Tag Archives: marathon

Houston Marathon

This past weekend I ran the Houston Marathon. It was not the race I had hoped for, but it was the race I expected.

At the end of October, I ran my first 100 Mile race, Cactus Rose. That jacked up my knee sufficiently that it took a week to walk normal and without pain. And then I went to Thailand for 7 weeks. At first I felt like I was still recovering, then it was just laziness combined with lack of motivation. And beer. I ran maybe 6 times in those 7 weeks. Got home two days before Christmas leaving me about three weeks to “train.” Yeah, that’s not going to work out so well.

I booked my hotel and then found out a friend wanted to carpool, but was going on different days. I couldn’t change the dates of my stay, so I changed hotels. My new hotel was much cheaper but much … what’s the word? Skeezier?

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Barricading the door.

Actually, it was more of a motel – the door opened directly to the parking lot. And since I was in a somewhat sketchy area, I felt thankful the motel was kind enough to provide something to barricade the door, locks or not. And check out the festive carpeting! I can only imagine how they chose that carpeting and I’m pretty sure LSD would have to be involved. And I was now a bit further from the start of the race, almost two miles. I figured at least I’ll be warmed up by the time I got to the start.

Oh, and did I mention I was sick? I didn’t volunteer at a race the week before because I feared the weather would get me sick… and then I got sick anyway. Fortunately, the day of the race I was at 98% good. I debated whether or not to carry my phone with me. I was afraid of dropping my phone and/ or getting it wet. I really wanted to try to take pictures during the race, but it’s difficult to get anything worth a darn. And I would be able to find my friend easier after the race. I figured out how to wrap my phone in my Buff to carry it easily and safely, so I decided to take it.

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I thought making A Corral was a big deal. Nope!

The start of the race was a bit chilly. I was wearing a two tech tees, and that was good enough. It was the perfect temp for running and would only get warmer. In the A corral, I positioned myself around the 3:30 group. I started off at a comfortable and conservative pace, and held that. I didn’t want to burn myself out like I did at the last marathon. I felt like I was running well. Then I remembered I was going to need calories…

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Beautiful tree lined street.
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Neat shot with buildings.

I forgot that there isn’t real food at road races. (Bananas don’t count.) I had 4 gels and a pack of chews with me, but would definitely need more calories. What I meant to do was to pick up gels people accidentally dropped. You seem them all the time at the start of a race. That didn’t work out so well since by the time I saw them, I’d already run past them. So I ate the bananas. I had about 3 of them during the race. Normally, I like bananas, but they don’t really do it for me during a race. By my third gel, I wanted to  puke, it was like eating sugar. Luckily, there were a few spectators with bowls of snacks like pretzels and gummi bears. There was an aid station handing out gels late in the race, mile 21 or 22? I took one, and was counting on the calories, but I just couldn’t bring myself to force down another packet of sugary goo. And for that, I would pay the last few miles. It was painful to see so many people looking strong and running past me. It was Chicago all over again.

I had hoped for maybe a 3:30, but came in much later at 3:50. I felt lightheaded after I finished and desperately wanted to eat something… I would even have eaten another banana at that point. It seemed like another mile before I was finally able to get some food, sit down, and eat.

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Tired and light headed, it’s hard to see the screen in bright light. That’s why the medal is backwards.
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Eggs, sausage, biscuit and gravy, crackers, and most importantly, chocolate milk.

So what did I learn from this Marathon? (This is me talking to myself.)

Dude, you gotta train right for this! Make your training specific to the race. In order to run fast, you have to run fast!

Give the Marathon its proper respect. Yes, you can do the distance, but this is about doing it fast and without, which is waaaaay harder!

You gotta figure out how to take in calories at a road race.

Running a 26.2 road race can be just as challenging as a trail 50M. They are both hard but in different ways. All the effort you put towards running a fast marathon will also pay off at your next trail race. So who’s up for some intervals?

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Treviso Marathon – Crisis Averted

I was so close to not running the race. Mentally, I had thrown in the towel and  my poor brain started rehearsing an explanation of why I didn’t run the marathon. But I did run the race. It wasn’t a great race, but it was a great learning experience.

