Sunday, October 15, 2017

40 for 40: A well-paced race in Hartford

What I love most about the marathon is that when you step to the starting line, there are so many possibilities. Will this be a day when everything goes according to plan? Or will things fall apart? The only way to find the answer is to run the race. The further you run, the more the result starts to come into focus. As the finish line approaches, the possibilities are narrowed. At the start, you have your A, B, and C goals; yet it isn’t until you’re running the last mile and only a few possibilities remain that you know which goal will come true.
Run/commute to daycare past the Capitol on his birthday

This was another great race for me. I knew that I was in good shape heading into the Hartford Marathon. I nailed all my key workouts leading up to the race. I had a great race at the Annapolis Ten Miler (64:23) which is a hilly course, but we got some unseasonably cool weather for late August. I had an acceptable result at the Navy Air Force Half Marathon (1:28:46) on a warm day in which everyone I knew seemed to struggle. And while I did accumulate a lot of mileage (I exceeded 100 miles for a seven-day period for the first time ever), I had a proper taper and carbo-load leading up to race day. Plus, this is the first marathon where I trained with the Bob's Ironman stroller. In fact, I logged a lot of miles with Miles (possibly as many as half), so I was curious to see how that training would prepare me. All signs pointed to a chance to break my PR. Then, my coach, Ryan Vail, and I looked at the predicted weather.

Our shadow as we run through the National Zoo on a weekend run
Ideal race weather for me is overcast and in the 40s to start. I like to be shivering when the gun goes off – I had ideal conditions in Bismarck in 2015 (3:00:58) and Houston in 2016 (2:59:31). But, I have not had ideal conditions since. The weather for race morning called for 60 degrees to start at 8 AM rising to 71 by my expected finish time around 11 AM. I talked with my coach Ryan in the days leading up to the race. Knowing I am a cold weather racer, we ditched any thought of breaking 3 and put in 6:55-7:05 for my targeted pace. With ideal conditions, I would have tried to hold 6:45-6:55. Yet, the day before the race, they adjusted the prediction to 58 at the start to mid-to-high 60s at my expected finish. I asked him if he saw the updated temperature to which he replied that it has become a little cooler. I asked if that adjusts the strategy and he advised that it is still likely to be mostly cloudy but to run conservative on the faster end of what we had discussed. “Go out closer to the 6:55 range than 7:05. Start 6:55ish and make a judgment call after a few miles. You’ll know by then if you feel warm early on.”

With Andrew at the expo. Bib #255 for Billy (wore #55)

When I arrived Friday morning in Hartford, the temperature was in the 40s rising to the 50s by 11 AM. I missed perfect weather by one day, again! My cousin Andrew picked me up at the airport and we found a tea house in downtown Hartford near the XL Center where they held the expo. They opened at 11AM (not sure why so late – there was a line of people waiting to get in). I already had my bib since I requested a variant of #55 (they gave me #255) in memory of my cousin, Billy Goldstein, who passed away last month after a battle with cancer. I raised almost $500 dollars through the race’s charity in his memory and dedicated the race to him. At the expo, we breezed through, I picked up my start seeding sticker, got my shirt, and was ready to go. Andrew found that there is a lot of free stuff given away and took a shopping bag that a vendor handed out and stuffed it with free goodies to bring home to his kids. He spent a good twenty minutes at a headband stand looking for one that said something about dance since his daughters are dancers. As we were about to give up, he found it. He commented that it looked like an anorexia convention. For lunch, we stopped in Wallingford, where Billy had lived. His folks Nate and Iris, who passed young in the late 90s, hosted Thanksgiving every year and he kept that tradition going for years. We ate pizza and a calzone at Carini’s which Uncle Nate used to love. Then, we went to the cemetery where Billy was buried and placed a stone. I did some work that afternoon while he did a few errands and I rested. For dinner, the kids were all out so Andrew, his wife Kelly, and I ate pasta. Andrew and I watched a few innings of the ALCS against the Houston Astros – thankfully, the Yankees lost – before bed.

Spending time in the expo at a vendor's booth

In the morning, Andrew, his daughter Hannah, and I drove to the race. We parked about a half mile walk from the start in a lot. I did my pre-race stretches, took a few pictures with my support team, and headed to the start. I initially went to the start of the 5K which had a different start than the full and half marathons. I met a fellow runner, Mario Vazquez, 38 years old from New Britain, Connecticut. This was his first full, but he has run the half in 1:14. His goal was to break 3 hours. We talked prior to the race – I advised him to go out slow and respect the distance and he should have a sub 3 easy – then we found our way to the proper start. When the race began, I settled into a comfortable pace and tried not to go out too fast. Even though my first few miles were in the 6:40s, I was getting into the flow. I pulled back to stay with the planned pace of 6:55. There were fellow runners around me who were settling into their paces and we chatted about expected pace, thoughts on the weather, experience running Boston, and even music selection (a runner near us had his player blasting for all to hear – I asked if it was preset or if he would take requests). I remember two guys named Matt and Mike and we ran probably 6-7 miles together. Around mile 5, I made the decision to stick to 6:55-7 since it felt a bit too warm. Mike and Matt wanted to hold a 7 and hoped to break 3:05. Around mile 7, there was a spectator dad walking his stroller up a rugged hill as we passed by the banks of the Connecticut River with his baby inside. I shouted that we had his back and Mike yelled that we wouldn’t tell mom. We discussed running as fathers, and we listed the states we had run. Around mile 9, I felt myself breaking away from them. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. They are strangers and I have my own race to run.

