Monday, October 22, 2007

The Fence

Team Bay Hundred with Johnny U. at the Baltimore Marathon Expo, Ravens Stadium. Wood Frog fancies himself a QB...

How is it we are supposed to figure out what qualifies as the small stuff that we are not supposed to sweat? This past week, I couldn't get my health back where I wanted it to get running. Then the President of the United States decides to make an announcement at the Museum where I work, so there is a two-step backburners running for the week (at least half of the two-step was a cool excuse, though!).

Finally got a 5.5 - 6-mile run in Sunday morning, so it was nice to re-break the ice. Still can't shake the cough, but I'll take progress at this point. Post-marathon, the rational/sane brain says coast it out til the end of the year, enjoy a Backyard Burn 10-mile trail race, and settle in to 5 - 15-mile winter runs. And that sounds great. Yet there is the part of me that signs up for a race, and despite health and poor training, says it's still on the books, so get the miles in, and get ready for JFK. That would mean a couple more long runs; practice with the Succeed caps; practice the walk-run combo; work to cross JFK off the to-do list. A 5-hour marathon could translate to a 12-hour JFK, which is the time limit requirement.

It's way too easy to over think. In the meantime, I just have to run. And SLEEP (tough for me). And eat right. And train the brain. Sounds simple, but each of those steps poses it's own challenges for me right now. What I really want to do in the running department, is get back on the trails.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bay Hundred Bruisers: Baltimore Marathon Report

Four Bay Hundred Baltimorons: Mike "Tucks" Valliant, Mike "Wood Frog" Keene, Jim "Postmaster" Richardson, Pierre "Gel-in-his-hat" Bernasse, post-race, Oriole Park at Camden Yards for backdrop.

One week ago, I finished a 10-mile run, out of breath from having been sick, and was sure I couldn't have run a marathon. After one more 4-mile run during the week, I went to Baltimore on Saturday with the goal of simply finishing the marathon. I accomplished that goal. The better story is the camaraderie and accomplishment, that our group of Bay Hundred banditos came away from Baltimore with. The short story version is:

Mike Keene - 3:52:00
Pierre Bernasse - 4:17:04
Jim Richardson - 4:35:21
Mike Valliant - 4:40:18

Jim Richardson earned two significant awards: 1) best time vs. goal (he guessed about 5 hours, first official marathon), and 2) coolest bib number: #2345.

Pierre ran his second, and hilliest, marathon to date, and set a PR on a tough course.

Keene went up with the hope of breaking the 4 hour barrier. He signed up at the expo with a 3:50 pace group, and straight took care of business. Baltimore is not an easy course to set a tough time goal against. Mike went out hard and kept it going.

As for me, I feel good when I complete a marathon. I am thrilled for where I ended up Saturday vs. a week ago. And it made the race and the day to be there and have all four of us finish. A moment like that, shared, is sublime.

By way of a race report, the Baltimore Marathon was, for me, a tale of two races. There is the 18-mile race, that I ran well for--walking only at aid stations to get water or Gatorade. I ran with or ahead of the 4:15 pace group for the first 17 miles of the race. My splits for the race were (clock time, not chip time, which was about 1 minute, 15 seconds faster): 59:34 at mile 6; 1:36 at mile 10; 2:06 at half-marathon; 3:09 at mile 19; 3:36 at mile 21.

Then there was the 8.2-mile race, after the 18-mile one, that I limped through. At the half-way point, I was feeling good and on pace for a 4:10 finish. Everyone who runs Baltimore is well aware that the race begins at mile 16, after you have gone through Fells Point, and then turn uphill for miles 16 - 23. It is only truly "all downhill" when you hit the 25-mile mark.

For my compadres: I was able to catch a glimpse of Mike K. at an aid station outside Fort McHenry at mile 10, as I had just passed mile 9. Pierre came up behind me between miles 14 and 15, looking fresh, we chatted a bit, and then he trotted ahead, looking like 4 hours might be in the making. I looked up and saw Jim as I was grabbing Gatorade at the mile 17 stop. We ran together for a good part of miles 18 and 19, he went ahead, then I started catching up to him after we rounded the lake at mile 21, only to have to let him go.

Two years ago, when I was well trained, I hit the half-way mark in 1:55 and was crushed by/at mile 15, for various reasons. This year, I past the mid-mark slower, but held pace until almost mile 19. Much better in that respect. Also on the positives I should note that I really didn't have muscle cramping like I can get. I tried to drink more, and took one Succeed S-Cap every hour or so. Two other notable occurrences: 1) I picked up speed consistently on the last mile, running at a good clip through Camden Yards, and then finishing the race down the chute at a full sprint, whipping by baffled runners over the last 100 yards, and 2) I finished 3 minutes or so faster than the last time I ran Baltimore.

