Monday, June 4, 2007

San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon

San Diego Marathon, June 3, 2007

Lector caveo, (reader beware) this was my first marathon and so is my first marathon report, it is not short…

The day started early with a 4:20am alarm call, which was shortly followed by the alarm leaping off the nightstand, just in case the alarm call didn’t arrive. Thirty minutes later I was in the lobby waiting for the bus to the start line along with twenty or so other runners. A bus pulled up on time at 5:00am and we surged forward, the doors opened only to be told “…sorry I am the airport bus…”, there was a collective groan, and everyone sat back, two minutes later another bus pulled in “…sorry I only have four spaces…”, again everyone sat back a little less relaxed this time, I glanced at the lobby clock 5:15am, at 5:20 the third bus arrived and I managed to secure the last seat.

Arriving at the start line was liking nothing I have ever experienced, thousands of runners glad in technical fibers, some with garbage bags on for warmth. Eating; bagels, bananas, yoghurt. Drinking; Gu, coffee, Gatorade, water. Warming up; stretching, yoga, sleeping, chatting, checking bags, oh yes and of course patiently standing in line for the porta-porties. I seem to have perfected my warm up which involve jiggling for the porta-pottie followed by a small run and a stretch. Suffice to say every square foot was taken up.

Runners started to congregate in their allocated corral, corrals were allocated based on projected run time, I was in number four; 3:45:00. For me this run was a training run towards my targeted marathon; San Francisco and my target time; 3:30:00 and I was hoping for a 4:00:00 finish. The national anthem finished and I nervously I jiggled up and down waiting for the gun to go off, I looked up at he sky the sun had not broken through the cloud and wouldn’t for another five or so hours, two minutes to go came over the tannoy, I checked my Forerunner, set my iPod to my ‘Rock’n’Roll’ playlist and waited. The gun goes off at 6:30, on time and we start to walk, the pace picks and by the time I place my foot on the timing mat and cross the start line I am running.

I slight panic at the half mile mark when I get a sharp stabbing pain in my right quad however after dozen or so steps it’s run off. Miles one through five go by in a flash, and during the miles 3, 4, and 5 we drop some 285’ as we run towards the pacific. Running through Balboa Park we head towards Downtown, approximately every mile is a live band to entertain us ranging from country and western to rap and dozens of runners dressed as Elvis adding a real carnival spirit and distracting you for at least a quarter mile every mile.

For a four hour finish I need to maintain a nine minute mile, and so to push things I set my Forerunner at an 8:55 pace. My splits: Mile 1: 8:57 / Mile 2: 8:31 / Mile 3: 8:25 / Mile 4: 7:59 / Mile 5 8:01. At mile five Fdip 99; Marathon Fueling scrolls around to the top of my playlist as I list to the equation for the intake for a successful race and I spend the next half an hour or so trying to remember what I have eaten during the preceding 48 hours and realizing that despite my best efforts I am woefully short…hmm that’s not worrying.

Miles six though twelve take us north from downtown back though Balboa Park and past San Diego Zoo and onto Cabrillo Freeway. If you’ve every walked on a freeway the first thing you notice is the camber, that is the slope of the road from the highest point in the center divide to the hard-shoulder, in addition curves have ‘banking’, we were running on the wrong side of the road and this seemed to amplify both the banking and camber, fortunately I had been warned about this in advance (thanks Diva) and chose to run either as close to the centre divide as I could or on the hard shoulder itself thus reducing what was really a punishingly dull stretch of the race, in addition over this distance we were steadily reclaiming all the altitude we had lost at the start, finally we saw the off-ramp and using mirror-signal-maneuver, as all the best southern Californian drivers do, we exited halfway through mile 11 with the lure of the half way point just beyond the next bend. Splits so far: Mile 6: 8:26 / Mile 7: 8:18 / Mile 8: 8:33 / Mile 9: 8:34 / Mile 10 8:14 and Mile 11 8:09. I have a 52:39 10k.

The half way point is over flowing with spectators, in fact with the exception of the freeway section, crowd support has been superb. I pass through the 13.1 marker at 1:51:24, some 15 minutes slower than my PB for the half marathon, I am feeling great and based on previous experience I have consciously increased my gel intake to approx 1oz every five miles rather than eight and contained within my Fuel Belt I have 38oz of Accelerade sports drink and I am drinking roughly 1.5oz every mile in an attempt to not to notice I need refueling until it’s too late. At the water stations I am taking water for external refreshment; head face and neck etc rather than for consumption. From here on in my iPod switches from spoken podcasts to music and am treated to some of my favorite uplifting tunes.

From mile 14 through 21 the route takes an anti-clockwise route around Mission Bay. En route I pass through the Power Bar station; this is a 100 yards or so of each side lined of various flavors, I am not a fan of Power Bars and run on however many if not most runners have decided to try them and the road is littered with the familiar shiny gold wrappers however many of these have only been half eaten or only tried and as a result every other step results in the sticky expulsion of gel…nice. At the end of this section we catch a glimpse of Sea World which at this time of day is closed and shows zero signs of activity. Mile 12: 8:31 / Mile 13: 8:26 / Mile 14: 8:26 / Mile 15: 8:42 / Mile 16 8:42 and Mile 17 8:32 / Mile 18: 8:43 / Mile 19: 8:32 / Mile 20: 8:33 / Mile 21 8:38. At 21 miles I pass another timing mat; 3:00:11 I look at my Pace Band; I am twelve minutes ahead of schedule.

