Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Race Report: The Silicon Valley Marathon

Okay, I struggled.  I never felt in a grove or relaxed.  Yet, I finished.  I thought I would come in between 3:59:59 and 4:20.  I really wanted to have a sub 4 (or very close to 4:00). I did not get that time.  :(  It is disappointing, but I still finished with a solid time (for me) of 4:16:08, within my target range.  The good thing is that I completed the marathon with no sign of significant injury.  My knee held up even if I was very sore.  The thing is that I know I could do better.  I know I was trained for a better time, but it was tough out there for me on Sunday.  So on to the details:

I have to start with the excuses.  Yes, I have them.  Saturday just did not go good for me.  I felt like crap during the day (a sore throat and light headed).  I was able to rest some in the late afternoon and started to feel better.  I tried to stay relaxed at night.  I went to bed about 10:45 pm (I was a bit nervous and could not fall asleep sooner).  Then, about 12:45pm, I am awoken by my dog!

My dog, Jake, sleeps on the bed with us.  On Friday night his face swelled up significantly.  I was out at a pasta party.  My wife (Jill) left me a message that she was rushing Jake to the vet because his face was about three times its normal size.  When Jake gets home his face is still swollen.  The vet says he must have been bit by a Bee or spider and had a reaction.  She gave him some medication and he should be fine.  We watch him throughout Sat. and his face continues to go back to normal.  By night time we don't think much about it.  He seems okay.

Then at 12:45pm he is freaking out.  Jumping all over and off the bed.  I get up and let him outside in case he has to go pee or poop.  I checked him out when he came back in.  Everything seems okay.  I go back to bed.  Then, within an hour he is again jumping on and off the bed.  He moves from one part of the bed to the next.  This goes on until about 3am (after multiple times of us telling him to stop and settle down).  At 3am, Jill puts him outside.  Within a half an hour we hear him banging against the door.  So we try again to put him in the bed room.  His crazy actions continue until about 4am, when Jill gets up and takes him to the living room to sleep on the couch with him so that I can get some sleep before I have to wake up a 5am.

So that's my vent.  The short story is that I got a crappy night sleep the night before after feeling like crap in the day.  But, I knew I still had to focus on being positive.  I told myself that I got a solid night's sleep the two prior nights so I was okay.  I'm not sure how much of an effect the bad night sleep had on my performance.  I do love my dog so much that I was not really upset with him . . . I think he had a right to be a little freaked out.

Here is Jake:

So on to the race details.

I arrived early (about 6:15 am).  My wife works in an office near the start line.  Which is great because I have an entire indoor restroom to myself.  :)  We made our way to the start line in plenty of time.

It was still dark when the race started.  I had a salt tablet before the gun.  My plan was to run a 9:00-9:05 min a mile pace the first half and then try to either keep the pace or pick it up in the second half.  I had my best running friend, Garmin, with me to help me keep pace.  As always I seem to want to start out very fast.  But, I just kept checking my avg. pace with Garmin and adjusted my speed accordingly.

Miles 1-3 were basically just trying to find the right pace.  I ran 8:48 the first mile, but then ran exactly a 9:00 pace for miles 2 and 3.  So I was doing okay.  Following the plan.  Yet, I did not feel in a grove. My legs felt tired.  Yet, I was confident that things would fall into place.

During mile 3 and 4, I thought back to last year when my knee pain developed.  When I first started training in March, I was very uncertain that my left knee would hold up.  I was thankful that my knee felt okay and I was getting through the spot of the injury last year.

My mile 4 was a little off pace at 9:15.  I think this is when my stomach first started bothering me (yes, another excuse).  I was not having major stomach cramps, but I felt like one could come on any second.  I tired to take deep breathes.  I thought about using one of the pot-a-potty's but I pushed through because I wanted to stay on pace.  I ran miles 5-9 around a 9 min pace.  Things seemed to be going okay, but I still had not found a good grove.  It was more of a struggle to maintain the pace than it should have been.  Miles 10-12 were just a fight to keep pace and hold off the stomach cramps.  I could tell this was going to be a hard run.  I was already beginning to doubt whether I could keep the pace.

