Archive for November, 2012

Debilitating dehydration dilemma

November 13, 2012

Obviously this last run was a (I was going to say dry run, but that’s quite the wrong idea) test for my real marathon race in three weeks. And, of course, my great worry at the moment is dehydration.

So I decided (and Coach Mike encouraged me) to concentrate on hydration. I took some salt tablets the day before, and was always drinking water. I did the same the morning of the race. I drank at almost every water station (I think I missed 3 out of 16. For two of them I just couldn’t get water, either from the press of runners, or because the volunteers had momentarily run out, and the last was the one at mile 25 and with only one mile to go there’s no point in drinking). I drank at almost every water station, and I drained the cup too. At one I even drank two cups, one of water and one of Fluid™.

I had hoped that it would be easy to drink at 8 minute pace. Well… it’s easier. And I’m in the water stop long enough that I could get 2 cups. But it still isn’t easy.

Mike wanted me wear a heart rate monitor and keep track through the race:

Vertical axis % of max Heart Rate, Horizontal axis is in miles
I look at this graph and I say “I got tired as the race went on”. Not surprising  — well, I didn’t really expect to get up to 90%, but that was right at the end. Mike looked at it and said I got dehydrated.

Jana said at one point that she thought she had drunk too much. I never felt that way.

After the race I drank two bottles of water (pints?)

I certainly didn’t feel the way I do after racing a marathon or an ultra.

Mike says I need to work even harder on hydration in my real race. And I just think “How?” If I couldn’t hydrate well when running easily, how on earth am I going to do it when running faster? I’ll need more water and it will be harder to drink.

I tried carrying a camelback with me, and that didn’t work (when running fast I mean. OK for an ultra). If I were doing SB for real I might be able to scatter friends on the course with squeeze bottles, but I can’t do that at Sacramento.

Maybe I really can’t run marathons.

Dismaying, distressing, dreadful, desiccating, dangerous, damnable, daunting, debilitating dehydration.


Imperfect Pacing

November 11, 2012

I had two worries when pacing the marathon. The first was that I would go too slowly. The second was that I would go too fast. I was more concerned about the second, and with reason — I knew that was my weak spot.

When you pace a marathon you agree that you will reach the finish line at a certain time. The people who run with you depend on that time (it might be a boston qualifier, or it might just be a nice round number), and they get understandably upset if you go too slowly and they miss their time. But the other problem is almost as bad; if you go too quickly then they (who have trained to go at a certain pace) will tire too soon and slow down and again, miss their time.

Conventional wisdom is that if you want to pace a marathon for a given time you should be trained to run a marathon ten minutes faster than that.

When I volunteered to pace Rusty offered me either 3:15 or 3:30 as a finishing time. My best marathon is 3:06, so 3:15 would be sort of borderline… And anyway I’d be three weeks before my own marathon which would mean I’d be tired. 3:15 sounded too fast. That is — I could probably do it, but I wasn’t sure. And I didn’t want to discover at mile 20 that I couldn’t go any further at the correct pace.

3:30 sounded easy. It’s just 8 minute miles (8:01 if you want to be pedantic). Heavens, I had run faster than that when I didn’t know what I was doing and ran my first marathon in long trousers and no training.

But as the time approached I started worrying about going too fast. How accurately could I hold a pace? Well… at my own race pace I can slot in to the time fairly well. No perfectly, but I’m usually happy with what I’ve done (until I fall apart at least), but there are both physiological constraints and lots of practice to make that pace easier to find. Here I’d have to pay very close attention, and perhaps people in my group would get more upset with me over fluctuations than I would…

And then there is the course itself. SB has a frightening hill at mile 23, most of my friends expect run the mile of the hill a minute slower than race pace. Now Rusty claims you can make it up on the 2 miles of downhill that follow the hill — but I’ve always been too tired myself. So… it seemed better to run the first part of the race slightly fast to have a cushion of a minute or so that we could afford to lose on the hill.

That also might annoy people, but at least if I announced it beforehand people would be prepared. So when Jeff (who was in charge of the pacers) gave us a webpage on which to pontificate, I did so.

Would anyone run with me?

The webpage gave my email address, and a couple of people sent me mail asking how to find me on race day morning. Mmm. No one had really told me that either. Well, I knew I’d have a sign saying 3:30 and a shirt saying the same; so I told them just to look for the sign.

