Akron Marathon Pacer Report

1& 2) Performance and Group

A's all around this time. I really feel I did a good job at Akron this year. Other than the downhills producing two quick miles at the end I was really on all day long. While I am a bit disappointed my perfectly paced day was foiled by those downhills at the end (but glad they were there for my runners to come in quicker) I don't think those two miles broke anyone in my group and I was able to get a few of the girls in a little quicker than they might have gone otherwise.

I wore my garmin just so I could have the data after and just used it to see each individual mile. I wore my timex and set a timer for 8:24 each mile and used that all day to tell the group how far off total time we were. This worked out well, although I noticed towards the end that the marathon guide pace band for 3:40 actually has some 8:23 miles mixed in and I had a little bit of a mix up at mile 25 and 26 looking at my timer versus the time on the pace band. (Should have stuck with the timer since those downhills were a bit too quick!)

I love this race, but I must admit doing 26.2 for this first time since May I was nervous and didn't sleep a wink the night before. My mind was just racing and all it was full of was paces, oddly enough not my paces ;) I was glad to be leading the 3:40 group since my training has been going so well this year 3:50 would have been tough for me, but I must admit I was nervous that even 3:40 was going to be an effort since I am in shape to run almost 90 seconds per mile faster than that in a few weeks for my own race. I practiced the pace all week to make sure I would be on.

I was up early and got to the race in time to chat with some locals before getting to the start around 6:20ish. I had a huge group at the start. I went through my spiel at least twice in full and tried to talk to individual runners until the group got too large. I had a lot of half marathoners, quite a few full marathoners, and even a handful of relay runners with me.

We started off our first mile just a hair slow and given the net downhill and crowded start I was happy with the effort. My neighbor Neil was in the group and entertained us with his relay's "Crazy for Swayze" Team shirt and negative morning attitude. I introduced a few of my other local friends to the group and asked around to see where everyone was from, how many first timers we had, and how many gals I had aiming for a BQ.

The group wasn't too chatty but they did chime in every now and then. It became apparent to me quickly that just like last year humidity was going to play a major role on every ones day. I tried to make sure runners were taking in fluids and sports drink throughout the day as well as keeping their upper bodies and breathing relaxed. The weather was very misleading because it was obviously cool, but my humidity radar is pretty good since it affects me so strongly.

My group was very complimentary and commented frequently about me being inhuman as we were really nailing the pace all morning. I just tried to keep them entertained and on task. I did a much better job this year with the rolling miles and not letting the pace get far off overall at any point. At mile 11 before we split from the half marathoners we were about 10 seconds ahead of pace, As they split off I let them know they were likely 20 seconds ahead of pace from the steep descent before the marathoners headed right to the towpath. I know at least one of my local friends made the 1:50 time and when they split off there was at least a handful with him. I am sure the 20 second buffer was appreciated as I heard the hill they had to run up before mile 12 was pretty brutal.

I made sure the full marathoners settled back into our pace as we headed onto the towpath. A lot of people tend to pull forward with the momentum from that steep downhill at 11 but we got back on pace quickly and we were just 2 seconds under at the half marathon mark.

I knew last year I lost a lot of runners through Sand Run. This year I tried to get the group prepared mentally to work the hills. I gave them my tips for keeping strides short, relaxing the breathing, focusing on a spot just a few feet ahead of them on the ground etc. I think this really helped. I still had at least 10-15 with me as we crested Sand Run, and many stayed close to us even if they fell back. And a few were even able to pull back to us once they crested the top. That said I started to lose runners, many due to cramping which was obviously a trend for people that day. At mile 15 I spotted a local friend who has planned to run 3:10 walking backwards, her day thwarted by cramping/trashed quads. I also spotted the 3:20 sign in a trash cash at some point during this stretch which led me to believe the day was even taking it's toll on pacers.

I kept advising my group to take sports drink and gels where available. The area before Garman hill seemed to be the last straw for many. I was down to a small group of 4-5 by that point. I picked up a friend who had run the 4th leg of the relay and introduced her to the group. As it was getting windy I had her run next to me so we could block some wind for those still with us. I lost my last male from the group near the last gel station. His stomach was revolting a bit but he really had done a fantastic job all day (and didn't finish far behind me). At this point we were down to one girl right with us, one close behind, a few we had picked up, and a few within 60 seconds of us.

We were close to right on at 24 and I let the group and those behind us (yelling back) that we could use the downhills to ensure an on time finish. Only one of the girls stayed right with us. Her breathing had become ragged around mile 22 but I encouraged her to relax and she did a great job sticking to us like glue and pulling ahead in the finish chute. I got a little caught up in seeing her finish and got carried away at the end on the pace. (Too excited!) I crossed the finish line and turned back to cheer on the 4 girls behind us that all made it under 3:41 clock time. A glance at the results confirmed that 5 gals that ran with my group all day or at least some of the day made it to Boston. Very exciting.

The chute workers tried to shoo me through but I let them know I wouldn't be moving until the time went over to 3:41. I made my way slowly through the chute so I could chat with those that came in just behind me. Quite a few from my group that I thought were lost came in within 2 minutes which was great to see.

