The Runner's Reward

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Akron Marathon Race Recap

A friend of mine is a running coach and has done a lot of biking and weight lifting in the past. She now mostly runs. We were talking about how good running is for us mentally and psychologically when I asked her this question:

What do you think it is about running that makes it different than biking or lifting as far as therapeutic value?

Her answer is perfect.

"I think it's the beating your body takes, It strips you bare and makes you look deep within to push beyond everything you thought you were incapable of bearing or accomplishing. It's just you and your weights, no bike...just you and your legs. I've been told that I run with my heart and I believe that to be true..." - Coach Suzanne Natter

Saturday I ran with my body and heart at Akron and was stripped bare.

I was fortunate enough to leave work early Friday. It was just a short 1 1/2 hour drive to Akron. Once at the expo I got in touch with Ryan to see where he was and he came up to meet me.  The expo was easily navigable. It was a bit smaller than Pittsburgh's which worked to my advantage as I was not looking to spend much money.

We spent a few minutes in the expo, in which I mostly bought beer glasses, and then headed out to look for some food.  We ended up getting about a 2 mile walk in up to Angel Falls Coffee and back for sandwiches and kombucha. By the time we made it back downtown Don, Paul, and Lori were checking in to the hotel. Ryan and I went back to the expo and met up with them. My corral assignment was wrong. For some reason I was put in C instead of A so I had that sorted out at the pacer booth. 

Looking for some good food in downtown Akron? Urban Eats inside Musica on Market Street has great coffee and food.  We ate dinner here. I had a pear and brie wrap that was just plain amazing.  Then it was off to then hotel to prepare and try and get some sleep.

Race Day

We dragged our backsides out of bed at 3:40 AM and got some breakfast. The Hilton Garden Inn was very accommodating. They had set a breakfast out at 4 AM for race day and allowed checkout at 2PM giving runners time to come back and shower.  I had half a bagel, coffee, and OJ.

After driving the 5 minutes to the race area we parked and headed up to gear check, which was at a parkade right by the corrals. We met Brianne and her husband Marc and shortly after all headed to our corrals.

The temperature was in the low 60's with a nice breeze on some sections of the course.  Most of the course was shaded, which made for thoroughly enjoyable running weather.

The gun went off promptly at 7:00 AM and with it the Elites and seeded runners.  Ryan and I were at the back of Corral A. We crossed the starting line about 2 minutes after our speedy predecessors, albeit at a much slower pace.  Around mile 3 a small group of people were setting up a makeshift aid station stocked with cups of beer and nothing else.  We laughed. Mile 3 was a bit too early for either of us to start the victory celebration.

The first 13 miles of the course stayed close to downtown. Miles 6-8 took us through the University of Akron campus area and 8-11 south and west of downtown with mile 12 at the race starting line. Here the half marathoners split off to head to Canal Park and their reward for a race well run.  Our route would take us northwest along West Market Street and it's surrounding streets and neighborhoods.   Mile 13-14.5 was a long , gradual hill climb. I found it to be fairly easy.

I had a plan to execute.  Knowing the course would be a number of rolling hills the goal was to keep below the 9:00 average pace that would secure a sub-4 hour finish. I would slow down for hill climbs and make up time on the flats and downhills thereby keeping my heart rate from spiking over and over which would bring fatigue quicker. That fatigue would surely come in later miles and I wanted to have some time banked against that probable situation.

Ryan was on board with the plan.  I could see many times he was itching to put the speed on.  A few times early in the race I broke into strides in the 7:00 range to hopefully satiate some of his speed hunger.  I don't know that it helped, but it didn't hurt my race effort. I joked with Ryan that it was like giving a treat to a dog. "Who's a good pacer? You are! Have some speed!"

At mile 16 the course left the roads for roughly 1/4 mile and winded through the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens property, the grounds for a historic Carriage House.  It was a welcome change of scenery albeit too short. I was feeling great. We were averaging 8:45 per mile  and another 10 miles looked like a piece of cake.  At 18.5 the course began it's return path towards the city. I saw a marathon foto photographer and threw up the "hang ten." By mile 20-21 I could feel a little fatigue creeping in, but nothing too serious.  Miles 22-24 were mostly hill climbs.  Yes..that was it. The point where the battle began.

