Time Is Relative

I work with real-time operating systems for a living. So time is a very serious thing to me and there are even classic arguments which we still talk about such as the “It depends on what you consider time.” rant. So now the rest of the story on the official San Antonio marathon times. It turns out my official chip time for the San Antonio Marathon was 4:00:09. Chip time is measured by runners having an RFID chip on their shoe which is read by timing mats which the runners run over on the course including one at the starting line and one at the finish. My chip time also included 3:48 standing and waiting for the train. As I said in my last post, I didn’t think there was any way that they could adjust the times. How could they? How would they figure out who had to wait an how long?

Turns out they were gonna try. After the race they put up a website where you could go and enter what you thought your time should have been. Now, I knew what my time was since I stopped my watch when I stopped running, but I think most runners were so caught off guard that they didn’t. But I mean come on, how can they adjust the times for people who request it? Then you have some adjusted times and some not; that doesn’t seem fair. My thought was that was my chip time. OK, put an asterisk by it and note a train delay, but chip time is chip time. I understand that some people were trying to qualify for other events. But they could appeal to that event and provide evidence. Adjusting times doesn’t seem right to me and seems like a slippery slope. Now, I’m not really that serious about things so don’t start thinking this is a hot button issue for me, but I didn’t submit a time correction request for my time. I knew what it was and that is what mattered. So boy was I surprised when I got the following email:

Dear Affected Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Participants:

Our research indicates you were most likely delayed by the Union Pacific train on race day.

After painstaking review of all timing data gathered from 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio, we have adjusted your results to account for the amount of time you appeared to have been held up by the train.  Your new results have been posted the Results Page on our website.

While most of you filed a formal Results Correction Request, a great number of you did not, therefore we have taken the liberty of adjusting the results of those individuals as well.  Thank you to everyone who took the time to file a request – your data was invaluable to making the appropriate corrections based on all factors involved.

For the record, we know your exact starting time (to the second) and that the stop gates at the railroad crossing (at .8 miles into the race) were lowered at 7:24:54am and raised at 7:29:37am.  To determine your adjusted time, we analyzed your pace for the first 5K (the affected portion) and the second 5K, and assumed that unimpeded you would have run even pace for the first 10K.  We then made the necessary adjustment to the first 5K.  By clicking here, you can see both your original and adjusted finish times.  There are always exceptions to every rule, so if you believe further adjustments are still necessary for you, please file a Results Correction Request.  When the results are deemed Final and Official, they will be sent to all of our licensees (Action Sports International (ASI) Photography, Fond Memories Graphics, and PR Engraving) and if you either had your finisher medal engraved or purchased a commemorative plaque, replacements will be sent to you free of charge.

In the meantime, on behalf of Union Pacific Railroad, Competitor Group, the City of San Antonio, and everyone involved with Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio; thank you for your patience as we sorted through all the data.  Please, feel free to use the online coupon code TRAIN before 12/31/10 to receive a $10 discount on the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & 1/2 Marathon.  Please, also accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience and distress the interruption of your race caused you.

Happy Running and have a great Holiday Season!

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & 1/2 Marathon
benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure®
San Antonio, TX
November 13, 2011

I had stopped my watch at 3:56:10, which if anything was 5-10 seconds long from me not stopping my watch right when I crossed the line. They had my officially adjusted time at 3:56:27. I’ll still stick with my watch time. 🙂

San Antonio Marathon: Part 2

OK, so now to finally finish up the story. We didn’t get too far in part 1 due to the train in the first mile but that is where we pick up.

So less than a mile in, got stopped by a train, waited 4 minutes, train gone, started running again. Now the dilemma was whether or not to try to make up the time. OK, that was easy, no. Being less than a mile in it was tempting, but 4 minutes is a lot of time and we had a lot of miles to cover. There was lots of talk on the course of what they would do with the times and if they would adjust them. But come on. You can’t change official times, it just isn’t right. About then we saw the 3:45 pace group go by. Gerardo and I had planned on keeping the 3:45 pace group in sight for the first half, but they were bookin’ it. We sped up enough to ask them if they were going to make up the time and they said they were. From their pace they were gonna do it in the next six miles or so. So we did the smart thing and let them go.

