Friday, November 22, 2013

San Antonio Rock n Roll Marathon

The Alamo
Welcome to Texas.   If marathons were all like this one, I would switch to half-marathons.  It was torture.  Until today, we held the Hyannis, MA Marathon to be the most miserable one we've done, because of temperatures in the 30's there, with rain and sleet.  On Sunday Hyannis lost that distinction, replaced by San Antonio, with temperatures of 89 or more, high humidity, no wind, sun like a blowtorch, and zero shade in the last 13 miles.  Where’s a little sleet when you need it!

Riverwalk from above
I did finish my 77th marathon, in 6:08:10, fifth of seven in my age group, but it was no fun - I was never so glad to be done.  That is mostly not the fault of the race organizers, of course, they can't control the weather.  Today was a freak - the forecast was for one degree below the record high for the date, and the actual temperature went even higher and set a new record.  The race started at 7:30 am, and they could start it a half hour earlier, but that wouldn't have made much difference.  We needed shade ...

My Race:

"On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions, who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest, and resting, died!"  - George W. Cecil.  That quotation rattled through my head many times in the later miles, as I was sorely tempted to sit for a moment in a shady place.  I was also thinking of a T-shirt I saw two weeks ago in the NYC Marathon: "I don't stop when I am tired, I stop when I am done!"  I really did want to stop, rare for me, but I didn't.  A sign along the way said "Own every mile, celebrate every moment."  Sorry to say, I didn't celebrate much in the second half of the marathon, but I sure did own the damn miles!

Concrete trail
For the first half marathon I ran pretty well.  The temperature was in the 70's and climbing out, but the sun was behind clouds.  I followed the 5:30 pace team leader with no trouble.  I fact, as the sun began to peek around the clouds, the pace team started to lag a bit (I think by agreement among them) and I moved out ahead, staying on pace, trying to milk whatever I could out of those first relatively cooler hours.  I knew that I would have to slow down later, because the temperature would climb and the sun would appear full time.  By Mile 13 the sun was shining more than not, and by Mile 15, I was done running.  My face was hot, and in the later miles I began to feel slightly nauseous.  Both of these are possible symptoms of heat exhaustion, so I even slowed my walking pace at times.  By Mile 17 or 18 the 5:30 pace team passed me, though they weren't running much faster than I was walking, so I doubt they finished ten minutes ahead of me.

Most of the last miles were on a beautiful, wide, new all-concrete trail along the San Antonio River.  Unfortunately, however, there are no trees whatsoever.  I fear that I didn't enjoy that lovely trail as much as I might have.  I did see lots of other runners (walkers?) stopped by the side of the trail, under a bridge or wherever else they could get a spot of shade.  They weren't enjoying it either.  In those last miles I didn't run a step, but I did walk fairly fast, and I passed a lot of people.  Few passed me, and if they did, I usually caught them again.  No one was doing well.
Early miles

I took a Clif Shot Mocha gel at mile 2 and four more during the race.  I skipped the last one because of the mild nausea, thinking that the race people would try to take me out of the race if they saw me throw up.  I took six or seven salt tablets, and I’m sure that I've never taken more water in a race.  I had no trouble with cramps (yay!), except in my hands (?)!

Whining.  See above!  However, nothing hurts except the expected muscles and ligaments, and those will recover nicely in time for the next marathon in three weeks.  I got away with this one.

RnR San Antonio Marathon:

I usually avoid the Rock 'n' Roll Marathons because I’m not drawn to over-amplified music, especially when it's not of my own choosing.  But this one fit our schedule nicely, so we took a chance.  Happily, there was no music at the start, so we didn't have to stand it for a long time, only for a few seconds at a time as we would pass a band on the road.

Other stuff:

