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6.20 miles in 59:10 @ 9:31 pace and 174/187 bpm for 907 calories

There’s something about running on race day that allows you to push the pace a bit.  Whether its adreneline or tapering or whatever, I enjoy racing almost as much as I enjoy training.  (And I’m slow!  I can’t imagine how fun it would be if I were actually competitive.)

Today was the run stage of the 2009 Texas Tough series, and it was a blast.  As I wrote a few posts back, the race benefits Children’s Medical Center.  The run stage is a 50K ultrarelay, with teams running four 5Ks and three 10Ks to make up the total.  Our team, called Hearts of Fire, was made up of employees and friends of the Heart Center at Children’s, the actual unit where my wife works.  All of the money we raise not only goes to Children’s but directly to the Heart Center, and as of this writing we’ve raised over $2,000!

The race itself was beautiful.  It was held on the field at the Cotton Bowl, with the run route winding around the Texas State Fairgrounds.  It was really cool to walk onto the perfect-green grass of the Cotton Bowl field and imagine the couple of times I’ve seen UT play OU there.  But today the field had been transformed for race day, with tents and a finish line and a well-marked route leading up the tunnel and out of the stadium.

The relay started at 8:00a, and it was sunny but just under 40 degrees.  Everyone was cold waiting for the race to start, but once it began we all warmed up.  The race was originally structured to have each runner take a baton from the previous one and run our routes serially.  But because the race is in its first year, it was sparsely attended (maybe 500 runners or so) and there just weren’t enough teams to make it worth stretching out the event for 4-5 hours. So the organizers decided to “collapse” the relay and let anyone on the team run after the first leg crossed the finish line.

Now although this decision seemed logical, it caused quite a bit of confusion. See, most people had planned to show up just before their leg of the relay began. Mike Bryan, one of my friends that ran on our team, was scheduled to run the sixth leg, a 10K. It would have normally started at around 10:30a, but since four of the other legs decided to run simultaneously that morning, I had to call him at 7:45a and see if he could get downtown sooner.  He’s a trooper so he rushed down and arrived just five minutes before his leg started, but not every team was so lucky. Most spectators, including my family, also decided not to come for the same reason: they didn’t want to watch four hours of distance running—they just wanted to see their runner’s leg and now it was impossible to know when each one ran.

The end result was a beautifully set up but near-empty Cotton Bowl for the race. I was scheduled to run the 5K leg before and after Mike’s run (for 10K total), but since we were allowed to start at any time, Mike and I ran together.  I use that word loosely, of course, as he was already ahead of me by the time we exited the tunnel and he finished over 12 minutes before I did.  But my run was great.  My pace was near the best 5K race pace I had last year, with the improvement due to focusing on the run during the winter and learning how to push myself harder on race day without worrying about “blowing up” (i.e. going too fast, running out of steam, and walking the rest of the race).  I definitely look forward to the swim and bike later this year and to a great race season.

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13.33 miles in 2:26:32 (2:35:50 chip time) @ 10:59 pace and 165/184 bpm for 2,031 calories

With all of the good luck I’ve had with training and races (at least the races that I actually start), I was bound to have at least one bad event.  This was definitely it.

At least I enjoyed my company, though.  My day started early, in my hotel room with Joanne and Emma in Kingwood, Texas. I grew up with an “extended family”—the Larsons— that included two daughters: Nicole and Michele. Joanne, Emma, and I travelled to Michele’s house in Kingwood over the weekend to celebrate a late Christmas with the Larsons. Nicole is married to a guy named Mike, and my sister is engaged to a guy named Tim. Since we were all in Houston, we decided to run the Houston Marathon/Half-Marathon. Mike, Tim and I ran the half, and my sister ran the full.

I woke up just before 5:00am, changed and snuck quietly out of the hotel, and piled into my mom’s SUV and headed downtown. Finding a parking space with all of the streets blocked off was a nightmare, but mom got us there and we all made our way to the start line.

I should mention at this point that due to a mix-up, the race actually sold out before we were able to register. But my crafty sister Debbie used craigslist to buy 4 race entries from injured runners. So that day, I ran as 39-year-old Susanna Jacobvik (at least the last name was close!).  Now, it seems that Susanna is a pretty speedy lady, because she was signed up in the front group of runners. Tim (Anna) and Mike (Horacio) actually are fast runners, but they obliged me by lining up in the back of the front group. We chatted while we jumped up and down to keep warm in the cold pre-dawn breeze, but when the gun went off I promptly waved goodbye and started a slow but steady pace. See, if you’ve followed my blog you know that I’ve never run 10 miles before, and I definitely didn’t want to blow up before I hit 13. I planned a 10:30 pace and hoped to surprise myself with something closer to 10:00.

A little over 3 miles into the race, my plans changed. I started to feel a “hot spot” on the arch of both of my feet. Now I have never really gotten blisters before, even on very long runs in heat and humidity, so I figured I was just imagining it. At 5 miles the heat I felt turned into pain, and I decided that I probably had the beginnings of a blister but that no matter what I was going to finish.  I stopped at the next medical tent and asked for advice–they said to slather vasoline and keep on using it throughout the race. Now, the vasoline did get me through the race, but it added 11+ minutes to my race time and made for one heck of a mess. By the end of the race I had a bad blister on my left foot and a really bad blister on my right foot (the size of the bottom of a coke can).

But I did finish, and I even got to see Joanne, Emma, Patty, Bruce, Nicole, Michele, and Adrian at the finish line!  I missed seeing my mom Sandy, as she was out on the race course cheering on my sister, who ended up finishing in just over 4 hours.  Tim and Mike finished with great times as well, and Mike even talked about running another half-marathon later that year.

I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy the race itself. Music wasn’t allowed on the course and I spent most of the race with my mind on my blisters rather than all the fun and energy of a typical big half-marathon.  So if you asked me today, I don’t really want to run this distance again, either on its own or as a part of a half-Ironman. But I’m sure when the blisters heal, I’ll get the urge to try it again, if for no other reason than to finish the distance healthy at least once.

Milestones

  • Highest weight: 228 pounds
  • Lowest weight: 187 pounds
  • Current weight: 216 pounds
  • Started training: March 17, 2008
  • First Sprint: June 26, 2008
  • First Olympic: May 17, 2009
  • First Half: TBD 2011
  • Longest swim: 2.05 miles
  • Longest bike: 63.57 miles
  • Longest run: 13.33 miles

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