This would be the ultimate on my running bucket list – even before Boston. Someday…
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
This would be the ultimate on my running bucket list – even before Boston. Someday…
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
April 2014: The build to Big Sur.
Yep, that’s what April was all about – the final stretch in training for marathon number four. It was a great month of training. Some quality runs, though none completed on trails. Based on my Big Sur race, and in reviewing my April training, I need to do more hill workouts.
I also finalized my 2014 race schedule. With a theme of “Let’s take it to the next level”, it definitely will be a solid 2014 and, for certain, a pretty challenging second half. Woohoo!
I did have a quick biz trip to San Diego. I worked in two runs while there: a 21-miler (last 20+ before Big Sur) and a 10-miler. Both were great!
As far as new equipment & such:
[this post is totally late. i just have not been motivated to write it – or any other blog post, for that matter – but here goes…]
Do the work. Do the analysis.
But feel your run. Feel your race.
Feel the joy that is running.
– Kara Goucher
I’ve had this quote from Kara Goucher on each page of my training plans for as long as I can remember. January first through Sunday, April 27th, embodied it completely.
On April 27th, I ran the 29th presentation of the Big Sur International Marathon. An event that sold out in a record 59 minutes last July and one which will, no doubt sell out again for 2015. It’s just that beautiful of a race – or, as many categorize it, an experience. All races have basic things in common: start line anticipation, on-course challenges and highs, satisfaction in crossing the finish line, and the R&R and camaraderie aspects of the finish area. Big Sur has that and more.
Amazing scenery. Camaraderie before, during, and after the race. Sounds of nature and music on-course. Quite simply, words or pictures just cannot capture the Big Sur experience – you have to do it to fully grasp, understand, enjoy, and appreciate. A runner can watch endless YouTube videos, read race reports, listen to other runner’s descriptions, drive the course, and check out photo feeds; however, until one runs it on foot with 3300 fellow athletes, they just will never know the full experience.
I went in to the race with a plan [first line of the quote], but didn’t meet my goal. When I knew things were not going to end up as I planned/hoped, I made adjustments along the way and refined my goal [second line of the quote]. In the long run, it was an awesome day – yes, I was bummed – but I finished my second Big Sur and my fourth marathon [third line of the quote].
So, I could end the report there; but then, it wouldn’t technically be a report… Here goes:
Finishers. There are actually several distances and categories that make up the Big Sur event. For the overall event, there were 6,522 finishers, for a male/female split 40/60. For the marque marathon, there were 3,337 finishers, up from 2012’s 3,121. The male/female split was about 50/50.
Weather. The weather forecast fluctuated all week: 80% chance of rain showers down to 20% chance of showers in the AM. It ended up being a beautiful 54 degrees with little or no wind at all! Perfect running weather.
Course. The 100% paved course is a point-to-point, that starts at Pfeiffer State Park in Big Sur and makes its way North along Highway 1 and finishes in Carmel. As is the case with most course elevation charts, look at the different versions of the Big Sur course elevation and you go away with different perspectives of the he course. In my mind, it is a course made up predominantly of rollers – with one significant hill (the 2-mile, 500’+, Hurricane Point) and its corresponding downhill.
Management/Support. Course and event management, support, and volunteers were amazing! It’s tough to get lost when you are running on the highway, so marking was not an issue. The aid stations were spaced great and staffed by plenty of encouraging volunteers. For some reason, I think they were a bit more enthusiastic this year than last, but that’s me. I used the CamelBak “REFILL” program, which was spaced at every-other aid. That went well, though I ended up filling my handheld one aid ahead of a “CamelBak station” once.
Post-Race. The finish chute and post race area had a great flow to it, as usual. One thing I appreciated (which I don’t recall from last year) was that they gave small cardboard box trays to runners so they could tote their food around…nice touch. There was the typical post-race food (bananas, bagels, etc.) and they also had minestrone soup and a beer tent, for those so inclined.
Medal/Shirt. Each finisher received a ceramic medallion that was unique to their particular event/distance (marathon, relay, 5K, etc.) Event shirts (which are also unique to the particular event/distance) were picked up with bib packets and were actually pretty nice this year. I also picked up a finisher’s shirt at the finish line merch tent, which was actually nicer than the one from last year.
