Chicago Marathon 2018 recap

I was so incredibly burned out after IM Santa Rosa that I had no desire to get on the bike any time soon. I tried to pick it back up for a few weeks, but it was not working at all. Thankfully, I can fall back on running. My colleague got me a spot in the Chi-town marathon and it was just what I needed. The simplicity of the running training is so captivating... It just felt right. I started training in early July.

Of course, life interferes. Injuries crept up out of nowhere. Bumped the left knee accidentally, pulled the right right hammy playing ball with my pointer dog... stuff like this just kept coming up. Nonetheless, I put in about 14 weeks of good to great training, averaging about 45 miles per week. No week had more than 55 miles in it. I focused on easy mileage to help with the injuries, but every other week I'd throw in a bit of tempo running. The longest run logged was about 18 miles.

All in all. I felt ready.

Pre-race

Got into Chicago on Friday night. It was pissing rain with thunderstorms when we were landing. I had to walk to the hotel from the train station in a pitch dark humid wall of sparse water. Felt very ritualistic. Got to the hotel, has a simple dinner with a sandwich and some salad and a glass of beer.



Got to the room, and feel asleep very quickly.

Got up the next morning at around 8am local time, had some coffee and went for a run. Rosemont does not have a ton of exciting options in terms of running routes,  but I used the opportunity to discover the places to grab some food and just get some basics. I brought my Hoka Claytons with me and since they are about 1/2 size too small, I was worried about the effects of humidity... but the feet felt good. Neither the left knee or the right hammy bugged me.

I got to the hotel, changed, showered, ate some breakfast and headed to the Expo. The ride was pretty simple, although the connection to the other line was as confusing as they come (many tunnels to walk through, lots of escalators/etc). I met a fellow out of town runner on the train who was also trying to get to the expo from my station... he was going for the top 20 in his M60-64 age group. We got to the expo while chatting about the strategies for tomorrow and then went our separate ways.


The expo was very well organized, and I got my bib in no time. The only odd thing was the goodie bag station located in the back of the hall. That forced you to walk through the vendor village twice - which I guess worked, since I bought a pair of Vaporflys at the Nike's area.


Sampled some gels, skipped the beer bus, also grabbed some BioFreeze samples and headed out. Was back in Rosemont by noon. When I got off the train, the drizzle was back on and it sure did not look like it was going to end any time soon. I stopped by the 7-Eleven, grabbed some peanut butter/bread/Gatorade/bananas and on the way back got some Chicken Parm sandwich from a local restaurant. Stayed in the room the rest of the day, stretched and watched college football. Got a call from the team I was on at around 7:30pm - the lady told me that I had forgotten to pick up my hospitality tent pass at the expo. I was totally dumbfounded as I thought that the sticker on bib would work as a pass but I guess I was wrong. I told her that I would pick it up on the way to the starting line from a hotel near the Grant Park. Was in bed by 9pm, but hardly slept.

The Race Morning

Got up at 4am and had coffee and 2 slices of bread with peanut butter and bananas. Headed out at 5am to get on the 5:15 train. The platform was pretty tightly packed with the other runners and their entourage. It was still drizzling and the air was fairly cold with high humidity. The train ride went quick, although I kind of struggled to stay warm. Got off at Jackson with the rest of the runners who by that time had packed the train. It was raining a bit harder in the downtown area and the wind was pretty strong too. Got to the Congress entrance to the park at 6:20am and at that point decided not to risk it and skipped the pass pickup.

Got through the security checkpoints, dropped off my gear bag, hit the portapotties a couple of times. By that time it was 6:55am and I had realized that I was not at the right wave entrance - I was located by the wave G entrance and yet had to get to the wave B. That turned out to be a fairly difficult task as one had to cross a narrow passage that separated the wave D and E corrals to get to the A/B entrance which was off to the side. I did not get there until 7:15am which was 5 minutes prior to the cutoff time. Phew.

The corral space was pretty packed. I positioned myself a bit to the side, and stretched a little more. Finished my Gatorade, sneaked a quick pee into the bottle, disposed of my throwaway hoodie, applied the last layer of Vaseline to the chest and the privates... and we were off to the races.

The Run itself

The goal was basically to run by feel with the general target of anywhere between 3:00 and 3:15. The pace out of the gate was roughly in the 6:55 min/mileish range, which was a little bit too fast for my fitness level but I decided to give it a whirl and see how I'd feel after 10 miles. The first 2-3 miles were basically all through the downtown area with the tall buildings messing with the GPS signal. I was hitting the lap button every time I'd cross the mile marker. The drizzle was on and off but the air was pretty warm, so running in a singlet was not an issue at all.

One thing about this course was the crazy number of turns one has to make. Thankfully the organizers painted a consistent blue line that was a huge help with taking the right tangents. I mostly followed it to the finish line and managed to clock about 26.3 miles which is a really really good result.

We headed out over the bridge and then descended into some sort of a subterranean garage/road, running through a tunnel for a little bit. Then we re-entered the world of the living again! The  next 4 miles or so were all through the downtown area, pretty tightly packed with the crowds doing the LOUD cheering. By mile 5 we were in Lincoln Park and running through the faithful imitations of the great London parks. The drizzle turned into rain and crowds have thinned out quite a bit. What was bugging me was the humidity. It was so high that my running headphones were swimming in the liquid in my earholes and either I would hear the music that sounded like it was coming from a pack of dolphins or at times it'd seem like it was being played through some severe wah wah pedal distortion. By the end of the run I could not hear anything and it was really messing with the running rhythm, so I turned the music off.

By mile 7 were running north along the shore and it was also pretty packed with supporters. Had my 1st gel and felt pretty good. I was trying to draft as much as possible since the wind had picked up considerably. Miles 10 and 11 were through what looked like a typical mid-Western town's business district stretching for blocks and blocks with little to see. I started to feel a little bit more fatigued and by mile 12 I got caught by the 3:05 pacer group. I ran with them for about a mile and then decided to give this one more go... and picked up the pace.

However, this turned out to be a bad move. I downed some more gel but the speed was slowly dropping. By mile 16 the 3:05 group reconnected with with me and I got dropped. Right then I knew that a 3:05 was not in cards that day. The rain would start and stop, and the scenery that we were moving through was pretty drab... just your typical non-descript suburbia. We ran along some freeway for a while and then turned into Chinatown - which was fun and had some nice decorations along the water stations, but also with  long stretches of totally gloomy streets... basically the butt end of the course.  Had 1 more gel but from the mile 23 I REALLY slowed down and was just hoping to come in under 3:10. Once we turned left on Indiana avenue, the surroundings got brighter and much more festive, with the crowds visible again and cheering loudly. I was focusing on the steady breathing and the miles started rolling by a bit quicker. Eventually we got to the last right turn of the course and cut back into the park - where we hit one real incline of the course (kind of a joke, but still). Hit the finish line... could not even sprint! The official finish time ended up being 3:08:28. The Garmin data is here.


