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Monthly Archives: May 2011

2011 Cleveland Marathon recap

This past Sunday, I finally got a monkey off my back. After failing to best my marathon PR from the 2007 Akron Marathon in my last 3 attempts, I was finally able to break through and set a new PR at the 2011 Cleveland Marathon, my 9th full marathon. And I didn’t just squeak past it by a few seconds. I shaved 5 minutes and 37 seconds off of it. Finishing around 3:40 had been my goal when I started training, but I’ll be honest that I was feeling very negative all week between knee pain I was feeling and the forecast for cold and storms.

My strategy for the race was pretty simple. Start with the 3:40 pace group and try to hang with them as long as possible. This proved to be quite a challenge, particularly at the beginning of the race since the starting area and first mile were very cramped and about a half mile in, the pace group found a seam and surged forward and I was stuck behind slower runners and struggling the get through. Happens with almost every race, yet I still get frustrated every time. I really wish every race would institute starting corrals based on pace, which helps (but doesn’t eliminate) this problem. Anyways, I was able to catch up by the one mile mark, but we had logged over a 9:30 mile, which was well off our needed pace of 8:23. My knee was aching the first few miles, but it finally calmed down and I fell into a nice rhythm.

This was my first time sticking with a pace group, and now I have no idea why I don’t do this every race. While I’m not one for interacting with other runners during a race, it was nice to be around a consistent group and eavesdrop on various conversations. And the 3:40 pace group leaders (there ended up being 3 of them), were awesome. They offered a lot of advice and encouragement during the race, and would often take turns dropping back to help pickup some of the group that was falling behind. They focused on the girls in the group, as 3:40 is a Boston Marathon qualifying time for them, but that was fine by me. I hit the halfway point at 1:50:23 (a little off since I had to stop and grab my own water cup off the table at the stop right before the mark), so I was right on pace, though I have always run the 2nd half of my marathons slower than the first half. Every single time.

I got nervous a few times after getting held up at water stops and then starting back up and seeing the pacers way ahead, but each time I was able to kick in a little bit and catch up. Also, after the halfway point when we were heading out east on Euclid and then Chester, there were a number of times when I really started to slip and fell maybe 50 yards back of the group, but I surprised myself by being able to claw my way back even each time. The pacers were hitting their marks perfectly. I think after the first mile, we were no further off the overall pace by more than 15-20 seconds. Heading towards the lake along MLK, we were approaching the dreaded 20 mile mark, which is usually when things start to fall apart. But I was pounding the energy gels, and I honestly wasn’t feeling too bad. I was starting to have some chaffing issues, but luckily I found the lone medical tent and got some Vaseline (really, just one medical tent along the whole course? Other races have them almost every water stop). Once we hit the lake, the long trek back downtown began. The last time I ran Cleveland, this was the worst part of the race as we were fighting a nasty headwind. But surprisingly it was not bad this year, at least when I was out there.

When we hit mile 24, our group was starting to disperse. I imagine a few people had already gone ahead, but it seemed like quite a few were starting to fall behind. The pace leaders were taking turns falling back to encourage people to keep up, and I decided that now was my time to kick it in. Usually I “hit the wall” well before this point, but I was still feeling relatively good, besides my knee which was starting to bug me. I pulled ahead of the pace leaders, and that was the last time I saw them (though I wasn’t going that much faster, so I could still hear them for some time, pushing the others). It seemed to take forever to get back downtown, and the last mile felt like a maze, dodging down side streets. Once I hit E.9th, and the crowds, and the downhill, it was on. I went as fast as my legs would allow me, knowing I had a good chance of coming in under 3:40. I hit 26, turned the corner and stared down that finish line. Apparently my wife was right there with her friends, screaming for me, but I was so zoned in that I didn’t notice. I hit the finish and stopped my watch, which read 3:39:20. Mission accomplished. Finally.

My Garmin watch was a little off on it’s distance, but it shows the last 3 miles of the race were my 3 fastest miles, and I was running almost a 7:00 pace that last .2 of the race. So the 2nd half of the race I finished in 1:48:57, which is 1 minute and 26 seconds faster than my first half. I had finally achieved the coveted “negative splits” in a race. I thought it was only a myth (at least for me).

Not sure what to credit for my breakthrough. There are a number of things that probably helped to contribute:
– New training plan with heart-rate monitoring
– Sticking with pace group from the beginning of race
– Lots of energy gels (six!) during the race
– Lots of carbs in the days before the race

Whatever it was, it worked. So I’ll probably incorporate all of these in the training for my next marathon (which is TBD). Usually after marathons I claim they are my last. And after running my best one, it’s very tempting to say it was my last. But it was marathon #9. Being able to say I’ve run 10, a nice round number, sounds a lot better. So I’ll probably be back at it at some point. Looking forward to some down time and some shorter summer races.

