Tag Archives: Races

Memorial Day Weekend and Vermont City Marathon Wrap-up

So, Marathon number 4 is in the bag, and, I think I’m finally proud to have finished one.

First, I cannot recommend the Vermont City Marathon highly enough – this is the third year the family’s headed up for the race, and we’re yet to be disappointed. Memorial Day weekend, Lake Champlain, and a set of phenomenal races – what’s not to love?

Saturday is the kid’s race day at the YAM Scram. Woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. The kids love it, as it’s one of the few times they get to have Fruit Loops, and I’m a sucker for unlimited coffee and fruit salad. Then, it’s down to the waterfront for probably the best run kid’s event I’ve ever seen. The YAM scram uses the same area as the Marathon finish – same gate, same announcer’s booth, same finishing chute – which is a real hit with our boys. Nate rocked the half mile this year, looking seriously at Melissa before the start and saying “Mommy, I think I need to run it by myself”. And Jake did a great job at the mile, not stopping once.

We changed up Saturday afternoon a little bit – stopping for lunch at the farmer’s market on the town green, and actually lingering at the Expo. The expo’s great – a pretty big space for a medium-small race, so there’s room to move around, and a great walkthrough of the course running continuously. I was pretty psyched that Small Dog Electronics was there – best Mac blog around, and apparently an excellent computer store. I was sorry I’d remembered to bring my power supply with me. Supper was at the Vermont Pub and Brewery, who gets extra credit for selling half pints at half the price of a pint, which is especially handy the night before a race.

Sunday morning was the race – plenty of parking in downtown Burlington. The wife and kids hung out with me in Battery Park for the start of the race, and then walked around downtown while i ran.

Repel the Yankees from New Dork!

About mile 6, I realized that 4 hours wasn’t happening in any way, shape, or form. It was phenomenal seeing the crowds through downtown Burlington, and great to see Melissa and the kiddos.

Second time down church street

Battery Hill, the race’s crux, just before Mile 16, felt great going up just after seeing the family and the drummers at Mile 15, but in Battery park, about 200 yards past the top of the hill, both of my calves siezed, and I battled cramps the rest of the way. 16-21 were really rough, but once I hit the bike path along Lake Champlain, the end was in sight.

Recovery after the race was good. We stopped by the Magic Hat brewery, which rocked, then sat by the pool and wiled away the evening.

At the Magic Hat Brewery


Hey, blog-o-folks!


I’m still here, and life is pretty good. Summer has been very, very good to me, though, to tell the truth, I’m ready for a little vacation from summer vacation.

I’m recovered from Mooseman (Physically, at least – Mentally, I’m still not over it. No more Halfs). Recovery wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought it would be, and I was back up to about 20 miles/week running in 2 weeks. I haven’t really hit the bike again much (I think 2 or 3 rides) since, but that’s fine – the next goal is the NYC Marathon. And I’m going to crush it. (Maybe)

We did the annual vacation in Vermont, which was awesome, but wet. This summer, in general, has been miserable weather-wise. But it was great to hang out with the kiddos and wife, to get some good eats, and to mentally regroup.

I’m busy at the office, traveling a bunch. But it’s the good kind of busy, and I’m mentally ready to make sure that training doesn’t suffer.

I started using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate I training program. It seems to fit me pretty well: cross train on Monday, run Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, rest Friday, tempo run on Saturday, and long run on Sunday.

Well, it worked well until today – long run #4 blew goats. Part was humidity – swear to gosh that it must have been 75 degrees and 99% humidity. Which, I’d usually love, but I think that Beer on Friday watching The Rivergods and delicious wine (with a surprisingly compelling website) on Saturday didn’t help. Neither did doing Saturday’s tempo run at 4 PM and 85 degrees before a 6 AM long run.

I made it the 5 miles to downtown Mystic, but had to call it quits. Not quite a full-on bonk, but I couldn’t keep running. No pacing, no ability to control temperature, and I just really wanted it to rain. (Which it did as soon as I got home).

Breakfast and church helped – I took the kids canoeing on the Mystic River after lunch, and we caught the tail end of the Seaport’s classic boat parade – my favorite (and I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture) was a yacht straight out of The Great Gatsby, complete with flappers and bathtub gin. Only thing missing was jazz on a Victrola.

