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Surf City Marathon

I think I have a new favorite marathon: Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, California. Sure, it may be my new favorite because I barely beat my previous PR there today. But there are a few other things about this marathon that makes it my new favorite.

From reading the Runners World forums, I found out that it’s advised to show up to the event by 5:00am for the 6:50am start time. Yikes! Nearly two hours early? Well, if the veterans recommend it, it must be good advice. So I wake up at 3:45, hit the snooze button a few times, rolls out of bed by 4:00, and hit the road from my parents house by 4:15. I get to the marathon start a bit before 5:00 and yeah, they weren’t kidding. There were already a bunch of people there and a steady stream of cars coming into the parking areas. I kill about 20 minutes looking for a honey bucket, don’t find one with toilet paper (yes, I needed it), but discovered the public restrooms along the beach were open. Good thing too. After that, I take a nap in the car for 45 minutes.

After I wake up, I get all my gear together, load up the gel packs, put the race belt on, lace up the shoes, and head on down to the starting line. There I meet Philo. He’s wearing a Silicon Valley Marathon shirt and I ask him about it because I’m planning on running it this year the day after my cousins wedding (hey, if I’m going to travel to San Jose and there just happens to be a marathon I’m going to run it). We chat about Silicon Valley, Big Sur, and Avenue of the Giants. And I find out Philo is 70 years old. Holy crap! Not only is a 70 year-old running this marathon, but I seriously didn’t think he was older than 60. At the start line I also meet Sherrie, another Marathon Maniac who also just happens to be from Portland. Weird. Her master plan is to do 7 continents. Even weirder!

Even though the number of marathoners today was roughly double what was expected due to the LA Marathon fiasco, the field didn’t feel too crowded. I didn’t feel like I had to weave around runners, wasting energy on side-to-side movement. Good thing too. I planned to PR here and things looked especially good for that. Weather was supposed to be almost perfect running conditions. I also had good training runs the week before. I also packed 6 gel packs in the pockets of my Race Ready shorts so I wasn’t going to run out of fuel.

The first 11 miles went well. If anything I went out a bit fast, but I was feeling good. The 2 hills, neither of which were much, came and went with ease early on. Then we turned onto Pacific Coast Highway for an out-and-back section and hit a headwind. Okay, this will slow me down some, I thought, but no big deal, I’ll make up the time at the turnaround. I felt okay at the turnaround; didn’t feel like I lost a whole lot. But the expected boost from what should have been a tailwind now didn’t seem to materialize, or at least, didn’t feel like it did. I just didn’t feel faster. That was a bit of a psychological downer. I managed to get in some birding though as we ran by Bolsa Chica wetlands, so that was a plus. The other nice part about the course is at this part, you see the other marathoners on the out-and-back. Shouted out and got shouted at by some other Maniacs (Stevie Ray and Guillermo and a few others whose names I forgot or don’t know).

Then at about mile 17 we got into a section of the route that is probably my only complaint about Surf City. There’s a large section of the course that is run on a paved trail along the beach. Nice, eh? The problem: it’s not closed to the public. And in some places the path is pretty narrow. So marathoners have to navigate the bikers, pedestrians, and recreational runners who aren’t running the marathon. On a couple of occasions surfers carrying surfboards crossed the path in front of me and I wondered if they’d get across before I came by. Altogether though, people were respectful. On only one occasion did I have to yell “on your left” to a pair of walkers walking side-by-side.

Despite feeling good for the first half, okay for the next 5, and iffy the the next 2, things started to fall apart for the last 6. Nothing big. Just fatigue. I had to pick up a different brand of gels (Accelerade) than I prefer (Hammerhead) and I don’t think I stomach them all that well so I decided to forgo my 6th gel to prevent upset stomach and cramping and run on guts rather than calories. That didn’t work so great and I ended up doing a bit of walking. A couple of times during the last 1.5 miles two different marathoners caught me and told me things like “tough it out” and “you got it” — you know, stuff runners say to each other for motivation. It sort of worked. I knew I had 3:30 in the bag, but I really wanted a PR today since I don’t exactly have any other fast races planned this year (I’m still iffy on Eugene and even more iffy on Newport). So I gutted it out for the last 3/4 mile, tried to sprint the last 1/4 and couldn’t. But I still PR’ed by 44 seconds for a finish time of 3:28:51 Nice! Sort of. I really thought I was going to smash my previous PR, but hey, I’ll take today’s result. Another plus: I finished 20 out of 132 in the mens 35-39 age group (15th percentile). I never finished that well.

