Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tucson Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 3; 22nd Edition
516.1 miles raced in 2008
Race: Tucson Marathon
Place: Tucson, AZ
Miles from home: 772 miles
Weather: 50s; cloudy

* As Always, check back for pictures to come.

I made it no secret that I was going for a large personal best at the Tucson Marathon. (I wanted a 2:45.)
I am also aware that many felt there was no way on God's green Earth I was going to do that on this particular day.

Well let's end the suspense right here: I did not get that 2:45. In fact, my actual goal of 2:49 also was not obtained by me at the race. The only thing left to salvage this weekend (race-wise) was whether I would set a personal best at all. Come join me.

Setting the Stage:

I was well aware that I might have been biting off more than I could chew with an attempt to run a personal best at Tucson. Forgetting a rather stressful personal year and the 14 other marathons I had ran this year, was the double combo of pacing the 3:10 group in Seattle just one week earlier, and a ridiculously early wake-up call just to make my plane on Saturday. However, I knew that Tucson's course had some features that suited me and I felt I might as well give it a try.

Before it was time to race, I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at the pre-race pasta dinner. Even though I had to be up at 5 am to get to Tucson, flight layovers and traveling only put me at the expo/pasta dinner place a little after 3 PM. With a scheduled speech time of 5:30, I set up shop at the expo, signed a few autographs on the flyers publicizing my book, See Dane Run, and made contact with a few new friends. I also was fortunate to sit next to the El Paso Marathon booth and there is a possibility I will be running and speaking there next March. So if you are out in the west Texas town of El Paso (thank you Marty Robbins) let them know you want me there!

The pasta dinner speech was one of my favorites yet. The dinner recipients were warm and friendly. Many questions were asked and lots of laughs shared. I had the privilege to meet even more old friends and make new ones as well.

It was pretty amazing that there was even a young woman there who was only racing in her second race EVER and it was a marathon. (Yes, Tammy, I am talking about you and your 4:04 finish! You beat my first marathon time by 8 minutes!)

Many other stories, far too many to recount here, kept me smiling as well. I left the Hilton with plenty of good feelings in my heart.

Race Day:

Like the day before, but even worse, I began my day by being awake FAR before the sun made its first arrival. By grabbing a cheap hotel in South Tucson, I made it almost a guarantee that I would have very little sleep. You see, the race began north of Tucson, was a point-to-point race which required a bus to the start and a loading time of 5:00 AM for the 7:30 AM start. So yep, I was up at 3:34 AM. *shudder*.

I mentioned features that made the course suited to my talents and the main thing that suited me was Tucson's downhill running. Below is the profile.

At first blush, like any profile that looks like you could put wheels on your shoes and coast right down, I knew there is always more to the story. Consulting with friends who had run the race, reports on the net and sundry places to find running info, I was aware of plenty of risers throughout. You see, yes, there is over 2200 feet of down in this race but there is also close to 600 feet of up and some of it in the worst places. Let us begin.

First 6 miles:

I knew this race would be divided into three separate section. The portion of mostly downhill from the beginning to the 10 mile mark would be the first. With a desire to get a 2:45:59, I would have to run an average of 6:20 minute miles. This is a nice even number for figuring purposes because every three miles equals 19 minutes. So when I hit the first 6 in exactly 38 minutes I knew I was dead on. I simply had to do the exact same thing for the next 4 miles until I hit section 2.

As I accidentally deleted my splits, I am going by my memory for the mile times, but I am usually pretty accurate in my recall. It is also easy to do so when at 9 miles I was at exactly 56 minutes! One mile later, I was sitting pretty at a 1:03:30.

The Biosphere 2 Section:

I had been warned about this rolling hill section and I was so glad I had been. An out and back of roughly 2 miles in each direction, with the turnaround near the Biosphere 2 research site is what awaited us.

On the 2 miles out, I lost nearly a total minute off of my pacing, half from the hills, half from me intentionally slowing to save myself. But after only losing another 10 seconds heading back to the main highway, I was feeling pretty good.

Third section: The Highway to the Finish:

Miles 14-24 average about 700 feet of downhill per miles. This sounds like a nice gentle downhill which a donwhiller like myself can really take advantage of and for the most part that is true. However, there was just enough incline here and there to throw off such a runner. That said, I was still routinely running the pace that I needed to mile after mile.

