Sunday, August 31, 2008

4 Weeks to Akron

<- The VR group before the 20 miler run on Saturday in Akron (photo courtesy of Nick B.)

Yesterday I joined the VR group for another 20 miler along the Akron course. I knew that this was a mistake because I had already done too many miles this week, plus I ran on Friday. Normally, Friday is a rest day and it has been like that for a long time. But, I dropped my car for service in Independence and I decided to run back home (I like to combine running with errands). Total of 9 miles, and I was tired.

I drove to Akron via Riverview Road (no highways). The weather prediction was “sunny” but there was thick fog covering the valley. Driving was a challenge. I met the “usual suspects” at 6:30 am in downtown Akron. A large group, maybe 40+ runners. After the first slow mile, I picked up the pace and joined the lead group. Things were going well at first, but when I stopped at the first water station in the Sand Run Parkway (about halfway), to my surprise, no one else stopped. So I got separated from the group and ran the rest miles alone.

I was gradually getting tired. The last water stop was at the Firestone HS. I could see the running group in front. At Stan Hywet we crossed paths as they were coming back and I was going up. At this point I thought I would catch them, since last week this section was the strongest for me. But this week, it was actually the weakest. Someone had said earlier that this stretch (From Stan Hywet to Market St) is called “Death Row” because a lot of runners are struggling to run it. I smiled when I heard this because I ran it strong last week, but this week I was out of strength and started walking. So it was indeed “Death Row” for me. Nick B. was behind me but he was having trouble too, doing the run/walk thing. Maybe the high humidity (I was soaked in sweat) was a factor too.

Going down Market Street (last week I had my fastest miles here) was no fun. The sun had finally come out and I had forgotten my hat, and that did not help either. I was happy to get done with this run!

My mile splits tell the story: 9:09 8:06 8:14 8:07 7:59 8:05 8:13 8:18 8:28 8:14 8:46 8:49 8:33 9:09 9:45 9:04 10:55 9:56 10:36 10:30. The first 10 miles are not much different from the previous week, but in the last 4 miles I averaged over 10 min/mile while last week these were faster than 8 min/mile.

At the end, it does not matter. I am happy I put a lot of miles this week (57). I am only concerned about my weight which is going up (I have already gained several pounds since Greece). The Buckeye ½ M is next week. I am planning to run it strong and maybe set a PR. We’ll see…

Monday, August 25, 2008

5 Weeks to Akron Marathon

This year I have decided to run the Akron Marathon. This is a first for me. In the previous 4 years I have run the Towpath marathon instead. Since the Towpath marathon is so close to my house and I always run in the Towpath, I felt that the right thing to do was to support the Towpath marathon. But this year there are two weeks between the two marathons so I have decided to try both. I used to think that people who attempt two marathons so close to each other are crazy. Now, I am getting close to being one of these crazy runners myself. :)

I have heard good things about the Akron marathon. I like the course, and the free pair of shoes is an extra incentive. So we are 5 weeks away and our group (part of the VR training group) decided to run a 20 miler in the actual Akron marathon course this past Saturday.

This was a great training run! The weather was perfect, cool and sunny but we ran in the shade mostly, the course was beautiful and the company was very nice. We managed to stay together as a group for most of the run. We started at 6:15 am (had to wake up at 5:15, ouch!) There were several stops with water and Gatorade. My pace was fast (8:07 average with several miles under 8 minutes). I ran the hills strong. I felt great. I was not really tired towards the end (20.5 miles total distance). As a matter of fact, my times the last 4 miles were among the fastest for the entire run (the fact that the last miles are downhill helped too).

Here are my mile splits: 8:39 8:25 8:22 8:07 8:05 8:09 8:11 8:12 8:12 8:23 8:05 8:29 7:43 8:23 8:07 7:49 8:20 7:45 7:23 7:34 8:04. Last year I ran the same course and my average pace was 8:19 (also good, but this year it is even better!)

After such a good run I am confident that I will do well. My goal time is 3:30.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finish Line Sprinting – Does it Annoy You?

<- Finish of the "Perfect 10 Miler". I am sprinting, finishing ahead of Susan and another female runner. Bad running etiquette?

In the September issue of “Runner’s World” there is an article titled “Don’t be annoying”, listing some of things that runners find annoying. I agree with some of them. For example, when people yell “you are almost there!” at mile 20 of a marathon. Well, I’ll be “almost there” when I can see the finish line, so please don’t give me that nonsense, OK? :) I still have an hour to go and I can barely move my legs.

