Saturday, September 27, 2008

Akron 2008

<- DrT around 11 am outside the Akron Stadium... tired but happy.

Well, the fun is over... This was my 6th marathon... my first Akron Marathon and second marathon this year. My target time was 3:30 but since I have already qualified for Boston, I had no pressure to meet this time.

The week before the marathon was strange. I was excited about re-starting my ebay auctions, and every night I was working late, going to bed between 1:30 and 3:33 am, waking up around 8 am. So I got very little sleep (5-6 hours average a night), but I did not feel tired and did not have any mid-day naps (as I normally do :))

Marathon day the weather looks good, cool (60F) but rather high humidity. I forgot my hat in the car! That’s OK, without sun or rain, I did not need it.

I started strong, following the 3:30 pacer (Lloyd), together with Jamie, for the first 3 miles and then moved a bit ahead. The first 11 miles on Akron streets were OK: 8:20 7:40 7:41 7:24 7:49 7:48 7:52 8:01 7:38 7:54 7:39. I have set my Garmin to show my average pace. It was stuck at 7:47 (I kept thinking Boing 747, doing OK).

The next 4 miles were on the Towpath. I started slowing down: 7:40 7:45 7:50 8:00. Aaron and Rose had joined us earlier and we were all running together. At the towpath exit I met my family, but did not stop, just waved "hi" at them. At this point I was already behind the group.

As some of you know, the fun really starts after mile 15 when we exit the towpath. A tough section with lots of uphills goes on for the next 4 miles. I start to slow down: 8:12 8:14 8:24 8:29, as expected, but what is not expected is that my legs are feeling tired.

We are back to Akron streets. The people support is great but my legs are killing me...I continue to slow down: 8:03 8:12 8:26. I start thinking of changing my goal to 3:35-3:40. At this point, I hear this soft voice behind me "you can do it George". It is Jen, whose time goal was 3:40. She is passing me! That was a bit of a shock for me. And, behind, her comes the 3:30 pace group.

I decide to stop the slow-down, and follow the pace group. I have to dig deep inside to find the strength to do that.. Lloyd (pace leader) is very nice with encouraging words for everyone around him, including the volunteers. The next two miles are back to target pace: 8:07 8:09. Lloyd says “don’t worry guys, we’ll make the lost time at the downhill coming up.”

Finally, we reach West Market Street, for the last 2.5 miles, mostly downhill. I am hurting, but I manage to run fast, and keep close to the pacer: 7:42 7:31. I see Jen ahead. We now turn on Main Street. I look at my watch: I CAN MAKE IT, but I have to hurry! Last 0.4 miles (my Garmin was running a bit slow) were at 7:06.

I enter the Stadium, sprinting for the finish line. I see that the official clock is past 3:30 but I know it took a while to cross the start line, so I know I am making it, but it is close!

Official Time: 3:29:44

Mission accomplished (barely :)) This is actually my 2nd fastest marathon. This year has been good to me so far.

My family is in the stadium, cheering me up. I grabbed as much free food as I could, plus the 3 beers (I had one right away!) I then went to the car, changed, and came back for some 3d pictures.

Despite the pain, it was a nice day. While the Cleveland Marathon felt very easy, this one was a struggle for me. I don’t think I would have made it, if Lloyd, Jen, and the 3:30 group had not showed up at the right time. Thank you guys! And congratulations to everyone who was out there running today!

Next: Towpath marathon in 2 weeks. But, first, our daughter has invited us to run a 5K in Toledo tomorrow. A 5K the day after a marathon? That’s what I said. But she wanted us to go and visit and run with her. I might have to walk this one. It will definitely be my slowest 5K ever (so far).

Monday, September 22, 2008

1 Week to Akron

<- From the Buckeye Half, two weeks ago... Running with brand new shoes, the same pair I will use for Akron.

