Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dallas White Rock Marathon Race Report

After underachieving in my October marathon, I started looking for a redemption race.  I needed a December marathon not too far from home, so I did a quick internet search and the Dallas White Rock Marathon seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  Average highs of 60º, about a 5 hour drive from home base, and not too hilly.

I arrived the day before the race for the expo.  It was located conveniently by the start/finish line.  There were lots of vendors there, and I spent a leisurely couple hours walking up and down the isles sampling free products.  I was a little surprised not to see any moderately famous running celebs there.  Most races this size will have one or two there as a guest speaker, or on a book tour.

As the name insinuates, the course goes around a white rock.  Don't be fooled into thinking you'll be witness to the world's largest white rock though.  White Rock, for all you out-of-towners, is a lake.  The race starts and finishes next to the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park where Texas holds it's state fair.  Despite having to share the road with 6,000 other marathoners, 13,000 half marathoners, and another 6,000 5k-ers, there is ample parking at the start/finish, however, it's on the opposite side of the fair grounds.

To my recollection, this is the largest combined field of the 18 marathons I've completed.  Wow, am I up to 18 marathons?  Guess I'm one marathon short of being the Duggar of marathons.  That walking incubator needs to quit popping out babies.  Anyway, back to my point...  It took me this long to run a marathon where I was assigned a wave and a corral number based on my expected pace.  I thought it really helped the first couple miles since I wasn't wasting energy trying to go around slower runners.

I really didn't focus too much on the surroundings that day, but aside from running around a lake for the middle 9 miles, most of the rest of the race went through nice neighborhoods.

Skipping ahead to the post race details:  I actually got 2 different finisher medals.  Why?  Because Michelob Ultra wanted me to have an extra one.  I doubt I'll keep it.  Maybe I'll go find some statue to dangle it from.

After getting my 2 race medals, I went in a big convention center where they were handing out free beer (Michelob Ultra of course),  dri-fit finisher shirts, and free food.  There was such a long line for the food that I decided to skip it.  However, there was no waiting for a beer so I partook.

Overall, I liked the atmosphere of the race, but for the $125 entry fee, it seemed a bit pricey.

As part of the perks of the race, I recieved 2 shirts and
2 medals.

Now for my race experience...  I signed up for Dallas in part because I thought I could expect decent to perfect running weather.  As the race got closer I could see this was not going to be the case.  Instead of the advertised 50º temps along with the drought conditions Texas has been in this year, I got mid to low 40º temps and almost non-stop rain the whole weekend.  The only thing that worked out with the weather was the rain stopped long enough for me to get to the start line dry and warmup the first couple miles before soaking me for the final 23-24 miles of the race.  I'm not sure what effect it had on my final time because I never got too cold or too hot, but I did have extra (wet) clothing on that surely added drag to my pace.

My race strategy this time around was a bit different.  To avoid starting out too fast, I planned on targeting specific heart rates the first part of the marathon instead of targeting a pace the whole race and risk the bonk.  Keeping in mind that my lactic acid threshold is about 175 beats per minute, my HR plan was to stick in the 160 - 165 bpm range for the first 5 miles, and 165 - 170 for the next 5 so that by the time I hit the half marathon, my heart rate would be about 175.  Then I could play it by ear and negative split my way to a PR.

I ran my strategy to perfection, but as it turned out my earlier splits were coming in slower than expected.  Undaunted, I stuck to my guns and HR, and planned to make it up in the second half.  By the time I hit the half marathon marker however, I was at 1:50:48 meaning I would have to run the second half in under 1:40:00 to meet my goal of 3:30:00.  "Well, shit" I thought to myself.  I didn't take into account how much of a negative split I would be left with as I was running comfortably at the beginning.  I ran a 1:36:xx PR half marathon last Spring, so I would have to run my second fastest 13.1 miles ever to clock a 3:30 finish.

On the plus side, I had never felt better in the second half of a marathon.  My legs felt fresh; I was constantly getting more confidence and speeding up.  Although drenched by now, the rain became mostly light, and to my surprise, my shoes didn't feel like weights from the water I had been subjected to.  A little after mile 20, my quads started to tighten, but never to the point of being bothersome.

Besides intentionally slowing myself down to start, there were some rolling hills to deal with, but none worse than those around miles 21- 23 which seemed to be an almost constant uphill section.  Most of my marathons, this would be a point where I'm ready to walk a little or at least hit the wall.  Instead I felt like I was powering up the hills even though my pace was no doubt taking a hit.

After mile 23, the course adjusted to a flat to downhill slope the rest of the way, so my pace responded accordingly.  By mile 26, I could see that a 3:30:00 was not possible, but I thought a consolation PR was, so I used that for motivation through the finish.

Despite mile 26 being the fastest mile I've ever ran in a marathon (7:36), the final 0.2 miles being an even faster 7:20 pace, and never "hitting the wall", I came in 21 seconds above my PR.  Some might recall I was pretty disappointed after my PR in October (3:34:18), so you would think running a slower marathon (3:34:39) should leave me in the same mood or worse.  Call it perspective, but I did so many good things in this race that I'm content or at peace with the results.  This was not a flat course, and was hillier than I anticipated.  Secondly the rain, the wet roads, and the wet clothes were a hindrance, and I felt I handled all those conditions well.  I ran the second half of the marathon in 1:43:51 (7:56 pace), good enough to be equivalent to the third fastest half marathon I ever ran.   Sure, 1 second per mile faster would have gotten me a PR in a race where I ran too conservatively to start, but there is just something about running disciplined and completing the last 10k without a bunch of lactate acid in your legs that leaves a good feeling going forward.

