The Birch Bay Marathon

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Step (OK, a few) in the Right Direction: The Napa Valley Marathon

Well it's about time I update my curious public about my experience at the Napa Valley Marathon. Overall, it was an improvement over my race at Carlsbad and clearly a step closer to my pre-surgery running form.
First you should know my excuse, I was sick. In my mind, pretty significantly sick since I had lost my voice due to a lingering cold and sore throat. But as anyone who has heard my Boston Marathon story knows, that wasn't going to stop me from running.
Before the race I met up with teammate Peter Gilmore who was also entered in the race. Peter was treated it more as a training run than an actual race since he is still thinking about running at Boston or possibly London in April. Peter ran 2:12 at Boston a couple of years back and he's getting back to that form now. He told me his plans before the race and that kind of affected my strategy more than it should have. I also decided to wear my heart rate monitor for the first time in a marathon. I thought it might be good to get some numbers to crunch afterwards.
We woke up in the morning to a pouring rain. Something I grew used to in Portland and Seattle where I first started running, although not what I wanted considering my cold. Peter and I were shuttled out to the race start by the race directors which was cool on one hand since we got to sleep in much longer than the rest of the participants, but on the other, it meant we only got to the start about 15 minutes before. Just enough time for the bathroom and changing clothes, no warm up.
When the race started Peter and I were quickly joined by "The Beast" James Nielsen, who is the course record holder at the Eugene Marathon and a former World Cross Country participant. We strolled through the first mile in 5:43, when Peter said, "Perfect" I thought I might be able to drop it down to 5:30's and get away from he and James. I kept and eye on my heart rate monitor making sure I didn't tip over 180 but the pick up in pace dropped Nielsen after a mile or so, meanwhile Peter was not running with me, but just a few seconds back. And that the way it went for several miles. My five mile split was 27:37 with av. heart rate of 170, The next five were 27:28 but the average went up to 177. I was still feeling good and ahead of Peter so I kept soldiering on. 15 miles showed a slight slow down as my split was 27:46 (5:33 pace) and 177 average. At this point Peter pulled even with me. I told him I was slowing a bit and I knew he was still planning to pick it up over the last 9 miles so he pretty much had the race in hand by then.
We ran together for miles 16 and 17 and then he put in a big surge. He dropped me easily and the rest of the race was spent by me holding on to the pace as well as I could and just trying to get to the finish. My 15-20 mile split was 28:08 and 176 average. My 20 mile time was 1:51:01. The next 5 were my slowest in 29:05 and my heart rate just stayed the same at 176. I guess as you get tired, it takes the same heart rate to maintain a slower pace. Or said another way, to keep an even pace, my heart rate would have to steadily climb over the course of the race.
My final time was 2:27:23 which is a 5:37 pace. Peter ended up running a 2:23 and James Neilsen finished at 2:31.
Overall, I was pretty happy about taking off over 4 minutes in the 5 weeks between the Calsbad race and this one. I also realized that the heart rate monitor can help me pace a bit better. I think I should try to kept it under or at 170 for the first half. It's kind of a nice tool to have for that reason. You don't have to worry about hills or wind and holding a certain pace, you can just rely on the monitor to make sure you're working at a level that you can maintain for the entire race.
anyway, I get a nice luxurious 9 week break between marathons now as I won't run one again until May 3rd. At least that's the plan. That doesn't mean I might not sneak in an "ultra" between now and then though.


Ryan Altman said...

"AN ULTRA"???????????????? Really!

saschasdad said...

Nice race, Andy. You're definitely on the comeback.

Did you say ULTRA?! Attaboy!

JCaba said...

Ultra... you know what that means. You have to carry a water bottle on all of your runs.