Post run

Had to walk about 5 blocks until I got back to the entry point to the gear check. Got some grub, and a special 26.2 edition Goose Island IPA beer.


The finishers looked pretty rough, lots of people barely able to walk, someone would barf randomly here and there... the organizers had lots volunteers on hand to help, so things were moving smoothly. Got to my gear bag, changed, walked to the train station, got on the train... it was pretty painful, and the ride back seemed to take forever. The walk back to the hotel was not super pleasant either, but at least I moving a bit better... Got to the room, showered, headed out and grabbed some McDonalds and some beer from a liquor store, went back to the room... watched the NFL the rest of the day.

On the way the next day the airport was full of zombie-like runners, carrying all kinds of swag. I chatted with a few of them, commiserated and/or praised their results depending... all good. By the way, every bathroom at the O'Hare airport carries this sign 😀

The main takeaway from this race - do not go out fast. The course feels easy but with the landscape being so flat you can never cruise on a downhill - it is basically a track race. In a race like the Los Angeles marathon you can actually try to bank some time up front because the last 4 miles or so are downhill and you can cruise down while using the muscle groups that haven't been utilized all that much ie as fatigued. In Chicago you don't a chance to clear the lactic acid and the fatigue can get you if you exceed your fitness, with the wheels coming off suddenly. I'd like to go back and re-do this race one more time - with the right strategy, I can probably get closer to the 3:03 mark... have to do it right.

Ironman Santa Rosa 2018 recap

I signed up for IMSR 2018 after receiving an assurance from the wife that she'd be able to go there with me. Of course, then the circumstances changed and it became a solo trip. I had a place to stay in Santa Rosa with my friends Cynthia and Shawn, so I was all set.

The training spanned January through early May with a break for Oceanside 70.3 and a business trip that followed it. I changed up a couple of things this time around. I put a heavy emphasis on structured training 2x a week via Zwift's 12 week FTP builder program. I also bought a Vasa ERG system on the cheap over the winter break and started utilizing it for 3 sessions a week + 1 longer session in the pool. I really felt strong in the pool towards the beginning on May - I was able to do 10x100 yards at 1:30 and so on. The bike did not progress as well as hoped - I felt that I just did not push it hard enough. Still with a few peak weeks at 15 hours plus I was hopeful that this might get me closer to KQ.

Pre-race

I had to travel for work right after Oceanside, and so I trained very little that week. I got back into town, put a few 15 hour weeks, and after predictably got a head cold. I could not shake it off, so the week before the race was my downtime, save for a few minor workouts. As of Wednesday, my snottiness started to go away, but I still felt that my airwaves were not 100% clear even the morning of the race.

Got into town on Thursday afternoon. Stopped by the race venue, got my athlete bag and headed over to my friend's house. Got some "athlete's" food en-route - bread, peanut butter, bananas, cheese, turkey, mini-starbucks espresso cans, Gatorade, etc. Got my race bags sorted out, hung out with the hosts, went to bed early, slept some solid 9 hours...

Woke up and did my usual pre-check routine. Went for a short ride around Fulton Rd... not without some wild stuff happening. I picked Wood Rd as a rougher part of the course, and coming out of it - hit a gravel patch and almost skidded into the busy traffic on Fulton. Got home safe, but the wind and the roughness of the road was no joke. Made me worried enough about Saturday. The run was fine although it was getting pretty warm by the time I got back.



The nutrition plan for the bike was 2x bottles each with 3x servings of Infinit custom mix with 276 kcals per servings, 4x Clif shot gels on the frame, water at the aid stations, and a frozen mini-Coke can in the special needs bag. The run as always was going to Cola + water taken as needed. The rest of the day was spent shuttling the bike, dropping the run gear, hydrating, sweating the windy sunset... went to bed at 9:30pm, slept again like a baby.

Race day

Got up at 2:45am, had 2 slices of bread with peanut butter and syrup, a banana and a real cup of Cuban coffee (major crack if you ask me!). Grabbed my frozen drinks and headed out. Parked by 4am at the Macy's parking lot, and was on the shuttle by 4:10am.

I was at the T1 by 5am. It was still dark, but there was plenty of lights. Set up my bottles and my gels on the bike frame, proceeded to pump the tires... the rear tube exploded when I pushed the pump head down on it too hard. Replaced it with a spare latex tube I had with me, and was all set.



Headed down to the swim start at 6:15am and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make my way to the right self seeding corral - unlike the last year's 70.3 where I was stuck with no hope of moving up. I lined up in the middle of the 1:10 swim group and waited for the start. Had another Clif shot gel with caffeine, sipped some Gatorade, onward into the battle!  The volunteers were letting 5 folks into the water at a time, so it took about 12 mins for me to start swimming.

Swim

The course consisted of 2 laps, with an exit and re-entry at the end of the 1st lap. Seemed like each lap was exactly the same as the the lap of the 70.3 last year. The water was quite warm this time around - to the point where I thought that I could have swam in a sleeveless suit.The first lap was totally unremarkable, although with lots of contact for some reason around the turn markers - the sighting was easy with the exception of the first few hundred yards that were directly into the sun. I was riding the feet the entire way so the effort was pretty minimal. We got back into the water and I continued to draft about half way into the 2nd lap until someone whacked me on the left foot and somehow dislodged the timing chip. I could feel the velcro strap dangling, so I had to stop, roll up the ankle sleeve, close the velcro the best I could in the water (it is awkward!) and continue the swim. It was a bit harder without anyone to draft off of and I had to do my own sighting. Came out of the water a bit winded probably due to the water being warm - swim time 01:20:02. GPX here.

T1

The organizers have laid a long rubberized carpet up the ramp this time around, so I ran up the hill with no problem - although it was as steep as it was last year. Took the wetsuit down to the waist and had the strippers pull it off under the bridge. The velcro strap was loose still, so I retightened it and proceeded to the changing tent. A quick change - helmet on, throwaway socks on, shoes on, wetsuit and goggles into the bag... I had a disposable riding vest I brought with me just in case it was going to be cold - I put it on initially but dropped it before the exit from T1 - it was already WARM. T1 time was 07:19

Bike

The course started with a fairly long descent into the Dry Creek area and generally followed the 70.3 course from last year for a while. Then it switched to the old Vineman course which took us to the Chalk Hill area. The road quality was ranging from ok to poor. The 128 stretch was very jarring, and the supposedly resurfaced Chalk Hill part had some truly dangerous potholes in the shaded areas. The first climb went ok, although the road was partially blocked by a truck that somehow got stuck there at the most inopportune time. I had to descend carefully with all the holes in the road surface. It just got worse after we passed Shiloh Road - the Mark West Station area was unbelievably bad and there I had the bottle holding my spare kit pop out. Luckily the rubber band area held up and only had to fish it out from the ditch. Later I have discovered that the plastic part of the bottle cage that holds the bottle secure came loose and got lost somewhere along the way. About 5 miles down the road on Eastside or Wohler I ran across the section that had a huge lip in it - which forced me into the opposite lane... had to do some Sagan level shit to avoid getting hit by an oncoming car.



