed splits and a good description of the last several miles. Away she went and later I found out she beat his PR by 10 seconds.

Heading into the final miles my group had shrank down to two runners. Since mile 14 I was losing one per mile. It is always tough to see someone fall back.  The group worked together alot encouraging each other and I would side up to each one of the periodically giving them some one on one encouragement.  One of the runners at mile 23.5 dropped in right behind me. He was stride for stride as we made our way to the finish. He told me to tell him when we were a mile out. I said, "don't worry you got this and we are going to finish."

Within a few minutes I saw the final beer stand at mile 24. Approaching the aid station I hollered out "Beer Me!! Beer Me!! The pacer needs Beer!!" I got a few laughs and landed two full servings of beer. I checked to make sure my only runner was still in tow and away we headed to the finish.  Occassionally, at this point he was fading. I would slow down and turn around giving him a thumbs up and a smile. He would pull up and continue on with me.  Entering into mile 25 I saw another ultra runner friend of mine Al Durham pacing his father. We chatted a bit and encouraged each other on the run.

Turning the final corner on to Fort St; me and my only runner ran the last .2 into the finish.  I checked my Garmin and it showed the last mile at 10:53 and only 1 second under my chip time.  I could not be more proud sticking to the goal and working down those 23 seconds on the back half.  The official time came back 2 seconds under the chip goal, but I am happy with that too!! I stuck around the finishing area for awhile. Most of my group was not far behind. It was nice to see that they were so close.  Especially, most of them were first time marathoners and to hit their prediction goal that close was amazing.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Showdown in Chi-Town

Once again I was able to pace another race. This time it was a first for me in a new way. I was given the responsibility of pacing a solo runner. A friend of mine asked that I run in the Chicago Marathon with the goal of setting a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time for her. Since my inception into the world of ultra running the camaraderie of being supportive of other runners has become second nature to me and I was honored to assist. Many people with whom I sometimes never met or only met via virtually have shown up at a race to support me and without that help some of my running aspirations would have not been achieved.

Race morning we all were in that excitement and a bit nervous persona as we made our way into the starting corral. Never knowing what race day will throw at one can be a bit nerve wrecking to say the least.  The biggest factor was going to be the heat. The forecast was a race day high of 86F.  Most of runners don't do audible goals and back down from what we set out to conquer.  We probably know that we should, but why? We train hard for this moment. Why would one settle for less than what they intend to do?? We bare down and go strong into the run looking to overcome what comes our way.

The race started and within a mere seven and half minutes we were across the line and ramping up to race pace.  Coming out I was instructed to run a 8:40-8:45 pace. Within a few 100 meters the pace was locked in and away we went. Going under one of the bridges the garmin lost reception and by the time we regained signal strength it was posting an extra quarter mile. I knew better and reassured her that we were on pace.
A few miles passed and I have now drank about 30 ounces of fluids. Realizing this day is going to heat up fast I continued to drink proactively.  I was focused in these first several miles on holding her back to stay on plan. She is a very driven runner and was trying to quicken the pace. Confirming we were on plan she settled back in stride with me.

After passing the Lincoln Park Zoo around mile seven my normal ultra habits kicked in and I need to relieve myself. I politely excused myself and found a tree to attended to business. Thinking oh I hope a cop isn't looking at me and back to the course ready to continue on with this adventure.  This is when I really started to realize I was drinking a lot more fluids and started to encourage her to drink more.  The heat can sap one quickly and make a hard run even harder.

Around mile 10 I saw a friend of mine working the Fleet Feet aid station and stopped to say a quick hello. Back into the race I headed and sided back up with her. Looking over at her I started to sense we were not going to hit the goal and pushing the mark to hit the second goal of sub four hours.  This is a hard thing to swallow as a pacer and even harder as a runner.  You are out there doing everything you can and it is not changing the fact you will not achieve what you set out to do.  As a runner you know deep down that there is always another day to do, but in the moment you want it TODAY.

Hitting the 13.1 mile mark I went into survival mode; this day was heating up and our goals were out of reach. Knowing she would not surrender my only thoughts were keeping her cool, drinking fluids, and getting in some calories. I was able to grab ice throughout the remaining miles and cool her down. She was drinking electrolytes every quarter mile and occasionally some fruit or other calorie item.

Around 17 miles we were doing run/walk between aid station to aid station. At one point I spotted a traffic light a few blocks up and said, "let's run to that then we walk again."  She got up to speed and continued for a good mile pass that point. It was great to see the determination in her to finish this race. Around mile 22 she brought up her PR of 4:35 and was in the mind set to break that today.  The pace picked back up and we were now focused on a new goal. Miles strolled by and the heat continued to beat down on us. Her perseverance stayed strong.

Just past mile 25 we could sense that a new PR was now out of reach. We closed out the last 1.2 miles just past her PR with a final time of 4:39:23.  I was proud of her. Being by her side for every step of those 26.2 miles I know she gave everything she had inside. Sticking it out to the end was tough physically and mentally for her, I am sure of that; and that just proves what kind of runner she is for that.  Running is not easy; especially when you run with goals. There were runners fainting, vomiting, and dropping throughout the course.  Almost every single person we talked to had the same thing to say about missing their goal by a significant amount or it being one of the hardest runs for them. 

After the race we were doing back to the hotel and a elderly married couple stopped us. He asked if he could take our picture. After the picture was snapped his wife asked how did we do. I looked at my friend and then turned instantly to them and replied, "she gave her all and is amazing."

The race was a showdown and in my book my friend won the fight for being stronger than race!!
Friend 1 vs Chicago 0