It’s funny, before writing this report, I re-read my 2013 Big Sur Marathon report and there are quite a few similarities in the “Recap” section. I guess I’m consistent (which is the upside) – the fact that I made some of the same errors is the downside.
Since Big Sur is a point-to-point race, runners have to catch an o’dark-thirty bus to the start area. for that reason, I drove to Monterey on Saturday afternoon, checked into my hotel, and then hit the expo/packet pick-up. I ended up getting the same hotel room as last year, which was weird. I walked around the expo, did some window shopping at a store, grabbed a coffee, then went back to the room. My carb loading plans always have pasta for dinner one night and Chinese the other – usually in that order. Last year i followed that order, this year I switched and got pasta take out and took back to my room.
I pretty much relaxed in my room all evening – watching TV, texting/talking with my wife (who stayed home), and basically vegging out/busying myself. I got my kit set and went to bed by 9:00, since my alarm was set for 0230.
I was in the first bus group (!) and left at about 0345 for the start area. Like most of my fellow runners, I cat napped on the ride to the start – though mine came after I ate my bagel and peanut butter sandwich. After I got to the start area, I headed to the same location I chilled in last year – it’s away from the food and bag check areas, less illuminated by the flood lights, and the lines for the porta-potties are short. I hit the porta-potty first (love being the first user!) and then claimed a spot on the curb to sit for the next 1.5 hours. With about 45 minutes to go before the start, I got kitted up – compression sleeves, arm sleeves, packed my sweats, etc. I hit the porta-potty one final time, checked my bag, and headed for the second wave area of the start.
The start area is a great pre-race experience. You get to hang out with people, swap stories a bit, and just veg until the start. I actually like looking at shoes as people walk by – I noticed a LOT more Hokas this year. Most of the time, though, people keep to themselves and probably try and calm the nerves…which is what I mainly did.
They called for runners to the start (which they do in reverse order, because the highway is closed and space is tight), did the typical announcements, sang the National Anthem, and in short order, the first wave was off…on time. I was in wave two and we also were off on time too: 0650.
My goal for the day was probably a stretch. It was actually more aggressive than the projected time I got using the pacing spreadsheet i got from MyMarathonPace.com; which, based on my best, flat marathon and their Big Sur factor, was 3:53:04. I went with 3:50…it seemed doable, so I planned pacing for that finish time.
I stuck pretty close to the 3:50 pace plan for the first 18 miles – sometimes slower, sometimes right on target, but mostly slightly faster. After mile 18, I realized that 3:53 may have been a smarter goal/pacing plan. I didn’t really bonk – my legs just were tired. Still, I had some high points:
After mile 18, the race goal shifted to simply PRing – beating my 3:59:45 time from last year. I ran/fast walked/ran after mile 18, monitoring my pacing on the Garmin. At about mile 22, the 4:00 pace group caught up to me (!) and I ran with them for about a mile, which was nice. The pacer was an excellent pacer, really encouraging people and providing constructive advice and coaching. I’d run with him anytime! That said, I was not able to keep up with the group, so I dropped back to a run/fast walk/run pattern…still monitoring my Garmin. Things were looking OK and at about mile 25.5, I tried to give it one final push to the finish. That lasted about a half mile and I needed to fast walk a bit…I was pretty tired at that point. Again, I wasn’t bonked, just had tired legs. Of course, I sprinted to the finish from mile 26. I wasn’t sure what my official time was until I slowly made my way to the results tent, where I learned that I gritted out a PR by 18 seconds!
Was I bummed that I didn’t make 3:50? Yes. Was I happy that I PR’d? Oh, YEAH! Do I think I could have done 3:50? Possibly. Do I think I could have made 3:53? Yes.
I crossed the finish line, picked up my medal, my food, and slowly looked for a shady place to hang out. My leggies were tuckered out – all other systems were perfectly fine.