Final Stats:

  • Chip Time: 3:34:39

In perhaps my boldest move of the day, I drove myself 365 miles that afternoon to get home in time for dinner.

Other Race Notes:
  • Jim at 50 over 40 will appreciate this:  I was judicious about running the tangents around the corners.  There were lots of turns, and I hugged the curves as best I could.  Keeping in mind that certified courses are supposed to be a bit longer than their rated distance, I am pretty happy with my Garmin reported distance of 26.29 miles.
  • Normally I follow the rule that if it's not tested, don't try something new on race day.  However, got my first pair of compression socks the week prior, and decided to break them in at the marathon to help keep my calves warm if not to provide all the other benefits runners testify about.
  • This was my first marathon, or race of any distance, as a 40 year old Masters runner.
My new compression socks, pre-race.  Jury is still out for me
on how well they work.

OK, not the best pic, but you probably thought I was just
kidding when I said I would dangle my medal from a


Meg O @watchmegorun said...

nice job! I think that it definitely counts as some sort of PR when you ran your your fastest mile in a marathon. Since you started off so conservatively and had so much left in the tank, I'm guessing your next one race will be a pretty good PR by a few minutes.

Char said...

It sounds like you ran a well-judged sensible race. I would kill to have fresh legs so far into a race so all your training reaped rewards.

Jim ... 50after40 said...

That's a great run Jon! Impressive that your last mile was the fastest! And awesome that you only ended up with .9 extra mileage - it really makes a difference on the time. PS - I reposted a pic of us on today's post. It was great getting to know you down at Austin earlier this year. Have a great weekend and congrats on the great race!

Jill said...

Well, you know how much I love that race and I'm glad you got an opportunity to do it - just wish the weather was better for you. Seems that the entry fee is about normal for races these days, unless you sign up so early for them....and well, who knows what might prevent us from doing a race 10 months out. I love that Dallas gives you a finisher's shirt (one year it was a hat ) in addition to the regular shirt (Portland you just get a finisher's well as Pikes Peak (as you know)). I love the 26.2 shirt.

Anyway, loved reading the race report and congratulations again on a very fine race. Looking forward to hearing how you like the compression socks...I've never worn them and have such mixed feelings about them. But my calves are behaving well so don't think I'll do them. Yet.

Have a great week! Hi to Lora!

Paul said...

Hi Jon,

I think you have the right feeling. To run so fast and feel strong at the end is a wonderful feeling.

I like that your race gives you the stats on runners passed/passing in the last 6..shows how strong you were.

As for a PR, well, you've had your share and you'll get there eventually again ;) It's crazy how we all fret over a few minutes in something that lasts for 200+ minutes.

Re: your race plan...I gave up using HR in races. I use it a ton in controlled conditions but on any given day you can have +- 5bpm just due to things that aren't understood.

Plus, at least in my case these days , its the legs getting dead, not cardic drift, that limits my speed. If I get drift up to 90% of max HR, yes of course I'll slow down, but that doesn't happen anymore.

I think running an almost even pace is best (assuming flat course). I do think that a couple of minutes faster in the first 2/3 is a good economy is better then so the cost isn't much.

Anyway, I'm glad you did that experiment..somebody has to try different things and I think the same in that way. ;)

Clearly if you can get another race that has a good course and good weather and you keep the current fitness level, you can crack a PR.

Terzah said...

Great race report! It does make a huge difference when you finish feeling strong, no matter what your time is and especially in adverse conditions like that. It's a really good sign for your next race. (Oh, and those placement charts showing your position in various fields....awesome! I hope Houston does that.)

Being Robinson said...

awesome. congrats on m no. 18. you are making the duggers proud, so where will bouncing baby no. 19 be?

Coy Martinez said...

Oh my gosh! You did great!! I love the part where it said you passed 120 runners but none passed you! HAHAHAHA! Excellent. That was a great pace and it looks like things went according to plan, which rocks, because over the course of 26 miles anything can happen :)

Congrats 2 medal guy!!

Nelly said...

Wow, great race! I'm with you, I like to run races based on heartrate, because then I'm not tempted to try to run too slow or too fast. I know some people don't like to do this in races, but I find it holds me back well.

That is a bummer that it rained the whole race, you must have dealt with it well.

For the Cotton Bowl I've always wanted to see Oklahoma vs Texas there, the atmosphere seems awesome for the game.

And I'm with Coy, no one passed you the last 6 miles, that is awesome!

And I agree with you, this race performance sounds more impressive than your PR race for some reason. Like Paul, I bet you can PR in your next marathon.

Rach said...

nice ran a very smart race!

a runner said...

What a well-run race! And a great write up, too! I love that your plan went is similar to the plans I tend to follow :) Happy Masters Running...welcome to the club :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, congratulations!! That's an incredible time, esp given the hills and weather! You should be proud. It's so true that starting slow can really aid to a strong finish!!! Congratulations!!!!

Anonymous said...

That's what's cool about running can go into mile 14 just under LT and get away with it. Awesome job and if you haven't tried that running strategy on a course with better weather and conditions, you should. You know that, though.

And thanks so much for the hat. Being that it was nice and sunny yesterday and had a freshly shaved head, it came in handy. I appreciate it.

NY Wolve said...

That is great result. I am from Dallas originally (now live in NY) so know all those streets and neighborhoods. Never run the rock though. Good luck!