The front half of the course weaved around downtown San Antonio and the crowd was good. I admit that I like “working” the crowd. Gerardo got a lot of Aggies’ to respond to his “Gigg’em” calls since they were still feeling pretty good from winning their football game the night before. I got a couple of “nice facial hair” shout-outs. At about mile 6, someone was handing out glasses of Guinness. Yes, beer, real beer. We had a train delay already, so why not. I mean if you are crazy enough to run a marathon, why not go all in. Well, there are a lot of reasons to not, like another 20 miles to run, but like I’ve said before, I’m not one to pass up a beer challenge. So I cut across the road and grabbed one. It was about 6 oz. total and I figured I’d take one swig and toss the rest. I took a gulp while still running and as I lowered the cup I watched it foam up. All I could think was that is what it is going to do in my stomach for the next few miles. I was just about to toss the cup when I realized, “Wow that tasted good. Really good!”, so I finished it off before tossing the cup. Yes, I know it was stupid, but don’t worry it didn’t affect me and I was still focused on the race. In fact, about a mile later the gal running a stride length in front of me was adjusting her watch and dropped it.  With cat like reflexes I bent down and snagged it like a baseball pitcher snagging a one hop grounder off the pitching rubber. By the time she turned her head I handed her the watch. Things were going well.

The girls were cheering for us at mile 8. I had started out with my race bib (number) folded up and pinned to my running belt so that I could ditch my shirt with the girls. I also ditched my hat and Jenny gave me a bottle for my belt with Gatorade. They had Cytomax on the course, which is awful, so I decided to wear my running belt with one 8 ounce bottle of Gatorade and then Jenny gave me the second one. The ‘transition’ with the girls went smooth and it was off to the barren back half of the course.

Oh, did I mention that I had to pee? Yeah, you may not have thought about it if you haven’t run a marathon before, but not only is a marathon a long distance but it takes a long time so you have to try to figure out the logistics food and water consumption and restrooms. Side-note: I stay away from energy gels with caffeine due to it seeming to do a little too much to wake up my lower digestive system if you know what I mean. Anyway, for breakfast I just had a banana and some Gatorade and figured I’d be good, but after a couple more miles I knew I was gonna have to stop. Some banks of port-a-potties were right on the course and others were way off the course so I split from Gerardo and went out a little faster so that when I stopped, I wouldn’t have as much time to make up to catch up to him. I figure I sped up about 15 seconds per mile for one mile and then I found a nice open port-a-pottie on the course. I did my business and was back out on the course in a flash. I could still see Gerardo who was now 15-30 seconds in front of me. I reeled him in over the next two miles. It was kind of fun to have a little ‘race’ within the race as a distraction.

I caught back up to Gerardo before we did a loop on the south end of the course and headed back up north towards the finish. There were about 5 miles there which were pretty uneventful. Then at about mile 17 the course looped back on itself and we were doubling back. That meant the gentle downhill which we didn’t notice on the way down was over and it was a gradual incline for the last nine miles. We noticed it this time and on the way back and things get a little foggy here. I remember a couple of things clearly. One is that I was starving. Should have had more than a banana for breakfast (and more for supper the night before), but not much I could do about it now other than use my Gu energy gels. Being starving at mile 17 didn’t seem like a good indication. Next, there were a couple of more distinct uphills. The plan was to keep pace. We did, but it hurt. We were still on a pretty good pace so overall I wasn’t worried. We were close enough that we would end up with a decent time for us, but I knew my body well enough that it was going to be a battle.

And a battle it was. We pushed through and our pace fell off, but it didn’t fall off a cliff. We were getting closer to the finish and downtown so there were more spectators, but that wasn’t much of a lift. I haven’t ever run a race with someone before so that was also something new. Our plan was to play it by ear at the end regarding staying together or splitting up. I could tell that Gerardo was hurting – I think he thought I was doing better than him, but that was just talk trying to stay positive and I was right there too. At mile 22, I fell off the cliff. My pace fell from 9:22 to 9:45. I don’t know if Gerardo noticed that or not but I had it in my head that when I couldn’t hold 9:30 pace I was in trouble. Gerardo didn’t seem to mind my drop in pace and he was right there with me. There was a short awkward time when we both were ready to walk/run it in , but didn’t know want to slow the other one down. Gerardo spoke up first saying, “Go on ahead if you want, but I…”, but before he finished, I was already pulling up to walk. That gradual uphill and the hungry lack of energy was killer. Maybe it was mental but it didn’t matter at that point. I’m not sure Gerardo had planned for this but after my Omaha marathon I was ready with plan B which was walk about 1 minute per mile and then trying to hold a pace. We held it together but it wasn’t pretty. With about 2 miles or so left Gerardo and I were in our own worlds. I was looking for longer intervals and he was wanting more off and on. We were close enough to the finish that I knew Gerardo would be able to easily make it under his ultimate 4 hour goal and it looked like I might be able to pull it in under 3:55 so I went up ahead. Turns out there were a few steeper uphills right at the end and I wasn’t pulling it in. But there was the sense of relief that it was going to turn out to be a decent time for me mixed with the disbelief of how long the last .2 miles can seem.

