Sunday, April 27, 2014

St. Jude Country Music Nashville Marathon Review

Saturday, April 26, 2014:

It's a keeper - thumbs up.  It feels SO good to be showered and relaxing in clean, dry, cotton clothing, from the skin out.  I relish this part of the marathon - cool, dry, sipping on a cold beverage (in this case an organic stout beer from Milwaukee).  As I ran I saw people doing that, sitting in the shade along the race course, outside a bar or outside their homes.  At about mile 24, I even asked one guy if he had an extra beer, and he said "sure!"  Then I had to turn it down, because my experience with beer along the race course is that it slows me down a lot.  But I was struggling then, and would have loved to sit in the shade and chat with him for one beers-worth of time!

Acres of runners at the start

My Marathon:

My watch failed today; it's 12 years old, and I see a tiny gasket protruding from the back, so it apparently took in moisture from my sweaty wrist and started to fog over from the inside, then finally went blank just after the halfway point.  But before it did, I saw that I was about eight minutes ahead of schedule for a 5:30 finish.  Unfortunately, though, at about mile 14, I started to cramp up and was forced to walk the last 12 miles.  By my crude calculations at that point, I could still finish within the race-limit 6:00 hours if I walked just as fast as I could, about 15 minutes/mile.  Indeed, my actual  finish time was 5:59:08, so I'm glad that I didn't waste any more time along the way than I did.  I finished first of two in my age group, by ten minutes.

This was a tough marathon, quite hilly and warmer than I like, 82 degrees at my finish, with full sun, not much breeze, and very little shade.  The compensation is that Nashville is a nice place to be, the spectators were numerous and vocal, we enjoyed coming back to run here (half marathon in 2012), the aid stations and medical stations were fully-staffed and well-stocked (with ice!), and the roads were entirely free of vehicle traffic.  I like that about the Rock n Roll marathons - we've done several now, and never had to look over our shoulder to see if a vehicle was coming up behind us.  Nashville claims it's the best marathon in America, and I will say it's a pretty good one, but I've done 81 marathons now and there are some other pretty good ones too.

For the first time in several years I wore "DON" in big letters on the front of my shirt.  Hundreds (thousands?) of people hollered "Go Don" or some equivalent, and I do find that energizing.  I admit it.  I should be able to generate the enthusiasm from within, but I like the help from the crowd, when there is a crowd.  I've had other shirts with my full name, first and last, but people don't respond the same way.  This was a treat - I'd forgotten how much DON helps.
Lots of cute signs

I took six Clif Shot Mocha gels along the way (with caffeine), and lots of water.  Near the half I felt a little sick to my stomach, and realized that I was also quite thirsty.  Dehydrated.  How does that happen when I take water at every aid station, and they're only a mile and a half apart?  Then I slowed to all walk anyway, and took LOTS of water, and actually felt better and got stronger toward the finish.  As usual I also took salt, probably eight tablets or so during the race.  My pace in the first 13 miles was run 20 triplets, walk 40.

Whining: No problems with feet, knees, or hips!  Imagine that.  In the last miles I felt an ache in the left side of my back, just above the waist, but I don't think it's myeloma, probably just a lack of core strength.  It seemed to be muscular, and indeed every muscle is sore now, but it's supposed to be after a marathon.  It will be OK by Tuesday, and I will run a little then.

Nashville Marathon:

It's a Rock n Roll event, which means that it's well organized.  We ran past a lot of live bands, some of them offering music that I enjoyed.  It was not all country or rock & roll music, there was a variety.  Some of the bands have no common sense about the volume, and it hurt my ancient ears, but other bands were delightful.

Parking observation: We stayed at one of the many airport hotels and purchased the "reserved parking" option (Lot R at LP Field) and were SO glad that we did.  Lot R is closer than any other lot to the pedestrian bridge that takes runners to the start, making it a little farther from the finish, but the real advantage was getting there.  Traveling west on I-40 from the hotels, with everyone else, we could stay in the left lanes, passing everyone else, and exit on 2nd Street toward Lot R, while everyone going to the free lots had to take the right lanes to turn north on I-24 and the Shelby Avenue exit. An hour and a half before the 7:00 am race start those lanes were almost stopped already, for miles, as traffic squeezed down.  It's hard to imagine that everyone got to the start on time.