Anyway, I think I’m going to modify Hal’s plan a bit. Instead of running short (3-5 miles) on Tuesday and Thursday, I think I’m going to do the longer midweek run on Tuesday, and do the weekly tempo run on Thursday, so I’ve got a day of recovery before the weekend. I’m going to flex the long run between Saturday and Sunday depending on my schedule. The remaining short run will either be a recovery run on Sunday (If I went long on Saturday), or will be time on the bike on Saturday. (Man, I loved the Tour this year)

This is marathon 4 (Really?). My takeaways from several go-rounds, and from watching Melissa train:

  • Hit the long runs. More than anything else, having miles in the legs and a little bit of endurance is the key to finishing the marathon.
  • Be consistent in training. Even if you’ve got to cut a midweek run short, it’s important to do SOMETHING, otherwise the legs get tight, and tight legs get hurt.
  • Shed weight. I’ve got about another 6 weeks where this is possible, and it makes a HUGE difference once the 20 mile runs come around.

So, that’s my plan. I really don’t want NYC to suck.

Other stuff:

  1. I hit up the XO last drill weekend to see if we could do the Newport Naval Station Triathlon even though it’s drill weekend. He said “Sure.” I didn’t ask for followup, so that’s on tap for this weekend.
  2. New Haven 20K. Best race of the year. One of these years, I’m going to have one that doesn’t suck.
  3. Friday nights are Family Fun Runs over at Bluff Point. We’re hitting about 50% of them, but they’re a blast.
  4. I’ve pretty much written off the Terramuggus tri series this year – too darn busy.

Hope everyone else is well. Hopefully, I’ll actually use this blog again, and not end up on Jon’s “Dead Blog” list. I’ve been using DailyMile – best mileage tracker since Nike+, but without all the Flash overhead. I’m also using Nike+ again, but not entirely pleased.

Thoughts on Mooseman

I think that the most telling was Jeff, Warren, and I sharing the same thoughts pretty much immediately after crossing the finish line, which was something along the lines of “Well, I think full on Ironman is never going to happen.”

Which wasn’t an acknowledgement that it wasn’t within our capabilities, but was more of an acknowledgement that the commitment to 140.6 was light years beyond our willingness to commit to the training, time, and suffering necessary to do the race right. But more on that later. Specific race observations that might be useful to someone else approaching the 70.3 distance:

1. The swim base is pretty easy to get. I was swimming 3 times a week between 1.5K and 2K from January to March, and dropped down to twice a week from March through the race, as it was nice outside and I swapped a swim for a bike each week. While the Mooseman swim was in a pretty sheltered bit of cove, I’m not sure that more open water swimming would have helped much with the lake swim. Maybe if it’d been an ocean swim, which I think the Hip would corroborate.

2. If could go back to February and redo 10 workouts between then and the race, I’d cut out a couple of my 10+ mile runs and do them as bike/run bricks. The transition between bike and run just plain sucks if you haven’t been doing it – the back needs to learn to go from completely stretched on the bike to vertical on the run. The first time I realized I had lumbar muscles was about 400 yards into the run when they seized up.

I did several run/swim bricks, but, frankly, I don’t think the transition from swim to run is really that tough. Swimming’s low physical impact. Although it’s critical to do a lot of it to build good form and not blow all your energy in the swim, I don’t think there’s much other than making sure you’re under LT to make going from swim to bike difficult.

On the other hand, instead of the 10+ mile runs, I’d like to do many more workouts of 60-90 minutes on the bike followed by 3-6 miles of running. I think that the individual bike and run workouts during the week (40-90 minutes bike and 4-7 miles running) built and maintained enough of an aerobic base to get through the race, and that bike/run bricks, starting with 15 mile/5 mile goal in February (1 hour on the trainer, 5 miles bundled up on the road) lengthening to a 40 mile/10 mile brick 2 weeks before the race would have been immensely useful.

3. I think Warren’s approach to transition was brilliant. Even if I’d been shooting for 6 hours (or 5.5 hours like Zipper), the difference between 7 minutes total in transition or 14 minutes in transition translates to minor, minor performance improvements in each event. Stretch, fuel, and move out. Plus, I would have had sunglasses on the bike, and wouldn’t have squinted or worried about catching a rock in the eye.

