Saturday, November 28, 2009

San Antonio Rock 'n' Trot Marathon

Gail and I needed Texas for another state in our 50 State quest. And yes it will take a ka-gillion years to get them all! But we figured why not go to Southern Texas in November and get some nice weather. We don't really like huge marathons but this one fit into our schedule. We decided to fly into Austin first as I could use my travel privileges to get a us a free ticket there. Plus Olga and Larry live there so we could check out the town and get to see them for a night. Austin has like 50 bars in a 6 block area downtown. So we had some dinner then numerous drinks and had a great chat with Olga and Larry at a bar that was pretending to be Russian.

The next morning we drove down to SA. We checked into our hotel which was right on the River Walk and they said "Yes Mr. Henry we have upgraded you to the Presidential Suite". I play it cool like this always happens to me. Off we go to the 23rd floor and sure enough, we open the door and there is a 8 person dinning table with a chandelier over it. Leather couch, kitchen and two balconies. This is crazy!!! I only paid $134 for this. Well the downside was the air conditioning system on the roof above us made a racket but we soon didn't notice it.

So off to the expo we go and get our bibs. Did I tell you how I hate expo's? What a scam that is. Force you into town to spend money, no day of race packet pick up...waaaa...waaaaa.waaa! :)
But we ran into the "Prez" and "Hollywood" of Maniac fame so that was fun.

We got back to our hotel and walked the river for a bit, then headed out for dinner. It was such a nice night with temps in the mid 7o's. I so enjoyed this over the wet cool NW right now.

The next morning we had to get up around 4:30. This race had 30,000 runners in it so we had to take a bus to the start line. When we got to the bus pick up spot their must have been over 5,000 folks just waiting to catch the bus! It took us over an hour of standing in line just to get on a bus. Then it was only a 10 minute ride to the start line, but...we then had to walk about a mile to the bag drop area. They have a coral type start here depending on your expected finish time. I was in coral 12 our of a total of 38. So we heard the gun go off and they would let a coral go every minute or so. Gail and then went to use the port a johns as the crowds then rushed to start. I knew we would have tons of time so we were in no hurry to join the masses. After that we eased our way into our spot and 5 minutes later we crossed the start line.

The weather was nice for the start but we would pay later on. It was probably 70 degrees and very humid (94%). The course took us back towards the city center. I was going to run with Gail for a bit today so we could just have some fun. As we meandered through the streets some spots would have a few fans and others would be sparse. We had a band every mile but by the half way point in the race most were on break when I went by. Gail and I ran the first 6 miles together which was really nice as we often don't spend more than a mile or so together. I picked up the pace and would look behind me and she was right on my heels. "That is so cool" I would think.

Soon we headed out west of town and started to get into some nice rural park settings. Many folks complained that this was boring but I really enjoyed the countryside. The wind picked up to about 15 mph in spots here so I would try to run in a pack. I was just going to cruise this day, have some fun and finish another marathon. We lost the 1/2 marathoners at around mile 10 so the size got much better (9,000 marathoners and 21,000 halfs). I had a goal of finishing around 4:10 but I could tell that probably wouldn't happen today. As the headwind became a tailwind it got real warm. The temps were mid 70's but the humidity was the tough part. The aid stations were great. Tons of fluids, even one spot had wet sponges! I just had one hand held so I didn't take my camera on this one.(I put that on my belt).

At mile 21 I started to walk. I haven't had to walk in a marathon forever. But my training has been sort of lame the last month and I was paying for it now. I walked for a 1/4 mile then ran for 3/4's of mile. I just didn't have much juice. The last mile I ran the entire way in. I was being pushed by a woman I asked to join me as I noticed her walking. She would pass me later a few times and would invite me on with her. As we neared the finish you had to go through an underpass then back up. I so hate hills at the finish. I saw the line and still just trotted across. I finished in 4:21. That still put me in the top third of all runners and top quarter in my new "old" age group of over 50. This was about my third slowest marathon of the year with my fastest being my last at 3:52.

