Friday, January 20, 2012

Rejection and a New Goal for 2012

I recently applied for a spot on the Clif Bar Pace Team, a group that paces some of the biggest and most popular marathons in the country, and I was rejected. The whole application and interview process went well, but in the end I was turned down because I didn't have enough pacing experience (4 marathons). I still think the pace team is amazing and I'd love to earn a spot next year, but more on that in a bit...

Now that I'm nearly finished with my 30 for 30 goal, I need a new goal to keep me running in 2012. I have found that if I don't have a challenging goal, I turn lazy and dedicate my life to Taco Bell and reality TV. My girlfriend really doesn't want to see that happen, she would rather I stay focused on running and reality TV. (By the way, is it just me or is Bachelor Ben funny looking?)

While we're on the subject of laziness, I should say that I am planning to take a break from racing for a few months this summer. Training in the Texas heat last summer was miserable, so I figure I'll take the hottest months easy and come back strong for the fall.

So then, what is a good running goal for 2012? Taking into account my summer break, outdoing my 16 states or 17 total marathons in 2011 isn't going to happen. Instead, I am going to concentrate on pacing this year. I loved the 4 marathons I have paced so far. It is fun trying to hold a perfect pace every mile while trying to motivate and entertain people in my group. Plus, more pacing experience might earn me a spot on the Clif Bar Pace Team next year!

Therefore, I've decided that my next running goal will be to pace my 10th marathon by the end of 2012.

Here are the races I am considering so far for 2012, although I'm sure the list will change as I do some more searching on So far I have 5 more pacing marathons on the list, so I will need to find one more to reach my goal for the year.

Mar 4Little Rock MarathonLittle Rock, AR3:45 Pacer
Apr 21Carmel MarathonCarmel, IN4:10 Pacer
New State
May 27Madison MarathonMadison, WIPacer
Jun 3Rock 'n' Roll San Diego MarathonSan Diego, CA 
Sep 15USAF MarathonDayton, OHNew state
Oct 21Des Moines MarathonDes Moines, IAPacer
Nov 4?Raleigh City of Oaks MarathonRaleigh, NC 
Nov 11OBX MarathonOuter Banks, NC 
Dec 1St. Jude Memphis MarathonMemphis, TNPacer
Dec 2Dallas White Rock MarathonDallas, TXDouble!

Does anyone have recommendations for other races I should consider this year? Does anyone know a pace director looking for pacers? :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hills and Harmonicas - 2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon Race Report

A few months ago, I heard that the Mississippi Blues Marathon had pacer spots available, so I signed up for 4:00. I didn't know much about the race going into it, but now that I have run it, I will remember 5 main things about the race:
  1. The medal and harmonica are sweet.
  2. Jackson is hilly.
  3. Mississippi volunteers are friendly.
  4. The race shirt is ugl....noticeable.
  5. Jackson's roads are rough.

Pre Race

I woke up early on Friday and flew to Jackson. My connecting flight out of Houston was filled with marathoners, including several Marathon Maniacs and 50 States Marathon Club founders Steve and Paula Boone (I'm in both clubs). From the airport I headed to the expo, which was on the smaller side but nice with live music and an easy packet pickup process. I picked up my race packet and pacer gear and found myself back in my car around 1:00pm, with nothing to do until my hotel room was available at 3:00pm.

So, I started looking for things to do, and I found out that there are casinos in Vicksburg a mere 40 miles away! I hit the road, played some blackjack and drank some water, and ended up returning to Jackson around 5:00pm with $200 extra in my pocket. Not a bad way to prepare for a marathon :)

Back in Jackson, I did my usual night before the race festivities, including running a mile to loosen up, carbing up on Olive Garden take-out, pinning bibs and GUs to my race clothes, and watching football.

The next morning I slept in a little later than usual because I was staying close to the start. I waited until about 40 minutes before the race to make the 1 mile walk to the start, where I lined up in my pace spot and chatted with some of my fellow 4:00 runners.

The Race
Miles 1-3 - Less crowded than I expected.
The first few miles were nice, with some decent hills and cool foggy weather. I had read that the first three miles would be crowded due to the full and half marathons sharing a course, but the roads were nice and wide so it wasn't bad at all. (I heard this weekend that they may allow more people into the race next year. From what I saw the race should be able to handle a bigger crowd just fine.) I found my body trying to go too fast in those first few miles, so I constantly made myself slow down to stay near my 9:09/mile pace.

Miles 3-13.1 - Leading the pack.
I had a great group running with my pace group through the first half. I did my usual local trivia questions every mile for entertainment and got to know a little bit about everyone in the group. The course was pretty hilly in the first half but everyone was feeling good. By the half way point, I had built a 1 minute lead on my 4 hour pace, so I thought I was all set for an easy second half.

Miles 13.1-21 - Hill after hill after hill.
During the second half, the hills started to wear on me, along with everyone else in the group. Also, the sun came out and the temperature climbed into the 70s. This is when the 4:00 group around me started getting thinner. As the miles went on, I found myself concentrating more and more on holding the pace and I kept forgetting to ask my trivia questions. Tragic! The hills aren't very big at any point on the course (the biggest/steepest one is actually at mile 11), but they just keep coming one after another, mile after mile, late into the race.

Miles 21-26.2 - Trudging to the finish.
Luckily the hills finally do end and the course is pretty flat for the last 5 miles. My legs were pretty dead from all of the previous hills and the day was just getting hotter, so I was ready to be finished. I managed to hold pace all the way and finish with a chip time of 3:59:08. I normally would have eased up a bit in the last few miles to finish closer to 4:00, but I knew I had started about a minute behind the gun so I would be just about perfectly on 4:00 clock time if I kept my 1 minute chip cushion, so I went for that instead. I ended up finishing right at 3:59:57 on the clock, which was pretty sweet. The race announcer even gave me a hard time for finishing 3 seconds too early. They're picky in Mississippi :)

Elevation from my Garmin...lots of hills!
(click to enlarge)

Post Race
After a couple of free post-race beers and slices of pizza (really good finisher food at this race), I walked back to my hotel to shower and stopped for a gourmet post-race lunch at McDonald's on the way to the airport.

