Monday, May 29, 2006

5 Really Hard Road Marathons

These are road marathons. Trail marathons, especially single track technical stuff, are different things entirely.

1. Hogeye in Arkansas. Hot and hilly.

2. Heart of America in Missouri. Also hot and hilly.

3. Mt Desert Island in Maine. Hilly and generally dismal (wind rain) conditions.

4. Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. Very hilly and stressful course.

5. Big Sur in California. Hilly. I really don't think this race is as hard as some people describe. There's a trick to it. Because of the windy road next to the ocean, you can see the long uphills for several miles in front of you. This is difficult psychologically, even though these hills aren't really any worse than hills in other races.

Monday, May 22, 2006

02/04-05/06 Tybee Island and Ocala Double

My First Double

Once upon a time, I thought about doing the Mt Si 50 miler. As a part of training, I knew I needed to do some back-to-back long runs (where you run long on both Saturday and Sunday)... so I decided to do a back-to-back marathon weekend. I found the Tybee Island Marathon (2/4) and the Ocala Marathon (2/5). The logistics didn't look too bad - about a 5 hour drive between the races; lots of hotels. I'm in.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I decided against the 50 miler. However, the idea of doing two marathons on consecutive days seemed intriguing. Let's do it.

Side note about Tybee Island. It's near Savannah, Georgia. Now... I travel A LOT. And I'm here to tell you that Savannah is one of the harder cities around to navigate. The north-south interstate (I-95) is actually about 10 miles west of town. There's a nice cut of east-west interstate (I-16) to get you into town. But that's it. Traveling east-west... especially on the side of town that I-16 doesn't touch... is really hard.

My Weekend Goals
  1. Saturday - Tybee Island+ Beat 4+ Run evenly
  2. Sunday - Ocala+ Beat 4:30+ Don't die
Ok. Tybee Island is, hello, an island, which means it is windy. This was one of the windier races I've done. It is also one of the flattest courses imaginable. Flatter than Houston, flatter than Bismarck. Way flatter than Myrtle Beach. Possibly even flatter than the old Mardi Gras course. The course itself is difficult to describe. Kind of an 8 mile out-and-back followed by a 5 mile out-and-back that you do twice. Except that they aren't quite out-and-backs. Sort of loopy, but not really. One icky thing. We passed the start/finish line 6 or 7 times. Oy.

The race itself started out somewhat crowded, so I started out slower than normal. This felt right, especially considering the extra race I'd be running the next day. The crowd stretched out rather quickly though, and I hit my groove by mile 3. I enjoyed the scenery... the houses... the lighthouse... the peekaboo look at the ocean. That's an interesting thing. Just like Myrtle Beach, you don't actually see the ocean much during the race, even though you spend most of it right there. Aid stations were good, though small. People wooted for us from their porches.
As I passed mile 8, I saw the eventual men's winner heading the other way. He was almost to 13. Hee. A few minutes later, I saw three women go by. One was running next to a really big dude (I don't know who was drafting whom). That would turn out to be our eventual women's winner... a coolrunning poster named 'katerun'. Go kate! The third was Molly. Now, Molly didn't seem overly friendly. But I won't forget Molly because she had a big label on her top that said, well, M O L L Y.

I ran well through 10. I was consciously holding back and running easy. My car was parked right around mile 12... I stopped there briefly to drop off a jacket that I clearly didn't need. It might rain and it WAS windy. But it was also very humid and the jacket was cooking me slowly. Alas, between the jacket stop, a real potty stop, and another dreaded false potty stop, I probably lost 3 minutes.

The hardest miles for me in most races are miles 13-20. But during mile 14 of Tybee, I noticed a spring in my step and realized I was smiling. Goofy. For no particular reason. I picked it up a little. Started passing people. I usually pass a few people in the last miles of a race, but I was passing tons. Am I cruising? Or did everyone just go out too fast? A little of both. I start playing leap frog with this older guy in an ironman finisher hat. He's NicePaceGuy... because every time I pass him, he says "you are running a nice pace". Then he passes me a few minutes later . Mile 23. I'm still going strong. I pick it up a little more. What's the deal? Was it something special at the Catholic School pasta dinner the night before? NicePaceGuy passes me. I pass him. Weeee....

