ProfileLast Sunday I ran the Val Nolasco Half Marathon as a tune-up race for the Honolulu Marathon in a few weeks. The course is challenging in that it goes over Diamond Head out and back, with an extra bit up the backside of Diamond Head followed by a steep downhill on the outbound portion. The return route bypasses this section, but still includes a not insignificant climb up from sea level to what is know locally as Triangle Park, where the return route connects with the outbound route to head back to Waikiki. The marathon covers this same territory, it just starts in a different place and does an out-and-back before going over Diamond Head, and goes east a lot farther before returning to Waikiki.
At this point I intended to slip in a simple course profile, but ran smack into one of the challenges of data collection. My lovely Garmin 935 uses a barometric altimeter, much more accurate than GPS alone, but like all such sensors suffers from changes in barometric pressure. The weather in Hawaii has been especially unstable this week, and on Sunday there must have been significant upward change in pressure. The result is an altitude track showing a forty foot change in altitude for Kapiolani Park. You would think we lived on a floating Island.
Here is the altitude track from Training Peaks. I added the two red lines, which begin and end at the same location, just different times.
Did I hear you say, "No problem. Use altitude correction."
Yeah, in the past I tried that. For some reason the altitude data for areas where I do most of my running, and especially Diamond Head, is so far off that it only makes the data worse. Altitude data is not just to look at; Training Peaks actually uses it to compute intensity. Here is the same data with altitude correction previewed as a red line. I did not apply it.
GoalsMy goals for this race were simple. Run all except the aid stations. Including that nasty climb up from Kahala Ave to Triangle Park, the one affectionately known as "That shitty little hill." You can spot it on the profile on the last big bump, the first part that drops a little before going up and over the top. That incline is deceptively steep, all the worse when your legs are tired. A related goal was to choose an intensity that I could hold throughout -- no walking -- but higher than my usual long run. Notice I did not say "pace." I have recently added a Stryd power meter to my collection of tech goodies. This would be my first time using it in a race. I also had a nutrition goal, to carry concentrated Infinit and consume with water from the aid stations. No gels, no salt pills.
I am a true believer in Matt Fitzgerald's 80/20 training concept. One problem with it is you never run much at race pace, until you have a race. This was my first race using Stryd, so I did not have any race power data to work from. I my review of recent runs I came up with this plan:
Run flat sections at 140 - 150 watts (zone 2)
Run hills at 150 - 160 watts (zone 3)
Recover at 130 watts (zone 1)
My long runs have been averaging around 130 watts, so I knew that would be an easy pace that I could always fall back to when needed. Those expectations were much too optimistic. As it turned out, my normalized power for the entire race was 130 watts. Average power was 126, so variability index came in at 1.03. This is a good thing in an endurance race. There were times I got into the higher zones. In fact I ran much of the beginning in zone 2, and hit a few peaks at zones 3 including that shitty little hill. I just did not sustain those higher levels for long.
Here is a plot of power showing zones (the extra wide light area at the bottom is zone 1, the others are more narrow and get progressively darker.(The entire race data can be seen here.)
I have been working on raising my cadence, and have made progress, but I am still well below what is generally considered desirable. Training Peaks give my cadence distribution as
30% 70 - 75
61% 75 - 80
The remainder is probably walking through the aid stations. The good news is the consistency, even on the hills, which means I am regulating my speed by shortening and lengthening my stride, which is good. Here, cadence is the yellow line.
In yoga, your world is your matI always do my run workouts alone. I have a plan, I execute the plan, some days better than others. I see other runners coming and going. Some I know by name. Others, just a nod. Running in races presents another challenge. Some races, like the Honolulu Marathon and the Great Aloha Run, attract a wide variety of participants, including people who never train and only plan to walk the route. Then there are races that attract only serious runners. This is always one of those. Quite the opposite of a fun run. As soon as the starting horn sounds they take off like hounds on the scent of a fox. You would never know from watching the start that this was an endurance event.
I lined up midway back. The route goes west a bit, then north on Monserrat, then east on Paki around Kapiolani Park to Diamond Head road. By halfway along Paki I was passed by everyone, including moms with strollers and a young Marine carrying an enormous backpack which I learned later in the day weighed 70 pounds. By the time Paki reached Diamond Head road, twenty minutes into my day, I seriously considered dropping out. I really did not relish being that guy everyone waits for at the finish. It is not as though I am 87. Plenty of runners older than me.