Then it got hot and dry all a sudden and it was 10 miles to go to the next aid station... and I was running out of water. The stretch of Westside road had all the rollers in the world and I was just getting hotter and hotter... and so I think that that's where I cracked. Really made me regret using Giro Aerohead on that day - it is a hot helmet in conditions like this. I made it to the aid station on Kinley but I think that the race was over by then. It was the mile 56 or so and all I wanted and I dreamt of was the frozen Coke in my special needs bag. I made it there after climbing what would have been normally a piss ant sized hill... took in half of he can contents and suddenly my nose and my throat and my eyes were on fire and just blowing snot. Crazy stuff. The 2nd pass over the 128 was painful and I stopped looking at the power readings - in my mind I was no longer racing, I just wanted to get home. I made it over Chalk Hill again, it was a relief to climb out of the saddle for a bit, I knew it was going to make my run slower, but I could not care less at that point. I passed the lap marker on Shiloh and we turned towards Santa Rosa... and the wind suddenly picked up. I was getting blown all over the road, Laughlin Road which I have ridden a bunch in the past was suddenly this obstacle course of the blown up riders, Woolsey Road was even worse - I saw riders swerving all over the road... and the road quality was just abysmal in some spots.

Eventually I made it back into town, with the last 10 miles being a total blur. I was focused enough to get my feet out of the shoes before the finish line and do a decent sprint along the bike racks. Bike time was 6:01:08. GPX here.

T2

I got to the changing tent, all I had to do was get the helmet off, drop the bike socks and put the running socks/shoes on.  For a minute, I sat there thinking - what's the point? I am not racing anymore, why suffer? Then I talked myself into running 1 lap, to see how it feels... maybe the inspiration will come. I put on my running belt and a hat and headed out.  The T2 time was 04:50

Run

Basically - jogged the whole thing. Stopped by the porta potties twice. Walked most of the water stations after mile 14. Had Cola and water judiciously, even sampled the red Bull (yikes) every  now and then. My friend Cynthia saw me at mile 17, I hugged her and her kid, she told me to to push through this, that gave me a good moral boost, so I snapped out of it and did not just walk the last 5 miles.Ran the final 2 miles fairly hard to wrap this up - run time 3:52:23, for the total time of 11:25:42.  As an aside, the course looked a little short, perhaps about 0.5 miles off.  GPX here.

Post race

Got my medal, my hat, a space blanket... tried eating some grub but had no appetite whatsoever. Not
even for free beer or spicy Spanish food. Just nothing, total self negation, everything running on empty,
maybe that's just the way it was meant to be - the cleansing of the soul, of the mind.

Collected my gear, walked to the car, loaded everything in, the brain was not working, to the point of
not knowing how to pay for parking. Drove back to my hosts' place, showered, was treated to sushi,
beer and a fantastic conversation on the future of the human race... somewhere along the way I crashed
and did not wake up til the mid morning the next day. Still, dreams crushed once again. Til the
next time - of course.


Oceanside 70.3 2018 recap


I started structured training again during the first week of January of 2018. For this year, I wanted to focus on improving my swim as much as possible and raising my bike FTP to be as close to 4w/kg as possible. For the swim portion, I found a used Vasa ERG on Craigslist and bought it for cheap, despite the grumbling of my dear wife. For the bike, I have decided to commit to Zwift’s 12 week FTP booster program and do at least 3 exercises weekly, coupled with a long ride at the end of the week. Running was to be capped at no more than 35 miles per week to make room for Vasa training and more stationary trainer work.

The Vasa stuff was a real struggle in the beginning. I simply did not have the right muscles to pull off 30-35 min intervals workouts when I started. It was genuinely hard. But once I got going, I started to appreciate the focus that it gives you and the incredible time savings that it provides. The Zwift training was much easier to get going with but eventually it got hard enough that I could do maybe 2 hard workouts per week – which meant that I had to supplement it with maybe 1 easy 1-hour spin and a long ride over the weekend.

In any case, once I started my fitness testing in the pool, I really liked the results. The improvement in swim times was noticeable. On the Zwift front, I also bested every single PR from the last 2 years, not by much – but by 3-4% easily across the board. The FTP test done in the beginning of the month did not show the improvement I was hoping for but I did hit 274w which was still a reasonable progress.

So with that in mind my goals for the race were to swim a 35-36 min pace, ride in 2:40 or so and then hold on for the dear life on the run, hoping for a sub 1:30 showing. That’d give me a sub 5 hour result that I was after, assuming that I’d not commit a horrible blunder in transitions. One thing that worried me greatly was the lack of familiarity with the bike course – the map showed a very varied rolling terrain with a couple of massive hills, and some exposure to head winds in the last 10-12 miles.  I spent a bit of time wondering if I should bring a cassette with a less tight of a range than my usual 11-25. At the end I decided to stick with what I knew.

I drove to Oceanside from Los Angeles on Friday morning. Got there at around 1pm, found a good parking spot near the beach and went to pick up my registration packet. After some confusion, got my parking permit for the race day, grabbed my swag and went back to the car. Put the stickers on the bike and the helmet, and pedaled about 0.8 miles to the transition area. Everything seemed to be working good. Checked the bike in with the handlebars covered by a plastic bag in case it rained… and walked to the water. The water was definitely a bit on the colder side, but like daggers cold.  The little kids on the beach were swimming in the surf, so it was probably not bad at all. I really regretted not brining the wetsuit to the beach with me – a short swim past the breakers would have been awesome. Oh well. Walked back to the car, and headed to the hotel in Carlsbad.

The traffic was just terrible! This was as vicious as any day time 5pm traffic on the 405. Took me 47 minutes to go 11 miles… craziness. Checked in the Hamptons, had to change rooms after realizing that the hotel staff put me into the room next to the ice machine and with a pool facing side wall. Prepped the clothes for the morning, watched TV, ate my rice and tuna dinner


and attempted sleeping at 9pm. Had trouble falling asleep, but eventually I dozed off only to be rudely awakened by the alarm clock at 3:30am. Ate a Clif bar, a banana, about 2 handfuls of mixed raw cashews and almonds and a small can of Starbucks double espresso shot. That felt good, although I was not 100% awake. Hit the can, lubed up, put on my bike clothes and headed out.

