Monday, June 04, 2007

San Diego R&R Marathon

It was a perfect day for a marathon Sunday morning in San Diego; overcast skies and temperatures around 61F (16C). I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house in Carlsbad, 30 miles up the coast, so I set my alarm at 3:45AM to give myself enough time to make the drive down to San Diego, find the participant parking lot and take the shuttle to the start line in Balboa Park. With all the worry about getting to the parking on time and working through the crowds, I was standing next to the start line by 5:30.

Once I got there, I was happy to see that I was assigned to corral #4; only a few hundred feet from the start line. Instead of cramming into the corral at 6:00 AM with most of the other folks, I milled around in the park until 6:25 before getting entering the corral. This really helped to keep me calm and my legs loose. I knew I’d take off slow in the beginning of the race, so a warm up was totally redundant. Unlike the Carlsbad marathon, I had resolved to run my race and stick with my game plan regardless of what was going on around me. And my plan was simple. Keep the pace between 8:50 – 9:00 through 20 miles and then have some fun. At Carlsbad this past January, my pace was all over the map for the first 6 miles but averaged 9/mi. After that, I sped up through mile 18 and then promptly blew up and limped in at a sub 10/mi pace over the last 8 miles. That wasn’t a lot of fun.

When the gun went off at 6:35, I crossed the start line within 67 seconds – pretty neat. Right out of the gate, the road was wide and there were no slow moving runners, groups running 10 abreast, baby joggers or any of the other impediments I usually find at other large races; there were just a lot of people running relatively fast for their projected finish time.

As soon as I went across the start line and headed north out of Balboa Park people started streaming by me. Where were all these folks going? My inner voice kept telling me to stay calm and run my race, knowing full well that I’d be seeing these folks again in 20 miles. Try as I might to hold back however, I still finished Mile 1 at 8:34. This wasn’t going to work. After Mile 1, the course loops back to Balboa Park on mile 2 and 3 and runs down hill into the city. Miles 5 through 8 wind around downtown San Diego, but I really didn’t get a good handle on my pace until Mile 7 as the downtown portion was ending and the up the hill portion along highway 163 started.

The climb up 163 isn’t too steep and only lasts 2 miles. I’ve heard of complaints about this climb. 163 is a freeway so the road is banked to handle the higher speeds and the concrete is grooved and very rough; but the road has a narrow asphalt shoulder that was perfectly acceptable. Along the way up this road, a fellow I know from my running club (Arizona Road Racers) passed me. I picked up my pace a little to keep up with him; however, even though he was stopping every few hundred feet to take pictures, he was running 20 to 30 seconds per mile faster than wanted to go and we said good bye on mile 10. Just as well, I would have burned out if I tried to keep up with him on the flats.

I can’t remember much about Miles 10 through 13. The course weaves through Any Town, USA for these miles and other than the timing mats at 13.1 miles, there wasn’t much to remember; or maybe I was in the zone and didn’t see anything.

I crossed the half-marathon point right on schedule at 1:55:43 and headed out into the no-man’s land between miles 14 to 20 in a long loop around Mission Bay. I did pretty well during this part of the race keeping my pace just under 9:00/mi. My mile to mile splits were a lot closer together than the first half and I was finally getting into a steady rhythm. I met a couple of nice people in this section, but I mostly tried to stay focused on my pace and conserve energy for the last 6 miles. I was also dumping water on my head at every water station to stay cool. I’m sure I looked like a drowned rat, but it worked. Each time the water flowed down my back, I got a little pick-me-up in pace.

It’s funny how a runner remembers his failures instead of his successes. I dreaded reaching Mile 18 since this was the point I blew up at Carlsbad; however, this time the 18 MILE sign went by without issue. Legs felt fine, breathing was under control and my pace was still good; however, it wasn’t until Mile 20 breezed by that I started to believe I could get a PR out of this race. I held a sub 9:00 pace on Mile 20 but then got a wake up call on Mile 21. Somehow, I lost focus on this section and logged a pathetic 9:25. This was just not acceptable.

Fortunately out of nowhere, an angel in a lime green technical top appeared at my right shoulder and started pushing me along. I don’t know where this woman came from or how long she had been following me, but she locked onto my right side a half step behind and just kept pushing me along. I can’t remember much about her (one sweaty runner looks pretty much like another sweaty runner), but to have someone running with me at this stage of the race significantly raised my spirits after the poor showing on Mile 21. Even though I know she was using me to help pace her, to have this unspoken companionship after running for more than 3 hours was exactly what I needed. Mile 22 improved to 8:54 and Mile 23 flew by in 8:38. Unfortunately, I dropped my muse somewhere along Mile 23. I turned around briefly to giveher some encouragement, but she had disappeared in the crowd behind me.

