Saturday, February 21, 2009

It was a good day to race: Park To Park race report

The weather held out and there was only a slight headwind. No complaints from me.

Park To Park is a good, flat, mostly straight 5 miler from downtown Houston to Hermann Park. It's a great race to gauge how your spring training is going.

The plan was to run somewhere between 6:05 and 6:10 per mile. Turns out, my buddy Ed had the same plan. He and I have the same negative split racing philosophy (start out slow & run the 2nd half of the race faster than the 1st half), so we decided to work together to deal with the headwind and maintain a proper pace. Ed is much better at this than I am so it was an opportunity for me to work on pacing. I wasn't sure I could hang with Ed the whole race but was ready to give it a shot.

About that whole pace thing. The problem with running with a Garmin watch is that the miles on the watch and the miles on the course may be different. So when you pass the first mile marker *AFTER* the Garmin says you've run a mile....who/what do you believe?

This was the case today. The watch was telling us we were running ~6:05p during the first mile, but we hit the first mile marker ~6:15. Although we didn't discuss it, Ed and I decided to believe the Garmin. Both of us have run too many races to believe the first mile marker. And, to be honest here, I was not ready to pick up the pace by 10 seconds per mile ;)

By the time we hit 3 miles, we were zoning pretty well but the discomfort of the race was setting in. I mean discomfort in the same way a dentist says, " may feel some discomfort..." Ed and I had taken turns blocking the headwind but, as I felt like the wind was actually cooling more than slowing us down, I decided to lead vs tuck in. Somewhere during mile 4, Ed faded back a bit and I was left to my own devices.

Just after mile 4, I passed two very tough competitors. About 300 meters later, one of them passed me back and left me in the dust. Note to self...making a move with a mile to go in a 5 mile race may not be the best tactic. Okay, it worked on one of the guys; but he's coming back from several broken ribs...I don't think it will work later in the season.

I finished with 5.05 miles on the Garmin (likely due to a long 1st mile). Several folks, who also had Garmins, indicated the course was a bit long as well. I measured it later on GMaps and found it to be ~5.08 miles.

We all had to run the same distance so it's probably not that big of a deal...unless the course record was under assault. As for me, I'm really happy with my race and even managed to acquire some 3rd place age group hardware. Ahhhh, no...3rd place in your age group is not quite good enough to turn pro...

Yep, a good day to race

UPDATE: Forgot to mention my time of 30:48.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 Chevron Houston Marathon

This year, I’m pacing the 3:20 group. For non-runners and newbies, that means I’ll lead a group of folks who want to run the marathon in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Actually, there will be two of us leading the 3:20 group. Marathons are funny and things happen. So, with two of us doing the pacing, we can be reasonably assured that at least one of us will be able to get to the finish line.

Cool thing about being Pace Leader
You get to run the marathon for free. Yep, I get a bib number and everything and I don’t have to pay a dime. This satisfies my inner graduate student immensely.

You get free clothes. This year Under Armour is providing us with a singlet, socks, shorts, and a very nice running jacket sort of thing. Very cool. Oh yea, and we get shoes too. What, you say you didn’t know that Under Armour makes running shoes? Well, they go on sale at the end of January. So, I’ll be styling in shoes that only a few other lucky runners will have. This satisfies my inner fashion junkie.

I get to make a speech at the Marathon Expo on Saturday. Okay, it’s not exactly a speech. But I do get introduced and get to say a few words to anyone who might be listening. I haven’t worked out exactly what I’ll say but it’s probably going to be about taking it easy in the first few miles, running at a steady pace, blah, blah, blah. Of course, all of the pacers will be there and we’ll be around to answer questions. This will satisfy my inner public speaker.

And, I get to help a bunch of folks reach their goal of running 3:20 in a marathon. This is good as, over the years, many folks have helped me reach some of my running goals. Now I get to do the same. This satisfies my inner do gooder.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The economic crisis: Breaking up is hard to do

I know this is basically a running blog but when you believe you have the solution to a problem as big as this, you have to speak up.

I think I have a solution to our economic crisis.

The solution in 25 words or less.
Require companies that are receiving government bailouts to break up into smaller companies. That’s it.

The reasoning
It’s quite simple really. Breaking up a company into smaller pieces may not prevent every single one of them from failing…but if they do fail, it won’t be all at once and the economy can (hopefully) absorb the losses. And, if some of the pieces survive, it’ll be because they provide a needed product or service at a competitive price; which is what we all want…isn’t it?

What we don’t want is large companies (who are about to fail) getting government bailout money to use to buy up their competitors. Maybe I’m too simple minded but helping to increase the size of a failing company just doesn’t sound right.

I don't think this will prevent our economy from a recession but I do believe it will minimize the possibility that the next crisis will be even bigger.

This solution will be difficult to execute. Not all companies are equal; time frames will have to be set, criteria for bailouts, etc. So, yes, this will be hard. But breaking up is hard to do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nike Women's Marathon

It's been a while since I last posted.

I guess I didn't take the time to write...or maybe I just didn't have anything important to say. Now I do.

It's about the Nike Women's Marathon, held in San Francisco last Sunday. I've had a few days to read and think about it and, quite frankly, I'm not happy with Nike's handling of the situation.

It seems that Arien O'Connell set a PR and ran the fastest women's time in 2:55:11. However, the "winner" of the race ran a 3:06 something. It turns out that Arien thought of herself as a, "good solid runner" but didn't think of herself as an elite runner. So she did not line up with the so-called elite runners who started the race 20 minutes earlier.

