Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 Houston Marathon

I ran the Houston Marathon yesterday for the third time. I trained using Pfitz 18/55, and did a pretty good job of hitting all the big runs, though I missed one 18-miler and didn’t follow all of the pace advice for the runs, which is a mistake I will not repeat. My goal was to break 4 hours, and it looked like I had a very good chance given the two half-marathons and 10K I ran in the months leading up to the race. I felt good and was injury free until the last long run, when I both knees developed a slight case of tendinitis. They gradually got better during the taper, but I was forced to cut the mileage almost in half during those weeks.

I arrived at George R. Brown about an hour early with my fiancee and her friend. I felt great, my knees miraculously felt normal again, and I was ready to go. The temperature was 59F with 88% humidity. Not bad, but definitely warmer than I prefer. I lined up near the front of the second wave and waited impatiently for the 10-minute delayed start.

The first 10 miles flew by. My legs were tight for the first 3-4 miles, and I made a very fast opportunistic pit-stop at mile 2. The crowds seemed less dense than previous years, so I was able to hold a decent pace without weaving. I ran mile 3 with the 4-hour pace team. I wasn't sure who’s mistake it was, but we were going way too fast so I dropped back to my original pace once I realized the error. I verified later on the Runner's World Forums that the pacer was trying to make up lost time and ran that mile far too fast. Apparently he had a rough time later in the race and did not finish at 4 hours.

Mile Split Time Ave HR Notes

1 09:02 0:09:02 165

2 09:30 0:18:32 164 Bathroom Break

3 08:29 0:27:02 169 ???

4 09:12 0:36:14 166

5 09:02 0:45:16 168

6 09:01 0:54:18 166

7 09:03 1:03:21 165

8 09:03 1:12:25 165

9 09:18 1:21:43 163

10 08:57 1:30:41 166 Ate a Gu somewhere around here, was hungry

I was still feeling great as I started the second 10 miles of the race. My pace varied a little more than I would have liked, but I was relaxed and the pace didn’t feel too fast. I was drinking a lot of Gatorade and only taking very brief walk breaks at the aid stations. I passed through the half about 2 minutes ahead of 4-hour pace, right on schedule. I felt far stronger at this point in the race than I had in either of my previous marathons. The temperature was noticeably higher at about mile 15, though I also noticed that the humidity was dropping significantly. The breeze was not strong enough to be a time factor, though it did help cool everyone down a little. I was still feeling okay as we ran down San Felipe, but just after the turn toward downtown I felt a sudden twinge in my right hamstring. It didn’t cramp, but it wasn’t a good sign. I had serious muscle cramps in my previous marathons, and I was very concerned that I would experience them again. I brought 3 tiny baggies of salt (half potassium salt, half sodium salt in lieu of $20 Xceed pills) and I poured one in a cup of Gatorade at the next aid station and drank it down. I also noticed my quads started feeling tighter at this point, but nothing cramped. My pace had been slipping a little since mile 15, but I managed to get back on track at mile 20, still about a minute ahead of 4-hour pace.

