Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mercedes Race Report

Mercedes has come and gone, and I'm pleased with my results.  My ideal goal was 1:40, and my I'll-be-satisfied-with-it goal was 1:45.  I came across, unofficially, at 1:40:20, which is a personal record.  If it weren't for navigating through the crowd the first mile I think I could have beaten my goal, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.  No matter, there will be other races.

What I'm most happy about is my pacing.  Throwing out the first mile, I did what I wanted to do for the most part.  I went out a little fast miles 2-5, but am thrilled I was able to keep my splits under 8:00/mi. from miles 6-10.  If I have anything to complain about - which I don't - it would be that I wasn't able to pick it up those last couple of miles.  Around mile 11 I hit a wall and struggled to push it harder to the finish.  Anyway, here are my splits.

Time         Dist      Split    Split Dist    Split Pace
0:08:20     1.00     8:20    1.00           8:20
0:15:46     2.00     7:24    1.00           7:24
0:23:06     3.00     7:21    1.00           7:24
0:30:31     4.00     7:24    1.00           7:24
0:38:14     5.00     7:43    1.00           7:44
0:45:54     6.00     7:39    1.00           7:38
0:53:38     7.00     7:44    1.00           7:45
1:01:30     8.00     7:51    1.00           7:51
1:08:54     9.00     7:24    1.00           7:25
1:16:41     9.99     7:47    1.00           7:48
1:24:23    10.99    7:42    1.00           7:43
1:32:08    11.99    7:45    1.00           7:46
1:40:00    12.99    7:51    1.00           7:51
1:40:20    13.04    0:20    0.05           7:28

As I sit here writing this I just checked and the official results are up.  My chip time was 1:40:17, and I finished 36th in my age division, 255th overall.  As James would say, welcome to the Masters!  Yes, this was my first race as a 40-year-old. :)  On a positive note, I was the first person from Prattville aged 40-44 to cross the finish line!

Finally, here are some of my thoughts on the race.  I thought it was fairly well organized.  It started on time, which is important to me, and I had no problems navigating the course.  I enjoyed a couple of the live music acts on the course, but would like to have seen more for an event like this one.  The schwag bag was ok, but I didn't care for how they doled out the t-shirts.  For $55 they should just give it to you up front, instead of handing them out only to "finishers."  And then there's the million-dollar question: would I run it again?  As long as there are other races I haven't yet attended I probably won't.  While nothing about it was bad, there wasn't anything about it that really stood out.

Lastly, a personal note.  I tweeted after the race that it was bittersweet.  This was because my training partner, Kym, wasn't able to finish when an infection she'd been battling all week caught up with her.   It was truly heartbreaking to learn of what happened, because for the past 12 weeks I witnessed how much time and effort she put in.  I've not met many people as dedicated as she is, and to see her "bad day" take place on "race day" was, for lack of a better word, unfair.  If I know Kym though, she will be back with a vengeance, chasing down her goal.  Setbacks be damned.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mercedes Race Strategy

I've given a lot of thought about how I'm going to approach the Mercedes this coming Sunday.  Probably too much thought.  Common sense tells me I should start out slow and work towards negative splits as I go.  The only reason I have questioned this approach is because of the hills positioned smack dab in the middle of the course.  Here's the elevation provided on the half marathon website.

When I first was asked about running Mercedes I was reluctant to agree, because I'd heard so many people complain about the hills.  This year, I'm told, they've changed it and made it a little friendlier.  The graphic above still makes it look imposing, so I decided to see for myself just how bad it really is.  I calculated the road grade where significant changes appear to occur.

0.00 (600') - 4.25 (600') = 4.25 Miles, Flat
4.25 (600') - 6.50 (650') = 2.25 Miles, 0.4% Uphill Grade
6.62 (636') - 8.33 (768') = 1.70 Miles, 1.5% Uphill Grade
8.33 (768') - 9.25 (673') = 0.90 Miles, 2.0% Downhill Grade
9.25 (673') - 9.75 (735') = 0.50 Miles, 2.3% Uphill Grade
9.75 (735') - 10.2 (636') = 0.45 Miles, 3.75% Downhill Grade
10.2 (636') - 13.1 (610') = 2.90 Miles, Miniscule Downhill Grade

I'm happy to report I'm not as intimidated as I was when I first looked at the map.  A 2% grade over roughly 4 miles is not something to get worked up over.  I can say this because I still have nightmares about the 6% grade over 2.5 miles I ran last Thanksgiving in New Hampshire.  Further, here's another elevation map from MapMyRun that softens it a little.  Heck, it almost looks flat on this one!

So, for all the fuss what will I do?  I'll stick to the common sense plan.  I'm going to try to start out at around an 8:10/mile and increase to 7:40/mile over the first 4.25 miles. My hope is that I will be able to keep my pace under 8:00/mile over the next 4 miles up the hills, use the following downhill stretches to catch my breath and make up lost time, and then dig deep for the last 3 miles.  Not exactly science, but it will have to do.

