Monday, February 25, 2013

World's Best 10K Race Recap Part II

So on the previous episode, the gun had gone off and the 10K had started. It took 10 minutes for our corral to reach the start line. There was this arch we had to cross and I guess everyone assumed that was the actual line but about 30 feet before that I tripped on the chip sensor. There really was nothing I could do - it was still too crowded to run - but soon after the arch it cleared up a bit and I was off.

Immediately, the struggle began. "Start slow!" I kept saying to myself but between checking my pace and dodging other people, I wasn't doing a very good job. I was also all over the place, ending up on opposing edges of the course several times. Thankfully, the good news was that I was totally aware. Unlike my first (and second) 5K, where I was completely off the deep end, mentally I was relaxed. Still, the first mile came and Mr. Garmin said 14:46. I was aiming for somewhere in the mid 15's. That's when it happened. Feeling I was going too fast, I second-guessed myself and started worrying I wasn't going to finish because I was spending too much energy early and I still had that on-ramp to worry about.

And that ramp... I was worried it would be very steep. It wasn't. It was as long as an Alaskan night. It just would. Not. End. Now, you think this was a good time to back off but nope. I charged my way up that puppy. Second mile: 15:43. Not long after getting back on the bridge, (did I mention the final chase scene in the movie Fast 5 was shot on this bridge? Well, it was.) I took water from the second oasis. (I decided to skip the first.) This slowed me down and I managed to get into a consistent groove. The view didn't hurt either. Sunset, was just about to end and it made for a pretty spectacular backdrop to run in. In my (admittedly very short) racing experience, I have kind of made it a rule to not take pictures during the race but I just couldn't pass this up. Still the picture doesn't do it justice. (I was running you know)

And yet, I tried again. This time with video. Didn't work either. (Again, running people!)

You know that scene in Forrest Gump, when Forrest was talking to Jenny about running in the mountains? Running with that sunset felt like that. And it really worked too because the next three miles all went down within 3 seconds of each other. Including two identical 16:06's. All this, despite the fact that when I finally made it out of the bridge, I found out that I had grossly underestimated the final leg of this course. 

I thought the last two miles were on an long, mild incline and I was going to climb to the very end. Well, not exactly. I was looking at the wrong avenue. Right after the bridge was a hill and then the course kind of undulates up and down all the way to the end. So, another hill, another charge up from yours truly. Why?! "That's the painful way up you idiot!" I thought to myself. But as I made it back down and got back "normal", I realized I was actually feeling very good. With the fifth mile ending, I took the ramp to head back to the finish. One final decision before the final leg: To gel or not to gel? I was feeling fine but that was kind of the point right? To keep feeling right till the end? The final oasis was coming up so I took it out of my pocket and opened it. It was kind of warm (What did I expect? It was in my pocket after all.) but it tasted good and went down easy. It was thicker than I expected and immediately felt like dying of thirst but that's why you take it with water, which I did. Took two cups from the oasis and kept going. After washing it all down, I went back to thinking about how good I was feeling this late in the race. How I was charging up the hills and being consistent. After all my worries through the race, the training had kicked in after all. Not only was I feeling good, I was holding back. I knew I could do better.

So I picked up the pace. A lot.

By now it was night time. I could barely see the floor but I'm passing people right and left. I'm actually picking people to tail and pass. I was a little scared I wasn't gonna make it all the way to the end like this but it was a good scared. As I passed the final curve leading to the finish line I heard the faint beep of my watch. It was marking the 6th mile. I was almost afraid to look, but looked anyway. 15:14! What the...?! Is this for real? Almost an entire minute faster! And at the end?! When I'm "tired"?! And I still had plenty of gas left! I was ecstatic! So I continued to the finish. As I was reaching it, I remembered my friend Peg from the Runner's World Loop (their online forum). She always does this pose when she finishes a race. I believe she calls it the "Clay Mathews". 