It would have been great if she could have kept up with me, but that wasn’t going to happen, so I started looking around for someone to latch onto for the last two miles. In shorter races, I usually spot my next victim and chase them down during this stage of a race. However, this tactic wasn’t going to work. There were way too many people and the field ahead of me was littered with those crazies that blew by me 20 miles earlier. Many of these folks were reduced to walking or were hunched over doing the slow-death-jog, hoping to survive the rest of the race. On the other hand, I had people passing me so fast that I couldn’t latch onto to them. So it seemed as if I was either getting passed by really strong runners or passing walkers that had taken off way too fast; I was on my own again. I was also struggling to keep my shoulders loose and relaxed, but knew that the finish line on the Marine Corp Base was getting closer. I also became aware that the sun had finally broken through the morning gloom and the temperature was starting to rise, but still, I only had two miles to go, so I just gutted it out and kept running.

The end was anti-climatic. Since I hadn’t blown up, I felt great. Unfortunately, I hadn’t planned what I was doing in the days / hours before the race and didn’t even have a clue how I was getting to the race until 8PM on Saturday night. With all the uncertainty (read: lack of planning) I hadn’t arrange any meet ups before or after the race. So I picked up finishers medal, got on the shuttle bus to the parking lot and drove back to Carlsbad.

The details:

Start to 10K > 53:59 – Avg Pace > 8:41/mile
10K to Half > 1:01:44 – Avg Pace > 8:57/mile
Half to 21 Miles > 1:10:52 – Avg Pace > 8:58/mile
21 Miles to Finish > 47:08 – Avg Pace > 9:03/mile


Overall, I was very happy with this race. The pacing was much better than my first marathon and the results showed the same. My average pace from 10K through Mile 21 was very steady and if it I hadn’t lost focus on Mile 21, my average pace over the last 5 miles would have been closer to 8:59 instead of 9:03. Not blowing up at the end and proving that I can run this distance on only 12 weeks of training plus a ton of travel is a great confidence booster. Plus, other than
some minor soreness in my quads, I haven’t had any physical issues resulting from this race. Now the trick will be to plan out a training cycle that will push down my average pace to something closer to 8:45 for my next marathon.

If you have a chance, check out Addy and Dawn. Addy ran a fantastic PR and dropped an hour off her time from last year’s San Diego R&R Marathon. That’s just amazing. Dawn left the chilly weather in Canada to run this marathon. Dawn isn’t the faster runner on the course but has more heart than most of us. Anyone that will fly all the way to San Diego to spend 7 hours running a marathon has a lot more courage than me.

Thanks again for your great comments leading up to this race. I can’t tell you how much I thought about you folks during my 4 hour tour of San Diego. I don’t run with a MP3 player, so I had a lot of time to think. Knowing that there were runners out there tracking my progress really helped to keep me going. I’ll do my best to catch up with everyone’s blogs this week now that I’m back in sunny Phoenix. Have a great week.

37 comments:

Love2Run said...

Nice job Phil. Another PR on what was less than optimal training, right? You make it sound pretty easy too.

So now you've proved that you can 'run' a marathon on a whim. I'll be keeping an close eye to see if you're going to really train and get that BQ the next time around. You can do it!

ReneeMc said...

Phil, I found this race report really moving. You're an extraordinary racer and I learn so much from your race reports. I am going to use some things I picked up at my 10K on Saturday and see how that goes.
And only then will I tell you what they were ;)
You have a lot of heart, and it shows. Thanks for everything!

Dusty said...

Congratulations!! I've been itching to read this report - but after my race, headed out for a get-away. Thought about you on Sunday!!

It has been great to read about your training as you reached this PR! AWESOME JOB!!

Go Phil!!!

Michele said...

You make it sound so easy!

Congrats on an awesome race!

Laurie said...

Congratulations on your PR!

You did a great job pacing and running your own race. It is amazing to me that you can travel so much the week leading up to the marathon and still run so well. Travel wears me out. I guess you are used to it!

Mike said...

I'm really happy for you Phil, nice job yesterday. To see how even you paced yourself is fantastic, and it's something I haven't managed to do myself. I think the lack of drama at the end of the race is how it's supposed to be when you execute well! You deserve this success and I look forward to reading about the next mountain.

Adama Anderson said...

Awesome job at the San Diego R&R! I love how beautfiul that place is.

Sub said...

Congrats on running such a well paced race! I can imagine how good it must feel when things go just right. Recover well!

Bruce said...

Good job Phil. You're a strong runner and I'm sure you'll get that average time down.

Ewen said...

That was a good read Phil. Don't worry about the anti-climatic finish. You've got the PB, and should have the confidence to go even faster next time!