I debated back and forth the time I needed to be parked by… but having been unfamiliar with the parking situation I opted for caution and got there by 5am. Got on the shuttle almost immediately although I could have just walked that 0.6 miles. Was at the T1 by 5:15am. It was dark but fairly warm. The transition was starting to fill up slowly… that pre-race nervous energy was very evident. That’s the time to feel alive! Pumped the tires to about 90 psi, had another Clif bar, more lube and sunscreen, put on my wetsuit, dropped off the morning clothes bag, went for a warm up jog… by the time I got done it was 6:20pm and I had to push my way to the 35 min swim group.  It was packed!  By the time I got there the pros had already gone off and the age groupers in the faster groups have started swimming as well.

Had a final caffeine packed GU gel and was in the water by 7:10am. The swim was a little congested in the beginning, lots of contact, but it was pretty orderly all thing considered. I got out of the harbor quite fast and the sun was just blasting me into my eyes…. There were so many people swimming in that confined space that I had no use for sighting at all – the feet to follow were everywhere. I got to the turn around and felt so fresh that I actually did not start kicking until around the 0.6 mile marker. The swim was basically into the sun, so breathing was to the right only which was fine – once inside the harbor I wanted to swim as far to the right as the life guards would allow me. It was actually great – zero contact, and super easy to sight off of. Soon enough the finish chute appeared, and I swam up to the timing mat! The watch was showing about 36:30 which was ok by me. I got out of the water and started running into T1. The heart rate was totally manageable.

I pulled my wetsuit down to my waist, but then I saw the strippers! Boom – my wetsuit got pulled off and I was on my way to my bike! Fantastic! Everything was going awesome – found my bike, put on my helmet, socks and shoes and started running towards the starting line. Then I have heard the announcer stating that the bib number has to be on to ride through Camp Pendleton as I was half way out…. I had to leave my bike with a volunteer in the transition, run back to my spot… for some reason finding my way back was very confusing – it took me at least a minute to find my spot, get my racing belt… another 30 seconds to put it on, make sure it is not twisted, find my bike… 2 minutes lost there. I was kicking myself for not paying attention to the athlete guide. Dumb move, Shterenberg!

Started riding and was feeling good again. The nutrition consisted primarily of 3 servings of Infinit custom mix, and I had 2 Clif shot gels taped to the frame just to break things up a bit. I’d take a big swig from the bottle every 15 minutes and chase it with water 2x in between intakes of Infinit. The riding space was tight, people were forced to ride 3-4 wide, saw a crash maybe a mile or so out with a girl on the ground. The road surface quality was rough. I thought that maybe the right pressure should have been 85 psi or so. In any case, the first 20 miles or so were pretty great – riding along the coast, seeing the nuclear power plant up close, cool breezes making the riding so effortless. Once we turned east towards the inland portion of Camp Pendleton, the weather started to change. It was a lot more arid, the wind got warm, the desert scenery had a lot less green to it. And then I saw the infamous San Mateo hill.

It was a really imposing climb as the grade was steep - I had to mash most of the way up. Saw some dude walk his bike up that hill. It was thankfully pretty short but it definitely took a good size bite out of me. The ride down was pretty short, and soon enough we started to climb what looked like a long false flat with periodic rollers.  I was not having a great ride by that time – I was climbing out of the saddle on the short rollers, had a close call with some guy trying to pass me on the right… we climbed the second big hill, which was actually not big at all and then the descent started in earnest. We went through the speed control section which was not well marked at all – I was lucky that the girl in front of me was riding her brakes pretty hard and just followed her lead. We climbed one more hill which was a bit longer but not as steep as the second hill, and then with about 14 miles to go it was time to ride the flats.

I really had trouble putting out much power until we got out of the open space and got to something that looked like civilian housing. The rest of the ride was pretty unremarkable, but generally I felt kind of blown up. I was still racing, but it was clear to me that the sub 5 hour goal was no longer possible. I finished the ride as quickly as I could – perhaps lost 10-15 seconds once we got to the beach when I was riding with my feet on top of my shoes – I did not realize that the single file section at the end was THAT long. Got off the bike, dropped my socks somewhere while I was running back to my spot, changed into the clean socks, my Claytons and my hat and was off to the run course.

The running pace was pretty good out of the gate and I was passing people left and right. The course had some steep on and off ramps right around the pier area, and some rollers off the strand. The pier inclines were almost too steep to run so I half walked them. I was maintaining a very good 6:40-ish pace through mile 5 when we turned around and the wheels started to come off a bit. I was still running pretty good, all the way to the 2nd turnaround. I’d take a Coke and some water every station and dump some water on my head as it was getting a little hot. I was feeling a little bloated but not too bad.. once I started the 2nd lap I knew that I am going to run strong the rest of the way, but I was feeling a bit more worked than I had hoped. Started sampling Red Bull at around mile 11, it was pretty tasty but was really jacking me up in a bad way. Many thanks to the dude who was blasting AC/DC from a loud speaker on the way back – it was like an anthem… pushed me through the last mile or so. I kicked a bit harder in the last 0.5 miles on the Strand, brought it home but was feeling flat. I was just spent.

Had a one and half mini-burrito with some cheese cubes, a banana and a Pepsi for my post race meal, chatted with a couple people next to me, grabbed my clothes, changed… caught a shuttle back to the transition, grabbed my bike and headed to the car. That ride was too pathetic to capture in my Garmin. Got to the car, packed everything and headed home…. The 2.5 hour drive home was perhaps the last obstacle that the race threw at me. The traffic was just gnarly and relentless.

What are my take from this race? The swim went just as planned, the bike was a shitshow, and the run was good, but probably could have been faster had I not burnt all those matches on the bike. I am going to take a week off to recover and then will have 4 weeks til my date with the Ironman Santa Rosa in May… some introspection and perhaps some rejiggering of the crankset and/or the cassette might be in order. Stay tuned.

The splits are here - swim, bike and run.

NYC Marathon 2017 recap

I signed up for the NY marathon as a last minute decision. I was looking for the season closing race in 2017, but could not talk myself into doing another IM. The body felt beat up, I had trouble sleeping, was constantly stressed, was probably drinking more than I should I have... all in all, another round of IM training would have been too much at this point. But a marathon seemed manageable, and when my contact at the sponsor company of the marathon offered me a spot, I could not say no. 

So as I was finishing up the training for the Malibu Olympic distance race, I started to slowly ramp up my running mileage.I spent about 8 weeks training fairly consistently, and hit a couple of 50+ mile weeks, but did nothing really earth shattering in terms of the training volume. On the year I averaged 36 miles per week, and I was hoping that would be a good enough foundation for a solid year ending marathon run. I really wanted to improve on my time in the 2014 NYC marathon where I had a really crappy 8 mile stretch at the end of the race. I knew that with the constant rollers and tall bridge crossings, the 5 boroughs course will require strength and consistent pacing. I cut down on the quality runs a bit and concentrated on running daily, sometimes doubling up on a day to get used to running on tired legs. All in all, I think that the training went well, even though I had to reduce the volume in the week before the race, as I was feeling too much fatigue. I did 3 18 mile runs, one of them was done with a 4 mile closing stretch at the race pace at about 7:20 min/mile. I also ran a 1:25 half marathon (albeit on a very flat course) about a month before the race, which was encouraging but not really indicative of my potential time. It gave me hope, but in the absence of the longer training stretch I had to be careful with having too ambitious of a goal.

