Archive for December, 2009

Pace: December LMJS 10K.

That was the goofiest 10K I ran yet.
Some background – I have volunteered as a pacer for the Oakland marathon, but there’s a requirement to have paced before. This sounds a little Catch-22, but is understandable. It’s acceptable to have paced a non-marathon, like for instance an LMJS 10K. So I thought I would do that in the new year, and showed up for Sundays race all ready to deep-six my pathetic old 10K PR.
While we were standing around yakking before the start, I had a sudden realization. I can’t do it next month, because I’m co-directing that race, and there is no 10K in February because of the Couples Relay. Gotta do it today!
I found Melissa, the marathon pace coordinator. “OK” she said. “What mile pace do you want? We’re about to announce the pacers”.
“Um er, Eight minutes?”
And off I went to the start line. Argh! Why didn’t I pick 7:30? My legs know that one.
“Um anyone know what finish time 8:00 would give me?”
“50 minutes” said a voice, and we were off.
Hm. going to have to check that 50:00 thing. I was not wearing the Garmin, which has been a bit flaky lately. This is two laps around a 5K course, with mile markers at mile 1 and 2. These are of course wrong for the second lap, so I’d have to figure out something for that too. Is this too fast? Shouldn’t there be more people in front of me? It looks a little sparse up there. Worry worry.
First mile marker: 7:43. Ouch. Slow down, relax, watch the ducks and boats on the lake. Someones was passing me, good. It takes an effort of will not to speed up when there’s a sweaty hard-breathing guy on your shoulder.
Mile 2 split: 7:51. I really thought I’d slowed more than that. Gotta put on the brakes some more. I had a plan for the mile markers now. I’d simply hit the split button as I crossed the start line, so I’d have two meaningful per-mile splits during lap two. The field was quite spread out now, but I was catching someone who had slowed. “Are you the 50-minute guy?” he asked. “Yes. Actually I’m a little ahead of that, but I’m making adjustments”. He looked crestfallen. I thought about cajoling him to run with me, but it seemed hopeless. He had plainly gone out way too fast and was fading badly.
The first mile of lap two was 8:03, Good, giving some of that time back. Now, about that finish time... One benefit of running slowly is that I was still able to do math. 5K is 6.2 miles, so 8 times 6 and 1/5 is …. 49:36 exactly. Glad I figured that out.
Next split: 8:09. Good. Still need to slow a bit.
Dawdle dawdle.. Here comes the finish, with the clock. Maybe four seconds early. I slowed down and bunny-hopped across the line to the amusement of the timekeepers. Only two seconds early. So now that’s done.
I was amused to discover I’d placed third in my age group. It was a useful exercise though. I’ll need to go slower than that in the marathon – 3:40 is 8:23 average pace – but the hill will help. The time that it adds will probably mean running about 8:10 on the flat, and there will be 26 markers for me to keep track. I might even measure how far apart the streetlamps are on the first part of the course so I can get my pace accurately dialed in within the first few hundred yards – something Garmins are are not too good at. Speaking of Garmins, mine is having problems. It turns itself off mid run-even though it’s well charged. I’ll try the big reset, and see if there’s a software upgrade, but maybe its time has come. I’m in no big rush to replace it. It would make a change to time myself over measured distances for a while, and train my builtin pace-keeper.

2009 – Three marathons, two half marathons, a 10 mile trail race, 15K, a 10K, and a 5K, That’s all the racing I did. Not much, really.
Of these, just two were not PRs, The 10K was held in San Francisco’s Chinatown in wind and torrential rain in February. Fun in a splashy way, but not fast. The other one was the Big Sur Marathon, which rather famously is not a PR course!
So the newbie improvement curve is continuing with the help of some serious mileage. Last week I passed the 3,000 mile mark for the year. I must admit that these back-to-back marathon training cycles are becoming stale. So here’s the loose plan for 2010.

Boston is the next goal race, but just to make things a bit more interesting I’ll be leading a pace group in the Oakland Marathon three weeks beforehand. As my final long run of training it will be over-length and slightly fast, but I don’t care. My pace will be 3:40 over a course with a 600 ft hill in the first half.
The other marathon I run next year will likely be New York, which gets Cathi’s vote. I’ll skip San Francisco, maybe run the half. In the summer I’ll attack the shorter distances which I have so neglected in my training.
I’ll likely dip my toes into the barefoot/minimal shoe thing soon. My gait still needs a little work, and that should help it.

Race: CIM 2009

Here we were again standing in the road in Folsom, waiting for the California International Marathon to start. I had in fact already done some running that morning. There were more than a busload of runners staying at my hotel, but just the one bus. We could see some other buses nearby, so 50 people ran across a 6-lane road. Fortunately traffic was light at 5 am. “But there’s no crosswalk here.” “No, but we’re runners!” “Bit early for a warm-up, though, isn’t it?”

I was dithering over what to wear. It was cold, but windless, just getting light. Once I had dropped off my sweats, I was in a short-sleeve shirt, arm-warmers, and an old sweater over all. Shorts and hat completed the ensemble. Then I realized that the sweater presented a problem. If I waited till I was warmed up before getting rid of it, I’d be pulling it over my head while running, trying not to lose my hat and hand-held water bottle. So off it came and got added to the growing pile. My arms were now stinging, despite the arm-warmers. Oh well.
When I asked him at the expo, the 3:15 pace leader said that he was planning to bank some time during the early downhills. I was not too thrilled to hear that, so deliberately lined up well behind him just in front of 3:20. The guy in front of me had two handhelds, and he fumbled one as he triggered his watch at the line. He scooped it up without breaking his stride, much to my relief. Due to the “toothpaste effect” at the start, the 3:15 leader was far enough away by the time I crossed the line that I could not read his number anymore. He was indeed going at a good clip. More about that later.