As I stood in a shady part of the finish area, I struck up a conversation with a woman looking for her husband. I learned that Big Sur was his first marathon – at the age of 64. He was shooting for 4:20 and she was on the lookout for him, since it was close to or just past that time. I shared my “18-mile-slowdown” story with her after she shared that she’d heard from her husband mid-race and that he was getting tired (and she was getting worried.) We chatted some more, I told here that I hoped I was still running marathons when I was her husband’s age, and then she asked me a question, “Is there anything you would have done differently in your training given the “mile-18″ thing?” I quickly said, “Probably not. I think I was prepared.” I now realize that was a wrong answer. In reality, I think I need to add a bit more hill training to my plan (instead of predominately rollers) and possibly some core strengthening exercises. I think those two aspects will address the issue I had, certainly benefit my running economy, definitely help prepare me for the other races on the 2014 schedule, and hopefully lead to a new course PR at next year’s Big Sur (if I am lucky enough to run it again, since they are changing the registration process for 2015.)
Fueling. Pre-race, carb loading: I did my standard, marathon routine: 36 hours of >80% carbs and +1100 calories above my normal day. Race-day fueling: Bagel with 2T peanut butter at -3 hours, 1/2 a GU Chomps at -45 min, the other 1/2 of the GU Chomps at -15 minutes. At race time, I had been trying Tailwind Nutrition’s product for about three weeks and used that exclusively for race fuel, supplemented by a cups of water from several aid stations. Tailwind worked as advertised and, rather than detail it here, I will follow up this race report with a specific post about my use of Tailwind.
Equipment/Kit [head to toe]: Buff cap, Tifosi Tyrant 2.0 sunglasses, tech shirt from the Livermore Half Marathon, Armpocket armband, Road Runner Sports arm sleeves, Garmin 910XT, tech touch knit gloves from Target, Picky Bars #TeamGreen wrist band, Road ID (Slim), Amphipod handheld, ASCIS 55 Shorts, CEP Compression Sleeves, Road Runner Sports Dryroad socks, Altra The One shoes. I took my The North Face Better Than Naked jacket to the start (just in case), but ended up stashing it in my checked sweats bag since the weather was awesome.
Here are some photos I took. Again, on-course photography stopped at about mile 18 with the picture at Granite Canyon Bridge. Again, after that, I became focused…and tired…and left the iPhone in my Armpocket.
I ran my fourth full marathon this morning: the Big Sur International Marathon.
It was a picture-perfect day for a run and it was Big Sur…’nuf said. It didn’t end up like I’d hoped, though I still ended up with an 18-second marathon PR for the day. Full details to follow later this week in my report.
To which I commented:
“Needed this today. It was a good day, wanted it to be great! I ran, which in and of itself was a privilege and something many can’t do.”
For now, I’m resting & recovering. Tomorrow too: PTO!
I’m not particularly driven or “cheered along” by catchy phrases or quotes while I’m running; thus, my “mantra” selection is usually limited to nil or a recurring 8-count.
That said, I picked up the acrostic in this picture while watching an great video about Brother Colm O’Connell and his coaching at St. Patrick’s High School in Iten, Kenya. This note has been sitting on my desk ever since.
If you’re a runner, the entire, 55-minute video is excellent (great lunchtime viewing.) O’Connell briefly shares about the FAST technique beginning at 5:34.
He doesn’t dive deeply into it; but, to me, it means:
I have found that cycling through this acrostic keeps me in check and my mind occupied while running.
I still do the recurring 8-count though…I actually find it calming.
Oh, and I’ve been known to tell myself to “embrace the suck” as well…
[so, this is three months late, but here it is…]
My 2014 race schedule is based on a phrase that a colleague of mine uses…a lot: “Let’s take it to the next level”
Since I started running in the fall of 2011, I have deliberately and purposefully taken things slow, working at increasing distance and skill of this this thang I’ve come to greatly enjoy. I also set the goal back then to run at least one race each month, just to keep myself accountable to a training schedule/plan and to continually challenge myself.
