Thursday, February 19, 2009

Austin Marathon - Pacing for Dummies: By Barry Brooks

By Barry Brooks -

Yesterday, a friend that keeps up with my blog on Google Reader informed me that I only post 0.5 times per week. My first thought was, "Wow! That much?!" But then I realized that once every two weeks is not so good if I want to keep any readership whatsoever. More importantly, though, is that I keep my job. And with how busy I am at work right now, I have been missing workouts. And I can't very well explain to Lindsay that I don't have time to swim, but I do have time to blog. Regardless, as my friend is aware, I am motivated by numbers. At work, it's the billable hour. With racing, it's obviously the clock that I'm obsessed with. And now, I have new motivation to write more on this blog: My Google Reader Rating must rise!!!

So last weekend my wife (aka, Krisha; aka, the CFO) and I went to Austin, Texas for the Austin Marathon. Before Sunday, I was unaware that there was a 26.2 mile stretch of road in Texas that has absolutely ZERO flat parts. I guess, technically, the very top and very bottom of each hill is flat, just before it starts to go back up or back down again, but you get my point. That is one hilly race! Luckily, or so I thought, I do lots of running on hills. The route I run most of the time has several big hills that come into play on almost every run. The hills at the marathon, however, were shorter, steeper, and there were A LOT more of them. All this to say, I screwed it up. Long story short, I started out too fast (as I always do!).

Lindsay's last bit of encouragement just before the race was, "I know you will have a good race. Just remember to be consistent from mile 1." Easy enough. The plan was to run each and every mile between 7:00 and 7:10, thus finishing with a Boston Qualifying time of between 3:03 and 3:08. Even if I slowed down after 20 miles or so, I would still have two minutes to spare! So with my perfect plan in place, the gun went off, and I started running. Here are my splits and my thoughts during the race:

Mile 1 - 6:46 (Oops, settle down there, Seabiscuit.)
Mile 2 - 7:02 (There we go, time to settle in for a while.)
Mile 3 - 6:51 (Um, slow it back down, tough guy!)
Mile 4 - 6:41 (Hey, moron, what are you thinking!? Answer - "Man, I have to pee!")
Mile 5 - 7:23 (I stopped to pee for a little over 40 seconds, which means this was another 6:40 mile)
Mile 6 - 6:46 (Ok, I tried to warn you. You will pay for this later.)
Mile 7 - 6:46 (Oh yes, you will pay dearly. You just wait.)
Mile 8 - 7:09 (Woo hoo! Back on track!)

Mile 9 - 7:01 (Now we're talkin. And I'm still feeling pretty good! Maybe I'll be ok.)
Mile 10 - 6:50 (Alright, whatever, let's see what we can do!)
Mile 11 - 7:29 (Hmm, that mile was pretty hilly. Maybe I'm still alright.)
Mile 12 - 7:32 (Another hilly mile. The downhills were really starting to hurt at this point.)
Mile 13 - 7:11 (Back on track. Strong first half. Hang in there.)
Mile 14 - 7:22 (This is going to hurt.)
Mile 15 - 7:27 (Oh dear.)
Mile 16 - 7:48 (That's ok. You knew this was coming. "Only" 10 more miles.")
Mile 17 - 7:44 (Alright, this hurts. But whatever happens, surely you can keep it under 8 minutes!)
Mile 18 - 8:01 (Hmm, maybe not.)
Mile 19 - 7:48 (Seven more miles at 8 minute pace . . . Ok, that's less than an hour, hang in there.)
Mile 20 - 8:06 (Just keep running.)
Mile 21 - 7:47 (Just keep running.)
Mile 22 - 8:58 (Uh oh.)
Mile 23 - 8:43 (Mommy!?)
Mile 24 - 8:18 (YOU WILL NOT WALK! You will pay for your idiocy!!)
Mile 25 - 8:53 (How are those two girls passing me and talking?! And one of them is wearing pink Newtons. Great.)
Mile 26 - 8:16 (Only 0.2 miles. Hey wait, is that another hill!? NOOOOO!!!!)
Last 0.2 - 1:40 (Must. Eat. NOW. Hey look! Doritos!!!!)

Total Time - 3:18.27. I'm not embarrassed with that. But I'm not really happy with it either. I know I would have done ten minutes better (at least) if I had just been able to start out smarter. I've run stupid races before, but usually I'm thinking "Man, I feel good! Maybe I can hold this pace?!" But I've run enough marathons that this time I knew from the beginning that this one was not going to end well for me. And it didn't. I could not get control of my pacing, and it finally caught up with me.

I will say that running those last four miles was quite possibly the most painful athletic experience of my life (at least the most painful one that I remember). So at least I learned that I can run for a LONG time in a LOT of pain. That's good. I think I'm going to need that in Coeur d'Alene this year if I want to get to Kona. As Lindsay recently said, "This is a good training marker for the Ironman. Remember, every day training and racing is important and makes you stronger for the next training session and race. It is all part of the bigger picture!"

Bigger picture indeed. Time to move on to Ironman training. Four months to race day, and I'm starting that four month block with a 3:18 marathon. I'll take it! And speaking of Coeur d'Alene, Kona qualifying, training/racing smart, and learning how to pace in a race . . . the CFO has recently authorized a new purchase that I can't wait to tell you about! But that will have to wait for another post. I need to increase my Google Reader status!

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