Ryan turned to me and said only 5k left.  That was meant to sound like a good thing, but at that moment he could have said 20 more miles and it sounded about the same.   I found myself walking bits of the hill climbs here and there and by the time I hit the mile 24 1/4 and flat ground I could hardly hold pace. I was slowing us down to around a 10 pace. With each mile I recalculated our projected finish time and bolstered myself with the thought that we banked enough time for this exact situation. Ryan just kept the positivity flowing and I kept crunching numbers distracting myself from the task still ahead.  Mile 25 was all downhill! We ran a 9:00 during that mile. I didn't push, opting to let gravity pull me down at whatever pace was comfortable. I felt like I might puke. That was a new feeling on a run for me.  Ryan said if you have to it's cool, let it out.  I wasn't quite there, but damn was I close.  The last 1.2 were hairy.  There was one very slight climb and a ever so slight rise coming up South Main Street.  I stopped frequently to walk. I was getting tunnel vision and feeling disassociated. Run, walk, run, walk.  Finally the course turned off of the road onto a sidewalk. 0.1 miles to go! I saw the Canal Park stadium out of the corner of my eye and felt the surge of excitement.  Rounding the corner into the stadium I could see the race clock was still under 4 hours. Ryan and I surged forward together crossing the line at a chip time of 3:57:43.

As I walked from the finish I could see one of the medical staff watching me intently.  I felt it was time to lay down. Right that second. So I did.  The grasstroturf felt lovely.  It was then the medicine man yelled at me that I had to keep moving. I staggered to my feet and went to claim the bling.  A nice medal and finisher's swiftwick compression socks! Bada bing bada bling! After entering the Finisher's Festival we met Paul and Lori and after mutual congratulations I propped my butt down on the ground. All I wanted to do was sleep.  I took a salt cap and we made our way to the beer and food tents. At that moment I swore off distance running. Twenty minutes later I was thinking about , and looking forward to, the next big race; The Marshall Mangler in November.

The Post Race Crew

Thursday, September 10, 2015

8th Annual FAAP Fall Classic 5k/10k

On Sunday (9-6-15), I ran the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh's (FAAP) 8th Annual Fall Classic.  I had opted for the 5k not knowing how I would feel after Saturday's 23 miler and simply because it has been since March of 2014 that I raced a 5k.

I arrived at North Park about 30 minutes before the start and picked up my packet. I had plenty of time to warm up and talk with friends.  The 10k runners started 5 minutes or so before we were given the go ahead. 

The course was a cross country run with some singletrack with roughly 230 feet of elevation gain. I had planned to run it comfortably hard and hadn't expected much performance wise after the previous day's long run.  At the start I held back a little for the first 50 yards and then seeing the trail approaching I passed a few people while there was space to do so running around a 7:15 pace.  Once on the trail I slowed up a little.  Taking the hills by running a few steps up them and power walking the rest of the way I had a few people pass me, but without spiking my heart rate I was able to overcome them quickly once at the top of the hill.  It had been a while since I was on trail and I was feeling good and in my element.

The most technical section of the 5k wasn't very technical at all.  It was some windy singletrack with a lot of rocks and roots.  By now I was squarely in the tail end of the 10k runners who were taking this area cautiously.  Being a little more seasoned to trails I was able to pass a number of others , both 5 and 10k runners with relative ease.  As the course came back to meet the road I could see 3 people ahead of me. I broke into a full on sprint somewhere in the mid 5's. I managed to pass two people and coming up  close on the third he dug in hard and outran me. I had nothing left to give and happily crossed the finish line.

Afterwards I hung around and talked with friends and watched others finish. Checking the results sheet I couldn't believe  I came in 1st in my age group and 8th overall! I have never had a 1st place before and am ecstatic. Lisa took home a 3rd in age group.

