Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011 Here I come

I just registered for three races
* Spring Training - Sprint Triathlon 4/3
* Trinona - International Distance Triathlon 6/12
* Warrior Dash - Obstacle course 7/24

The season is getting started. My wife made a new years resolution that she'd try to get me into a race every month. So far I'm booked through July!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Race Review - A1A Half Marathon

My second half marathon, a few weeks ago I ran my first and wasn't happy with my time so I immediately signed up for the next one.

The Training
After the ING race I took 4 straight days off, then only rounded the week off with 11 miles over three days. I was really taking it easy. I had some mild IT band pain, and I was trying to figure out good stretches. Since there were only three weeks between races, the next two weeks were pretty easy going. I was able to finally do some full speed runs by the end of the second week, and by the time the race was coming up my pain was gone. The other thing I did was get a new pair of shoes. My others had a few hundred miles on them and had a hole in the side.

The goal was 2 hours, or less. At one point I had convinced myself I might be able to go 1:50 - but I didn't want to get ahead of myself, 16 minutes would be a ton of time to drop :)

Packet Pickup
The expo was at a mall in what was apparently a spare store. It was easy to find, and much smaller than the IGN one. One sort of odd thing was there was no email about what our bib numbers were, but you were supposed to ask for your packet by number. They solved this problem by posting the bib number/name list on the wall outside the expo... not a big deal, but sort of odd.

I got in, got my packet, got my shirt and goodie bag. We took a spin or two around the expo, nothing special and we left. In the packet was the race number and a chip to put on my shoe. There weren't instructions on how to install the chip, and I didn't have any safety pins. No big deal, I think I got spoiled by the ING race that was pretty well put together comparatively

Race Morning
Up at 4 - my sister picked me up at 4:45, and we found parking a little after 5:20. We headed down to the race, there were far fewer people. I think 4,000 or so. We stopped at the bathrooms, medium lines, took some time to stretch. We watched the rollers start, then walked into the start area. There were no corrals, just signs that represented your estimated pace. So what did I learn last time? I didn't want to get stuck behind a bunch of slow runners, and neither did my sister. We situated ourselves just ahead of the 2 hour pace people.

The Start
The group started moving, we didn't hear the start but everyone lunged forward, and then we slowed to a walk until we got to the actual start. The whole process took 30 seconds, that was nice :) I had my ipod along, iPods are allowed for this race, plus I wanted to track my race using Runkeeper. Runkeeper died almost exactly at mile two... That program is losing favor with me. I feel like the starting position was good, some people to pass, some people passing us. The 1:50 pacer came running by, so I decided to try to settle in behind her, it got my legs moving, but I knew I couldn't hold that pace long, I lost her shortly after runkeeper died.

The Run
The course was pretty decent, most of it is along A1A in Ft. Lauderdale, so it's an out and back. I have to admit, the scenery is great, but that setup isn't that awesome. There were plenty of water stops, with water on both sides. The people giving it out were usually pretty good about yelling out where the sport drink or water was. So by mile 3 I was already happier with this race than the last one. Again I don't have splits, but basically I popped out pretty fast, and then settled into about a 9 minute pace until around mile 10. During 10 and 11 I think I did roughly 9:45s. I was starting to doubt my 2 hour goal, up until then I was pretty sure I was going to make it no problem. I hit another water stop and then decided I needed to pick the pace back up. The last two miles I basically kept right around nine minutes.

So there were a couple of things I didn't like about the out and back. First is that it's boring. It's not all on the same street, but most of it is. The other thing is that the half marathon and full marathon overlap substantially at the end of the race. What that means is that the fast marathoners and marathon hand bikers come tearing down the course past average speed half marathoners. I felt bad for those guys, they basically spend the last four miles (or more) of their race yelling at people to move to the right. Mix in people listening to their iPods (allowed in this race) and you get some pretty dangerous situations.

The Finish
The finish seemed to never come, this race really kicked my butt. I knew when I got to the 13th mile I was going to make 2 hours no problem, I was pretty happy. I saw my wife and kids really close to the line and that made me smile the rest of the way in. I picked up a medal, took off my own chip to avoid the relatively slow (but not really annoyingly slow) line to have someone else do it. Picked up some water and headed back to see if I could see my sister finish. The finish is at the beach, so then we hung out in the sand, and talked about the race. Eventually we went back for some food, there was plenty of everything, and decent music playing. Overall the finish was great, it's the highlight of the race for sure.

The Results
Clock Time1:58:31
Chip Time1:57:32
Overall Place788 / 2783
Gender Place517 / 1233
Division Place49 / 133
5K Time26:49
5K Pace8:38
6 55M Time57:44
6 55M Pace8:49

It's clear here that I just kept slowing down throughout the race, but I did make my goal!

Closing Comments
This was a much better race than ING. Far fewer people, better start position, better water stops, better finish line. While I may never actually run this race again, I'd recommend it to people. The only real complaint I have is that the out and back course is pretty frustrating, if there was a way to accomplish the same course without have the last five miles of both courses overlapping that'd probably make it great.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Race Preview - Ft. Lauderdal A1A half Marathon

With one half out of my way, and feeling like my lack of experience got in the way of meeting my goals, I immediately signed up for another.