Well, I felt inspired to follow in her footsteps but I wasn't about to copy her signature pose so I did another one. Which one? Well, I'm not saying. There supposed to be a picture. If it comes out, I promise to post it. If it doesn't, well I'm taking that one to the Long Heavenly Trail in the Sky. He he he

So I cross, feeling great. I'm thinking about just making a fool of myself and how I still could have kept running when I remembered I hadn't stopped my watch! But hey, I started it late because of all the sensor confusion so I think it evened out. Total time? 1:37:21. Not my best time but very good nonetheless and knowing I left some out there makes me feel very good about the future.

Now for the bad news.

With the same deadly efficiency from when I arrived, the organizers had the ending down to a science. After finish, you keep walking down different stations with Gatorade, water, then some bars (the kind you eat, not the ones you go drink. Not that kind of party) and you keep going until you reach the bus areas and you leave. Everything was going great until I noticed I was awfully close to the buses and... I had no medal. That's when I saw (and heard) people complaining about it. Apparently, they ran out of medals. As people often do, they started gossiping and I heard everything from "They gave them to people without bibs." to "They stole them!" Apparently everyone who finished after 1:27 did not get a medal. Great, another reason to run faster.

I was really upset for some reason. I mean, in the one hand, it's just a piece of tin. Not getting it doesn't take away from the fact I just ran my first 10K. Yet, on the other hand, I just ran my first 10K dang it! I want something to remember the occasion. But it was not to be. With no one from the event giving any explanation, I took the bus and left. But on the bus and train I heard all these people complaining, I figured this was not over yet.

Back to the good news.

I had a feeling it wasn't over. The next day, I check the Facebook page for the race and sure enough people are coming down hard. By 10am, there's a press release apologizing and inviting all who did not get a medal to get theirs.


My wife mentioned that in that picture, with my car's gauges in the background it kind of looks like a Disney medal. An future omen perhaps?

So there you have it folks! I couldn't take a picture of me with the medal on race day so I got my wife to take some at home. The good thing about this is that I get to try several poses...

Here is the super-serious competitor

Here is the silently proud pose

Here is the beaming with pride one

Pick your favorite and thanks for reading!

World's Best 10K Race Recap Part I

Allow me to get something off my chest. I hate the name of this race. The World's Best 10K. Sounds a little pretentious doesn't it? Not only that, it sounds like I'm declaring that in fact this 10K is the World's Best which I'm not so, I Have avoided saying the actual name of the race all this time as much as I can but now there's no helping it. I guess I'll just stick to calling it WB10K, which is a lot shorter too.

That's not to say the race doesn't have some impressive credentials. It is the biggest race in the island with a cap of 15,000 runners. It has also been certified by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) and given it's coveted gold rating label. Runner's World Brazil and Runner's World UK, as well as Scandinavian magazine iForm have all put the WB10K as one of the 10 races every runner should do before he dies. If you speak Scandinavian or just want to have some fun trying to understand the article you can read it here. The women's World Record in this distance was broken here in 2003 by Paula Radcliffe. 30 minutes and 21 seconds. She won more than $120,000  as part of a long standing purse that was being offered to anyone who broke a World record in this race. It still stands today. These are some of the highlights folks. I could do a whole post just talking about the history of this race. Does that make it the World's best? I leave that to you to judge.

The course is pretty fast and shaped like a J. You go up the long part of the J by crossing the bridge then come back down and head all the way to the short end then go back to were you started. I had two concerns regarding the course: Once you cross the bridge, you have to get off it, go under it then get on it again. That means going uphill and those on-ramps can be pretty steep. The other concern is the final leg when you are coming back from the short part of the J. It's also uphill. While it is very subtle, it goes on for almost 2 kilometers. 

My strategy was simple. Start slow, (HA! We all know how THAT has turned out in the past) cross the bridge, then pick up the pace if I can after going up the ramp. The final uphill part? Well, we'll see how I feel by then.

The race was supposed to start at 5:30pm so I had the entire day to get ready. I took it easy, hydrated myself and ate carbs during the day. (mostly white rice) I knew I was gonna go solo as my wife had to stay with our youngest one who just had surgery so I had to be careful with what to bring with me. So after figuring it out my wife took this pic right before I left.

