Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Anecdotal Study of the Impact of Humidity on Performance: Part II. Clarence DeMar Marathon, Keen, NH, 9/28/14

Whistling while I work :)
[The song in my head while cruising along in the zone:
Eddie Vedder, Society]
Last week's Half Marathon shook my confidence.  My best half is 6:55 pace. To train for a full and then run a half in 7:21 pace was not part of the plan. Yes, the humidity was a huge factor. But, it was hard to not think that maybe the humidity was not as big of a factor as I would like it to be. Maybe I am just not as fit as I hoped to be by now. 

I registered for the DeMar Marathon a few weeks ago. Sidney, Enzo, and I wanted to see Burlington VT.  Keene, NH is near  Burlington, VT, right? :) (Sidney is a good sport).  

I needed a Long Run while away from home. I was not planning for a great race.  Since Dave and I had trained all the way up to 23 miles for our LRs, I didn’t see a problem with running a marathon as a long run. I didn’t expect to PR, but I did plan to make a genuine effort to run as strong as felt I could run the course. 

I cannot say enough good things about the DeMar marathon. The race is very well organized with just enough communication from the race organizers to make the weekend go smoothly.  This is a smaller race of about 400 runners.  There is "morning of" packet pick up for those who cant get out to Keene the night before.  Even though I made it just in time to get my packet the night before, I cannot say how much I appreciate races that still allow runners to get their bibs in the morning.  

The Elm City Rotary and other Volunteers were incredibly friendly and helpful at bib pickup! It has been a very long time since I looked into my swag bag and found anything that I was happy to see. The DeMar provided a tin of Badger Foot Balm, a Bar of Specialty Soap, a Gel for the race, and then some instructions about where to go in in the morning with actual street addresses. There was not much else in the bag (which is a good thing). The T-shirt was gender specific. Besides being one of the nicest race shirts I have received in a while, this shirt actually fits me!  

Course: The course is a net downhill course with mostly all of of the descent between M1-M14.  Although the second half is not hilly, with the exception of an uphill between M3 and M4, all of the "uphills" that would impact pace were found in the second half. (M14, M21, and M23).

Weather: I had anticipated cooler weather, but I have no complaints about the sub-50’s just prior to the start and maybe just over 50 by gun time. It would rise to about 75 degrees by the afternoon but the humidity was much much lower that last weekend... approximately 65% humidity.  

On the drive over to the race, I take a gel (1).  It was sub-50 when I was dropped at the start so I used that too large long sleeve Newport Liberty Half T-Shirt as my throw away (I was unlikely ever to wear it) over a singlet and shorts. I even wore a pair of throw-away gloves at the start.  Really!  I was very comfortable while waiting to start. I did ditch the shirt in the bin the race provided to collect throw-away items before we started running, but I kept my gloves because I rarely ever actually throw away throw-away gloves.  It felt so great to be a little chilly at the start of a race for a change! 

I take a Gel (2) on the walk to the start. Usually I don't take two before the start, but I didn't feel like carrying 3 gels and my inhaler. 
After running a 1:36 half last weekend, I just hoped to be able to stay under 3:30 but I was targeting a 3:22 as my goal. I lined up towards the front, because review of past race results told me that even a 3:22 should place me high in the women’s standing, if not actually win it.

The Gun Goes Off: Three women take off faster than I do.  I kept an eye on them as they pull away.  I noticed that right off the start I just don't feel great.  I had some tightness around my left ankle that was new and odd. The rest of me felt tired and my stomach was a little off. I didn’t feel like I was able to take the downhills as fast I thought I would. I chatted with Dan, who I met on the starting line when he had on a Sunset Classic Shirt, during the first 2 miles and then decided that I needed to let him go ahead without me.  M1-7:16, M2-7:20
With JP on our way to the Dam

Mile 3 had a nice decent during which I was finally able to feel the tightness leave my ankle. M3-7:10.  

