Sunday, March 17, 2013

2013 Napa Valley Marathon

Got down to Sonoma/Napa County late on Friday night.  I had the privilege to chill out on Saturday with my new friend Bob, and get some good rest and shut-eye.

BOB loved his ball...and a non-descript yellow wash cloth.  No word on his opinion of the glassy pool and hot tub.
Early-week forecasts had the start pegged at high 30s to 40s, but upon waking, it was nearly 50.  I was a bit worried, but was hopeful the cloud cover would keep a lid on temperatures.

Should've worn the belt.  There's strength in that buckle!
I was privileged to have The BGD be my handler for the race.  After about 5-10 minutes of easy jogging and strides, I handed my warm-ups to him and nestled into the field and awaited the gun.

Race Day
The race got out relaxed by all, heading south - eternally south - along the Silverado Trail through Napa Valley.  I was intent on going very easy - keeping the fuse "unlit" - so I let scores of people get out ahead in the first 400m before gradually weaving my way through the masses.  What helped that was my insistence on running the tangents, early and often.  About 600m ahead, the course curved right, let the whole field was following the pace cycle on the left (despite the fact that it was a closed road).  I stayed right and had a lot of room to myself.  

Before long, the field thinned out.  There were maybe eight to ten guys in front of me and few guys milling around, including Orin Schumacher, a fellow Eugenian.  He's been in marathon mode for the past year+, including a strong run at Eugene last year.  He was all set to pop a big one at Cal International 'til the typhoon rolled in and squashed his hopes.

I rolled along with him on and off for the first several miles, which included several rolling up and down hills.  Orin and his brethren - the Hackers running group in Eugene - are known for their aggressive training and racing, so it surprised me that both Orin and I hit the mile well over 6-pace (6:12).  I was perfectly OK with this, recognizing the importance of easing in.  We both picked it up a bit and kept the effort honest but measured. 

Interestingly, as the rollers came and went, I found quickly get swallowed up and dropped on the ups, only the regain on the downs - not sure if this is typical or opposite of ultrarunning strength.  Either way, I didn't feel good on the climbs, so I kept them conservative.

The number one motivating factor for running a marathon in the first place was to work on stride efficiency: in learning the ins and outs of ultra trail running, my fundamental stride efficiency has suffered greatly.  So returning to the roads was my way of assessing and practicing greater efficiency.  That factor was the primary focus today: "Execute" - working on symmetry of leg push and trunk alignment with an efficient turnover and forward engagement. 

Orin and I continued to trade positions on and off on the rolling early miles.  I managed to sneak under 6:00 pace for a few, before settling into high 5:5x and low 6:0x's.  I was OK with that, but hopeful that things would come around and I could groove some faster splits.

The stride felt...OK, but not great.  Something felt a little off.  When I saw Jake at the ~7 mile mark, he confirmed it:  I had The Swivel going!  Damn!  I knew it even before I saw him, and when he gave me the "up and down arms" motion, I knew it.  Damn.  Somewhere along the line, I've gotten into the habit of being super-twisty with my arms and trunk.  Not only does it waste energy, but it creates a disconnect, where no arm energy is going into the legs (and instead gets wasted in the mega-swivel).  I cleaned it up a bit after I saw him and, I think, kept it reasonable...

By mile 8, Orin began to pull away.  Bummer.  I felt flat, but kept to the plan.  I hit the ten-mile split just under 60:00, where a random misfortune struck.  The moment I crossed the line to hit my watch split, it beeped, but didn't seem to register.  Odd.  So I hit again and kept going. 

Three miles later, just before halfway, I figured out what happened: I'd been taking gels on a 20-minute timer.  The moment I hit the 10-mile mark, the watch timer beeped, but only once, as I canceled it by splitting my watch.  Thus, I forgot to take a gel, going nearly 35 minutes without any fuel. 

I'm not sure how deleterious this was, but by the time I hit the half mark, I was alone, and flat.  Ugh.  My split was respectible: 1:18:xx - but I knew I was going downhill...and not the good kind.  I split a 6:20 mile after that, and, indeed, it was all downhill.

Misfortune number two was the feet.  I've had terrific success with Drymax Socks, but have always worn the thicker pairs.  Today, I went with their lightest, thinnest socks - the Hyperthins.  They're awesome socks, especially for shorter, warmer-weather runs, but my stride was too inefficient for the minimalism:  I was overstriding and creating friction between the first and second toes on both feet.  Uh-oh.  Just before halfway I saw Jake and implored him to have some socks and new shoes (as I'd have no time to tie & untie my present pair) at the next spectator spot.  But no more than a half-mile later, I realized: "Wait a second, this isn't an ultra.  I can't take aid!" So when I saw him, just before 17, I turned down his generous offer and continued on, keeping the foot irritation largely at bay.

The rest of the race was spent in damage-control: simply keeping my legs moving.  I felt like I was running in 8" of water: slow turnover, heavy legs.  I struggled to keep the splits in the 6:1xs, and had several that dipped into the 6:20s, with the whopper coming at mile 22, where I somehow dropped a 6:37! 

After 22.5 miles of the same Silverado Trail highway, we finally turned off - onto more country roads - before drifting into Napa, proper.  I was passed by only two guys in the second half.  The first made quick work of me; the second, who slogged past at mile 21, stayed in front for a while before I was able to get past him again right before turning off Silverado.  I fended off one more guy and shuffled into town and to Vintage High School in a lackluster but valuable 2:41:53.

Putting together a decent stride for the last 100m.  Photo: BGD.

THE SPLITS (marker-based, not GPS):
6:02.1 (half: 1:18:5x)
12:45?? (missed one...probably didn't want to look!)

The Grades

Pacing: B.  I felt that the effort was even...but the splits clearly were not.  A mechanics and training issue.  Overall, this time was pretty darn weak.  6:11 pace?  But I felt like there was fitness in there that, for various reasons, couldn't "get out".  And the fact that I kept it in there - thinking Big Picture (Sonoma, WS) - isn't a bad thing...

Mechanics: C.  Not great.  Low marks for the "Mega-Swivel", but some points for correcting it, mid-race.  I felt like things were pretty symmetrical, but I was clearly too long, too big, too slow.  Clunky.  Given this assessment, you'd think I've learned nothing over the past three months, but I have.  And this taught me more.  Need to be way more compact....

Fueling: A!  While I lost a couple points for forgetting the 60-minute gel, I get HUGE POINTS for no bathroom breaks!  Yes!  So key!  This makes me 7-for-7, career, in marathons being "bathroom-free"!  Gotta hang my hat on something...

Mental Toughness: B.  Good, not great.  I felt like I hung together pretty well, but neither desired or had to go to The Well.

Joy: B+.  It was a roadie, which was a little light on the race cheer.  I was alone for most of the race.  However, the volunteers were friendly and super-helpful, and the spectators on the course were great.  It was a privilege to have The BGD there to encourage me, as well.  

Post-race Lagunitas Hop Stoopid on tap in Calistoga!

Refueling on the way home.  Nice snack. 
Post-Napa Valley Marathon Goal Assessment:
1.) Don't hurt myself. ▲Check!
2.) Don't beat up myself too much. ▲Check!
3.) Finish. ▲Check!
4.) Sub-2:40. ▼No.
5.) Sub-2:35. ▼No.
6.) No deuce stop! ▲Check!
7.) Excellent Sonoma training. ▲Check!

Those things, ultimately, make this marathon - and its two-and-a-half month build-up - worthwhile! I learned a lot, and got fit.  Excited to see where it will take me.