My goal was to get to mile 15 before stopping to use the restroom.  But, before the halfway point I saw an empty port a potty.  I was still at a 9 min a mile pace but I knew that now was the time to use it.  As a result my mile 13 was my worst mile of the first half (10:02).  To complicate matters, I lost half of the string that is used to tie my shorts.  I had one long half and the other half was out of sight.  I tired for a couple of seconds to dig it out, but I just gave up and used my water belt to hold up my shorts.  I had the vision of the shorts falling off, but thankfully that never occurred.  Here I come nearing the halfway point:

So the first half was tough.  I was still on pace for a sub 4, if I could run the same speed in the second half.  I got to 13.1 about 1:58.  However, I struggled from the get go of the second half.  My mile 14 was at 10:30 and my mile 15 was at 9:54.  Just like that I was off pace. Then, mile 16 I ran in 11:28.  I remember taking Powerbar Gel after mile 15.  Maybe, I should have taken it early (I had taken powerbar Gel after mile 5 and 10).

I did pick it up and have a good mile 17 at 8:43 and a solid mile 18 at 9:16.  Here are some pictures between miles 15 and 18:

Miles 19-26, however, were just tough.  I never could not find a good grove and never really felt relaxed.  Maybe, I tried to put too much pressure on myself.  My legs were very sore and it felt hot. So what I tired to do was to run from one mile marker to the next with a walk when I reached the mile marker (generally about .1 or .2 of a mile walk).  Maybe, I should have just focused on walking ofr 30 seconds at a time and then run to the next mile marker.  My walks were too long.  But, I was sore and exhausted. 

Generally I would see the same people during these miles.  I would pass them when I run and they would pass me when I walked.  I had a short walk break before mile 25 and then ran the rest of the way.  I was tried and exhausted but I pushed myself to make sure I finished within my target range.  I was disappointed that I would not have a sub-4, but I was also happy that I was finishing my second marathon with a PR! (easy to do due to the injury last time).  Here I come at mile 26:

And, here I come to finish the marathon:

I take a slight moment to remember my dad by pointing up.

In the end, it was a tough day for me.  I am disappointed with my time.  Yet, I am happy that I completed my second marathon.  This time without (I think) an injury.  My knees, legs and feet are still sore, but I think they will be okay.  I also know that I can do better.  I so badly want to go out there and run it on Sunday again (if it were possible) and do better.  So I know I have realistic goals in front of me.  I really can't wait for my next marathon because I know the experience of this one will help me.  And, I do understand that I'm relatively new to running and I will learn how to improve maintain a pace for 26.2 miles.  Here are some post-run photos:

Me after the finish:

Jill and me, with the baby to come:

Some of my running group members:

Here are my splits:

Mile Time

1 08:48.9

2 09:00.2

3 09:00.6

4 09:15.2

5 08:59.0

6 09:03.4

7 08:47.2

8 08:55.4

9 08:56.8

10 09:10.1

11 09:04.0

12 09:07.8

13 10:02.2

14 10:30.7

15 09:54.7

16 11:28.8

17 08:43.1

18 9:13

19 10:07.8

20 11:21.5

21 10:04.1

22 11:36.1

23 11:06.7

24 10:52.2

25 10:57.2

26 09:44.9

0.2 forgot to stop Garmin

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The day before the SV marathon

One day to go!  It is so exciting.  I picked up my bib this afternoon.  #480.  It is going to be very interesting on how my body holds up.  Last year was my first marathon, but I hurt myself (as everyone knows) around mile 3.  Hopefully I don't get injured this time and can see how my body responds in the second half.

I am targeting a finishing time between 3:59 and 4:20.  I plan to go out at a 9 to 9:05 min a mile pace the first half.  If I feel good, I will slightly pick it up the second half (maybe just 5 or 10 seconds a mile).  I want to leave myself a couple extra minutes for any unexpected breaks (the need to walk or use the bathroom being the main ones).  I know I will hit a wall at some point.  So hopefully I can push through it.

However, regardless of my finish time I am so thankful to be able to run and hopefully complete 26.2 miles.  Two years ago, on Oct. 28, 2007, my father passed away after a tough battle with cancer.  I lived close to him and did my best to support him.  I watched him undergo all the treatments that were recommended.  I rushed to the hospital a number of times when something went wrong.  I was there about week before his death when his doctor came to his house to tell him that the treatments were not working and he would likely only have a week to live.  He handled the news with strength and courage.  He continued to battle the cancer until his death.  He fought to walk 20 feet (with the use of a walker and help from others, including me).  I remember how difficult it was for him to just stand up or sit up.

