Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Race review: Dash Down Greenville

I did just fine, running my 3rd fastest 5K in 19:49, 14 seconds faster than last year.

No and I might need to start lying about my age. I moved up 11 spots overall from a year ago, to 69th out of 4,253, but down 8 places in my age group, to 16th of 285. That's the lowest place of any of the men's age groups for that time and the lowest I've been in my age group since I first ran the race in 2008.


Wary of getting stuck behind hundreds of folks at the starting line again, I took my warm-up jog early and hung around the start, just pacing around. The 8:00 start time passed with an announcement the race would start in 5 minutes. Five minutes later, we were still a few minutes away. Finally at 8:12, the horn went off.

I started a little fast but settled myself down quickly and was around 6:00 pace for a while before tailing off. The brisk south wind presented the same problem as last year; I didn't get the benefit of it on the opening stretch thanks to all those folks behind me, but by the time I got around to Skillman, it was right in my face with no one to shield me. I got a good push from the wind over the last three-tenths of a mile to come in safely under 20 minutes.

I think the Run Project folks reached a little too far last year in pushing the field to 8,000 people. The number of timed finishers dropped by about 800 this year and I don't believe they declared a sellout. It's possible that interest declined some due to the rebranding and repositioning of the parade this year, and it's possible that folks were turned off by overly crammed DART trains last year (although that problem was fixed by adding trains this year). But surely some people were unhappy with the race experience last year and decided not to come back. I'm quite curious to hear why the numbers plunged; I highly doubt it was just a matter of folks opting not to wear the chip.

6:06 pace last .12

It's a 5K; you get a T-shirt. Oh, and a coupon for free Chipotle.

Fairview Half Marathon, Apr. 6.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Race preview: Dash Down Greenville

Dallas, Texas

Saturday, Mar. 16

Dash Down Greenville

This was my first race and is the one race I do every year. This will be my 6th in a row.

The registrant cap is 8,000, but a bunch of folks don't show up and a bunch of others don't wear the chip (but line up in front anyway). About 5,000 people will show up in the results.

It'll be in the low 60s with a steady south wind of 10-15 mph -- pretty much exactly what it was last year.


Last year my A goal was to break 19:00 and my B goal was to beat my PR of 19:23, set in this race in 2011. I missed both, badly, finishing in 20:03 coming off an injury. I am returning from an injury this time, too, so I haven't done much fast running. I got through 2 miles in 12:19 last week, though, so I am going to set the same goals for myself this time -- but just to be sure, I'll add a C goal of beating last year's time. I feel pretty good about that.

The Year of Stupid

I haven't posted my upcoming race schedule in a while -- in fact, I don't think I ever gave a peek at my 2013 plans -- so after adding a couple races to the calendar today, I figure it's time for an update.

Last year was quite the big-ticket year for me: Boston, Big Sur, three shots at 100 miles (I even finished one!). This year is becoming the Year of Stupid. It's seemingly not enough for me to go run races anymore. Now it's about doing bits and finding new and different ways to test myself.

The first such bit is coming up next month. I'll be running the Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, Va., a race that bills itself as America's toughest road marathon thanks to the 7,234 feet of elevation change. While looking at the race website, I found a page for the Official Unofficial Double Marathon. At 2 a.m., a group of runners gathers at the starting line and runs the course, finishing a little before 7. At 7:30, they line up with everyone else and do it again, this time officially. Sounds like a plan!

I'll follow that with a Memorial Day weekend tripleheader, running the Texas Threesome at Bachman Lake in Dallas. It's a somewhat flimsy way to boost my Marathon Maniacs rank, as each "race" is just a couple dozen folks doing 8-plus laps around the lake each day. But it should be good training for other things I have planned later on.

One of those things will be in July, when I will attempt the rare Daily Double, running two marathons in two states on the same day. I'll start in western North Carolina with the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, a difficult race in its own right that finishes nearly 1,000 feet higher in the Appalachians than it begins, with several steep up-and-downs along the way. After I finish, I'll board a shuttle bus back to the start, then hop in the car and drive 6 hours to Macon, Ga., hopefully arriving in plenty of time for the Make It By Midnight Marathon. This unique concept has runners crossing the start line whenever they choose, with the goal of finishing as close to midnight as possible. So if you expect to run a 4:18 marathon, you start your race at 7:42 p.m. It'll be hot and humid, I'll be exhausted, but it'll be a nice resume builder (and will check off another state on the list without having to make an extra trip).

All of this will culminate in November with the 72-hour race at Ultracentric (the race hasn't been announced yet; I'm assuming the scheduling and location will be the same as last year). My goal is to top 200 miles over 3 days, which will hopefully make most things I do in future years feel like walks in the park.

