October 19, 2010

Long Beach Half Recap

I don't have any specific reason why, but the Long Beach Half Marathon has been the favorite of the 7 half-marathons I've run.  Last year, Long Beach was my second half marathon, and this year it was my seventh.  Last year I was under trained and this year I was over trained having just ran the Chicago Marathon the week prior, but both times I've surprised myself with my performance and I think that's part of the reason I love this race.

In addition to doing well, the size of the race is perfect for my liking (that's what she said?), the weather was perfect (especially after Chicago), and the course itself is scenic and fast, with a couple tiny hills to break up the monotony my muscles don't seem to appreciate on a completely flat course.

After arriving at the start with a perfect amount of time to spare (thanks to a cop on the 710 showing me how to avoid the traffic) I positioned myself at the end of one of the many long lines for the porta-potty.  For once, I picked the fast line and I was in-n-out just in time to force my way into the middle of wave 4 as the gun went off.

I waited around for about 15 minutes as waves 1-3 started, watching impatient people jump the fence to run up to the front, or push their way forward through the tightly packed crowd.  I'll still never completely understand this.

When my wave was finally off I really had no race plan because I had no idea how I was going to feel after having run a marathon.  I was standing close behind the 4:30 pace group and decided a 2:15 half sounded modest enough, and figured it'd be a good time to see what these pace groups are all about, so I joined the pack.  After about a half a mile, I realized the pacer had WAY too much energy and was going to drive me nuts if I stuck with him for another 12.5 miles (I'm sure some people appreciate this, but not my style), so I picked up the pace and left the group in the dust.  Perhaps unrelated, but I watched the same pacer make his way into the finish...alone.

I really enjoyed the first 5-6 miles of the course with all of the turns, small hills on the overpasses, and being able to see the runners ahead and behind you at different spots.  Much like last year, this part of the course went by really fast, and I was surprised how great my legs felt especially since I was averaging about a 9:30 min/mile.  I took Powerade and water at all of the stops, and my first Gu at mile 5...without stopping!

Things started to fall apart soon afterward, at mile 7.  I was finally feeling the fatigue in my legs and my butt of all things locked up and felt like lead.  My never-ending achilles issue presented itself again and by mile 8 it hurt pretty badly.  I had my mind set of breaking my time from last year, a 2:08, and was on pace to do so until this point.  I thought about pushing on for another 5 miles, but decided it'd be best to take it easy, slow things down, and recover a bit until mile 10 where I'd pick it back up again for the last 5k.

Mile 10 came around, my leg was feeling better, I took my 2nd and last Gu, and got ready to pick it back up.  There's a slight gradual incline around mile 10 and I was having an issue getting my butt moving again (literally) so my pace continued to be a bit slow and I knew I wasn't going to be able to do as well as last year.  Oh well, better than getting hurt!

A few motorcycle cops and a truck passed me at mile 11, closely followed by the leader of the marathon.  I knew I was almost done and seeing that guy fly past me was motivation enough to get going and I picked up the pace for the last two miles, finishing in just over 2:10 - not too bad!  I didn't break my time from last year, but I was happy with my decision to let up a bit, and was impressed with my legs for surviving a marathon and a half within a week.  Splits from the race here.

I love the medals this year, and I really liked how the post-race food was well organized by giving each runner a small bag instead of it being a chaotic free-for-all.  Can't wait to do it again :-).

Next up is the Catalina Eco-Marathon in three weeks, and not sure how to prepare for that, but for now I'm giving my legs some much needed rest and recovery.

October 17, 2010

Chicago Marathon Recap

To get the stats out of the way...

Time: 5:27:25 - palindrome! :)
Place (overall): 27945
Place (females): 11388
Place (20-24): 1151

And my not-so-negative splits can be found here.