Fast group run on Saturday. I joined the CV-Running group at 7:00 am at Peninsula and we ran south on the Towpath for 6.6 miles and then back for a total of 13.2 miles at 1:45. The average pace was 8 min/mile and my mile splits were: 8:43 8:11 8:13 8:03 8:07 7:57 8:03 7:33 7:41 8:11 7:41 7:50 7:54 7:35.

Isn’t that a bit too fast, considering that this is my target pace for Akron? I think so, but the rest of the group was going even faster and I was trying to keep up with them.

For the rest of the week, I plan to take it easy, with easy runs on Sunday-Wednesday and then take 2 days off (Thursday and Friday). I should then be ready for Akron.

I am a firm believer in running a marathon with fresh (new) shoes. I bought a pair of my favorite shoes (Mizuno Wave Creation) and tried them/broke them in the Buckeye Half Marathon. I have not put any more miles in them. I do not believe in prolonged “breaking in”. The shoes start wearing out the minute you put them on. Anyway, I plan to wear these shoes for the Akron Marathon.

Total for the week: 44 miles, 165 lbs

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2 Weeks to Akron (4 to Towpath)

A nice long and very challenging run today… We started from Peninsula at 6:30 am. Up “Initiation Hill” (very steep), then straight at the “Bike & Hike” trail, then down to Boston (water break). Then to Riverview Road and turn right up Stein (hilly). Continue to Oak Hill Road, right on Riverview (briefly) and to Bolanz Rd (water break). From there to Akron Peninsula Rd and back to start. Not only it was a hard and hilly course, it was pouring rain all the way. A tough run indeed.

I tired to follow the leading group but fell behind. I am happy with my mile splits: 10:18 8:10 8:14 7:42 7:19 8:05 8:39 8:35 8:59 8:11 8:06 7:40 8:14 8:29 8:20 8:37 8:12. Average Pace: 8:19, good for the conditions. Total mileage = 16.5.

Other news: I started my diet this week with a semi-fast on Monday (I only ate a couple of fruits). After reaching 168.5 lbs on Sunday, I was down to 162 on Thursday, but ate a bit more on Thursday and Friday and I was fine in the long run on Saturday. I know some people say that this (taper = 3 weeks before a marathon) is not a time for a diet, but that's what I did for Cleveland and it worked.

Goal or Target? I mentioned previously that my goal for the Akron marathon is 3:30. Actually, this is a target time. What is the difference? I think goal is something you really want to achieve and you either make it or not. Target is a time you aim for. You can be off and that’s not a big deal. Since I don’t really care for my time (having quality for Boston earlier), I think I can call 3:30 my goal. I will not be disappointed if I don’t meet this target time. I am taking it easy. The following day Lea wants us to run a 5K in Toledo. Two weeks later I will run the Towpath marathon.

Total for the week: 50 miles, 165 lbs

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Buckeye Half 2008

<- Liz & Lea before the race (I know Lea is not going to like this picture, but I tell them to smile! Something to remember next time...)

<- The "redesigned Buckeye Half course: starts a bit lower on Riverview, turn right at Bath Rd., then left at Akron Peninsula, left on Bolanz, left on Riverview, repeat loop.

OK, let’s get to the good stuff right away:

New course record AND new PR for half-marathon: 1:32:50 (previous PR 1:33:14 at the Fall Classic last year).

I am pleased because I ran a good race. The course was redesigned and it was a double loop this year. I have mixed feelings about double loops. While running the first loop, along a long stretch in the Akron Peninsula road, I kept thinking “Oh my God, do I have to go through this again?!!” But the second time around, time was ticking faster (because now I knew how long this stretch is and did not mind it – I was running on overdrive.) Here are my mile splits:

Mile Time
1 - 6:45
2 - 6:52
3 - 6:51
4 - 6:53
5 - 7:04
6 - 7:07
7 - 7:13
8 - 7:19
9 - 7:12
10 - 7:08
11 - 7:02
12 - 7:05
13 - 7:02
13+ - 6:22

I started strong. For the first 4 miles my average pace was 6:50. I could actually see Beth (2nd F) and the other female runners, not far ahead of me. I have set my Garmin to show my average pace (I do not care for the instant pace). After mile 4, the average pace started going up (I was slowing), until it stabilized around 7:02. My goal was to average 7 minute miles and I came very close to this.

