Monday, February 22, 2010

Pasadena Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 7th Edition
214.3 miles raced in 2010

Race: Pasadena Marathon
Place: Pasadena, CA
Miles from home: 680 miles 
Weather: 50-60s; cool; partly cloudy; some rain

Very few marathons are nondescript, even if you have plodded through hundreds of them. Almost every one of them will leave a marked impression on you, regardless of the course, the people or anything really having to do with the race itself.  For me, the Pasadena Marathon will always be remembered by me as the one where I had to pee. Often.

Prior to the race I was able to meet up with my high school friend, Christy, who taped my speech at the expo in front of the crowd to be used for a DVD.  I was also very fortunate to see many friends and acquaintances, some who volunteered to be interviewed for the DVD.  One of the most memorable was Ginger, the 67-year old woman I first met at the Long Beach Marathon who is just a sparkplug and a testament to how well the body can be preserved when taken care of properly.  (She ran a 4:44 at Long Beach!)

I also got to spend a great deal of time with my host for the weekend, Tracy, who herself is running a marathon every month this year.  As much as I always appreciate the support of all my friends nationwide, there is a big difference between virtual support and someone actually giving you a ride to the start and driving you from the finish, with a Dr. Pepper in hand to quench your thirst (and also make fun of your not-so-stellar eating habits.)

A wonderfully busy week led up to the Pasadena Marathon and when the weather appeared to finally be in favor of the race for a change, I was ready to give it a run.  However, I had no idea what I wanted to run this race in a time of.  Should I push hard, should I take it very slow or what exactly?  My mileage has been a little down from what I was hoping it would be given my adding of an unexpected 50 miler in Florida last weekend.  As such, while I was thinking a nice 3:20ish pace would be good, I decided to make up for my lack of miles lately with a slightly harder pace.  Either way, somehow I missed a milestone with my last marathon and I was determined to make this, my 101st marathon since the start of 2006 (and 75th Sunday Marathon), one that if not at least memorable, would be at beneficial.

First 10k: 6:46, 7:15, 7:39, 7:25, 7:12, 7:12

 Arriving just mere minutes before the start (as planned and not at all in a rush) I meandered towards the front, saying hello to many of the runners I had met the previous day at the expo.  It was an interesting expo and as a runner and a "vendor" of sorts, I always see expos differently than most participants.  Regardless, I had met my typical amount of many good runners and just a few naysayers or doubters.  It is always fun to be told, when someone thinks that "See Dane Run" is not a book but an advertisement for something that I am planning on doing, that it is probably not healthy or possible.  I just smile and nod and keep to the philosophy I am sure I stole from someone wherein I say: "Pardon me if I can't hear you telling me I can't do something, as I am too busy over here doing it."

Entering the starting corral, I ran into Sam of Operation Jack for the 5th straight marathon of 2010.  If he weren't a good friend I would think he was stalking me.  Then again, attempting to run 60 marathons in one year means we will undoubtedly be crossing paths on many more occasions.  When the gun sounded after a playing of U2's "Beautiful Day" (there really are other songs out there to play other than this, Chariots of Fire, Rocky and I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas), Sam and I were off.  We ran together through the first mile and both lamented how we weren't really feeling all that awake.  Sometimes it can be difficult getting up, both figuratively and literally, for a marathon.  Hitting the first mile in 6:46, I told Sam there was no way I was running a 2:57 marathon today so I would have to catch up to him later.  He soon faded into the crowd in front of me as I found a more comfortable pace.

We ran through some beautiful sections of Pasadena past homes where I wanted to stop and ring their doorbell to ask what that person did as an occupation and whether that company was hiring.  Wow.

At the third mile, I realized I had to go to the bathroom very quickly.  I was happy to see a person come out of a bathroom at an aid station meaning that one in particular was guaranteed to be open and not much of a delay.  In I hopped and a few seconds later, out I was running again.  The weather was cool and overcast, but I knew I still had to keep taking in fluids, even if I was seemingly hydrated as I was already covered in a fine layer of sweat.

To the Half: 7:10, 7:19, 7:44, 7:08, 7:17, 7:43, 6:29 (1:35:10)

Earlier in the race, an incessant beeping came up from behind me slowly and steadily.  Soon appeared a chap with some sort of device that he was using to keep his pace or track his time or what have you.  Within about 50 yards I was already sick of this noise and made an effort to slow my pace a little bit and let him go ahead.  However, as we approached the 7th mile, I had closed the gap between us and the Incredible Beeping Man was now right in front of me.  Using a downhill to really turn up my pace, I did what I could to put even more space between us.  Right before mile 8, the half-marathoners turned off from the marathoners and I prayed he was doing just the 13.1 miles today.

Suddenly, at mile 8, the need to go to the bathroom hit again.  As we were in a secluded area and there was virtually no one around me, I ran off the road, ducked behind a tree and soon felt much better.  Running around the perimeter of a golf course, runners were treated to a nice cool temperature and occasionally just a smattering of misty rain.  As the leaders came back at us having made their turn around, the sun broke out of the sky here and there.  I began searching for the inevitable rainbow and soon spotted one after turning the corner and putting the sunrise behind me (science lesson, kids: You can only see a rainbow with the sun behind you!)

At the turn-around I saw Sam was just a few yards in front of me and we exchanged greetings.  Soon it was just me and Sam running pretty much solo about 30 yards apart as we headed back towards where the half-marathoners had split.  The one great part of this course was seeing all the marathoners behind use coming in bigger and bigger groups and shouting and receiving encouragement.  The other great part: no Beeping Man!  YAY!