4. Mooseman was exceptionally well supported. In hindsight, I wish I’d considered nutrition more. I don’t know what I would have done in a less posh race situation. Much of my bike training relied on cash and convenience stores.

5. Wish I’d taken Actafed the night before to help sleep/ease congestion, and a Claratin the morning of the race. Snot sucks.

I suppose I could go to some good number like 10 tips, but that’s about all I really learned in the race that I didn’t capture in last week’s post. There are a couple of personal observations to make, though:

Initially, I’d approached Mooseman as a chance to really get in shape; a chance to go to the next level in training. But, as the race approached, and as life continued to intrude, I realized that I was spending a lot of time training in order to just survive 70.3 miles. Training for peak performance would have required at least twice as much time as I had to commit, and just wasn’t going to happen.

So, in my mind it became fine just to finish this race. And I’m thrilled with the outcome.

This is my last half ironman for quite a while, though. After 5 years of relative dedication to fitness (WOW – really? 5 years of being pretty consistent with running?) I think I ought to move past ‘finishing’ as a goal and actually try to improve. Improve weight and BMI, improve finishing times, and generally go from being a guy who runs to support poor eating habits to just being a guy who runs well.

The best long-term outcome from this race is that I’ve realized that I LOVE a 6 day training schedule, and love doing a run and a swim on the same day (or a bike and a swim) at least twice a week. I remembered why I love cycling – the symphony of person and machine, the animate and the inanimate merging like yin and yang into something greater than the two parts, and will not be happy unless I’m doing it more this summer.

But I’m not committed enough to give more than 3 hours of my weekend over to training. I love the time with the kiddos, I love the time with the church, and I love puttering around the yard instead of being alone training.

A good (for me – shooting for around 4 hours) marathon can be done on a schedule of 7-9 hours a week. A good Olympic triathlon can be done. And great sprint tris can be a part of that training schedule.

But, unless I can come up with some quantum breakthrough short of HGH, EPO, and crystal meth, there’s no way that schedule is going to support anything beyond finishing a half ironman for me (as has been proven).

I’m trilled to have done Mooseman, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this is the first race I’ve done for which I think I’ve accomplished something significant by training for and finishing. I’ve written before about my letdown with finishing marathons and not hearing choirs of angels while I crossed the finish line, about not feeling “changed” by completing a marathon. Mooseman did show me that there’s a whole other level of potential I haven’t tapped in my psyche. That’s one reason why it’s the first medal I’m really proud of.

But it’s going to be a long, long while before I do 70.3 again. The kids are going to have to start ignoring me on the weekends, and I’ll have to have the HoneyDo jar cleaned out.

So, I figure some time around 2050 or so,

Mooseman 2009 Recap

So. I got the link for Mooseman pictures. Warren’s posted phenomenal writeups for the run, bike, and swim – and, frankly, I think I’m trying to block out much of the experience. So, here goes:

First, with our trip to watch Missy run the Vermont City Marathon, and with the beauty that is springtime in Mystic, I’m pretty much just in love with New England right now, so I was dying to catch the Amazing Hip (AKA Zipper Quigley, AKA Jeff), Warren, and The Running Chick with the Orange Hat and share a little bit of sunshine, green grass, and blue skies with them before the snow flies again (Yep, I’m a little breath of sunshine, I am). But I rambled on about this last post, and won’t dwell, except to say that the light of day made the night before look much less dark than that post.

Race morning was surprisingly less chaotic than I’d expected. It took next to no time to break down camp (the guy in the tent across the way said “That’s the best breakdown I’ve ever seen”. Guess camping regularly with the kiddos has its benefits). I’d put all my gear into my wetsuit bag the night before, so didn’t have anything to do other than roll up the sleeping bag and tent, and tote it to the car.