It has to be said: the organization for this race was incredible! I park my car at the station, took the urban train to the designated area and took a bus from there to the race. No fuzz, no waiting. From there you are moved to the corrals. All this flows like clockwork. There is also this whole area with booths and food and there is a track right next to the start line so you can warm up.

I warmed up a bit, stretched, then headed to the corral and waited for the start. Again, everything went on schedule. From the National Anthem to the start of the race everything went down to the minute as scheduled. As I picked a spot on the corral, I noticed I was right in front of the 1:30:00 pacer. Yeah, right. Wishful thinking. I moved back in between them and the 1:40:00 pacer and hoped for the best.

Runners seem to love yellow in Puerto Rico

Anyway, as I mentioned the start gun went off right on schedule and about 10 minutes later we were crossing the start line. So how was the race? Well, I don't want to run too long here plus, without giving anything away, a "special" situation occurred that merits mention as well. Check out the play-by-play on the exciting conclusion of this recap.

Friday, February 22, 2013

World's Best 10K Health and Fitness Expo

This was a pretty hectic week. Our youngest had surgery Friday. It was a minor ambulatory procedure, but a procedure nonetheless so you can guess how ecstatic me and the wife were this week. Doctor's appointments, pre-admission, very, very early mornings and the waiting... I hate the waiting while she on the operating table. It's the type of day you would gladly give back. But don't worry folks, everything was fine and the procedure was successful. By the time we got home she was laughing and playing and will recover well.

Of course, my running schedule didn't go as planned. I had two runs planned, managed only one but it was a pretty good one. I also thought I wasn't gonna be able to pick up my bib but, thank goodness, the operation went very well and we managed to leave the hospital early so after getting everyone home, medicated and resting I went back to San Juan to get my stuff.

The Expo, which by the way is my first, was pretty sweet. Because it was the first day, and it had just opened, it wasn't crowded so I breezed by registration which was extremely well organized. I signed the waiver, got my bib(10673), tested my chip (which is on the bib, not a separate item to tie on your shoes) and was given my shirt (ADIDAS!) and goodies bag. The only complaint was with my shirt. When I registered online, they did not have an option for XXL so I put XL in the form. When I got to the expo they had XXL shirts but wouldn't give me one which kind of bothered me a bit. I don't know why it bothered me, since the shirt is  a bright "runner's" yellow, just like the one from my first 5K. Do you know what running needs more of? Darker colors people!

The bag was pretty cool.

It included a hat and the bag is reusable. Plus there were some coupons and magazines. The Expo was big, which I expected since this is the biggest race in the island. Adidas had a huge presence and there were many other sponsors giving samples and promotions. There were also fitness demos, massage tables, free temporary tattoos (??) and even spinning classes. One ironic thing though: This is the Health and Fitness Expo. You know what there was a lot of? Food. There were samples everywhere of cookies, pasta and the expected runner stuff (energy bars, gels etc.) There was even a cooking demonstration and I was handed a whole bottle of chocolate milk at one of the booths. Not a sample. A whole bottle. I felt a little guilty because, honestly I tried most of it.

En La Meta, the local running store I try and support (when they have stuff in my size) had a booth and you know who was there? Super-Fit Girl! I don't think she remembered me though. I bought a couple of things:

The sport shield is for chafing. For a while now, I've been having issues in my... um, nipular area and it was about time I tried to do something about it. The gels... up to this point, I haven't used anything during my runs. Basically because I hadn't had a need for it. I guess my runs were too short to merit Gatorade or a fueling strategy during the run. However, during all the 6-mile runs I did for this race, I finished feeling very weak and parched which has got me thinking about what I can do to avoid this. There was a lady at the booth representing these gels (AccelGel) and she gave me the basics of in-flight fueling (I know that's not the correct term but that's what I'm reminded of) I told her I was essentially running out of gas at the very end of my long runs and she suggested I use a gel right in the middle of the race to help me finish stronger. I have no idea if I'm gonna use it. I know you shouldn't try anything new during a race but I also want to finish strong and you know I'm gonna run harder during the race so I'm kind of stumped on this one. Will accept suggestions. Either at the race, or on a later practice run, I will try these out and let you know how it goes.  