Next up: Pier Park 6-hour run on Saturday.


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Diamond Valley Lake and Carlsbad Marathons

When I started this whole marathon running hobby (or obsession) I quickly learned that I I could use running marathons as an excuse to travel. Or as a corollary, I could use traveling as an excuse to run marathons. Have to go to Sacramento, California for a work meeting? Run CIM. Want to go visit a friend in Columbus, Ohio? Schedule the trip for the same weekend as the Columbus Marathon. And while you just happen to be in the Midwest, why not run the Chicago Marathon the next week?

So when I knew I was going through a transition in late January and early February, end my job and starting student teaching, I wanted to make sure to take some time off in between and I knew I needed to run a marathon during that transition. Now, I don’t like to travel during the holidays to visit my family in Southern California so a trip to Southern California seemed in order. Naturally, I looked into what marathons were on the calendar in Southern California during this transition. Hmm… the Surf City Marathon is February 1. I’ve read good things about that one, flat course, run along the beach. But wait… the Carlsbad Marathon is January 25. How to decide which one to do? Well, why not do both? So that was the plan a few months ago. But when it was time to book flights I discovered the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon in Hemet, California the day before Carlsbad. Hemet is about an 80 minute drive from my parents house. Hmm… why not run Diamond Valley Lake also. I mean, it’s reasonably close, fairly flat, on groomed trails, along a lake. Lot’s of things in the positive column. So that was the new plan.

Fast forward to yesterday when I ran the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon. I got to Hemet about 45 minutes before the 8am start time and parked right in front of a carload of Dudes. Not “dudes” in the generic sense meaning guys or men, but “Dudes”. These guys threw around phrases like “that’s what I’m talkin’ about” and “bring it” at least a few times a day. For example, Dude #1: “Did you bring it?”, Dude #2: “Hell yeah I’m bringin’ it”, Dude #1: “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”. They also played their music from the car stereo loud enough so you can hear 10 meters away. And they played stuff that sounded like it was entrance music for wrestlers. I secretly hoped they didn’t hear about nipple chafing. I seriously wanted to see these Dudes at the finish with two red streaks down the fronts of their shirts.

Okay, back to DVLM… as usual, I started out too aggressive and ran a faster pace than I really planned to. I was going for a sub-4:00. After all, this was supposed to be just a training run for Surf City, which is the fastest course, on paper, of the three marathons I was running). I forgot to charge my Garmin so I was without my GPS and had to run by feel. That worked out okay. It’s just that I felt like I was running fast.

DVLM is a small marathon, I think maybe 100-200 runners, so you don’t see very many people. I did met a few other Marathon Maniacs (Guillermo, another from Utah whose name I didn’t catch, and another from San Diego whose name I already forgot). Amazingly enough for a small marathon, the aid station support was great. There wasn’t a lot of aid stations. They were spaced maybe 3-4 miles apart. But the volunteers were always great and helpful.

The course started with a 2.5 mile out-and-back followed by a single clockwise loop around Diamond Valley Lake. It was a nice, pretty course. The signs for what to do when you encounter a mountain lion kind of concerned me though. But I think I was more afraid of wandering off the top of the 3-mile long dams while taking in the views and falling a hundred feet or so into either the lake or even farther on the dry side than I was about mountain lions.

I managed to get in a pretty decent 20 mile training run but then things started to fall apart. The next 4.5 miles involved a bit of walking. But my internal clock thought I was still in sub-4:00 territory. I ask another runner what time she had and confirmed my feeling. I started feeling good for the last 1.5 miles and ran almost all of it and got into the finish line at 3:48:50. BTW, I didn’t see if the Dudes had bloody nipples because I didn’t see them. Their car was still there when I left. I guess they didn’t bring enough of it.

Amazingly enough, I felt great afterward. No soreness, no cramping, no blisters, no chafing, nothing. I did have my usual GI issues, namely an acid reflex-ish kind of feeling. Not sure why, but I get that way when I run faster than I should. I only took in 3 gels (Hammerhead) so it wasn’t gel overdose. But I felt optimistic about Carlsbad the next day.

