Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Trot 10K Race Report

With dread that I saw the weather forecast for the 2010 10K Turkey Trot held this morning, a sizzling 74°F combined with high 85% humidity and 10 MPH southerly winds. As a very poor hot weather runner, and my thoughts on a very funny and apt Hyperbole and a Half sent by my wonderful daughter I had only one unhappy thought - aargh!

Nevertheless, it was great to socialize at the event with several good friends and to support the entirely deserving Sheltering Arms agency. Upon starting the race at an improved location versus prior years I was happy to lead-off the first two miles relatively well. However, despite pouring water over my head in a vain attempt to cool-down at each aid station I was forced both by the heat and the congestion caused by the merging 5K runners to tremendously slow down in the second half. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun, and was happily surprised to see that I'd finished in 7th place in my age group with a time of 46:57 (5-minutes off my February P.R.)

It's important for me to more profoundly reflect - especially during this time of Thanksgiving  - upon all of the blessings that my family and I have been consistently provided, included in which is the joy, serenity and friendships provided by running. So, during this holiday I wish you and your families the very best!

Monday, November 15, 2010

San Antonio Marathon Race Report

The weather gods would have had to work even harder to make conditions for the 2010 San Antonio Marathon any better. It was cloudy with moderate winds and the temperature was in the 50s.

As this was my first San Antonio and Rock & Roll Marathon I deliberately didn't run with my normal iPod so-as to better appreciate the music and interact with spectators and fellow runners. This worked out quite well, and the groups along the course were quite good - especially a blues band playing at the half-way point.

The San Antonio Marathon logistics were excellent, far better than the numerous complaints from runners whose primary gripe was the former starting location requiring frequently delayed busing (now solved with the new downtown start). The course continues to include great scenery including the Alamo, though I was a bit disappointed with sparse spectator support for many late marathon miles owing to the remote municipal airport routing. My worries of elevation changes along the San Antonio course proved to not be a non-issue, though they were larger than Houston's pancake flat terrain and comparable to Dallas White Rock's (and nowhere close to the very technical and challenging Austin course).

As to my performance... well, I was very disappointed. But, I learned some good lessons through the experience.

I felt good on the morning of the race, albeit with some lingering sniffles from a nasty cold that I was nearly over. As such, I decided to line-up with the 3:15 pacing group hoping they'd guide me to a 4-minute P.R.. The pace group leader Derek was very good, and he held the group to generally consistent 7:20 splits, which I was able to hold onto without a problem until the 16th mile when the 'wheels fell of the wagon'.

At that point, quite unexpectedly and very suddenly I bonked very hard. Within a quarter mile I suddenly felt very hot and began to feel a bit lightheaded - as I had in the Chicago Marathon five weeks previously when I'd similarly bonked shortly after the 20th mile marker. I immediately slowed down hoping that I'd get my Mojo back, as I had somewhat demonstrated in Chicago's late stage while approaching the Grant Park finish. However, no dice; my proverbial goose was cooked.

In my emotional let-down in the remaining 10 mile walk to the finish line watching stronger and better paced marathoners quickly pass I briefly thought of calling it quits and DNF'ing my first race by jumping into the sag wagon. I didn't and was glad. I really wanted the medal, and am now glad to have it! While I hope I'd not hesitate to DNF should medical issues necessitate, I knew my problem was ultimately simple glycogen depletion caused by poor preparation and bad race execution.

During my long walk, where I was only briefly able to jog slowly for brief quarter-mile segments, I was glad that I didn't have my iPod since it forced me to interact with the incredibly supportive San Antonio spectators. I also talked extensively with numerous other runners whose bad fortunes matched mine, and was encouraged to find many first time marathoners who were enjoying their inaugural runs. While walking-in to a discouraging 4:32 finish, I genuinely enjoyed the race, though immediately began plotting how to avoid a similar fate.

