Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mayor's Marathon - vision quest or folly at 50?

Caveat This
I am not a marathoner, at least for running. Seems that I’m becoming more of a marathon specialist in skiing, but for running I’m still a middle distance guy.

On Patriots Day, in April, I had a vision: to run 17:20 for 5K, 1:20 or better for the half, sub 5 for the mile, and go for a 2:50 marathon—all by July. Ideally Humpy's, which is August, and has a more favorable course, may have been a better choice for a marathon but I have 3 weeks of wilderness travel planned in July, so Mayor's Marathon in Anchorage it was.

The vision quest was on.

Leading up to the race things could not have gone better, and I nailed the race goals for the shorter distances and logged enough long runs and tempos to feel ready. I built from 40 miles a week in mid April to a peak of 71 in early June, with a couple of cut back weeks to fend off an overuse injury from the rapid build up following ski season. The plan seemed to work. However, I went into taper week feeling a little flat and looking at the course profile, knew that 2:50 would be tough to match.

The plan was to run the first half between 1:25:30 and 1:26:30 and hopefully be able either hold on or even pick it up to 6:20s.

I flew down on my own, but met up with friends Mark Lindberg (45 who just ran a 2:44 at Boston) and Steve Bainbridge, the Equinox Marathon director and former running club president. We were total running geeks, and Mark's wife Maggie deserves a medal for putting up with us during our carbo meal and pre/post race routines.

Race Course
Although I knew much of the terrain, and studied the profile the course was harder than I had expected. The course can be described in three parts, with a kicker fourth. The first 9 miles are flat or rolling, with the first 7 on pavement and then the 8th and 9th on gravel road. Miles 10 through about 15 are on gravel or dirt, with most of that on the infamous tank trail on Fort Richardson. After 15 it’s all flat or downhill to the coast until mile 25.5, where runners must climb up “Insult Hill” to the finish at West High School. Most of the course makes sense—for an old school marathon course—the last mile is kind of a cruel joke. In your face, Alaska style.

Race Time
I was right on pace through the first third of the course, averaging 6:35 per mile. I moved into 8th place by the 2nd mile, and was running in a pack. A younger runner named Joe from San Diego by way of Maine started a conversation and we would run together for more than half of the race.

Miles 10 through 14 were a grind--and that's the part that was much tougher than I'd anticipated. Navigating over the 1 inch unpacked gravel took a lot of concentration, and my knee started to ache. The pace from mile 9 through 15 was 6:47, for a combined average of just under 6:40 per mile.

The downhill was welcome but steep and we clicked off a couple of low 6:20s without much effort--I was hoping my quads wouldn't hurt. Was feeling good at 18, and then slowed down just a bit at the aid station to get a 2nd drink, and Joe put on a lead, which I was never able to regain. Came into the lagoon about a minute back, I’d averaged 6:30 from 15 through 25—not the 6:20s I’d hoped but it was solid. Seemed that a 2:52 was in the bag. But that was before Insult Hill. At the base of the hill marathoners merged with the mid pack 1/2 marathoners. I had to weave and bob through the winding neighborhood streets, and got cut off at several corners. I totally lost focus on pace. That last mile was about 7:40, and the 385 was 1:14.

Final time was 2:54:02, 8th overall and 1st in my age group by 29 minutes.

Mark ran an outstanding 2:41:50, for 3rd and a new master’s record. Woot!

Steve said he didn’t get in enough long runs for training this spring, but he still ran a 3:43, good enough for 6th in the 55-59 age group (and more than respectable time for 59).

Post mortem
Marathons are tough. Now, a couple days later I feel a little better about it. My splits were nearly perfectly even. 1:26:26 at 13 miles and 2:52:46 at 26. There’s not much I could have done to run a better race other than ending ski season sooner and putting in more running miles in April…


The race was well organized and the course was never boring. They had good aid stations, about every 2.5 miles. I took a drink at every one.

Crowd support, was so so, compared to Equinox which really gets little Fairbanks in a thrall. Nevertheless, Mayor’s is a runner’s race, and point to point, and there just aren’t that many spots for spectators. Not a huge deal. Except for the layout of the last mile (which they could really improve) and merging of ½ marathoners and marathoners over that section, I thought it was a very well done event.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Flint Hills Mile - Going for sub 5 at 50

After my last track mile (road miles don’t really count, do they?) I wrote up a little report (July 2006) and posted up the age graded table below, using WAVA.


WAVA age group equivalents are based on a calculation compared to the world's
best times for a given age.

For perspective though, the world record for 50+ is 4:26.75. I'm 34 seconds back so it's pretty safe!

