Thursday, October 29, 2009

Door County Fall 50 - 2009

The Door County Fall 50 was my favorite race last year and is my favorite race of 2009. Last year we had a team of 5 that also included Kristen, Dave, Karl, and Ted. This year we all signed-up again because of the great time we had in 2008. Unfortunately, Ted double-booked himself and the North Face Endurance Challenge (Madison) 50K won out over his old team-mates. :-( Down to 4 runners, we picked-up Brendan. Kristen suffered an injury a few weeks earlier and was still in on the race but as the race approached, running for her looked unlikely. Karl had to drop out on short notice so now what do we have? We have three runners.... me (Mark), Dave, and Brendan. Kristen was supporting us as our driver and Super-Captain.

Friday noon we met in St. Paul and drove towards Sturgeon Bay, WI. It was quite a drive as we had a large area in mid-WI with snow falling, 31 degree temps, and hazardous driving conditions with the slush that was accumulating on the roads. Numerous cars were in the ditches and thankfully we made it out of that weather cell in under an hour. Rain the whole rest of the way to Sturgeon Bay. Brendan was in Madison on business and was traveling to our hotel with his van, our race vehicle.

Packet pickup was at the Ladder House bar in Sturgeon Bay. We got our shirts and bibs and timing chips and headed for the bar for a beverage. When it was time to leave there and meet Brendan, Dave and Kristen headed out to the car while I chatted with a gal from team wiirn4beer (We run for beer). Next thing you know, I was chatting with her whole team and forgot all about Dave and Kristen who were waiting for me in the parking lot. Hmmm... I wonder why? :-)

I know that I'm forgetting things but it doesn't matter.

For dinner, I'd recommend a place we went: Inn at Cedar Crossing Restaurant. Yum. Dave had Grilled Chicken Risotto, I had Spaghetti with Marinara and Chicken Meatballs, Kristen had Braised Bison, and Brendan had who knows what (maybe walleye). A couple of bottles of wine with dinner and we topped it off by sharing Carrot cake and Cherry pie. Yum again.

Hotel... Hot tub... Made new friends with Team 250... and then it was time for sleep

We stayed at the Best Western Maritime Sturgeon Bay which had good Fall 50 room rates and a free breakfast. Good basic hotel and it was only a mile to mile and a half from the finish line.

The race has a 7am starting time for solo runners and 8am, 9am, or 10am start times for teams. This year we had a 10am start which meant we were in the fastest bunch of teams. After we were down to three runners, I estimated that we could hold an 8:00 average pace which would mean 6hr 40min of running. There are 10 legs so we were all running 16+ to 17+ each. We planned to run in the same order the whole race - Brendan then Dave then me. I took the last leg too and that made our miles work out fairly evenly. Kristen was our driver and awesome team-mate and support person.

I don't know when this was but someone must have said something funny!

The start was 50 miles up the peninsula at Gills' Rock. I think the temp was in the upper 30s when we got there and there was a brisk wind off the water. Cold. Cold. Cold. The picture below was right before the start. If you have sharp eyes, you can see Brendan waving... look below the second 'L' in FALL and his hand is below the lowest big window on the building in the background.

Although he is not in these pictures, I was happy to talk with Bruce for a few minutes at the start. I first met Bruce in the Afton 50K in 2008 and we ran together there for about 15 minutes. I also chatted with Bruce at the Fall 50 start last year and probably will again next year. You Minnesota trail runners will know who Bruce is if I say.... he has a long white beard.

And off they go!

Here comes Brendan after his first leg. Way to go Brendan!

We didn't support Brendan during that leg because it was easiest to take the van on a road different that where the runners were. Brendan told us when he finished that he had pulled his hamstring. Oh no! Would Dave and I need to run the last 46 miles? We had a 'stretching stick' in the van and Brendan started working on his leg right away.