In retrospect I believe that my undoing was several-fold:
  1. While I'd shaken the worst of the very bad cold that I'd picked-up only four days before the marathon, my body's energy reserves in the preceding days were spent fighting the cold virus - versus storing glycogen energy reserves as ideally occurs during a taper.
  2. My most recent marathon in Chicago was only five-weeks prior to San Antonio's. While I'd shown remarkably resiliency in the past (most recently in January with an even shorter four-week delay between my Houston and Austin P.R. Marathons) the difference was that unlike Chicago I hadn't bonked Houston. As such my legs had felt great afterward allowing me to train well through both Houston and Austin without a hiccup in training to either (conversely, in the five weeks preceding San Antonio I only had one good 12+ mile training run which was itself lacking through only being 16 versus the ideal 20+ miles.)
  3. Once again my ambition on race-day got the better of me. Deluding myself into the conviction that I was ready to slam another P.R. I ignored my wife's good advice (and doubtless Coach Sean Wade's, had I asked) to choose a slower pacing group then target a negative split late in the race.
So, as the bottom line on this day after the marathon, though facing worse-than-normal body and muscle aches I'm truly very glad that I ran the San Antonio Marathon and highly recommend the course (comparing Texas Marathons I'd still list Houston's as the very best, followed by San Antonio, Dallas White Rock then Austin.) I learned, and re-learned, some lessons along the way and I hope to be ready for Houston - now only 11-weeks away.

Here's an apt post marathon day humorous video well describing my current situation:

Finally, here's a great article by Matt Fitzgerald on the inherent challenge to appropriately pace a marathon, even for very experienced marathoners.

Post Script: After the race was completed I discovered that several hundred runners who began the race a few minutes behind me were held-up by an unscheduled train by as much as three to four minutes. I was contacted by the race organizers afterward asking me whether I was held-up by the train, and if so by what length of time. Naturally, I responded that I wasn't held-up at all, so was very surprised earlier this week when I was informed that my finishing time was adjusted by subtracting four seconds (evidently a mathematical calculation was made for all runners using their potentially train-interrupted first 5K split versus their 5K to 10K split.) While this approach is probably the most defensible methodology it obviously over-estimates  runners' train-induced delay for those individuals like myself who in fact were not delayed (as most individuals in Corrals 1-3 were not), and for those individuals who attempted to make-up for lost time and therefore ran significantly faster afterward. Given the alternatives of denying individuals a hard-fought P.R. or B.Q. by under-estimating the train delay I guess the organizers have made the right decision - but the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way, and I sure hope trains are stopped in the future! 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In New York, a Sun Rises then Sets

Edited on 11/15/10 based on Haile's change of heart:
There were great happenings at, and immediately after the New York Marathon today.  Combined, these will have the running world buzzing for months to come.

First, I was ecstatic to watch American Shalane Flanagan spectacularly make her marathon debut. She dramatically did so through cinching a strong second place time of 2:28:40, only 20-seconds off the winner's. Shalane led through significant portions of the final six miles, and had the best New York finish by any American woman since Kim Jones finished second in 1990. Pictured at the awards ceremony afterward were winner Edna Kiplagat, center, of Kenya, flanked by Shalane Flanagan, right, and third-place finisher Mary Keitany, also of Kenya.

Second, Haile Gebrselassie, the current marathon world record holder and arguably the greatest marathon runner in history announced his retirement from the sport to a shocked audience. The press conference occurred following his dropping out of the race with a knee injury just prior to the 17 mile marker. Gebrselassie came on the stage to answer questions, and started with his own statement regarding the race: "I'm a little bit disappointed, disappointed to myself. Whatever it is, I can not change. I am a little bit unhappy... I don't want (to do this again). It's better to stop here." While it was initially hoped that Geb was talking about the race and not his career he then said, with his voice full of emotion: "It didn't work. Next time, to complain again and again. It's bad for all you who support me (so I won't do it again)." Asked to clarify whether he was retiring, he responded, "Yes", and added I did very hard training. After this, I have (had) no discussion with my manager with anybody. I discuss(ed) with myself, that is better to stop here. I never think about to retire. But for the first time ever, this is the day."

Having always been amazed and impressed by Gebrselassie's fantastically long streak of athletic accomplishment, charitable contributions within his country and unassuming bearing I wish him the very best in what I hope proves to be a long, healthy and active retirement. The running community who have consistently admired and respected Gebrselassie will long remember his unequaled longevity and dominance of his sport.

11/15/10 As noted in this NY Times Article Haile Gebrselassie has reconsidered and has decided that he will, in fact, return to the sport! To celebrate, here is a beautiful time-lapse video of this year's New York Marathon start, as uniquely seen from the top of the Verrazano bridge:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Friday & Saturday Funny

First, the latest creative work from my friend Colin Hayes ( is too funny to not re-post:

Then, I ran into this gem:

On the serious side, I wish the very best of luck to everyone running the New York Marathon on Sunday. With that great race in mind here's a good link to two great N.Y. Marathon related video series.