Saturday, February 06, 2010

Unplanned Sneak-a-thon at Diamond Valley Lake

(Alternate title: "It Never Rains in California... Ha!")

I've been training for the L.A. Marathon which is 6 weeks from tomorrow. Training has been going well. I like to incorporate a few tune-up races into my marathon training cycle so I had planned on running the Diamond Valley Lake Half Marathon on January 23... but it was postponed two weeks due to bad weather (ironically). I ran a 10K instead that day. Ended up deciding to run the Palm Springs Half on Feb 14 instead since our family plans were too hectic to race on Feb 6 at Diamond Valley out near Hemet.

But yesterday, my son's basketball game was cancelled for today (ironic that an indoor game was cancelled, but my outdoor event today wasn't... but I digress) and Mary Ann mentioned, Well now you can go run that race. So I was going to run the half... and incorporate it as part of a long run... 2-mile warm-up, race the half, and cool-down for 5 for 20 total. But then I thought, you know, I might as well go ahead and run the full marathon and support my friend Sam Felsenfeld and his effort to run 60 marathons in 2010 as he raises support for autism research ( Sam's a great guy and a great runner and I really admire all his efforts for the sake of his son, Jack.

So even though I had trained hard all week (MP miles on Tues and LT miles on Thurs) and had zero taper, I figured, just go out and try not to overdo it or shoot my wad and ruin my chances for a PR at LAM in 6 weeks. I figured I'd go out and try to hit 8:00 miles and try to keep my HR in the 140s or 150s and not overdo it and try to finish ~3:30.

And the weather... well, that's a whole other story. Forecast looked bad... real bad. Rain showers all morning long. And since I ran the half at Diamond Valley years ago, I knew the wind would be really whipping off that lake... and it was. And I also knew that except for the parking lot and the three dams (DVL is a man-made reservoir), the marathon course was all on the dirt service road circling the lake... and it would be muddy and messy. But you know, even though I was doing this short-notice, with zero taper, in bad weather... I really admire Sam for enduring unknown conditions week after week for the sake of his cause. So I wasn't about to wimp out on Sam. I was committed.

I got up at 5:30am and checked the weather hoping that maybe the forecast changed overnight... but it didn't... except it was going to be a few degrees warmer than predicted, which was good. It ended up being 54° at the start (not the 40s)... which was about the only redeeming aspect of the weather today... well, other than a couple of gorgeous rainbows during the race. But of course, it feels much much colder when you're soaked to the bone and getting pelted by winds.

As I was driving out to Diamond Valley Lake through pouring rain, I was thinking, This is really crazy. Got there. Sat in my car for a while as I watched all the race personnel and vendor set up things. It was like a circus seeing all the canopies getting blown and coverings flapping in the wind. I sat there thinking, And we're supposed to run in this? This is insane! (Note: notice the blown over sign with the concrete base in the picture.)

I spotted Sam and asked his advice about what to wear. Micro-fleece? Two tech shirts? Gloves? Hat? (And no, I didn't even bring the now infamous Boston rain pants... not even an option.) I ended up wearing shorts, one long-sleeve tech shirt, running cap, and no gloves. The sideways rain was stinging our legs. I hid under a canopy near the start line waiting for the starting gun. I didn't want to spend one second standing out there exposed to the elements while not running. I figured (or hoped?) my body would generate enough heat while running to keep me warm.

Gun sounded and we were off. I ran with Sam for a few minutes and then let him go on ahead of me. The dirt road which circles the lake is ~22 miles so we started counter-clockwise and did a short out-and-back and then came back through the starting line after running ~4.5 miles. At the turn-around, I thought I was in about 10th or 12th place, but not sure.

Now we'll be circling the lake clockwise for the rest of the day. The wind is strong. The dirt road meanders up and down and in and out along all the inlets and curvatures of the shoreline. For the first several miles I try avoiding the puddles and mud, but after a while it's useless so I just try avoiding the soft mud with deep footholes from the runners ahead of me. Don't wanna come out of a shoe with the suction of that mud.