The finish area was huge, with wet wash cloths, water showers and a fair amount of food. I hung out hoping to see Gail finish. I am trying to stay on my feet for an hour after the race. I am hoping this will keep my blood pressure from crashing and making me so light headed. No Gail, so I walked to were we planned on meeting. As soon as I sat down she walked up. We hung out for a bit then walked the mile back to our room. It was so nice to have such a great temperature and not have to worry about getting cold.

We relaxed in the room for a few hours then headed out down on the Riverwalk for dinner. We had a nice Mexican dinner with tons of Margarita's! Here I sit with this beautiful woman, drinking huge margarita's, in my shorts and tshirt with the temp still 70+. Oh this is the life for me!

The next day we had a long one. Had to drive back to Austin and we left SA at 0430. Then we didn't have positive space tickets so we had to go stand by. We ended up on Southwest for the entire day. Our route home was Austin to El Paso to Los Angeles to Oakland to Portland. Long day but it all worked out.

As I look back I really don't have a desire to do another Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. They are too big, too commercial and way to hard to get around at. If it was my first marathon? Yeah maybe. But it was fun to have great weather, an awesome hotel room and to see some old friends. So whats up next? Not a clue. Gail and I are searching for a race in December but not sure which one we will do. Gail is tired of all the travel so hopefully we will find one close by. I don't care what it is, trail, road, combination or whatever. I am not a trail snob or strictly a road runner. Just point in a direction and say 'Go there!" and off I will trot.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Portland Marathon is Good to Me

I have not been into the blog posting world as you have noticed. Not sure why but I think sometimes you start writing so much here that you feel like you have to spend hours writing each new column. I hope to get back at it by putting out smaller posts but more timely.

Well this post is about the Portland Marathon. Our hometown run you might say. Gail and I like doing this because it is so easy to run then just drive 10 minutes home. As I always say it's a boring and mostly ugly course but it is home.

Saturday,Gail and I went to the expo to do the packet pickup pain in the bbbb...bottom. (Don't get me started on expo's!) But we met up with Rick and then went up to Bob Dolphins room to help him celebrate his 80th birthday. Bob would be running his 452nd marathon the next day. So it was great to speak with him and his wife Lenore.

Sunday morning was nice. Not too cold but had a cleansing rainshower a few hours before the race. One of the running stores downtown allowed us to store our drop bags and keep warm inside which was awesome. We ran into Marc and Sarah and the rest of the Slug clan, Rick, Eric Katie, Tom and Abbe. Katie's brother was also running with us.

My plan for this race was simple. Warm up for a 1/2 mile then push a bit. Last year I didn't push until about mile 4 so this year I would try a bit earlier if I was feeling OK. I didn't have big goal of a PR but thought I would just play it by ear and see how running faster than normal would do for me.

A few minutes before race time we moved into position. They started us in waves this year and I think we were in the second one. It was just getting light when the gun for us went off. Gail and I took off together as we usually do. She runs faster than I normally would in the beginning so its fun to get to run with her for a bit.

As we passed Nordstroms the Portland Drum group was out playing in the usual spot. Boy I love these folks. Nothing gets the adrenaline flowing more than hearing the 20+ drummers in a downtown setting. The crowd was pretty heavy as usual for the first few miles. It was hard to pass and not get in folks way.

Soon as we make the turn back down Natio Parkway you get a really nice downhill. Last year this is where I pushed it up but this year I was already going good so I just cruised. Crowds were fun and I had printed "FAT BOYEE" on my bib. Not allot of folks feel comfortable yelling "go fatboyee!" so I didn't hear too much.

As we headed out the ugly industrial section I really tried to go. I was running 8:15 to 8:30's. Would see some fellow Maniacs and other friends on this out/back and it made the run fun. I made mile only pit stop here for the entire day. Yes I know that's a shocker and it helped my time with only a 30 second stop rather than 3 or 4 of them.