What makes me especially happy is that at mile 8 I had my slowest mile (7:19). Doubts were going through my mind. Maybe I started too fast. Maybe this pace is more appropriate for a 10K, not a half marathon. But, instead of collapsing, I managed to reverse the decline and increase my pace again. My GPS watch was running a bit slow, compared to the marked miles. It registered 13.2 miles, instead of 13.1. In the the last 0.2 miles I had the strength and actually sprint and pass 2 runners, with a pace of 6:22!

The weather was perfect for running. Cold in the morning (55F), sunny, turning to cloudy and actually raining for a while. This morning I was 168.5 lbs. I have not been that high since June. Not good. I did not really need any fluids or food during the race, but I stopped in every water station just for the fun of it. For a long time I could see Vince (of Vertical Runner fame) in front of me, running with his dog! I can see being beaten by Vince, but by a dog too? It was around mile 10 that I managed to get ahead the dog, during a water stop. Quite a few runners passed me between miles 5-9, probably running a better race than me (better pacing). I didn't think I'd be happy to see someone pass me, but was happy to see my friend Howard pass me at mile 11. He is a better/faster runner so I was happy I stayed ahead of him for 11 miles.

<- Sprinting at the finish line.

My wife Liz and daughter Lea had signed up for the 5K of the same race. Liz is coming out from an injury (Achilles tendon) and this is her first race since the Fall Classic in November. She was pessimistic, thinking that she could barely run a 9 minute mile. This was her first race last year so she is “celebrating” a year of entering races. Result: She did much better than expected, with a new 5K PR of 26:20 (8:30 pace). But she finished 4/6 in her age group. She would have been 1st in the next age group (and she is moving to the next age group in December) and 2nd in the younger age group. Tough luck!

Lea had not done any running since the Brecksville 5K in June. When I say "no running", I don't mean "no racing". She has not run even once since then. Yet, she signs up, and manages to finish the 5K without walking! Her time (33:58) might not sound great, but considering the circumstances, it is excellent, and good enough for 2nd place age award. Way to go!

As for me, I finished 6/41 in my age group. Had I been in the next age group, I would have been first! Makes you happy to grow older!

Overall, a fine, enjoyable race, well-organized. I like the hoodies too. We had a bit of a crisis... Lea did not get a hoodie because she registered the last day and only the first 500 get one. But Liz gave her hers and she is wearing mine. I don't mind sharing :)

After the race, we had to leave in a hurry. Lea happy with her award, Liz a bit disappointed to get back empty-handed. Me, tired but happy. Looking forward to the next 3 weeks, building up (yes, building up) for the Akron Marathon.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

3 Weeks to Akron (& 5 weeks to Towpath)

This year I am attempting, for the first time, to run both the Akron and Towpath marathons. I have run the Towpath 4 years in a row, from 2004 and on. It is my first Akron marathon. Since these two marathons are separated by 2 weeks (first time ever) I think I have the time to recover from Akron and do the Towpath. And since I have already qualified for Boston (from the Cleveland Marathon in May) I don’t care for time in either marathon so I plan to run them easy and relaxed. I think this will work.

From my last two long races (Cleveland Marathon, Buckeye 50K) I have developed a crazy plan. Instead of tapering, I put my most miles 3 weeks before the race. I also go on a diet the last 2-3 weeks. I keep running almost every day. I only rest (and eat well) the two days before the race. This goes against anything published regarding marathon preparation, but somehow it has worked for me. Why mess with something that works?

So, here is the plan for next week: Tomorrow I am running the Buckeye ½ Marathon. This is a test. It will show in what shape I am. I hope to run most miles at 7 min/mile average. The next day, I go on a diet. I plan to fast on Monday (I have not done this for a long time). At the same time, I will run every day 6-10 miles/day, plus a long run on Saturday. I plan to put more than 50 miles this coming week. It should be fun :)