Also, I'm planning on running the Javelina Jundred in October to get my Western States lottery ticket for next year (and preserve the one I carried over from this year). I would have had this done at Rocky Raccoon, were it not for my super-sized Achilles tendon, so I will take a must-finish attitude into JJ and use up every minute of the 30 available hours if I have to. (I don't include this in the Year of Stupid because just doing a regular 100-mile race doesn't seem that stupid by comparison. It's just one race on one day, right?)

Obviously, staying healthy is going to be huge this year. I've been very cautious in coming back from injury over the last month and will continue to be keenly aware of anything my body is trying to tell me. And I'm getting back on track with my neglected preventative strengthening efforts. It helps my cause that I got my Boston qualifier out of the way already so I can focus just on finishing and staying in one piece. I won't be shuffling along to 6-hour marathons, but I won't be out there trying to break 3 either.

Here's the full listing of what's on tap, with asterisks to indicate completed registrations. I have room for 3 more events to get to my usual 20 for the year, but they will surely be shorter, local races.

*3/16/13 Dash Down Greenville (5K), Dallas TX
*4/6/13 Fairview Half Marathon, Fairview TX
*4/20/13 Double Blue Ridge Marathon, Roanoke VA
5/4/13 Carrollton Trails 5K, Carrollton TX
*5/25/13 MS Marathon (Texas Threesome Day 1), Dallas TX
*5/26/13 Jim's Goose Chase Marathon (Texas Threesome Day 2), Dallas TX
*5/27/13 Bachman Memorial Day Marathon (Texas Threesome Day 3), Dallas TX
6/15/13 Dadfest 5K, Frisco TX
*7/13/13 Grandfather Mountain Marathon, Boone NC
*7/13/13 Make It By Midnight Marathon, Macon GA
7/27/13 Cedar Ridge Trail Run (36K), Dallas TX
9/28/13 TBA 50K at Cross Timbers, Lake Texoma TX
10/26/13 Javelina Jundred, Fountain Hills AZ
11/?/13 Ultracentric 72-Hour, Grapevine TX
12/8/13 Dallas Marathon, Dallas TX

Monday, March 4, 2013

Race review: Sugar Land Half Marathon

I taught a lesson either in courage or stupidity, capping 36 hours of incredible gastrointestinal distress with one of my slowest races ever, shuffling across the finish line in 1:41:34.

Not even close, though the fact I was even able to get this done was somewhat of a victory. I was 11th of 69 in my age group and 71st of 780 overall.


It's been a frustrating couple of months since Houston (still worth it to get that BQ, but my patience is waning). The Achilles issue that developed at Houston and was aggravated at Rocky is all gone, but getting over it has left me logging very low miles. So I knew this race would be not much more than a fast-ish long run for me.

Then the stomach bug bit. Friday night I was awakened by the first episode of filthy business. Saturday morning I got up to go do 10 miles with my running club, thinking I could fight through it. But I wanted to pass out just standing there talking to folks, so I went home instead. The drive down was unpleasant, dinner was unpleasant (aside from getting to chat with Teal and Beth), and the rest of the night was unpleasant. When I got up for the last time at 2:30 a.m. -- 4 hours before the start of the race -- I was certain I would not run.

But when the alarm went off at 5:30, I surprisingly didn't feel all that bad. I knew the cold air would combat the nausea, so I got dressed and headed out. I lined up at the back and started running as gently as I could. The near-freezing temperatures were invigorating and the super-flat course was easy on the body, so I was sailing by folks pretty steadily for the first several miles. Then my pace started to pick up as I found I could manage a little more effort, which let me pass a few more people. As I turned back for the second loop on Palm Royale, I started to lap the walkers and back-of-the-packers. If it weren't for a steady hour-and-change of running by people, I might've had a much rougher time.

My pace actually slowed from the halfway point on, but I didn't really feel the drag take hold until about a mile and half from the finish. I hadn't run longer than 8 miles since Rocky (and even that 8-miler was a struggle) so I wasn't at all surprised to have to battle my way to the end. I crossed the finish line and immediately wanted to fall over, having not a single calorie of energy to spare.

In other circumstances, this would have been a great race to crush. The flat, looped course (giving you plenty of rabbits to chase) and near-perfect weather (a touch cold, but absolutely no wind) would've set me up for a very fast time, I think. I also enjoyed the scenery of the Sweetwater Country Club, with its tree-lined boulevard and huge houses. The urban feel of the Sugar Land Town Square is neat, too.

It didn't affect me much because I was too ill to stick around, but having post-race pizza not show up until more than half the field had finished and having the live entertainment not start until an hour after that were swings and misses. Some aid stations were water-first and some had Gatorade first, a big mistake. And the folks calling the splits were all wrong and all off by different amounts (some were fast, some were slow, by 2 minutes in either direction).

7:16 pace last .19

There is no race-entry shirt, just a tech tee for finishers. The medal is a sturdy one:

Dash Down Greenville, Mar. 16.