What would it be like running with a sign? I didn’t know. I bought a dowel so I could at least practice running with a stick. That wasn’t bad, but it didn’t have a flat sail attached to it. Then I learned I didn’t need to run with the sign for long, just at the start. (Though I knew last year some pacers had carried their signs the whole way. Still… I didn’t have to if it proved hard).

Then the NY marathon was canceled. And my friend Jana decided she wanted to run with me instead.

I went to the expo and picked up my bib, my sign and my shirt. The sign was bigger than I had anticipated…. Oh well. The bib surprised me at first. It didn’t have my name on it anywhere; just my anticipated finishing time. Then I realized that that’s what I should be expecting. My name didn’t matter, I was the pacer. I was not a racer. I was 3:30:00 (or close).

That made me wonder a bit. Would my name appear on the results? I was running a Boston Qualifier time for my age, and it’s always handy to have one of those (just in case disaster strikes at CIM and I drop out or something). But then… did I really want a time that slow recorded? Ah well. It didn’t matter. Either would be fine.

Race day dawned and I climbed into the shuttle bus with my sign. Two people perked up and said they wanted to run with me. Yay! A little later Craig walked in with his 3:40:00 sign. When we got to the start we all moved to the gym which was warm, while outside was cold and windy. Craig and I started to gather little groups around ourselves as more people joined us.

Craig had carboloaded, I knew. I had not. It didn’t occur to me that I might need to until I learned that Craig had done so. Would I hit the wall at mile 20? I didn’t in 1992… but that was 20 years ago.

Would I be able to control my speed and be accurate enough to make people happy? I felt I couldn’t talk about my own worries — the last thing that a runner wants to hear is the insecurities of the pacer on whom he is depending.

I learned the names of some people, Stephanie and Steve were very chatty and turned out to be good runners. I got to know Chris later. I didn’t learn the names of everyone. I think there was a David too…

They announced that the start would be delayed by 15 minutes (Poor Rusty, he almost always has had to delay the start). After a bit I asked if anyone wanted to go for a warmup jog. Steve was my only taker. We went out about half a mile and then turned back. I started at my usual warmup pace which is somewhere around 8 minutes and usually gets a bit faster… and then remember that was a really bad idea. Slower than 8 minutes for the warm up, else we’re already racing.

A formation of jets passed overhead (it was veteran’s day weekend).

When we got back I popped into a port-a-pottie, and then it was time to line up. I found the 3:25:00 pacer and stood some way behind him, holding my sign high. My group coalesced around me. Jana wondered where I’d been earlier. I guess I should have gone for the warmup a little earlier.

Jill Zachary showed up. I hadn’t realized she was racing… She stood with us, but ran faster.

A bagpiper played the national anthem, and then a bugle call announced the start. We were some distance back and it took a few seconds (which seemed like forever) before we moved. 🙂 And then we were over the chip mat (start watch) and away.

Photo by Ruth Morales

I’m not the only one who wants to go too fast, the start is always exciting. I try to rein everyone in a bit, especially on the first downhill section, I’m not too concerned; I know we’ll slow on the uphill that follows.

Stephanie wonders where all the crowds of cheering people are? I point out that no one actually lives on this section of road. There are some orchards but no houses. We’ll meet cheers once we get to UCSB (about mile 4).

The first mile marker is hidden in the press of runners, and the confusion that surrounds the first water stop. So I can’t calibrate my watch. I always expect the GPS to be off by a bit, so if the watch says I’m running a 7:55 pace, I might really be doing 8:00. Oh well, I missed it.

We head down Los Carneros and when mile 2 comes up my watch reads 15:52, which is as close as I can expect to my desired pace of 2*7:55, so I feel a little cocky. Then it’s up over the freeway and down the other side. I know from experience that we’ll go too fast on the downhill here, and I try to slow people down. But I don’t try hard enough and at the next mile marker we find we’ve done a 7:43. Now that’s really too fast. Gleep. Some of my runners are worried (as they have reason to be) and express their concern. All I can do is apologize.

Oh. And slow. The next mile is 8:00.

We are now in UCSB and there are indeed more people, but Stephanie would like even more.