The airport after the race ended up being a great part of the trip. I ran into fellow Maniac and friend from the Missoula Marathon and blog world, Amy!

Check out Amy's blog, Going One More Mile

I also made some new friends, Keith and Andrea from New York, who were super nice but tried tricking me into running more marathons this year :) We also chatted with some of the race's elite runners who were on our flight, including the women's champion Malika Mejdoub, men's 3rd place Solomon Kandie, and men's half marathon 6th place Jhonny Camacho. Malika carried on her fancy new guitar that was part of the prize for winning the race. I had never sat down and talked with elite runners before, so it was really interesting to hear about their training, race strategy, equipment, goals, etc. It was the most interesting wait for a plane I have ever had!

My fast new friends before our flight.

Nerdy Race Statistics:
Garmin Distance - 26.39 miles
Garmin Average Pace - 9:04/mile
Garmin Calories Burned - 3758 calories
Official Splits
MileTimeSplit PaceTotal Pace

Garmin pace per split:
Pace per split, I took a split at every mile marker I saw.
(click to enlarge)

I was a little fast throughout the first half, especially the bit where I caught up after a bathroom break in the woods.  I ended up with a minute lead on my pace at half way, then I calmed down and cruised the second half to finish about a minute early, with some minor pace changes on the hills.


Some of the best stuff I've ever gotten from a race. The race packet included a harmonica, a CD of local Blues music, and an extremely "noticeable" short sleeved tech shirt. The medal was impressive and big, almost as big as Little Rock (comparison below).
4 hour pacer gear
Shirt, bib, medal.
The shirt is tough to miss.
Back of the shirt...take that Competitor Group!
Sweet medal.
Little Rock vs. Mississippi Blues medal size comparison.
My two biggest marathon medals.

Likes and Dislikes
  • Volunteers - Everyone working at the race was extremely friendly and thankful to everyone for running. It made for a fun, friendly race. I also had a first-time experience, when a nun handed me water at an aid station around mile 12. I knew I would have a good race after that!
  • Souvenirs - See above, good stuff. It's fun to drive my girlfriend crazy trying to play the harmonica when she's around.
  • Location - The expo and start/finish were both right downtown in Jackson, easily walkable from several affordable hotels. If you stay further away, there is a ton of free parking a few blocks away at the fairgrounds.
  • Rough Roads - Lots of cracks and potholes to avoid. Someone in my pace group was telling me that it's because of the type of dirt they have in Jackson; it shifts a lot when the temperature changes. Whatever the cause, if you are running this race, watch your feet or you will probably take a spill.
  • The Sun - Yeah, I know, it's tough to dislike the sun because it keeps us alive and all. But, I was mostly mad that the day ended up being so hot and the sun came out around mile 13 when it was supposed to be cloudy with a chance of rain all day. Oh well, can't control the weather.
Race Costs
Race Entry - $0 (Pacer)
Flights - $160
Hotel - $80
Car - $50
Gas - $20
Total - $310

29 Total Marathons and 1 Ultra.
23 States (already had Mississippi).
29 of 30 marathons before I turn 30.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Mississippi Blues Marathon - Race Preview

Race Details
  • Full Name - Mississippi Blues Marathon and Half Marathon, presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi
  • Location - Jackson, Mississippi
  • Website - http://
  • Distance - 26.2 miles
  • Surface - Road
  • Date - Saturday, January 7, 2012
  • Start Time - 7:00 am
  • Start Type - Mass
  • Other Races Offered - Half Marathon, 5-Person Marathon Relay, Kids' Marathon
  • Total Participants (all races) - 2,500 (estimate)
  • Marathon Participants - 900 (estimate)
  • Energy Drink - Gatorade Endurance Formula
  • Pace Teams - 3:05 - 5:00 (I am the 4:00 pacer!)
  • Course Map - Available Here
  • Course Elevation
Lotsa Hills
  • Aid Stations - About every 1.6 miles and every mile between miles 20 and 25. Miles 8, 15 and 20 will offer Gu.
  • Weather Forecast
Race day forecast as of 1/2/2012.
Click here for the latest Weather Underground forecast

2011 Race Reports/Reviews

Stuff I Learned From Race Reports [and what I'm doing about it]
  • Rolling hills throughout - not huge but constant. [It can't be as bad as the hills in my last race, Double Decker. As a pacer I will try to hold my pace despite the hills. If I wasn't pacing, I would take the uphills easy and make up time on the downhills, so that's what I'll encourage people in my pace group to do.]
  • First 3 miles crowded, until the half and full marathon courses split. [Try not to fall behind my pace because of the crowd, but also don't weave too much.]
  • Road conditions aren't the best, with potholes and a large camber (drainage angle) on much of the course. [Watch my step, and try to stick to the center of the road to avoid the camber.]
  • Well organized, nice schwag, good food at the finish. [Enjoy my first marathon of 2012!]

Goal and Strategy
Even splits - 9:08 every mile

I'm excited for another chance to pace 4:00!! It's my favorite pace time, because it's such a big milestone for so many people and 9:08 is my usual long run pace. I'll stick with my usual plan of running 9:08 every mile to finish at 3:59:18. Meanwhile, I'll have trivia questions each mile to entertain people running with the pace group.

Look For Me
I'm the tall bearded guy carrying the 4:00 sign. Say hello if you see me!