Yeah, we kicked butt.

Before the awards ceremony there were traditional Filipino dances performed.  So cool!

Thanks to Mark, who is the RD, and everyone else who helped put on this great race!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I came back for all the miles

It has been a while since I have posted. Life, know. All the normal reasons things get off track for.

After seeing a podiatrist, Dr. Hajnosz, I was diagnosed with tendonitis and a pinched nerve.  No stress fractures here!! I was clear to start running again and only needed to re-lace my shoes and keep pressure off the affected area so it could heal.  I was so worried. A stress fracture would have cost me the Akron Marathon and possibly the Marshall Mangler in November.

After the appointment I went home Tuesday night and ladder laced a few pairs of shoes and hit the ground running on Wednesday. I felt like a baby deer on new legs for the first mile. After that things fell back into place.

Ladder Lacing
Two weeks ago I ran 18 miles with Jason and Lisa, who were also running the Around the Square 5k in Regent Square. We met up at 7 and went up to packet pickup for them.  We managed to belt out 6 miles before the 5k started at 9. I went on ahead and ran the 5k course about 20 minutes before race start. It was nice having the road all to my self. I had bands playing for me and by the time I had reached the last water station on the course the race had started. The volunteers at the water station all started cheering when I ran by and offering water. I yelled back that I wasn't in the race and they replied, "That's okay!" I wasn't in the race, but I still found myself pushing the pace averaging around an 8:40 for 5k. Afterwards I ran back up the trail about 1/4 mile to grab some pics of the runners.

 Last week was another long run with Lisa. She was running 15 and I was looking for 19-20 so I ran 4 miles before meeting up with her at Millvale Waterfront Park. I planned a route and managed to stick to it until Oakland. Lisa had never heard of Conflict Kitchen so we ran by there. They are making Cuban food now. Even though it didn't open until 10 or 11 they were busy cooking up the day's eats. Oh man! The smells!! Lisa, our resident Cuban foods expert, seemed satisfied by the glorious scents pouring from la Cocina del Conflicto. This restaurant is so cool. They pick a country that the US has had or currently has some conflict with and serves up their food and culture with a side of politics.
After filling our olfactory up we entirely left my planned course. My fault entirely. I managed to find the one singletrack trail in all of Schenley Park to drag Lisa down. We followed Panther Hollow back into the city and picked up the Eliza Furnace Trail, better known locally as the jail trail. From here we crossed the Hot Metal Bridge into the Southside and finished our run on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system.

Now I am into my heaviest week before the taper for Akron begins. The focus has shifted to mostly roads and increasing speed and burning fat for fuel. Of course, I am still getting some trail time in too. My first week back I got around 30 miles in with 11 on trail Saturday at North Park and 10 road Sunday. Last week and this week I am on track for back to back 50 mile weeks.

To help with burning fats as fuel I am taking a race pace to tempo effort run the day after the long run with no food in my system.  These runs have been around 8 miles in a carb depleted state. After the run I binge on carbs and refuel ye olde glycogen stores.  This gets the body used to burning fat at higher intensity pacing instead of relying solely on glycogen.

That is a little of what has been happening for the last 3 weeks or so in my training. Also, I spoke with Salomon. My hydration vest back pocket started ripping away from the body of the pack.  They asked me to first contact the seller. I wrote, whom I purchased the pack from 11 months ago, and included some pictures They have a 60 day return policy, but said they understand some things can't be resolved in that time period and are exchanging it! I have received nothing but excellent service from them on each occasion I have dealt with their company. Unfortunately they did not have the same pack in stock so I opted for trying the Ultimate Direction PB. I am looking forward to getting that next week along with a new pair of Mizuno Inspire 10's for Akron. It is a little close to the marathon for new shoes, but I figured it is better than running it in a pair of worn out shoes with over 430 miles on them and I have not fully transitioned into the zero drop Altras yet.

This weekend I have 20-22 miles on tap Saturday with another fat fuel run on or possibly trail on Sunday. Feeling fierce and ready to attempt a sub 4 hour at Akron!