If anyone has some wisdom to impart, please do so.  I'd really like to hear other strategies, even if they just validate my own. :)

Good luck to my fellow racers!  Hope to see you on Sunday!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pre-Race Report

In my mind, after this morning's intervals the preparation for the Mercedes Half Marathon has ended.  I have a 2-mile recovery run tomorrow (huh?) and a 30-minute tempo run on Thursday, but for all intents and purposes the taper is on.  And the anxiety and nervousness begins.  Over the next few days paranoia sets in, and I worry about getting sick or hurt.  I imagine this is normal for most runners.

What may not be so normal is that, based on past experience, my pre-race jitters will end the day before.  People like my friend, Duane, can't sleep the eve of, but I'm out like a light.  While other runners will be fretting at the start line, I'm unusually calm.  I'm a planner to a fault, so I have everything in line a couple of days before the race.  I know exactly where my hotel is in relation to the start and how to get to each, I have a good idea of what I'm going to eat, and I'm all over the weather forecast and how I'll need to dress.

So, outside of the last-minute details, how do I feel about my readiness?  I racked my brain and came up with these points to ponder.  Attitude rankings on a 10-point scale preface each comment.

Mental Health (9/10) - I'm pretty confident that I will set a new PR at this race.  I've never set foot on it before and it does have some hills, but I still think I can take off at least 5 minutes.  My training these past 12 weeks have showed me I am capable, and I believe in myself.  The only thing that even remotely concerns me is that I've never faced real adversity.  I've never suffered a setback in the middle of a race, so I don't know how I would handle that.  I hope I have the mental fortitude to push through pain, if it comes to that.

Physical Conditioning (9/10) - I was a little tired last week, but I'm feeling better now and have no injuries to report.  I've adhered pretty closely to my training plan, only straying once or twice.  To paraphrase something my training partner, Kym, said recently, on race day I won't be looking back wondering "what if" about anything.  I've put in the time and miles, and I've even followed through on most of my strength training.  I'm just about as ready physically as I can be.

Weight (10/10) - When I began training for the Chickamauga Half Marathon (outstanding race!) last fall I set a goal to lose 10 pounds.  I exceeded that easily, dropping from 168 down to around 150.  These days, with the bump up to the advanced training plan, I've often struggled to keep my weight up.  I've learned to eat more - especially before long runs - and at this writing I'm around 151-152.  I feel light and primed to go.

Nutrition (8/10) - My friend, Eric, asked me a couple of weeks ago before his first half marathon how far in advance he should start carbo loading.  I laughed, because I'm always doing that!  I eat lots of whole wheat bread, bagles, pasta and whole-grain rice, and chicken, milk and peanut butter are my protein sources of choice.  I try to mix in as much fruits (bananas and apples) and veggies (salads with all the trimmings) as I can, so overall I feel pretty good about how I'm fueling.  On the occasions I stray from my typical diet I have noticed dramatic changes in my energy levels, so the next few days I will be behaving.  I know if I don't introduce anything strange to my diet that I will be charged and ready to go.

Form (6/10) - A little while back I read some tips on improving form and have tried to implement them.  When I do things correctly I can feel my effort level drop and efficiency increase.  When I don't focus and execute properly, however, I have experienced some unexpected pains.  My lower back can get tight, I've had nags with my Achilles and even experienced some compartment syndrome.  I'll do my best during the race, especially focusing on the last few miles where it will count the most.

This is running a little long, so I'm going to discuss my race tactics in a separate post.  If you're reading this and have a race this coming weekend, how are you feeling?  Let me know in the comments.

Happy running!

Friday, February 5, 2010


I am tired.  I'm in the penultimate week of the Hal Higdon half marathon training plan, and it is testing me.  I don't have any aches or pains to complain of and I'm mentally rested, but physically I've felt drained the past few days.  That is, right up until and after I run.  When I'm running I feel just fine.  In fact, I've felt pretty strong.

I bring this up because there seems to be a little contrast between how I'm feeling and how James is.  I suspect some of this is because he has been closer, if not at, this level of training for quite some time, whereas this is my first attempt at the 'advanced' level.  My body may still be adjusting to the increased intensity and workload.

Or... maybe I'm still recovering from the extra miles I put on last Thursday when I ran with Bruce Johnson.  That day I ran easy with him for about 4 miles.  But before that I did an intensive 7-mile tempo run and, after parting ways, another 4 miles back to my car.  My mileage for that day was almost 16 miles, and for the week my total was 47.  Highest amount ever for me, I think.

This Sunday is the last long run at 2 hours, and I'm not anticipating any problems.  After Tuesday's 6x400 intervals the tapering and the impatience begins.  If I can avoid getting sick or stubbing a toe I think I'll do well at Mercedes next weekend.  I'm really anxious to see how the 12 weeks of hard work pay off.