Kary cheers us on. Last year we were running together, and her husband and kids cheered us both…

This mile is 7:48. Again too fast, but it’s been downhill. I know that the hills of Hollister will slow us soon. Luckily no one complains.

At the corner of Pacific Oaks and Hollister there are some orange highway cones, and in one is a sign reading “3:15:00”. Chrystee has dropped off her sign in a rather unexpected spot. Hmm. I wonder if I should do so too? I think I’ll carry it to the end of the loop and drop it off at what was the start.

I have brought a little camera with me, and had thought I might run ahead and take a picture of my little group. But I realize now that would be stupid on two counts: 1) They’d want to run with me (even if I told them what I was doing it’s natural to speed up when someone else does), 2) how long would it take me to find the pace again? So the little camera traveled with me the entire race and never was used.

Jana told me earlier that she expects me to take her mind off things by identifying the plants we pass. She’s been told I do this. Well I do it when on the trails, but I don’t know the plants people have in their gardens (which is all we saw earlier). Now we are passing some rather faded examples of Menzie’s goldenbush. They aren’t impressive but at least they are blooming. Nothing much else is.

A gust of wind blows my sign around and I mention that I’m thinking of dropping it off. The general consensus of the group seems to be that they like it. When I mention that it makes it difficult for me to reach my GU packs, Jana offers to carry it for me for a bit. OK, I guess I’ll keep the sign, it is easier to carry than I expected.

I’m becoming a little less attentive to the pace. This doesn’t mean that I’ve improved, simply that I’m resigned to imperfection. I hope my pace group is too.

More people are along the streets and we are now running through the suburban part of Goleta. Plenty of people cheer us on.

When we reach the halfway chipmat I look at my watch. 1:43:17. Oops. I’m 45 seconds ahead of where I want to be. Is that OK?

Shortly after mile 14 we turn off Cathedral Oaks. Last year this is where I sped up a little bit, because we have a mostly downhill stretch for a couple of miles heading down to Atascadero Creek. I suggest that this might be a good place if someone in the group wants to pick up some time, but no one wants to, and we continue together.

When we get to mile 16 there is great consternation in the group. Our watches say we took 9 minutes to run that last mile. Now I had looked at my watch not long before and it said the pace was 7:55. It’s really hard to believe in a 9 minute mile. No one else believes it either. We conclude the mile marker is in the wrong place.

And then none of us sees the mile marker for 17.

Or 18.

I know where 19 is and I’m going to click my watch when we get there even if there is no mile marker. But there is a mile marker. Whew.

And now we’re on the rolling hills of Modoc. I hated this part last year. I was losing it here. My group seems in much better shape than I was. Good.

There’s a chip mat at mile 20, and when we get there I realize that once again the mile marker is in the wrong place, it’s a tenth of a mile early (or so). Again I know where mile 20 should be, and I click my watch when we get there.

This means we have not had an accurate mile time since mile 15, that’s the last quarter of our run. This is a bit worrying.

Jana tells me she’s dropping back. Oh dear.

Stephanie says she is having trouble. I try to encourage her. The top of this hill isn’t far, and the next one isn’t nearly as bad. We get to the top of the hill, and after a bit she seems OK again.

Mile 21. 7:55. Perfect.

Then down another hill, and the short steep climb before Los Positas.

(Photo by Ruth Morales) Steve is to my right (your left when viewing), with Chris on his right, Stephanie on my left and half hidden. I regret to say I don’t know the names of the others.

Los Positas gives us one mile of lovely downhill and I tell people this is a good place to go faster than the group, should anyone want to (again, no one does). We run it in 7:45 (maybe that’s why no one wants to, and then another mile that looks as though it should be flat but always seems really hard — which we do in 8:06.

Along here we start to pass people, some join the group for a while, others let us pass them.

And now —
the hill.
We’ve got a nice cushion so I’m not too worried and I slow down as I head up the hill. Steve keeps up with me, but no one else does. After a bit I let Steve set the pace. He’s going surprisingly fast: 8:35 pace by my watch (I was anticipating 9 minute pace of slower).

The hill isn’t nearly as bad (for me) at this pace as it normally is. But it’s still hard. This year our way isn’t blocked by hordes of slow half marathoners. Yay! Oh there are some, but nothing like last year. A huge improvement.

