Sunday, October 17, 2010

Duke City Marathon

The Duke City Marathon is held in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I signed up for this race when I was looking for someplace I could use my unused ticket from Missoula. That ticket was on Alaska and oddly enough Alaska Airlines doesn’t fly to ABQ. A couple of my CA Cruiser pals were running Duke City, so I decided to go ahead and by a ticket on Southwest and join the party. Since ABQ is a short flight from LAX I was able to save a Friday night hotel stay by leaving LAX at 8:30 a.m. and getting to ABQ before lunch. It turns out one of my friends was on the same flight. We had both scored A group boarding passes for the flight and hoped to sit together. We were chatting in the waiting area and didn’t realize they were boarding. We looked up just in time and ended up being the last two people on the plane. Needless to say we ended up with center seats, boo.

We got to ABQ and were able to check in early at the host hotel, the Doubletree. We immediately went next door to the convention center to pick up our bib, D-tag and t-shirt. Somehow, my friend’s registration hadn’t gone through. She didn’t show up in their records. Thankfully she had brought along a copy of her registration and a copy of the cancelled check. Calamity aborted.

Four of us had dinner at an Italian place, Villa de Capo’s. It was a decent meal, just average Italian food, nothing special.

The starting line was on 3rd Street just across from the Convention Center. We were able to stay in the hotel lobby until just a few minutes before the race started. The temperature was a reasonable 48 degrees. I had only packed my Marathon Maniac singlet, so I purchased a previous years long sleeve tech shirt at the expo the day before for $5. I figured I would never wear a shirt from a race I hadn’t run and I could toss the shirt when it warmed up without too much of a guilty conscience.

The starting line area only took up a very small section of the city block. Reports on the web indicated that this years race was the largest ever. Last year there were approximately 500 finishers. Add the relay teams to it and there was mayber 700 folks in the starting corral. There was never any jockeying for position in this race. We were off and running by 7:01. It took about 20 seconds to cross the starting line.

Much of this race is run on the bike path next to the Rio Grande River. The first and last three miles are run on the streets of ABQ. This is a very good thing, because most of the folks in ABQ seemed to be quite oblivious that there was a marathon going on. This was the 27th event so I would think that they would get used to having about 3 miles of city streets closed down the 2nd weekend of October, but apparently not. There were quite a few folks upset about the street closures.

Apparently the bikers are not happy about the marathon either since they seemed to be less than thrilled to be sharing their bike trail with 700 or so runners.

I was bopping along quite nicely for quite awhile. My miles spits for the first 13 miles were:
9:20, 9:22, 9:42, 9:21, 9:11, --, 20:07 (included a bathroom stop),9:06, 9:18, 9:50, 9:01, --, 17:32. Doing quite nicely so far. The course was a simple out and back, reminiscent of my training runs along the bike paths I run regularly in SoCal. On the way back things continued to buzz along ok for a few more miles. By now the long sleeve had been removed long ago, at mile 6 or so and the sun was shining brightly. The bike trail offered little protection from the sun. The next few miles ticked off like this: 8:05 (had to have been mismarked), 15:06 (see), 9:56, 9:33. This was mile 17 and then things took a turn for the worse. I began to see more people walking than I’ve ever seen at this point in a race. Mile 18 and beyond went like this: 10:47, 10:04, 11:01, 11:16, 11:57, 12:42, 13:58, 15:45, 19.51 and then thankfully it was over. I walked much of mile 24 and 25. My friend Margaret caught up to me around mile 25 and walked with me a bit. I decided we should start running again but I just couldn’t keep up with her so I let her go and started walking again. By now the temps were in the mid 70’s, not quite ideal marathon conditions but not the worst either. My final time was a not quite expected 4:42 (unofficially).

I’m not completely sure what happened, but I can’t remember a race where the wheels fell off so completely and so quickly. It could have been that I ran two marathons only two weeks apart, but I’ve done back to back weekends in the past with much better results. I could have been the elevation. ABQ is actually higher, on the books, than Denver. Could have been the arid climate leading to dehydration, but I felt like I did a decent job of drinking water at most stops and Gatorade at the rest. I only took two gels and a couple of blocks but that is about normal for me. Who knows for sure. All my long runs in 2010 have been sub-par if not disastrous. I wonder if there are long term negative effects from running the LA Marathon in March with bronchitis. Who knows?

Overall I enjoyed the race, because I really don’t mind the out and back format. Since the crowd spread out fairly quickly it was sort of like running a glorified training run at home, except with water stops and a medal at the end. The race was pretty much devoid of spectators unless you count the unhappy drivers and cyclists. ABQ is a funky little city. Our route took us down the main drag, Central Ave and then down Laguna a residential area with some pretty nice upper middle class homes and then onto the bike path which was pretty much deserted except for the ROTC kids that manned the aid stations every mile. One highlight of the race is that we got to see about a dozen hot air balloons take off in front of us around mile 7 or so. All in all, it was a nice way to get New Mexico added to the 50 states list. After the race, we went over to Old Town ABQ and had a great Tex-Mex meal at the Hacienda Restaurant.