Let me start off by saying that Carlsbad has got to have the greatest expo I’ve ever been to. Okay, maybe Chicago, with it’s shear enormity is the greatest. But more isn’t always better. More is just more. Carlsbad on the other hand, well, at Carlsbad they give out free loaves of bread. That’s right, not a few slices, but entire loaves. Weird, huh? And that’s why it has the best expo. Do I remember what I got at any of the other expos I’ve been to? Okay, I do remember the cowbells at Chicago. But I’ll never forget the bread.

Now, because of the bread I had a good feeling about Carlsbad (I know, weird), despite the 6am start, which meant I would have to leave my sister’s house (she’s closer to Carlsbad than my parents are) at 4am. Of course, at that early of an hour there was no traffic and I got there a bit sooner than I expected so I managed to take a 15 minute nap in the car after landing a nice parking spot near the exit of the mall where the start/finish line was. After the nap, I got my shoes and race belt on, shed my warm layers to reveal my Obama ’08 singlet I got but never wore for the Chicago Marathon and headed to the start line. There I found Julie, rather she found me, a friend from Portland who decided to run Carlsbad also because her boyfriend’s sister lives in the area. She told me she drove the course the day before and realized how hilly it was. I thought it was supposed to be flat? Hmm.

We start the 6am race in the dark. I lose Julie in the crowd of 1000+ marathoners (there’s a half marathon that starts later in the morning). Then the sun starts to rise about 3 miles in and I realize that we’re running on the Pacific Coast Highway along the beach. Nice! Julie finds me again now that the crowd has thinned out and we run together with the 4:00 pace group. Then, for some reason, the 4:00 pacers dial it up and run noticeably faster than needed for a 4 hour finish. Man, these guys suck. I don’t feel bad about myself since this is another training run for me. I feel bad about the first-timers or folks with hard goals they want to hit who trained specifically for a 4 hour finish and might bonk because they started out too fast. Oh well, it’s not my battle to fight.

Julie and I run together just slightly faster than a 4:00 pace (the 4:00 pace group is so far ahead of us we can’t even see them). Her boyfriend, Brian, is on his folding/travel/clown bike, riding the entire course and meeting up with us every couple of miles (well, mostly Julie since I’m just tagging along) taking pictures and offering support. Chatting almost the entire time helped pass the time. By mile 19 I think Julie senses I’m running fine and she’s starting to fade and tells me she won’t mind if I drop her. I give it another mile to make sure I’m feeling strong and at mile 20 I pick up the pace. We merge with the half marathoners for a second time soon after. This time it’s the 2:30-ish halfers so a slower group than the first time the marathoners and halfers merged. So I’m having fun picking off halfers, the only downside is weaving between them. But I’ll never doubt the psychological boost of passing people (and conversely, getting passed). Amazingly enough, the GI problems I fought the day before aren’t happening today. I take in a gel at mile 23 and another at mile 25. At this point I pass the 4:00 pace group. Feels good since I know the pacers badly managed their pacing. I feel so good by the time I hit the mile 26 marker with 0.2 miles left, I start into a full-on sprint. I totally could have finished a few seconds faster but I slow down 30 meters from the finish because a full marathoner realized she was about to cross the half marathon finish line and crossed over to the full marathon side right in front of me. Kind of annoying, but she seemed more enthusiastic about getting a good marathon finish photo than I was so I was okay about that. After all, this was just a training run for me. I still managed to get in a 3:53:53 finish (chip time). A little slower than the day before but a smarter race.

So my second double averaged faster than my first. I think I’m getting better at this. I’m also less sore today than I was right after my first double. Now I just need to rest up before Surf City.


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Columbia River Power Marathon and Tri-Cities Marathon race report

When I heard the Autumn Leaves 50 mile was going to be rescheduled to a weekend my mother in-law was going to visit I was a little bit disappointed. But hey, these things happen and I immediately looked into what else I could do the weekend of October 25th. Lo and behold… The Columbia River Power Marathon and the Tri-Cities Marathon. Both about a 30 minute drive apart. So I planned on doing my first double. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve done a 50k in May and a 30 mile trail run the week before so I had some experience with ultramarathon distance. But 50+ miles over two days?