*    *    *    *

Initially, I planned to set up my trip itinerary with all the necessary details. However after some emailing with my sister, it seemed like she had the whole trip squared away for me.  She’s a more than capable individual, so I relaxed and left it in her hands. I now know that I should never leave things to chance (or someone else – capable or not.) I should have done my research anyway.

Just getting to the Expo was a major hassle.

We planned to check out a city market that was on the way to the Expo. We were running a bit late and, and were hustling to get to the market before it closed. The “directions” to the Expo were in Italian, so I had no idea what I was actually reading. There didn’t appear to be a specific physical address, just general instructions depending on which way you were coming from. But we figured we could plug in the street names listed on the form into the GPS and that should be good enough. We had all afternoon to find it.

It was cold and rainy out, which made for miserable driving conditions. To make matters worse, the windshield wipers made this loud honking sound with every pass. So rather than endure the honking, my sister kept switching the wipers on and off manually. Every. Three. Seconds. I found this to be extremely annoying.

We passed the market and it started raining harder. Neither of us wanted to deal with the rain, so we bailed on the market. Turning our attention to locating the Expo, we found that none of the street names from the race form were getting us any results from the GPS. We sat at a gas station pondering what to do.

At this point, we were about 30 minutes from the house. I suggested we head back home and get the other printed race info we had, but my sister didn’t want to drive back; she figured we could find it anyway. Somehow. So we headed off toward Treviso.

The next two hours were unbearable. We didn’t really know where we were going. I don’t know what my sister put into the GPS, but we seemed to be driving forever and getting nowhere. Both of us were getting severely agitated from the drive and with each other. Finally we stopped at a gas station. Amazingly, there was a map taped to the window. Even more amazingly, I found “Piazza Borsa,” one of the locations listed on my form. We input some of the nearby streets into the GPS and headed off again, feeling hopeful.

There was still a lot of circuitous driving, but then merging into traffic, we saw it: a tiny yellow arrow with the word EXPO on it. Hallelujah! As we headed down that street, more arrows appeared, and finally I saw the building where the Expo was held. I was so relieved that we’d finally found the needle in haystack.

The destination
The destination
Inside the Expo
Inside the Expo

The Expo was small and crowded. I got my packet containing my bib and chip, and my goody bag. It had all sorts of goodies: the t-shirt, pasta, walnuts, crackers, jam, even a small bottle of Prosecco! My sister went shopping at a COIN (no idea) store for girl stuff and I stood outside and took pictures of stuff. We had lunch at a small cafe nearby and then headed back.

We got home and I was exhausted. I watched TV and got sucked into the black hole that is Imgur. It wasn’t until late that evening that I started prepping my race clothes. As I went through my goody bag, I realized that the packet containing my bib and timing chip were not in the bag. I looked everywhere in my room, then the living room, the car, the bathroom. I asked my sister if she’d seen it and she hadn’t.

I somehow lost the entire packet?!!

I thought the packet probably fell out there when I was showing off the goodies in the bag at the cafe we ate at. We called the place, and surprisingly, they were still open. The person that answered hadn’t worked during the day, we should call back in the morning at 8. There was still a chance the lady who served us tucked away the packet. So we planned to drive to cafe in the morning.

I got my stuff ready. I slept maybe two or three hours. We got up extra early to make the hour+ drive. We got there and saw an old man setting up chairs on the outside patio. I showed him a note asking about the packet. He ushered us inside and  showed the note to (who I assume was) his wife. She was the one who served us, and she said there was no packet. My stomach sank. I was sure that it was going to be here. Now what?

My sister, who was majorly pissed off at this point, drove to the start so I could ” talk to an official” and straighten this out. I was in a daze at this point. I had accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to run the marathon.

We got the the race and I went to find an official, but registration had shut down hours ago. I went back to the car and told my sister there was nothing I could do. She told me, “Run it anyway. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They kick you out of the race?” This had not occurred to me as a possible solution.

So I ran the race as a bandit. Of sorts.