I gave my sign to Ky who I had met at Buckeye half two weeks ago. She did a great job all day and even though I lost her around Garman she gritted it out to get in under 3:41 and was very excited with her performance.

In addition to my group I spotted a few runners who I had chatted with at the expo after the race who were very pleased with the day. A couple first timers who let me know they had gone against my conservative advice and gone out too fast, but who were still very excited to have completed their first marathon.


mile split (off from total time)

1- 8:26.19 (+2)
2- 8:21.34 (-1)
3- 8:24.00 (-1)
4- 8:15.40 (-10)
5- 8:21.73 (-13)
6- 8:29.97 (-7)
7- 8:25.83 (-5)
8- 8:28.99 (0)
9- 8:13.08 (-11)
10- 8:24.40 (-11)
11- 8:24.47 (-11)
12- 8:25.38 (-10)
13- 8:30.20 (-4)
1:49:58 at the half
14- 8:16.70 (-11)
15- 8:22.92 (-12)
16- 8:36.15 (0)
17- 8:08.98 (-15)
18- 8:29 (-11)
19- 8:21.10 (-14)
20- 8:21.98 (-16)
21- 8:23.32 (-16)
22 -8:35.23 (-5)
23- 8:23.19 (-6)
24- 8:31.23 (+1)
25- 8:01.62 (-21)
26- 8:09.95 (-35)
26.2- 1:32 (-38)

3) Marathon Suggestions-
Top notch race as always. My only complaint was the weird surface at the finish. If I had been trying to sprint in I wouldn't have liked it, it seemed like it was loose and you could easily trip over it. Other than that this is a first class event. The expo was great, the pasta dinner was great, and the volunteers were great.

One other nitpicky note, I was on the line early and made a game time decision on where I should position myself. Around 6:45 or so they put up signs for time suggestions and they were way off from where we were placed as pacers. If those signs are going to go up late they should adjust them to match us because once we are in place with 30-40 runners it is really hard to get them all to move :)

4) Pacer Suggestions-
Loved the booth placement this time.
I think maybe that our mantra for this race needs to be to preach conservatism. This is the second year in a row here that humidity played a factor, and this course is not easy to begin with. I really thought about what my approach would have been here if I had been racing it and I think I would have backed off my personal goal by 4 minutes and really tried to go for even split day with even pacing through mile 16 allowing for a slight drop in pace through 19 and a strong finish from 24 on.

I think so many people would have had more pleasing days had they gone out slower. I think it is tempting for people to bank time here but I just don't think that strategy works, I think if you bank it is just going to leave you too trashed to do anything after the climb at Sand Run.

I think perhaps a reminder to the pacers that we shouldn't be banking any time here either would be good. I know it would have been really easy to go way too fast on some of those early downhill stretches. I am glad I was right on at the half, while obviously many were not ready for the course on the day I think it ensured I had many with me at the top of sand run. Many who might have fallen off earlier if I had done one or two miles too quickly early on.

As always thank to Jim for organizing and for having me on the pace team. It is really rewarding to give back to the running community and help other runners. I know next year my pace jobs will be limited by my own racing and training so I am grateful for all the opportunities I had this year.


Anonymous said...

Nice pace job w/ great splits, E!
My wife Cathy enjoyed meeting you and running with you for her marathon! So did my brother Donnie who you helped in his first 1/2 marathon! His goal was 1:50 which was your group, and he finsihed in 1:48!

Pretty cool... you were just pacing and still ended up 5th in your age group for the marathon!
Best to you in your upcoming marathon race!

DrT said...

You did a great job... Thank you!

jeff said...

great job pacing again, e! you really are a superstar for those folks.

Viper said...

You nailed it. I was off my goal time by four minutes. I had a conservative approach, but my execution was a bit off. Great job to you and the rest of pace leaders. Cheers!

Mike said...

you really are awesome E! I can't wait until I am fast enough to be in one of your pace groups.

solarsquirrel said...

I hope one of these days I can have you as my pacer! Great job as expected. The people who were finishing around you were really appreciative.

E-Speed said...

Amie you had me as your pacer twice already! NCTM and WB50K!

Ky said...

E, thank you so much for everything. I sent a letter off to Jim re: your expert pacer skills, and I hope he shares it with you. Even though you lost me at Garman, everything you told me up to Garman stuck with me, and it helped me gut it out and BQ. I never lost sight of you and kept focused on your shoulders. Also, I think its really cool that you waited for us to see who would finish in their goal time.

3:39:57... I would say you did a pretty great job pacing me to a 3:40:00. I am beyond thrilled. I feel like I ran it almost perfectly, and I really owe a lot to you for helping me every step of the way.

Sensationally Red said...

I heard so many nice things about your pacing! It is inhuman how you can do that. Very admirable. I think your observations were spot on, too--the humidity was a major factor and yes, almost, everyone makes the mistake of running the first half too fast--myself included, but I'm a super slow learner.