Sunday, March 29, 2009


I finally put all of the elements together today and ran the best race of my career. I debuted in the half marathon distance today with a 1:22:30 (unofficial) in the Angie's Half Crazy Half Marathon in Clearlake, Texas.

I feel as though I redeemed myself for a sub-par performance at the Houston Marathon, and a few poor races since that time. I'm finally healthy, and I was very pleased with my results today.

My goal was 1:23:00 because that equates to an automatic bid to the New York City Marathon. Most people know that you have to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but it's less known that you can qualify for the New York Marathon and bypass the lottery selection process. I wanted to paste the Q-Times below, but the website isn't agreeing, so check out the site directly: The men's open division (under 40) requires a 1:23:00 half or a 2:55:00 full. Unlike Boston which gives you an additional 59 seconds, you don't get a single second of grace period for NYC.

My race equivalent full marathon time from a few sites is:
2:55:20 :
2:54:00 :
2:53:20 :
2:52:25 :

VDOT = 56.31

I don't think I can hit any of those times, but I really believe that a sub-three marathon is mine for the taking, provided the conditions are right. And speaking of that, who could have asked for better conditions today!? The temperature was great, the sun wasn't too bothersome, and the wind was calm.

Garmin splits:
6:13, 6:10, 6:05, 6:04, 6:11, 6:10, 6:07, 6:12, 6:13, 6:19, 6:25, 6:20, 6:17, 1:36 for .27 miles

The course measured long on my watch by more than a tenth of a mile. I wonder how they made this mistake twice in a row (it measured 13.5 miles last year).

I finished fifth overall, but was in third as late as about mile 10 when I started to tire. With a little more than a mile left to go I realized that the course would probably be long and that I might miss my qualifying time, despite having the sufficient 6:20 overall pace. I kicked it in gear, but as you can tell by the split times, I didn't have much left as far as speed.

I won 1st in my age group, but that's because the top three in my age group got bumped up to overall winners.

Pros of this race:
* Great pre-race communication and organization
* Copious packet pickup locations
* Nice course, loop instead of out and back, great road conditions
* Good road management by the police#
* Great volunteers
* Plenty of good food
* Koala massage was the best I've ever had

Cons of this race:
* #One large intersection was unmanned, and I was completely in the middle of it before I noticed I had no protection
* $70 for a short sleeve cotton t-shirt . . . How much more could a tech T cost? People are willing to pay that extra amount!
* 10 year age groups instead of 5 year
* no finish clock or any clocks along the course, nobody calling time
* long course twice in two years
* Despite having the chip times squared away very quickly, the awards took forever to announce and I had to remind her that she didn't call out my age group

Overall I'd do this one again in a heartbeat.

Look out New York City Marathon (November 1, 2009). Despite the tough course I guess this will be my next attempt to break three hours since I have no desire to race any long distances races in the near term.

Congratulations to my fellow competitors and teammates, including:
Jeff Nunn, who finished his first half marathon in years. His training was inspiring, and I'm glad to see him in such good shape.
Dynegy Running Club -- we cleaned up with Manfred's third place finish, my fifth place finish, Chuck's second place Clydesdale finish, and several other great times posted by our other runners. I can't quote any times or age group winners because times aren't posted yet.
Leno Rios -- Thanks for helping me get to where I am
Katrina Stilwell -- A fellow Tornado, and the first place female at 1:26:45. This followed up a 1st place age group finish of 30:49 in the 8K the day before!
Mike Lowe -- a good friend from LSU who had an ironman-esque fall and spring by running multiple marathons and distance races. Anybody who knows Michael knows he doesn't do anything half way.

Thanks to my wife, mother and step brother for providing support and a nice pick-me-up at mile 7 (a figurative "pick-me-up", not literal.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Phoenix from the Flames

I never intended to stop blogging, but a week turned into a month, and then three months . . .

It's been a period of relative stagnation. It was difficult to handle being sidelined by the Achilles injury, particularly since it came just as my marathon training miles should have been peaking. I raced the 25K on 11/9/08, and I didn't even try to run again until 11/27/08. That lasted all of one mile. As a last-ditch effort, I tried the Tornado 20M run on 11/30/08 -- the last 20 miles of the marathon route. I only lasted 8 miles. But it was enough to convince me to run the full instead of the half.

Two days later, on 12/2/08, I ran four miles at a 6:30 pace, and it was everything I had in me. It was obvious that I'd lost some conditioning by not running for essentially three weeks. But I still had a few weeks left before tapering, so I was going to give it a go. I ran 35 miles the second week of December, 76 miles the third week of December, and 69 miles the fourth week of December. My heart rate was through the roof and I struggled physically and psychologically during those weeks. But I toughed it out with a 23M run on Christmas morning, and a 20M run two days later.

And then, as luck would have it, I collapsed into bed after that 20M run on December 27th with a fever. I spent the next week in and out of bed without running a single mile. Just as I was coming back from injury, I was sidelined by sickness. And it was the whole nine yards -- nasal infection, fever, achiness, fatigue, lung congestion, coughing of rainbow-colored phlegm.

If you're doing the math at home, you know that the missed week was the last chance to train for the marathon. The next two weeks were spent tapering at 38 miles and then 16 miles.

But STILL, being the hardheaded person that I am, I wanted my 3 hour marathon. I worked so hard in September and October -- so what if November and December were bad to me. I was standing at the starting line, still coughing up fluid as I had ever day since December 27th, right next to the 3:00 pacers in 57 degree weather, ready to go to work.

Well, I didn't get it done. My official time was 3:05:18 -- which is respectable but still disappointing. I fought the good battle -- hitting the half in under 1:30, coughing all the way. I held up through about 21 miles with a 6:53 pace (needed a 6:52), but my next few miles were 7:28, 7:29, 8:02 and 8:11. I found some reserve strength to finish out the race at a 6:12 pace for .86 miles, but it was obviously too little too late. That last boost was due to a remarkable stream of cheers by my friends over the last half mile. I really appreciated (and needed) their support.

I made my way outside of the convention center to look for my family. Thanks go to my mother and Jeff for their support who drove in to track me, and who always had a genuine interest in my training. Thanks also go to my wife, who sacrificed perhaps more than I did by delaying dinners, modifying weekend plans, cutting trips short -- all so I could train. She weathered my emotional roller coaster, carried more than her fair share of the weight, and understood when I wasn't available physically because I was on the road or emotionally due to exhaustion. Without her I could not begin to contemplate, much less achieve, what I have done.

I continued to cough up fluid quite a few more weeks -- into February. Then Julie convinced me to take Zyrtec, the allergy medicine, and I was healed within a week. Who knows if the medicine has a placebo effect I finally kicked it on my own, or if the solution was right in front of me all this time. But as of the past couple of days, I'm starting to feel like I'm back to where I was before the injury. Hence, the title of this post -- The "Phoenix from the Flames".

And other than the fact that the song below uses that phrase, it has no other relevance to this post. However, I should comment that I really like this song, but I'll bet that nobody else does. It never charted, it's not exactly mainstream, and it takes some effort to enjoy. But the emotion that it takes to perform, much less write, wins me over.