I finish in 3:52:57. Cool. Especially considering the wind, the humidity, and the 3 minutes of silly stops I made. Cool. Just as importantly, I ran a 40ish second negative split... which means that I ran evenly. Both Saturday goals accomplished.

And then all hell breaks loose. Boom. Rain. Rain. Rain. I run a mile back to my car in the rain (hey, coupled with the mile I did to get to the start, and I actually did 28.2 on Saturday). The rain stopped soon thereafter, but I was very happy not to be a 5 hour marathoner on Saturday.
Drive to Ocala. In 5 hours, I stop at 3 rest stops to potty 4 times, plus a Wendys stop (2 potatoes and a salad. Almost some chili). The pasta meal at Ocala is suspicious. So I refuel at... Taco Bell. That's right. I carbo load/refuel at Taco Bell. Don't ask. It was there. I figured that I needed to eat 6,000 calories on Saturday to refuel and be ready for Sunday. In counting what I actually consumed, I hit 4,500. Uh oh.

Sunday morning. Time to run Ocala. It is 32 degrees and windy. It's Florida, jiminy crickets. The race is hard to find, but I make it in plenty of time. I'm there early enough to turn into a popsicle. Star Spangled Banner. We're off. And immediately, I notice two things:
  1. I'm stiff, but I'm not dead. I start slowly, but I'm not hurting. At all.
  2. Holy hell. Ocala is hilly. Who knew?
My Ocala race experience was really weird. I was totally zoned (out? in?) for the duration of the race. It was like I was a 3rd party watching the whole thing. It was sort of a figure 8 loop course... so I never saw the leaders. I remember that the rural setting was nice, but the traffic was sucky. I remember that the aid stations were fine, but that they used styrofoam cups. I remember that I stopped at a portpottie about mile 20. When I came out, all the aid station workers were kind of staring at me. So I raised my hands as though I just won something, and they all cheered. "WOOOO! I WENT POTTY... ALL BY MYSELF!!!!" They cheered more. And I ran off. And I was not hurting. Not even kind of. I didn't speed up in the later miles like I did at Tybee... but I didn't slow down either. I remember saying hello to some horses... lots of horses south of Ocala.

I finished in 4:02:58. 5th in my age group... partially because it was a hilly course, and partially because the fast people stayed home (due to the cold? the superbowl pregame that started at 5:30am?). The food at the end is almost nonexistent, but there's beer. I bypass the beer in favor of 3 full sugar generic colas. Go high-gly carbs go. I do not pee after the 3 colas and bottles of water. It's clear that I am dehydrated. I go back to my hotel room to take a bath and a nap. I hit my Sunday goals. Actually, I soundly thrash my 'beat 4:30' goal.

Two things from the TMI department:

  1. I basically fell asleep on the toilet in "The Thinker" pose. Hee.
  2. I chafed, just like at Disney. No, not my nipples or my thighs. Not my crotch-al area. Unh unh. My little fireman hisownself has been rubbed the wrong way! No! Yargh!
So the main thing I learned about running a double is that body glide needs to go on extra places.

Not really. I learned a lot more. Mostly, that I can do it. Also... in both this weekend and back at Disney's Goofy, I was soooo afraid of hitting the wall that I ran too conservatively. I could have beaten 3:50 at Tybee and definitely beaten 4 at Ocala if I'd tried. But I didn't want to 'splode.

But you know what?

I ran a double. 3:52 the first day, 4:02 the second. For a number of years after I was sick, my marathon PR was 4:04 (currently, it is 3:45). This weekend, I beat my old PR by over a minute. The day after running another full marathon.

I probably won't BQ this year, but I still think this was pretty cool.

You can do just about anything you want.