Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Route 66 Tulsa Marathon Performance Review

Mile 5 ... Focused, but my legs were FREEZING!!!
Route 66 Tulsa Marathon 
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Tulsa, Oklahoma
16th Marathon Completed
Official Time: 3:20:03 Current PR
Avg Pace: 7:38
Splits: 4:25 Negative Split
First Half - 1:42:14, 7:48/mile
Second Half - 1:37:49, 7:28/mile
Finish: Overall ... 64th/1438
40-44 Age Group ... 9th/135
Avg HR: 169
Weight: 178
Calories Burned: 3,791
Pre-Race Meal: 12" Subway Turkey on Wheat
Elevation Gain: 654 ft
Total Distance Ran: 26.51
Temperature: Starting Line, 39 degrees
Finish Line, 42 degrees
Wind:10-15 mph
Humidity: 90% humidity 
Comments: Never felt like I got in a rhythm. Legs felt like concrete from start to finish. Second coldest marathon I've ever ran.  Course was quite a bit more challenging than I anticipated.
Garmin Connect:

After completing my first back-to-back marathons about a month prior, I felt like I had a pretty good base built up for this marathon.  So I focused primarily on speed and tempo workouts leading up to Tulsa, trying to increase leg turnover and hopefully challenge for one last PR in 2011.  A couple of times in past races I had blown great opportunities for PRs, namely the 2010 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and the 2011 Sioux Falls Marathon.  Looking back, Indy was completely my fault - I just ran a bad race and started WAY too fast. Sioux falls was a little warm for me to PR - about 75-80 degrees.  So I had my sights set on Tulsa and what I thought would be an easy course.

I spent some time analyzing the course elevation profile online, and apparently I misread it completely.  The course was nothing like I had planned. I thought the race was going to be flat, however it ended up having the 4th  most elevation of the last 12 marathons I had completed.  It was by no means a killer, just a lot different than I had planned.  And I literally did  no hill training in preparation, which would have served me well.

Mile 2 at Swan Lake
Also, the weather didn't exactly cooperate.  It was about 39 degrees when the gun sounded, but for some reason it felt a lot colder.  It probably was a combination of the temperature, the 90% humidity, and the 10-15mph breeze from the North.  You literally could not see the downtown buildings through the haze and light mist from only about a mile away.  It was just really damp.  It looked like it rain at any minute all day, but never did.

My overall conditioning felt great for this race.  I was a few pounds heavier at the starting line than I wanted to be, but not bad. Plus in the few days prior, I had managed my diet reasonably well and didn't feel bloated when I started running.  My heart rate seemed to be a little elevated throughout, probably due to the colder temps and additional hills, but I never felt I wasn't in control of the race.  Unfortunately, I could just never get my legs in a rhythm with the turnover I was looking for.  The cold wind made my legs feel like concrete and I never really seemed to get them loose.  It was pretty much a grind the whole day for some reason.

Running the tangents has really been a problem in the last couple of races.  I feel like I'm always aware of what I'm suppose to do and try to run as efficiently as possible.  However, I seem to be racking up a lot of additional distance by mile 26, which does nothing but shoot a big hole in the projected finishing time.  At Tulsa, I notice the extra mileage starting to build around mile 5, and it only got worse. I ended up running 26.51 miles at Tulsa.  This was probably the most frustrating part of the day.  At mile 26.2 I was at about 3:18, which would have destroyed my old PR, but at that point I still had .31 miles left in the race.

Overall I was pretty happy with my performance, all things considered.  I was just a little disappointed with my time.  For as hard as I worked, and as sore as I was after the race, it felt like I should have been a little faster.  But it was a PR on a day when I wasn't my best, so I'll take it!

I know a lot of folks who look at the elevation would say, "That's not that tough of a course!"  And actually, it wasn't bad.  It was just not what I had planned for.  The elevation pretty much went hills ... flat ... hills.  And the hills were mostly rolling hills.  Nothing that was unmanageable.  But they just seemed to keep coming, one right after another.
I think the toughest thing mentally were the hills toward the end.  From about mile 14 on, it seemed like a constant up-down-up-down.  Most of them were only 50' inclines, but on a day when I didn't feel like I was running my best, I would have welcomed more flat roads.

The downhills weren't too bad either.  I really tried to gear down a little and save my quads.  In fact after the race, my quads were the least sore thing on my body, so I probably could have pushed it a little more here to make up some time.

With a little different training, I'm sure the elevation would not have been an issue.  And the course was not the problem at all - it was just me being unaware of what it was like.  I usually don't make mistakes like this, but I missed this one big time!

Pace & Splits
Miles 1-3 ... I spent the first three miles trying out my new plan of starting a little faster because I felt like I was leaving too much time on the clock in the warm-up miles.  I ran these miles according to plan but immediately noticed that my legs were really stiff and cold.  Standing at the starting line, we were facing South and most of this first stretch was ran with the North wind.  But as a result, my right hamstring really began to tighten up.  I would fight this most of the day.  Even though the miles were just warm up miles, I felt like I was working a little more than I should have been.  The pace was really slow, but I my heart rate was elevated a little and I just couldn't seem to get warm on the chilly day.

Miles 4-6 ... I was still trying to loosen up during the next three miles as I gradually increased my pace.  I began noticing that my heart rate was a little higher than I wanted at this point, staying around the high 150's.  This early in the race, and at these paces, I expected high 140's. There was a 100' climb during miles 4 and 5, so think that was probably the reason, but it still seemed high.  The tightness in my right hamstring kept getting worse, and now my calves were starting to get a little tight too.  My calves never get tight.  But again, I just figured it was the wind at my back having a "chilling effect" on my back leg muscles.

Miles 7-14 ... What should have been the easiest part of the race, turned out to be the toughest for me.  These seven miles were a nice long flat stretch along the Arkansas River where I should have really been able to find a groove and ride it until the end.  Problem ... most of it was straight North toward downtown into the wind.  The wind was only about 10-15mph, but I had built up a pretty good sweat at that point, and the breeze completely evaporated it.  I was freezing.  And at this point I really began to doubt that it would be a day for a PR.  I lost focus and found it hard to concentrate with the cold air in my face.  Most of the volunteers were standing facing South with their hoods over their head, shivering as we ran by.  I know they were cold ... I was cold!

Horrible form at The University of Tulsa...
Straight front leg and heel striking at mile 22!
At this point I noticed that my leg tightness had totally shifted from the back of my legs, to my front quads.  They felt really tight, like they sometimes do late in a race.  I kept pushing the pace, but found it almost impossible to get to where I wanted to be.  And my heart rate had climbed to the mid 160's ... on a freaking flat stretch!  I was really working and I should have been coasting!  My hands got pretty cold too.  At mile 14, I tried to open a gel, and I dropped it.  I didn't have another one handy so I stopped and went back and picked it up.  It didn't cost me that much time, but it really broke any sort of rhythm I had at that point.

Miles 15-18 ... At about mile 15 we were back close to downtown Tulsa and the course took us under a few highway overpasses.  It was a steep, short downhill as you went under the highway and a steep, short climb to come out the other side.  It was about this point in the race where the second set of hills started.  And it was about this time that I really began counting the miles until we were finished.  I had labored on a long straight away and knew the upcoming rolling elevation was going to be a grind.

Mile 15 was my second slowest "non-warm up" mile of the race at 7:43.  My pace was really dropping off.  And this set of hills were really having their way with me.  But at miles 16-18 I found two guys that I fell in behind and used them as pacers.  They were running a little faster than I wanted to go at that point, but it felt comfortable.  I stayed about 25 feet behind them and focused on keeping up with them.  Mile 16 was 7:16 and Miles 17 & 18 were 7:04 & 7:01 ... two of the fastest miles I had ever ran that late in a race.  And for some reason, it kinda gave me a little spark.

Miles 19-21 ... This long straight stretch down 15th Street was another fairly tough portion of the race for me.  Since it was a straight-away, you could literally see all of the hills that you were about to climb ahead of you.  And as you headed East, it was another long rolling hill 100' steady climb.  My pace dropped off a little to 7:20, 7:31, and 7:50, but I made up my mind that even I had to slow to a 10:00/pace, I was going to keep going and not walk.  I was really struggling with my heart rate at this point too.  It was consistently in the high 170's to low 180's, but I kept pushing.  I didn't walk, yet, and I was glad that I hung on to the top of the hill.

Pretty excited with the new PR ... 3:20:03 at the Route 66  Tulsa Marathon
Miles 22-23 ... As we turned off of 15th street, we headed North toward The University of Tulsa campus.  The wind was still cold, but at this point I was glad to be leveled off for a while.  UT's campus was a nice change of pace.  It was so clean and beautiful ... but there were NO STUDENTS THERE AT ALL!!!  In most other races when you run through a college campus, there are several crazy kids out cheering you on, or making fun of you ... but not here.  They might have already left for Thanksgiving break or maybe it was just too cold, but the campus was like a ghost town.  But it was a nice break from the rest of the race.  Plus, usually once I get to mile 23 I can feel the finish line.  I was really grinding, but I knew that in about 25 minutes, this thing would be over!

Miles 24-25 ... This final stretch featured a few more rolling hills with a nice long downhill on mile 25.  In fact, mile 25 was my second fastest of the day.  I was really pushing it and looking at my watch.  I was trying to calculate in my head if I still had a PR in reach.  I knew it would be close.  I knew had quite a bit of extra mileage to account for at the end, and I thought it might be a deal breaker.  My heart rate was really elevated at about 185, but I felt okay.  I usually push it late in a race by try to be ultra aware of my heart rate.  I'm 42, and really don't wanna be one of those guys who ends up dead in the last miles of a marathon.  So I make sure I try to manage it.

Mile 26 ... After pushing myself all day, it finally happened in mile 26 ... I walked.  But only for about 15 seconds or so.  And the frustrating thing is that it wasn't because of conditioning.  I felt fine.  It was my stomach.  Once again in a marathon, I thought I was gonna have "an accident".  I stopped for just a few seconds to get myself under control and then pushed it for the last few meters.

I glanced at my watch at about 26.2 and it said 3:18:something.  I was excited, but frustrated at the same time, because I hadn't even passed the mile 26 marker yet. I knew I had quite a bit of time to make up.  I kept pushing it and on the last downhill stretch I could see the finish line off to the right.  So I started sprinting, and about 100 meters from the finish line, I knew I was gonna set a new PR.  What a great feeling!  I gave a couple of fist pumps of celebration and looked at my watch ... 3:20:03!

It was really a grind on Sunday, but I was happy with how I battled and got the job done.  I'm a huge baseball fan and one of the signs of a good pitcher is being able to beat the opposing team when you don't have your best stuff.  I didn't feel like I had my "best stuff" at Tulsa.  But hopefully being able to battle and run a good race is a sign that I'm becoming a better runner.
... be great today!


  1. this one over here looks at the course and thinks ...hills and hills and hills...yeah that does not = easy to me.

    I love that last picture...what were you saying there? Aaaaar?!!!

  2. Congratulations! That's a super PR and to get it when you feel it was not your best is awesome. Fantastic report as well. Maybe it was a bit too cold but you still did great. 64th overall is fantastic. Rest well!

  3. I look at that course and say "holy crap of hills" but I wasn't looking at the scale. :) Congrats Jim...nice on the negative splits.

  4. Catching up with your blog from Virginia! Congrats on the new PR and thanks as always for the educational race analysis, Jim. So, um, when's the beard going bye-bye? Or should I ask Michael? :^)

  5. CONGRATS!! Great PR and great pics!

  6. Enjoyed the report. You have been showing lots of improvement this year! For you to set a PR with the cold, and wind, and hills is saying something (Not to mention the extra distance). Enjoy that PR.

    Some of those splits were impressive. Hope you and Michael had a good Thanksgiving.

  7. Wow, interesting race! Now I see what you mean about how you could have gone faster! Seems like you never got into a rhythm and yet still set a PR! I think that shows that you likely will set another PR next marathon, since you are in such great shape!

  8. I love that first pic! The look on your face is pure determination.

    Congrats on the PR!!!


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