Mile Split Time Ave HR Notes

11 08:52 1:39:33 167

12 09:08 1:48:42 166

13 09:09 1:57:51 166 About 2 minutes ahead of schedule

14 09:00 2:06:52 167

15 09:14 2:16:06 166 Noticeably hotter, though humidity dropping

16 09:20 2:25:27 165

17 09:14 2:34:41 166

18 09:12 2:43:54 167 Ate first salt packet, legs starting to feel like crap

19 09:17 2:53:11 167

20 09:04 3:02:16 170 About 1 minute ahead of schedule

My legs were definitely feeling the miles by now, and at various times I felt different muscles give a pre-cramp twitch, so I ate another salt packet at mile 21. All of my leg muscles were feeling hammered-on at this point, and I had a lot of trouble holding pace on the slight hills as we went past Memorial Park. At mile 22 I pulled a really slow split, and the next one was even worse. I started feeling dehydrated, and the temperature was becoming a slight problem, though the humidity helped offset it somewhat. I was still moving along at a decent pace, and otherwise was in good spirits. My brain wasn’t working well by now and I had a hard time figuring out my current pace/time/finish time so I just kept running at max pace. I really knew I was in trouble when I went well over 10 minutes for the next two miles down Allan Parkway. I was completely incapable of maintaining pace on the hills even though I was running as hard as I could. I also lost a few seconds when I walked through a whole aid station to give myself time to drink 4 or 5 cups of water and Gatorade and ate the last salt packet. I was feeling better as I went under the 1.5 mile-to-go sign, but my pace was still too slow to pick up the lost time. I was passing many other runners that were in way worse shape than me, and the volunteers and spectators helped my mood improve a little. I was in a pretty poor mood as I entered downtown, but when I turned the corner onto Rusk and saw the finish line I felt better. I wondered if I had made a mistake in calculating my pace and thought maybe I could make it. I was going as fast as my legs would go at this point, but still crossed the 4-hour mark while staring at the finish line in the distance. The last few hundred feet went by quickly, and I was extremely thankful to stop moving after I crossed the line. I felt absolutely horrible.

Mile Split Time Ave HR Notes

21 09:12 3:11:28 171 Ate second salt packet, legs REALLY start to feel bad

22 09:30 3:20:59 169

23 09:46 3:30:45 168 Ate third salt packet, legs are shot, feel dehydrated

24 10:25 3:41:11 164 Lost some time walking through a water stop

25 10:29 3:51:40 163

26 09:25 4:01:05 171 Looking at finish in distance as I went through 4 hours

0.2 01:53 4:02:55 174 $#%!

When I hobbled up to get my finisher’s medal, a volunteer asked how I felt and I for a second it looked like she was going to escort me to the medical area, but thankfully she changed her mind and left me alone. I’m happy with the race overall, and though I could have changed a couple of things in hindsight, I don’t know if I could have made up those 3 minutes. Although I missed my 4-hour goal time, I broke my PR by over 8 minutes. My legs feel great, my knees aren’t torn up, and I’m already looking for another marathon for the Spring or the Fall this year. I now have a much better idea of where I made mistakes when I was training. With a little more effort, smarter training, and a few less pounds, I know I can run a lot faster.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Nike + iPod

I missed the initial release of the Nike + iPod Sport Kit, but the day I read about it and discovered the relatively cheap $30 price, I headed for the Apple store to get one. I am completely impressed with it. The shoe-mounted sensor and the receiver are tiny, and the data they provide me during and after my run is excellent. Before I could use it the first time, I needed to modify my armband so the receiver would fit and find a way to secure the sensor to my Asics.

I'd seen a couple of ways to attach the sensor, but was turned off by the price (Marware, for example) or the sewing (velcro method). Instead, I decided to go with a small plastic bag. I found a small, sturdy bag that previously contained some random computer screws and dropped the sensor into it. Perfect fit, but the bag was too wide to fit into my shoe easily. I cut the bag in half, taped the side shut with packing tape and tried again. This time it easly slid under the laces near the front of the tongue. The bag protects the sensor from getting wet and holds it securely under the laces. It didn't move at all during my 9-mile test run.

With that problem resolved, I moved on to the armband. Unlike many runners, I actually like the original Apple armband. It holds the Nano securely, doesn't block the screen, allows easy access to the click wheel, and is very small. I looked at the Nike + armband at the Apple store but decided against it due to price, size, and because it blocks the screen. Instead, I decided to cut a slot in the bottom of the Apple armband so the iPod would fit with the receiver installed.

Using a new razor blade, I carefully cut a small rectangle in the neoprene just large enough for the attachment to poke through. I managed to make very straight, clean cuts until the very end, at which point I accidentally cut a little too far on one side. Neoprene stretches slightly as you cut into it, so adjust accordingly to avoid the slightly less-than-finished look of mine if you do this. The end of the armband is now missing a fair amount of material, but it still has more than enough to hold the iPod in place. Though the neoprene is sturdy, I still take care not to rip it by shoving the iPod into the armband too roughly.

