Sunday, June 19, 2016

Grandma's Marathon 2016

Grandma's Marathon 2016
"one and done"

View from the Radisson Hotel


Hot and humid, or as one other strava runner called it "HOT AF. SLOW AF", or another put it "Hot. AS. Balls".  Both of those people had faster times than I had, and like me had nearly the same split profile. 

Here's mine:

Pace/mile vs. mileage/distance 

If you  click on the image above it's easier to see the horror that was the last 7 miles, and for me in particular, the last couple miles.  That was the first time I actually understood those people that run a decent race but somehow end up crawling across the finish line. I now understand that's the "heat effect" in marathons. The guy who was second in my AG (Michael Beeson from Clemson SC) was coincidentally, also 2nd last year...with a small difference: last year he ran a 2:53, this year he ran 3:07; 14 min slower. The horror..the horror. Not just really slow, but painfully slow.

The first half was not all that bad and I came through in 1:34 and was feeling that - if it cooled down - I could maybe hit 3:10, but 3:15 at the worst.  It was all I could do to finish in 3:17 which was 5th in my AG - last year 5th place took a 3:04, the year prior 3:03, etc. 

Thursday June 16th, 2016

Took the 10 am out of SD on Delta.  Vic, Andy and Tony were also on my flight.  We got together again after the race to compare notes and enjoy the splendor of Grandma's weekend in fabulous Duluth MN.  A town that has banned Uber, but, has many great micro breweries to visit. Go figure. Turns out you need the secret number of a  guy named "Murph" to get a good taxi ride. 

After flying out from San Diego to Minneapolis and having a nice dinner with Tad Simons in St. Paul at Ristorante Luci (I had pasta and melon soup) I said my goodbyes, but not before Tad gave me a short driving tour including famous Summit Ave near his home.

The sun was setting around 7:30 (but not completely set until like 9:30 as its nearly the solstice) and we drove back to his place down Summit street that included F. Scott Fitzgerald's home. Very cool.  I pulled in to the Radisson around 10 pm and, after a long time, found the last space to park. Nothing was open so I had a bag of chips and some water and cookies and went to sleep.

Friday June 17th, 2016

Woke up at 6:30 and  went back to sleep until 8:30.  Those eye shades are a must when traveling. After stretching I went for a 2.7 mile run around Duluth, and passed the expo/registration area. 

Basically felt good during the run BUT the right hamstring is still quite sore.  I debated taking ibuprofen as NSAIDs are not recommended during marathons, but the pain is more bugging me mentally.  After my jog went by SBUCKS and had a venti green tea soy latte and some banana bread and headed over to to the expo

Duluth Curling and Skating Club in the Expo

For a 10,000 person weekend event the expo was not all that crowded, and was not the pandemonium the Boston or larger event expos are.  These was a single senior volunteer for fully half of the marathon bib pickup area, and still  only took a few minutes.  This race has it's own history that the promoters are rightly proud of. 
The race was famous since about 1982 (it was first run in 1977 with a bit over 100 runners in the inaugural race).  Over the yeas it has grown in popularity and this year - 40th year - is special.  There are posters throughout the expo of runners who had great performances.  The photo here is an example of race history: Kara Goucher setting the women's half marathon record of 1:09. 

Race outfit - ready 

Normally I don't like walking around too much at race expos  as they don't seem to do anything good for the race the next day.  I did want to pick up some shot blocks and a couple of gu shots for the next day, which I did.  I swung by Starbucks on the way back and picked up a couple of 140 calorie lemon/strawberry smoothie drinks for race day and went back to lie down and do nothing for a couple hours at the hotel.  The train is leaving at 4:30 am so i'm heading down at 4:00 am to catch the train. Will try to sleep at 8:00 pm until 3:30 am. Basically spent the day reading and doing nothing in my room. 

 I bring my own carbs

Ever since I had a VERY bad case of food poisoning during the Boston Marathon in 2013 from a turkey sandwich I purchased from the dreaded SUBWAY on Tremont street I've brought my own rice packages to races. In the case of the food poisoning, it was Horrible. Vomiting half the race, in bed during the shut down of Boston - I'll spare you the details - but there was a lot of green slime being released from my body...both ends...for nearly 24  hours.

Total food Friday:
  • Venti soy green tea latte - 320 Cal, 45 G carb, 16 g protein
  • organic strawberry lemonade - 110 cal, 27 g carb
  • protein bar -  290 cal, 33 g carb, 19 g protein
  • 2 x Brown/wild rice  w/Quinoa package - 540 cal, 110 g carb, 12 g protein
  • banana bread - 420 cal, 52 g carb, 6 g protein
  • 2 x oatmeal raisin cookie - 580 Cal, 80 g carb, 10 g protein
total - 2,260 calories: 347 g carb, 89 g protein

Saturday June 18, 2016 - Race Day

I woke up at 3:50 am, dressed, had some coffee and walked over to the wait for the train. As the sun was coming up around 4:30 am, it was nice - and very warm - in line.  I could have been wearing my tank top and been totally comfortable - many in line were doing just that. At 4:30 am. When it should have been at least a bit crsip outside. At that point I knew that it was going to be a hard day. I was told to be there by 4:15 am at the latest to ensure a spot on the train, but I think you could have arrived at 4:45 and been fine. 