I crossed the finish line at a clock time of 4:03:11. I stopped my watch at 3:56:10, which was my actual finish time since it didn’t include the time I waited for my corral to be released at the start and the time we waited for the train. If you are a running geek and want to check out the details from my GPS watch you can here. Gerardo was only about 15 seconds behind me so it wasn’t hard to find him. Next, it was time to grab some oranges, water, bagels, and anything I could get my hands on. Remember, I was starving. Then we had to walk down 500 steps and then back up 500 steps to get to the trucks with our bags we dropped off at the start. Then back the same way to meet up with our families. This not being my first ‘rodeo’, OK so it was just my second full, I had planned ahead. I didn’t want to put my cellphone in my gear drop bag in case it got lost so instead I put a two-way radio in my bag so that I could find out where the girls were waiting. Jenny and the girls were happy to see me and had an ice cold Coke waiting for me. I love an ice cold Coke after a marathon. We took a few pictures with our new hardware.

Then we were off for a cool down walk back to the hotel which was about 1.5 miles. Gerardo and I both ended up with little girls riding on our shoulders most of the way which I thought was pretty funny for having just ran 26.2 miles. But you got to give the race fans what they want right?

San Antonio Marathon: Part 1 – Rock ‘n Roll or Railroad?

So you made it through my last marathon post (pun intended) and you came back for more? <edit>I promise the story from San Antonio won’t be that long?</edit> Where to start. It all started one night out with some guys for a beer. They were both going to be having babies and were looking for an excuse to keep them in shape. Jenny and I weren’t expecting (yet), but I’m not one to back down from a challenge so I said I was in. We were to run the San Antonio Rock & Roll Marathon, November 14, 2010. We had plenty of time to train and at one point I even thought I would try to run it barefoot. Wow, that was crazy. But I’ll post on barefoot running some other time. Work hours got long and I finally decided I just needed to get my mileage up so I ditched that I idea and laced the shoes back up. Training went pretty well for me, but my buddy Trim, ended up pulling a muscle and re-targeted to running the Austin Marathon in February. The best thing about training was getting convinced to go all the way downtown at Lady Bird Lake. The nice thing about running downtown is jumping into Barton Springs Pool after a long run. The only set back to my training was a pretty bad ‘black toenail’. I had already gotten a half size bigger shoe but I think I was also leaving my shoes too loose and on runs over 16 miles my big toe would rub on top of the shoe enough to cause a problem. I got one of my planned 20 mile runs in before it finally got bad enough that I had to do something. Instead of doing the farmer thing and heating up a paperclip, I went into to the health clinic at work (yeah, we’ve got our own primary care clinic at work) and had it looked at. I admit that even I had doubts when the doctor said he was going to drill a few holes in my toenail using a 16 gauge needle. OK, OK, that is probably enough detail on that topic, but it didn’t hurt and it felt much better afterwards. It forced me to take a week off from running, but I was still able to workout on an elliptical. The last week before the race I was able to run and everything felt pretty good. I was ready. Well almost. The final step was shaving my beard into… friendly mutton chops. (There are no pre-race pictures so you’ll have to wait for the post-race pics.)

Race weekend rolled around and I was surprisingly calm. We got checked into the Embassy Suites on the Riverwalk where the girls were just half a block off the course at mile 8. The morning of the race I felt good and had a banana before heading out to the starting line with Gerardo. They had set up “corrals” to start the field in waves and we were in #5. That seemed a little close to the front but I wasn’t going to complain. We were planning on going out at 3:45 finish time pace (8:35 per mile), and in my mind, likely falling back to 3:50 finishing time pace. The race started and within a couple of minutes it was time to start.

Mile 1 – Haulin’: We crossed the starting line and most of the corral took off haulin’ it. We joked that we’d be passing them later when they gassed and we tried to settle into our pace. At about .75 miles, we turned a corner and noticed people the people up ahead of once were taking off sprinting. I also remember hearing a train horn. It took me a bit to put two and two together, but it wasn’t hard when I finally noticed the freight train barreling down the railroad tracks. Not tracks along side the course; tracks we were about to cross. A lot of runners ran past the lone race official posted there waving an orange flag and ducked the cross-arms to get by ahead of the train. I don’t think Gerardo and I actually said anything to each other but we got to the tracks just as the train was about to the crossing and we both knew better and we pulled up. We were actually in the first row of people who stopped. Pretty quickly I stopped my watch so that I would still end up with an accurate time. Now what. Was the train stopping? It seemed like it. The crowd of runners grew and spread off the street along the side of the tracks. I admit to feeling more than a little unsafe turning around and seeing the huge crowd of runners gathered hoping that the ones in the back didn’t decide to push forward since at that point we were about ten feet away from speeding freight train. But after just under 4 minutes the train cleared and the race was on. It worked out pretty good for us since were in the front and didn’t get tangled up in the crowed. Here’s the new report:

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…