2013 was a very solid year for me: one 10K, eleven half marathons, two full marathons, and a 50K (my first one.) As I was looking at goals for 2014, I thought about sticking with a consistent core of half marathons that surrounded a couple of full marathons. There was also the pull to run more trail ultamarathons, as well as having also registered for my first multisport (South Bay Duathlon in March.) Running ultras was an eventual given and, depending upon how South Bay went, I figured that I would incorporate at least one additional duathlon (if not a triathlon) into 2014. Finally, in 2013, I rode Foxy’s Century and had blast…should I do it again? On top of all that, and certainly more important, there was the aspect of looking at home commitments (my amazing wife being #1) – oh, and work too.
So many options. So many considerations. What to do…and not do?
At the end of the day, I decided to focus exclusively on what I really enjoy: running (after completing March’s duathlon, of course.) I really enjoyed duathlon and can see myself doing more of them – triathlon at some point, as well. I also really enjoyed riding Foxy’s Century as it solidified cycling as another sport for me. All that said, training correctly for duathlon/triathlon/cycling events would involve carving out a substantial amount of time from a run-focused training plan and, realistically, would not enable me to take my running “to the next level” in 2014.
So, with all that considered, this is the schedule I’ve planned for 2014 [updated on 5/9]:
The count: one 10K, one 12K,
six five half marathons, three full marathons, four five 50Ks, and a duathlon.
So, a solid 2014 on tap and, for certain, a pretty challenging second half. Definitely a year that will be a blast. Of course, not all these will be run as “A” races. Some will be preps for the following race (yeah, I’m learning that more and more); but, all will be run with the goal of taking it to the next level in 2014. I also have one or two TBD events in my back pocket, but those are not definite enough to list… 😀
March 2014: Completed my first multi-sport and have now returned to a run-focused training plan/schedule.
Yep, I can now say I have tried multi-sport – a duathlon, to be specific. Not just “tried,” I’m hooked…though I am not planning on doing any others in 2014. I thought about doing others this year; but, at this point, I have too many other running-focused goals set for 2014 to insert training for duathlons and definitely don’t have time for triathlon training. I will certainly be back for the 2015 South Bay DU and possibly give triathlon a go.
This month, I also decided on the rest of my 2014 schedule. I’ll share that in a subsequent post, but it’s gonna be a fun and challenging 2014!
No biz trips this past month – WooHoo!
As far as new equipment & such:
I’m on a quick biz trip to San Diego and, just like last year, my second 20-miler in prep for Big Sur fell on my Sunday away. Not a bad thing though – last year it was Austin & Lady Bird Lake, this year San Diego & Mission Bay/the Pacific.
It was a great run – made memorable by a few things:
With an early-morning meeting and 20 miles on the schedule today, I got an early start (0400.) Actually, no earlier than a typical workday, but early for a Sunday. I must have been zoning out early in the run. Just ahead of mile seven, I moved from the road to the dirt/sandy shoulder thnking that it would be easier on my legs early in the run. At almost exactly mile seven, I tripped on a root or something and basically did a full-on, forward trip in the dirt/sand. Luckily, it was mostly sand (and not pavement.) I basically slid and wasn’t too skinned/scrapped up – just totally sandy on the front side of my body. DOOH! The funny part was that, after the trip, I sped up – running a pace just below or above 8:00 for most of the next eight miles. Guess I woke up!
After reading about Tailwind Nutrition on Facebook, Twitter, and a few blogs, I bought some single-use packs last week to give it a try. I’d used it on two runs prior to San Diego (10 miles each) and then on today’s 20-miler. The two 10-milers worked pretty well – today went great. I ate a half pack of GU Chomps before the run to get some pre-run carbs and only used/drank Tailwind on the run itself. I used 500 calories worth on the run – 250 cals (2.5 scoops) in each Amphipod (18 oz) – basically the same calories I use in GU Gels. I will say that the product worked as advertised. Again, I didn’t eat any GUs and also didn’t take any Salt Tabs on the run. I felt fueled sufficiently and didn’t have any cramping in my calves (which has been an issue) and for which Salt Tabs seem to do the trick. I’m still evaluating Tailwind, but I’m seriously considering a switch for fueling longer runs and races.
More to follow on Tailwind, for sure.