I am currently sitting in the airport, less than 7 hours after finishing trying to catch a flight to Kansas City. Sadly it has been delayed so I won’t get there until nearly midnight. I have to be on the ground running, as the saying goes, at 8:00 for customer visits over the next couple of days. I follow that up with at trip to Las Vegas for work next weekend and then another trip to Europe the first two weeks of November. I think I will take the travel schedule as a much needed break from running and the get started at the end of November to ramp up for training for the Austin Marathon in February.

I since landed in KC and posting this before hitting the hay.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Twin Cities Marathon

State #17 has been a long time coming but now it is finally in the books. Just as this blog has fallen into disrepair it seemed my training was pretty hit and miss this year as well. My work and personal travel schedule has wreaked havoc on my training, but none the less last Sunday morning I lined up outside the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis to run the Twin Cities Marathon. Twin Cities is a point-to-point course ending at the steps of the state capitol in neighboring St. Paul. Twin Cities is billed as "The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America" and it certainly lives up to its reputation. The marathon was helped immensely by nearly perfect running conditions - 40 degrees at the start, mid 50's by noon, a sunny day with a very light breeze. We couldn't have asked for more.

I flew into town on Friday evening and stayed downtown within walking distance of the start. After having done a few of these I think it is the only way to go. It is so nice to just walk a to the start and not have to hassle with parking and traffic. Twin Cities had a very efficient bus service to get us back from the capital finish line to the start.

The expo was in St. Paul, not too far from the finish, so having transportation was helpful. I'd rented a car. The expo was well stocked with vendors. At the expo we got a pair of Fitsoks with the marathon logo. Shirts come later. I had lunch with some friends that used to work in SoCal but have since transferred back to the mother ship in St. Paul. Then dinner was with a friend from St. Paul that had worked for our division but now works in the corporate labs. I'd talked him into coming out of retirement to run Twin Cities together. My haphazard training and his youth (he's got a 15 year advantage on me) led to us running our own races so dinner was the only time we got to spend together. It was a fun evening with he, his wife and their two year old son. Baby #2 is on the way soon, so the poor guy won't have much time in the future to train properly so this may have been his last hurrah for a while.

Twin Cities has a pretty robust Corporate Challenge going with over 35 teams competing. I signed up for our corporate team and even bought the jersey to run in. The team jersey was a racing singlet. I was a bit concerned about being too cool in sub-40 temps so I'd bought a pair of Moeben sleeves to help keep warm. I was perfectly comfortable the entire day with the sleeveless singlet and the Moeben sleeves. My friend was trying to break 3:40. I set my own goal at a more conservative 4:15. My half marathon PR back in February would have predicted a 3:42 marathon, but nothing in my training pointed to that possibility. The real plan was to run comfortably and hopefully pain free.

I started off the race pretty far back in the pack in Corral #2, well behind the 5:30 pace group. The corral was pretty crowded and I couldn't work my way further up. Once the race got under way I passed the 5:30 and 5:00 pace groups with a couple of miles. By mile 4 or so I caught the 4:30 pace group and by mile 6 I'd caught and passed the 4:15 pace group. At the 5K mark my pace was 9:20, at 10K I'd fallen off to 9:38 but at the half I'd picked it back up to 9:27 pace overall.

Somewhere around mile 14 I had to take a bathroom break and lost my lead on the 4:15 pace group. I'd regained it by mile 16 and steadily built on that lead until Mile 20. My pace at the 30K was 9:30 and at Mile 20 was still right on 9:30 overall. Things take a change for the worse in Twin Cities at Mile 20. Up to that point the course is gently rolling up and down. Mile 20 marks the lowest point in the race and begins a steady climb over the next 3.5 miles. This is probably the worst point in any race for this to happen. To help ease the pain the view along Summit Avenue is spectacular with old homes and great crowd support. My mile splits took a dive at this point into the 10:00's and then into the 11:00 at Mile 25 and 26. The last half mile is a beautiful down hill finish but the previous 25.7 miles had just sapped any kind of umpff that was needed to bring it home. There was just no way to make up that extra 66 seconds over 4:15. Pretty darn close to my estimate and all the bettter with no major injury other than normal 26.2 stiff and sore legs. My friend didn't meet his sub 3:40 goal but he did PR with a 3:43:48 finish.

All said and done - the Twin Cities Marathon was an awesome experience. The people of the Twin Cities area come out big time to support the runners. The views along the lakes and the neighborhoods of the area were perfect. And as I said earlier the weather cooperated in a big way. The finish line food was more than adequate and at Twin Cities the finisher's shirt is exactly that. You have to finish the race to get the shirt. It is handed out at the finish line after you've even gotten your medal. Being part of the corporate team had its perks as well. It was fun to meet up with some other runners from my team and the food in the Corporate Team tent was even better. Massages were available although I didn't take part.

If you can fit it into your race schedule and travel budget or if you live in the area, I'd highly recommend the Twin Cities Marathon.

So the blog title ratchets up one notch for a week or two. I'm off to the Duke City Marathon on October 17. Fall IS marathon season, after all.