While Dave was running, the rest of us discussed our plan. I could run my 5 and take Brendan's next leg too which was the awesome 7.4 mile run through Peninsula Park. Brendan thought he could take his 7.4 and I could just stop after my 5 miler. I love it cold when I'm running so I don't overheat. Short shorts, sleeveless shirt, Afton hat, and Boston Marathon gloves that my friends gave me after they ran it this year. I've never qualified but will wear my lucky Boston Marathon souvenir gloves. My red jacket will go right before I start.

You can see that I'm wearing my Garmin 310XT GPS. Normally I would be wearing my heart rate monitor strap too but I packed the Polar transmitter and left the Garmin transmitter at home, attached to the Polar strap. Oh well, it lets me run by GPS pace and feel. I never knew what my HR was while running so it didn't really matter.

Dave was finishing his leg I took off my jacket. Dave approached and I asked him to get the hand-off baton ready. Dave yelled, "I lost it". WTF. I yelled to Dave that we had to slap hands to make it legal. I don't know if that was in the rule book but it seemed like the best thing to do. The only thing better would maybe be to smack him on the side of the head. :-)

I am where I want to be! Cool weather and people to chase! I moved along at a good pace and was able to get by several runners. This was Leg 3 of the race and you can see my Garmin recording here. My average pace was a very nice 7:15. A few runners passed me and the only thing I wanted to do but couldn't was to catch two gals in the last mile that were a bit ahead of me. I just couldn't catch them. As I was nearing the exchange point I was strongly hoping that Brendan would be able to run his 7.4. I sure didn't want to run it anymore. Brendan was ready and we slapped hands together and off he went. The Peninsula Park is beautiful and I just love being there. The leaves were still very beautiful.

Rockstar Brendan found a race (wrist) baton that was dropped by another runner. Hooray! We are back in business. Dave promptly peeled off the outer red plastic material of the wrist-band baton so when I got it for my second leg it was uncomfortable to wear. At least we had one. My second leg was around the half way point where the aid station had a nice variety of foods for lunch. I love the chicken noodle soup they have there and was looking forward to it all year. This year I just got broth and had Brendan get me a container of soup for after my run. I almost missed the handoff from Dave and got my jacket off just in time.

My next leg, Leg 6, was 3.9 miles that I ran at a still-respectable 7:19 pace. Garmin data here.

The race continued on as planned. It was a lot of fun every minute of the way. Brendan finished his final leg and we had to have a picture taken. I asked Brendan to stand up for the picture and he said 'No, that's OK'.

Dave kept running strong the entire race.

Brendan is ready to unwind and I'm thinking...... 7.6 miles left for me.

A new friend of mine from Team 250 took this just before the finish.

But... there was a guy chasing me for the last few miles of the race. Every so often I could hear him and I'd just pick up the pace a little once in a while. The rest of the team was going to run across the finish with me but the guy after me was in a race with another guy and they were both chasing me. My team was yelling GO, MARK GO. I took off and kept running faster and faster until I was over the finish line. There was no way they were going catch me and they didn't. If you decide to look at my Garmin log (here), you can see my pace speeds-up significantly at the very end of the run. An awesome way to finish 16.5 miles for the day and 50 team miles!

We got our medals and participated in the all you can eat/drink pizza/beer/wine in the party tent at the finish. Great party last year and great party this year!

WE made it! Remember I predicted a 6:40 finish? We finished in 6:36:53. Beat it by just over 3 minutes!

Following the tent party I had a great time out with new friends until late into the night!

Since this was my favorite race two years in a row, I'll definitely be back next year!


note: pics taken by the team and others

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Twin Cities Marathon 2009

This is my third marathon. 2008 Fargo and Twin Cities were my first ones. I was going into today planning to run easy for 20 miles and then run as fast as I could from there to the finish. With the cooler weather, perfect weather for me, in my mind I set my easy pace be 8:45's.

This morning I met my running partners down at the start and hung back near the back of Corral 1. Others were ahead of me and some were in Corral 2. Kim said she wanted to run with me. I invited her to do that last week. Kim ran a 3:10 in Boston in April but has a nagging Butt injury so she was going to be happy taking it easier than normal.

