Saturday, October 30, 2010

Race review: Bud E. Bee Boo!Run Half Marathon

Quite simply, this was my best run ever. My time of 1:30:42 was a PR by 2:32 and equates to a faster time than I have run at any other distance.

Actually, yes, for the 2nd time (I won a 10K last September). First place out of 57 overall, 7:35 ahead (more than a mile!).

The start was a little confusing, as we crowded together a good 50 feet or more behind the starting line. The horn went off, I kinda just shrugged and moved on ahead, the third person through the blow-up arch. After an immediate left turn I made a quick pass of one runner, then reminded myself to settle down as I chased the leader. In my head I had planned to take the first mile slow, but then again I plan that every time and it never happens.

But today, it did. I kept my breathing slow and my feet followed, resulting in a pace that felt rather effortless in the cool air. No further than half a mile in, I passed the other guy and let the officer on the motorcycle lead the way. At the next turn, just past 2 miles, I looked back. I saw no one. I made the turnaround near 4 miles and ran .19 miles before crossing paths with the next runner, a .38-mile (or 2:40) lead. I guessed based on last year's results that there wouldn't be a lot of speed demons, but this was stunning.

I finished the first loop and headed back out for the second, this time without the escort. Most of the course was extremely well-marked and coned, but I was still a little nervous as the streets weren't exactly deserted. Fortunately there weren't any incidents, and I focused on holding my 7:00 pace (or banking time against the 7:05 pace I was aiming for, including any late meltdown).

Past the 10-mile mark we hit that turnaround again, and this time I was .72 miles ahead. I smelled victory, and quickened my breathing and my pace for the homestretch. Hearing my name announced (and pronounced correctly) was a great feeling as I zoomed over the finish line.

The weather definitely helped, as we started out in the low 40s with no wind. A little bit of a breeze kicked up now and then but nothing like what we had around here a few days ago. The course was exceptionally easy: just a handful of minor hills. Water stops were plentiful -- if I remember correctly there were 5, so that's 10 stations for 13.1 miles.

There were some anomalies I might credit if I were superstitious. I kinda needed to get some thinking done before the race, but I got to town a little later than I wanted and by the time I got to the evacuation area I couldn't risk getting bogged down. Fortunately I never thought about it once we got going. I also ran this without a couple of things -- my left middle toenail, which came off last night as the 5th to be damaged or destroyed (hang in there, little piggies!), and my wedding ring, which is now way too loose for my skinny finger (a condition exacerbated by the cold). My wife will not credit that one for me running faster.

5:47 pace for the last 340 feet (the course was a little short)

The perks for winning were mediocre -- an event running cap and a bouquet of dyed daisies -- but the standard swag was well above expectations for a small race. The black tech tee is decent, but the multi-color medal is quite nice. The goodie bag came with a copy of Inside Texas Running and a 6-ounce bag of kinda-old-but-still-tasty honey roasted peanuts, along with an array of local business-labeled trinkets.

EDIT: A couple weeks later, they mailed me a Winner's Certificate in a folder, a nice touch.

The big one: Tucson Marathon, Dec. 12.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Half the distance, double the rant

I registered this morning for the inaugural 13.1 Marathon Dallas, to be held Oct. 23, 2011 as a replacement for the purchased Uptown Run. I think the actual name is 13.1 Dallas, part of the 13.1 Marathon Series. Either way, "13.1" and "marathon" are next to each other somewhere, and that just drives me nuts. Here I am with a blog named to mock certain clueless non-runners, and I'm up against a national race organization furthering the ignorance. It's hopeless.