Parked, headed to Transition, and laid out the stuff. Warren was already there, freaking out about having lost a pedal (which ended up well). And then I was done setting up with way too long to go. Jeff was chipper, having done Wildflower and knowing how much suck awaited us. Me? I was petrified, and not even sure if I’d finish the swim. I was having flashbacks to my first triathlon, Terramuggus a few years back, where I got about 150 yards into the swim and completely FREAKED from disorientation. Which, I convinced myself, was going to happen again. Provided I didn’t get trampled, as we were in the the second wave of the start, which meant that there were like 600 people who were going to pass me before I got out of the water. But getting passed was fine – I’d swim wide from the buoys, meaning, I’d do like 3 miles instead of 1.2 …

Whatever. My head was far from a good spot. Jeff kept handing me his water bottle, and I kept saying “No thanks”. After about the 6th time, I realized he wanted me to hold it while he fiddled with his cap, or goggles, or something. So, not only was I going to be trampled, but I’d been dumb and rude to my friends, who probably wouldn’t even tell Missy where to claim my body after the cops found it after dragging the lake.

Sooner than I expected, it was time for the race to start. The first wave got off, and we waded out. Handshakes, good wishes all around, and MAN, was the water cold. The chill kind of put me off my rhythm – I’d been practicing 5 strokes per breath, alternating sides, but couldn’t manage more than 3 before my lungs were burning.

In a way, the swim FLEW. I got way out to the side and stayed there, very rarely swimming into people’s feet, and only once getting run into. I ended up in a couple of armpits, which was a new experience. Getting to the first turn was quicker than I’d thought. The crosswise leg was tough – the seas were directly off the beam (says the sailor), so breathing to the right meant a couple of mouthfuls of sparkling lake water. I peed as I rounded the second buoy, which was surprisingly pleasant feeling. I’ve since scrubbed the wetsuit.

Soon enough, I was out of the water. I knew the swim was better than I’d hoped, since most of the caps I saw were from the wave behind us, and there were more than a few from our wave. Turns out that, relative placement, the swim was by far my best event.

I was shocked to see Warren in transition, but he’d taken a leisurely time of it. Told me that Hip’d left just a minute or so earlier, told me he expected me to pass him momentarily, and left for the bike. I finished catching my breath, dried off with a towel (No, I’m not a real triathlete – sue me), put on socks, cycling shoes, a jersey, and drank a half bottle of water. Then, I grabbed my bike, trotted out to the start, and clipped in.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the bike was the best 3 hours of the day, ’cause it was. The bike course was great. The first 5 miles – pretty road, with a freakin’ evil climb that was made bearable only by the woman dressed as Didi. There was, however, a camera doing a live feed from the race at the top – and the thought of flying a double bird as I passed did cross my mind. But, that would have required action besides gasping for breath and keeping the pedals turning. I’d passed Warren, resplendent in a Rabobank jersey, broken down at the bottom of the climb. I thought about stopping to help; however, that might have been enough inertia to keep me from finishing (I only slightly joke).

The sight of Warren, however, did stick in my head a joke along the lines of “Hey, Warren, you climb about as well as Robbie McEwen“, but I was pretty sure that McEwen hadn’t ridden for Rabobank in about 10 years, couldn’t think of a recent Rabobank sprinter, and wasn’t completely sure if Warren would make the connection and find it funny, or just think I was a tool. And now I’ve wasted a paragraph explaining it, which means it wasn’t funny in the first place.

But the ride was transcendent. Other than Devil’s hill, I didn’t blow up on any of the climbs, managed to descend like the fat guy I am, and didn’t get blown by on any of the flats. There was a little bit of acid reflux on the first half-lap, a combination of bacon from the pre-race pancake breakfast, lake water, and Gatorade (which I found particularly acidic that morning). Switching from Gatorade to water, and adding the gels that were handed out at the water stops seemed to make the tummy stop hurting, and I don’t think that I had nutrition problems all day.

The last third of each lap, from NH 104 back to the Harriman State Park, was the absolute best type of New England road biking – decent two lane pavement, rolling hills, and a combination of shade, pasture, and quaint village. There were two turns that were just glorious – sweepers into which you could really lean. Man, I love the bike.

Before the race, I’d planned on averaging about 15.5 MPH, based on watching my heart rate. I’d left the HRM band in the car the morning of the race, so went by perceived effort. About 70 minutes into the ride, I looked down and noticed that my bike computer was giving me an average speed of about 16.5 MPH, which was WAY above where I wanted to be. But, I kept my head down, kept the RPE at what I felt was low, and kept on.