Already a big line for the train at 4:45 am

While many took the buses over, I wanted to take the train up to the starting line. The train depot here in Duluth is famous, and they have their town partially centered around the historic train station. It was actually slightly confusing. As you can see this is not the proper loading spot for the train, but the station on the other side of the bridge (the depot) is.  They literally had cartons and temporary steps up from the street to board the train, which was near the check in area for the race parking lot.

We boarded around 5:20 and the train left about 5:45.  The train ride took about an hour and 10 min and we arrived at 6:55 near the starting area...and the familiar field of porta-potties. 

Starting area as seen from the train at 6:50

It was hot. We got off the train and began the search for the short porta potty line (usually near the back, if you look).  

After that was out of the way I put my phone back in my gear bag and found a place near the 3:15 pace group guy. 

The Race Itself

I've been doing many runs with headphones and decided to take mine for this race. Something about the last Boston when people were cheering and encouraging me - did not help. I don't know why. Maybe I knew it would be a rough day (which it turned out to be) or not I decided that the 20 miles of very few spectators would be better served by zoning out and focusing on running. 

The first 10K was mostly flat, with some gentle rolling. It felt too warm right from the start, as we had a 2 mph tailwind and was 72 degrees.  But before describing the rest of the race, let's take a moment to review what "heat" is and why the reported temperature is misleading.

Sidebar: the Heat Effect

Look at this photo with the guy in the red jacket and the thermometer on the wall -IN THE SUN. That man is standing in National Science Foundation's Summit research camp on Greenland's Ice Sheet, about 10,000 feet above sea level. You can see that he's in the shade and that the thermometer is reading over 80 Degrees F.  The actual reported air temp that day was around 20 degrees F. Why the disparity? the radiation of the sun  (i.e. direct sunlight) makes it feel much warmer and has a much stronger effect on your body - which of course is why people (and animals) seek shade on hot day: it's much cooler.   On the day of the marathon this year the "temperature as measured in the shade" was 72 - 82 degrees. but it FELT like 85 - 95 degrees in the direct sun. It was oppressive.

While I was running the race I noticed that most of the runners stayed as close as possible to the left side of the road where there was, sometimes,  bit of shade.  As the miles went by during the first 10K I noticed that it was downright uplifting when those brief/cool spells of shade and some cooler air from Lake Superior drifted up to the road.  It was like I was living through a video game where my character's life energy was draining very fast in the sunlight, but would actually refresh and go the other way in the shade. I actually picked it up a bit and felt great in the shade...but that was short lived and the heat came back again and the fast-drain of my batteries began again. My mile 17 it seemed like all-sun-all-the-time and even hotter.  If you want to learn more click here for the original article. 

First 10K - I came through at 44:06 and felt good.  7:06/mile.  I had taken some ibuprofen the night prior and had been pain free until about this point and then my right hamstring became, once again, sore, but not too bad. 

Half Marathon - I was 1:34:50 for the first half marathon. Still thought - if it suddenly got cooler - I could still pull off a 3:10 as I felt that good. Not really tired, HR at 141, just cruising along. but not really.  Something inside me knew that pain was just down the road - but - like any delusional runner in a marathon who has trained for months and sacrificed for this day, I wanted to believe that it would cool down. Many of us saw some cool clouds and low fog off in the distance, but like a mirage, the closer we got, the more it seemed further away.
Near the 11 mile point 
Across the street from the New Scenic Cafe

20 miles: Still sort of holding it together, but feeling heavy/dead legs from about mile 15.  It was not light and quick anymore, it was an effort to keep the pace under 7:25. I was looking at my garmin 620 all the time. Every time it felt good I'd look down and see "7:45" or higher, and try as I did to push it back to 7:15, it was a real chore. My HR drifted up from 141 at the half to 153 at the 20 mile mark. 

Miles 20-25:  Then, at last, the wheels started to come off. I realized I could not hold the pace, and even stopped looking at my watch and just tried to hold on one mile at a time. It was hard for all of us.  I passed 50 people in this stretch and was only passed up by 21 people,  most people were all going through the same ordeal and struggling to keep it going. It kept getting worse and worse, and holding 8:15-8:30 was all that was possible. 

The Iconic Aerial Lift Bridge near the finish line
(Bridge was completed in 1905)

Last mile: this was the first time I thought I would walk in an event for real. Ever.  Even doing Ironman I did not walk except at aid stations. Every time I thought about it I'd pass somebody else walking (mind you - these are all 3:15 marathoners) I'd think - "well, you can still run Mark - don't stop".  I passed 3 people during the last mile, but was passed by 25 people. Shuffled in at 3:17:39 and instantly felt better.  

After party

Finally hooked up with Vic Ferriera, Andy Wolff, Steve Lathrop and Anders Burvall.  We had some beers in the finishers while listening to a great soul band with a great lead singer, who was clearly not a marathoner, but was feeling the heat just the same.