Got to NY on a Wednesday night, had a dinner with a co-worker who also traveled with me, checked into the hotel and fell asleep right away. Woke up at 7 am local time to what sounded like an animal stampede in the hallway. Dressed up and went outside and to my amusement there were a couple of dozen of Italian runners gathered outside of the hotel door. There were staying on my floor I guess - and they were all out to pre-run the course. Went for a run towards the Central Park, with the intent to make it about 6 miles in total... it was still a bit dark, lots of folks running, clearly in town for the race. By the time I got back to the hotel it was bright outside and very, very warm. In the evening I went to the convention center and picked up my packet. Walked back to the hotel and was pretty tired from all the running and walking during the day. Had to go for another dinner close by, and by the time I got back I had logged close to 20k steps on the day.

The next morning I did the same routine but kept the run down to about 3 miles, at a very easy pace. Limited walking to a trek to the office and back, had a quiet night by myself, went to bed at 9:30 pm - and woke up rested. Checked the forecast fr Sunday and it was showing the mid 50s to low 60s with rain and a bit of the wind throughout the day. I needed some warm clothes for the starting line - I had a couple of spare shifts that I could just change out of before the run, but no bottoms to keep the legs warm. Walked to a TJ Maxx nearby and bought some pajama pants that were on clearance for $9 and a cotton shirt for $5. Spent most of the day in bed, watching college football and went for an pasta dinner in a nearby Italian joint. Had a strangely intense conversation with some woman at a bar who was drinking fairly heavily (her $50 bill was made up of mostly red wine by glass) about the pros and cons of prolonging someone's life through tube feeding and so on. She mentioned working as a surgeon in a Brooklyn hospital but she might have been a bit drunk and exaggerated somewhat. Nonetheless I had a very tasty pasta with meat sauce with a glass of table wine, and afterwards went back to the hotel feeling quite ready.

Woke up the next morning, had 2 slices of bread with almond butter and marmalade, a cup of coffee, got dressed and headed out. Yes, I looked dorky.



The Europeans were already crowding in the lobby, all looking grumpy for some reason... walked to the Essex House hotel on the 58th to get on the sponsor's bus. Was seated fairly quickly and we were moving by 6 am. Have to say that the ride to Staten Island is one of my favorite parts of the race experience. Seeing New York early in the morning, the streets mostly empty except for the runners and their entourage getting on the race buses is quite a difference experience from the usual crazy hustle of the daily life in the city.We had a fairly smooth ride all the way to the Staten Island where we ran into the race day traffic and were moving at a glacial speed until one of the traffic cops cleared the road for us. I had a Clif bar right before we pulled into the terminal, and got ready to exit the bus. The weather outside was very, very autumn-like. Low clouds, a bit windy, with a tiny drizzle and the temps at about 53 degrees... we had to go through a massive security theater at the entrance with the metal detector gates, bag "checks", lots of cops of every imaginable unit clocking easy time and even the army units present in a full combat gear.I made it to the sponsor's tent, had a coffee and bagel and went outside to get a bit more used to the climate. It was wet and chilly, and I was worried that we would get drenched before the race even begins. After some more thinking I put on removable sleeves, grabbed my gels, Gatorade and one more Clif bar, and dropped my bag with the UPS track. I had to think for a second about potentially bringing with me a spare pair of running socks wrapped in a plastic bag... but the rain did not seem that bad. So I left them in the bag to change into them later. It was time to go to the Blue village for the start of my Wave 2. 

Made it there too early, and just sat on the ground for a bit in my Corral A. At around 9:40 am I went to a porta potty... and by the time I got out, the organizers had removed the ropes separating the corrals. I was suddenly in the middle of the 3:30 pace group probably in Corral D or maybe even further in the back. I tried to make my way to the front corral again, but no dice - I was facing a human wall made out of stressed and angry runners. As I was realizing that I was stuck, I took a deep breath and decided to relax and enjoy the experience... hopefully I'd make it through the crowds and get to run my pace. I was suddenly in a good place, rested and ready for a great run through the Big Apple. Had 3 Clif shot gels, 1 super caffeinated GU gel and 8 salt stick tabs in a baggie. Bring it!

The gun went off at 10:15 and the human stampede across the Verrazano-Narrows bridge has began. I was highly amused by the folks taking their selfies in all sorts of bizarre spots, like on the divider row, while running with the back turned, even attempting mini group selfies while all trying to run at the same pace... saw some dude drop his iPhone on the ground shuttering it into 2 halves. Good times. Human vanity is the true movers of the economy. In any case, there was not a ton of room to maneuver here, so I ran at whatever pace the crowd would let me without doing too much twisting and turning. The first mile was predictably slow, but then we starting going down the bridge, and the speed picked up. The next couple of miles through Brooklyn along the 4th Ave were fast fast fast and eventually I caught up with the 3:25 group. I started to feel really hot in the sleeves and dropped them soon after. Bye old friends - you served me well!

The problem was that there was just not a ton of space to run around people in. I kept passing folks who looked like they were running in the 10 min/mile range, and they were all bunched up together, clearly running as a group. Knowing from the past that doing too much running around the people will eventually cost me, I tried to keep it down to the minimum. And there odd bits like having a full camera crew on the motorcycles filming some human interest story about (I am assuming) the folks using the hand cycles and so on. But for most part I could find space and was keeping a steady pace. 

By the time we got to mile 9 I was averaging about 7:14 min/mile and that pace felt about right. The heart rate was mostly around 158 bpm and it felt comfortable. The drizzle started back up about an hour into the run. It was falling steadily, never quite turning into a full on rain, but kind of just slowly drenching everyone. On the upside, I stopped drinking water and would just take Gatorade every other station. Saw an open porta potty at around mile 10, darted into it, the piping was a bit frozen up so the pee took about a minute. Started running again, and eventually the pace was about 7:16 min/mile right. Both Pulaski and the Queensboro bridges were completely packed with very little room for maneuvering. We passed the halfway marker between those bridges and the time was 1:35:39 - so I was looking at something along the line of a 3:10-3:15 finish depending on how the rest of the run would go. Had the first Clif gel at that point.

That stretch on Queensboro broke me last time, as I was probably climbing too hard and then ran down too fast too. This time I made sure to keep it a steady effort, without jacking up the heart rate into the zone 5 range. The bridge is pretty dark and dank inside, although it looks absolutely majestic from the outside. It kept echoing with hundreds of feet pounding on the surface. I came off the bridge and was feeling very pumped. I knew that I was going to finish the run strong that day. And was really looking forward to running the 1st Ave - it is always the craziest stretch!