The last 5 miles of the bike were tough, though. Other than the ride up to Smuggler’s Notch while we were in Vermont on Memorial Day weekend, I hadn’t gone over 40 miles during training, and my back started feeling sore around mile 50. In most of my training rides, I’d stopped between 20 and 30 miles for a stretch and nutrition, but decided to keep riding during the race. Hindsight says I probably ought to have stretched mid-ride. And going back through a decade’s scattered ride notes, I think that the 56 miles of this race may be the longest distance I’ve ever kept my feet on the pedals (would say my butt on the saddle, but there were a couple of climbs out of the saddle) ever.

I was shocked when I rolled into T2 with my bike computer registering 16.9 MPH (splits say 17.2 average) average speed, crushing my pre-race goal. The thought was also terrifying – if I’d exceeded my planned effort by that much on the bike, the run was going to kill me.

Which it did.

T2 was much quicker than T1 – changed shoes, changed socks, ditched the jersey for a shirt rather than digging everything out of my pockets, or trying to run a half marathon with a bike tube and mini-pump in my pocket (Or confusing people that I was really happy to see them). New shirt, some more water, and one last bocadillo, and I was off.

And into the most pain I’d felt in a long time. Couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t stand all the way up, and couldn’t understand why I had no freaking rhythm – I’m a runner, darn it! Walked to the first water stop, ran another mile or so, walked up the first wicked big hill (and decided right there that I wasn’t going to screw around with it at all – it was getting walked on the second lap, too). At the top, I finally realized that unless I took time to pee and stretch, there was no way I was going to make it through the run. So I did – into the portapot, dropped trou, dropped a duke, peed, and spent 4 or 5 minute stretching out my legs and back.

Y’know what? It worked. I could run (sort-of) again, and made it down to the run turnaround without stopping. There was a steep section between the turnaround water stop and the main road, so I hydrated and walked back to the main road, the ran back up to the portapot where I’d stretched out. Rather than running down the steep hill, I walked, and, just after hitting the bottom and starting to run, I saw Warren

Cannot say how happy I was that I was running, not walking when I saw him – he was too, and even though I think we both knew that the other was hurting something awful, it really helped to see a friendly face. I figured he was on his second lap, and tried to figure out where he’d passed me on the bike, he looked so good.

Made it back to the park, and the turnaround, and about a mile into the second lap, spotted Jeff’s Orange County jersey, shouted “Orange County Represent”, and realized I’d be done in about an hour, and hoped Jeff’d save me a beer.

The second lap was much better than the first – part because I knew exactly how badly it was going to suck, instead of having an unknown quantity of suckage ahead, and part because as I kept running, it kept feeling better. At that point, I realized how ultras were possible – there is a level of pain, once reached, can be sustained indefinitely, provided you keep ingesting calories. Trouble is, The Wall is between most of us and the never-ending level of pain, and, man, does The Wall blow. Tris are nice because you kind of get to coast through The Wall on the bike, and once you start the run, it’s nothing but a maintenance thing once you’ve worked the kinks out of your back.

Walked up the wicked hill again, walked the bit after the turnaround water stop, walked down the wicked hill again, and set my teeth to finish. The sun came out and the wind died about 1.5 miles out from the finish, and I stopped to walk a bit. Ran the last mile, and passed a runner marked as the run part of a relay team.

Coming into the finish, I felt like a million bucks; life was great, I soaked it up, wondered how I could change my registration to “Bill” instead of “William”, and was generally on cloud 9 until, quite literally, the relay runner I’d passed about a mile earlier pips me at the line. Go check out the pictures – Helen Waclewik, running just the easy 13.1, was absolutely compelled to cut me off. Stupid relays.

In any case, I finished. I was outside of my best-case estimate of 6 hours (40 min swim, 3:20 bike, 2 hour half marathon), but well under my realistic time of 6:30 (1 hour swim, 3:30 bike, 2 hour half marathon). The run was WAY harder than I’d anticipated. But, that’s a post for another evening.

Dianna’s picture seems appropriate to steal and put here to close – I was kind of against our taking it before the race, what with hubris and all (I’ve read me some of them Greek epics), but in hindsight it works:

Warren, Bill, and Jeff at the finish the day before Mooseman

Colchester Half Marathon 2009 / Lent

I ran this over the weekend with a bunch of guys from the church.