Streets really were CLOSED!
  • These guys have done this before.  Everything was well organized.
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons are big business and seem so, apparently not engendering too much allegiance.  I thanked one person at the Expo for volunteering, and she replied "If I were volunteering I wouldn’t be here."
  • We were required to sign a negligence waiver at the expo.  A waiver signed at the time of payment may be valid, but this one, signed later, is a total waste of everyone's time and suggests an arrogant disdain for the runners.
  • Porta-potties at the start were organized into little C-shaped groups of four units, so runners naturally formed a line for each group - no question which units belonged to which line.  Nice.  Why doesn’t everyone do that?
  • The whole course was closed to automotive traffic, period.  That is wonderful!
  • The marathon starts and ends in the same place, the Alamodome, as does the half.  Makes things easier - no bussing.
  • The Expo was at the Alamodome too, and it was a nice, large expo.
  • Packet pickup was smooth and easy, except for the bullcrap about turning in the signed negligence waiver.
  • The full and the half started together, which meant that my "corral" (24th of at least 32 corrals) got to the start line 38 minutes after the first corral started.
  • For the most part the organizers were prepared for the weather, with plenty of water, even spray hoses at the aid stations. 
  • They say that there was ice at every aid station, but I didn’t see ice at most of them when I got there.  Water was almost always warm. 
  • Next year’s event is December 7 - weather should be cooler.  Good decision.
  • I saw lots of battery-powered carts running up and down the course checking on and assisting runners.  That’s good.
  • But when I asked them for a bottle of water, they didn’t have any.
  • I saw several dropped runners, either on carts or waiting for one, but I have seen no news about this.
  • Results were up immediately - I love that!  Results are easy to navigate, too.
  • The time limit was 7 hours, and the last-listed runner finished in 6:59:02.  Since runners were still finishing in droves, the organizers obviously just cut off the rest despite the extenuating circumstance of the record heat.  I think that’s disrespectful, and of course the effect will be both sexist and ageist.
    Sunset from hotel room
  • The time limit for the half was 4 hours, but the results do show people finishing well after that.
  • 2013 finishers:  Half 14,430 and full 2,678.  Note that this is basically a big half marathon with a full added on.
  • For some reason I missed many of the mile marker signs - didn’t see them.  Probably my fault, but I usually see them.
  • There was no marker at Mile 25 at all - I did see the paint marking on the pavement, but no sign.
  • No aid station at Mile 25 either, or at Mile 12 for the half.  The last two miles were devoid of aid, spectators, even music, until the last tenth or so.

  • The half and the full ran together for the first 11 miles.  At about Mile 12, I told the pace team leader that I had almost expected the full to be redirected to finish with the half, because of the heat.  She replied: "Nope, this is Texas!".
  • I heard a rumor that the slowest marathon runners were turned around a few miles short of the measured turnaround, so they ran a shorter race.  I don’t know the truth of this, and I could find no news about it.
  • Update:  It's true.  Hundreds of runners were directed through the shortcut.  I have no idea if those people had their times adjusted in some fashion.  Probably not.
  • In my age group (70-74) no one qualified for Boston.  This was not a good day for qualifying!
  • We stayed at the Staybridge, which is about as close as you can get to the start and finish, but still an easy walk to the Alamo and the Riverwalk.
    After the race
  • We even got in a little Friday morning run on the Riverwalk.  Nice.  We liked San Antonio.
  • Some women raced in tights or pants despite the heat.  Modesty?  Some of those tights really didn't help much with modesty.
  • One of the amplified "bands" was a man playing a recording of organ music, possibly E Power Biggs.  It was not too loud and I enjoyed it for half a minute as I passed by. 
  • A live band, near mile 19 or 20, had temporarily abandoned their instruments and devolved into goofy acappella singing of old tunes.  They were horrible singers, but having fun in the shade of a tree, and I was almost tempted to join them.
  • I saw a lot of my favorite Team In Training runners in this race, especially in the half.  I like to encourage them. 
  • I wore my Team Continuum singlet of course.  Go Team Continuum! 
  • I ran this race in honor of my friend Sharon.  We love you, hang in there.  Both of you.
Splits: 35:16 (3 mi),, 11:44, 38:26 (3 mi), 12:53, 25:24 (2 mi), 12:43, 13:16, 1:10:26 (5 mi), 16:11, 15:19, 16:06, 15:57, 33:11 (2 mi), 15:46, 38:15 (2.2 mi), total 6:08:10, pace unmentionable.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Two Recovery Runs

Thursday, November 7, 2013:

The weather outside was frightful, making the indoor track delightful, so we drove to the YMCA and ran for 30 minutes or so.  My watch was still full of splits from the NYC marathon and wouldn't take any more, so it stopped working as a stopwatch.  Nevertheless it still worked as a watch, and I ran about 10-minute miles, maybe a little slower.  Good enough for today.  No whining.

Wednesday, November 6:

We ran outdoors on the park’s paved trails, just three miles for a recovery run.  I felt great and ran faster than I probably should have, using a 20/40 run/walk, and finishing 2.91 miles in 30:37 for a pace of 10:31.  Plenty good.  No whining.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

New York City Marathon

New York City Marathon 2013.  I ran my 76th marathon and my 3rd NYC marathon, finishing in 5:48:53, good for 85th place out of 151 in my 70-74 age group and three minutes faster than I ran it in 2011.  Not quite up to average, but I have my excuses.  Actually, I had a great race and a lot of fun.  Moreover, the NYC Marathon itself exceeded my expectations this time.  I'm glad that I ran it.