On the other hand, this race is huge, just 3,000 marathoners, but 19,000 half-marathoners.  Because of the size, the race was organized into 40 corrals, with each corral started about a minute and a half after the previous one.  The last corral actually started more than an hour after the first, so the late-arrivers may have had enough time to get to the start.
A band

Everyone started together, marathoners and half marathoners.  I think that the 3,000 marathoners should have started at 6:00 am and the 19,000 half-marathoners at 7:00.  After all, we 3,000 have twice as far to go, and we wouldn't be slowed by the half marathoners filling the roads.

Other Stuff:

  • Shirt on a non-runner: "Shhhhh - this is my hangover shirt."
  • Shirt: "If I don't challenge myself, I can't change." 
  • In the second half a wonderful young man handed me a bottle of ice-cold water, and I nursed that bottle, refilling it several times at water stations. It helped a lot.  Maybe I should start wearing my water carrier in warm marathons.
  • They actually know how to sing the Star Spangled Banner in Nashville!  Well done.

Splits: 24:14 (miles 1 & 2), 12:00, 11:26, 22:45 (miles 5 & 6), 25:22 (miles 7 & 8), 11:28, 11:17, 12:09, 12:34, 11:59 (mile 13), total 2:35:14.  My watch stopped here.  It stopped keeping time too, but after drying out, it started up again, but several hours late.  Good old Timex, keeps on ticking.  But I need to fix that gasket, or get a new watch.  Maybe it's time for a Garmin.

The pace for the first 13 miles was 11:56, which works out to a 5:13 marathon finish if maintained, which of course I didn't.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Faster Than Expected

Monday, April 21, 2014:

Today's weather was the same as yesterday's, bright sun and 70, except add a 20 mph wind, gusting to 30!  I ran the same route, too, using the same 1 to 2 run / walk, but finished three minutes sooner, for some reason.  I believe I'll use that pace in the marathon.

4.87 miles in 55:20, pace 11:22, no pains worth mentioning.  Next-to-last tapering run.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Delightful Easter Run

Almost too warm, at a sunny and windless 70 degrees, but after the winter we've just survived, we loved it.  Gimme more.  To make it perfect, the ice finally went out from the lake, just today.

I ran the 1 to 2 run / walk again, hopefully sticking more closely to that plan than I did yesterday.  I ran 4.87 miles in about 58 minutes (gotta fix my 11-year-old watch or get a new one).  That's a pace of about 11:55, probably about right for that run / walk ratio.  I may use that ratio for the next marathon, we'll see.  It calculates out to a 5:12 marathon, so with nature breaks and the inevitable tiring and possible cramps, I could make 5:30 or 5:40.

The good news is that I felt no pains, neither from the left hamstrings nor the right knee.

Tapering now for the next marathon, bring it on!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Saturday, April 19, 2014:

The temperature was 52, but the wind whistled by at 20 mph, gusting higher, and the sun hid behind clouds, so I (over)compensated and put on two shirts, a wind jacket, and long pants. My "running Gear vs Temperature" chart clearly indicated just one long-sleeved shirt, but it doesn't account for sun or wind, so I added layers.  Too many.  I had the jacket open most of the time, and my legs didn't need the pants either.  Shorts and one less shirt would have been better.

Still concerned about the possible injury to my left hamstrings, I started with a 1 to 2 run/walk ratio, running 60 paces (about 20 seconds) and walking 120.  I took the "keyhole" route, starting at the Nordic Center and north to the 3-way stop, then around the big loop but not including the Klondike extension, for 3.79 miles in 42:47, and an average pace of 11:18.  No problem with the hamstrings!

Actually, though, I'm sure that I lost count more than a few times, absorbed in thought, and I felt strong, so I probably ran longer than I meant to and walked shorter.  Therefore, that pretty-good sub-5-hour pace may not represent a true 1 to 2 run/walk.

The only remaining snow on
any of the park's paved trails.