Missy ran it last year, and had been warning me about how tough it was. I was kind of skeptical – our first stretch living up in Connecticut, we lived just off of the course, and I didn’t recall it being that hilly of an area.

Thing is, I wasn’t a runner then.

This is one of the toughest races I’ve run – up and down all over the place. TRCWTOH has said she wasn’t crazy enough to run it (though I’m guessing she could run anything. But won’t press it, as she volunteered to bring beer and chips to the finish next year). And we ran it this year in completely benign weather – mid to upper 30’s, not terribly windy. Missy keeps reminding me that there was a bizzard the day before last year’s running, and she still finished.

Anyway, I felt pretty good throughout the whole race. Set a pace and mostly stuck to it. I walked a bit of the last mile, just because I didn’t want to go all-in, as this was a training run and not a flagship race. I’d set a goal of finishing in 2 hours with gas left in the tank to keep training this week, and think I hit that goal well.

Almost too well – I finished at just over 1:54, which is within spitting distance of my 1:53 PR from the OKC half last April. Considering the degree of difficulty for the course, I’m over the moon with the performance. I’m still carrying at least 10-15 lbs more than I should be (probably closer to 20-25 lbs over optimal), but it’s a sign that the motor is working well.

And look at that effective transition to talking about Lent!

Since I’ve put on a few pounds since the New Year, I’m giving up (in order of priority):

  1. Drive-Thrus
  2. Deep-Fried Stuff
  3. Soda

Drive-thrus make sure that I’m going places with good food choices, and providing the ability to eat well. Deep-fried stuff eliminates french fries and onion rings, which, while especially delicious, are nothing but empty calories, and lots of them. And while I drink just diet soda, I’m beginning to buy the argument that it just doesn’t matter. Between the artificial sweetener and carbonation, there’s got to be lots of bad stuff going on in soda that the body doesn’t like.

I broke down and had a soda on Sunday, but that’s only one in an entire week, which isn’t so bad.

San Antonio Marathon 2008

So, there’s three marathons in my legs now.

Man, can I feel the third one.

Missy and I headed out for the San Antonio Marathon and half (me full, Missy half – she had ITB troubles this summer) on Sunday. The day was pretty close to perfect for a marathon – crisp and cool at the start, rising to the mid 70’s by noon. The course was great, too – flat, flat, (mostly) pretty decent pavement, great spectator turnout, good support with drink, gels, and water, and great volunteers.

And we will for sure look at Saturns the next time we need a car – man, did they do a great job as a sponsor. I don’t generally like to shill for companies, but Saturn was there with good stuff all the way through the race – good pace tattoos at the expo, heaters and hats at the start, and the only bit of shade at the finish.

Running was as good as running a marathon can be. I was absolutely great until about mile 21, and then everything went to crap. I think that my big mistake was to take a little bit of a walk break there, and I couldn’t get momentum back after that. I walk-ran through the Kappa Kappa Delta water stop just past mile 24, but from about mile 25 on, I kept having pretty intense cramps in my calves and left thigh.

Which drove me crazy. I’ve been listening to my lovely wife about the beauty of pacing, and even though I felt great at the start of the race, I fought the urge to RUN and kept right at the 8:55/9:00 pace that the tattoo required for a 3:55 finish. So the miles clicked on, and as I crossed the halfway point, I could really feel the difference between this race and the others that I’ve done – there was plenty of zip left in my legs. So, when I walked and couldn’t really get going again at 21, I was frustrated.

I lost 15 minutes in the last 5 miles, finishing in 4:11, for a PR.

AND, I’m happy about the marathon thing for the first time ever. If you look back to 2005, you’ll read about a bit of post-marathon depression on my part. This time, I’m pretty psyched about the whole experience, I think largely because I did a much better job sticking to the training program, modifying it only slightly to account for life, sickness, and motivation.