As we headed up to Northwest Portland area we have a little climb. I just tried to run via my breathing rate and not push too hard. There is plenty of flat to push hard later. Through NW was fun as allot of families come out to cheer you on. But soon we get to the Highway 30 section. Most folks hate this part because its a wide 4 lane road and you can see out to the St. Johns bridge. To many it seems you will never get there. Well I like this part. It is my best part of a marathon usually. Which is between mile 12 and about 17. This is when I often get my fastest per mile times. You takes a long time to get this much fat warmed up! :) I really pushed here. Running the tangents of the corners. I need the mental stimulation just to keep from feeling the pain. Also around here I took 2 Vitamin I's to help numb the pain. I had hamstring pain the whole race from mile 2. It got better but never went away and has been bugging me off and on all season.

I love the St. John bridge climb at mile 17. It is like a change of pace. You get some good lung burn and your quads start to sing a bit. I just put my head down but stayed up right and once again ran via my breathing. At the top of the bridge you realize you have run 17 miles. There was a nice cool breeze here and had a good time going down the backside. I looped down under the bridge area and saw Darin and Trisha and shouted out a "hi!". Then we do a little hill climb for a few blocks and then its just flat for miles.

This North Portland section is when you start to see the folks that are hurting. I just kept pushing. I was actually running much harder than my fitness should have allowed. I have done zero speed training this year. It was all experience with pain now. How long can I hold out. I still felt great as we passed mile 20. Maybe just a tad bit of fatigue.

Mile 21 (Photo by Sarah D.)

Soon we hit the nice downhill section near Adidas headquarters. I love this part and I push hard. I am doing 7:20/7:30 pace here, which for me is like sub 5 for an elite. I love to feel the wind in my face. (Most the time the wind is faster than me!) I continue to pass many runners. I cruise by Widmer's Brew Pub and I start to feel a bit tired here around mile 24 or so. I might be running out of gas? I still go though. I get lots of "Go Maniac" today which is fun. (Wearing Maniac Yellow shirt) This year I bypass the free beer as I might just PR. I hit the last bridge and I still feel OK. But as I roll off the bridge onto Natio at mile 25 I soon realize that I am done. The gas tank just went to fumes. The last mile tons of folks pass me. I bet 5 people didn't pass me the last 8 miles now probably 30 pass me the last mile. My pace slows to about a 9 something. God I want to just be done. But I am pretty happy cause this Fat Boyee is gonna PR today. "Whoo Hooo!" I make the turn up towards the fat lady singing and turn off my ipod so I can hear the crowd. This is when big marathons are fun. Enjoy the moment Bret.

Mile 26 (photo from Sarah)

I turn and see the last 100 yards to the finish. For the first time in my career I see the clock with less than 4 hours on it. Yes I have finished under 4 before but never gun time. This is cool! I cross the line at 3:52, a PR for the marathon of over 4 minutes. Which was last year here too. Never thought I could run a 3:52 so I am pretty dang happy. This will be my last race as a 40 something year old. In a few weeks after the race I turn 50. I keep getting faster every year. I know my body will probably not let that happen for too many more but I sure am having fun trying.

At the finish I wait for friends and family. Gail crosses at 4:27, a great time for her. She had a good day but was bored as she ran alone all day (You see Gail is a social runner and likes company). Soon Eric crossed, then Katie and her brother and then the others. It was fun to chat with all and make some new friends too.

After a bit Gail and I got our Bob Dolphin Happy Birthday Tshirts on and went down to about mile 25.5 to run in with Bob. Soon he showed up around 6 hours and a bunch of us ran the last mile with him. It was so fun to cross the line with an 80 year old marathoner. Go Bob!

Well whats next? Portland kind of ends the heavy running season for me. I try and get a marathon or so in a month but its tough and the weather always is a battle. Gail and I are going to San Antonio to get a Texas Marathon done and hopefully enjoy some warm weather. It is a hug Rock and Roll marathon of 30,000 so I will just cruise and hopefully enjoy the day.

In closing I just want to say thanks to all the RD's for the great races this year. Eric you were a great friend to pace me twice, thank you! Gail, why you put up with my crazy running I will never know but I am so blessed to have such a great wife, friend and running buddy. I love you!

Oh and I am old now. I was as sore for the week after the marathon as I ever have been. Yep, I think I ran beyond what my body was trained for and I paid the price. But yes, it was worth every stair I struggled with for a week!