Friday, May 20, 2016

How women took over the world of running...

A very interesting article in the WSJ. Check it out here.

I noticed this back in 2013 or so at a half marathon when the announcer at the start said that 60% of the registrants were women. 

Looks like the popularity of running has peaked at around 2012. I started running around's about double what it was then!

Back in 2010 I noted that number of searches for the term "half marathon" was growing strongly each year. Using google trends again for this search we can see that indeed 2012 seems about the peak and especially after 2013 it starts going down.

It's going down pretty steeply...I can't help but note that 2013 was the Boston bombing year.  

If that is the cause, my guess is that people are still running the same amount but maybe they are racing a wee bit less because of the bombings.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

RUNDown: 2016 Cleveland Marathon (#27)

Well, it's done. 27th marathon in the bag! Speaking of bags, what do you think of my fashion-statement-garbage-bag?

As it turned out, I didn't know it but I would not need it for very long. You'll find out why later...

Lucky for Toni and I, United Airlines had a nonstop from SFO to Cleveland..sweet! We got to Cleve on Friday night, had dinner and went to sleep.

Next day, time to hit the Expo...I thought the "footprints" they had stuck to the carpet to show you the way was nice.

Not a huge expo, in fact rather small but really, who cares? After 27 expos I'm kinda done. To get your bib, you needed your big number, to do THAT you needed to look up your name in a little bound notebook. There were 12 notebooks with little tables. Not a very scalable idea. Most races just print it all out and post the pages on a wall. But we were their early so no problem.

Sol Lewitt painting "Run"
After the Expo some lunch and a trip to the Cleveland Art museum to meet with some friends and see the exhibits.  If you have a chance to go, I recommend it heartily.

After the Museum, a walk to a very nice Italian restaurant and then off to the Symphony. If you ever get a chance to go, DO IT. Besides being one of the best in the country, the concert hall is hands-down the most beautiful.

It's Art Deco and magically lit.

Severence Hall, Cleveland

After that, back to the hotel to get some sleep...erm..already 11pm...going to be up at 5am. And you know how you are supposed to keep off your feet the day before a marathon? Google Fit app said I did 2 hrs of walking..Oops...


In my previous post, I estimated my fitness: looked at my training logs vs previous buildups as well as my most recent marathon (December '15) and decided 4:30 was a reasonable goal. I've been running more for this buildup and so even though this course had more ups and downs than my last race this seemed within reach.

You need a goal because you have to actually run at *some* pace. If you go too fast, you will burn out and hit the wall. Too slow isn't as risky: you can always speed up later if you feel great! But you don't want to be too far off from ideal as your fastest race is one with pretty even splits.

The problem for this race: wind. As the day approached the forecast showed 16-20 mph from the WNW. For the first 11 miles we'd be sharing the road with 12,000 10k and half marathon racers and so I figured drafting would be no problem (plus there are a lot of tall buildings in the city)

But after mile 11 we'd be heading west, mostly on "Lake Ave"...ever hear of Lake Erie? It's like the Black Sea..not much protection from WNW ripping wind.
(If you have ever run into 20 mph of wind you know how much it takes out of you. A big hand pressing on your chest saying "Where the *@@$ do you think you're going kid?".)

The other problem: cold. Forecast was for 39F with some rain at 7am start..only getting to about 45F by the finish. I ran the Los Angeles marathon on 2011, where we had wind and 1.5 inches of rain, and that was pretty rough, this seemed on par and maybe worse.

As I pondered this .....I decided: run the 4:30 pace or maybe a touch faster when in the city with the good conditions, drop back to a lower pace for the upwind slog...conserve energy...try to find as many  people to draft as possible during this segment! Then turn downwind and see if we were ready for the final the throttle if we felt good. Hopefully, I would make up the time lost on the upwind leg.

Somebody once said: 'A marathon is just a 10k...except you have to run 20 miles to the start!'. Such a snarky but succinct way of saying that the LAST 6 MILES of a marathon are where it all goes down. That's where you see people reduced to walking, limping, trotting, whatever it takes to get to the finish line.

The penalties of miscalculation are painful: There you are at a 10 min/mile pace and thinking you have 60 minutes more...then wall hits you in a mile or two..and you just can't run anymore.  At a 17 minute walking pace NOW you have another 7X6 minutes on the course...1:42 instead of an hour..more time to be mad at yourself and pondering your early mile speed demon stupidity the whole time. Ouch.

So to reiterate: turning downwind after mile 17.5 I had almost 9 miles to the finish with a tailwind  If I didn't crash and burn fighting the upwind leg..I should be able to bring it home at some reasonable pace. I hoped.

Race morning

Up at 4:40am, and getting everything's always really hard to decide how much to wear in really cold conditions. You have to keep warm and not get hypothermic, BUT you can also get overheated. And, if you can't wear the object anymore, you have to either have a good way of carrying it, or you pitch it.