When I planned my route for this morning, it included running as far as possible along one side of the Pacific Ocean inlet to Mission Bay. A fence prevents you from going all the way to the end of the point. I spotted quite a few feral cats in the rocks while running – my headlamp illuminating their eyes. At one point, after passing a group of cats, I spotted a furry creature ahead and to my left – only to realize that the furry part was an upright tail of a skunk! I must have startled him/her, as they were prepping for a spray and not simply looking at me – no illuminated, cat eyes, only a black and white tail! Needless to say, I picked up the pace considerably, darted right, and started sniffing to see if there was any change in the area’s odor. No change…whew!
Twenty miles was the goal, but twenty-one ending up being the final route; just to get all of Mission bay in and to run along the Pacific. This was my route this morning. Very nice run: perfect weather, nice pacing for a long run, felt good after…just a bit tired, but not sore. [Strava]
It was still dark for most of the run and when I was running along the Pacific, so no photo from the early sections; but, I did get a nice shot of sunrise on Mission Bay:
I have a 10-miler on tap for tomorrow morning – doing back-to-back longer runs. Woohoo!
Last Saturday, I ran the inaugural Livermore Half Marathon – the first of what will be many more for this event, I’m sure. The event had two distances: the marque Half Marathon and a Family Fun 2.5K run/walk (which wasn’t timed.) I hadn’t been to Livermore in a while and forgot how picturesque it was…quaint downtown, suburban communities, ranches, vineyards, great parks system: the perfect venue for a race. I will say, for a smaller community, they pulled out the stops for this event, which will no doubt draw people back next year – I know I will be back for sure.
Finishers. I think they had a cap of 3,000 participants for the event. With rain forecast, I wasn’t sure how the turnout would be – I know I’m a “rain or shine” runner, but I wasn’t sure how many others would be given the 70-80% chance of showers. I’m sure the organizers were concerned as well. No worries – people showed up! I’m not sure how many ran the 2.5K, but there were 1,927 half marathon finishers. At the start, the announcer shared that 75% of those registered were female. Race finishers actually ended up being a 70/30 split (1,351 female/576 male.)
Weather. The weather forecast was 70-80% chance of rain/showers all day – particularly in the morning. At start time, it was partly cloudy, about 55 degrees, with an 11-MPH wind. It looked like it could rain, but the clouds were pretty high, so I thought it would hold off for a while. At the finish, it hadn’t started raining and was just a tad warmer. Bottom line, weather was great for a race!
Course. The 100% paved course was a counter-clockwise loop that started and finished in the heart of downtown Livermore. It left city center, headed south through town and the suburbs, then at ~mile 3.3 entered the park/ranch/vineyard portion (which actually made up ~70% of the course.) After that, runners returned to the downtown area for the finish. From an elevation standpoint, overall, it was a pretty flat course. Miles one through seven were light rollers, with the only hill coming between miles 7.25 and 8.8 (for about 160′ in climb) – again, not to bad…nice and gradual. After that, it was downhill all the way to the finish line.
Management/Support. Course management, support, and volunteers were awesome! The course was clearly marked and had signage and cones at the turns where traffic could become a problem (the local roads were not completely closed for the event.) The aid stations were spaced great and staffed by plenty of volunteers. The neighborhoods came out in force as well, cheering runners on as we passed homes and businesses. Again, from my observation, Livermore really embraced the event. The organizers also had photos taken along the course (courtesy of Project Sport and Gameface Media) and offered them free to runners – which was a very nice touch. A few of the free photos are shown below – they are pretty nice and adding the event logo was a nice touch as well.
Post-Race. The post race area was well-planned – all in one: the finish line fed right into the food/SWAG/awards area. Livermore, being home to several vineyards, meant they had numerous booths for wine tasting. As each runner crossed the finish line, they received a medal and an event wine glass. The wine glass also was used for post-race hydration – they had huge water dispensers at the finish line, ensuring a “green” race. They didn’t have the standard food fare (bananas, bagels, etc.), instead, a local donut shop gave out donuts to finishers – which could be chased by Muscle Milk, wine, water, or lemonade from another vendor/sponsor.
Medal/Shirt. Each finisher received a medal and a wine glass. Shirts were picked up with bib packets. The wine glass didn’t have the event logo, which would have been cool. Shirt and medal are pictured below.