Friday, April 18:

A sign in the window of the park office says that bikes and horses are not allowed on the grass trails, so I assume that they are still pretty soft (& muddy).  The paved trails are fully open now, though, so I ran there once again.

Concerned about the left hamstrings, I started off with a run/walk ratio of 1 to 2, actually 60 paces to 120.  This went well until about halfway on the 5.9-mile route, and then I could just begin to feel the hamstrings.  So I switched to all walking, as fast as I could go, and that went just fine.  No more complaints from the hamstrings, just a little muttering by the right knee with PFS, nothing unusual.

4.88 miles in 1:00:26, average pace 12:23.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wood Ducks Are Back

They are such curious creatures.  He is quite colorful, she is drab, but together they are searching the trees for a place to build their nest, suitably close to water.  They arrive each spring, flying from one tree to the next, checking out knotholes and other potential living spaces.

After they find their new home, we likely won't see them again.  They'll be in and out of their home, but they don't sit on the front porch or in the trees.  When all of their chicks are born they will boot them out of the house, collect them on the ground, and parade them to the relative safety of the open water.

Thursday, April 17, 2014:

Because of overnight snow and cold weather, we ran in the YMCA again.  The left hamstring warned me right away, just a little, so I switched to 100% walking immediately, rather than exacerbate that injury.  It doesn't hurt at all when I walk.  Maybe it isn't really a serious injury, it hurt very little today and not too much more yesterday, but I'm not taking chances ten days away from the next marathon.

Splits: 12:58, 13:00, 12:51, 12:39, 8:48 (9/13 mile), total time 1:00:15, distance 4.7 mi, pace 12:49.  Add 30 seconds per mile because one mile on that track may actually be 13.5 laps rather than 13; the pace would be about 13:19.  That pace would result in a marathon time of 5:49 if it were sustainable.  Although I was staying on pace in the run, even speeding up in the later miles, I was absolutely walking as fast as I could, and probably would have to slow down eventually for one reason or another.  Let's not forget nature breaks, too.

This marathon has a 6:00 hour limit, so if the hamstring is still acting up by then I will need to walk just as fast as I can, and hopefully also run enough to make the 6:00 hour pace, one way or another.

Wednesday, April 16:

I started to do a regular run/walk on the YMCA track, with a ratio of 2 to 3, but my left hamstrings hurt a little when I ran.  If this is a problem, it may not be a small one.  I’ve had my running career sidetracked before by a pulled hamstring in the other leg, and it took weeks to heal.  Since we have a marathon in less than two weeks, I can’t afford to provoke those complaining hamstrings.

After a few laps I stopped running and tried three different kinds of elliptical machines, but didn’t really like any of them.  Because it didn’t hurt to walk, however, even when I walked as fast as I could, I walked for the rest of the 40 minutes that we three had agreed on.  I didn’t bother to time all of the walking, but I timed one mile at 13:30. I suspect that a mile on that track is more than the advertised 13 laps though, maybe 13 1/2, so my time for one mile would probably be 14:00 or so when I’m fresh.

Since a time of 14 minutes/mile would result in a marathon of 6:07 with no nature breaks, and two or three of those seem to be required these days, and I do tire toward the end of 26 miles, I will definitely have to run at least some of the way to make the 6:00 time limit.  I need to treat those hamstrings very carefully for the next few days.

Tuesday, April 15:

More running on the YMCA track.

Run/walk ratio for the first four miles was 40/100, and for the last mile 60/75.

Splits: 11:57, 11:40, 11:35, 11:50, 11:04, total 58:06, five miles, overall pace 11:37.

Monday, April 14:

Because of the potential blister on my right foot I took the YMCA’s treadmill this time, running at 5 mph (12 minutes/mile) for 60 minutes.  No problems, except I believe that I can run that distance in less time, or in the same time with less effort, by doing a run/walk instead.  In fact I’m sure of it.

Saturday, April 12:

We three ran on the park's paved trails again today, agreeing on a 45-minute run.  I ran 3.8 miles in 41:28, for a pace of 10:55.

Whining: I think that a blister has started on the inside of the ball of my right foot.  I'm probably turning my foot toward the inside as I run, to reduce the pressure on the wart that is on the other side.