There was a lot of other interesting stuff and a whole weekend's worth of presentations and activities but after a little while I went back home for obvious reasons. Next stop: The World's Best 10K!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why I do this

So I did my last long run before my first 10K. Just two more runs this week and then, the race. Can you spell excited?

Anyway, posting this a bit later than usual because February is kind of a tough, albeit special month for me. You see, it's my daughter's birthday. Which daughter you asked? Well, all three of them. That's right, my three gorgeous girls were all born in February. They are not triplets mind you, but as fate would have it they were all born in the same month. Now, this presents a bit of a logistical problem since they are not only born in February, there's only three years between them so they are all (my) babies for all intents and purposes. So instead of tip-toeing around gifts and parties and hard feelings about who got what first, we just opted to go have a day out, have dinner and some fun with some friends and family and sing happy birthday to all three at the same time.

The youngest on the left (Angelica), the oldest, (Maria) in the middle and Veronica on the right.

The horns are part of the theme of the restaurant we were in, called "La Vaca Brava", (The Brave Cow) in this case the brave part means more like angry or mad, than brave. Whatever. Then of course, is the love of my life, here pictured with our youngest:

Needless to say, she has washed A LOT of sweaty dri-fit clothing this past year and has supported my insane idea to run a marathon without flinching or laughing one bit. She has also endured a lot with me these last two years. Our youngest, Angelica, was born prematurely for reasons we don't yet fully understand. She was suffering from respiratory problems (as premature babies often do) and a muscular condition that it's hard to explain. She would barely move. She was limp like she was a rag doll. She spent the first two months of her life in neonatal intensive care. For a very dark moment, I thought she was never gonna leave the NICU. 

But she did.

Her physical development has been slow and it has been a very tough two years filled with doctor's appointments and therapy and scary trips to the hospital but she has been my tough little warrior and today we have a beautiful little miracle. She loves her Mom and Dad and sisters. Hopefully, she will take her first steps very soon. To this day, we do not have a clear diagnosis or explanation of what happened but we have endured. And as these things often do, it has brought us together.

So what could this all possibly do with running? Well, taking pictures of my family during the birthday this weekend got me thinking about how important my family is to me and how much I want to be there for them. The whole reason I started running in the first place was because I wanted to see my daughters grow up. I wanted them to have an example they could follow and avoid the problems I had to go through because of my weight. I wanted them to be Disney fans. Something in which we have succeeded tremendously by the way. My daughters say they are all princesses. The oldest is Snow White, then in the middle we have Cinderella and the little one Aurora. They have also named my wife Belle, and while that technically makes me the Beast, I'm OK with that.

In the evenings, when I change to go running and go out the door, my daughters will ask me: "Daddy are you gonna go running?" and I answer in the positive. I guess we are doing all right.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Tale of Three Runs

So, I had a horrendous run last week, which I detailed in my last post. However, it did got me thinking about those too-fast starts I keep talking about so I think its time I did something about it. On Tuesday, I went for a run, extremely mindful of the first mile and making sure I didn't go under 15 minutes per mile. It was hard. When you begin a run, you have all this energy and you swear to yourself that you are going slow when actually you are channeling Meb Keflezighi. This is all relative of course. I mean, if 14 minute miles were any slower I would be going back in time but it makes a difference. So did it make a difference? Let's ask my friend Garmin. Here is the Epic Fail Run:

Avg Pace

So you see that first mile, me channeling Meb. Then by mile two, I'm already feeling it was not gonna work but I try to keep up the pace ( Meb had long left the building by then). The third mile I'm just thinking I can keep it up but I'm really just running at my normal pace (around the 16's) and then it just completely falls apart, including a totally dismal 17:41 in mile 4. But here are the 5 miles I did Tuesday:

Avg Pace

Now that's more like it! I was very careful to take it easy in the first mile and the result was that by mile two I was feeling great. With the exception of one little hiccup I managed to stay in the 15's the entire time. New territory for me. But it was on my latest long run this Sunday where I really surprised myself. I was invited once again to run with some friends at this great linear park I mentioned a while back.