We ran north through Manhattan, crossed the Willis Ave bridge and then trekked into Bronx for about 2 miles. As everyone would tell you, it is the least exciting part of the run from the scenic view perspective. Drab streets, project buildings and a general feeling of this lingering industrial misery - that's pretty much what you see there. But soon enough you get back into Manhattan via Madison Ave and by then you are either doing a death march on the 5th Ave or are out to bring it for the final stretch. I was feeling good, had another Clif gel, but something inside of me was beginning to ache a bit. I also started to get a little bit of a twinge in the right hammy from probably not taking enough electrolytes. Had to pop a salt tab and started taking Gatorade at every water station without exception. The twinge went away. But I sure was seeing a lot folks working through massive cramps, and more or less run-walking those last 4-5 miles.The last few miles of the race along the 5th Ave are either a steady climb, or rollers that hurt. My pace was good and steady but I definitely felt that I lost 45-70 seconds along that stretch, as I had to respect the HR - was pretty sure that I push it I might cramp up pretty severely. This was taken at mile 24.


The rain stopped for a bit, but then started back up again...   feet were dry, but my top and shorts were all drenched. The average pace was dropping, and it was around 7:20 min/mile. With all the running around people I was looking to ending up running about 0.2 mile extra, which would have cost about 85 seconds extra, and with that it looked like it was going to be a 3:13-ish finish time. Indeed, that's what ended up happening - I finished with the time of 3:13:40.

Made my way to the tent of the sponsor, got my bag and rain poncho, put on calf sleeves and started walking towards the exit. I was absolutely drenched, shivering cold and just wanted to make it back to the hotel as soon as possible to get a hot shower. The walk was not bad save for the super congested stretch near the Columbus circle mall. Got back, showered and went out with a couple of friends to enjoy a burger and some brews! Should I even say that they hit the spot?

Final thoughts. It seems like the elites were about 3 min slower  compared to 2016, so perhaps I can be excused for missing my goal by 3 mins. I love this race, but being in the second wave majorly sucks. My whole race up until the last turn to the finish line was spent running around people. I ran up full 0.2 miles extra on top of the 26.2 and oftentimes there was just no way to run clean tangents. The first 3 bridges were jam packed and it certainly cost me anywhere between 60 an 90 seconds. Most importantly - I get that the organizers want to make it a special race for a lot of people but seeding massive European club teams way above their running ability turns this into a video game for the 2nd wave folks. If you are thinking of doing this race for a BQ - I'd find another course where you can have an open road. But then again - where else will you have this kind of crowd support?

My splits can be found here and my Garmin file is there - now I am going to go work on my breakfast.


Long Beach half marathon 2017 recap

I had nothing on the schedule between Nautica in mid September and the NYC marathon in early November, so I started to get antsy.  I felt like I need a teaser race to get a sense of my fitness to help decide on the realistic goals for the NYC. The Long Beach half was convenient, a bit on the pricey side, but quite a few of my fellow athletes were running it, so I signed up. Took it easy in the days leading to the race and skipped the tempo run that week. But still the legs were not feeling super fresh, but that's just how it goes - can't really taper for a half marathon.

Woke up at 4am on Sunday, had 2 slices of bread with some peanut butter and banana slices, a cup of coffee and headed out. The drive was quick and the traffic in the area was light. I like to park about a mile away and then walk down, and usually the parking is easy to find... this time it was a real hassle. I ended up parking about 1.2 miles, in a pretty run down area. But on the flip side, a walk at an easy pace woke my legs up and by the time I made it to the starting line area I was fully awake and was feeling like running some fast miles.

By the time I made it to the Aquarium area, the bike tour was starting. A fairly long line of cyclists blocked the street crossing, and I had to wait for them to trickle out to the course. Once I crossed I saw my friend Joanne who was also picking up her bib in the morning. We chatted for a bit and then I wen to the gear drop off area to change into my running gear.



We also had a Boston line up reunion which was super cool! Have not seen Alan in a very long time.



I really had no strategy at all for this race, no goals, just wanted to go out and run fast. And I did just that. The first 3 miles I simply ran at the pace that felt very fast. The heart rate was high, Z5 pretty much all the way, so I knew that soon enough I'd have to throttle back a bit. By the time we crossed back to Ocean blvd I started slowing down and holding a steady 6:40ish pace. That felt comfortable and I knew that it was a safe pace to hold for 7-8 more miles.

I was still not that far from the second leading pack, and I was still hoping that once we get to the beach path I'd be able to work my way back into the pack if the wind was favorable. But unfortunately the wind was the exact opposite, and me running solo proved to be a huge detriment. They gapped me up quickly and by the time we made it to Belmont Shores I was easily 3-4 minutes behind. Oh yeah, I passed some odd looking slower marathon runners, including some dude wearing a Pikachu costume. Here's him checking out my ass.



Now with 3 miles to go I simply wanted to bring it home without being overtaken by my buddies. With the wind in my back from mile 10 onward, the run pace felt a bit easier although the heart rate was still way too high to be able to squeeze any real gains. 175bpm is only like 8 beats away from my max heart rate so I had to be judicious about trying to gain a few seconds here and there. Also, by the time I got to mile 11 I was absolutely soaking wet from the humidity of Long Beach, and was also weighing me down - I can do heat and cold, but humidity is my kryptonite.



Anyhow, soon enough I was turning left towards the finish chute. Was quite happy to cross it with the time around 1:25:10, and my fastest 10k/10mile/13.1 mile effort to date. My buddy Kevin finished about a minute behind, but I am sure that he was controlling his pace since he is training for a real goal (ie a sub 3 at the California Intl course in December). I hung out with him for a bit, but soon had to make my way back to the car to get home to take care of some stuff. I did stop by a tiny little cash only breakfast place run to get some omelet and bacon with toast or else my body was threatening a hard crash.

Overall I thought that the race was a success. I could have probably gone under 1:25 had I been executing on some specific race plan, but I really just wanted to go by a feel and just blast it out without any regard for the strategy. The end result gave me some confidence towards trying to go 3:12 or so in NY in November, but I'll have to recalibrate depending on the race day conditions. Until then...

Nautica Malibu Olympic Triathlon 2017 recap

I have done the Sunday edition of the race 6 times, in fact it was my introduction to triathlon and, for a long time, in many ways a measuring stick of my fitness in a given year. All 6 times I raced it as a part of the tri team at work. But I really grew tired of the shitshow that the bike course had become over time... it's no fun to race when you have to primarily focus on being taken out by a random cyclist who's not comfortable riding along cars on narrow shoulders. The changes in the team did not help either. But I love the Malibu course, and so I have decided to sign up for the Saturday Olympic distance race despite the obscene cost of it.

