Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dashes for Splashes 10K - Mobridge, SD

I was extremely excited when my wife told me about an inaugural 10K in her hometown, Mobridge, SD. The Chamber of Commerce put on a 5K on Fri evening and a 10K on Saturday morning to raise funds for a new indoor community pool.
The 10K is a new race distance for me, as I have competed in 800m, 1Mile, 2 Mile in high school and have run only a 5K in cross country. The next highest distance has been the marathons I've run. Therefore I was guaranteed a personal record :).
My aspiration was to run a sub 45min race and take it as a learning experience in regards to pacing. This way I learn what pace I can hold steadily and what it feels like to run this long distance at anaerobic level.
In the distances of 5K or less, I usually start off with my fastest pace right from the beginning and try to hang on for dear life afterwards. During the marathons, I give myself a rather long spell of recovery towards the 3/4 part of the race, before trying to pick up the pace towards the end again.
I imagined this 10K to be closer to the marathon pacing (at faster speed obviously), especially since I had just finished the Brookings Marathon the prior weekend.
After a brief warm-up I met up with my wife and her friends who had also signed up. I turned on my music, which was going to help me keep the same consistent pace. However, when the gun sounded I completely disregarded the music and sprinted out up front. I have never led a race before so I wasn't sure what to think. I looked back to make sure everyone else started as well and I wasn't a dimwit running off by myself :).
My watch showed that I was going out too fast and there was no way I could sustain that speed. As on cue, I was passed not even a half mile after the start. However, I expected more people to pass, but it remained only one guy. He had also slowed his speed and was a consistent 10 meters in front of me. A quick turn put us on the trail along the shore of Lake Oahe. I immediately felt the head-wind, even though it wasn't as strong as it normally is out there. There are little to no trees, absolutely no mountains and the lake is only surrounded by miles and miles of prairie. Nothing to block the wind.
I sped up briefly to catch up and try to draft of him by running behind him. From the trail we could see the rest of field trailing and I had a chance to waive towards my wife and her friends. The course was an out-and-back and I was looking forward to the later part of the race to see her again.
The other runner (I later learned his name to be Junior) and I distanced ourselves from the 3rd and 4th place and ran along each other towards the turn around point, which also was the only water station. I didn't need the water as I was carrying a small handheld water bottle and continuously drank during the run. Junior wasn't so fortunate and seemed to get tired and I looked forward to putting some distance between us when he would grab something to drink. However, he shocked me by skipping the aid station all together and stuck with me. Now it was only 3 miles towards the finish and the clock was right around the 21:30 minute mark (exactly my recent 5K race time).
We started running by the other runners that hadn't reached the turn around point and I knew unless we completely broke in, the race would be decided between the two of us.
After high-fiving my wife, I started speeding up for short bursts as I was planning on tiring out a now de-hydrated Junior. Surprisingly he started doing the same thing and it was bitter to taste my own medicine. In retrospect, this strategy helped both of us to run personal bests that day. After the second to last turn we both began our kick and I just couldn't shake him and h actually passed me as the last 500 meters were uphill towards the finish. I took the last turn at a high risk-high reward speed and passed him with about 100 meters to go. My lungs screamed at me in agony and my legs begged me to stop. I could feel my stomach turning inside out. As I crossed the finish line, breaking the tape, I could feel nothing of this anymore. I dropped to the ground breathing heavily, but feeling priceless. My mind was blank but I was overly elated. I had never won a race outright before and didn't know what that felt like. I shook hands with Junior who finished about 5 seconds behind and I heard the finishing time to be 43:07min. I basically doubled my recent 5K, including the exact pace. I immediately thought about what it would take to run below 40 minutes, but that would be for another day.
Then my senses came back. My music was still blasting. I hadn't noticed it in the last 45 minutes at all. I decided to go with the rhythm and continued running down the trail.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Brookings Marathon 2013

I chose to wait a couple of weeks to write my race report for the Brookings marathon to see what important aspects I think about now that the event has settled in a little bit more. It was my first official marathon since 2011 (California) and first in Brookings since 2008.

The minute I woke up I was extremely nervous, going through the pre-race jitters that are normal for this type of event : Did I train enough? Is everything prepared that I need? Should I just stay in bed?
I knew I can run the distance. I knew I had everything I needed. I had seen a physical therapist the prior 2 weeks to work on my IT-bands and left achilles, so that they wouldn't bother during the race. And the only way to get the butterflies out of the stomach is to toe the start line and give it my best shot.

Start line before sunrise
Last June I started running seriously for the first time and I had set my goal for this years' Brookings Marathon to run a personal best of under 3:21:19. In the last few weeks leading up to the race, I had to admit to myself that my training, though extensive, was far from ideal for a marathon PR. I had focused so much on volume, that I completely neglected speed training. I suppose that happens when your other goal is to prepare for an ultramarathon of 50-100miles. Either way, at the time I have nearly logged 1000 miles at an average pace of 9:19min per mile. If your goal race pace is sub 7:45min/mile, then it is not the right training.

