Sunday, November 11, 2007

Houston Masters 25K Road Race

25 kilometers (~15.5 miles), 1:49:27.4 (chip time), 1:49:52.4 (gun time), 7:03 pace (chip), Max HR = 180, Avg HR = 164

Official Results Page

Today I ran the Houston Masters 25K Road Race, one of the series of warm-up races for the Houston Marathon. It's a three lap race on Memorial Parkway from downtown to Shepherd and back. The course is somewhat hilly (816 feet of cumulative elevation) thanks mostly to overpasses and underpasses.

Congratulations on the strong performance of my friends who also competed today:
Andrew Keller - 1:39:24.3 (5th in age group, 24th overall)
Greg McLauchlin - 2:15:35.2 (49th in age group, 370 overall)
Chuck Bach - 2:27:53.9 (80th in age group, 634 overall)
Tracy McLauchlin - 2:28:10.0 (37th in age group, 647 overall)

The race had 1608 total finishers.

I finished 12th in my age group (Male 30-34), and 71st overall. I knew this would be a big race, and that this would be my one chance to simulate a marathon experience prior to my debut in Dallas. I wanted to: 1) feed off of the spectators, 2) learn how to maneuver through crowds, 3) practice hydration and nutrition, 4) run a 7:00 pace, 5) finish strong.

Spectators: The crowd was great . . . Julie cheered me on at the beginning of each new lap, and the vision of her smiling face kept me motivated well into each new five mile stretch. I also got a shout out from Biff, a strong runner and friend who I turn to for advice from time to time. Stephen King, one of the area's top masters runners, was in attendance at about the 2 mile mark, and he cheered for me (and everyone else). I was surprised to see him as a spectator, as I would have expected him to take the master's division. He doesn't know me from Adam, but I spoke to him while in line for post-race concessions after the July 4 race this year, and he seems to be a great guy.

Crowds: One of the chief complaints I've heard about the Dallas marathon is that the tail end of the half-marathoners merge with the marathoners deep into the marathon course. This causes the faster marathoners (not elite, but fast) to have to weave in and out of the crowd, who is often walking. This race simulated that, since I lapped quite a few people and probably almost got lapped myself.

Hydration and Nutrition: It was hot today, and I drank a lot more water than I normally would have consumed over this distance. I picked up the pace slightly into the water station, and accelerated out of it. I think think I managed a solid pace through each station. I think I took seven water breaks, but my favorite stop was when a little girl about five years old handed me a water. She was so cute out there helping my fellow runners and me. As for nutrition, I made the mistake of taking a Shot Block even though I didn't need it. I had to spit it out after about a half mile. In the future I'll only take nutrition as I have in the past -- when I start to have an empty feeling in my stomach. For future reference, I had a half of a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast.

7:00 pace: I didn't hit my goal of a 7:00 overall pace. Based on my chip time, I ran a 7:02.8 pace. It's close, but if you consider three seconds over 15.5 miles then all of a sudden it's 47 seconds behind schedule. That would translate to even more over 26.2 miles. But I'm not too upset with my pace, because it was pretty hot and I didn't exactly taper the way I will for my marathon. 7:03 was enough for me to be happy with my results. But there is a lesson to be learned. My Garmin read 7:02, and was off because I had to weave through the crowd, didn't always run the perfect tangent, and the watch itself tends to slightly overestimate distance by almost 1%. The lesson is that I need to run slightly faster than my watch says once I set my pace goal for the marathon, or risk being disappointed once I find out I didn't get the finishing time I calculated.

Finish strong: I don't like to get passed at the end of the race. But where does the "end" begin? I suppose that's mainly a question of strategy. I can tell you I felt relieved when I saw that only 5k was left (3.1 miles). I tried to pick up my pace, but I don't think I did anything except think I was going faster. At that point I did start to pass a few people because others started slowing down. At the first split I ran the 15th fastest in my age group. At the second split, again, I ran the 15h fastest in my age group. At the last split, I had the 10th fastest split. So even though I slowed down, I ran faster in comparison to my fellow age group runners. The last half mile of the race is characterized by the biggest hill (up, not down). I didn't really start to make any pace changes until that final half mile. I outsprinted two or three guys and a girl over that space, and ran a 6:26 pace over the final .59 miles. The girl finished eighth overall for women, so I guess I got beat by seven women. I wasn't really out of breath at the finish, so I should have been kicking harder . . . but my legs were exhausted. I think my lungs are in much better shape than my legs.

Overall this was a humbling experience. There was even a point where I questioned why I was so stupid as to want to do a marathon if fifteen miles was making me feel the way it was. But I guess I'll practice selective memory and keep pushing toward Dallas, which is now less than 30 days away.

As I was watching the finishers and looking for my friends, I saw a girl head down the final stretch at about 2:30 into the race. The finish line split off of the loop in a way that wasn't completely clear to me or some other runners. Basically you take a U-Turn to start another loop, or go straight to finish (even though the sign said "relay transition"). When I saw this girl at least half of the people had already finished. She was following the bulk of the crowd and heading toward the finish line before she stopped to ask a race volunteer a question. Then she backtracked and went for another loop. That girl still had one more lap to go after already running two and a half hours.

She inspired me more than any other runner out there that day, because she could easily have given up and followed the slippery slope toward quitting. She was only a hundred yards away from the finish line, the music, the refreshments, her friends, and the beloved rest. But instead she headed toward the loneliness of a mostly vacated final five mile loop to finish her race. Her act took courage and resilience, and made me embarrassed that I ever questioned myself about finishing. Distance running can be very lonely, even in the midst of the pack, because you have only yourself on race day. Your support team (spouse, friends, coach, partners, etc.) is crucial during training, but on race day it's just you and the pavement. And you must do everything in your power to say "no" to the voices telling you to slow down or quit. Hooray to that girl who said "NO!"

6:59, 6:58, 6:55, 6:54, 7:04
6:52, 6:54, 7:04, 7:01, 7:03
7:08, 6:58, 7:17, 7:05, 7:14
3:48 for final .59 miles, 6:26 pace

1 comment:

Cory said...

Great race, Jonathan!

I checked the results last night and saw that you had run well. I figured you must be targeting a 7:00/mile. Excellent effort!

You don't need me to tell you but I'm sure you're heading toward a big day in Dallas next month. Keep up the disciplined approach to your training and you'll achieve your goal.

(I should mention that your Alabama long run served as my motivation on Saturday. Thanks for that post.)