Saturday, January 23, 2010

Houston Marathon Race Report - Part 2

Some final notes on the Houston Marathon. My picture is shown below in front of the marathon background, and Faith Ann is shown in front of the Half Marathon background (excuse the "too cheap to pay for the real thing" watermark).


I liked the stats they provided to go along with the marathon. Check out this cool page below. Based on the way I fell apart over the last 3 miles, I'm surprised something calculated that I passed over 200 runners over the last 7.5 miles, while being passed by 69. If those stats were over the last three miles, they would look a lot worse.


Here is the chart produced by my Garmin during the race. On the far right of the chart, those blue lines over the last three miles don't show that I failed a polygraph test; they do show how I combined running and walking to end the race. I didn't wear a heart rate monitor for the run, so no readings for that. The green line indicates elevation - not sure why it got wacky near the end. A few longer blue streaks along the chart indicate where I slowed down to get water. I don't think there were too many of these where I would have walked for more than thirty seconds.

Speaking of water stops, the marathon offered a service where you could be weighed before and after the marathon. My weight after the marathon was five pounds less than my weight before the marathon. Apparently this is on the high side, and I was a given a pamphlet on being careful about this. The only water stop I skipped during the marathon was the first one after the 20 mile mark, so I was surprised to see this. I do tend to sweat a bit, and I have thought for a while now that I need to have something in the marathons for sodium or electrolyte replenishment. Gatorade tends to bother my stomach during a long run, so I try to not drink it very much. Before my next marathon, I'm hoping I'll have a better handle on the whole hydration thing.

Other things ...

  • While I do need to work on handling hydration during a marathon, I'm quite certain I won't be taking in any beer while running one. There was some being offered near the end in Houston, but I passed on it.

  • George Bush Sr. (pres. #41) was cheering on runners around mile 19, after his church service that morning ended. If he was there when I went by, I didn't notice him.

  • Speaking of church, a priest at one point along the course was throwing holy water on runners. Lots of it.

  • For quite a while in the race, I was behind two guys who were wearing the same colour t-shirts. On the back of one of the shirts it read "I'm a Dad". The other shirt was worn by a guy just ahead or beside him, and written on the back of his shirt was "No Dad Left Behind". They crossed the finish line together a couple minutes ahead of me.

  • Nova Scotia native Eric Gillis, who I mentioned in an earlier post, finished the race 8th overall in his first marathon, in just a little over 2 hours and 13 minutes. See his race report here.

  • About 20 miles into the race, I came across a runner who literally looked like he was dying. He was flat on his back, passed out, with a handful of people over him, including one woman who was trying to resuscitate his heart. A guy to my right yelled "Hang in there buddy!" to him, and a minute later an ambulance was approaching from the opposite direction. It was a scary scene, but he turned out to be ok. For a video report on him, check out this link.

  • As a final bit of excitement, there was a "disturbance" on our plane coming from Toronto to Fredericton that resulted in four Mounties boarding our flight to arrest somebody before we were allowed off.
To finish up our trip, Sunday night after the marathon we took in some great Texas barbeque at Goode Company Barbeque, and Monday we hung out at NASA for a while. I do look back on our trip with happy thoughts. However, I know if my training was "good", I could have put in a much better performance in Houston. I'll use that as motivation to train well for Mount Desert Island next fall. For the time being, I'm gingerly walking around the house so as not to bother the new incision I got in my mid-section last Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Houston Marathon Race Report - Part 1

Look at this smug guy, the day before running the Houston Marathon. I think he's saying "Sure, I didn't train as hard as I could have, but it won't be a problem for a superstar like myself".



A little less than a day later, I struggled over the last 3 miles of the Houston Marathon, finishing it five minutes slower than my time in PEI in October. The weather was perfect, and the course was fast, so I had no excuses for the slower showing. This is me shortly after the end, sitting on the convention floor, eating the great post-race food. See if you can see the caked, salty sweat remnants on my face.



Faith Ann (who ran the half) and I hit the Expo Friday morning. It was fun to look at all the exhibits, spending a bit of money. I think we spent close to two hours there, between picking up the race kits and checking out the exhibits. We took it easy Friday night, took a quick trip to San Marcos/New Braunfels/San Antonio Saturday, did lots of hydrating and carbo-loading, and were up early for the marathon Sunday morning.