With Hannah and Andrew right before the start

Once I hit the ten-mile mark, I was feeling pretty good and confident as I crossed the marker at around 70 minutes, right on pace for a 7-minute mile. The next seven miles were very consistent right around a 6:53 pace. The weather felt cooler so I focused on my breathing, looked at the road and runners ahead, and kept my rhythm going. I remember seeing Congressman John Larson (D-CT) spectating the course sometime after the half. As I passed, I said, "Good morning, Congressman. I used to work for Barney and Steny." He said good to see you or something like that - I couldn't make it out. At mile 14, we took a right and began the out and back section of the race. I thought if I could get to 17 then I would have nine miles to go and roughly an hour to finish. I think I hit the turnaround at 17 in 1:58 and change. Feeling good, I dropped my pace to 6:40 and started to pass quite a few runners. My plan was to get to 20 and assess. Somewhere before the 20-mile mark, I passed Mario who looked like he was suffering. According to the results, he went out for the first ten miles in a 5:42 pace, was down to 5:57 by the half, 6:43 at 20, and finished in a 7:20 average pace in just under 3:12. I guess he didn’t head my advice.

When I passed the 20th mile marker, my pace dipped back in the 6:50 range as I ran over a few rolling hills. I still had a few runners ahead of me, so I tried to focus on the one in front of me and catch them then the next one. With about 5K to go, my pace slipped over the 7-minute, and with two miles to go, I knew I was hurting. I kept telling myself it was almost over and knew I was in 3:01 or 3:02 range. If I could hit the 25th mile marker still in decent shape, I had about 8-9 minutes left, depending how badly I wanted the 3:01. With half a mile to go, I saw that I had one female runner ahead of me so I started my final kick, passed her with half a kilometer to go, and held it to the finish line. I was so focused on finishing that I didn’t realize the line was underneath the arch that is on the medal!

Connecticut State House

I was very pleased with my effort! This was my first marathon in the masters division, so a new age group PR; my fastest marathon east of the Mississippi; my 11th time qualifying for Boston (this one is good for 2019); my 40th marathon in my 26th different state; my fifth New England state (soon, New Hampshire, soon); and I can use this time to better my seeding in Boston for 2018 (currently submitted a 3:08 time, but this puts me clearly in the first wave whereas I might have been on the cusp of the second wave). Plus, I laid down the hammer at the end and accomplished the rare negative split (1:31:19 first; 1:30:22 second which is 57 seconds faster).

I met up with Andrew and Hannah and we left. I called Laura to share my excitement and tell her I was headed home. The plan was to drive to the downtown YMCA for a shower, but I forgot a towel and the traffic closures prevented us from getting there. Rather than risk it, I told him to take me to the airport. We said goodbyes and I basically walked through security stinky and wet. At least my TSA pre-check cleared on Friday so I was able to walk right through without taking off my shoes. I briefly talked with my coach, hopped into the bathroom to sink-wash myself, then found the bar for a beer and a snack. I wasn’t hungry, so I only ate some pretzel bites. The IPA was terrific! On the flight back, I shared a seat next to a woman who ran the half and has finished 45 states on her goal to 50 half marathons, one in each state.

Running marathons is addicting for me. I know I ran the best race possible on race day. Sure, there is always the what-if (what-if the weather was perfect or I had tried to break 3), but I am confident I ran the right race. I think I am getting better at these the older I get – I wish I could have learned some of these lessons earlier in my racing career.

At the airport enjoying a celebratory beer

My splits: 6:46/41/51/7:01/6:55/54/56/7:07/6:58/49/53/53/47/53/55/53/57/40/43/40/53/50/53/59/ 7:07/01/ 2:40 (6:16 pace) final .4
10K = 43:05 (6:56 pace)
Half = 1:31:19 (6:59)
17 Mile = 1:58:34 (6:59)
20 Mile = 2:18:28 (6:56)
25.1 Mile = 2:54:10 (6:57)
Finish = 3:01:41 (6:57)
58th Overall of 1618; 46th Male of 934; 5th M40-44 of 149; 13th Masters of 527.

Beer and metal

After the race, here is what I posted on Facebook:

3:01 at the Hartford Marathon this morning. Third fastest time overall in slightly warmer than ideal conditions. Very pleased with my effort, negative split (hit the half at 1:31:19), and another BQ. Thanks to the Casmans (Andrew and Hannah) for serving as my support crew and to my awesome wife Laura and my training buddy Miles who sits in the Bob jogging stroller so I can get in my training runs. And thanks to my coach Ryan Vail. 40th marathon and 26th state. Also, I ran this race in memory of my cousin Billy Goldstein who passed away from cancer last month. I also had a bump on the top of my left foot causing some discomfort. It wasn't pain, but I could feel it when I walked. Oddly, it didn't hurt during the race. After the race, I pushed down on the bump and it snapped back into place and the discomfort went away, for now. Interesting.

A few comments from fellow runners on Facebook

Karsten Brown: “A negative split like that is the sign of somebody who knows what he's doing. Great job!”

Keith Freeburn: “Great job out there! I need your patience. I've never come close to negative splitting a Marathon. Karsten is correct. A definite sign of a runner that knew what he was doing.”

No comments:

Post a Comment