Friday, April 11:

I ran 5.37 miles on the paved trails, a new route, just open today, sufficiently free from snow. The grass trails are still closed, and I can't wait for them to open.  I ran/walked 2/3, finishing in 1:00:49, for a pace of 11:19.

No whining.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Speed Work

Thursday, April 10, 2014:

Well, not really, but I did run the five-mile snow-free route in the park faster than I have before.  The temperature was 60 today, which sounds delightful, but the wind was 18, gusting to 23.  Running into the wind felt like running uphill, and with the wind felt like downhill.

Nevertheless, I did pretty well.  I didn't feel strong, especially at first, but I ran pretty well anyway, ramping the run/walk ratio from 1/1 up to 3/2 in the last mile or so, and sprinting the last few hundred yards.  That felt very good.

Whining: Zero.

Splits: 26:45, 26:08, total 52:53, distance 4.84 miles, pace 10:56.   If maintained for another 21 miles, that would be a 4:47 marathon, but of course that's not going to happen.  I'll probably try to run the next marathon with the ratio reversed, run 2, walk 3.

Tuesday, April 8:

I needed a longish run after the last marathon and before the next, and I guess this was it, just ten miles.  Again the park’s paved trails were beckoning, somewhat hilly, somewhat tilted (both ways), and now entirely dry.  I did the 4.84-mile out-and-back route twice, for 9.68 miles, taking water about every 24 minutes and taking Clif Shot gels (with caffeine) twice.

Though the temperature got up to 50, the northwest wind was pretty strong today, and I wore tights, with two technical shirts above.  That ensemble was just fine going into the wind, plenty warm going with it.  Maybe next time I would forego the tights, as I did yesterday in similar weather.

Whining:  The right knee with PFS mumbled just a little, but never very much.  I was careful not to aggravate it though, staying on the least-tilted part of the trail, and taking it easy both up and down hills.  I do that in marathons too.

Splits: 55:19 (4.84 mi), 27:27 (2.42 mi), 27:30 (2.42 mi), total 1:50:16, pace 11:23.  If sustained for 16 more miles, this pace would result in a marathon of just under five hours.  I was still quite strong at the end of this run, but I’m pretty sure that I would cramp up before reaching 26 miles, and of course I always seem to need an extra 10 minutes or so for nature breaks.  Therefore I’ll slow down a bit and try for 5:30 in the upcoming marathon, not 5:00.

Monday, April 7:

Five more miles on the park’s paved trails.  The grass trails are still under a snow pack, as are most of the paved trails.  But the park has kept a nice 1.92-mile stretch of paved trails clear of snow, and that route is now entirely clear of snow and water.  I do that twice, out and back,  and add another half-mile loop of paved roads twice, for a total of 4.84 miles.  It will be fine until more of the paved trails are clear and safe for running.

Today I didn’t bring my watch, but I did Saturday’s one to one run / walk, 20 triplets (60 footfalls) running and 20 walking.  I assume that the resulting pace was about 11:30 minutes per mile.

Whining:  None to speak of.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Recovery Runs

April 5, 2014:

After a two-day rest, I felt very strong for this run on the park’s paved trails, and did a run/walk with a 1 to 1 ratio, 20 second run and 20 walk.

50 degrees today, promising 60 tomorrow.  I’m so very glad to be running outdoors again. More trails will be open soon, as the snow finally disappears completely.  It will, won't it?

Whining:  The right knee with PFS mumbled a little, but didn't cause any real problem.  This trail does seem to bring out that PFS.  Otherwise I sensed no issues remaining from the marathon six days ago.

Splits: 27:27 out, 27:39 back, total 55:26, pace 11:27.

April 2:

This was the first real recovery run since the Ann Arbor Marathon.  I ran three miles in the Stillwater Bubble, starting at a careful pace but ending up feeling fine and running faster.  I didn't record the actual times, but the overall pace was better than 12 minute miles.

Whining: Zip.

April 1:

Two days after the marathon I was still a bit stiff, so I walked for 40 minutes, pace about 18:20, just a normal "brisk" walk with no sweating and no elevation in breathing rate.  It felt nice.