Sunday, June 26, 2011

Solstice 10M event – Northville

This was a somewhat hilly and early morning event that attracted some serious runners.  I managed an 8:44 min/mile average pace (pretty good for me for 10 miles) but still could not finish higher than the middle of the pack (in my age group 58% of the field finished ahead of me, and 46% of the overall field beat me).  The overall winner was a 32 year-old speedster that ran a blazing 5:05 min/mile pace.  In my age group, the winner was a guy a year younger than me averaging about a 6:20 min/mile pace.  Regardless, for me it was a great run – I did better my race plan, proving to myself that I could go 10 miles at a faster clip than I thought that I could.

The start was at Northville Downs, a harness racing track, and our first half mile was a loop around the track itself.  Fortunately the track was clean of horse manure, but that didn’t stop everyone from making comments about “watch out for the horse poop…”.   One thing that I noticed was how many people seemed to gravitate to the high (outer) side of the track – I stuck to the inside edge of the curve, hoping to shave off as many feet as possible. 

About a half mile from the track is a somewhat steep hill, followed by two more moderate hills.  I don’t know why, but I fretted about those hills all night long prior to the event.  I was so concerned about burning my legs up in the first mile and a half while managing those hills that I wouldn’t have any juice left for the remaining 8 and a half miles….  In the end, I didn’t try to charge up the hill – I just took it slow and steady, keeping my eyes on the horizon.  After cresting the big hill I was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt great.  The remaining two hills were just speed bumps in comparison and I felt great. 

I had been planning on bringing my camel-back fluid pouch with me to make sure that I stayed adequately hydrated, but the weather was so cool (50 deg F at the start) that I decided to leave it in my truck.  I had also planned on walking through each water station to make sure that I swallowed an adequate amount of water, but I didn’t do that either – I did slow down, and I did try to make sure that I got at least a third of the cup down, but that was it.  By mile 3 I was 2 minutes ahead of my race plan and I was not going to give up that time.  I felt strong, had a great rhythm going and I just did not want to spoil the mojo.  I was cruising. By mile 5, the halfway point, I was 5 minutes ahead of my race plan.

Around that point I realized that even though I had started “slow and steady”, and had successfully traversed the early hills without burning out, I had been strong enough to increase my pace to a comfortable and sustainable rhythm that was faster than I had anticipated my being able to do.  My race plan at this point had me running an increasingly faster pace on a mile by mile basis to the finish.  Well, it didn’t quite work out that way, but it was all good in the end….

I couldn’t, or more accurately, didn’t want to, increase my pace a whole lot.  I was afraid of running out of gas.  In addition somewhere between mile 5 and 6 my right hamstring started to tighten up, so I had to deal with that by changing my gait and allowing it to stretch out more.  This slowed me down some for the next mile or so.   Somewhere around mile 6 they were handing out Goo and even though I had my own I grabbed some and sucked on it for the next mile – so between that and my slowing down a tad, my hamstring seemed to recover and we were good to go for the finish.

When I got to Mile 9 I was cruising very comfortably and wound up running alongside a woman that had to be 60+ years old.  I need to point out that she did not appear to be one of those genetically gifted people that are natural athletes who are out there making guys like me look bad… She was out there like me and matching me stride for stride as we went for the finish line – I so hope that I will be able to run distance events when I’m 60+…. (I should note that the oldest person that ran the 10M event was 70 years old, and I only beat him by 11 minutes….). 

I'm not sure where this picture was taken, but I believe that it was near the end of the run.  I'm glad to see that my hands are relaxed and my right foot appears to be headed for a mid-foot landing (vs a heel plant), and that I'm pushing off reasonably well with my left.

The last half mile was somewhat interesting – Northville was having an art fair of sorts and on the streets leading into the finish we ran in between all of the artists’ display tents.  It was kind of funny in that as we all were sprinting into the finish the artists were starting to open up their displays and so there was a lot of activity as the artists were doing their thing and the runners were dodging the artists as they scurried around.  The last quarter mile was a bit odd in that it finished in a park with a sharp and narrow downhill trail that ultimately flattened out and wound its way through the park to the finish line.  As I entered the park I was sprinting pretty hard and had no knowledge whatsoever of the steep downhill trail that I was about to turn onto.  As soon as I hit the hill I killed my speed; I didn’t want to hurt myself on the hill (I’ve already torn my calf muscle once – I don’t want to do that again).  But then once on more level ground in the park the trail was so narrow that it was difficult to pass other runners who were content to jog their way in to the finish line.  Oh well…. no biggie. 
I wound up finishing with a time of 1:27:24, a full 5 minutes better than my race plan.  That calculated out to an average 8:44 pace and I am very happy with that.  Room for improvement, and I think that we can!

15 weeks to Chicago!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dex-AA Half Marathon

Dexter-Ann Arbor Half Marathon 2011
My realistic goal was 2:03 (2hrs 3min), my stretch goal was 1:59:59 – I did it in 1:58:53!  But I almost crashed and burned 100 yards from the finish line.

Great day, great weather, great crowd.  I met some interesting people including a young woman (Melanie Peters) who sat next to me on the bus who runs for the purse money on weekends to make her rent.  Apparently she has some speed and unabashedly tells me that she might as well use it for something (she is also a nurse…) I also ran into runners that I’ve met at other events, one in particular that I’ll mention in a bit.  The temperature was around 65deg F at the start, and quickly rose to 80deg+ as the sun came up. 