The runners congregated before and after the race at the George R. Brown convention center. The place is plenty large enough to hold the runners, allowing us to stay inside in the warmth, although I think it was in the forties (fahrenheit) when the race started, which wasn't too bad at all.

The half and the full runners started at different points, so I separated from Faith Ann and waited for the starting gun, to the side of Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play. Craig Biggio, the former longtime Astros second baseman (whose wife ran the half in 2:08 on Sunday) started the race. I was standing next to a guy whose bib showed that he was a 25-year veteran of the race. He looked extremely nervous, continuously blowing warm air into his hands. I told him this should be easy for him after all these years. His response: "it gets harder every year".

It took me about 1 minute, 45 seconds to cross the starting mat. The sea of people ahead of me resulted in a slow first kilometer, at a pace of 6:05 (9:47 per mile). That probably wasn't a bad thing, as it caused me to start slowly. I was hoping to maintain pace of about 5:35 per km (9 minutes per mile) for the race overall, which would have me finish around 3:55. I didn't try to pass anybody initially, just going with the crowd.

After about three kilometers, I was passed by the 3:50 pacer. I checked my pace, thinking I must be going too fast, but I was actually on pace for about a 4:05 finish. I think she stayed within site of me for the next few miles, but I checked at she actually finished at 3:50:09 - a negative split I'm guessing. I never did see a four hour pacer, but I wasn't really looking for him either.

The crowds for the race were great. Lots of cheering for the names on the bibs, many kids sticking their hands out looking for "high fives", and bands and entertainers along the course. Lots of private homes had people in front of them handing out things like oranges, bananas, tissues, vaseline, pretzels, water and peppermints!

The race was quite congested for the first nine miles, with the halfers running along with the full marathoners for much of that time. It made for some interesting pick-ups at the water stations. I kept my pace pretty good for the first half, with only short stops to pick up water or take gels. However, looking back at my splits it seems like my fairly consistent 5:30 per km (8:50 per mile) pace turned into about a 5:35 pace from kilometers 23 to 38. I seemed to cruise by the Galleria, and as we headed into the tough miles (20 through 22?) of Memorial Park, I was definitely tired, but thought I could hang on.

Shortly after hitting mile 23, for some reason, I just felt dead tired. I pushed on for a bit, but it felt like a very intense struggle that I couldn't imagine maintaining for three more miles. I had a fear of walking, remembering how difficult that was in PEI when I finished my marathon. However, there came a point where I just had to. From that point on, I mixed walking and running to finish the race. Even with that, when I hit the 25 mile marker, it still looked like I could creep in under four hours, and I pushed a good 5:17 kilometer in there, but that just seemed to get me tired again. I walked for a few seconds, then slowly jogged it into the finish, for a final time of 4:01:23. There's finish line video available on the Houston website - check it out here. I'm the guy on the right, with the worst running form imaginable, pulling up my shirt at the end to wipe some sweat off my face. Note that I finished just ahead of an Irish fellow, walking over the finish line holding a can of Guinness.

There are a couple of additional stories I'll describe in a later post, as this one is too long already. I should have time to do this over the next few days, as I'm scheduled to have hernia surgery tomorrow morning, and will probably be flat on my back recovering the next few days. I'm already looking forward to picking up the training again once I'm back on my feet!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Houston 4:01:23

My first race where I didn't set a personal best time! The whole marathon experience here has been lots of fun. I'm neither disappointed nor pleased with my run. All was going according to my plan until I seemed to bonk around the 38k point. More later.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thoughts on Houston

My second marathon is this Sunday, 13 weeks after my first marathon in PEI. My prediction? Something close to the 3:56:01 of PEI, but I wouldn't be shocked if it was around 4:10-4:15. I would be shocked, and very happy, if I finish better than 3:50.

Why the lack of confidence? I've been lazy with my training the last couple of months. While I have kept the mileage at an acceptable level, I too often found excuses not to do speed work, or to cut the mid-week medium-long runs a little short. It's too easy to blame it on the short/dark days and low temperatures. I'm hoping that for my marathon training cycle next spring/summer, I'll stick closer to the original plan, as I did for the PEI marathon. On a positive slant, I stayed healthy this time, with my feet feeling a-ok, so I had no "lost weeks" of training.

