Tag : racing

Choosing My 2015 Fall Race
Choosing My 2015 Fall Race avatar

With a successful Go! St. Louis Marathon in my rear-view mirror, my attention turns to choosing my next race. Sometimes choosing your next race can be just as tough as training for it! Okay, maybe not quite that bad. Here is what went into choosing my next target — a fall marathon.

I’ve had it in the back of my head for a couple years now to run a marathon in every state. What started as an excuse to travel to new cities has grown into a bit of an obsession. When it’s time to start looking for the next race, I have to break out my trusty map which has my completed states highlighted (10 so far!). As soon as my wife sees what I’m up to, I inevitably hear, “Why don’t you run Hawaii this year?” She still doesn’t understand that I am saving Hawaii for closer to the end of my quest (it’s my carrot to keep running!).

I also keep a spreadsheet of all 50 states, complete with the races I’ve run and finishing times. I keep a column for specific races I want to run in the future, along with their approximate dates. Since I didn’t have anything on the list that lined up with my October timeframe, I took to the internet to see what I could find. There are countless website to help find races. We all have our favorites, and mine is Marathon Guide. It has one of the most complete lists, plus a convenient month-by-month view which is perfect if you are looking for a specific timeframe. Additionally, there are some really nice features like runner comments, course maps, elevation charts and aggregated race results.

After a bit of poking around, visiting race sites, and falling into several internet-marathon worm holes, I happened upon the Baltimore Marathon. The dates worked out, the course looked good, and the reviews were fantastic. I was pretty excited about my choice so I announced to my wife, “I think I’ve found the next one; We’re going to Baltimore!” She enjoys traveling to races with me and will occasionally run the half marathon if they have the option. So, I was shocked by her response, “Uuugh, I don’t want to go to Maryland.”

Oh well, it was back to the trenches to find a race that worked for both of us. After another half hour of searching I was ready to throw in the towel. With a bit of frustration, I turned to my wife who was sitting on the couch next to me and said, “If you don’t want to go to Baltimore, where do you want to go?” She thought about it for a second and replied, “I don’t know… Is there a marathon in Portland?” By complete chance, we just happened to be watching a show about Portland (no it was not Portlandia, but that is a great show!). I pulled up the website for the Portland Marathon and as luck would have it, the marathon is October 4th. So, we were back in business!

The story doesn’t end there. Being a fairly competitive runner and always wanting to PR, my focus shifted to what the course was like. The race website give you nice and clean little elevation chart:

Portland Marathon Elevation Chart

Portland Marathon Elevation Chart

That doesn’t look bad at all! 100 foot climb across 3 miles, a small hill around mile 12, a 150 foot climb over 2 miles starting at mile 15, and smooth sailing from there! I’ve been burned by a couple course maps before where rounding managed to leave a lot out. Being an experienced runner, I knew it was time to dig a little deeper.

Next I turned back to Marathon Guide to consult their elevation chart:

Marathon Guide Elevation Chart

Marathon Guide Elevation Chart

Aside from being slightly more exaggerated through mile 16, the first part of the chart lines up pretty close to the other chart, but… WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING STARTING AT MILE 17?!?!? That can’t be accurate, can it???

It was time to get serious. I knew what I wanted, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find it. This time, we Google! Fortunately, with all the run tracking websites that feature GPS upload capability, I managed to find exactly what I wanted — someone had uploaded their GPS elevation from the previous years race to a website:

GPS Elevation Chart

GPS Elevation Chart

Yikes! That almost EXACTLY matches the Marathon Guide chart. My concern with these elevations is not with the height of the hills themselves. I am a fairly strong hill runner for someone from the Midwest. My concern is with the multiple back-to-back spikes that show up on the map. If those are accurate, I’m in a heap of trouble! Enough with the high-tech tools. Time to get “old fashioned” and to turn to a friend who lives out there!

An exchange of e-mails over a couple days put me in a better mood about the course. Though she couldn’t recall the course exactly, she said those points lined up with the two bridges that cross the river. I was able to confirm this using the same website that housed the GPS charts. I don’t know of many bridges that start at 175 feet of elevation, and drop down to just above sea-level as they cross a river, so I am fairly confident that these are in fact anomalies!

I am not convinced that I can run a PR on this course, but I know I can give it a shot! Hotel is booked, registration is confirmed, all I have to do is start my training! If only there were some hills out here…

Race Recap: Go! St. Louis Marathon
Race Recap: Go! St. Louis Marathon avatar

Sometimes poor decisions still work out.  They also make you wonder what could have been.

Let me start by saying I am ecstatic about my performance in this race.  After 2014 came to an end with only one 5k and marathon DNS’s (Did Not Start) to show for it, my main goal for this race was to make it to the finish line under my own power.  Because I needed a goal to pace to, I gave myself an A-Goal of 3:00:00 (if everything went my way… body, weather, course, etc…), and a more reasonable 3:10:00 B-Goal.  A couple solid training runs to wrap up the training cycle left me feeling pretty good about my chances for race weekend.

The Friday before the race, a simple 2 mile walk with my wife managed to irritate my hip.  Fearing my race was suddenly in jeopardy, I spent as much time stretching and resting as possible.  

