Wayne’s World- Part Three

9 12 2008

Over the past year or so, F4 athlete Wayne Itano has shared a few of his race reports that are filled with great insight, wit, struggle, and success.  Now, as Wayne and his wife Chris get ready for a one-year trip to the other side of the planet, read Wayne’s latest submission…

My California International Marathon Report

The CIM (California International Marathon) on December 7 in Sacramento was my primary goal race of the year. My initial goal, early in the year, was to break 4 hours. This would be a PR by a few minutes. However, by the time of the race I had settled on a “Boston or bust” strategy. Unfortunately, the result was the latter. I didn’t meet any of my goals, but I did learn a few things.

To BQ (qualify for Boston) is, for us average runners, the highest running goal we can imagine. At least it is for me. It’s our holy grail, our personal Olympics. For a young male, it means running a marathon in 3:10. For a 57-year-old like me, the qualifying time is 3:45. For an 80+ male, it is 5:00. For women, the qualifying times are 30 minutes longer at every age. For most of us, qualifying is pretty darn hard at any age.

I started training for this marathon in June, after the Bolder Boulder 10K. In addition to my primary goal of peaking for the CIM in December, I had a secondary goal of PRing at the Denver Half Marathon in October, 7 weeks before the CIM. My plan was to follow the FastForward marathon plan up until a bit before the FastForward goal marathon in early October, then continue doing long runs on my own on weekends, mostly joining FastForward during the week for tempo runs, hills, and intervals, and still tapering for the Denver Half. In addition, I would be doing the Outer Banks Half Marathon with Chris and our daughter Michelle, 4 weeks before the CIM. I planned to do this as a marathon-pace training run. This left time for another long run the following weekend, followed by a 3-week taper. In the 3 months preceding the CIM, I did 4 long runs of 20 miles or more, one of them on pavement, 2 half-marathons, and various medium long runs. This seemed like a reasonable plan. Later I’ll go into detail about what went wrong and what I would do differently next time.

I had reasons both for optimism and pessimism about my BQ goal. My 1:45:23 half-marathon PR in Denver seemed like cause for optimism. Various tables and formulas yielded predicted marathon times of around 3:40, even without any allowance for the fact that the half-marathon was at 5,000 feet, while the marathon would be at sea level. On the other hand, the mileage seemed low. Only one week had over 40 miles, and the average was more like 30 miles. Objectively, the odds did not look good for a BQ. Still, I tried to put my doubts aside and try anyway. Before I left Boulder, Chris told me to not be so nervous. She meant well, but that’s kind of like telling someone to NOT think about an elephant.

I stayed at the marathon headquarters hotel. This was very convenient, since it was across the street from the Expo and from the buses to the race start and just a few blocks from the marathon finish.

I didn’t sleep well the night before the race. I woke up from a bad dream that had nothing to do with running. It took a while for me to remember where I was and what I was doing there. Clearly I wasn’t properly focused on the race. But when I started thinking about the race, it was all pessimism and doubts. Now, I have an ability to replay movies in my mind, kind of like a tape. It saves money on video rentals. So I started playing the mental “tape” of one of the Steve Prefontaine movies. It picked up where he had just returned from the 1972 Olympics at Munich, where he had gone all-out for the Gold in the 5000 meters, when he could have played it safe and taken a Bronze. He came back without any medal, crushed and doubting himself. But he picked himself up, had a great senior year, won races, took another NCAA title, and so on. Pretty inspiring. And then he died. Oh, right. I forgot about that. I actually hadn’t seen that coming when I started the “tape.” I made a mental note to find an inspiring running movie in which the hero doesn’t die at the end. I also tried not to think about the original marathoner, Pheidippides, who died after HIS run. Kind of like trying NOT to think about an elephant.

I got up at 3:30 AM, had some coffee and ate a little. I caught a bus to the start. The weather was fine for a marathon – around 40 at the start and warming up to around 50. My plan, which I had written out in advance, was to stick to an even pace of about 8:35 minutes per mile, which would bring me in at 3:45. I would make use of the 3:45 pacer, provided he was actually on pace. Sometimes pacers go too fast. However, if my heart rate went above 149 in the first 10 or 13 miles, I would slow down. After that, I would let my heart rate go up a bit, to account for “cardiac drift,” but no higher than 155 until mile 20, and then try to hang in there as best I could.

I found the 3:45 pacer, who was carrying a red sign and tried to stay close to him. There was a big clump of people around him. He did a good job of keeping the right pace, mile after mile. I noted the time he passed the half-marathon marker, and he was within about a minute of the ideal time. The 3:50 pacer was not so competent. He ran off ahead of the 3:45 guy. We passed him at about the 5 mile marker.