Waiting for the start.
Waiting for the start.

Even though I had paid for the race, I felt like a fraud at the start. I was paranoid and nervous, thinking someone was going to notice that I wasn’t wearing a bib. But no one noticed. And really, why would they?

The best thing about the race was the people. Hilariously, during the first mile, tons of guys peeled off left and right to urinate. As we entered each town, everyone was really happy and the spectators were all smiles, yelling, “Bravi, bravi!” I high-fived lots of smiling kids which was awesome. (It’s my hope that this would inspire a kid to become a runner.) People on bikes tagged along, several runners pushed people in wheelchairs, one wheelchair guy propelled himself with only one arm. Saw a guy guiding a blind guy. I’d never seen this kind of spirit in US races.

The race was a struggle for me, as I was already physically tired and mentally drained. The course didn’t seem spectacularly scenic, but  I was okay with that. I was just glad that it never rained.

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Somewhere near the finish.

I saw my sister yelling during the last bit, and that lifted my spirits. However, the last mile into the city was torture because there were so many turns and it just seemed to go on forever.  Once I saw the finish, I gave it everything I had, which wasn’t much by then.

I crossed the line around 3:45, unofficially.

Finished, feeling like death.
Finished, feeling like death. I wore a vest to carry my camera, cell phone, and gels.

I was a bit nervous at the finish, as volunteers were removing the timing chips. But I walked through undiscovered. And then I was saddened when I saw the piles of finishers medals. I didn’t try to claim one. Despite not being an “official” runner, I was really glad I ran the race. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the medal, it’s about the run.

Holiday Marathon!

I’m going to Italy! And I’m going to run a marathon while I’m there!

My sister is in the Air Force, stationed at Aviano AFB. She’s been there for two (three?) years and is nearing retirement, at which point she’ll return to the states. Back in January, we were talking and I said I’d love to visit her before she left Aviano. And coincidentally,  I had enough frequent flyer miles to get to Italy.

Her response: “Book it!”  And so I did.

I looked for races around Italy, and found one in the city of Treviso. It a road marathon, and it’s point to point. I don’t think I’ve ever run a race that didn’t finish where it started. It’s great because maybe I’ll see more sights. And I plan to carry a small point and shoot camera, so I don’t plan on running it fast. Of course I say that now, but once I’m in the thick of the pack, the run may very well turn into a race.

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I’m hopeful that I can run every day, but we’ll see. Apparently the weather is pretty crummy right now -cold and rainy, definitely not a good combination. Pizza and gelato sounds like a much better combination!

Meanwhile,  I’ve been trying to take more photos when I’m out. Here are a few  neat things from my  last few runs.

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Today, saw the Spanish Moss gone wild!
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Termite trails! So cool like a line drawing.
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Veins of a cactus plant.

And the prettiest announcement of Spring…

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Texas Red Bud, I think.

 

Chicago Marathon Race Report

The race is finally over. As usual, some things went well, some not as well. But overall, I’m happy.

Two days before leaving for Chicago, I got a cold. Seriously?! Luckily, it passed quickly. But then the first night in town catching up with friends, I had drank too much and didn’t sleep well. The day after was rough. I tried to catch up on my sleep by going to bed earlier, and that helped.

When I went for a run the next day, I’d developed some weird foot pain on the top of my right foot. I’d never had this pain before and it just appeared out of nowhere. It would go away a little as I ran,, but it was definitely still there. Brand new mystery pain days before the race – AYFKM?

The next day I went to the expo. It was huge, loud, and crowded. I bought a few things, looked around briefly and left. The whole atmosphere was just too much for me. The day before the race, we went… apple picking. I thought I was going to run while my friends picked apples, but it was more fun than I thought it would be. Especially considering I’d never seen a real apple tree with apples ready to be picked. One word: Honeycrisp!!

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The night before, I got my gear all set up. As I attempted to pin my bib on my shirt, I wished someone would create an adhesive backed bib so we can put an end to this safety pin business. (Hmm… Business idea! No, wait. They already exist. And yet we still pin…) I applied my race tat, which was a new thing for me. I had a cup of decaf tea and went to bed around 10:30. I expected to be unable to sleep, but actually had a decent night’s sleep.