The starting horn went off and away we went. As we started I felt a pain in my left foot. I was imagining at that point dropping out at mile 0.5 but that pain went away shortly. Then my right knee hurt and that never happens. That pain went away soon. Kim was talking about the nice run we were going to have at an easy pace. Miles 1 - 5 were: 7:57, 8:14, 8:15, 7:53, and 7:59. My plan was down the drain.

You see, I hit the 'wall' at mile 19 in Fargo and mile 16 in the TCM last year. I wanted to run easy in order to bust through the wall. My main goal was to run negative splits. That was not to happen this year.

Kim and I felt really good and a few times I told her something our friend Jim say..... We're just out on a long run with some friends. That's what we were doing. I was watching my heart rate to keep tabs on it in case it shot up. It really didn't. We ran at a comfortable pace which according to my Garmin was an 8:08.

We chatted a bit about a Boston qualifying time/pace for me. A BQ was not a goal for me but I am well aware that as a 50 year old, it's 3:35:59. What I didn't know was the pace but I told Kim I though it was an 8:15. We figured I was on track for that but we figured I would be right on the edge.

The entire run was great. Super weather. Great aid stations. Great spectators. I loved every minute of it. Speaking of aid stations, we talked about our hydration and fueling plans. I told Kim my plan of not taking energy (Shot Bloks for me, GU for her) until mile 9. This gives the body a chance to use up some of its reserves and not start counting on the shots of sugar from the stomach until later.

Here was my plan.... Two cups of water at every aid station. At the aid stations at miles 9, 13, 17, and 21, take 3 shot blok cubes and one S-Cap. This plan worked out very well and my stomach did not get upset, I got plenty of fluids, and I got plenty of energy. You see I stopped at mile 21. From there I was taking a little less as far as fluids go and I figures the shot bloks from 21 would carry me for awhile and then I would just gut it out to the finish. Good plan.

I finished in 3:37:51 (official time) so you may wonder why I didn't push it harder to get a Boston Qualifier. Well, it was not a goal. In addition, I had been carrying an 8:08 pace according to my Garmin. According to my Garmin. My total distance was 26.57 miles. At mile 25 I switched my watch to the display with the elapsed time and I thought.... Oooops, I have to run sub-8's from now to the finish to qualify. Really not going to happen. Although I should have had a little cushion based on the average pace on my Garmin, the distance was long (due to tangents not cut and GPS-error) so I really had an 8:18 pace going. It is what it is. Here are my Garmin paces from 21 onward: 8:18, 8:30, 8:24, 8:16, 8:53, 8:30 (last 0.57 miles). In my opinion that's not really a wall to me. A little slower, sure, but I was still moving right along.

I missed my negative split by a couple of minutes but still good in my book.
  • First half: 1:47:49
  • Second half: 1:50:02
  • First 10K: 51:26
  • Last 10K: 53:05
  • Official time: 3:37:51
  • Watch time: 3:37:34
You see the 17 seconds difference between chip time and watch time? People! Don't stop until you cross all the mats!!!! Runners crossed the first mat at the finish and stopped. I'm sure that where the difference is because it took some time to get over those mats. Ugh. [update 10/9: I was completely wrong here. What I figured out is that my Garmin was set on auto-pause 'when stopped'. There were two water stops where I grabbed two cups of water, got out of the way of the runners, and then stopped for several seconds to down my water. That's where I lost the seconds and not at the mats. I looked at a finish line photo and my time did stop at the first mat like it should have.]

That's one lesson learned.... keep plowing forward until all the mats are crossed. [update: Well, that plus turn off the auto-pause feature on the Garmin.]

The second lesson is that the Garmin average pace can get you screwed up if the distance runs long as it tends to do in a marathon. I'll just have to keep a fudge-factor in my head for future marathons.

Great race and I plan to do it next year.

update: What about Kim? She pulled ahead sometime after mile 21 or 22 and had an energy surge. She said her later miles were in the 7:10 range. Way to go Kim and I can't thank you enough for running with me.

Steve Q - Good to see you out there again this year.
Matt - You will see me on the trails next year.