Here are my stats from the race:

Chip Time: 3:39:20
Division Place (M, 30-34): 80th of 249
Gender Place: 469th of 1632
Overall Place: 568th of 2636
Pace: 8:22.0
Split10K: 0:52:13
Half: 1:50:23
Split30K: 2:36:19


Cleveland Marathon countdown

The 2011 Cleveland Marathon is just two days away, and it is hard to avoid being preoccupied with that knowledge. This will be my 9th marathon, but I still get as anxious as I did for #1. As is typical, I am dealing with some injury concerns which always seem to pop up during these last couple weeks of training. This time it’s a new one for me, a rather sharp pain at the back of my left knee. It just started a few weeks ago, but seems to be getting worse. Yesterday I lasted one minute on the treadmill before having to stop, though I was able to go outside (before the storms) and get in 30 minutes of running with bearable amounts of pain. Here’s to hoping it holds up for 26.2 miles on Sunday.

Hoping for a PR, as always. But those have been hard to come by the last few years for me. I did manage to set a new PR in the 5K last year, but my marathon PR is now nearing 4 years back. Here is a recap of my marathon history, with it’s progressions (and regressions):

– 2005 Akron Marathon- 4:07:49
– 2006 Flying Pig Marathon- 3:52:13
– 2006 Detroit Marathon- 3:49:18
– 2006 Philadelphia Marathon- 3:52:55
– 2007 Akron Marathon- 3:44:57 (PR)
– 2008 Cleveland Marathon- 3:54:30
– 2009 Akron Marathon- 4:14:03
– 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon- 3:50:32

Looks like I should have quit while I was ahead, after Akron in 2007.

Sunday’s strategy is to try to stick with the 3:40 pace group as long as possible and hang on to get in under 3:45 (or more specifically, 3:44:56). I have a tendency to go out too hard and flame out later in the race. Part of me thinks that I am going to flame out late in the race anyways, so why not bank some faster miles early on? But I am always told that is a bad idea, and my experience has pretty much proven that, though it’s still hard to resist the urge. The weather is looking pretty iffy, upper 50s/low 60s, but rain/storms? Would prefer to avoid the rain as I’ve already had one waterlogged Cleveland Marathon experience (2008).

Heading out to the expo in Euclid tomorrow morning, and then home to rest, deal with my anxiety, and eat a big bowl of spaghetti. Good luck to the other runners (particularly my wife Kristy who is running the half)!

Oh, and for those interested, here is a cool 4 minute time-lapse video from of the marathon course.

Dark Lord Day 2011

This past Saturday, I was able to be a part of what has grown into probably the biggest beer party in the country – Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana. While I had an awesome time, it has probably ruined every other beer release for my by comparison, because nothing can live up to this thing.

So yes, I was one of the lucky 6,000 to get tickets when the went on sale online back on March 19th. The fact that tickets sold out in about 5 minutes gives you an idea of what kind of demand there is for this event. So I have been planning this trip, along with my friend Kyle from Cleveland Hops since then. On Friday afternoon, we headed out for the 5+ mile trek west to Munster, which is the next-to-last exit off the Indiana turnpike before you hit Illinois. We made one pitstop along the way, at Fatheads in North Olmsted to pick up some growlers to share with others at the event (Headhunter IPA & Stone Age Imperial Stout).

After checking in at our hotel a few miles away, we decided to try to check out Three Floyds, expecting we little chance of making it in. But low and behold, we arrived and had to stand outside for 25 minutes or so to get let in, but then got seated at a table and it was surprisingly not crazy. There is apparently some weird restriction on how many people they are allowed to have inside, to where they only let in about as many people as they have seats for (most bars around here let in about 4x as many as they can seat). So I got my first taste of Three Floyds in a while. I started with the Zombie Dust which is really, really good. Kyle got the just-tapped Brandy Barrel Aged Alpha Klaus, a Christmas porter, which was solid. We shared a goat cheese pizza that was good, and I finished the night with a Three Kings, their recent collaboration with Sun King Brewing, a mix of their respective Alpha King and Osiris beers, a very solid combination. Was hard to stop there, but it was getting late and we had a big day ahead of us.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The next morning we awoke before 7, stopped for a quick breakfast and coffee, and headed over to Three Floyds in hopes of finding parking. We were in luck to find free parking on the street that was quickly filling up. So we got our gear and headed to get in line. I had a backpack with a ton of water, gatorade and snacks (all of which came in very handy), in addition to the growlers and bottles we brought. Despite being 2+ hours early, there were probably about 300 people already in line, and it quickly grew and grew behind us. It was kind of nasty for a bit with some stiff, cold winds, but once everyone started cracking some beers, the weather was an afterthought. We ended up behind some people from Wisconsin who we spent most of the time chatting with and sharing beers. We poured some of our Fatheads, which everyone liked, and they shared several Wisconsin beers from New Glarus Brewing, including the very tasty Wisconsin Belgian Red. Pre-arranged trades were going on all around us and there were some very impressive beers trading hands. Our WI friend pulled out a very sought after Bruery Black Tuesday and poured it all around, and wow, that was one heck of a beer. The definite highlight of the beers we shared that day.