Mile 1 – 7:44. Very sensible, but a little slower than intended, give it a touch more, Jim!
This resulted in 2 through 5 – 7:22, 7:19, 7:14. Yes, it’s downhill, but whoa, boy!
Then I got into a groove. 7:23, 7;23, 7:23. Still a touch fast, but this was working, just ticking off the miles now. The spectators in Citrus Heights included a yodelling great dane. His interpreter said “He’s telling you to go faster”. “Will he chase us? That’ll make us go faster!” Or maybe not. Those dogs are such softies. I was running right past the aid stations thanks to my throwaway handheld, which was lasting much better than I had expected. It had acquired a name by now. Mr Sloshy. I got used to the noise, although other runners would look around as I came alongside them.
CIM is not all downhill, we got to some rollers here. In retrospect, I might have attacked them a little too hard. 7:31, 7:35, 7:27 to mile 10, where things trended downhill again. 7:26, 7:29, 7:20
Coming out of Fair Oaks, here was someone I’ve seen before. “Hi, you ran the San Jose Half, didn’t you? I remember you!” “Yes” he smiled. “I think it’s the outfit!” I continued. Pink running skirts look a little incongruous on skinny male posteriors, but people will remember you. I passed him at about the halfway point in that race too.
I reached the half in 1:37:23. There was a gun-time clock alongside the arch: 1:37:59. I figured that the live tracker would be showing gun times, so imagined the reaction amongst tracker-watchers over at the RW forum 3:20 thread. I had predicted a 1:38 first half. Only off by a second! (Gun time, anyway)

Up till now the course had been quite sheltered by trees, but those trees were moving now, and flurries of fallen leaves were blowing about. A few gusts were hitting us, but it was no big problem yet. 7:25 for mile 14. Then the route turned southwest and we commenced a long uphill in an open area. We were completely exposed to the headwind now, which was bitterly cold. At this point I was running alongside a young woman with a 50 yard gap in front of us. “Ugh” she exclaimed “Yeah, this is evil, and no one to draft behind!”  “Always happens to me” she responded. We both worked on catching the group in front to get a little relief. It wasn’t much. 7:47 for the slowest mile of the race. The mile 15 marker at the top of the hill had been blown over.
Things got a little better after that, but I was getting quite cold. My ears and nose were completely numb, as were certain other soft extremities. I really should have worn another layer. There seemed to be quite a few people stretching by the roadside, or shivering under blankets at the aid stations. I wondered about hypothermia. How would I tell if I had it? Oh yeah, it makes you stupid. I was still making sense of my splits, so plainly core temperature must be OK. My pace was back in the ballpark, but things were getting more stressful now. Miles 16 to 20 – 7:33, 7:34, 7:35, 7:35. Running 7:35s at this point was not part of the plan, but it couldn’t be helped. I was fading and so were plenty of others. I was passing quite a number of people now, and wondered how many of these were drop-offs from the 3:15 group, done in by that early pacing.

I reckon that it’s OK to push after mile 20. If anything’s going to go wrong it would have happened by now. The going was level apart from the bridge at mile 22. I was pushing quite hard but slowing. Miles 21 to 23 – 7:35, 7:45, 7:40. I needed to fix this before it got any worse. Mr Sloshy, empty at last, spiraled through the air at an aid station. I focused on good form and followed the fastest runner I could see. A small woman wearing all black was tearing past the other runners on Sacramento’s J Street. I was hurting quite a bit, but stayed close. At one point she faltered and I passed her, but she clawed back. This little race stopped the rot. Miles 24 to 26 – 7:41, 7:41, 7:43. She gapped me in that final mile, then we turned towards the finish. A tiny kick in the last fifth of a mile: 7:35 pace. Total: 3:17:33 watch time (later confirmed by chip).

I have never felt quite so destroyed after a race. I was walking with tiny steps for a while, feeling a little disconsolate about missing my 3:15 target. I later discovered that being two minutes or more off your goal was a common theme of the day. The wind and cold had slowed us that much. So at last my PR is out of the 3:20s where it has been for the past year. Perhaps I’ll have another crack at 3:15 at Boston.

CIM is near.

I’ve noticed that some marathoners seem to shed items as they go, like rockets on the way to orbit. Gloves, arm-warmers, drink bottles, food wrappers, and so forth.
After some thought, I’m going to join them. My policy on drinking up to now has been to tank up immediately before the start, so I can skip the first aid station. I would use a disposable water bottle, and get rid of it when entering the start area.  Now I’m going to take that bottle with me for the first few miles. I’m unused to handhelds, So I’ve been practicing this week, putting on gloves while running without dropping it My bottle has a duct-tape handle, which makes life a lot easier.

So I have a pacing plan that involves starting out at 7:35/mile and accelerating. I’ll reach the half in 1:38.xx and blow past the 7:15 pace group at about mile 22. If I fall behind the plan, catching them by the finish will be the challenge du jour.
This would get me there in 3:14:xx, but it’s a rather large 2:3x negative split. I probably wont stick to it exactly, It’s more of a reminder to take it easy and not weave through the runners in the first few miles. That part will hopefully come at the end.

Or I could just run with the 3:15 pace group. 😉

CIM has tracking for the first time, And they seem to have been testing it today. Imagine my surprise to discover that I’ve already run it, and finished in 2:59:46! That data is gone now. If you’re interested, there’s a prominent link on the home page at Last name: Eckford.

Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


December 2009
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