Hmmm, I'd consider an open runner who could clock a 3 hour marathon as a good solid runner too. But I have to agree with Arien that that doesn't make you an elite runner. And by the way, only a few of the "elite" runners in the Nike Marathon even broke 3:20. In fact, more non-elite runners broke 3:20 than elite runners...go figure.

Anyway, I'm disappointed, to say the least, in Nike's current stance that they have, "...declared our winner" (per Nike media relations manager Tanya Lopez). Evidently, their primary argument is that it was two different races on the same course (I wonder if the race applications clearly indicated that).

Personally, I'm not buying their argument and until/unless Nike reverses their stance on this race, I'm not buying their products either.

There is a lot of press regarding this race and I encourage you to check it out for yourself.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The marathon is not an easy event...

"...The marathon is not an easy event. You cannot predict..." Haile Gebrselassie

So says, "Da Man" and so it is.

For the Houston Marathon, I was an official pacer. Yep, I was supposed to pace the 3:10 folks. You know, keep them running steady in the early miles, hold 'em back in the middle, and encourage 'em in the last 3-4 miles when it's really tough. Basically, try to keep the group running at an average of 7:15 per mile. I was really excited to be a pacer. And I was looking forward to a good, tough, workout.

On Thursday evening, before the marathon, I felt a "tickle" in my throat. By Saturday I was sick with the crud. On Sunday morning...well, let's just say that had I not been a pacer, I may not have run at all. Certainly not as a hard workout.

But, I took a hot bath, felt a little better, and thought, "maybe I can get the pace group through 20 miles." In hindsight, it's just amazing how one can rationalize ridiculous decisions. I mean, 26.2 miles is tough if you have both lungs working perfectly. And when they are not...things get ugly.

Anyway, things got ugly.

The plan was to start out slow, and pick up the pace gradually. We did; and hit the half at 1:34:38. Just a hair early but certainly not a bad pace for a 3:10 marathon. As we continued toward the 14 mile mark, it was a struggle. I couldn't seem to get enough air. At first I thought that maybe I had picked up the pace too much. At mile 14, I looked at my watch. 7:33. I knew it was over...I had been slowing down.

After that, every single water stop was a slow walk, then a jog, then stop for coughing, then jog...well, you get the picture. And that 7:33 for mile was my fastest mile of the 2nd half. I finished in 3:33:44. Over 23 minutes late to the party....

Oh, the pace group? Fortunately, the Marathon Veteran's group understands the need for two (2) pacers. Peter took the group in just under 3:10 on a very steady pace. Nice work Peter!

I love this sport. Especially the marathon. But it is truely humbling.

Everything has to be perfect.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pacing in the 2008 Houston Marathon

This year I have the honor of pacing folks who want to run a 3:10 marathon in the 2008 Chevron Houston Marathon.

If you are interested in running a 3:10 marathon, please join Peter Prescott and me for at 11:30am on Saturday morning (1/12/08) at the Marathon Expo (George R. Brown Convention Center). We’ll give you the details.

If you miss us on Saturday, we’ll be at the starting line on Sunday morning with a 3:10 sign and balloons.

Here’s a graph of my pacing plan. Yea, I know I’m overly detailed…

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bib scalping: A suggestion

See my earlier post to get what's going on re: the Houston Marathon.

No doubt, there are folks on the Houston Marathon Committee getting more emails, phone calls, and advice about this than they care to…

I understand capping a race. It happens all the time in several marathons. The logistics and resources necessary to put on a marathon are immense and health and safety issues are critical. One only needs to look at the 2007 Chicago Marathon to realize that there is a limit to how big a race a city can handle.

That said; it seems like there could be a better plan in place to get folks in the marathon who did not register prior to the cap.

The current plan is to help provide an open market for the buying and selling of bibs. In addition to the bib scalping, there’s another downside. Suppose that later in December, lot’s of folks are willing to sell there bibs at face value. And suppose that many runners hook up with these folks and get bibs. Well, that’s just great…but it sure is a hassle for everyone involved.

Here’s my suggestion…

If a registered runner finds out that they won’t be running, they let the marathon folks know asap. At that point, they get either a partial refund OR a guaranteed deferral to next year’s marathon. Bingo, there is now one more person who could sign up for the marathon.

If you’re one of the unlucky folks who missed the cap, you get on an alternate list. If you’re first on the list, you just got the spot from the runner listed above. Simple huh?

What about no-shows and last minute cancellations?
On the day before the marathon (Saturday in the case of Houston), a few of hours before the Expo closes, the marathon folks count up the number of race packets that have not been picked up.
For the sake of argument, let's say it's 500 race packets
Take some percentage of that...spose ~80% or 400 (gotta save some packets for those last minute pickups)
Then, start issuing RESERVED bib numbers to folks on the alternate list.

For folks in town, this should be pretty easy as they can hang out at the Expo. For folks out of town, they would need to know where in the alternate line they were to help them decide if they should come to Houston. If you're number 10 on the alternate list, you are 99% sure you're in (if, as Steve Karpas indicated earlier, ~10% of runners are no-shows).

Bingo, you just got up to 400 runners in the marathon.

Yes, there are logistics and details to printing out alternate bib numbers, keeping track of the alternate list, setting deadlines for refunds, etc.

However, you do eliminate (or minimize) the bib scalping that is making quite a few folks unhappy. You also eliminate the head-ache of either banning, or attempting to ban, someone because they sold their bib number on eBay for $201.

And most importantly, you provide a real service to the runners.