The Columbia River Power Marathon was on Saturday. Roger picked me up at 4 am in the morning so we could make the 3 hour drive to Umatilla by 7 am for a 8 am start. We made it right on schedule at 7 am and decided to check in and keep warm at the McNary Elementary School where the starting line was. The volunteers were great and they told us about the baked potato bar that was planned for the post-race food. Mmm… baked potatoes. I told one of the ladies that I run because of the food. And that’s not an exaggeration. The thought of baked potatoes kept me going all 26 miles.

Speaking of food… I drank a small can of tomato juice 30 minutes before the start. I thought it was a good idea at the time. But I would soon regret it as I was feeling the effects of the acid in my esophagus an hour into the race.

We planned on a 4-hour race, i.e. a 9:00/mile pace. Roger and I stayed pretty much on target the whole time, running together. The scenery was good and it was pretty neat to run over the McNary Dam. And the volunteers were great. There was a gravel and sand portion of the course between miles 13-18. It didn’t slow us down any but it did zap me of some energy. It didn’t help that the gravel+sand trail didn’t seem to end. Plus the tomato juice kept wanting the come back up. When the trail did end, the course put us on the highway. The drivers were good about giving the runners extra room. But it’s always a bit uneasy running on a highway.

At the mile 24 aid station the tomato juice was really affecting me. So I told Roger to go ahead since I didn’t want to hold him back. I was still on a 4-hour pace so I figured I could afford a minute or two to let my GI tract settle down. When it finally did I was back on a 9:00/mile pace and crossed the finish line at just under 3:58. I ran a very conservative pace thinking about the next day. I didn’t break much of a sweat and hardly used any of the gel I packed, probably the equivalent of 2 packets (I’ve been carrying a gel flask for these fall marathons).

But let me tell you about the best part of the marathon… the baked potatoes. Oh man. They were so good, so fluffy, I got seconds. Piled with chili, butter, sour cream, cheese… Oh man. So good. Best post-race food ever.

We hung out with a bunch of other Marathon Maniacs at the school cafeteria eating our potatoes and talking marathon talk, such as doubles, triples, fat ass, dumb ass, 100 marathons, 50 states, triathlons, etc. Fun stuff. After the potatoes, Roger and I made the short drive over to the Tri-Cities area.

The Tri-Cities Marathon was day two. Roger and I checked into the Shilo Inn where the marathon start was. Real convenient. We were both feeling remarkably good but still apprehensive about running #2 the next day. The baked potatoes were great but we were feeling hungry for dinner early and went out for Mexican food at the mall. Mexican food the night before a marathon? Not sure if that would be a good idea but what the hey, I love Mexican food. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched a lot of TV before going to bed early.

The next morning started out a bit chilly but I had a feeling it was going to warm up. Since the starting line was the hotel parking lot we stayed in the room to keep warm right up until the start. It was a bigger field than yesterday so I lost Roger right at the start. Shortly after mile 1 someone asked how fast we were going. I replied “8:14”. He didn’t see a mile marker and I said there wasn’t one, I was going off my Garmin. Then Van said there was a mile marker and it was the dead cat. She’s kidding, right? I ended up going out much too fast for my 4-hour goal time, running about 8:30/mile for the first 13 miles. I caught up to the guy running in a Starfleet uniform and asked if he was the real Will Riker or his evil twin from the transporter accident, then he made it so and left me in his tachyon field. The course was nice, following the Columbia River most of the way. Running over the Cable Bridge was pretty cool. I kept looking up at the suspension cables and the clear blue sky thinking I should have lugged my camera. I also got in some birding (American Widgeon, Bufflehead, either a Clark’s or Western Grebe, Mallards, Coots, and some other stuff I’m forgetting). By mile 18 I figured I had my goal time of 4 hours in the bag barring a disaster, which is not out of the realm of possibility but I didn’t want to pressure myself into injury so I eased back into 9- and 10-minute/mile paces. The headwind helped me slow down and I took my time at the aid stations. Then it was back over the I-182 bridge and into the home stretch. I hit mile marker 25 and there it was, the dead cat Van was talking about. She wasn’t kidding! Poor kitty. With a quarter mile to go Andy caught me walking and pushed me to get up and go (I’m not sure if that’s what he was yelling about but I got the picture). So I did and crossed the finish line at just under 3:55.