At 10am, the sun decided to come out and stay for most of the remainder of the day, warming it up to a perfect temperature, and we made our way inside and went straight for the bottle line as we had group A tickets to get our bottles first. The line moved quickly, and once we got inside the warehouse, we traded our generic ticket for a Golden Ticket which we scratched off in hopes of getting the chance to buy one of the four special-edition varieties of Dark Lord. I did not win, but my friend Kyle did, so he got a bottle of Dark Lord aged in 23 Year Pappy Van Winkle brandy barrels, alongside the four pack of regular Dark Lord bottles that myself and everyone else were able to buy with their ticket, at $15 a bottle. (With bottles now going for over $60 each on eBay, seems like quite a bargain.)

After securing our bottles, we headed over to the guest taps line which had gotten quite long at this point, even though not nearly everyone had even made it inside yet. We were in that line probably a half hour, and sadly the highly sought after Goose Island BCS Rare was long gone by then (since everyone we had talked to was looking to try that). I ended up getting an Oakshire Heart Shaped Box which was great. We then wandered around a bit and finally ran into some Cleveland friends at one of the picnic tables where we ended up sitting down at for quite a while, making all kinds of new friends along the way. Most of the table we shared with a crew that came by bus from Chicago. They had all kinds of beers, food and conversation to share. It was just a parade of beers, with people pulling out one after the other of really top notch stuff, including some really great homebrews. I did bring a bottle of my most recent homebrew, a Maibock, and got some really positive feedback from it (granted it was from people who had been drinking for several hours, but I’ll take it). We ran into more Clevelanders, including some people from Fatheads, who got us more food and more beers, and more of the guest tap beers that kept turning over.

Finally, when it started getting a little later, we decided to get in the line to go into the brewpub to try out some Dark Lord, what we had all come for after all. We were in that line for probably close to an hour, but I got more free food and we ended up behind some guys from Columbus who we talked with and eventually shared a table with once we got inside. I had a glass of the Barrel-Aged Dark Lord and the regular Dark Lord, and I sampled someone else’s glass of the Vanilla Bean version, and they were all top notch. While the entire event is a party that no one would want to miss, ultimately it is a result of the great beer that they produce, and this year is no different. I have heard some veterans say it is as good or better than any of the previous versions. I’ve only had it once before, and it blew me away then just as it did on Saturday.

I had no idea what to expect from my first Dark Lord Day, but it exceeded all of my expectations. Normally I am not one for big crowds and crazy events, but it was very well organized by the folks at Three Floyds, and everyone we met was very cool, and friendly, and super generous. Not to sound like a hippie, but there was just such a good, positive vibe that lasted for the entire day (despite all of the heavy metal blaring from speakers and the live stage). While the drive from Cleveland is pretty long, I will definitely be trying to get my hands on some tickets again next year and will hopefully get to share in this party again.

Here is a definitely incomplete list of the beers I drank (or at least sampled) on Dark Lord Day, in approximate order of drinking:
– New Glarus Spotted Cow
– Central Waters Brewhouse Coffee Stout
– Fatheads Stone Age Imperial Stout
– New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
– The Bruery Black Tuesday
– Lowdive Brewing something
– Oakshire Heart Shaped Box
– Firestone Walker Double Jack
– Port Brewing Older Viscosity
– Sprecher Czar Brew (’09)
– Firestone Walker Reserve Porter
– Excelsior Thirteen Anniversary Ale
– Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine (’08)
– Andelot Cuvee Angelique
– various homebrews
– Upright Brewing Late Harvest
– Haymarket Brewing IPA
– Fatheads Headhunter IPA
– Revolution Brewing Barrel-Aged Sodom
– Three Floyds Barrel-Aged Dark Lord
– Three Floyds Vanilla Bean Aged Dark Lord
– Three Floyds Dark Lord