To Mile 20:14:54, 13:59, 7:44, 7:20, 7:01

Right before the half-way point the marathoners rejoined the half-marathoners.  This glut of runners became quite annoying as marathoners running a 7:15 pace came up the back of half-marathoners running a 11:55 pace.  While the entire road was closed for runners, having a group of much slower runners clogging an entire road makes for both a mentally and physically exhausting jog for those running much faster.  Throw in the fact that this section went up a rather steep hill and the annoyance level is increased.  You cannot really blame the runners (well, to some extent, yes you can - be aware of your surroundings) but one must simply deal with what is in front of them and not let it bother you too much.  In fact, passing so many runners is often a mental boost and allows you to suck in the energy of the runners you pass and focus on those in front of you.

I had completly lost Sam in this crowd and did not realize until later that I had passed him when he mentioned he saw me go by on the far right when he had been on the far left.  Perhaps I had not seen him as I was more than impressed that a barefoot runner was cruising along in front of me.  He had passed me around mile 9 and had completely left me in his dust.  But here, just yards after the half-marathoners slit and went to the right and the road became empty again save the few marathoners in front of me, I saw him again as he emerged from a porta-potty.  Speaking of which, my bladder said, you need to use that right now. Seriously?  In I went.  Three times in 15 miles.  Oy.

I have always employed mental techniques to help me get through the marathon, most of which I share with my pacees when I am the 3:10 pace group leader.  For this race, I decided to break the race down into portions which coincided with the aid stations at last week's 50 mile race.  Mile 15 for me was the aid station after the turn-around on the far end of one loop of the 50 miler and I saw it as such.  After this point there were only two more "aid stations" to think about before I hit the last mile of the course: one in five miles and then another in four.

I actually began to feel good for the first time in the race just after the halfway point.  I rode that high for three miles and then felt a slight sag in energy until I hit mile 17.  Here we once again joined half-marathoners again and once again I had to swerve around more than a few.  Heading down a hill right before mile 18, I once again felt the need to use the bathroom.  It was now becoming quite a joke and now I was wondering how many more times this was going to happen.  When we once again peeled off from the half-marathoners, I remembered we were approaching the last two hills of the race.

Until this point, we had already experienced a fair amount of up and down throughout the race and I recalled from the elevation profile we had one, possibly two more hills in store (my brain doesn't work that well in the mornings, or even less so than it normally does and therefore I couldn't remember exactly how many more we had in store for us.)

We made a 90 degree turn after seeing the leader runners coming back at us and at first I thought this spared us from a steep hill in the distance.  Unfortunately, this right angle turn only had us taking on an even bigger hill leading to mile 20.  This did, however, allow me to see some of the runners who were a few minutes in front of us for the first time in quite some time.  I saw a gentleman, Rudy, who I have become friends with at many races recently cruising along and looking strong as an ox.  I soon crested the hill, made the turn around and myself was running down the hill.

To the finish: 6:56, 7:21, 7:00, 7:32, 8:17, 6:37 1:34

I felt great coming down the hill and this is where I saw I had passed Sam as he appeared chugging up the hill I had just finished.  I began passing runners now who had either gone out too fast or who were paying the price of challenging the hills.  I was running pretty steady pace and was glad I had backed off earlier.  I was, without a doubt, still feeling the effects of my 50 mile personal best a week before.

We made another right angle turn and here was the last hill of the course - the one I thought we had avoided previously.  As tough as it was, I climbed it very well, passing more and more runners in the process.  On the downhill portion, I came up to and passed the barefoot runner who had hopped off of the asphalt and was running in the grass medium.  I cannot imagine that running on pavement this entire way felt that great.  His earlier paced had slacked and I soon was behind him as well.  Mile 22 passed and mile 23 as well.  I was feeling pretty great.

When I hit the 24th mile, a thought I had all day was proven correct.  The mile markers (which, to those not in the know, do NOT need to be certified - just the course does) were definitely off in certain places.  I most assuredly did not run back to back miles on a flat portion of 8:17 and 6:37.  This is something that definitely needs to be addressed.  Runner should definitely be happy that there are mile markers even out there but if they are going to be out there, one hopes they are fairly accurate.

But even before this, I made my final pitstop to water someone's plants.  It was, by this time, quite ridiculous.  If I recall, however, it does not equal the number of times I had to make such stops at the Ocala Marathon where I spent half of the race in the bushes. The body is a funny thing!

As I came down the final stretch, I was happy to be done.  The race announcer told the crowd I was the one who had embarked on the 52 Marathon quest and who was going to take on a 204 mile challenge and I received a hearty reply.

I finished the race within the Boston Qualifying standard for myself and got a nice little 3;10:40 training run out of the way.  Even when you don't necessarily feel like having a good run, there is no bad marathon where you finish upright.  Sam came in a few minutes later with his own BQ and another race in the books.

He too expressed his sentiments of "another one done" and we went off to the recovery tables.  Somehow, I was thirsty.


Rhea said...

Thanks for the great race report -- you could have stopped at our house near Mile 18 to go to the bathroom!

Sam Felsenfeld said...

I can't believe how much you pee! I've only peed once in a marathon, my first. Good seeing you, as always. Nice picture of my better side!

Heath Johnson said...

Great commentary Dane, and quite comical. You had a very good time considering all your pitstops, but more importantly it appears you enjoyed yourself regardless of everything. In my opinion the clock can be important, but enjoying the experience is all the more important.