As it turned out, it was my last triathlon of 2017. After I came back to tri training in the summer of 2017, I felt like I had never probably recovered from the San Diego marathon. Never having specifically trained for an Olympic course, to be successful I had to concentrate on the swim fitness, and also shift the focus of the bike workouts to some short but very intense intervals. It was a tough slog for me, but by the beginning of September I saw a good size gains in my FTP, and I definitely was swimming better than ever, thanks to the time spent on the masters team.

My plan for the race was to swim as aggressively as possible for the first 1k, then bring it home with a steady kick to get the legs going, ride at roughly 82% of the FTP, and then run with the HR not higher than 180 bpm. I felt pretty comfortable than this should get me off the bike perhaps in the 6-7th position in the age group, and if I could hold a 6:15-6:20 pace I'd probably have a shot at winning it. The swim was a bit of a wild card here, as I did not want to overswim my fitness and jeopardize the bike leg.

One nice thing about the Saturday race is that it is a cinch to get to. Tons of parking, easy bike racking and full 5 minutes between the swim waves, not to mention that I was in wave 4! Woot! Got up at 3:00am, had the usual fare of two slices of bread with peanut butter and 2 bananas, a cup of coffee, stretched and rolled and was out of the door at 3:50am. The drive took about an hour. By 5:20am I was checked in, had everything setup




and got bodymarked. Had a half of Clif bar, stopped by the portajohn a couple of times and was at the beach by 6:30am. Found a good Samaritan who zipped up my Huub wetsuit for me, and took a quick dip in the ocean. No real wave action, but the water was plenty cold - about 63 degrees or so. That was fine by me, as I feel comfortable in anything above 58. There was a sighting of dolphins, I jogged for 3 minutes to activate the core and then I had a GU packet, and then it was time to go get it done.

My wave went off at 7:15. There was a lot of pushing and shoving until we turned right at the first marker, and after that it was a smooth sailing... well, swimming. I concentrated on making sure that I stayed in the mid pack of the wave and that I swam in as straight of a line as possible. I did good on both counts - came out of the water with a bunch of people in my wave swim caps, and did not zig zag much - based on my Garmin file. Good visibility that day helped a lot - unlike the last year's race, we had no fog and the chop was minimal. Swim time ended up being 26:43, though my watch showed 25:47 - I must have taken some time to run to T1.

The T1 was quick and soon I was on my way to the bike start. The temps were in the mid 60s and the wind was pretty mild. Unfortunately, the first mile or so was very crowded and I could not do much (or even get on the aerobars), especially with the tunnel under the PCH being flooded and everyone riding a narrow improvised bridge over the water. Once I got to the open space, it was just the matter of putting my head down and hammering. The leg out was into the wind as usual, and it took a bit of work to find some a steady rhythm. But I was feeling pretty strong and basically was passing people the entire time until we got to the single lane zone right past Neptune's Net. A bit more of restrained riding there but soon we were at the turn around. On the way back it really felt good to have wind in my back and I was going about 23-24 mph the entire time except for the climb out of Leo Carillo. Got to the dismount with a lot of energy, but was feeling a little bit dehydrated despite having at least 20 oz of the Gatorade mix. The bike time was 1:06:01, about 30 seconds slower than I had hoped but I was definitely still in the hunt.

The T2 was pretty quick - but this time I decided to put on socks since I was going to run in Hoka Claytons that I just had not put a lot of miles on yet. Spent about 30 seconds extra there. Still kicking myself for that.

Onto the run! It was definitely a slightly harder course than the 4 mile Sunday version. A few more u-turns and a bit more concrete sidewalk running. But unlike the Classic distance, I had lots of open space and spent little time running around slower racers. I was maintaining the tempo I had planned for and quickly passed 2 of my m40-44 competitors in the first 1.5 miles. After that things definitely got harder and I started looking at the Garmin every chance I got. On the positive side of things, I was not seeing any more of the m40-44 or actually of much of anyone at all until maybe around the 4.5 mile mark where I ran into a large group hanging with some female pros. The last mile was definitely a trying experience as I started to feel a bit of a fade setting in. The pace dropped some to 6:21 min/mile... yet the finish line was close. I thought that I saw another m40-44 racer right near the finish line with maybe 0.15 mile to go - but I was not sure. But yes - he was there... I thought about doing one more surge to overtake him, but alas that was my moment of weakness. I was just not too sure if he was in my age group, and (lame!) decided to take my chance. Sure enough - I finished 12 seconds behind the second place. Damn it, putting on socks was not such a smart decision! 39:22 was the run time, and I missed out on the 2nd place by a tiny margin. The overall time was 02:16:31.

Had a bagel with cream cheese, a banana, some water and a shot of fancy coffee drink that some company was giving away at the finish line. Hung around a bit, got my medal and went back to the car to drive home and get some much needed SLEEP! But the sleep never materialized, and instead I spent a bunch of time watching NFL games in the company of my dogs.


All in all, I think that this was a successful race. I swam ok, bike pretty hard (19th fastest non-pro), and had the 6th fastest non-pro running split. I might accept an invite to go to Cleveland nationals next year since I think that this was a strong enough showing.

Now - onto the NYC marathon!

San Diego Rock'n'Roll Marathon 2017 recap

Why the hell was I even there? I guess that I just like racing. Signed up for this race for 3 reasons:
  1. San Diego Rock'n'Roll  2012 was my first marathon. I wanted to see how I progressed in 5 years.
  2. It was only $70 through a promo.
  3. In June of 2016 I was not sure if I was going to get into Boston, so I wanted to sign up for a late Spring marathon as a fallback.
So then I got into Boston and talked myself into racing the "inaugural" Santa Rosa 70.3 in mid May... and suddenly I had my hands full with 3 races in 7 weeks. I kind of considered both Boston and Santa Rosa to be the A races, and so had to re-allocate the time that would have normally been spent on running/recovering to cycling. As the result, I ended up with 22 weeks of mixed mode training and racing with about 37 miles per week of running all in all. In other words, this is about 25% lower than the mileage I'd consider standard for the marathon training. The big positive was that I got plenty of aerobic exercise, which made the tempo runs very very fast at low heart rate readings. Accordingly, in 2017 my times for 13.1 were about 5 mins better than my previous PRs, but running a full marathon in Boston on 39 mpw for 15 weeks proved to be not so awesome, even though I BQ'ed there.

Come mid May, I vacillated for a while thinking of just using my cancellation option that I paid an extra $10 for during the registration, but then the stupid part of me took over... and with that I decided to give it a go since I had a whole bunch of Hilton Honors points and there was a Hampton's right next to the finish line that I could book for $30/night after applying the points. I also was keen to test the theory that I had read on Slowtwitch that if you can hold a certain pace for 16 miles, you should be able to hold it for 26 miles. I was pretty certain that I can hold 7 min/mile pace for 16 miles, so in theory that'd would have given me a very solid PR. In other words, all kinds of cocky, stupid stuff but if you don't need to worry about BQ'ing, all kinds of self abuse suddenly seem like a good idea.

