Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011 Rocket City Marathon

Here I am in my nice warm chair with a cup of coffee trying to recall the race. I have been compiling statistics and information since the race, but have just now been able to put it on this blog. This was my second time running this race. I had exceeded my expectations last year and had imposed pressure on myself to do better this year.  I qualified for Boston last year and this would be my goal this year. Boston qualifying was changed for the 2013 race, so I would need to run at least 4 minutes faster.  I decided to up the stakes and try to qualify for the next youngest age group. I would need 3:25:00 or better to attain this goal. I printed splits for both  3:30:00 (50 - 54) and  sub 3:25:00 (45 - 49)  finishing times.

The weather was similar to the 2010 race except the wind was out of the north instead of the south. It was a cold start and I did not want to wear extra clothes at the start, so I waited close to the last minute before walking down to the start line. Some people use garbage bags to break the wind. I may try this in the future. The wind was strong, but once in the crowd I was comfortable enough. I was wearing 2 layers of clothing as I had last year. I wore my Nike long-sleeve black shirt over a short sleeve performance top. I also wore my lucky orange toboggan and cycling gloves.

I had a good deal of practice running alone this year.  A couple of my mainstays did ironmans this fall and their training schedules did not align with mine. I had no one to run with at all at this year's race, so I would be running alone as I did last year. Training alone got me ready for the solitude of running by myself. Running with others can really help with the mental game. I had mostly trained a lone, so I knew how to face it alone. I have become adept at playing little games with myself to keep going and staying on pace.

As for as nutrition I used the Power Bar Energy Gels this year. They are easier to consume than the GU-Gels I used last year and I think they were easier on my stomach. I used the vanilla because they were caffeine free. I consumed around 10 Ritz Crackers about 30 minutes before race time and drank some water to wash them down. I think I consumed 4 gels during the race around 6 mile intervals. The distances varied, but that was my intention to consume one every 6 miles. I had printed the aid stations on my splits, so I could get them out and consume them before the aid station then get some water to wash them down. This worked well and I will add this as a standard practice.

When the race started I aligned myself with faster pacer groups, so I could bank some miles. My first few miles were pretty good for me (7:41 and 7:24). I knew that to get a 3:30:00 I would need to be under an 8:00 minute mile. My training had been done on gravel trails and I always run faster on road surfaces, so I had some confidence that I would be able to run a pretty good pace for the first 20 miles. And for the first 20 I was able to do this. Part of the mental game I played was to tell myself every mile I ran under 8:00 it gave me some leave way for later miles at more than an 8:00 minute pace. This worked pretty good at the half way point. Every mile under 8:00 minutes after the half way point would be extra insurance for attaining my goal. This drove me past that long straightaway around the half way point of the race, It is crazy long and seems to go on forever.  The race finally starts twisting and turning back north. Running blocks with turns is just easier on the mind than miles of straight road. Each turn is a separate objective or goal. It is much easier for me to get my head around.

The wind was in my face on the later part of the race. I started the chant I used last year a little earlier this year at around mile 19. I thought it might not be a good sign that I needed to start the chant earlier. "Drive through the pain" was what I used last year to focus and to keep my pace from falling off too much. I really did not stay with any packs in this race. I ran by myself and only spoke briefly to a few people. I did have a guy who got right behind me and stayed there longer then I felt comfortable. I guess he was drafting on me. There was a stiff wind in our faces.  I moved laterally and even tried speeding up, but he stayed there. I was glad when he finally passed me, but he stopped to get some food and then I got in front of him again. After a while here he comes again, so I started the evasive actions again and he eventually passed me.  I don't mean to be unfriendly, but riding my heels makes me nervous. Run beside me if you want, just don't hang around on my 6. If he had been an acquaintance, I would not have minded. He did not even speak to me.

Toward the end of the race I passed my friend Jon Elmore. He was having some kind of issues and walking through an aid station. I told him after the race it is always a good sign when I can pass Jon Elmore. I managed it last year also. He is really a great runner and if he is on his game, he finishes close to the top. Must be a Rocket City jinx on him. I believe mile 23 was my slowest pace at 8:31. After that I start to really try to push it back down. I could smell a good finish and it motivated me to push the reserve power button. At about mile 26 I realized I had a shot at a 3:25:00 and really pushed it. I finished that last .2 at a 7:20 pace.

I finished with a 3:25:00 gun time and a 3:24:53 chip time. 121st finish and 5th place in my age group. I was happy to have met/exceeded my expectations again this year. I had worried so about failing to attain my goals that I considered not showing up. My stomach had been out of sorts for the days preceding the race and I almost let this be an excuse for not to showing up. Fear of failure is my biggest mental obstacle. I was better trained this year then last and I was going to be very disappointed if I did not exceeded last year's finish.

My splits by watch and by Garmin. The Garmin was a little generous again this year.
7:41, 7:24, 7:16, 7:29, 7:28, 7:36, 7:28, 7:46, mile 9 and 10 =15:25, 7:29, 7:44, 7:41, 7:40, 7:40, 7:51, 8:01, 7:53, 7:51, 7:54, 8:13, 8:27, 8:31, 8:22, 8:21, 8:09,

7:21, 7:18, 7:19, 7:24, 7:18, 7:29, 7:17, 7:48, 7:21, 7:39, 1:18 catchup, 7:26, 7:41, :07, 7:40, 7:38, 7:39, 7:50, 7:58, 7:44, 7:48, 7:49, 8:07, 8:19, 8:12, 8:06, 8:07, 8:04
Great race and maybe I will try to run it next year. The organizers do a great job every year.