Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Okay, You Can Stop Reading this Halfway Through

This last weekend I ran the USA Half Marathon Championships.  It was in Duluth on the same weekend as Grandma's Marathon.  Duluth has an awesome "Skywalk" system that is sort of like a sidewalk, but inside and on the second floor, complete with bridges over roads.  It reminded me a little bit of a mall, except there were a bunch of banks and grocery stores.  So a Scandinavian mall.  Also, a lot of the hotel lobbies were pushed up to the third floor, which was strange.

Sufficed to say, if I'd spend any more time on the Skywalk, you could call me Luke.  I was really happy for the Skywalk, because that meant I didn't have to go outside into this:
No, this isn't a Jedi mind trick.  It was somehow foggy and windy at the same time.  And there was a drizzle for three strait days.
On my way to Duluth, I rode in a shuttle van from the Minneapolis airport.  It was about a 3:30 ride (hours, not minutes).  At first I thought I had an awesome seat with not one, but two empty seats next to me.  Then, one of the largest men I have ever seen, who claimed he was wide enough to take up a seat and a half, but was wider than that, came and sat in those two empty seats.  Then the driver announced that we still had to pick up two more people.  One (a not small woman), had to squeeze in between me and the huge guy, so I was crushed between the two largest people I have ever had to sit next to and the corner of the van next to the window.  So I decided to go to sleep to put myself temporarily out of my misery.

Even though I'm describing things like this, I actually had a great trip.  Duluth is a really nice town as long as you don't have to deal with the weather.  I saw a ship so large that I couldn't see from one end to the other through the fog.  It had to have been at least a quarter of a mile long, if not more.  I met up with Cami Thompson, the Dartmouth Ski Team Women's Nordic coach for dinner one night.  She's married to Peter Graves, who was commentating, and the next thing I knew I was in the VIP booth at the restaurant eating with both race announcers.  So the next time you're at a race and wonder why the race announcers spent so much time talking about me, it's probably because I ate dinner with them, and not because I am actually deserving of any of it.  And Duluth kind of reminded me of Leadville, CO, which in my book is a compliment.

Anyways, I'm sure that you actually came here to read about my race instead of my review of Duluth.  Honestly, everything up until now has been a way of procrastinating talking about my race in the hope you'd get bored and stop reading before I get to that awful performance.  Going in, based on previous years' winning times, I thought that the leaders would go out in about 4:40-4:45 for the first mile.  I figured if I was close to them and tried to stick with them, maybe I'd end up having a special race and getting a huge personal best.

As it was, I went out of the start and wondered why my legs felt so bad.  I figured at the rate those guys were pulling away from me, I couldn't be going fast.  Then I reached the first mile mark and saw my time.  4:38.  A time I wouldn't having minded having run in the last mile, but the first mile...  From there on, I got passed.  A lot.  By a lot of people.  Sometimes I'd stick with somebody for a mile or so, but usually not.

When I got home, I looked at a book for converting times.  You know, a 14:45 for 5km is roughly equivalent to a 30:30 for 10km is roughly equivalent to a 1:07:30 for a half marathon.  The awesome part about this is that this is pretty close to my splits, so if anybody knows somebody who builds these tables, ask them what kind of time I could have run if I would have paced myself better.

But I prefer to look at the good news, so here it is.
My time through 5000m would have won the USA Men's 5000m Championship.  Take that Bernard Lagat.  Granted, my race went out at a sprinting pace, and the 5000m Championship could have been mistaken for race walking at the start.
I almost set a new personal best.  The problem was it was in the mile, and then again in the 5k, but I was running a half marathon.
They say if you're really good, you make more in appearance fees than you do in prize money.  I got a stipend for some of my expenses for the trip from the race organizers, but wasn't even close to winning prize money, so apparently I'm really good.

So, to end my review, Duluth: two thumbs up.  My race:  two thumbs down.  So as a tiebreaker...Grandma's Marathon, which seemed to be well run.  Plus, despite the fact that I didn't want to be outside any longer than I needed to be, there were a lot of spectators cheering.  So overall I give the weekend a positive review.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

No Witty Title Today

Sorry about the delay since my race 6 days ago before I got this blog post up.  I've done a lot of traveling since then and been very busy, but those are just excuses.

Speaking of excuses, the Rock 'N' Roll San Diego Half Marathon was what Frank Shorter would call a "no excuses day."  I'm not the biggest fan of this label, because it carries with it a brother nobody talks about, "excuses days."  I'd prefer to call it "a day when you should run a fast time," but that doesn't sound as good, so I digress.

Anyways, the weather was perfect, the course was downhill, and all of the other things that people talk about with southern California.  Except traffic and crazy people.  I thought there were crazy people when the Kenyans went out at the pace they did, but it turned out the winner was with them and even splitted for the third fastest half marathon ever.  That's how fast of a day it was.

Back to the crazy pace at the start.  For the first 100m, I thought the Kenyans were just being a little overzealous about not getting tangled up.  Then, they kept going, and I thought I'd see a lot of them before long when people started blowing up.  Then we reached the mile mark, and I could no longer read the clock on the lead car.  Then they became little specks on the horizon.  Actually, the specks were the guys they had dropped, but I didn't know that.  Then we never saw them again.

In the meantime, on the backdrop of a record setting day, I managed a measly 20 second(ish) pr of 1:06:06.  Given that my previous pr was from the windy city (by which I mean Dallas) when nobody wanted to do anything about the slow pace, I had hoped to do a bit more, but complaining about a pr is really looking a gift horse in the...actually, given that this saying comes from The Iliad, and that if the Trojans had perhaps examined said gift horse a little bit more things would not have gone so poorly, that saying doesn't make sense.  Anyways, in the words of Joe Walsh "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do."

Next stop: Duluth.