And we’re at the top. Good heavens there are Joel, Siobhàn and their children, I wave.

(Photo by Ella Thames). I look disgustingly cheerful. I’m never that happy in a real race. Perhaps there’s something to be said for being a pacer.

Mile 24: 8:28. Gleep. Way faster than I expected for this mile.

Now I’m in a bit of a quandary. Do I continue running with Steve? If so I’ll be minutes ahead of my projected time. Or do I turn back and see if I can pick up some of the others who might actually get in at 3:30? I ask Steve if he wants to run ahead, and he says, no he’ll run with me. OK.

I think I’m running his pace (rather than he mine), and it is picking up as we go down the final hill. 7:43 to mile 25. 7:23 to mile 26. And then Steve pulls out in front. I do the last two tenths of a mile in 7:05 pace; Steve faster. Steve finishes in just under 3:27 (I finish in just over 3:27).

Three minutes too fast.

How bad is that?

I console myself that about half of the error occurred in the last three miles, and I think that by running with Steve there I helped him… And everyone whom I saw after the race thanked me… But it still seems like a large error.

I congratulate Steve, and tell him I’m going to head back to see if I can pick up anyone else. I have great difficulty in getting out of the stadium (which is set up for runners to enter, not to leave). And by the time I do get out — I find this out later — most of my group has finished. They weren’t far behind. Whew. Not knowing this, I head against traffic up the course, and just before mile 26 I see Jana. She’s already got Travis running with her, but I join them and together we bring her across the line. Only a few minutes after 3:30.

It was fun. I didn’t have any problems running at that pace. I still had energy at the finish. Didn’t feel exhausted. No urge to vomit. I did want water but no more than anyone else. It’s a beautiful day. The channel islands were clearly visible as we came down that final hill. I realize I don’t look at the scenery much when racing a marathon, but I’m not racing today. There are advantages…

But I will be racing in Sacramento in three weeks. We’ll see what that’s like.

Teaching the cat Catan

November 9, 2012

When trying to teach the cat to play Settlers of Catan I seem to have failed. He wants to roll the little houses as if they were dice, and prefers to eat the roads.

One hour race

November 8, 2012

Back in the 60’s and 70’s the one hour race was popular. A race where you hope to run as far as possible in an hour (rather than running a certain distance in as little time as possible. It’s a different way of looking at a race).

And it took more support than a traditional race where you just need someone at the start and someone at the finish. In a one hour run you have to track down where each runner got to and measure the distance. In practical terms you need to do it on a track, but even there each runner needs his own data taker. Even if you aren’t concerned about cheaters no one can keep track of all the laps they’ve run after a hour (Well, I can’t, so I assume no one else can).

So they solved this by running two heats and splitting the racers into two groups (usually fast runners and slow runners); each runner would team up with someone in the other group. Then the first group would run, while the second group took data — marking down whenever their partner finished each lap (this was before chip mats or GPS watches that could do all that automagically). When the hour was up everyone stopped, and they’d measure how far along they were in the final lap. Then everybody switched, and the second group would run while the first collected data. By taking this much data it was also possible to see if anyone set any records along the way (So local runner Gary Tuttle set the American Records for the 15K, 10M and 20K during an hour run in 1975, and then Will Rodgers went and broke the same set in an hour run in 1977).

As far as I can tell, the race was occasionally run before World War 1, but after than not for another 40 years. The first “modern” running was organized by the Midwest Road-Runners Club in 1958. After a while it got sanction from the AAU (the predecessor of the USATF) which then organized a national one hour run championship race every year. To be more precise our own John Brennand organized the race most years.

Since there is a limited amount of space on a track, and there was no particular reason why everyone had to run on the same track, the race was made up of multiple heats scattered across the US (races like this were called postal races because each heat had to mail their results to John). In 1968 there were three locations (West Coast=Santa Barbara, East Coast=DC, Central=Minneapolis) and in 1975 there were almost 40. In the 60s all the races were held on the same day (and people stayed up late that night collating the results), but in the 70s that restriction was dropped and the various heats could be held any time within the year.

The last results I have for the AAU National One Hour run were from 1979 (and since the AAU was broken up by Congress in 1978 that’s probably the last running with “AAU” in the name). I don’t know if the national championship race survived into the 80s. But the hour run still exists. The most recent world record was set by Haile Gebrselassie in 2007.