Support Review

This was an inaugural marathon, so the City and the organizers have more than a couple of bugs to work out:

The Start

  • NO COFFEE! First, I think that this is pretty close to being a violation of the Geneva Convention – having people stand around at the crack of dawn without providing anything warm and caffeinated. Made even worse by the fact that the race brochure SPECIFICALLY STATED that there would be COFFEE AND BAGLES at the beginning. I’m kicking myself for passing a half dozen Starbucks, Krispy Kremes, and Taco Cabanas without getting coffee.
  • NO SHELTER! The start was at the Lions Field just south of Brackenridge Park, rather than in the park itself. So, there was no where to stand in the dry if it had been raining, and no way to stand under something to stay warm-ish in the 30 degree morning. If it had been a typical San Antonio November morning, we probably would have been OK. Saturn had some patio heaters – 30,000 runners tried to huddle under them.
  • GREAT ACTUAL RACE START – The Rock and/or Roll series uses “Corrals” for the start, where groups of about 1,000 runners are set off spaced about 60-90 seconds. The beauty of this is that there’s not the usual pre-race shuffle for the first mile. The drawback is that if you’re back in corral 30, you don’t start until at least 60 minutes after the leaders.
  • Parking – plenty of parking at the ATT Center, and since we were there 2 hours before the race start, we had no problems getting a shuttle.

I think that 90 minutes standing and shivering before the start may have had something to do with the crash at mile 21. We’d brought throw-away sweats for the start, but should have brought some space blankets, too.

The Finish

  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS. After 26.2 relatively flat miles, there’s a dip to go under the freeway, then a hill for an onramp, then a downhill and a 90 degree turn for the bus loading-unloading ramp, and then a hill and a 90 degree corner to the finish line. Blows.
  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS PART II. After you get through the finish line support (great, by the way – plenty of food, plenty of volunteers), you’re out in the middle of a big parking lot. No grass, no benches, no trees.
  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS PART III – NO SHADE. So, you’ve just run 26.2 miles on a pretty sunny course, and it’s afternoon in South Texas. Of course you don’t want shade. NOT. Seriously, the only shade was in the Saturn Tent, and in the potties. No tent under which to watch the entertainment. It hits 85 some afternoons in November; this could have been a disaster.
  • THE ALAMODOME STINKS PART IV – NO PARKING. So, by using the Alamodome for the finish, the organizers eliminated almost all the excess parking in downtown San Antonio. They’d tried to mitigate it by having parking at the AT&T Center just east of Downtown and running shuttles, but the buses didn’t work – we stood in line (Did I mention there’s no shade?) for about an hour before we got on the bus.

How I’d Fix It

  • MOVE THE START TO BRACKENRIDGE PARK instead of the Lions Fields. Starting in the park would solve the shelter at the beginning part, as it’s pretty well wooded, which feels much warmer, or would block some of the rain. There’s also stuff on which to sit at the start. You could bring the shuttles off of Hildebrand into the park, and have them get back on 281 to make another run by taking them out on Mulberry.
  • MOVE THE FINISH TO HEMISFAIR PLAZA. Starting another half mile up Broadway at Brackenridge would let you finish at Hemisfair without having to change much of the course. There’s a bunch of advantages here:

    • Easier access to downtown hotels

And that’s honestly about it. Shade at the finish and coffee at the start could have made this my favorite marathon ever. As it is, I don’t think that we’ll go through the trouble of running this race again – there’s more than enough cool local options in New England, and enough other destination races to do that our trips to San Antonio ought to go back to being just about family.

Oh, I’d also like to comment about the walkers – there were a TON of them. Miles 22-24 shared part of the course with miles 11.5-13, and the last two miles of the marathon and half courses were on the same road. There were probably more half-marathon walkers finishing the half as I was coming to the finish line for the full, and plenty of marathoners hitting mile 12 as I was going past the other way. And, even with the corral start, I passed a lot of walkers in the first few miles.

All in all, it’s a pretty decent race – the course is great, and if the weather

New Haven, 2008

Monday was Labor Day, so I found myself back down in New Haven for the national 20k championships and in the company of the lovely and talented Jon and the witty and interesting Dianna. As usual, the weather was on the hot side of perfect.

Missy and the boys headed down with me this year, and I think they had a good time. New Haven’s got a great setup on the green, and the kids loved running through the bouncy things.

