Two Cities Marathon and Half Race Report...

What can I say? What an absolute blast. I couldn't have asked for a better 'first' race. Time? Believe it or not, an amazing 2:15:17! And achieving that result did not come by way of a Suffer-fest either, nor was it a piece of cake. It came through a strong and focused effort the entire race. Well, that and 16 weeks of strong and focused training too.

Arrived at the start around 6am. The half was scheduled for a 7am start and the full for 7:30. It was pretty chilly out there--maybe 45 degrees. It was a little tough keeping warm before the start, but nothing you couldn't manage through. Once we started piling into the starting corrals, it was definitely better--being in close proximity to all those bodies definitely upped the temps a few degrees. I was at the front of Corral C. My brother was somewhere in Corral B (he was anticipating finishing somewhere around the 2 hour mark). The walkers were all in D, and well, the usual amazing suspects were all in A.

I never really did hear the starting gun, but suddenly we were moving forward in a wave. My race strategy was to go out slowly at an 11:00 pace for the first couple of miles, to both warm up, and find my rhythm. Then, depending on how I felt, I planned to pick up the pace--shooting for a steady 10:30ish. No rookie mistake here, but there was no way I could have done 11:00 even if I wanted to. I would have been mowed over by those coming from behind. Somewhere about two miles into it, I glance at my Garmin and note that I was running at about 9:30 and feeling good. Decided I was tempting fate, so when the hoards started to break up a bit around mile 3, I slowed my pace to around 10:15 and settled in. Turns out in the end, I averaged a 10:14 pace for the course.

The race was very well organized. Decent race expo (not that I had anything to compare it to as it was my first). Plenty of accessible parking the morning of the event. Sufficient porta potties at the race start. Beautiful (for Fresno) course heading northeast toward the foothills and by the river. Enthusiastic race volunteers and supportive crowds. Live bands played at several points on the course. The weather also cooperated--almost like it was planned. That brisk morning warmed up to about 52 degrees by the time I finished, and there was plenty of brilliant sunshine. Perfect running weather.

Again, not that I have anything to compare it to, but it sure seemed like this race had superior swag. Overheard more than one runner commenting on the nice long sleeved technical tee, the hooded sweatshirt and the hat as being some of the best they have seen. Sure seemed that way to me, as well. At the finish there was a full breakfast waiting, and there were plenty of ice cream sundaes if you were so inclined. Oh, and a beer garden too with two free beers per finisher!

My brother had a great race as well. But by his own admission, he was definitely hurting the last few miles. In the end, he came in better than expected at 1:53:06. Considering he hadn't done any consistent training for the last six weeks or so, he did very well. I wonder though, how much better he could have done had he gotten some regular training under his belt. At the very least, he probably wouldn't have been hurting so much in the end.

What's next? We're already talking about an early spring half in Sacramento--the Shamrock Half Marathon, or possibly the inaugural running of the Oakland Marathon and Half. We're also looking forward to running the American River Parkway Half in Sacramento in early May. My brother really wants to do a marathon. I told him I would be up for it, but am shooting for an early 2011 event so I can take advantage of the cooler training temperatures next fall. DisneyWorld in January, 2011? Just maybe...


Pre-Race Thoughts...

Well, it's finally here. Well almost, anyway. The Two Cities Marathon and Half--the event I have been training for these past 16 weeks, will start tomorrow morning at 7am. In usual fashion, I'm neither 'stoked,' nor apathetic. I just am. I suspect as today wears on, anxiety will mount. Something tells me I'm not going to sleep very well tonight :)

I feel really good about my training. I have no doubt I will finish the race, and finish it strong. Not sure about my time though. Last Saturday's 8 miler was fairly easy at about a 10:30 pace. Eight miles is not 13.1 though. Of course, it should be a little cooler than last week (although some weather reports indicate we could have some wind. Wind! Really? Fresno only gets windy in big storms or about three other times during the year. But of course, one of those windy days would have to fall on November 8!). I'm also reasonably well rested. Very light week at work--surprisingly. Slept reasonably well most of the week. Tried to honor the taper by sticking to my training plan with one session of speed work on Tuesday, and then only three miles, easy, on Thursday (it feels really funny right now not to be gearing up for a Saturday morning long run and at the same time, it seems like such a luxury). My diet during the week? So, so. I could have eaten less fat and more of the green stuff, but it just wasn't meant to be. One thing's for sure, I stayed very well hydrated all week. And healthy, too! Can't forget about that. Everyone--and I mean everyone--I came in contact with the last couple of weeks seemed to be harking up a lung or coming off swine flu. Must have been all that hand washing and hiding out in my office that kept me germ free :)

So anyway, back to my time. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, 2:45 is absolutely no problem. I would be happy with breaking 2:30, and ecstatic with anything remotely close to 2:20. I do think 2:20 is in the realm of possibility if I'm feeling good. As for race strategy, I plan to go out at about 11:00 for the first couple of miles to get my bearings and warm up. Depending on how I feel after that, I plan to pick up the pace--or not--until the finish. Oh, and my mantra? "Don't eat the paste." Just because Little Jimmy is eating paste (blazing by me and because I feel good and fresh, I feel like I can keep up) doesn't mean that I need to eat the paste. Jimmy will get sick from all that paste eating at some point and I will too, if I'm not careful.

Pop and Bro are coming to town later this afternoon; Pop to spectate and support, Bro to run. It will be nice to have a friendly face in the starting corrals with me--even though Bro hopes to run it in 2:00 and I probably won't see him much beyond the start, and at the finish.

Looking forward to a nice pancake breakfast when it's all over. Race report to follow at some point.