Of course, I didn't hold this against anyone when I went ahead and signed up for a race 363 days ahead of time. It was already on my calendar, and since they're selling the first 100 entries for $30 -- thirty bucks for a half marathon! -- there was no point in waiting (I never consider "what if I get hurt" or "what if I have something else going on" because I won't and don't). But at what point did become Ticketmaster? I might not have been paying really close attention but it seems like Active generally took about 10 percent in fees in the past, maybe a little more. Today: $30 entry, $8 convenience fee. Eight bucks! They do it because they can, but damn that's annoying.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Race preview: Bud E. Bee Boo!Run

Cleburne, TX

Saturday, Oct. 30

Bud. E Bee Boo!Run Half Marathon

My marathon training plan gives me the option, six weeks out, for one last send-off, and since I like racing way more than training, that's a no-brainer.

Hardly anyone. The inaugural event last year was probably the smallest half in the Metroplex, with only 24 finishers (EIGHT men). The organizers have announced that registrations are running well ahead of last year, but that may well be for the 5K/10K. The debut apparently had numerous issues, chief among them being that the course was long and not all finishers got medals. Those have both been remedied, I'm told.

Low 50s start/~60 finish, no chance of rain

The McMillan calculator equates a 3:15:59 marathon to a 1:32:56 half. My PR is 1:33:14. I really need to be within shouting distance of that number to boost my confidence. The weather will cooperate and I believe the course will also. This is not my target event so I need to remember not to kill myself trying to run fast -- but I do want to run fast. Winning in the literal sense is not far-fetched, either. Last year's winner ran a 1:36:00 -- again, on a long course, though I don't know how long. Because the race is so small, awards only go to top 3 by gender, but the 3rd-place male went 1:48:08 last year, which is 7 minutes slower than my slowest half, run at the '09 3M on a broken foot. I expect bling.

Core work Monday, 5 easy Tuesday, 5 tempo Wednesday, 5 easy Thursday, rest Friday. Stepping back the weekly mileage from 44 to 28 should feel lovely.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First things second

OK, now the introductory post that normally comes first in a new blog.

"Why the hell are you starting a running blog? Don't you already post on dailymile and Twitter everything you have to say?"

Yeah, but come on, a lot of that is minutiae. When I post tonight on dailymile that I ran 5 miles in 42 minutes for my weekly Tuesday easy run, no one is going to give a crap, not even my running friends (hardly even myself). What is there to discuss? And my Twitter page is 99.9 percent not about running.

This blog is intended for items with a little more substance that have wider appeal. That seems to be what the cool kids are doing with these things: posting race reports, asking friends for input on gear, or stuff like what I posted earlier about the Boston Marathon. You know, stuff worth reading.

"Wait a minute, I don't even know you, dude!"

Oh, a real introduction, huh? OK, well, I'm Brian, I'm 35 and I live in a suburb of Dallas. I was not much of an athlete growing up -- not beyond mediocre youth-league soccer and swimming, anyway -- and certainly not a runner. I somewhat accidentally got into running in the fall of 2007 because I thought it might relieve the symptoms of my Restless Legs Syndrome (yes, it is legit).

Long story short, I ran my first 5K in March 2008 and moved on to progressively longer distances until finishing my first marathon in November 2009. I'm currently training to run the Tucson Marathon in December with the goal of qualifying for Boston -- well, maybe, as you might have read -- and am eagerly awaiting 2011 and beyond, when I'll be running a wide variety of races. I'll run pretty much anything I think will be a good experience, from the Dash Down Greenville (my first race; I'll run this every year) to the Rouge-Orleans (penciled in for 2012, after I get my qualifying 50-miler done in 2011, most likely the Katy Trail 50).

I'm fast enough to be reasonably competitive but I'm certainly not going to be winning any major awards. My approach is very DIY; I've never even been professionally fitted for shoes. Even my training plans are amalgams of several different experts. I have tried and erred and am quite happy in taking ownership of the results, good or bad.

"Well, that's all good to know and I look forward to reading and contributing to this thing. But what's up with the name?"

If you have run a marathon, some idiot co-worker of yours has asked, "Hey, how long is your marathon?" or something like that. It's kind of my knowing nod to my fellow runners. Plus, on some screens on this site, the last word gets cut off, so that's kinda funny too.