The race started out exceptionally well – legs were good, and I was just over 50 minutes at the 10k (You can check out the results). I’d felt kind of bad – about mile 1, I ran off from Jon and Dianna, feeling good, good, good. Even down the first long, sun-baked, windless stretch, I felt GREAT.

Then, about mile 5, there started being a bunch of hotspots on my feet. I thought that it might just be cause it was, you know, HOT. ‘Cept that was obviously wrong. In hindsight, I should have stopped to re-tie my shoes. ‘Cept I didn’t.

Sometime around mile 7, the pain finally got to me, so I went ahead and pulled the heck out of my laces, and started limping. No way was I going to DNF this year. Dianna must have passed me about then – man, did she have a good race even though she said she was going to take it easy.

Just after mile 8, I saw Jon pass me thanks to the absolutely stellar hat he was wearing. We ran for a while, then I had to walk for a bit and Jon headed on down the course in his own effortless way. I continued to trudge, completely and totally resenting both the uphill in the park, and the downhill back to town.

And the f’n bagpipers were there again just before mile 11. If there’s one thing that just makes the short hairs on my neck stand up and my stomach churn, it’s bagpipe music – sounds like some sadistic evildoer sodomizing a sheep while strangling it at the same time. Which, come to think of it, is probably how they started.

I made it through to the end. I’d walk for about a quarter mile through each water stop, and run easy for the next three quarters. It really, really, really sucked, but I made it. Not a terrible race – finished at about 1:53. So, it wasn’t my slowest finish, but it wasn’t my best, either. (I’m pretty psyched, though, as I’d thought I was even faster in 2005).

We hung around for a while after the race. I was slow, so the beer line was painfully long. The ice cream line was pretty short, so I went through that twice.

The rest of this week’s been great. I started night class at the War College – man, I dig me some Sun Tzu.

Taking it easy on the last half of the race seems to have worked out pretty well – speedwork on Wednesday rocked. Honest to gosh, it just felt great to run.

Today was another day on the bike. Ever since seeing Rudi in DC a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been back in love with riding. Last week rocked – I actually broke a spoke during a bit of out-of-the-saddle time, which was the first time I’d had to replace a piece of gear due to use-induced failure instead of wrecking it while trying to do routine maintenance on the bike.

Last Saturday was a great ride. The highlight was coming over the hill just past Dean’s Mill School. They had one of those radar displays, and it read 18 MPH as soon as I saw it at the top of the hill, and I managed to roll it up to 25 before I passed it. Caught my breath for the next three miles…

Tomorrow’s an easy run, and then somewhere between 7 and 14 on Saturday, depending on how I feel. I’m trying to really treasure these runs, as Missy’s sidelined with ITB troubles, so I can see how precious good legs are.

2008 Tour de France

Here’s the deal – I’ve got nothing concrete to say about this year’s Tour de France. In a way, it’s a phenomenal race – after two and a half weeks, there’s seconds separating the top riders, and a couple of time trialists within minutes before a 50km trial on Saturday.

But I’m still kind of cold on the whole thing. All of the leaders have been riding the careful, calculating, race that’s all about waiting for other riders to make a mistake instead of riding away with the race.

But if that’s what a clean Tour looks like, I’ll take it.

Other observations:
Podcasts – The best, by far, is the ITV podcast (search for “ITV Cycling” on iTunes). Great British regulars, and a regular dose of Bob Roll. Today’s stage, stage 18 (day late), started with Phil Sherwin and Johann Bruyneel, and the rest of the commentary is the greatest.

My second favorite is the Bicycling.com podcast with James Start. It’s short, and the production value is terrible, but Start’s got a great combination of wide-eyed wonder and akwardness, highlighted by his handling of the sponsor – the Saab 9-3 Turbo, Born. From. Jets.

The last one I’ve found worth listening is the bikeradar.com podcast. The biggest drawback is the intro and outro by Brad Gibson. He just sounds artificial in a way that isn’t amenable like Start’s. But aside from that, it’s usually pretty good.

***Breaking News***
Astana, Johann Bruyneel’s team, and somewhat a continuation of USPS and Discovery Channel, canned Vladimir Gusev today for abnormal blood chemistry in the team’s internal testing program. Sucks for the Goose, and a bold, bold move by Bruyneel, who wasn’t invited to the Tour despite having last year’s winner.