A few weeks ago, I flatted while on a bike ride. After replacing the tube, I mounted the bike, started to head out, lost my balance, couldn’t unclip fast enough, and tipped over falling on my left side. At the time, I was fine – except for my pride (a guy was running by at the time.) Later that day, my hip started to hurt and I’d been nursing it ever since. At race time, it was pretty good but, as you’ll read below, it wasn’t perfect.
On a Saturday morning, Livermore is about a thirty minute drive from my house. So, I didn’t have to get up too early! That said, I did…it’s just a race-day routine.
I got to the event location early enough to park in a covered garage, just in case it did, in fact, pour rain during the race. I thought I’d prefer a covered location post-race rather than an open parking lot. I got there, parked, and walked to the start area to scope things out. I hit the porta-potty (FIRST!), got a sense of the start line area and corral arrangement, and then went back to the car to get ready. They had a bag check area, but I was close enough that I didn’t need to use it. I chilled in the car for a bit, got the rest of my kit on, and then moseyed back to the start to get lined up.
The race started on time – which was nice, since it didn’t start until 0800…I much prefer an earlier start. I lined up about 20 yards from the line – moving up about three times after looking at my fellow runners in the various areas. I really didn’t want to weave in and out of traffic and have learned over time that most people do not pay attention to the instructions on lining up according to pace. After I settled on a spot, the pacers came into the start corral. I located the 1:50 pacer and lined up near him, decided to stick with or just ahead of him.
The countdown came and we were off.
My goal for the day was not a PR (since I really didn’t expect that I could run one), but a 1:46:48 – a time purely based on a WAG of pacing per mile after reviewing the elevation profile and knowing where I was at with my training runs. The intent was to match pacing from my training and not go out too fast. The day before the race, I considered revising my goal since I had had some good workouts the previous week and even re-planned the pacing (getting closer to a PR time.) That said, I didn’t save the file – telling myself to “stick with the plan, dude.”
Miles one through seven were actually pretty good. I was pacing faster than plan, but wasn’t feeling any impact. Right at about mile six, we made a right turn and I stepped a little funny on the pavement and felt it in my left hip. A quarter-mile later, we made a sharp U-turn to head north and I felt the hip again. It wasn’t too, too painful – just noticeable. I didn’t want to injure/mess myself up, remembering that I needed to stay healthy for April’s Big Sur marathon; so, from that point on, I tried to keep decent pacing, but took fast-walk breaks when needed. Looking over my Strava analysis and the eventual result, I actually did pretty good overall. I had an excellent first half and a decent second. I probably could have pushed myself and still made or beat my goal, but again, I was thinking about Big Sur…and beyond too (i got a busy 2014.)
Overall, I am very happy with my race – 42 seconds off goal ain’t bad. I always tell myself that not all races are or should be “A” races; even so, I usually train and run like they are. In the end, and all things considered, I finished without much hip issue (I’ve had a good week of training,) with a great finish time, and surprisingly good placing in each category.
From an event perspective, this was a great one: small event, scenic and fast course, great pre- and post-race areas. Given schedule, the Livermore Half will probably become an annual race for me.
Fueling. Pre-race, carb loading: I did my normal routine: 36 hours of >80% carbs and +500 calories above my normal day. Race-day fueling: Bagel with 2T peanut butter at -3 hours, a GU at -45 min, a GU & salt tab at -15 minutes, and GUs (2) and an additional salt tab along the way. I drank 20 oz. of GU Brew electrolyte during the run, supplemented by a few cups of water from aid stations.
Equipment/Kit [head to toe]: The North Face Better Than Naked hat, The North Face Better Than Naked jacket (actually tied around my waist instead of wearing since it wasn’t raining), Brooks tech shirt from RnR San Jose, Armpocket armband, Picky Bars #TeamGreen wrist band, Road ID (Slim), Amphipod handheld, ASCIS 55 Shorts, CEP Compression Sleeves, Road Runner Sports Dryroad socks, Altra 3-Sum shoes.
Here are some photos I took or downloaded. As usual, I took no photos on the run portion…I’m too focused to stop and take ’em!