Shotgun start

Hello and welcome to my running blog. OK, enough with the small talk.

Registration for the Boston Marathon opened and closed today. Twenty-some-odd thousand folks got in the door before it slammed shut after just 8 hours and 3 minutes. Last year registration closed after 2 months, spurring much conversation in the running world about changes the Boston organizers would have to make to ensure that qualified runners had a fair shot to get in. Cut that open registration time down about 99 percent and you can be pretty sure there will be more than just talk this time around.

The BAA could do any number of things:
  • Tighten the qualifying standards for everyone, or women, or 18- to 29-year-olds.
  • Expand the field.
  • Keep the field the same size but reduce the allocation of charity runners.
  • Institute a lottery.
  • Sharply increase the entry fee.
  • Do away with reusable qualifiers. In other words, end the current practice of allowing a runner to use a qualifying time from, for example, Chicago '10 to run Boston '11 and '12.
  • Nothing.
Let's take these in reverse order. Doing nothing is out of the question. If nothing is done, next year (and every year after) it'll be like trying to buy tickets for the Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden.

One-time qualifying makes the most sense. One qualifying time should not earn you a place in two Boston Marathons. Making a change, though, could be very confusing. If you just say "the qualifying time must be achieved within 12 months of the Boston Marathon" but leave the registration date the same, all you've done is make races between November and April irrelevant. The rule would have been to be "within 12 months of the opening of registration." I think the nuances of something like this make it unlikely to happen.

A lottery, on the other hand, seems plausible. New York does it, Houston does it, and I'm sure there are others. Y'all can have that because I am not interested. When I sign up for a race I assume I am running it and plan accordingly. New York and Houston (and others) are different in the sense that you don't need a qualifying time, you just need luck. A Boston lottery would probably keep the qualifying component, and thus most of its prestige. Still, it's not for me.

Increasing the entry fee might discourage about 10 people from entering. It's Boston, the most prestigious marathon in the world. They could get $500 a head, easily. Expanding the field also sounds like a non-starter from what I've read, unless they're planning to drastically widen the streets up there.

That leaves us with tightening the qualifying standards, which brings me the long way around to where I'm going. I am certain this will happen. There are more runners and they have been better trained, so it stands to reason there are a whole lot more folks at the faster end of the spectrum.

If it were up to me, the cuts would start and stop by splitting the 18-34 age group and forcing the 18- to 29-year-olds to go faster, especially on the men's side. Look at the top male finishers from Chicago this year, for instance: all 20-somethings. Make the young'uns go 3:00 or under. They can handle that.

I'd also like to see the women get a 20-minute cushion instead of 30. One of my thoughts after staggering through the final third of the Route 66 Marathon last year was that as disappointed as I was at limping the last 8 1/2 miles home, had I been female I still would have qualified for Boston. A woman of average ability might need that much of a head start compared to a comparable man, but when you're talking about BQ times you're talking about the fastest of the fast, and the women in that conversation don't need that much help.

Unfortunately, I've convinced myself that those cuts are far too controversial, and the BAA will simply opt to make everyone run 10 or 15 minutes faster. And if that's the case, I can forget about going to Boston. It's going to take all I've got to run a 3:15:59 in Tucson, so much so that I need to include the extra 59 seconds in my goal to convince myself I have a shot. Face it, I might have a couple 1:33 half marathons under my belt and the McMillan calculator might say I should make it, but the 3:38 in Tulsa shows you really can't project these things.

The stories that interest me are the ones like mine, of the folks who are right there, just good enough to be in the conversation but needing all they've got to get over the hump. Some people are much faster, and many are much slower, but I find their stories much less intriguing. The drama is not there, nor is the same sense of accomplishment. So today's events (and the imagined fallout I'm already taking to the bank) are frustrating. Maybe we'll talk again in 5 years, Boston.

(Oh yeah, this blog is totally under construction. I'm not a design expert, but I'm certainly not going to leave things looking like this -- I just wanted to get things going while the mood struck.)