Sunday, August 31, 2014

Santa Rosa Marathon -- 3:04:16

This was my first time running the Santa Rosa Marathon and was my 22nd road marathon. I had heard good things about it from friends, and I was not disappointed!

The DeLoach winery was a lovely setting for the expo.

I had a nice pasta dinner with my friends Dana and Veronica. Thanks again, Dana for finding that restaurant and using a Groupon coupon. I then retired to my hotel room to get ready for the race!

Although I had my alarm set for 3:30am, to give me time to eat and get ready for the 6am start, I was woken up with a huge jolt at 3:22am. It was a 6.0 earthquake that was centered about 25 miles away in Napa Valley. I quickly got out of bed and onto the floor and waited for the rolling to stop. It was a long quake and was the second strongest I've ever experienced, with the first being the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. I checked Twitter on my phone and it appeared that the world hadn't come to an end, so it was time to get ready for the race!

Parking was easy and there were plenty of porta-potties, since we marathoners started an hour before the half-marathoners. I met my friends Dana and Veronica before the race start.

As 6am approached, I was surprised that the workers were still setting up the start line and there was a big rental truck blocking the road, but within minutes of the start, everything came together, and we were off!

I was planning on watching my heart rate and taking it easy at first and hopefully ending up with a 3:03 finishing time. The course starts off with many turns as we're exploring the cute downtown of Santa Rosa. Then we got on to a bicycle path next to a river and that was scenic. The miles drifted by easily enough. I tried to keep my heart rate in the low 150s and I was steadily passing people. There were small handfuls of spectators and I high-fived the high-fiving specators (mostly kids). I made sure to thank the volunteers and sometimes the police, too. It was fun and scenic.

On this scenic bicycle path, I saw a runner in front of me toss his empty energy gel packet to the side of the trail, into the grass. I felt like saying something, like "I've volunteered at races before, and let me tell you, I hated picking up energy gels on the side of bicycle paths. There are no street cleaners coming through here. Someone is going to have to pick up your sticky trash with their hands." But I didn't say anything. This is one of the big differences between trail runners and road runners. A trail runner would never intentionally throw trash on the ground in the middle of nowhere, far away from an aid station.

The course worked its way alongside some wineries and running next to the rows of grapevines was pretty. When we got to the DeLouch winery, we ran on the driveway and through the winery building! Neat!

The half-way point eventually came and I was feeling the work-out. I forgot to check my watch at that instant but I guessed that I ran the first half in about 1:33. Looking at the results afterwards, it was 1:32:22.

I gradually increased my effort and I passed the 3:05 pace group at around the 14 mile mark. I was wondering if I could possibly get in a 3 hour marathon. I thought I would try to get as close to that as I could. In hindsight, I should have been a bit more cautious and just gone for the 3:03.

Eventually we marathoners merged into the back of the half-marathon. There was plenty of room on the bicycle path and the slower half-marathoners mostly stayed to the right. I found it uplifting to have more runners around and for me to all of a sudden be much faster than those around me.

Around mile 23 – my energy levels just dropped and my legs felt heavy and both calves got very tight and I couldn't move as fast as before, especially up short little hills. I may have made a mistake with my energy gels during the race. I was feeling full and so I delayed my last energy gel (the 4th) until about 15 minutes before I finished. Maybe if I had eaten it on my original schedule (every 40 minutes) I would have been better off. So, the last few miles were much more of a struggle and I got passed by a handful or two of runners. Finally, the finish line came in sight and I finished with a good sprint, giving me a finish time of 3:04:16. Whew! I hung out for a while, picked up the free fleece jacket, and ate the free pancake breakfast. Yum!

So, all-in-all, I'm happy with how I did and I highly recommend the Santa Rosa Marathon. The race was very well organized. The schwag offered by the race was exceptional – long sleeve tech shirt, fleece jacket with a hood, bottle of wine, tote bag, and a nice huge finishers medal. The entry fee was $135 (including the mandatory fees). There was a pancake breakfast after the race, too. I bought the mug for $10 at the expo.
Random data:

  • Results are here.
  • I weighed about 166.2 lbs.
  • There were 1,657 finishers in the marathon and 1,450 finishers in the half-marathon.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mt. Ashland Hill Climb -- 2:21:21

Working hard, heading uphill, of course. :-)
Beautiful Ashland, Oregon, is the location of this crazy race, the Mt. Ashland Hill Climb. I ran it once before, two years ago, when it surprised me with a ridiculous last half mile of scrambling straight up a steep mountain top. Although the race is only 13.3 miles, I think it's fair to say that it's about the equivalent to 20.5 miles of your typical relatively flat marathon road course.

I ran the race well and paced myself well, and I'm very happy to have shaved off 4 minutes from my previous attempt. I finished 24th, out of 230 finishers.

I got a good laugh out of my Garmin data, especially for the last half mile or so. I think it took me about 16 minutes to go the last 5 or 6 tenths of a mile.

The course is mostly shaded, and although the predicted high in Ashland was 91F that day, I never felt overheated. I didn't carry any water bottles and I drank a cup or two of sports drink at each aid station. I ate one energy gel, around 54 minutes into the race.

My training was somewhat unusual. I didn't exactly taper for this race, since I'm focused on the Santa Rosa Marathon which is just two weeks after this race. So, I ran a slow 12 miles, two days before the race. I bicycled a few miles the day before the race and the morning of the race.

Jennifer, Claire and I enjoyed river rafting on the Rogue River and Jennifer and Claire attended a play at the Shakespeare Festival while I ran the race.

That's my big girl. 12 years old!
Random data: