Saturday, September 26, 2009

Miracle Miles 15K

This is one of my favorite races each year. One of only a few 15K's in the state. The distance is a nice challenge and the beneficiary is the Winnie Palmer Hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It is incredible what this hospital can do to save the lives of premature babies. The medal each runner receives had the image of two tiny footprints of the smallest surviving baby born there, 14 ounces! It was said that this baby could fit inside a standard "Coca-Cola" can! The primary sponsor is "Chick-fil-A", who provides a hot chicken sandwich to all finishers!

For several weeks, I debated as to how I would run this race. I have my marathon coming up in two weeks, October 11th. Last year I paced my friend Sheri in the last 5K. I decided to use the race as a "pace" race. I would run the race as if it were my marathon. I would attempt to run it at my marathon race pace, slowing only for the water stops. Goal of 8:45 minutes per mile.

The morning was becoming warmer as I walked to the starting area. The starting area is approximately one-half mile from my house. As is common, the humidity was close to 90%. As I arrived the announcer mentioned the temperature was 78 degrees, at 6:20am. Yuck!

After gathering our running group, we moved to the start line. After a short wait, we were off and running. Although there were close to 1,500 runners, I did not find the beginning of the race very congested. Everyone moved quickly down the roads leading us out to Orange Avenue. Orange Avenue is the main north-south road through the City of Orlando. This was one of the few times a race route went directly through downtown Orlando. By the one mile mark I had settled into a comfortable pace. It was difficult to hold back at the marathon pace rather than a 15K pace. I reached the one mile mark at 9:00 minutes, right on pace. At about the 1.5 mile mark we turned off of Orange Avenue and began our run through the downtown neighborhoods. Shortly after the 2.0 mile mark the road surface changed from paved road to brick. After taking a tumble on the bricks last week, my awareness and heart rate jumped rapidly. We ran about 1.0 miles on the brick until we made our way back to pavement. This week I safely made it through without incident. From mile 4.0 to 7.0 we had a nice straight run heading back south. Mile 7.0 brought us a right turn onto Michigan Street. As I mentioned earlier it was already hot and humid. The stretch along Michigan Street from 7.0 to 8.0 was in direct sun. The sun was behind us, but it felt like the temperature rose another 10-15 degrees. The heat from the pavement could be felt as we moved along. Although I was maintaining my race pace, I began to pass many runners along this stretch. The heat was beginning to take its toll. I mentioned to someone after the race that Michigan Street just sucked the energy out of you. Mile 9.0 was a great sight, except for the fact that our road surface once again changed to brick, oh no! I decided that I had done what I set out to do, so I could treat myself to a mini sprint to the finish. My goal had been to finish at 1:22:00, my official time was 1:19:28 or 8:31 minutes per mile. I had met my objective as each mile time was very consistent. I felt strong at the finish despite the heat and humidity. I had a new PR for this race, not the 15K distance, but knowing that I ran the race at about 85% I was very pleased!

When I got home, I checked the long range forecast for Albany, NY and found the temperature was at 59 degrees. The forecast is for lows in 40's and highs in the 60's. If that forecast comes true, I feel very confident that I can maintain the pace that will allow me to break the 4:00:00 hour time for the marathon.

The photo is courtesy of Lorraine Hardaway. (L-R; Sheri, Jim, Lorraine and Dan)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How Was Your Trip

Yesterday was my last scheduled "long" run prior to the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon, Sunday, October 11th. It was the third "long" run of this session. My first one was titled the, "Nightmare on Glenridge". The second was better, but I still felt something was missing. I was looking forward to this final "long" training run.

The weather is always a factor here in Florida. This summer has seemed warmer than usual. Most of the runners in the training program echo that statement. Saturday, we caught a break with a start time temperature of 76 and humidity at 67%, about as good as it gets!

We started out at 4:00am to beat the heat. Get as many miles in before the sunrise. There were five of us who were running long; Jennifer, Erin, Nigel, Joe and myself. We eased into our run careful not to run too fast, too early. The miles clicked off and we were on our way back to meet some others from our group who were starting later.

Many of the streets we run on are in the beautiful city of Winter Park. To add to the ambiance of the city, many of the streets are paved with bricks. Nice looking, but watch your step. More than one runner has fallen victim to the mystery of the "jumping brick". That's the one that despite it looking flush with the others, manages to "jump" up just as you approach. This morning I became the victim of the "jumping brick".

As we made our way along Via Tuscany (can't you just picture that street in your mind?) at mile 7 of the run, down I went. It happened so fast, no time to think, all just reaction. Tuck and roll! First I went forward fully extended, then I rolled over completely. For some reason the area I rolled in was very sandy. Take one sweaty body, roll it in a patch of sand and you've got a mess! In a matter of a split second I was up and running, then I checked for injuries. Since I was running, I knew my legs were fine. I could feel my right hand throbbing. I must have used it to break my fall. I tried to wipe the sand from my legs and arms, but it didn't come off. I felt like I was rubbing sand paper on my skin.

We got to our water stop where there was some light and I could use the water to rinse. I also found abrasions to my left knee and left elbow that I hadn't seen out on the road. Good thing was that everything was moving fine and I was not injured. Our next water stop had a bathroom with a sink and running water. I was finally able to wash myself off and survey the damage. Onward, I still had 9 more miles to go!

By the time I finished the 22 miles, I was sore. Sore from the pounding of 22 miles. My "trip" was an adventure, but one I can now smile at. With three weeks left until my marathon, I did not need to get injured. I have put in too much effort into my attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

So I can look back on this run and ask myself, "how was your trip" :-)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Weather Forecast

A pre-race ritual for me is to begin checking the long range weather forecast for race day. Over the years, I have come to realize that the 20, 15 or even 10 day forecast is not very accurate. I could be even more critical and say the 48 hour forecast is not reliable. However, I keep checking in hope of finding the numbers I want. I have already entered the "zip" codes for Schenectady and Albany, NY into my computer. When I do find a "perfect" forecast, I only have to wait 24 hours to find the revised numbers have jumped by 15 degrees. How did that happen? Then they shift back to the "perfect" numbers. Along with the numbers, I see the description, "partly cloudy", "mostly cloudy", "sunny", and on and on. Various combinations for me to contemplate for a period of 30 days. Then it boils, (no pun intended), down to the night before and hopefully an accurate forecast. Shouldn't the "AccuWeather" forecast be accurate? Or maybe "Accu" doesn't really stand for accurate.

My training and planning can and does account for the many different facets of a marathon. The one thing I have no control over is the weather. So, why stress over something you have no control over? Maybe it is a method to not become complacent. I will be running my marathon 5 weeks from today. Soon, I will begin my quest for the perfect weather forecast for October 11th.

The photo accompanying this post is of a thermometer prior to the 2008 Mohawk-Hudson Marathon. "Official" race time temperature was 44 degrees. Oh, to have a repeat of the conditions from last year!