I made it very clear that I'm a turtle and they should just go ahead and do their thing. Two of the guys run 5K's in the low twenties so I had no delusions of keeping up. We warmed up, stretched and took off.  Sure enough, they started leaving me behind. I was mindful of my new "start slow" mantra but when I checked the Garmin I was up to my old tricks. But a funny thing happened. When I start too fast or when I'm going faster than usual, I can feel it. It's a general sense of discomfort in my legs that lets me know I'm biting more than I can chew. As I tried to adjust my speed, I noticed I wasn't feeling anything of the sort. I was feeling pretty good actually. As my friends faded away in front of me I soldiered on, a bit faster than usual but careful.

Two miles in, I had found a nice groove and noticed one of the runners in our group was falling behind. I was gonna pass someone! Yay! By mile three we were at the beach and it was time to head back. I just couldn't believe I was feeling so good but I kept at it. It wasn't until the very end that I ran out of steam but by then, it was almost over.

Avg Pace

Can you believe these numbers?! Wow, I'm so happy. Of course, the course made all the difference. It's flat as a pancake so I had no hills to worry about and it made for a consistent pace. The fact that I managed to run the 5th mile in 15:19 is incredible to me. Flat course or not, I give myself a little credit here. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote 1:50:00 as a finish goal on the entry form for my upcoming 10K, secretly hoping for a 1:40:00 and here I am, 3 weeks from the race with a 1:31:00. If I come even close to that on race day I will be so happy! Here is are some parting shots of that last long run. The Coquí Runners, to whom I'm grateful for inviting me and the beautiful park which I love.

Bike lane on the left, runners on the right, a whole bunch of trees and the river. It's an awesome place to run.

Coquí Runners. The running team that invited me. Thanks guys!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

10K Take 1: Epic Fail

Wow, that was really bad. My last run I mean. There are no words. It was totally my fault and I know exactly where I went wrong but it still stings. Let's take a look:

First off, I missed a run this week. Not the best thing to do with a race so close but the weather did not cooperate. Now, missing a run does not account for a crappy run but it certainly doesn't help either. The big problems happened during the run.

I'm not gonna say I'm an experienced runner. Still many miles to grind to consider myself that. But as I close in on  my first year of continuous running, you would expect me to solve at least some basic issues. Issues like my unexplained tendency to blast off early. For the life of me I can't seem to slow down that first mile and a half. When I see my splits for most runs they are pretty even  except the first one or two. I will do 14 minutes for the first one then slow way down. The thing is, I can't tell the difference. When I took off today, I knew I was running six miles so I made a real effort to slow down. When I check the Garmin though, my pace was in the thirteens. What the...?! Try to slow down even more yet manage to finish the first mile at 14:23. 

Then it got really bad...

I'm a guy alright? We do stupid things. After failing at a proper slow down, I thought: "Well, why don't we try to keep up this pace the whole run?" Well, now thinking back, it was an idiotic idea. Long runs are supposed to be done at an easy pace. They are supposed to be done to build your endurance not your speed. All that valuable information seemed to have left my brain momentarily. And so I kept it up. Second mile: 15:48 (usually in the 16:30's) By then I was starting to feel the consequences of my actions and I just couldn't keep it up. The third mile I managed to do a "normal" 16:30 but that was it. It all collapsed from there. Had to stop. Later on I had to stop again. Then again. Miles 4,5 and 6 happened in the dismal 17's with mile 5 clocking at almost 18 minutes (lot of walking). 

I wanted to quit around mile 4. I felt terrible. During the last three miles, I basically walked whenever the road even hinted at being uphill. But I dug deep and managed to finish. Not my finest hour.  

Life goes on. As it has been my custom, I have to look at the positive here. First, I felt like quitting and didn't. Did the whole thing even if I walked some. Second, total time was 1:39:16. When I registered for the 10K and I was asked for an estimated finish time I put a conservative 1:50:00 thinking I could pull it off in 1:40:00. After this poor excuse for a run, I'm thinking that if I can even out my pace to something manageable, I might come under that. Totally doable I think and it actually involves slowing down some. We'll see how it goes.