Very well paced by the way - only a couple of minutes slower in the second half is solid running.

Jim said...

Great job Phil! Congrats on the PR. Enjoy it and start planning on the next one. Your report has me re-motivated to get back to work on my poor training schedule! Let us know what your next one will be!

Amy said...

Awesome job! Congrats on the PR! And on minimal training no less??? That's great!

San Diego was my first marathon and as I was reading your post I was recalling all the spots that you talked about (of course I was not as fast, but it was still nice to remember....)

Anne said...

I'm so glad you had a good time out here, Phil. Would have liked to meet up before the event, but there's always another time. You've taught us a fine lesson to stick to the plan and you can finish strong.

olga said...

Wow, a very strong one! Isn't it nice to feel no blowing up? Wish it happened often in life:) The Angels are soo awesome to run with! Way to go, Phil!

Deene said...

you ran strong all the way. good job!!

stephruns said...

That medal is cute! I will be "visiting" San Diego, too in July. Can't wait. Would be cool to run get to see SD for the very first time by runing a marathon - should have thought of that!!!!

Great job!.

Addy said...

Congratulations on running a great race and getting that PR!!! It's funny how we really zone in on certain points that have given us trouble in the past (I did the same thing sunday) but it feels great when you blow by those markers is a completely different fashion than before.

It's amazing that you ran so well on less than optimal training. You're obviously is such great shape now that you really can run a marathon on a whim, do wonderfully, and not even feel that sore afterwards. Definitely an inspiration :D

(Thanks too for the mention in your report! That was so sweet of you!)

Congrats again!!

Sempre Libera said...

Congratulations on a really well-run race and a new PR!

Marathon Maritza said...

Congrats on your great race! Loved the report

DawnB said...

congratulations again Phil, great job!!

Jamie said...

Simply killer. Nice job man! Pretty steady pacing there.

Journey to a Centum said...

The R&R series marathons have the best bling don't they? That's one hot looking finishers medal! Your blog has inspired me to get up from this computer and go for a run.

Congratulations on a run well done!

Cheers!

Darrell said...

Great job, Phil, on a very well run race.

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

Congrats on the PR. I'm sorry we didn't get to meet. I really enjoyed reading your report. You got lucky and finished before it got real hot. Thanks for the mention. I'm still working on my report, but some of it is up and photos are on flicker.

It was a great race and one I wouldn't mind doing again.

Banking Miles said...

thanks for the nice write up. looks like you ran a pretty even pace that paid off in the end with you feeling pretty good. what ever your next training plan will be, i am sure that you will be able to hit your pace goal.

Rose said...

Great race, and great report. Thanks for the inspiration, and congratulations on a new PR!

Laufenweg said...

well done!!

Bruce said...

Thanks for your comments Phil, I'll definitely check out those two blogs.

StumbleGuy said...

Phil, great report on the race. And such consistency in the pace over the distance too! That medal looks awesome.

Andy

Marathon Maritza said...

Phil - that's for the comment regarding the Pfitz plan....you succeeded in SCARING ME!!!! Eeeekk Can I do it?????

Thanks a lot. ;-)

Pat said...

Nice race report and a great race. I ran at an 8:xx pace this morning for about 100 yards and it wore me out. I can' imagine doing it for as long as you did. Maybe someday.

glad you enjoyed marathon #2 and I look forward to hearing about your next one.

pat
a new ARR member.

Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

Great job with the marathon, Phil! I agree with Mike, when you can execute a race plan to perfection and keep your splits exactly where you want them...there just isn't anything left at the end but to smile and enjoy the victory.

You must have really been in the zone out there...not a single mention of any of the bands. It was the Rock n' Roll marathon, right?

Gotta Run said...

I agree with Chad.. you were in a zone. I can remember you runs and struggles from so long ago when I first starting blogging a year ago. You continue to impress us all.

Thank you for your kind words following my race report. Only 3 more races to do this year. Exciting stuff!!

angie's pink fuzzy said...

i'm late, but wanted to offer my congrats!!!

Lana said...

Phil - I've been so behind on blogging lately that I didn't even realize you had finished another marathon!! Not only finished, though - you were smokin'! I love the steady pace, even over the last 6 miles. That's definitely my goal for the next one.

Congratulations on a perfectly executed plan!

J~Mom said...

Congratulations on an awesome race!! It really looks like you were very close to your goals! Even the times that were off were not far off at all. Great job and thanks for sharing the race report!

Bex said...

Phil - nice write-up of your San Diego marathon, and congrats on the PR! So when's your next one?! :-) I too am planning to run 3:45 or better in my next marathon. I think I'm going to do the Silicon Valley Marathon in San Jose, CA, on Nov. 4