I know that 26.2 miles is hard. And, I know there will be hard times.  But, just like last year, during those hard times I will focus on how lucky I am to be alive and to be healthy.  I will remember that many people, like my dad, have to fight a tough disease that makes it difficult for them to take one step.

My dad died because of lung cancer.  He smoked.  Sometimes I get angry because he smoked.  Yet, about six months after his death, I looked at my life.  I weighed 232 pounds, had high blood pressure and eat unhealthy.  I did not smoke, but yet I was not treating my body as I should.  I was living a very unhealthy live.  I decided that I would get in shape.  I always enjoyed running (even though I had not run years) and always wanted to run a marathon and decided that I would train for one and run it in memory of my dad (my first posts tell the story).  I've also learned to eat healthier.

So this year I will gain run this marathon in memory of my father.  I also run it to be healthy because I learned from his live and what he went through.  So no matter what time I finish with I am so thankful to be able to run 26.2 miles.  It will be a blessing to be able to complete (hopefully) my second marathon.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Only 3 days to go

I have now finished my long runs, my hill runs and my track workout.

The long run over the weekend was only 6 miles.  I ran the last 3 miles harder than the first 3 and finished about a 8:40 pace.  The running group was small since it was only 6 miles, but it was great to see the yello running group again (and for the last time this season).  It is going to be strange to wake up on Saturday and not see the runners that I've ran with the past 6 months.  I will miss running with them.  Hopefully, next year I'll see a lot of them on the trails.

Here is one picture I took of us after the 6 mile run.  I'm in the back

Last year I trained by myself so it was a new experience to run the long runs with a group.  I enjoyed it and would definitely run with running groups in the future.  It was nice to also get to know some of the people in the group.  I thought most of the runners were very nice and made for enjoyable runs (especially the very long runs).  I know I'll miss most of the runners.

A few hours ago, I finished my last track workout.  This was also the first year I did speed workouts on a track.  Tonight, I took it easy and only did two 800s, one 1200 and one 1600. I kept a good pace and felt I got a good, but short workout in.  I think the speed workouts have increased my long run pace.  It will be exciting to see if it pays off in the marathon.

On Thursday I will run my last training run before the big day on Sunday.  I'm planning to run only for 20 or 25 minutes.  I had a good hill run and track workout this week so I plan to take it easy on Thursday.

I also went to the Doctor's today for a physical.  With the news of the recent deaths of runners, I thought it would not hurt to have a physical (it had been over a year).  My doctor found nothing obvious.  So I'm good to go.

Can't wait . . . only 3 more days.  I better get to bed so I can rest up.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10 days to go

The marathon is only 10 days away. I'm so excited! Redemption? Or, a repeat of last year? Hopefully, at the very least a fun race.

This past Sat. I finished my last long run. We did a hill run of almost 12 miles. We ran this about two-three months ago and it was very difficult. It is still a little difficult, but much easier now that I have had a couple more months of training. So hopefully that's a good sign. The run has a lot of hills which makes it difficult, but also very fun. I find enjoyment in running hills. You have a chance to focus on your form and breathing. There is also a sense of accomplishment with each hill you climb, especially if the hill is difficult.

I also finished my last Yasso 800s today. I've been a bit under the weather this week (great timing) so I did not feel like running tonight after work. I wanted to go home and just rest. But, I forced myself to the track and had an okay run. My 800s (10 of them) were between 3:16 and 3:31. Yet, I went slow doing the down time of each 800. However, I finished all 10. My last Yasso 800. Hopefully these 800s will help.

Now the big issue on my mind is my plan for the marathon. I don't want to go out too fast. Yet, I really want a sub-4. My concern is burning out the last portion of the marathon and falling off pace so I initially wanted to run the first half faster to give me lead time. Yet, most things I read seem to state it is best to go for a negative split or run each 1/2 the same pace. Thus, I'm thinking about running a 8:50-9 min pace the first 13 miles and then try to run a little faster the second half (maybe only 5 seconds a mile faster). This would still give a little room in case I have a bad mile or two in the second half.