We cross back through the east marina and are cheered on by the race people at the start. When we hit the east dam, the conditions are unreal. It's nearly 2 miles across the east dam and it's perfectly level... but I ended up logging my slowest miles of the day on it because of the strong headwind... but I could look at my HR monitor and know I didn't want to work any harder through that wind. As I came across other runners, we all just laughed at the conditions and knew this was one for the memory books. Even the nor'easter in Boston 2007 was mild compared to this. We would come around a bend in the road and get absolutely blasted by headwinds. Occasionally, we felt the push of a tailwind or ran in the leeside of a hill, but you never break even in conditions like that.

Fortunately, when we hit the two smaller dams on the west end of the lake, we were pushed by a strong tailwind. My pace was suddenly in the 7:20s without much effort and I felt like a kite. We were all flying across those dams. The guy on the bike leading the race leader later said he didn't even pedal across the west dams since the wind just pushed him and he even had to use his brakes... although the big climbs at the end of those two dams made my mile splits there a little more average though.

Along the way, I could see Sam about a couple of minutes ahead of me. At MM 16, I measured that I was only 64 seconds behind him. But then he seemed to just take off and was far further ahead. On those western dams, I lost sight of him in the rainclouds. I was still trying not to overdo it but sub-consciously it's just natural to reel in runners ahead and one by one I did all day. There was Eric the ultra-runner, then a lady who was struggling with ankle pain, then a guy out in his first marathon, then Steve from Pasadena who was running his 153rd... and then Sam.

The bad thing about running behind Sam was that he ended up being like a carrot in front of me that I couldn't keep out of my sights. Around mile 24, I caught up to him and it was good to run the rest of the way in together. A couple of last good-sized climbs, rounded a bend, and there was the east marina back in sight. Sam wanted me to finish ahead of him, but there was no way I was gonna bump him down a spot. Sam said, Let's go! And we pushed it. He crossed in 3:28:01 for fifth place and I was one step behind him (3:28:02). All in all, a solid run in poor conditions. He ended up nabbing 2nd in his AG (30-39) and I got 3rd in mine (40-49).

Mile splits: (pace and avg HR)
01 ... 7:51 ... 145
02 ... 8:00 ... 149
03 ... 7:52 ... 146
04 ... 7:52 ... 147
05 ... 8:09 ... 149
06 ... 8:10 ... 149
07 ... 8:39 ... 148 – into strong headwind on east dam
08 ... 8:05 ... 148
09 ... 7:48 ... 148
10 ... 7:57 ... 150
11 ... 8:10 ... 147
12 ... 7:48 ... 148
13 ... 7:59 ... 152
14 ... 7:58 ... 152
15 ... 7:58 ... 152
16 ... 8:01 ... 153
17 ... 7:55 ... 151
18 ... 7:45 ... 152 – pushed by tailwind on west dams
19 ... 7:57 ... 152
20 ... 7:59 ... 150
21 ... 8:02 ... 152
22 ... 8:01 ... 156
23 ... 7:58 ... 158
24 ... 7:42 ... 161 – catching up to Sam
25 ... 8:29 ... 156 – couple of good-sized climbs at the end
26 ... 7:50 ... 156
(Note: my GPS only measured 26.0 miles... but GPS isn't always 100% precise... fwiw, Sam has the same GPS as mine and his measured 26.4 miles...)

I ended up running my first negative split in a marathon (1:44:20/1:43:35... watch-time)... well, at least one that wasn't drastically uphill on the first half (ala Pikes Peak, Crater Lake, Death Valley, or Leadville). I'll take tomorrow off from running, but Sam will be running the same pace tomorrow morning for 26.2 miles at the Surf City Marathon. Thanks for reading and good on ya, Sam! Great to run with you today.