At mile 22 we pass through the Boy Scouts water and aid stations and I am reminded of a recent Fdip episode about Running Etiquette with the banners strewn across the road stating the Scout Law. From here on for me is unknown territory, my previous long run has only been 22.5 miles and I make a conscious effort not to think about it. From mile 23 through 25 we follow the Pacific Highway towards the Finish Line in the US Marine Corp Recruiting Depot (MCRD) I pick up my pace. Entering the Depot we are surrounded by Marines who are vigilantly looking at the runners. Passing through the 26 mile marker I round a corner and can see the finish line and the crowds of spectators cheering them on. One last push, I hear my name over the tannoy and as I cross from the being a runner to be a finisher, I am handed a cold towel and a bottle of water. I stop my Forerunner and check my Nike+ which has measured 25.9 miles, I walk around to add the extra 500 yards needed and this allows me to cool down as well. I receive my medal and move through the recovery zone where I replen with a banana, some yogurt, an Accelerade and a bag of pretzels. The recovery zone is for runners only and I leave it to look for my family. My final splits: Mile 22: 8:45 / Mile 23: 8:48 / Mile 24: 8:47 / Mile 25: 8:25 / Mile 26 8:10 and the last .2: 1:50.

Epilogue; outside the recovery zone was chaos, after looking for my family for nearly an hour I resorted to Plan B which was to meet back at the hotel. An hour later I’d walked the four miles back with another runner who was staying nearby; in hindsight it probably was great for my legs to walk it off, although at the time it didn’t seem that good an idea.

Results: my chip time was 3:45:09; I was 1618th of 15958; 222nd of 1320 for my Division and 1274th of 7729 male runners. I didn’t get a negative split but I was pretty close 1:51:24/1:53:45. There is a lot more information available through the race website, use my bib number 4556.

Lessons learned:

*Running you own race is the only way to run, I was passed early on (first 6 – 8 miles) by lots of runners who came from behind me only to be passed by me later in the race.
*My pre and during race nutrition seems set and my Fuel-Belt allows me to optimize what I want/need.
*Once again I proved that I can always go a bit faster, I was mentally expecting to be puking on my shoes at the end and wasn’t in fact my average heart rate for the race was 156, with a max of 177.

Questions unanswered: when I planned my strategy my plan was complete San Diego in four hours and San Francisco, my target race in 3:30, now the question is do I am for the same target or apply the 30 minute reduction and shoot for a 3:15, this would give me a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon next year; I need to consider this carefully.


  1. hi stuart. excellent blog. i like your various links. fantastic marathon report. congratulations on your first marathon re: 3:45:09 and your ambitious goals for a 3:15. all the best with your 3:15:59 target. i hope you succeed. boston is a blast. i am returning for the 3rd year in a row in '08 at the 112th. i don't have the answer for you re: "now the question is do I aim for the same target or apply the 30 minute reduction and shoot for a 3:15". only you, your running collegues, coaches know that. i wish it was as easy as wishing for a 30 minute reduction. all the best with your training. i have had finishing times in the 18 marathons over 43 months ranging anywhere from 4:16 to 3:26, always targeting a BQ time, granted some of those slower times for me were for very good unfortunate reasons. so, for me clipping 30 minutes has been a reality, however, how much sub 3:26 is there. i think i have more to gain, but for me another 30 minutes would be quite the challenge. imho, it really is an individual quality. you write is best when you comment "Running your own race is the only way to run". well said stuart. all the best. scott

  2. Hi Stuart,

    Well done! I hope that when ever I get to run a marathon I can do as well as you did!

    Happy running


  3. Excellent report, SLB. Congrats on your first marathon!!! What an great time. It is interesting, and secretly satisfying, how a lot of runners start out too quickly and you end up passing them in the end. Your pace per mile is really consistent which is so important. I believe that you can reach 3:15 because you strategize well. But I think that you may need more time to plan for accomplishing it, especially with the 50k coming up. Congrats, again! You are making leaps and bounds!


  4. Well done Stuart and fantastic commentary in your blog!! Inspiring :)



  5. Great times! Your splits are excellent, and impressive. Good report... I can see it now! I absolutely aree with "run your own race". That's what my husband is always telling me. And, I do love to pass people who hit the ground speeding in the beginning. Congrats!

  6. SLB... check out my lastest blog and site for new Nike+ widgets! Pretty cool. :)

  7. Awesome report! I'm so impressed that you could run such a disciplined race the first time out. That's really amazing!

    Your report brought back fond memories of this race. I can still remember that left turn into the barracks at the end and it feels like the finish line but yet it's still so far away....

    As for adjusting your goals for SF I think a 30 minute gain in that amount of time would take serious discipline and hard work. It may happen for you but it might be wiser to work towards the 3:30, do better if you can, and make a BQ the goal for 2008.

    I think you'll figure out during your next training cycle what the right move is for you.

    I'd just hate to see you run a good race in SF but fall short of BQ and be bummed out. I hate it when I see marathon finishers who aren't happy.


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