I have yet to run a complete race in a marathon or longer race. This year, inconsistent training, then bronchial sickness, made me work for my finish. The last two races (Holiday Lake 50K and Delaware), debilitating leg cramps stopped me to a hobble, until I could push through them, but where I had good paces going through 17 miles in the 50K and 20 miles in the marathon. And my first shot at Baltimore was a similar story to this year.

I feel like I have been in shape to run a sub-4-hour marathon, though not on Saturday. I do feel like I have unfinished business--food on the table--with the distance. But that business will go unfinished, the food will go cold, for a while. Maintaining a balance with family, work, house, etc., is too much right now with long race training. The 2008 race calendar, for me, will peak at 13.1 miles, with a goodly number of 10s thrown in for good measure.

Race times aside, Saturday was the best race experience I have had--where everyone felt such a sense of accomplishment; so much a part of a community who have done something remarkable in its own right.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Woody Sighting

Wood Frog explains the quirkiness of a a draketail workboat to our boy Woody, the AT thru-hiker, who made a detour to Bay Hundred.

Returning readers may recall that Wood Frog and I encountered a southbound Appalachian Trail thru-hiker on Crawford Path during our White Mountain adventures. Attentive returning readers may further recall that said thru-hiker, James "Woody" Woodring, had grandparents who lived in St. Michaels; had a deep-routed interest in sailing and wooden boat building; and anticipated a stop-off in Maryland.

This week, we got a call from Woody as he was making his way from Annapolis to St. Michaels. After a tour of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (aka my place of employment), a meeting with our Boat Yard Manager Richard Scofield, a tour of Higgins Boat Yard and log canoes from Mike Keene, a sandwich from Lighty's, a tour of the Keene boat shop in Wittman, a quick boat ride aboard the draketail workboat Dora, and a feast of a dinner at the Keene residence, our pal Woody is picking back up where he left off in Harpers Ferry. He anticipates finishing the AT in December, and who knows, we might see him back in St. Michaels again after. Great to catch up and hear about his adventures in thru-hiking. If you are curious to follow along at home, you can check in at Woody's online journal.

In other news, the Baltimore Marathon is tomorrow morning, with kindly running weather in the forecast. Pierre Bernasse, Jim Richardson, Mike Keene, and I went up for the expo and packet pick-up this morning. I have no idea what tomorrow holds--hopefully something good! And to all, a good night.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Trials and Tribulations

"A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he."
--Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I have come to realize that breathing is an important part of running. Funny how that works. So when I get saddled with a bronchial infection that keeps me from taking deep breaths and sidelines me for almost two weeks leading up to a marathon, I shouldn't have expected much good from my first run back.

The training schedule called for a 10-mile run a week out from the race (never mind that I missed a 15, 8, many others). So my hope was to run it fairly easy in 90 minutes for 9-minute miles.

I got out the door at about 3:20pm or so and ran to Baileys Neck (on Oxford Road) and back. My legs felt fine and went out at their normal pace, trying to keep it slow to assess where I was after such a long layoff. I hit my 2-mile mark faster than normal, and ended up hitting the halfway point on pace in 44:10. The problem: things were going downhill fast.

My legs always felt great. But I had NO breath. My doctor mentioned this as what would happen, and I had the same experience playing old-time baseball last week. I couldn't get a full breath anywhere and was literally running out of breath. I walked for 5 minutes after the turnaround, then ran until Waverly Road, walked for a couple minutes, then ran from the "downhill" to the other side of five-corners light, walked until Rails-to-Trails, ran to Brookletts Avenue, walked to Dover Road, then ran the rest of the way home. My time in the end was 1:39:44, so just shy of 10-minute miles, with a combined 12-15 minutes of walking counting towards that total. Frustrating is not the word for having your legs work fine, but your lungs not able to keep up.

So I'm in a bit of a dilemma. If the marathon were yesterday, I wouldn't have been able to finish, at least not likely. My thoughts of a PR are long past last call. And I am back to the point of wondering whether lungs and body are in shape to even finish this Saturday. In February, I was probably in my top endurance shape, certainly 4-hour marathon or better, and pushed through the hilly Holiday Lake 50K trails.

A lackluster training regimen and ill-timed bronchial infection later, it's reckoning time with running and health trials and tribulations. I am giving myself a few days and couple more runs to see where I am for the weekend. I'll let you know.