But what I don’t get is this: A reader from Tallahassee FL writes: “What annoys me? Guys that can’t handle being beat by girls and try to sprint by me at the end!”

Excuse me?

Why do you think you are so special and guys are trying to beat YOU? I bet most guys are like me. I always sprint by the finish line. I am trying to improve my time and I think it is a good running practice to give everything I have left, when I see the finish line. I am running against the clock, trying to improve my PR, or break the course record. That’s what I like about running. I am not running against other runners, but against myself.

One exception is if I see someone who I know is in my age group and we are both competing for the same age award. So, I don’t care about any woman that happens to be around me because we are not competing for anything in common.

Case in question, the “Perfect 10 Miler”. See that attached picture. I sprinted at the end and passed Susan. Did I do it because I cannot stand to be beaten by a woman? Of course not! I was already beaten by a bunch of women. Everyone was sprinting at the end. This is the right thing to do. Granted, if there was no one in sight, I would be less inclined to sprint at the end. Having runners around me is an extra incentive. But if Susan was Joe, I would still be sprinting. Sex, age, race, are not important.

Now, here is the interesting part… Looking at the 10 Miler results, there are 5 runners finishing around me within 3 seconds:

41 4/25 John Sobolewski 34 M-30-34 35:28 1:09:56
42 7/43 George Themelis 49 M-45-49 34:41 1:09:57
43 2/33 Lisa Robertson 38 F-35-39 35:00 1:09:57
44 3/33 Susan Louis 38 F-35-39 34:54 1:09:57
45 8/43 Ron Disidoro 46 M-45-49 34:25 1:09:58

John is too young, but Ron, finishing one second behind me, is in the same age group. Of course at 7 and 8 in our age group, we have no chance for an award.

But Lisa is the same age as Susan and finished first in her age group, while Susan finished second with exactly the same time. I bet Susan would have sprinted a bit harder if she knew how close she was to getting first place in her age group.

Here is a funny story that happened a few years ago. I was running a local 5K when someone caught up with me. I looked at “him” and “he” appeared to be younger. "How old are you?" I asked. "41" “he” said. "OK, I am 46, we are not in the same age group, you can pass me."

So “he” passed me and when we hit mile 3, “he” was a few yards ahead. At this point I went into an amazing sprint, passed “him” and finished well ahead. After I finished, I looked at the “guy” and he appeared to be a woman (short haircut, flat chest, etc). Later I looked at the results and indeed she was a woman. I could think of some smart things she could have said to me when I said "you are not in my age group”. "I am not even the same sex, you moron!". That would have been quite embarrassing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Perfect 10 Miler 2008 – Race Report

Yesterday I ran the "Perfect 10 Miler" race in the East side of town. I ran this race last year for the first time and I enjoyed it. My time last year was 1:08:31, which is also a 10 mile PR for me. Before the race I tried to figure out a reasonable time goal. I know that I have lost speed the past few months so I knew that a new course record was impossible. Plus, instead of resting, I ran 15 miles yesterday. So I figured that I would be happy with a pace of 7:30/mile, which gives a time of 1:15.

Traditionally, the weather is always rainy for this race but this year it was an exception with nearly “Perfect” weather, cool temperatures and sunny. The race started at 7:30 am. I hooked with a couple my “buddies”, Susan, Rose, Mike, and Brett for a short time in the first mile but I felt good and pulled ahead. Mike passed me around mile 3.

The race is on residential streets, following a rather complicated pattern (see picture here and also in this link where you can follow the race route:

The first 4 miles are rather flat but for the next 2 miles there is a gradual uphill. Last year this uphill slowed me down, but this year I was running it strong and comfortable with a nearly constant pace of 7 min/mile.

There was a water stop at mile 5. I was getting ready to grab a cup, when the guy in front of me dropped a cup and then took the last cup so I was left without water! This made me a bit mad, and I stormed ahead. At this point I passed Mike and did not see him again.

Miles 7 and 8 are downhill and then mostly flat from there. I was getting tired after mile 8 but I did manage to maintain a fairly constant pace. I got passed by a couple of runners towards the end and suddenly I saw Susan passing me. This motivated me to run a bit faster to keep up with her. We entered the High School stadium for the final 50 yards on track. I started sprinting, along with everyone around me. I managed to pass Susan right before the finish.

Final Time: 1:09:57 (pace of 7:00)
The pace was fairly even with 34:41 in the first half and 35:16 in the second half.
Placement: 43/405 overall, 7/42 age.