My Race:

The weather was colder than expected in NYC at this time of year.  In fact, the temperature was about 47 degrees and the wind 15-20 mph the whole of the race, the only variable being the sun, which was absent for the first half and then played peek-a-boo for the rest of the race.  I wore shorts, with a long-sleeved technical shirt under a short-sleeved one, and with a heavier polar-fleece jacket over both, when necessary.  I had that jacket on and off a half dozen or more times during the race, as the sun played its games and we changed direction in the wind.  I would have preferred a genuine running jacket during the race itself, but certainly appreciated the warmer polar fleece while waiting for the start.  The bus unloaded us in the start area at about 7:30 am, but my wave of runners didn't start for another three and a half hours.


During the race I took six Clif Shot mocha gels, each with 50 mg caffeine (the only legal performance-enhancing drug), and I also took six Thermotab salt tablets (the only other legal performance enhancing drug).  I picked up a spare gel packet at mile 18, but never needed it.  I did a 20/20 run/walk, which seemed to work out to a 12:30 pace or so.  That figures out to a 5:30 marathon, more or less, but I also made several porta-potty stops and a few stops for photos, and I suppose those accounted for most of the time lost between 5:30 and my actual 5:49 finish.  My personal results show a rather consistent pace, even at the end.
At mile 26

Whining: In the first mile or two I felt a little pain in the lower right abdomen, where the hernia was repaired almost two years ago. That went away.  Otherwise I just have the normal muscle aches from running a marathon.  No cramps!  I'll do a recovery run Wednesday.

The New York City Marathon:

Byword: Security.  I arrived at the start by the Team Continuum bus, and our possessions were checked as we entered "runners village," the area where we all waited for our starts (four different "waves" of starts).  There were NYPD helicopters circling overhead almost constantly at the start and the finish, and they came to check on the 26 miles of runners frequently too.  Every inch of the 26 miles was "fenced" on both sides of the road with blue police tape advising people not to cross.  People did cross, but I once saw an officer turn a man back.  I believe that I was always, except perhaps on bridges, in view of a uniformed police officer or two for all 26 miles.  I was quite impressed by the sheer number of security people.  Huzza NYPD!

Safe and warm
back at the hotel
One beef about security: At the entrance to runners village, the security people (not police officers) demanded that I give up my disposable garbage-bag windbreaker, intended to keep me warmer as I waited for the start.  No reason was given.  I feel certain that they were actually instructed to check for dangerous paraphernalia underneath such garments, but were not instructed to confiscate them.  After entering the compound, I found that many runners still had their garbage-bag windbreakers, so apparently the ban was not implemented at all points of entry to the village.  I also spoke to another runner who had spent $10 for a disposable Tyvek jacket at the Expo the day before, and had that taken away by security.  That makes no sense.  Why allow any kind of jacket except a disposable one, purchased specifically for the weather conditions?   Shoulda been a dress code!  Anyway I found a garbage bag that another runner had discarded and got by OK with that.

I had a bad experience in this race in 2011, after the finish, waiting in line, barely inching forward for more than a half hour, to pick up my race bag.  I got very cold then, chilled through and shivering uncontrollably.  That experience was easily the most memorable part of that race, has thoroughly colored my memory of it since, and I wanted to avoid a similar experience.

First, I decided not to check a race bag at the start at all.  The race bag has to be checked almost an hour before the start anyway, so an extra garment doesn't do a lot of good at the start.  Second, I decided to carry a jacket, which I might use during the race and definitely would use at the finish, so I would basically carry my race bag with me, tied around my waist when not in use.  Third, I would make every effort to take an "early exit" after the finish, available to people with no race bag, even though I had missed the cutoff date for electing that "no bag" option (said cutoff being three months before the race!).

Nevertheless, I was prepared to be sorely disappointed at the finish, as in 2011, but the NYC Marathon people solved my problem in two ways:  First, they provided a hooded, insulated orange poncho for every runner who went down the long lane to pick up a race bag (or who were unlucky enough to miss the cutoff for the no-bag election).  We saw a long parade of people in orange ponchos, mostly carrying race bags, walking down Central Park West toward the family-meeting area.  They didn't actually look very happy, but they looked warm.  I didn't get a poncho, because:

Second, and much more important to me, NYRR apparently relaxed the rules a bit.  As I walked from the finish toward the dreaded race-bag area, I saw an exit that said "VIP and elite runners," guarded by four uniformed officers.  I put on a good humor and asked one officer if I could be an elite, since this was my 76th marathon in 10 years while running with terminal cancer.  He responded that it might work if he believed me!  Cops are so cynical.  Anyway we had a grin about it, but they weren't budging and I kept going.   Maybe if I had shown them my Team Continuum wrist band ...

Then I saw another exit, unlabeled but clearly headed directly to the street, guarded by two officers.  I asked one what it would take for me to go out that way.  He smiled and said "I guess it would take you!"  He opened the gate and I thanked him and left, free and clear, to reach the street within two minutes.  Yay!  Apparently, judgment was permitted. No drama, no sweat, I love the New York Road Runners again.  I'm easily pleased.