The modifications took under 10 minutes and cost me nothing, and the Nike + iPod Sport Kit works perfectly. Now I can use the $130 I would have spent on the Nike + shoes and a new armband for something more exciting, like Balega socks!

I'm back!

Not that anyone actually reads this thing, but just in case. My injuries are gone (finally) and I've been running again for the last 3 months. I've lost the few pounds I added while sitting around doing nothing, and I've started to ramp up my base mileage in anticipation of training for the 2007 Houston Marathon in January. I registered for it last week so I wouldn't change my mind. I'm going to use one of the Pfitz training plans this year, which combined with lower weight should produce a far faster time than the '06 marathon. Hopefully the temperature will be lower this year as well. I've been running mostly in the afternoons in 95+ degree heat, but by the time the marathon rolls around my body will have forgotten what that's like. Last year I definitely didn't take in enough fluids or salt, so I've been careful to drink a lot to get my stomach used to it.

I'm also training for the Conquer the Coast 65 mile bike ride in Corpus Christi at the end of September. I bought a new Trek 1500 and all of the various gear and accessories to help ease the human/bike interface points: feet, hands, and butt, all of which hurt after 15-20 miles. I've been riding mostly on the weekends, with a couple of longer rides with friends out in the burbs. I hate leaving the loop, but riding in the city can be a little hair-raising. I've found the bike to be a great way to do speed workouts without all the banging on my legs, and I've been able to ride and get a good workout in when my knees/shins/feet/ankles don't feel up to running. It's definitely a good workout; there have been times when I can barely walk when I get off the thing. I have a far deeper respect for pro cyclists now that I've tried it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wrong Blog Title

My "relentless" forward motion has been limited to walking and a total of 3 miles in the last 3 weeks. The only relentless part of this recovery period is my gaining weight. My legs do feel better, but it's been slow going. I can't begin to explain how aggravating it is to sit around doing nothing. I went for a very slow and easy 3 mile run today to test the waters. My legs don't feel 100% yet. In fact, now my right ankle hurts, though I didn't feel any pain at all from my right medial shin. My knees are still a little tight and sore, my left foot hurts, and my muscles have completely atrophied. Apparently my body has chosen to give up at the fight at 30. Maybe I should take up knitting.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Houston Metrorail Anagram

This is the Houston light rail map with anagrammed station names. I saw the others on BoingBoing and had to join in the fun. I had to add the word "street" to Bell, because there are no anagrams for the word Bell. I hate you Bell :)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Weight 'may' not be the biggest factor in my performance, BUT it's definitely in the top 2" - Geetah

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Mileage: 2.12 - 2.18

I finally got to run again. My knees are feeling better but aren't completely back to normal yet. My left hip flexor is slightly strained, but it doesn't bother me when I run. The shinsplint I had in my right leg also appears to be healing finally. I think adding insoles to my dress shoes is helping all of these injuries heal. Those things were like walking barefoot on concrete, but they're reasonably soft now. I spend at least 8 hours a day in them, so it follows that they would have an impact on my legs. All of this injury stuff put me behind in my Pfitz training, so I'm weighing the options for Reno in May. I'll probably take it easy and just run progressively longer weekend runs with increasing weekly mileage rather than risk another injury by trying to get back on the Pfitz plan. There will be other marathons, no use killing myself for this one.

Thursday6 milesno time
Saturday9 miles1:25:05
Total15 miles 

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Will Wonders Never Cease

My legs have felt terrible since Houston, and I've only put in 13 miles in the last month. After 2 weeks off I finally went running today and felt great. 6 miles, no watch, with a 1/4 mile kick at the end. If my legs will just hold together until I can get some strength back in them I'll be the happiest man on Earth :)

By the way, Asics Kayano XII's are worth every penny.