Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bellingham Bay Half and Portland Marathon forecast

I am not referring to the weather forecast, though rest assured, beginning on September 30 I will be checking that hourly daily. No, what I am referring to is my predictions and expectation (and, I guess, goals) for the Portland Marathon.

Not so unconsciously, I have been secretly counting on the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon to give me the key to what I may expect to do in Portland. Now I know that marathons are always a wild card, and can always go far more badly (or better?) than you expect. But we all have a tendency to develop predictions based on our pre-race training and performances, right? I've had several months of Portland training and quite a few races of various lengths in that period. I had an idea already...but I was counting on Bellingham to really seal the deal.

In 2009 I ran my PR half marathon time (still unchanged) in the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon. That time was 1:53:20. I went on to run the California International Marathon in 3:59:40. The McMillan pace calculator prediction for a marathon time based on a 1:53:20 is 3:59:02. That is pretty darn close.* My 5K, 10K, and other race times from that period, as well as my speed work paces, were also on track for a slightly sub-4 marathon. I don't put too much weight in all that, but it did work out then.

This year I had no expectation of a PR in Bellingham. Although my training and race times have been strong, I have not been smashing any PRs this summer (except for 8K). My speed work paces have been good, but I can't put too much weight in super short distances translating all that well to marathons and halfs.

In order to have a chance of a PR (or close) in Bellingham, I would need perfect conditions and a little bit of luck. And the conditions were far from perfect. As for luck, I had a little good luck and a little bad luck, so I guess that would be a wash.

My training has been good, my carb loading in the last few days was good, I did a reasonable taper, I rested yesterday (except for a bike ride that was pretty easy), and I got enough sleep (less than eight hours, but I wasn't horribly tired or anything).

The weather forecast was less encouraging. Moderate, slightly warm temps, chance of rain, and wind. (Foreshadowing: the wind was the problem.)

Last night I looked at my Garmin and it said it had a 96% charge. That seemed like plenty for a half marathon, even if it lost a little (I said a little) overnight. I checked that out when I was patching up my other Garmin problem.

See that fancy camo duck tape? That is there because a couple weeks ago the band broke right off. I tried to get it fixed but apparently a piece of the watch is broken, so I can't just replace the band. I did reattach the two pieces with duct tape, and that works, but after a few sweaty runs the tape fails and has to be replaced. Even though it was still sticking, I redid the tape last night proactively. I have also order a new Garmin (great deal from Amazon), and it actually arrived at my parents' yesterday, but I told my mom not to bother charging it, I would rely on this one for today. Big. Mistake.

This morning I picked up the watch and saw this.

From 96 to 0 in about twelve hours. Nice. (I have been having battery problems, it has been discharging too fast, and I was thinking of replacing the battery....)

I called my mom and asked her to plug in the new one, but there really wasn't enough time to get a charge and I resigned myself to running sans Garmin.

That is not a good thing.

I know I rely on Garmin too much and look at it far too often, but it's one thing running by feel for an easy run or (alternatively) in a short distance like 5K where you just go as fast as you can. In a half marathon, where you want to run fast but not too fast, it really helps to have some feedback to weigh whether your hard effort is because you are in fact running hard (fast), or just because you are having a hard time.

Anyways. I went over to my parents' and we loaded up and headed for Bellingham. The half marathon didn't start until 9:30, which has some negative points but really makes it much easier to travel to when you live sort of far away. (We're about 60 miles from Bellingham.) We left their house about 7:15.

After a stop at Starbucks which took far too long but did allow me to make my first bathroom visit of the trip, we were on the road for real. I ate my breakfast of an almond butter and jam sandwich, plus the SBUX Americano with half and half.

About 16 miles out of Bellingham I asked my mom to stop at a rest area so I could use the bathroom. Let's just say it was a much needed stop. There were quite a few other runners stopping there as well!

We finally parked in downtown Bellingham about 45 minutes before 9:30, and around four or five blocks from the starting area. I walked over and stood in a line to get my bib and chip. Even though Saturday pick-up was strongly encouraged, there were quite a few people who had opted, like me, to pay $5 to avoid an extra trip on Saturday (or who, also like me, lived sort of far away but didn't want to stay over Saturday night).

At 9:00 I had my stuff and headed to the row of port a potties. There was no line at all; I had to wait about one minute for door to open and then I was in. I took my time, and when I came out long lines had already formed! (Not because of me!)

Without the Garmin I didn't have a lot of motivation to do much of a warm-up run. (Don't know why, it's not like my warm-ups are speedy or anything.) But I jogged back to the car to drop off my race shirt and get my water bottle. We arranged that my dad would meet me at the starting line to take my jacket. Then I ran another block in the "away" direction and turned back toward the start.

At Starbucks, only a block from the start, I saw that there were only a few people in line for the rest room so I hopped into line for a last pee. I really felt like I had to go, and though I know it was largely psychological, I felt like it would be a bad omen if I had to start the race feeling like I needed to go. Despite a few people stay ing in the rest room inordinately long, I got in with a few minutes to spare then jogged the remaining distance to the start.