Monday, October 5, 2009

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon - My best race to-date!

This past Sunday, October 4, 2009, I ran the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.

So far in my limited running experience, I have only ran three races.  I ran the SJ Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon last year.  In that half Marathon, my training run called for 20 miles so I ran 7 miles before the half marathon.  That was the first time I ever ran 20 miles so the last few miles of the half marathon were very slow and difficult.  I ran the Silicon Valley Marathon last year and hurt my knee in mile three. That left for a very slow and painful 23.2 more miles.  And, then in August, I ran the half marathon in Mountain View. In that half marathon, it was in the 90s, the race started late (9am, I think) and I went out way too fast (about 7 min a mile pace).  I ended up losing all energy by mile 5 and really struggled for the next 5 miles before I finished somewhat strong.  Ended up with a time of about 2:07.

So I had yet to have a good race.  And, really not an enjoyable race.  Which made me wonder if I just like punishment.  :)

My expectations for the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll half were initially simple - come in under 2 hours so that I could keep up some hope of running the marathon in under 4 hours.  However, thinking it through I realized that I really needed to come in better than 2 hours to have a goal of a sub 4 for the marathon.  I decided to try for 1:54 in the half.  According to the McMillan Running Calculator that would put me close to a 4 hour marathon time.  With my Yasso 800s about 3:30, I thought that would give me a shot at a sub 4.

My plan was to not start off too fast.  Keep it around 8:45 pace.  I told myself to run a 8:45 pace the first half and then try to pick it up the second half.  I hoped to approach an avg pace of about 8:40 before I crossed the finish line.  That would get me in under 1:54.

There were about 12K people there.  The streets were packed with runners.  Here is a picture from the main website:

I started off about 45 seconds or so away from the start line.  It was packed with runners and it seemed that every one was going faster than me.  That made it difficult to keep my planned pace.  Thankfully, my good friend, Garmin, was there to always let me know that I needed to slow down. Yet, it was tough.  The first 2 miles, I ran about a 8:35 pace.  Yet, I kept telling myself to slow down, its a long race.  My main concern was to go too fast and then burn out.  I'm still learning how to race and, more importantly, what my body can handle.  I was good at slowing down.  I ran miles 3 and 4 about a 8:41 pace.

Then I ran into a couple other runners from my running group.  I ran with them for a little while.  I noticed my avg pace was creeping back towards 8:30 avg pace.  This was not the plan so I had to slow down and let them go a head.  My mile 4 (when I was running with the runners) was at a 8:17 pace.  So, slowing down might have been a good idea.  I had powerbar gel about mile 6.  Towards the end of mile 6, after the power bar gel, I started to pick up the pace.  I felt good at that time.

I kept a faster pace for mile 8 and ran it at 8:06 pace.  In mile 9, I was able to catch up with the runners from my running group and I was feeling good.  I was actually enjoying the race . . . for the first time.  I felt confident that if I kept a solid pace, then I would be able to reach my goal of 1:54.  I ran miles 9 and 10 a little slower than my mile 8 since I did not want to burn out (about a 8:15 pace).  I also had another power bar gel before getting to mile 10.

My thought was to try to push hard the last three miles and see how my body responds.  For me, I tend to think of three miles as the home stretch (only 3 miles left, no problem).  So I picked it up and my mile 11 was run at a 7:56 pace and mile 12 at a 7:54 pace.  Then, at mile 12, I saw the clock and noticed that with a strong last mile I could come in under 1:50.  I pushed the last 1.1.  I was tried, but felt good.  I ran mile 13 about a 7:21 pace.  What was interesting is that in the beginning of the race when I was telling myself to slow down, I kept getting passed by many runners. Yet, now at the end, I was passing many runners.  So maybe slowing down at the beginning helped.  Or, maybe not.  It does feel great though to be able to finish strong.

In the end, it was a fun race.  Easily my best race ever!  A new PR (easy to do based on my bad experiences before) with an official time of 1:48:52.

Here are my Garmin results:

Avg Speed
Max Speed

My friend, Garmin, had to running it 2 seconds faster than the official time and also had my going .1 further.  Still a great race.

And, finally a post-race picture:

I also have to say I was impressed by my wife, who at 27 weeks, walked (and ran the last mile) of the half marthon.  Great job!