Monday, December 10, 2012

Recent race reports

Had back-to-back events the past 2 weekends, first the Memphis marathon, and then a low-key trail event in west central AR, on the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail.

Thursday night carb-loading at Bosco's
Memphis:  First of all, I tend to gush about this event, and for several reasons.  It was my very first marathon back in 2007.  My parents always come out and take great care of me, and by now I know exactly where they will be on the course.  This year they told me that they were rushing out of the McDonald's as I came by near mile 11, and had hurriedly stuffed their McMuffins into their pockets because they thought it would piss me off to see them enjoying breakfast while I felt like vomiting.  I have made great friends in the running community over the years, and since this is a running-themed weekend, they can usually all be found together and in good spirits at the cool-kid runner's bar, Bosco's in midtown.  It feels like homecoming to me, all of my favorite things coming together at once.  And aside from the sentimental stuff, the event itself is great.  I've been around enough events to provide an experienced critique, and I would stack Memphis up among the best events in the country.  As the event gets bigger, the crowds on the course have also gotten better.  I don't perceive as many dead or lonely spots on the course as I did the first couple of years that I did the event.  I love running through downtown/midtown... those areas are authentic "Memphis", and I feel immersed in the essence of home.  The Redbirds stadium finish around the warning track is absolutely fantastic. I have never seen a better finish other than Boston, which isn't a fair comparison.

Limping through mile 22

On to my race... I would have been happy with a 3:35, thrilled with anything under that, and ok with anything under a 3:37.  However, it was 60 degrees at the start and 70/sunny at the finish, and I struggle in warm conditions. I floated along according to plan just behind the 3:30 pace group for about 18 miles with fairly easy effort.  I saw my parents at mile 8, went through the zoo and museum grounds in miles 8-10, up Poplar avenue to meet my parents again during the McDonald's incident.  The half peels off at mile 13, and the full runners loop around downtown again.  Going up Beale twice is just fantastic.  I can't help but smile and enjoy the "there is nowhere else I'd rather be right now" feeling.  By this time, the clouds had burned off and the temperature/sun combination was becoming a factor.  I started to feel the twinge of calf cramps somewhere in the Cooper/Young district, which is around 17/18.  I had figured that there was a high probability of this happening, it is a common problem with me during warm runs.  At that point, I had to stop and regroup every time I felt a clinch, which was happening every 5-10 minutes or so.  My splits slowed to ~9:00-9:30 in those miles... there was only one more mile that I managed to run in 8:00 without a cramp, either mile 23 or 24.  I don't think there was anything I could have done differently... my energy, hydration, and attitude were good, I just had to be cautious and pull up whenever I felt the familiar clinch.  I finished in 3:40, which I wouldn't have been happy with under normal conditions, but was a good effort in the situation.  I think I would have gone alot closer to 3:30 with 30 degrees shaved off, but catching the right temperature is pretty tough these days. 

Heading through the hashers.  Yes, that's Elvis in the red. 

LoVit trail marathon:  This was the 3rd year in a row that I went down to the Lake Ouachita Vista trail for an organized fun run.  The event is part of the Arkansas ultra-trail series, and draws 50 or 75 folks.  The trail is excellent... one of my favorites in the state.  I love the eastern side of the Ouachitas, and this particular trail is between Mt. Ida and Hot Springs.  It's very run-able, there are only a few sections that are rocky/technical or steep.  If I complained about the Memphis weather a week prior, this day's weather was a doozy.  Humidity was 90% ahead of a front that would be coming through that night, and again, the sun burned off the clouds once it got ahead of the treetops.  I tried to stay with my hydration, and thought I did a decent job through the run.  I only carried one handheld, but it was plenty.  My first bottle I prepared with a Gu Brew tablet, and after that relied on Gatorade and S-caps.  I made sure that I finished off my bottle completely at every aid station, which was uncomfortable and sloshy for a few miles until I absorbed it, but it seemed to work.  I had a bit of stomach bloating, and a few leg cramp twinges, but nothing that felt horrible or slowed me down too much.  Not anything like the previous weekend where I had full-blown calf cramps.  I noticed a little bit of muscle fatigue after Memphis, and a little bit of IT soreness that I will need to watch over the next few weeks.    I never walked more than a few steps at a time, mostly as I snacked coming away from aid stations.  Still, I finished 15 minutes off of last year's time.  The frontrunners reported being off by 8 or so minutes as well, so it was a warm day for everyone. 

I like the variety on this course... the vast majority of it is very smooth, leaf-carpeted trail that allows for some consistent running.  However, you get one significant climb up Hickory Nut mountain, and then a rock-strewn descent that really focuses you.  Throw in some connections on utility roads, and you can enjoy striding it out for some variety.  Note to self... The back half of the course is re-rounted to get the correct distance.  The turnaround is actually around 14 miles, so RD Phil cuts a couple of miles off of the back half.  I hit the summit in 2:25, and figured I had about 2 hours for the return trip.  I overestimate the course re-route every time and think that the end is so much closer than it really is.  I was expecting the road to begin around each bend, especially because I was using last year's time as a marker for where I thought I should be.  About the time that I thought I should be approaching the road according to the 4:33 I ran last year, I saw the sign that read "Denby Point trailhead:  3."  As in, 3 miles?  Dang!  Another false summit, and it was becoming clear that I was significantly off of my time.  At least the trail is smooth at that point, so no concentrating on faceplant avoidance.  I was happy with the rhythm that I kept for the last several miles, even though I was feeling the temperature.  It was good to get back onto the trail, I hadn't done much off-road since the summer.   

Down to 5 mgs of Prednisone, starting at the first of December.  Positive so far, although I need to take care of myself the next couple of weeks and make sure that there's nothing nagging.  I'm trying to decide if I'm going to do Athens-Big Fork again in January.  I've had 2 good (really good) runs in a row there, and I'm scared of being due for a nasty suffer-fest.  I'll probably go, there's no good excuse not to unless I have an injury.  It's a beautiful trail and a great event, but it is far more difficult than your average long run.  Must find a way to turn dread into excitement.