Of course I could not see my dad anywhere. I had no choice but to get in the starting area. Unfortunately they did not have any kind of seeding, and I was a little further back than I would have preferred. I don't mind getting passed, and I like to start with people that might make me run faster. But without even self-seeding, I had no idea what pace the people around me wanted to run. Without my Garmin, I could have really used some 8:30 pacers!

I was freaking out a little about the jacket (I was already feeling warm), but I called my mom and she went down to Holly Street to wait for me to pass. I threw my jacket to her as I ran by. She also caught a little video of me running towards her. It was a mistake as she was trying to take a picture and hit video record instead. Ha. Then I was on my way!

Let me say, I do love the Bellingham Bay course. Even though it was a little rough on me today. There are a lot of long downhills and the uphills are gradual. (There are a few short steeper hills, but they are the same as in the Fairhaven 15K so at least they are familiar to me.)

In the first few miles I felt pretty hot. I mean that in the body temperature sense, not my performance. My effort felt like a tempo run, but I needed that so as not to slip into a slow easy pace. After a few miles, I asked a woman near me what pace she was running, and she said 8:16 (at least at that moment). I don't know if we had been running that fast up to that point. Also, she did pull ahead of me soon.

In the middle miles I did come to a place where I was feeling okay. The wind (which was not yet a problem) was cooling me off, and I don't think I was struggling as much. Probably I had slowed down. I don't know if I was in my "half marathon easy" zone which has been around 8:45, or if I was going slower. I hit seven miles at just over an hour. Seven miles is always a good point because you're well past halfway.

In mile 8 we headed back into downtown Bellingham and then onto the South Bay Trail which heads toward Fairhaven (all this is on the 15K). We hit mile 9 on this trail and then headed along the waterfront to approach Taylor Avenue Dock.

This bayside trail is very scenic, which is a good thing because maybe that helped make up for the hellish wind that we encountered along this way. It may be typically windy on the waterfront but today it was terrible. (There had been a weather warning for winds on Sunday.) We were running directly into the wind, and by the time we were on Taylor Avenue Dock it was like running directly into a wall. I have no idea how slow I was running. So much for the big push in the last 5K!

For the last couple miles we headed back up onto State Avenue toward the finish and downtown Bellingham (again). Two years ago I did a great job of kicking ass in those last two miles. This year, not so much. I noticed the gradual uphill much more than I do at the beginning of the 15K and I didn't even remember it being an issue two years back. We did have the wind at our backs now, and that helped a bit. I did try to push a good pace for the last two miles, but without splits I will never know....

Finally the finish line was in sight. I crossed at just a bit over 1:58. It is possible that my chip time could be under, but I don't know yet. This was almost five minutes slower than my PR...sad. I think with a Garmin and slightly less wind I would probably have done about 1:55 (just like most of my other half marathons in recent months). But you have to deal with the race conditions you are given, and make the best of them.

Even though my time was just so-so, I felt pretty ravaged. I walked through the finish area, drank some water, ate a couple orange wedges, and looked for my parents.

I don't know how the race course pics will come out, but my mom took a few after I made my way through the finish area.

This other one is a little dark but it shows the wind a little bit!

On the way back to the car we stopped at Starbucks. I still felt a little sick, but we spent so long waiting for my dad (they were busy, and he was chatting), that I finally felt up to a mocha. Then we headed to the car and drove back to Fairhaven (driving past still finishing slow marathoners and half marathoners) for fish and chips for lunch. I have been waiting for this race to have some fish and chips!

So, returning to my Portland race predictions. If I had come anywhere near a PR today, I might have had thoughts of a four-hour marathon. But I don't think that is a reasonable possibility now. Plus, Portland is harder than CIM (I believe), so there's that factor as well.

Using the McMillan pace calculator based on a 1:58 half, the predicted marathon time is 4:08. Using my three recent 1:55 half marathons, the predicted time is 4:02. My other race times (5K, 8K, 10K, 15K) call for marathon times from 3:56 to 4:03. My speed work (800 and 400), tempo runs, and long runs are all on track for a four hour marathon. (The long runs are on the faster end of the easy pace spectrum.)

So what does that tell me? Well, I think Greg McMillan is more optimistic than me. I can't really count on my ability to conjure up some speed in short distances (including tempo runs) to extend to a long, long distance. If anything, I think that the time prediction based on today's race is most realistic.

My prediction for Portland is, if all goes well, 4:10. Hopefully at least below 4:15. This is also taking into account that I hear Portland has some decent hills, and also that I will need to make a bathroom stop (hopefully just one). Even if I ran a 9:45 pace (which is just barely faster than my long run pace), I would go just over 4:15. (A 10-minute pace would be just around 4:20. Hopefully that is the wheels off the bus worst case scenario...well, no, there is no wheels off the bus scenario. 4:20 is my "I'm sure I can do this even if things don't go as well as I would like.)

Anything faster than 4:10 would make me very, very happy.

*Plus I did stop to use the bathroom once during CIM. But I have yet to manage a marathon without stopping for that, so it has to be taken into consideration.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I dunno- I don't think that a 4:00 is out of your reach. I would start out as if you intended to run a 4:10 but then don't be afraid to speed up if you are feeling good at halfway point, or more conservatively, the 20 mile mark. Good to know I'm not the only one who obsessively checks the marathon weather forecast as soon as it becomes available!