Race Info
The race goes through downtown Ft. Lauderdale, through what appears to be a small park, and along the beach on A1A. It's very flat, so that suites me just fine. According to the website there is a cap on entrants at 6,000; a far cry from the 21,000+ at the last race. I'm really hoping that means it will be less of a zoo, time will tell.

Overall, my goal is to break 2 hours. I missed by a little more than 6 minutes the last time, but I really believe that if I can settle into my pace in the first mile instead of after three miles I can make that time up. A related goal, get back into some training. I took a few days off this week because my calves were so sore, and the last two runs have been nice and easy. My knees feel a little funny, so I don't want to push my luck. This weekend I'm hoping to get in 8 miles.

Closing Comments
I really like running near the ocean near where we live, so I'm thinking the salty ocean breeze will help motivate me at the end. I'm hoping the coral system gets me in a place where I don't spend too much time passing people and can just settle in to a crowd that runs roughly my pace. Having said that, I do have a little fear that not passing everyone will be a confidence neutralizer. It definitely makes you feel good to pass 5000 runners.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Race Review - ING Miami half marathon

My first half marathon - I can't quite remember when my wife and sister talked me into it, but it is done.

The Training
I trained as well as I knew how, I found a 20 week program to follow that would slowly work me up to the race. The plan was to just finish, without too much walking. Me, my wife, my sister, my wife's sister. It was going to be great. After all, two years ago I couldn't run a mile without stopping.

Somewhere along the line we lost two competitors, for good reason, and I decided that my new target was going to be 2 hours! I was super excited. So that was the goal, 2 hours.

Packet Pickup
The pickup was at a convention center, we showed up early on the 2nd day of the expo, the day before the race. There was a line, it didn't matter we were waiting for my sister who was running behind. We picked up our packets easy as pie, picked up some rail tickets for our return journey, and walked the expo for a bit.

Race Morning
Up at 4. We got dropped off right in front of American Airlines Arena at 4:45, and headed over to the Footworks tent for some sitting and chit-chat. There were plenty or porto-johns, with hardly any lines. We found our way to the corrals around 5:30, that too was easy. There were so many people! I think 21,000 people in the end. My sister and I were in J (as in A-I were in front of us.)

There was plenty of room in the corals, it was warm, and things were going nicely. We heard the wheelchairs start, and then we saw a flair when the elites started.

15 or so minutes later my sister and I start the race, I had tossed my long sleve shirt to the side of the road and was ready to go. THERE WERE SO MANY PEOPLE! Remember when I registered, the goal was to finish, and then I switched that goal to 2 hours? Corral J is for people expecting about 11 minute miles, to finish in to hours is roughly 9 minute miles. That is a huge speed difference, starting in J was not helping my goal. I am not kidding when I say I spent the entire race passing people. Lesson learned.

The Run
I didn't have a watch, so I don't have splits - but I know now that passing people for 13 straight miles makes it hard to hit your goals :) Again, lesson learned.

The course was decent, super flat. I had done all of my training in a flat area, so I was a little worried about the couple of bridges, but they were nothing to worry about. Also, somehow, the course was layed out so I didn't need my sunglasses really. That felt like a nice touch.

There were plenty of water stops, though they were always on the same side of the road. So when a three lane road full of people suddenly run to the right for water, it causes problems. I was also surprised about the water stops, I was expecting some sort of indication that they were coming, after a while I realized that if you hear loud chattering and a cluster of people, that's enough sign. Also after the first one you pretty much had to hunt for water. The people manning them were very nice though, so I appreciated that.

The Finish
I saw my time on the board, I knew I had missed my two hour goal, but I was happy to finish. I was surprised to find out that my legs didn't want to stop running :) After that I wandered around, picked up my finisher's medal, and some water all within 50 feet of crossing the finish, and tried to find the exit. The finish was not a fun place, tons of sweaty people looking for people they knew. There were lots of barricades up, presumably to keep spectators out of the finish area, but also keeping runners in it. The funnel they created was very slow and didn't appear to have enough people encouraging people to move on.There did appear to be plenty of food, bananas, cookies, Gatorade recovery, you name it.
The Results
Clock Time 2:23:11
Chip Time 2:06:27
Overall Place4845 / 13407
Gender Place 3317 / 6592
Division Place 519 / 976
10K 1:00:31
Pace 9:40

I know for sure the first two miles were slower than 11 minutes, and I think the first mile was close to 13 minutes. so I spent the rest of race making up time.

Closing Comments
I probably wouldn't do this race again. It seems like it's larger than they know how to deal with. Some things I think they could change.
  • Add a clock at the start, except for people who start when the gun goes off, everyone else who doesn't have a watch has to guess what time it is
  • Put water stops on both sides of the road
  • Figure out a way to keep the finish stream lined, keep people moving
  • The beginning roads are too narrow to let that many people go at once. Start people slower so there is room to run
I'm happy with my first half marathon, I'm hoping to do the Ft. Lauderdale 13.1 at the end of February.