Not bad for my first double. 52.4 miles over 2 days in a grand total of under 8 hours. I hit my goal and the only effect is a sore left Achilles due to lack of stretching.

Things I learned:

  • It’s probably a good idea to stretch
  • Don’t drink tomato juice right before a long run
  • Doubles aren’t so scary


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Sisters Poker Run race report

The Sisters Poker Run is a small, really laid back, trail ultramarathon through the Sisters Trail network. The course changes every year according to the whims of Gene, a.k.a “Fatboy”, the organizer. It’s not really a race at all but a 34 mile poker hand. You pick up cards at each of the 5 aid stations with prizes going out to the best hand drawn and the worst.

That said, I really had no business being out there. My last long run previous to yesterday was the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon 2 months ago. I had a couple of 15 mile runs after that but they hardly count. Both where on flat terrain and about 6 weeks prior. Looking at my training log, I see a lot of blank space in the 3 weeks leading up to yesterday. I didn’t do any running while on my trip to Europe. That wouldn’t have been so bad if I did some core strengthening workouts, which I could have easily done in the hotel rooms. But I didn’t, so that’s why I suck.

After passing aid station #2 somewhere between miles 11-12 it was a long, hard, slog up hill. For me at least. The elevation gain wasn’t steep at all. If I was in better shape it would have been fine. But I wasn’t and I did a lot of walking. Then I started cramping in my quads. Not good. It was at about mile 15 when I decided to turn around and bag the whole thing. I got a crappy picture of the Three Sisters volcanoes on my cell phone camera which doesn’t do the view justice so I was reasonably happy.

Three Sisters

The course is designed to be around 34 miles so I was 2 miles short of the turn around point. At the slow as molasses pace I was going I expected to be passed by the lead pack on the back portion of this out-and-back section of the trail. But no. That made me suspicious that the turnaround point wasn’t just around the corner. Turning around at mile 15 ended up being a good move for me because the course ended up being long at 37-ish miles. There’s no way I would have made that distance in the shape I was in. By the time I made it back to the finish area I ran/walked 29.5 miles in nearly 7 hours and ended up with a 3-of-a-kind of nines (which wasn’t a winning hand).

Things I learned…

  • Don’t underestimate caloric intake at these distances, erring on the side of eating more has a better downside than running out of gas
  • I lose fitness fast; this seems to be related to why I don’t taper well. I thought all the 40-50 miles per week weeks over the summer would have carried me through but they didn’t. Three weeks of absolutely no running really took a toll on my fitness. This was the first time I’ve cramped up this year and I don’t think it had anything to do with an electrolyte imbalance. It was simply lack of fitness and training.

All in all, it was a really fun event. I love central Oregon.

UPDATE: Results are posted. I can’t believe I beat Sean Meissner and Krissy Moehl. Only time that would ever happen!

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Chicago Marathon race report – DNS

I was supposed to run the Chicago Marathon today. Supposed to.

The Chicago Marathon has special significance to me. The first (and still only) time I ran it in 2006 was when I met the person who I would later fall in love with and marry not so long thereafter. It was also the final marathon I needed to earn a 4-star rating as a Marathon Maniac. So back in February I got on the ball and signed up to run this October marathon because it sells out it’s ~40,000 slots fast. I even booked a room at the hostel. I was good to go. All I had to do was show up.

Then I had the opportunity to attend the Cochrane Colloquium. What that is exactly is besides the point. What does matter is that attending it would mean flying back from Germany to Chicago 2 days before the marathon. Attending wasn’t exactly mandatory but it’s a big conference in my field of systematic reviews and all the big names go there so it’s a great place to show off your work if you have a poster (which I did) and network (which I did a little). Plus, how could I pass up an expenses paid trip to Freiburg, Germany?

Well… it turned out not so well for my Chicago Marathon experience. The whole trip to Europe was great. We spent a few days before the conference zipping across Switzerland. A day in Luzern, and day in Ballenberg, a night in Zurich, a morning in Chur. Then we headed to Freiburg, where the conference was located. We checked in to our mostly-paid-for hotel, checked out the old town a little bit, then the next morning rode the rails to Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg turned out to be our favorite city on this trip. We only had a day to spend here but decided to spend one of our free days after the conference going back. Next there was 4 days of conference stuff which I won’t bore you with. It was good, but there’s probably only a couple dozen people in the world who would be interested in hearing about it. Then it was back to Strasbourg and from Strasbourg to Frankfurt. And from Frankfurt to Detroit and then to Chicago.