I had a good jacket..I knew that was essential..some gloves..more about them later...a hat..and full length compression tights for the legs. I bought these at the Indianapolis marathon (which was 33F at the start, no rain) and have never worn them after. But it seemed prudent in this case.

Here's thing about cold and running: running generates a lot of heat (at least for me). It takes a lot of cold to cancel that out! (like 50F is ideal)..therefore, wearing tights is a bit can't take them off (easily) in the middle of the race.

Peering out the hotel window from behind the curtains....secretly hoping for a major screwup by the weather forecasters. It was raining, hard...Damn supercomputers...forecast holding as before.

The race notes asked for all marathoners to get to the starting corrals by 6am! Standing a full hour in that stuff seemed really crazy. Flags all blowing straight out. Not the kind of thing you look forward to right out of bed, eh?  I have my checklist for getting ready (I have no brain at that hour) and eventually I was ready to go: I headed out at about 5:45am. 

Along the walk i ran into some locals and asked if we'd be able to use the Quicken Arena to hang in while we waited for the start. They said yes, last year there were able to. YAY! No freezing to death waiting around standing.

I rested down in the underground pedestrian passage to the train station. When the time came to go outside and get in corrals, there was ~9,000+ people out there. I did my usual trick of chugging 12 oz of water from a throwaway bottle and taking 1 GU 15 min before the start (I can now avoid the first two water stops which are usually a huge mess).  I pitched the old t-shirt and the garbage bag and got in corral E.

The horn sounded and it took us a full 5 minutes walk to the starting line. Finally I got to punch my watch at start running!  Within 10 minutes we had the hail pelting us and bouncing off everything.....that was a first!

5600 folks running the half...but also about 2800 running the 10k. (~1500 in the marathon). At 2-3 miles in you could hear some of the 10k folks breathing hard..they were running a fast pace for them.

Some of the halfers were pretty underdressed: shorts and t-shirt. They were running around my pace so they're looking at 2:15 of 40F - windchill.  Seems pretty gnarly to me, even at age 20.

It was impossible to run the tangents with such crowding It was also slightly tricky road conditions..a lot of patching and cracked pavement...I've run a bunch of trail marathons and so that doesn't really bother me. Yes, pay attention to your footing!

There were some spectators out in this nasty weather, can you believe it? I assume they were all friends / relatives, but they were nice to have! The scenery interesting as we didn't really know what Cleveland looked like but a lot of brick buildings! (we have no bricks anymore in earthquake country ;).

There were some small rolling hills ...20-50 feet up/down.The course  has about 1100' of down and 1050' of up (unequal because the start is not in same place as the finish...they are about a mile apart). But no big deal..

We were being pelted by hail most of the time, but sometimes it was rain instead. The rain was worse: it got you wet, and this cools you a lot with that wind..the hail looks nasty but it's actually dry...I was still feeling pretty warm so far.

Toni took this shot: hail blown into a corner.

Eventually the 10kers split off and we continued on..there are rivers in Cleveland and so many of the small 'hills' were bridge overpasses.

I should give a shout out to all the volunteers that had come out to work the water stops, first aid, and importantly set up some music along the course. They did a great job and I tried to thank them at every stop.

Finally the halfers left and we turned west. And there was the wind. I slowed down to 10:30 or so (not hard) and started hunting for 'draftees'.

Pretty soon I pulled up on a skinny but tall guy going a tiny bit slower than I was. He was wearing earbuds which was a plus (he wouldn't hear me behind him).  I was going to follow him pretty close..about 3-4'. If you get in just the right spot you will feel the rush of air over your face becoming turbulent and the drag on your body goes way down.

But, you have to pay attention and stay alert. If your draftee stops suddenly you need to STOP (or break out to the side). If the wind direction shifts you might need to be more off their shoulder. You keep monitoring for that buffeting feel in the air via the pressure in your ears and the feeling on your face.
(It helps that I used to fly model gliders and kites and sail small get a very good wind sense doing that)

Let me talk a bit about fueling and drinking: I took GU Roctanes at miles 0, 3, 7, 13, 18, 23. At the end of each interval I felt like I was slowing down and becoming weak and after ingesting they picked me right back up. I think the cold temperatures made me burn calories noticeably faster and the 6 GUs never bothered my tummy. I was taking a swallow or two of water at each water stop to stay hydrated (you still need water even though you are a wet dog...go figure!)

My gloves were a total PITA. My bad for not remembering this from Indianapolis Marathon and getting new ones: They were too small! If you are running with wet hands, putting them back on is almost impossible. They also were not keeping my fingers warm enough: so I balled up my fist and let the fingers flop around like squid tentacles. I recommend getting two sizes bigger.

The miles clicked off and I was feeling ok but not great. My solar plexus got pretty cold as time went on. I got tired of paying attention and so sometimes peeled of my victim draftee. I found other even bigger guys to tuck behind on and off.  I would guess I drafted about 2/3 of the time from mile 12 to mile 17.5. One of the guys I chatted with was about the same age as I was and was going a bit too fast and I let him go just before the turnaround.