Mass start

The weather forecast showed a chilly 40 degrees. This should be no issue as I trained through the winter at sub zero temperatures and I knew this could be a benefit as I don't do well during heat. The timing this year was done through a chip on the race bib and not on the shoe. I had pinned the number onto my sweatshirt, which is not designed for running and collects a lot of moisture underneath. During the cold start I started running in the sweatshirt and collected too much sweat that I was afraid to take of the shirt at the half way point of the race, when I noticed that I am getting too warm. Also, I would've wasted precious time trying to re-pin the Bib onto my shirt underneath. My fear was to start shivering immediately afterwards, as the second half of the race was outside of the comforts of town and mostly into the cold prairie wind. A little more on this in a few minutes.

At the start line, I noticed some familiar faces from the Brookings area. This is a great benefit of running in a small community. Be it a 5K, 10K half- or full marathon, you'll see many faces you know and it gives it an additional factor to enjoy. It was especially cool, seconds after the start gun sound, that I heard my track coach from High School cheer me on. He was running a couple of segments of the marathon relay later on.
As soon as I hit the Mile 1 marker, I noticed that I had gone out much too fast, as I clocked a 7:07min/mile. I guess I stayed with too many half-marathoners and marathon relay runners. The second mile wasn't much better at 7:20ish. I tired already and noticed that the pace is not sustainable and tried to slow down during the next 2-3 mile stretch.

Mile 3 by SDSU campanile (you can see the left IT-Band taping)

My favorite section of the marathon is the mile 2-6 stretch that navigates around the campus of my alma mater and always brings back memories. Unfortunately, the course changes slightly, so that we no longer run through McCrory Gardens (where I had met my wife 5 years ago).
While on campus a spectator's dog got loose and ran along the course with the other runners for a mile or so. When I caught up to him, I stopped him as I could see his owner way in the back, exhausted and frantic as she didn't know where her dog was. I grabbed the collar and went back to the woman, adding about a half mile to my total distance. The next few miles was easy coasting through the town and enjoying a beautiful day as the sun rose higher.
I realized that I am on an ideal pace at the half-marathon mark, as I averaged right around 7:30min/mile and still felt good. I had planned to use my MP3 player during the second half to keep a fast pace towards the finish. I couldn't focus on the music as the headwind was strong enough to out blast the music at times. It slowed me down enough that I had lost most of my cushion of the first half-marathon already during the short stretch from miles 14-16. Not only did I lose a lot of time here, but my moral was at the lowest point as I realized the slow-down and couldn't find another gear to try to counter-act the current events. Running into the wind and being over-heated from wearing the sweatshirt finally showed its result as I noticed that I stopped sweating and tried to catch up with my hydration. I usually train with a water bottle, but didn't think I need it during the race as there was a water station every 2.5 miles. However, I think I am more used to the regular intake of water instead of big gulps at the aid stations. Also, I can't help but spill most of the drink anyways.
By mile 17 I took a gel and noticed the sugar helping a little bit later on. Also the wind shelter of the town helped rejuvenate my spirits and I was able to get back into a regular rhythm. As I entered the Indian Hills neighborhood, I could feel the finish nearing with less than 6 miles out and I tried picking up the pace a little bit. I caught up to a runner (Bill) whom I chatted with a little bit to pass the oncoming fatigue. If I remember correctly he has run a marathon in 14 states in the last 18 months or so. I later found out that he added Wisconsin a week later.
I tried picking up the pace to improve my overall standings and was hoping for the generous downhill portion of the last 1-2 miles. However, with less than a half mile to go my left hamstring and both calves decided to simultaneously cramp. I ended up standing there unable to move for probably 3-4 minutes and had to walk the next 200 yards to shake out the cramps. I think I lost a good 5-7 spots. Hadn't I stopped for the dog in the beginning of the race, would I have made it across the finish line without cramping? In the end I wasn't close to my PR so that question is irrelevant. I nice touch was that my track coach from High School was running a few hundred feet with me right before the finish and helped me catch one more runner.

You can't see it, but my legs are protesting violently against any further running :)

As I crossed the finish line I was happy to see my wife, Who weathered the cold temperaure throughout the race together with our dog cheering me on at various spots. She took this lovely picture, which does not honestly reflect my level of exhaustion and the bitter cold weather that we had.

Overall, 3:43 covering 26.82miles is a good result considering weather, wind and

As I consider this my "home-town" marathon, I plan to continue to run it for years to come!

A brief adrenaline infused smile covering up the cold and painful legs.