It was that last part that was the problem. The night before our flight out of Frankfurt I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Oh boy. It wasn’t the good kind of bathroom break. Okay. No big deal, right? It’s only one-time food poisoning. Then I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. The alarm goes off and we gather are stuff, check out of the hotel, and walk over the catch a taxi to the airport. I already know I’m not feeling too well but it’s all pretty mild, right? As we’re navigating the airport, checking in, finding our gate, I’m feeling quite ill. And it’s not a good kind of ill, if there is a good kind. As time goes on I’m feeling worse and worse. This is going to be a miserable flight. And it turned out I was right about that one. It was the most agonizing 8.5 hours I’ve ever spent. I couldn’t sleep or get comfortable. I was either too hot or too cold and too weak to adjust my blanket or take off my jacket. It was bad. Then there was the waiting in lines, plural, to pass through customs in Detroit. Then there was the extremely uncomfortable waiting lounge in the Detroit airport for our 3 hour layover. Then there was the 1 hour flight from Detroit to Chicago. Then there was the grueling drive from O’Hare to my mother-in-law’s house during rush hour. Oh. Boy.

So that was my Friday. I was hoping that if I felt better by Saturday morning I would at least make it to downtown to the marathon expo. I had already told myself if I miraculously felt better it was probably still a bad idea to run the marathon on Sunday since I was already dehydrated from the diarrhea. And it was predicted to be a little on the warm side so little chance of a PR even if I was 100%. Fine. The marathon is bagged but I could at least hope for is picking up a bunch of schwag to make up for it. No go. Saturday I felt just as miserable as Friday. So no schwag either. Damn. And Chicago has a really great expo.

So yup, a big fat nothing for me in Chicago.

Pictures of the trip are here, not all of them yet, but they’ll all get up there soon. No pictures from the sicky part of the trip.

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Race report: Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

I’m finally a 3:30 marathoner.

The week leading up to the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon didn’t start out so well. What was supposed to be a 20-mile run the weekend before turned into a pair of runs on Saturday and Sunday, a 9-miler and an 11-miler. I just wasn’t “feeling it” either day and cut those runs short. Then we had what felt like the hottest week in Portland. So I ended up with three 4-5 mile runs throughout the week and they were hard. Also, my plantar fasciitis started flaring up again. And something was going wonky with my knee, which was probably a result of a trail run. My goal going into today’s marathon was a 3:30. But considering how my week was going I wasn’t too hopeful.

The day before didn’t give me any reason to be optimistic. Cat and I were supposed to go camping outside of North Bend, WA. But I made the mistake of not reserving a campsite at primary campground I picked out or the backup campground. So we ended up having to get a motel room in North Bend. I was feeling kind of bad about spending $50 more than I planned for lodging, plus the extra money for a real dinner instead of the campfire mac+cheese and PB&J sandwiches. But hey… we got a real dinner. Plus a TV to watch the Olympics. And a real bathroom. And a real bed. As we were lying in bed we thought, “yeah… this is much better than camping.”

Then came race morning. And my alarm clock didn’t go off… again. The only reason why I woke up 15 minutes before I had to leave the motel room to catch the bus to the starting area were the people outside the room making some noise. Damn. But we managed to get out the door at the planned time. I just didn’t have the customary amount of time to stretch, eat, and relax. Okay… no big deal. I’m running 26 miles so there’s plenty of time to warm up and relax, right?

The race was real low-key. A lot of Marathon Maniacs. A bunch I’ve meet before and a bunch I got to meet today. Lot’s of good folks. The 2 mile tunnel was more humid than I expected. Actually, I didn’t expect it to be damp and humid at all. It was also darker than I expected. I probably should have changed the batteries in my headlamp I guess. I didn’t bring my Garmin Forerunner thinking it would have a hard time finding the satellites after coming out of the tunnel so my pacing wasn’t exact. Using a normal watch, I figured I was running 8:00 miles, +/- 10 seconds on any particular mile. At least I was at that pace for the first 23 miles. The gravel on the trail was a bit more slippery than I expected but nothing too bad. The real killer for me was the humidity. Every time I hit a breezy section it felt like heaven.