This little table shows my progression and regression since starting running at age 18. And I've managed to pick insert "age group equivalent" times using WAVA tables.
Age Group ---- Best Time ------ Age Group Equivalent#
19 and under --- 4:47.2 ------- 4:47.2
20-24 ---------- 4:31.5 ------- 4:31.5
25-29 ---------- 4:24.7*------- 4:24.7*
30-34 ---------- 4:31.8*------- 4:31.8*
35-39 ---------- 4:46.1 ------- 4:41.2
40-44 ---------- 4:38.9 ------- 4:24.7
45-49 ---------- 4:54.0 ------- 4:21.3
50-54 ---------- 5:00.8 ------- 4:23.6
*converted from 1500 m

Last week in the 5000 m I barely eked out a time faster than the arbitrary bottom line goal for the race. Again, this time it was very close. With the marathon coming up next week I kind of worked through this one and wasn't too in to it going in, but knowing that this would be my first an only track mile of the year, I wanted to break 5 minutes.

Track is almost nonexistent here. We’ll get maybe a dozen or so hard cores at the local all comer’s meets, but about 100 - 120 runners show up for the Flint Hills Mile because it is part of the club’s eight race series. They break it down into five or six heats with youth going first, then women, and faster (sub 5:30) men last.

Looking at the field, I kind of had a feeling that I'd be out in no man's land for a while, but hoped to draft or chase for two or three laps and then reel in some fast starters. The first 100 was a sprint, but then they settled in. I was about 8th or 9th place at the 200, with the lead pack of four already about 4 seconds up. I didn't want to run their pace (71s per lap), but didn't want out be out alone either, so I hung back. My legs felt mushy from a 30 km run four days prior.

Passed two at the end of the first lap and we went by the quarter mile at 76, a little slow but okay. I move up. Finally, back on the homestretch, 700 m into the race, the two guys in our little back slowed and I had to move. Picked it up and crossed the half in 2:33. That was enough for an internal arrgggg! Way too slow, and I knew then that a sub 5 would be tough to catch. The leaders were 10 sec up so there'd be no help there.

The runners went with me for 200 m and I almost let up to draft some more, but didn't want any more slowing so kept it rolling. My third lap would be the strongest, with a 73 quarter, and I crossed in 3:46. Feets don't fail me now!

I put in the best effort I could for the final lap, and with 200 to go, thought I had a good chance. Final time: 5:00.8 for 5th place.

Running in no man’s land for 900 meters of a mile is not the best way to nab a fast time. That's okay, coulda been better, but the mile isn't my focus this year. Next year, I promise to make a concerted effort and put in five or six weeks of miler training in the spring with the hope of bringing it well under 5 minutes.

Friday, June 06, 2008

5000 m on the Track

I have to admit to having some mixed feelings about this one. In 2005 and 2006 I stirred up enough interest to generate local participation to run the 5000 at our first all comers meet. We had 8 or 10 runners in the 5, with winning times in the low 16s, and I hung on to run mid/lower pack and did 17:03 and 17:17 those years respectively. Last year I got injured and despite trying to get the guys to show up anyway, but no one made it. So I timed the other races that day.

This year, I tried to drum up participation once again, but injuries, "age", and lack of interest seemed to rule. I got there at 6:30, and the usual crowd of 10 or so runners (ranging from about 15 to 70) who use these meets as a workout were there. They run three or four races ranging from the 100 to 1600 meters. But nobody showed for the 5000.

So I had to do the thing myself. These are low key, so rather than run the entire 5000 alone I asked to start with the 1600 m runners and run the extra 8.5 laps solo. The main oddity would be finishing on the backstretch.

One runner was hoping for 5:30 or 5:40, so I thought I'd have some company for the first mile at least. We followed a couple of youngsters for 2 laps (2:47), and then went out on my own - foolishly perhaps because my 3rd and 4th laps were 78 and 81. Too fast too early, for me, especially with the solo effort ahead.

So the mile was 5:26, 4-6 sec faster than planned. The 3200 split was 11:02, and I wasn't doing that bad, but without a pack or anyone to chase I was having difficulty with keeping focused. The third 1600 was a struggle, still cranking out 85s (one 87), but starting to run on my heels and shuffle. Hit 16:42 for 1600, and knew I'd have to run that last 200 very hard to reach my minimum goal of 17:20.

Had a decent kick and final time 17:19.1. WAVA age graded performance: 83.29%.

Met my standard (barely), and was somewhat surprised to drop a 78 on that third lap, without feeling it at the time, and to close with a relatively quick final 200. But it could have been better (sub 17:10) if I'd paced a little smarter and/or had some help with a pack to follow.

I'm going to try to find some sponsorship for some of these track races, and get some prizes to bring out the fast guys and gals so we have some competition out there!