Going into this race, I knew it was probably going to be sub-par as I trained horribly, so my dream of running a 4:30 (or 10:10 pace on 10/10/10) was unlikely.  However, I was confident that I could PR or at least run about the same time as my first marathon, a 4:50, after my last 20 mile training run in which I managed to hold onto a 10:08 pace.  It became pretty clear that this was not going to happen either by the 2nd mile.

Pre-race I was lucky enough to get access to the special facilities for the Chicago running group, CARA, so I got to avoid all of the porta-potties, and lines, and hang out on the second floor of The Congress Hotel and eat bagels while talking to some first-time marathoners.

I made my way to the start and positioned myself just behind the 4:45 pace group, thinking that would be a more realistic goal.  The race started, and about 20 minutes later I was finally able to cross the starting line!  The first few miles were pretty uneventful except for the ridiculous amount of guys urinating on the supporting beams underneath the first bridge.

My garmin freaked out a bit being between all of the huge buildings, and I was weaving around the crowds of people, which lead to my first mental lapse by the third mile.  I was feeling fine and keeping my pace slow, but I noticed that my garmin was already reading 0.38 miles long.  I let this discourage me as my pace was actually much slower than I thought, and I let it continued to discourage me until mile 23 when I realized that no matter what distance my watch said I had run, I only had 3 miles left.  By the time I finished, I had run 26.89 miles.

At mile 5, we made our way into a park, and again flocks of guys were coming in and out of the not very wooded trees to urinate.  I had to go as well, but opted for the porta-potties resulting in about a 3-5 minute break.  It seems unfair that guys can just go wherever and waste less time, but they also attributed to the porta-potty line being much shorter so I guess I won't complain!

I don't remember the miles much leading up to the half way point (come to think of it, I felt totally lost and disoriented the whole race), just that I started feeling fatigued already by mile 10 and began walking through all of the water stops.  Throughout the day, I would take Gatorade, and then water at every single stop, which definitely helped me out when the heat started rising.  At the half way point, I was not feeling good anymore - I was starting to feel my lack of training.  This was the first time I took out my phone, letting Pete know I didn't think I'd finish before 5:15 and that I was having a hard time.

My achilles started aching around mile 14, and by mile 15 I decided I was done with this race.  My legs were tired, I knew there was no way I'd come even close to my previous time of 4:50, and it was getting hot out, so I gave in.  This is when I started walking quite a bit, and tweeting about how much it sucked.  But I wasn't about to drop out of the race, so I kept moving along, stopping a few times to stretch my legs.

Mile 20 finally came along and I knew I could finish.  Looking at all of the people around me, I knew I wasn't the only one hurting.  The heat was approaching 90 degrees and the whole running field looked zombie-like.  This was about when I saw a guy carrying a 7 foot mini Eiffel Tower on his back...I was not about to let that guy beat me.  I started running again and continued a walk/run pattern.

I was in so much pain by mile 23, and all I wanted to do was finish.  I knew I needed to pick it back up a bit and focus on running if I was going to finish sub-5:30, so I kept a slow, steady pace and tried my best not to walk until I crossed the finish line.  The crowd during the whole race was amazing - I couldn't believe how many people were out cheering in the streets compared to any other race I've done.  The last mile to the finish was definitely powered by the crowds as their numbers grew even more and everyone was encouraging you to push it to the finish.  I finally made my way around the last corner and kicked it in as fast as I could manage.  Crossing a finish line has never felt so good.

I got my medal and walked, for what seemed like forever, out of the finish area.  The pain that flowed into my legs was awful so I just kept walking all the way back to the hotel where I was able to keep my drop bag.  I met up with Pete and his friend, and headed to straight to the bar where I learned I wasn't the only one to have a less than awesome race.

It was a rough day out there, but I had a great time with my first big marathon experience, and am happy to add a second marathon finish to the books!  I learned a lot from this race - especially that 26.2 miles is no cake walk, and requires a lot of training if you want it to be successful (at least for me).  I also learned that I have what it takes to finish a marathon on a tough day, but that I have a lot to work on both physically and mentally.

Next up - Long Beach Half!