Saturday

Drove to San Diego in the afternoon, checked into my hotel and walked about a mile or so to the convention center. It was a bit crowded, but I got done with the packet pick up fairly quickly. I had no desire to hang around, so I walked back to the hotel and noticed that it was quite warm despite the cloud cover and definitely VERY humid - I was sweating from just a moderate walk. Huh!

Stopped by a nearby Claim Jumper for dinner. Had a beer and a chicken club sandwich with mashed potatoes. Was really really full when I left. Watched TV for a little while at the hotel, read the book and went to bed at 9:30.

Sunday

The alarm clock went off at 3:45am. I was actually soundly asleep for a change. The pre-race meal consisted of 2 strawberry pop tarts with peanut butter, a banana and 2 cups of coffee. I was out of the door at 4:45am with the intent of solo Ubering to the start line. Luckily a couple of runners downstairs graciously offered to split their Uber with me, so for $5 I a ride to Balboa park arriving at around 5am.

Walked to the gear trucks, sat on the curb, chatted with a few fellow runners, got my gear bag checked in and went to the porta potties. Just like 5 years ago, the lines were super slow moving, and eventually I just gave up and committed a quick pee behind a tree. No idea why this race sanitation situation is like this - seems like a ton of porta potties, but I guess for some 30k people+support at the start it is just not enough.


Made it into the Corral 2 about 5 mins before the start.  To be honest, I still did not have a very good plan as to what I was going to do race wise. From looking at the elevation profile I knew that
  1. there will be rollers for the first 10 miles
  2. there was a big drop coming at mile 11 or so 
  3. the hill on the 163 that used to be mid way through the race was now coming sometime around mile 22. 
  4. the elevation gain was going about the same as Boston
With that in mind, I decided to just hold the same pace I did for the Santa Rosa 70.3 run leg (about 6:50 min/mile) for as long as I can and, if things go well, re-assess at around mile 18. Wanted to be sure that I have something left in the tank to do that hill and then just blast down to the finish line. I also allowed myself  2 30 second pee breaks around miles 8 and 16 to break things up and give myself a breather.

The race kicked off at 6;15am. Oddly, for a while everything was happening more or less as planned. I jammed the first 12 miles running slightly under 6:50 min/mile, but the legs were not feeling fresh at all. From the mile 3 I was feeling like I had run a 10 miler already, mainly in the quads and the hip flexors. But I pressed on and was concentrating on not pushing the rollers too forcefully, having learned that lesson in Boston the hard way. There were lots of them for the first 8 or so miles, with a couple of decently steep but short climbs. The sky was overcast, with almost no wind and a muggy but cool air. After a while it started to drizzle a tiny bit and soon I realized that I was completely drenched from the humidity. But the weird thing was that I had to keep taking fluids at almost every other station - it sure felt like I was sweating up a storm. Even my feet were eventually swamped in sweat.

We left the downtown area, ran around Normal Heights (what a name) and eventually split from the half marathoners. Then after a while we were moving along the side (but in the opposite direction) of the runners just going through mile 5 or so. At one point I saw a bunch of school girls all decked in KISS makeup and costumes and had a really laugh. They were going completely nuts rocking out to Dr Love - fantastic! More looping through the neighborhoods and eventually we got to Presidio Drive, where the big drop was about to happen before we would cross the 8 freeway. We ran down that serpentine downhill that had some pretty steep sections where I had to slow down and go very gingerly since the pavement was a bit wet. Once I got done with descending, that's when the legs started to feel really uneasy for the first time. I was definitely doing ok aerobically, and the effort did not feel too hard, but the lack of training volume was not helping any. I was slowing down a bit, and I could tell that I won't be able to hold the sub 7 pace for that much longer. Saw the leading men while making my way through Overlook to to Mission Bay and they looked pretty miserable too, so that made me a feel a bit better but not really.

At that point I started taking caffeinated Clif gels every 3 aid stations. Really wished that I could have some Cola, but no dice. This was probably the lowest point of the race for me, as I was really dreading that I had miscalculated my abilities and there would need to be some walking in the near future. Coming out of the Mission Bay area, and tracking back along the road that we took on the way there, I saw a bunch of other runners, and they were definitely suffering. Eventually, we started climbing at around mile 19, very slowly but... suddenly I would see people in front of me slow down and walk, stretch, jog. Not race anymore in other words. I was not hauling ass anymore either, but I was still moving at a reasonable clip, so at that point I started to pass some people. Eventually made it to the off-ramp to the 163, saw the KISS girls one more time, they were still going nuts. Awesome!

Suddenly I started feeling better. That's when the actual hill at mile 22.5 presented itself. It was more of the same - I was not going super fast but was passing people consistently. About 1/4 way up I did get overtaken by a very fit looking runner chick - I tried to hang on and have her tow me up the hill but she was just stronger at that point and eventually dropped me once we started running down. She was absolutely flying!  She definitely helped me go a bit faster up that thing that just seemed to never end. Hurray for getting chicked.

Once I got over the hill, I knew that I was going to finish strong as long as the grade on the way down was not going to be too crazy. I still had some strength in my legs but could not do better than 7:20ish min/miles. The downhill was snaking all the time and I was trying very hard to run the tangents and not put any extra distance - as my watch was already showing an extra 0.12 miles by that point. I was very very happy to see the downtown San Diego again, and see us merge with the 1/2 marathon crowd - who were also moving at a zombie pace. There was a tiny tiny hill right after the 26 mile marker, and that seemed like a mountain... but soon enough I hit the finish line. Not going to lie - I was completely out of gas. Could barely see or walk. Somehow in the downtown area I picked an extra 0.08 miles and now my total was almost 26.4 miles. Grabbed some water and Gatorade and started slowly moving towards the gear pickup area - which was like 4 blocks away.

Eventually, I made it there, got my bag and my finisher jacket, got back to the hotel, stretched, showered, grabbed a few munchies and drove back to LA. Had to stop half way through to eat something and stretch. Even McDonalds tasted good at that point.


The finish time was 3:12:50 (Garmin file here), so this at least will improve my corral placement for Boston if I decide to run it next year. The first half of the race was run in 1:31:20 and I added a solid 11 minutes to the second half, so no negative splits here! Once again - this was a hard, painful run, but then again in 2017 I was 30 minutes faster than 5 years ago on almost the same course (yay getting older?). It is entirely possible that I simply had not been fully recovered from Santa Rosa, where I was probably not 100% recovered from Boston.

I got back to my house 3 hours later, and only then realized that I was totally and completely spent. Chilling by the pool never felt that good before.



Will take the next 5-6 days off completely, and will get back into swimming and cycling next week. Won't run til the end of the June, but will need to eventually get back into the groove to build for the NYC 2017!