At the half my split was 2:14:39..right on a 4:30 finish this westbound stretch I averaged abut 10:35 and so I was down about 3 minutes by the turnaround at Rocky River @ mile 17.5.

The Rocky River bridge was a bit of a hill but got a good view of the river and lake..lots of whitecaps and turbid brown water color! I could see the turnaround ahead and it was a very welcome site.

As soon as I turned back toward the city I could feel and easing of effort required to pace which has been down to 10:5x m/m for the last two miles jumped back to 10:1x m/m at the same effort level. I started feeling warmer too.

But 10:1x paces weren't going to get me back to 4:30 finish time. I felt pretty fast because I started passing more and more runners as the miles ticked by. I caught up to the guy I had chatted with ..he was walking! When I passed him he started running again and gradually pulled away from me.

Eventually at about mile 22 I figured out I was actually overheating (!)..I was sweating in my jacket. I stowed it and pushed up my sleeves and started to feel better already. I started speeding mile 24 I could see the rolling overpass we had to take to get back to the city. This was decimating the pack and forcing many to walk.

Not me, I felt great. The wind was still pushing us well and so I charged ahead and kept at ~10:00 pace despite the hills. The chatting guy I eventually passed for the last time and didn't see him again. We passed a sound system playing Elvis's Jailhouse rock and it caused me to speed up ....and felt my legs get a bit tweeky like they would cramp...and so slowed back donw.

Just when I thought the hills were over there was one last 90' rise over the main river...only a few people were running it. I felt good and charged it..tweakyness was gone. The downhill side passed behind a big building and the turbulence behind that almost knocked me down! Buffeting from all sides!

Sprinted the last 2 minutes to the finish at 8:15. HR was in high 130's which is not bad for the end of a marathon at that pace. Sprinted to the finish and punched my watch and let out a shout! I still felt great!  Looked down at my watch and saw (I kid not) 4:30:00 !!! Another shout!

(I started my watch a bit before the mats so actually ran a 4:29:56)

There is no feeling like training and planning and running a race and feeling strong through the last miles. The recipe all came together this time!

A great T shirt and medal.

After the race, my usual burger and beer and then a trip tot the Rock and Roll Museum.

Results and Splits

16/31 in 60-64 Age group, 636/903 of Males,  942/1477 all marathoners.
Not a fast time for me but getting back into shape!
Second half run 1m 20s slower than first half.

Finish Time
Finish Net4:29:56
Finish Gun4:35:45
LocationNet TimeClock TimeTime of DayPacePace Between
10K Split1:03:401:09:298:09:4810:14 /mi
10:14 /mi
Half2:14:192:20:089:20:2810:14 /mi
10:40 /mi
30K Split3:13:213:19:1010:19:3010:22 /mi
10:06 /mi
Finish4:29:564:35:4511:36:0510:17 /mi

2016-05-15 Sun
   CMiles       Pace      HR   Elev+     Elev-

Thursday, May 12, 2016


Well, the training is in the bag..about 420 miles in the last 90 days. This is the best buildup I've been able to do in a while.

Here's a bar chart of the last 90days of runs

Two 20 milers in there about about 10m/m. My training was pretty bad last year so I have ben doing  4:40ish marathons for the last few.  Now, I hope to do more like sub-4:30 this weekend. But mostly I want to finish strong and pace properly.

This year I've got three races on the books and hope to get back to higher mileages. Here's my mileages per year since I started running. At 500 miles this year so far I'm on track to get to about 1200 ..more typical for me.

Date Runs    Miles   Pace      BPM    YPB  
2008-01-01 Tue 61 357.4 10:24 118.2 1.463
2009-01-01 Thu 173 1269.3 10:46 122.0 1.470
2010-01-01 Fri  147 1117.1 10:06 122.6 1.473
2011-01-01 Sat  180 1129.0 10:11 124.0 1.436
2012-01-01 Sun 170 1163.3 9:48 125.8 1.454
2013-01-01 Tue 191 1414.4 9:36 124.8 1.492
2014-01-01 Wed 213 1605.9 9:57 119.1 1.521
2015-01-01 Thu 144 916.2 10:43 114.9 1.488
2016-01-01 Fri   78 501.3 10:02 120.2 1.471
Summary 1357 9473.9 10:08 122.1 1.478

The weather forecast for this Sunday is pretty good: some showers temps cool at 45-55. I don't mind the rain too much. The only bad thing is there is some 8-15mph winds expected. Luckily the last 8 miles it's all a tailwind.  Still not sure if I'm going to take pictures during the race..probably not since it's going to be wet...and not sunny so the shots will tend to come out blurry.

I have cut a pace band for 4:30, and I will hold that pace and see how I feel at mile 18  at the downwind turnaround. If I'm lucky and feel really strong, I'll speed up a tad. Cheers!