The last 3 miles were tough. I was definitely slowing down. But I was on track for a PR, and even better, a sub-3:30. So I needed to push myself. I had just enough Hammer gel to get some calories every mile from 23 on so I was hoping I wasn’t going to run out of gas. When I glanced at my watch and saw 3:24 I was getting a bit worried because I hadn’t seen the 26 mile marker yet. But I stayed relaxed. And then there it was, mile 26. And my watch said 3:27-ish. Okay. No problem. Then 3:28. Okay… time to panic. Then I saw the finish line and went into a full-on sprint. I finished at about 3:29:30. Official finish times aren’t in yet.

Here’s my analysis of my performance. The speedwork I did 10 days before definitely helped with that final sprint. And I think I conquered the nutrition issues finally. Hammer gel and regular water definitely suits my GI tract. No GI cramping today at all. And no muscle cramping, despite the fast pace I was a pushing. And I was sweating a lot with the humidity. Electrolytes are overrated. The vanilla flavor of Hammer gel, incidentally, only has 25 mg of sodium. Brooks shoes rock. No blisters. Zero. And no chafing in my nether regions, despite the humidity. Always a plus. And this was only the second marathon where I wasn’t forced to take a walking break. Now that I think about it, I had the best marathon of my life so far today. Still looking for the negative split. But now I’m a 3:30 marathoner.

Update: Official results are in. My time… 3:29:35!

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Capital City Marathon

Today was the 3rd marathon in as many weekends this month. Oh man. It was a hot one. After what has got to be the hottest couple of days in the Pacific Northwest with 90 degree weather, today was supposed to start a cooling trend back to normal. I was a bit worried when I was on I-5 driving into Olympia around 6:00am and the sun was out with no cloud cover in sight. It was going to get warm out today.

This was my first Capital City Marathon so I didn’t know what to expect. I read it was hilly but the elevation map didn’t look too scary. I was standing in line for the port-o-potties and the guy in front of me noticed my Marathon Maniac singlet and asked what number I was, as in what’s my Maniac number. “#369, what’s yours” I replied. “#660, my name’s Andy”. It was his 5th Capital City Marathon. So naturally, I hit him up for tips. He tells me to save something for the big hill at mile 22. Oh man.

Then I run into Dave, who I met last week at the Tacoma City Marathon. We chat a bit. He’s planning on going fast and I was planning on taking it easy so we wouldn’t be running in the same pack.

So was Capital City hilly? Yeah, it sure was. The first half of the course had a good deal of shade along tree-lined country roads. But then the second half… oh man, nothing but sun beating down on asphalt. No good. The upside was the neighborhood folks along the residential parts of the course who set up sprinklers or their garden hoses just for us marathoners. That was awesome!

I think the sun was a bigger factor in my fairly slow pace today (3:47 finish), more so that the hills. The Tacoma City Marathon was pretty hilly. My Garmin Forerunner GPS says the total elevation gains for both courses are comparable at about 3000 ft. I also just felt better before Tacoma. I had trouble getting the cobwebs out of my head on the drive up and felt a bit mentally exhausted before the start, probably feeling drained from the heat of the prior few days. Under better weather conditions I would probably do this marathon again. I liked being on the country roads and the race organization and volunteers were great.

Oh, and during the first half mile of the course I ran behind an elderly Asian woman no bigger than my mom, who’s 4’10”, and probably not much younger either. She was wearing a shirt which had “Go Grandma Lee” printed on the back. I think I’ve seen her before, so this wouldn’t be her first marathon. In fact, I may have seen her last week at the Tacoma City Marathon. Pretty amazing, I think to myself, a woman no different from my mom running marathons, and running them on back-to-back weekends. Then I overhear someone talking to her. He says to her, “I saw your picture in the paper, congratulations on your 100th marathon.” What. The. Hell? 100?!?! Here’s the story. Every time I read a story like this or get passed on the race course by someone at least 20 years older than me, I’m reminded about how much we can achieve through shear force of will. Grandma Lee is one amazing woman.

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