I tried to start slow and steady, but my splits show that I was somewhat aggressive and was not holding back too much.  The thing is, I was feeling strong and I was just running at a comfortable pace.  I knew that I could run faster, so I figured that I was “reigning it in” some.  But it almost did me in.

At mile 3 I was ahead of my planned pace of 9:30min/mile by almost a minute which meant that I was running at about a 9:15 pace.  I was comfortable at that pace, so I tried to keep it.  However, by the time I hit mile 6, I realized that I had sped up some, inching towards a 9:00m/m pace. A little too fast, a little too soon.  My plan was to do Goo at mile 4 and 8, and to walk through the Gatorade/water stations at miles 4, 6, 9, 10, and 12.  The intent there was to give me time to actually drink at least 1/3 of the cup of liquids without spilling most of it (which is what happens when you try to drink from a paper cup while running).  That sort of worked.  At a couple of stations I also grabbed water and poured it over my head (good to be bald!). 

By mile 8 I was 3 minutes ahead of my pace and while elated at the strength of my run, I was definitely concerned about going the distance.  We still had the mile long climb from the river up to the finish line.  So I tried to ease up some – but again, I was so comfortable with my pace and I had such a good rhythm going that I pretty much just kept moving along….

As the sun was getting higher that the temperature was climbing, runners started to tend towards the “shady” side of the road.  On one particular long curving bend to the right I was running with 3 other guys on the right side of the road and we noticed that everyone was suddenly jumping to the shady left side of the road.  One of the guys asked how come we were running in the sun, to which the rest of us replied “because its shorter”….  (we were running on the inside of the curve – ok, it’s not a whole lot shorter, but every curve or bend that you can take on a tangent shortens the distance from the starting line to the finish line!)  It was funny at the time – you had to be there…

Just before mile 12 I came upon a guy that I met at a recent 10K race.  He is a bit younger than me (maybe by 10 years) and a bull of a runner.  At the 10K race he worked hard to make sure that he stayed in front of me and would always speed up if I got close.  But towards the close of that 10K race I found a bit of juice and passed him easily – we spoke after that race and he joked about being in front of me the whole time and then I took him out.  Well, here he was again and as I passed him he says “ah shit, you again?!!”, We laughed, I slowed down a bit to talk to him and then continued on.  I was actually thinking that he would join me for the climb up the hill, but he didn’t seem up to it – he probably would have beat me if he had!

The picture here was taken around mile 11 or so.  Credit needs to go to For what it's worth, I have my sunglasses perched on my forehead because they were fogging up on me and I couldn't read my watch.  So whenever I needed to take a note of my time I'd have to slide them up.

The last mile climb from the Huron River to the finish line was a real strain.  I was wanting to have a strong finish, but I was running out of gas.  At mile 12 I was 2 minutes ahead of my planned pace to break 1:59:59 so I walked through the last water station and then trudged on as hard as I could up to the finish line. It was sooooo hard and I was beginning to cramp.  I kept fighting it off and then just 100 yards short of the finish line, my left thigh cramped up so tight that I almost fell.  Spectators jumped out to catch me, but I managed to stay on my feet.  I was at a dead halt, in pain, and panicked about meeting my goal.  I remember trying to calculate if I could crawl to the finish line in less than the 1minute 30 seconds I had left.  But the good news is that I was able to get through the cramp and limp over the finish line and beat my stretch goal.  But I was so done, that I couldn’t even feel good about it.  There were other people that I had previously met all mingling at the finish line area that wanted to chat, but I was in no shape for conversation – I was dizzy, nauseous, and incredibly thirsty.

This picture is as I was just crossing the finish line - I'm not sure exactly how it is that I look so composed, because I didn't feel that way  (picture credits need to go to It took me an hour to get over the cramps enough to be able to drive home.  I had brought more Gatorade, water, and protein bars in my truck and I just worked on those until the cramps subsided.  Next time I’ll bring a cooler of ice.  Ice would have helped a great deal.  Another lesson learned is that I probably need to take in more fluids than the 1/3 or 1/2 cup of water/Gatorade every couple of miles, so I’m going to start running with my camel back fluid pouch.  I’ll probably use it on the 10M race in a couple of weeks in Northville.

All in all, it was a great run – I thoroughly enjoyed myself (except for that last bit).  I felt that I ran strong and solid and learned how to get a bit better.  In my age group (50-54) I wound up coming in 80th out of a field of 164, right smack in the middle of the pack.  Much better than last year where 84% of the field was ahead of me.  Overall, I placed 1244 out a total field of 3136 - just ahead of mid-pack, and another reason to feel good.

By the way, the girl I met on the bus, Melanie, she placed 3rd and got a share of the purse (I don’t know how much, probably around $300). !  The leader in my age group did it in 1:26:14 (that’s a 6:30 m/m pace, compared to my 9:05 pace).  The outright winner did it in 1:07:18 (that’s an incredible 5:08 pace!) – he took home $1,000.

Next up:  The Solstice 10M event in Northville.  Then the Milford 18M in Sept.  And finally the Chicago Marathon on Oct 9.  I might pick up another event or two if they fit in my training schedule – we’ll see.  I need to start working on the big miles now in prep for Chicago.  I want to be strong and as conditioned as I can get.  18 weeks to Chicago!