The weather could not have cooperated more with a mostly cloudy sky and a temp that kept the sweat from accumulating too much (the desert dryness helped too!) I simply wanted to get to mile 20 feeling as good as I did and knew I could run 6:40s and go sub 2:50. However, right at mile 20, the race changed. A barely perceptible uphill began here and time began to slip away. I knew that there was a hill a mile 24 and what I most assuredly did not need was to LOSE time before that hill.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. At mile 23, I ran my first 7 minute mile of the day and a sub 2:50 was more or less gone. The lead woman passed me right here and this was the first time I had been passed since nearly the beginning of the race. I wanted to see if I could stay with her and use her energy. But she steadily pulled away. In between half-marathoner nearing the finish, I could see her weave and bob up ahead (she would eventually run a 2:50:12 so even if I had stayed with her I would not have broken into the 2:40s.)

The last thing I had to grasp for was a new personal best. But to be 100% honest, I did not care at this point to do so. I knew that if I did, it would be by mere seconds and it just did not matter to me. Plus, every single time I tried to push just a little bit, I felt like I might be bringing some of the contents of my stomach. So, I just kept running. A runner passed me with about half a mile to go and I had no answer for him.

I could see the finish line ahead and the clock ticking away. All of a sudden the competitive juices began to flow. I picked up the pace the best I could, pushing forward all the way through to the finish line arch of balloons. I passed under the arch, immediately doubled over, feeling like I was going to vomit.

This feeling passed just a few seconds later and as the announcer told the crowd about my 52 Marathons I waved and was quite happy I hadn't spilled my guts. Then I remembered my time! I quickly clicked my watch but did not know how long ago I crossed the line. When my results were not posted immediately with others I went to the race results people. Apparently, my chip had not registered anywhere on the course.

Oh. My. God.

But before I could have a heart attack, they told me they would check the back-up mats. Sure enough, my time DID register. 2:51:40. That makes it a one second personal best. Wow. Now that is close.

After grabbing a quick shower, I returned to the finish line. The sting over missing my goals was quickly lost as person after person I had just met or who I knew for sometime, crossed the finish line. Smiles, hugs, and handshakes were abound.

Not a bad day in Arizona.


BenB said...

Dang Dane. My PR is 3:34. That's pretty impressive, and good job busting a gut.

Yellow Scuba said...

Congratulations, Dane! A PR is a PR, no matter the size! I'm sure glad there was a back-up system.

Alan said...

Nice job "gutting" it out at the end.
What a sick feeling to hear that your chip wasn't picked up- glad it was straightened out.

Nuke Runner said...

Congratulations on the PR. Now have twice as much time to make up on you ;)

Reese said...

Nice job, nice meeting you and talking to you briefly.

Elyse said...

A one second pr or even equaling your pr is awesome! Great job Dane!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the PR! Glad you didn't puke, and Thank God for the backup timing mat! :)

Sahara said...

I can't believe your chip didn't register. Didn't you have problems with your chip in the 12hr race in SF? What the..? Well thank the chip gods there was a back-up mat. Congrats on the new PR!

Mark Newman said...

Great job on the personal best and for the inspiration as always.

1L said...

Congrats on another fine race, Dane, and with a PR to boot!

However, next year, I want you to promise that at least for one race you will try a cut-back approach, and actually run a bit slower in the first half than in the second half. With your strength both mentally and physically, I know this will work for you and bring that 2:40- something time. Have a great holiday season, and hopefully our paths will cross next year.

Dane said...


Very kind of you to say!


You and me both,


It was but made up for by the PR!


Well get to training and kick my butt!


The feeling is mutual.


you nailed it!


I think he spectators were glad as well!


Chips did not like me this year!


I try my best.


I will file this under "information from friends who think they know me better than I know myself". ;)

However, I will let you know that n Tucson I actually held back quite a bit on those first hills.

1L said...

;) Ye of little faith - just filling in for Charlie.

Laura said...

Congratulations, Dane! When I started reading your report, I thought you were going to do terribly... but you PRed!!! Can't complain about that :)