I got downtown early and had to wait a good hour+ before the start. It was a bit cool, but not bad. Lots of people were wearing just the outfit they’d be running in. Some smartly had throwaway garments to keep them warm. I had just my hoodie which I hadn’t planned on tossing, but was going to. I was glad to have brought a cheap pair of cotton gloves to keep my hands warm. That helped out a lot.

I tried to eat some Belvita crackers for breakfast. I’ve eaten them before and they are edible. They have like 35 grams of complex carbohydrates, and would definitely be better than eating nothing. I tried to make some #2 business happen before the lines started forming. I’m glad I did, because once the people started showing up, the lines were 10 people deep in no time.

As it got closer to the start time, I got into the corral. I found the 3:10 pace group and listened to the pace leader make jokes. I’m not sure why, maybe it was the corny jokes, but I scooted up further into the crowd. The corral slowly filled with more and more people until we were elbow to elbow, all breathing down each other’s necks. And then it was time. The race started!

I’m not even sure if they did a countdown or not, but next thing you know, there’s a river of people in front of me, and I’m happily riding along. When you realize the thing you’ve been waiting and training for has finally begun – I love that feeling.

The crowds along the first few miles were massive and quite vocal. For the first few miles, I felt like I was being powered along just by the cheering. I was running smoothly and feeling great. My mystery pain was not bothering me at all. I tried to keep track of my pacing with my pace tat, but I found it very hard to read while running. Consequently, I never looked at it again. I decided I would just run, pace be damned.

As planned, I took my first Vanilla gel about 5 or 6 miles in. I had 3 gels on me and had planned to pick up a fourth at the aid station. I’m not sure what I was thinking, I realize now this was not nearly enough nutrition. But for the majority of the race, I was fine.

Mainly I was feeding off the crowd, watching the pavement ahead of me, trying to navigate the throngs of runners. The course was packed with people for a good portion of the race. I’d say it wasn’t until maybe the halfway point did it thin out enough to have some decent breathing room.

Early in the race, I saw a runner fall and skid on his belly because some jackass spectator tried to cross the street. Runner skids across the street and I hear “YOU MOTHERF***ER!!” I felt really bad for that guy, and was paranoid whenever I saw someone trying to cross the street.

I don’t even remember much about the course. I didn’t look around that much, all my attention was focused 10 feet in front of me. I used to live in Chicago too, so there wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t talk to anyone during the race. One guy asked me if I was the 3:10 pacer, and said he was going to stick with me even though I told him I wasn’t. And then weirdly, he must have peeled off within a few minutes. Which was fine, I wasn’t feeling conversant and don’t think I could have held a conversation if I’d wanted to.

I took another gel around mile 10 and then mile 15. I was alternating between water and Gatorade. Late in the race, the sweetness of the gels and Gatorade had overwhelmed me and I didn’t want to eat another one. And I thought I was doing fine anyway.

Then the wheels fell off. Up to Mile 23, I was averaging about 7 min miles. Mile 23, my pace dropped to 7:30, Mile 24 saw 8:09, Mile 25 8:56, and finally by Mile 26 I was crawling at 9:08. At no point during the last few miles did I look at my watch. I just tried to run. And then I’d stop. And then try to run. My hamstrings were cramping. The last mile I kept hearing spectators yelling, “It’s only one more mile!!”

Perhaps one of the worst parts was losing the pace group. Running ahead of them, then they’d catch up, and slowly pull away. I thought I’d catch a second wind, but the pacer kept getting smaller and smaller until they were gone.

I took some solace in seeing other runners stopped and walking. But that small relief was quickly displaced by the huge number of people that ran past me as I walked. And they all looked strong.  There was the slightest of hills on the stretch before the last turn. I had to walk it. Then around the corner, I saw the finish. Normally, the sight of the finish is energizing enough for a short sprint, but all I could muster was a weak jog. I crossed the finish in 3:10:39.