This is a very competent marathon - everything works.  The expo was fine - no lines.  Results were up as soon as I finished.

Bottom line: The NYC Marathon is an experience like no other.  26 miles and a million or two cheering spectators.  I would probably do it every year, if I could, except that there are so many other marathons that we haven't run yet.

  • The north wind was worst right at the start, on the Verrazano Bridge.  After that it was mostly manageable.
  • For a while I ran along with a juggler.  I don't know who finished first.
  • Shirt: "I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done."  Indeed.
  • While I waited nine minutes for a porta-potty near mile seven, I saw women ducking behind a nearby McDonald's to pee.  "Nobody back there," proclaimed one woman, as she bounded back out past me to rejoin the race.
  • Here is a link to race results.
  • Finisher demographics are not out as I write, but I saw a news report of 50,700+ finishers.
  • I saw dozens of Team in Training (TNT) runners, all raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which also funds myeloma research.  One by one I told them that I have myeloma and they might be saving my life, and thanked them.  They like that.  Many of them are running their first marathon and need all the encouragement they can get.
  • I thanked one woman who nearly cried when I told her about the myeloma, because her dad had died of myeloma.  And she nearly broke up again when she found out my name, because her dad was Don too.  That woman has run 65 marathons in support of TNT over the last 20 years.  She's my hero of this race.
  • Early in the race I thanked two TNT women who were running together, and we ended up leap-frogging each other many times until, a half mile from the end, they left me in the dust.  After the finish they wanted a picture with me, saying I was their inspiration.  Well good, they inspired me too, and I hope they send me a copy.
  • My sweeties and a good friend were waiting for me at Mile 26, see the photo of me above.  I got a couple of hugs just before the finish.
  • A couple of women ran the marathon together in long pants and just their bras above that.  Not sports bras, but their regular lacy ones. They got comments and actually seemed to be having a lot of fun.  View from the back attached.  It seemed like it would have been creepy of me to get a shot from the front, though I assume that many folks did.
  • I ran this race in honor of Caroline, the bravest woman on the planet.
Splits: Oops, I'm on the train and my Timex is in checked luggage.  Maybe later.  Anyway I ran pretty steadily except for bathroom breaks and such.  Maybe I'll update the splits when I get my watch back.

2013 11 08: Home now.  Splits: 13:40, 24:39 (2 mi), 12:13, 12:19, 13:02, 11:37, 9:23 (porta-potty line), 25:41 (2 mi), 12:33, 14:29, 12:17, 13:39, 12:46, 12:41, 25:31 (2 mi), 25:21 (2 mi), 12:53, 16:06, 40:41 (3 mi), 24:45 (2 mi), 2:45 (0.22 mi), total 5:48:59 (5:48:53 per official timing).

Three Miles in NYC

Friday, November 1, 2013:

We're in New York City today, preparing for the marathon on Sunday.  I like to do a moderately energetic run of two or three miles, two days before.  The girls had other plans, also quite energetic but involving grocery bags, so I laced 'em up and took off for the trail that runs north and south along the Hudson River, passing ferries, a "VIP" helicopter pad, and a lot more along the way.  A lovely run.  Some of that trail is really a long, skinny garden, with the pedestrian trail separated from the bike trail.  Very nice.  Bravo NYC.

I'm not sure of either the distance or my time, but it was a fine run until the very end, when I twisted my right foot just slightly on a mislaid cobblestone brick.  Will that be a problem on Sunday?  I hope not.

Three Miles in Portland

Monday, October 28, 2013:

We three visited Portland, OR for a few days, and were advised of running / biking trails on both sides of the Willamette River right in downtown Portland.  We partook.  We parked on the east side, and I ran a loop which included the east side trail, the Morrison Bridge, the west side trail, and the Hawthorne Bridge.  That turned out to be just a mile and a quarter, so I did it twice for a total of about 2.5 miles in about 30 minutes.  Not fast, but I did get photos and waited for a couple of lights.  I wasn't in a hurry, with a marathon coming up in six days.

The Hawthorne Bridge was an education in Portland culture.  We ran in the morning, and as I ran east on the bridge I faced a swarm of bicyclists, all apparently heading into work, like bees going into the hive.  Some guys wore white shirts and ties under their coats, and many women were all made up for work, with lipstick, eye shade, the works..  All cyclists wore helmets, of course, but some women wore an especially large helmet, bringing to mind a World War One infantry helmet, presumably to protect their hairdos as well as their heads.  Or maybe it's just a safer helmet.

No whining.  That's a good thing, heading into another marathon.  Last run of October, it's a masterpiece.