In the ’60s and ’70s these were team races (as almost everything was in those days). Clubs would field a team of at least 5 runners (of whom the first 5 would score). In 1968 the SBAA (or the SBAC as it was in those days) won the championship.

As with everything else in the running world the race became very popular in the mid-70s. There were 120 finishers in 1968, and 940 in 1975. But then as the 70s wore on, it became less popular. In 1979 there were only 346 finishers. And some time after that the race died out.

John B had some of the results which he kindly let me scan and enter online. And, of course, I want to put those results into a modern format as much as possible. I want to age grade them. And there aren’t any tables for the one hour run… But there are instructions for how to deal with runs of an unusual distance (you simply interpolate between the two nearest tables). So for the purposes of age grading, I look at the results as a series of races of varying distances, in which everyone happened to finish in one hour. So I age-grade Gary Tuttle by interpolating between the 20K and half marathon tables, and I’d age-grade someone like me by interpolating between the 15K and 10M tables…

John B had some of the results. But not all of them. He loaned some of them to a guy writing a book on the one hour run and they never came back to him. So…. If anyone who reads this blog has results for the AAU One Hour Run National Championships for a year I don’t have, could you send them to me? Please? I’d like to get a complete set up on our website…

(What I’ve got so far is here.)

Thank you!

Marathon training

November 8, 2012

It’s something of a shock to realize that I have a marathon coming up in about 3 weeks. I haven’t really been paying much attention — partly because almost everyone I know is training for Santa Barbara this weekend and only 4 or 5 of us are going to Sacramento, it’s hard to get excited about a race when everyone else is excited for a different one. And partly, sigh, because I don’t have very high hopes.

My training has been — well — adequate. I’m doing what I need to, but I’m not doing better than I need to. I’m not running as well as I was in April, for example. I’ve had a string of disappointing races this year. I’m still struggling to figure out what nutrition (or hydration, or whatever) I need to run a long race, and have no idea what I should try that might make a difference.

So I’m expecting another mediocre marathon. Maybe I should just accept that and run at a 7 minute pace rather than a 6:50. Or maybe 7:10? Hoping that if I go slowly enough at the start I won’t die in the middle. I dunno.

At track practice last week Rusty assigned me an 8x1k workout. He always does that right before a marathon, it’s sort of his version of a Yasso workout. Sorta. But halfway through it struck me: “Oh yeah, I’m running a marathon soon. That’s why I’m doing this.” This time we had less rest than usual (only 1min between repeats) and the pace was 91~92 second quarters. The short rest was interesting, I like to think that means that I could have run 90 second quarters if I’d had a traditional 3 minute rest. But assume the worst, 92 second quarters means 3:04 for the 800 which implies a 3:04:00 marathon which is 7 minute pace (and would still be a PR if I could actually do it. The problem for me is that neither the Yasso workout nor the Snow variation is a good predictor of marathon finish time. So far anyway).

Then last Saturday, being 4 weeks out, I would normally have done 10 miles at marathon pace, followed (this weekend) 13 miles at MP. But I will be pacing the 3:30 group at SBIM and won’t be doing any MP work, so I persuaded Mike that I should do 13 miles right then. Things got hard around mile 12 and my pace dropped to 7 minute for that mile, but I somehow found a bit more energy and finished the last mile at 6:50. I averaged 6:48 for the full 13 miles (which turned out to be almost 14). This was not as heartening as it might seem as the course was pretty flat and easy and it felt hard at the end.

Today I was supposed to run for 90 minutes on the trails. I decided I needed to find 8 minute pace — as I need to run SBIM at that pace, and other people depend on me to do that. So I ran round and round the Wilcox, with its sand pits, and dogs and small ups and downs… Running an 8 minute pace is pretty easy if you don’t care whether it’s 8:10 or 7:30, but it was surprisingly hard to get it exact. I tend to want to run it a little faster than I should. But after the 10th lap I finally seemed to click in and the next two were pretty much the same. So that’s encouraging. Hope that I’ll still be able to find it on Saturday…

And then there’s Saturday. 26 miles at an 8 minute pace. Is that going to be good training for a ~3 hour marathon in three weeks? Who knows…