I missed a BQ by 39 seconds. Kind of a bummer, but I know damn well that I can do it next time.

There’s several lessons I learned.

No alcohol before a race. Save it for after the race.

Going to another city to race can be stressful in regards to availability of food. You need to be able to easily obtain and prepare the right kind of food prior to the race. I think my carbo loading was lacking in the days prior to the race.

Plan your nutrition. I think maybe I’ve been spoiled by trail aid stations that just have lots of different foods available, but Gatorade, gels and a banana don’t cut it.

Save the music for the end of the race. That’s when you need the boost that music can provide, not at the beginning.

Give your race the proper respect / Don’t overestimate your abilities. I thought I could run 26.2 miles easily. I forgot that trail running is much slower and incorporates more walking. Road running is pretty much running non-stop at a much faster pace. And that is really hard.

Final thought: Originally, I had thought about running the Wild Hare  50 Miler in November, but I may end up doing the San Antonio Marathon instead. I think alternating between road and trail races will be a good thing. And in 10 days, I have my 50 mile trail race! Time to start planning!

Making Up for Lost Races

Congratulations!
It’s amazing how exciting such a boring form response can be!

You know how they say, “You’ll never regret the times you went out and ran, but you will regret the times you didn’t,” or something to that effect? It’s the same thing with races. The Austin marathon was this past Sunday. I wish I’d run it. There was a 1/2 marathon about a month ago. I wish I’d run that, too. And the same for the dozens of 5k’s and 10k’s since the new year. Today, I took a step toward making up for lost races.

I registered for the Chicago Marathon.

I used to live in Chicago and a couple of weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine that still lives there. I was saying it would be cool to visit her, and heck, maybe do the marathon. For whatever reason, I thought it was already sold out. But then I looked it up and saw that registration didn’t open until February. So there was a chance…

I kept it in the back of my mind. On Monday, February 18, I popped back onto the site and saw registration would open at noon, on Tuesday, February 19. Tomorrow!

So on Tuesday, February 19, I parked myself in front of my computer at 11:30 and noodled around on the interwebs, waiting. Once noon arrived, I furiously began trying to register. I have never had such a hard time trying to register for a race. There are at least five screens you have to clear and each time I would clear one, two, and maybe the third, before I got booted out. I kept getting a page saying the site was “unavailable, please try again later.” I figured it was just because there were 30,000 other people trying to register at the same time.

So I kept re-entering my info. Again and again, wondering why the retarded tech team at Active.com couldn’t manage to get a few more servers to handle the hordes of runners trying to register. I mean DUH! You know this is going to happen! How are you NOT prepared for this?!!

Surely this was the stupidest freaking registration process ever. I was cursing quite a bit. After about an hour and a half, I made it to the payment screen. Surely they can’t screw this up, they want to take my money, don’t they? I submitted my info, and hit the enter button. And I waited. Watching that stupid circle going round and round, I wondered if I’d lost the connection. (Sorry Mario, but the princess is in another castle…) It was probably 3 agonizing minutes, and then – Holy Crap! A confirmation screen! I was registered!

Later this evening I see the Chicago Marathon website has posted this:

We are incredibly sorry that runners interested in signing up for the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon experienced such difficulties today. We have been working nonstop with our registration provider to find the root of the problem and a solution. Many runners were able to sign up before the registration process was suspended. There are currently 15,000 entries remaining. Before we re-open registration, we need to make sure all technical issues are permanently resolved. We will provide ample notice regarding when the registration process will re-open.

For those who were able to successfully complete the registration process, you can confirm your registration going to www.chicagomarathon.com/confirmation. For those that were charged more than once, our registration provider Active.com is in the process of refunding any duplicate charges and will notify these participants.

We do not plan on reopening registration within the next two days. We will provide another update on registration by 5 p.m. Central Standard Time on Thursday.

So I totally lucked out! I feel like I’m in an exclusive, albeit short-lived, club right now. It’s nice to know that I don’t have to stress out the next few days, trying to register and wondering if I’ll get in. No, I just have to stress about finding a race to prove that I belong in corral B.