My first personal test was running up Diamond Head. I made it, and it didn't kill me. My power hit 160 watts a couple times, just like my plan, although my legs refused to sustain that level of intensity. As I rounded the top I felt pretty good, and had a nice recovery running down the east side to Triangle Park. From there I could see a few runners up ahead, so I was not completely alone.
If there is one thing I am worse at than running, it is yoga. I have had two yoga teachers, and both frequently remind the class not to compare your ability with others around you. Focus on yourself, on doing the best you can and striving to improve.
When I got to the bottom of Kilauea I stopped and turned around to look up the hill towards Kapiolani Community College to see who was behind me. Nobody. I was in last place. Once again I was bombarded by thoughts that I should turn off at Elepaio and head back. Again at the aid station at the Aloha gas station. Only that would mean joining the throng already heading back only to be passed by everyone behind me, again. No, I drank my Infinit, which tasted great, and headed out on the highway. At first I was running past dozens of runners already on the way back from the turn-around, but by Wailupe they were gone, and I was really alone.
Just before Wailupe I passed the Marine, who had stopped to adjust his backpack. For a while it did not occur to me that I was no longer last. I must have figured he would pas me again. At Wailupe they told me the turn around was just head, at the flashing lights. As I approached I realized that the flashing lights where on the truck picking up the cones. They had already taken down the turn around spot. I ran to where I thought it might have been, at West Hind Drive, then headed back. That was when I met the Marine again. I told him he might as well turn around here. There was no timing mat, nobody checking. He was walking, so I walked with him a bit, which is how I learned he was a Marine. After a hundred yards or so I told him I better start running again, and left him behind.
After Kahala there was no more thought of turning back. I just did the same things I had done all along. Focus on good form. "Relaxed smooth ease," as Matt Fitzgerald likes to say. Watch the right foot strike, don't swing in and land on the outside edge. Hands high and relaxed. Back straight, shoulders back. Lift, lift, lift up out of the hips. Feeling too tired? Check the power. Throttle back to 130 instead of walking. Feeling better? Take it up a little. Uphill? Don't pull up the hill, shorten my stride instead. I always have the voice of Coach Dorian in my head, so in that sense I am not alone.
Back at Wailupe I tell the workers to cheer for the Marine. Again at the Aloha station, he is the last runner and not going well, give him encouragement. One more time at Triangle Park, the ten mile point. From there it was up and over Diamond Head. I was surprised I could still run, all the way up. No other runners in sight but lots of encouragement from other folks walking and jogging.
When I reached the east end of Kapiolani Park I realized that the Marine was probably just a few minutes behind me. I had already missed my sub 3:30 goal, so why not wait for him and finish together? Nobody wants to be the last to finish. So I stopped and waited a bit, then decided I was foolish to wait much longer with no idea how far back he was.
A funny thing happened at the finish. Absolutely nobody cheered. Nothing. Everyone there was packing up. The time keepers had already packed up the timing mats. This has happened to be before at these events, but there was always someone sitting there with a clipboard manually logging in the stragglers. I stopped my watch, then went off in search of someone to give my time to. I wonder if I will get an official time. I had to find my own shirt. The last one, a size gargantuan. Not at all like the marathon finish.
It was then that I learned that the Marine had dropped out at the mile 10 aid station. Possibly with a stress fracture in his ankle. He told the aid person he had not trained for this race, that he just decided at the last minute to do it and with a heavy backpack. Ah, youth.
So as it turned out I was the last to finish. I admit I cringe when I see times posted by friends, less than half of my time. My PR for this race is just over 3:30 so I would have been thrilled to get below that, but my time of 3:51:36 was what I predicted.
I may have been last, but I ran my race as close as possible to my plan, and finished without injury or duress. Tired, of course. But not too tired to drive home, shower, and have lunch with Pattie and her sister Lynne, and Mike, at Goma Tei. Their kontatsu shoyu ramen makes a great post-race meal. After that I slept for a couple hours.
Now, I suppose you can call this good news, it is my hip flexors at the front that are sore. Usually it is in back, the top of the glutes or the piriformis. That tells me I was standing straighter, not hunched over. One of my goals.