The CIM is advertised as a fast course. It has a net drop of about 300 feet, but actually has a lot of rolling hills, rather than being consistently downhill. The following shows my times per mile and average heart rate:

1 8:36 142

2 8:30 149

3 8:24 147

4 8:21 146

5 8:35 146

6 8:40 147

7 8:28 146

8 8:40 149

9 8:32 150

10 8:25 150

11 8:29 150

12 8:34 149

13 8:34 151

14 8:28 154

15 8:34 158

16 8:39 159

17 8:35 159

18 8:50 159

19 9:02 158

20 10:14 157

21 14:10 145

22 10:04 153

23 10:14 156

24 14:31 153

25 14:09 139

26 11:43 147

26.2 2:13 151

I was able to stick pretty close to the plan for about the first 13 miles, and I hit 13.1 miles at 1:51:36. Half of 3:45 is 1:52:30, so this was less than 1 minute off of BQ pace. I was able to keep on pace until about mile 18. Although I don’t remember it feeling so hard, my heart rate had shot up to 159, so I must have been working harder. Here is where I deviated from the plan, since I wasn’t supposed to let my heart rate rise that much. Next time I’ll know to slow down if that happens.

Somewhere around mile 18, I could no longer keep on pace. I watched the red 3:45 pacer flag and the clump of people around it disappear into the distance, and I knew I wasn’t going to BQ. Oh well. Nothing else to do but push on as best I could. Around mile 20 I calculated that if I could maintain around a 10 minute pace, I could break 4 hours. Unfortunately, my legs were shot by then. My quads were cramping, and several times I had to stop by the side of the road. There were rock-hard knots in my quads that I would try to massage and then get going again. I saw the 4:00 pacer go by, and then the 4:05 pacer, and I knew that I wouldn’t break 4 hours and I wouldn’t PR. So I wasn’t going to make ANY of my goals, but I just kept going as fast as I could. I must have looked pretty bad at the finish, because people were asking if I was OK. I picked up the medal and walked very slowly back to the hotel, since there was nobody there I knew. Two days later, it still hurts to walk.

I’ll never know for sure, but I THINK that if I had played it safe (or safer), and run at a steady 9:09 pace, I could have finished in 4:00 and PRed. Instead I went all-out to try to BQ and wound up with nothing. I felt like I was stuck in a Prefontaine movie, with the Munich Olympics and all that. By the way, I don’t mean to be sacrilegious. The ONLY thing I have in common with Pre is that we were born within a few months of each other and started college the same year.

The lesson I learned is that there are no shortcuts to qualifying for Boston, at least not for me. In retrospect, I think I needed more of everything – more mileage, more long runs on pavement, more fast-finish or progressive long runs, more tempo runs, more track intervals. One reason this would have been difficult was that I had 3 week-long international trips during the summer, one in June, one in July, and one in August, during which I was able to do little or no running. When you take a week off, it takes time just to get back to where you were before the break. If you try to rush it, you can get injured. Also, the 2 half-marathons, together with the taper and recovery periods, could have detracted from my marathon training.

Getting consistent training in 2009 is going to be hard, since Chris and I will be overseas, in Australia and New Zealand, and maybe Japan, and doing a lot of traveling in those countries. However, after we get back to Boulder in 2010, I hope to try again. This time I want to avoid ALL interruptions, build up the mileage, maybe get a personal coach, and train as hard as I can while not getting injured. I’ll avoid races that don’t serve a specific training purpose. This might mean running half marathons at marathon pace or slower and then adding on 6 miles or more to turn them into long runs. Then I will try to BQ at a late fall marathon, maybe the CIM.

There are a couple of rules on Boston qualifying that make it most favorable for me to qualify in late fall 2010. The first one is that your age at the Boston Marathon, not at the qualifier, determines the required time. My birthday is in June, so the first Boston Marathon at which I will be 60 and can thus use the 4:00 qualifying time is in April 2012, when I will be almost 61. The other rule is that you can qualify up to about 18 months before the Boston Marathon that you want to run. This means, if I understand the rules, that I could qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon by running a 4:00 marathon in late fall 2010, at which time I will be 59 1/2 years old. On the other hand, if I wanted to run in the 2011 Boston Marathon, I would still have to use the 3:45 qualifying time. The odds are that I will try to go for 4:00 in 2010, since going for 3:45 could be too risky. If 3:45 is hard now, it will be even harder when I am 2 years older. But 4:00 might be quite possible if I train properly.

Does anyone know a good running movie, one where no one dies at the end?

Wayne Itano December 9, 2008

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