Saturday morning was spent driving 5-hours from Chicago to St Louis with a couple other runners. The afternoon started with a quick trip to the expo, followed by a late lunch, and a couple of hours laying on the bed in my hotel room.  Dinner was my standard pre-race meal of spaghetti with plain marinara and bread (though it wasn’t my usual Olive Garden trip!).  Back in my room the evening, I was surprisingly hungry, but only had fluids to fill the void.  My hydration seemed to be pretty good as I was forced to wake up a couple of times throughout the night.

So where were the bad decisions?  Race morning!  I failed to stop and pick up my usual pre-race breakfast bagel.  The only food that made the trip was a package of Pop Tarts, a banana, and some drinks (V8 Fusion, Gatorade, and an FRS).  My nerves were acting up as usual so eating didn’t come easily.  I managed to force down one Pop Tart, a banana, V8 Fusion, and FRS, then hopped into the shower to help wake myself up.  My running group met in the lobby of the hotel and most of us jogged to the start line.

The race started at 7:00am on the dot, and early on the roads were packed with roughly 1500 marathoners, and 12,000 half-marathoners.  The course had a bit of roll hills from the start. A couple turns in downtown St. Louis lead us to the Eads Bridge and on to East St. Louis. I can’t say I plan on heading back there any time soon! Two miles later and another bridge (the MLK Bridge) and we were back in Missouri. The bridges we long and had a steady uphill followed by a steady downhill. The ups went by quickly, and didn’t seem to take too much out of my legs. With my fear of what was waiting for me later in the race, I decided to let it fly on the downhills to bank a little time just in case (another bad decision!).

Just before mile 6, the first marathon relay exchange, and younger guy started running on my shoulder and we had a quick chat. He was doing the relay, and was pacing a friend (who was just behind me) for the first ¼ of his marathon. He asked my goal, to which I responded 3:00. He said I was killing the pace, and split off for his exchange point.

The race rolled back through the downtown area and headed south for an out and back with the turn around point in the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. I was surprised with how scenic the area was. As we headed back, the course doubled back on itself and I was able to see most of the guys who I went down with, and I was able to shout a couple of words of encouragement. Again the race headed back downtown before turning west and heading out to Forest Park. Before we left the city (Mile 13), the half-marathoners turned right and into their finish. As is usually the case, the road emptied at this point. This was also when the rolling hills started to burn in the legs.

With another running not far ahead of me, the race made a couple turns and briefly took us onto a merge lane. Over my shoulder came a kid on a bike and I heard, “Man, you are nailing that 3-hour pace!”. It was the same runner from mile 6. He was on his way to pace his friend who happened to be the runner in my sight. He wished me well and caught up to his friend.

Mile 17 brought us to the entrance of Forest Park. It was about this point that the lead women caught me, and slowly pulled ahead. This was also the point where my time banking start to take its toll on my legs. Mile 18 was on top of a pretty steep hill, just where you wanted it to be! The path twisted and turned around the park before heading back the way we came. Just before heading out of the park, the 2nd place woman began to fall back, and I managed to pass her.

Again we took the same road back as we took out, and I was able to spot a friend of mine who was attempting to break 4 hours for the first time. We shared a laugh and it gave me a hop in my step. Despite the burning legs, the miles heading back downtown ticked by. I slowly pulled back the guy with biker friend. We share a couple of words and I pressed on. As we re-entered the city around mile 26, at the bottom of a big hill, I saw a friend of mine who had run the path. I gave him a thumbs up and he made a comment about #1 woman being just ahead of me. I made some joke about breaking 3-house to which he replied, “Shut up and run!”. So I did… unfortunately, the course took a sharp up hill, turned left (joining the half marathon course) and continued uphill for a short segment, turned right and hit a slight downhill into the finish.  I crossed the finish line in 2:55:38. It truly felt great to get another race under my belt after a year without completing a marathon.  The following is the pace and elevation chart from my Garmin.

Pace and Elevation

Pace and Elevation

Despite finishing nearly 5 minutes faster than my A-goal, I still look back a my nutrition leading into the race, and my decision to bank miles on the early hills, and wonder what could have been. I am also filled with excitement as I begin to plan the next marathon. I had a sinking feeling that my PR days were behind me due to injuries that will likely never heal, but this race gives me hope that I can keep improving, and this past year was only a slight set back.

On a side note, the first place female finished just ahead of me. She was standing near the finish line as I crossed, and I patted her on the shoulder and told her she had a great run. It wasn’t until the next day that it struck me as odd that no one seemed to care that she had just won the race. A hoax runner managed to cross the finish line several minutes prior and had stolen the attention of the race directors. Fortunately the fraud was uncovered, and the race organization made things right. It is just sad that someone stole the glory from someone who earned it.

Episode 17 – Nate Crushes Boston
Episode 17 – Nate Crushes Boston avatar

Nate Brown (@beastmoderunnin) is back to tell us about his recently completed first Boston Marathon. He details every aspect of the race, including his mental approach and pacing strategy. Tons of great stuff for both Boston veterans and those still dreaming of lining up in Hopkinton.

Here’s a link to Nate’s written race recap from beastmoderunning.com

Episode 15 – Nate’s Boston Build-up
Episode 15 – Nate’s Boston Build-up avatar

In this episode we hear Brian’s St. Louis Marathon recap and talk to Nate Brown (@beastmoderunnin) who is training for his first Boston Marathon on April 20th. Learn how Nate made a childhood dream a reality, in less than two years, through determination and hard work. He shares what has worked for him and what he has learned about marathoning.

Learn more about Nate and his team at beastmoderunning.com