I've never worn an ipod during a race, but for this race I plan on carrying it. However, I'm not taking it for the music or podcasts - though I might listen at times. My main reason for taking my new ipod nano is to capture video during the race. If it turns out to be better than shaking, blurry, useless images, I'll post some of the results.

Other than the marathon, we haven't made any specific plans for our time in Texas. We arrive midday Thursday, and leave Tuesday morning. Around fifteen years ago, I lived in Texas (San Antonio) for about a year and a half, and this will be the first time I have returned since then. Other than enjoying a Shiner Bock beer Thursday night, and probably eating Chicken Fried Steak, brisket and catfish (perhaps all after Sunday!), there are no definitive plans. Lots of rest Saturday, and lots of pain Sunday!

Bib #2752, Red Wave starting at 7 AM. The forecast currently calls for 42°F at the start, partly cloudy.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Snow Stories

My pretty face (excuse the runny nose!) after 10.5 miles of running in the snow today.


Today I finished my last “long run” before the Houston marathon – 10.5 miles in the storm, followed by 8 awful miles on the treadmill at home. I normally do my long runs on Sunday, but we have a major storm here this weekend, and I wanted to get in some miles outside before it got too bad. Mike and I exchanged e-mails this week, and he suggested that I try to get a run in that lasts 3 hours, 15 minutes or longer. My pace was soooo slow in the few inches of snow (around 10 mins/mile, slower than I've gone in months), that I thought the time goal wouldn't be an issue. However, after 8 miles on the treadmill, I had enough, and finished with a few minutes more than three hours of total running.

As for the Houston Marathon, my mileage has been reasonably close to the original plan, but I have been lazy with the speed work. Evidence of this came in the form of a 5k New Year's Day race yesterday in Fredericton. It was more of a "fun run" than a race, with no records kept of the finishing times or places, and no chip timing. See the picture below of the organizer looking at his watch as he calls out finishing times. Looks pretty warm, eh?



A picture of my chum Robert and I before the race. Don't I just exude “Don't Touch Me!” ?


The weather for the race was very reasonable for this time of year, with little wind, slightly overcast, and a temperature around -9 celcius. My final time was 24:23 – a bummer. The pace about 30 seconds/mile slower than my last 10k in the fall. I blame some of the slowness on the snow and ice that we ran on, and perhaps the temperature (although I read conflicting opinions on this) but the blame more likely rests with the lack of speed work I have been doing. Most of my runs for the last couple of months have been at a pace of 8:45 to 9:15 per mile, with just a few runs in there that included some faster intervals. The speedwork in the 5k race today probably was overdue.

What does all this mean for the marathon? Not a lot, I suppose. I expect a result similar to my first marathon in PEI. I'm going to try to keep a pace similar to what Mike and I *tried* to do in PEI – 5:40 mins/km for the first few kilometres, followed by a 5:30 mins/km pace.

A couple of Canadian notes on the Houston Marathon. The fifth place finisher from last year was a Canadian named Andrew Smith, with a time of 2:16:14, which was also the top marathon time by a Canadian last year. He will be racing there again this year. Also among the elites this year will be Eric Gillis. He is a first time marathoner, past national champion in the 10k, Olympian, and native of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. He is hoping for a 2:14 finish. My grandmother was also a Gillis from that area (Cape Breton, actually), so perhaps some of those speedy genes will find their way to me ... or not.

Now for the obligatory look back on 2009. I ran 1667 miles for the year. Considering that I averaged about 70 miles per month for January through March, that wasn't too bad. In my first full year of running (resulting in personal bests for all distances, of course!), I did three half marathons, one 5k, two 10k's, one 30k and the marathon. This link shows the times for my New Brunswick races as well as the PEI marathon.

I already have my fall marathon for next year booked, and I have a few other races in mind. I would like to sprinkle in a few short races through the summer, and concentrate more on speed work. More on that in a future post.

To end this one, here is another winter related link, showing Cam and I sledding down a hill at Mactaquac Provincial Park. One of the screams comes from Cam, the other one or two are from another family that was there at the time!


video