Overall, I am happy because I exceeded my goal. Actually, my time in this race is better than the Hermes 10 miler earlier in the Spring where I won 3rd place in my age group. I now see that I can run 7 minute miles in long runs. If I can maintain this pace I can improve my 1/2M and Marathon times.

Comparing the races in 2007 and 2008, I see that even though I was 1 ½ minutes slower than last year, this time loss came mainly in the first 4 miles:

------- 2007 - 2008 ------
Mile 1 - 6:25 - 6:49
Mile 2 - 6:43 - 7:07
Mile 3 - 6:34 - 6:51
Mile 4 - 6:46 - 6:57

The next miles are about even, which means that I have gotten stronger in the later part of the race:

Mile 5 - 7:02 - 7:03
Mile 6 - 7:14 - 7:10
Mile 7 - 6:57 - 6:52
Mile 8 - 6:50 - 6:58
Mile 9 - 7:11 - 7:12
Mile 10 - 6:56 - 7:02

Next race: Buckeye half marathon, September 7.

Greece 2008

If I have been “missing in action” for the past 4 weeks it is because I was in Greece, enjoying a 2 week vacation… (and I was busy before and after)

<- Group shot from our July 28 run, courtesy of Nick B. I am the 3rd from the right.

The week after the Buckeye 50K was mostly recovery week. I went for short runs (1-3 miles) on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday I was feeling better and did 5 miles, and 8 miles on Thursday. I joined the VR group on Saturday for a 12 mile run. Here is a group picture taken by Nick B.

We left for Greece on Thursday July 31. We took Delta to NY and then switched planes for a direct flight to Athens. The flight was uneventful (everything was OK). We stayed in Athens for 3 days and on Sunday we flew to Santorini, a popular Greek island. We stayed in Santorini for a week (with my family and our 3 older nieces), enjoying the sea, sun and good food. We then returned (by boat) to Athens and stayed for 4 more days. We returned back to the USA on Thursday August 14.

<- Santorini (also known as Thira) is a very popular Greek island, famous for its volcano and beautiful scenery. We stayed in Perissa in the south end (green mark). Shown here is my running route along a stretch of 2 miles by the beach that I did almost every day (4 miles back and forth).

While I was in Greece, I ran every day (except for one) but shorter runs, from 3 to 5 miles. In Santorini there was a long stretch by the beach from our house to the end of town. This was 2 miles. I would usually run it once back and forth (4 miles) early in the morning (around sunrise). One time I ran it twice (8 miles) and one time I took side roads for an extra mile. The weather in Santorini was beautiful, sunny with not a single cloud in the sky. Temperatures were in the 70s (hotter in the sun) with a nice breeze. Definitely ideal vacation weather. In addition to running we did a bit of hiking (two times, several hours each time), enjoying the beautiful scenery and taking plenty of stereo pictures (I returned with 42 rolls of film).

In Athens I found a loop, starting from our house, up to Acropolis and down by Thesion. Then back to the bottom of the street near Acropolis, and back. (You can "play" my route by going ito this link: This was a total of 3 miles. Athens is a big city with narrow streets and lots of traffic, but this route was on pedestrian only streets so I did not have to deal with traffic. Overall, it was a fine family vacation.

<- My running loop in Athens (click to enlarge). Starting from our apartment, by Acropolis, I headed to the left through Thesion, ending with a small loop by a park and back, running in front of Acropolis, followed by a small loop (right) by Plaka and then back home. An enjoyable route.

I was afraid I had lost some running fitness, definitely speed (I had not run fast for weeks now, due to the 50K training) and possibly some endurance since I did not do any long runs in Greece. So I decided to join the VR group last Saturday for a 15 mile training run, even though I had signed up for the “Perfect 10 miler” race on Sunday. I figured that a long run was more important for me than a good race.

For the 15 mile run we did this popular route: From Peninsula to Boston Store via the Towpath, then up Boston Mills Road (difficult uphills) then on the Bike and Hike trail, all the way to the road connecting to the Carriage Trail, then back to the Towpath and from there to Boston and finally to Peninsula. A total of 15.6 miles. At first I was afraid that the group was too slow for me, but I hooked up with two new guys, both faster than me and had a good run. My mile splits: 9:04 8:37 8:34 8:30 8:20 7:56 7:53 7:52 7:48 7:49 8:21 8:23 8:29 8:26 8:28 8:06. This run gave me the confidence that I needed. I have not lost any endurance, thanks to my daily runs in Greece.