My new found peppiness was quickly put in check by a hill in mile 4 that was about .4 miles long and steeper than I expected to find before mile 14. Net descent does not mean there will be no uphills along the way.  The presence of a significant hill that no one seemed to mention made me very very concerned about the hills people did actually tell me about. M4-7:44

I take some time to recover from the unexpected incline and I settle down and save myself for those hills in the second half. I remind myself that this is just a Long Run so I can be a little more relaxed. The course rolled along and my pace reflects the terrain more than a change in my effort. M5-7:37, M6-7:28, M7-37, M8-7:31. I take a gel (3) here.

I ended up with a small pack of guys. One guy declares that we are the 7:30 pace group.  It doesn’t take them long to drop me.   M9-7:42, M10-7:40.  

I pick up JP at this point and we get to spend several miles together.  He shares his plan to bank a little time. I mention the hill at mile 14 and he was not aware of the lay out. I share my intelligence with him.  He shares that he thinks I must be one of the top ladies.  I tell him “I am eighth.”  He asked me how did I know that.  I explain that I always try to start up front and I count them as them pass me.  Three were ahead of me at the start and between M3 and M10, 4 more ladies passed me.  

As we hit a decline, just before the incline up to the Out-n-Back across the dam, we see the leaders flying back the other way.  There are no women in range for me to catch any time soon.  M11 - 7:38

The view from the dam is beautiful! M12-7:48
View from the Dam
JP made a comment about noticing the pace was fading and we both picked it up a little. It helped to have that descent off the dam to get us back up to speed... but we both knew that the hill around mile 14 was looming.  M13 - 7:18  

There is sign for the half way mark and I notice I hit it in 1:38:50.  Not my best first half, but I will take it because I feel good and I have some room to fade to a 3:22 if those hills pummel me. I take a packet of salt... well as much salt as sweaty fingers can get from a paper salt packet. 

I relax through mile 13, while a little worried and wondering when the hill will start. The aid station is at mile 14, which also is the bottom of the start of the hill.  M14-7:30

We start to climb and it was not that bad at all. I was ready for it.  I have been running hill repeats on hills that made this look like joke.  I pass everyone in my range on the way up.  The hill is about .75 miles up and once I crest it I feel great because I realize the rest are shorter hills, I only have 11 more miles to go AND I feel fresh and ready to start getting to work! M15-7:43

There is a nice descent after the uphill and I take advantage.  At this point forward I have no plans to hold back on the descents.  And then the music starts in my head. (Eddie Vedder, Society)

This is undeniably a signal to me that I am in my zone.  I started humming, then actually whistling, then even singing out loud when no one was too close by.  The idea that I could whistle or sing in spurts while running helped me stay in check and keep my effort challenging but not too fast.  At this point I realized I really liked the taste of the salt from earlier and decide to take my second salt packet. M16-7:18, M17-25. 

I planned to take my next gel between M18-M19. My timing is messed up. I had taken off my singlet and I have that in one hand. I have my gel the other. I turned a corner and approached an aid station, while trying to free a hand for water, I accidentally drop my gel.   In most cases this would have disrupted my flow, but I wasn’t concerned.  I felt great and hoped maybe the race might have a gel station. M18-7:25.

With 8 to go, I immediately shift into progression mode.  Dave and I have been working on negative splitting our Long Runs and this seems to have become ingrained. M19-7:17, M20-7:17, M21 7:20 

I see a guy in the street holding a tray and calling about something about power gels.  I am so excited. My wish has been granted!  I get close and he has power gels chews. I was hoping for a gel, but thanked him and took a handful on the fly. I snatched up 3 chews as I passed by and was grateful for more sugar since the first of the “steep hills” was coming up soon. M22-7:32

Here is where I start passing ladies back. Up the hills, I felt on fire and figured if I can pass the women on the incline and put some distance on them on the descent, then it was unlikely I would be challenged.  I had the energy to push hard uphill. Since most people don't feel that way at then end of a marathon, I was confident that those I passed would simply let me go.  M23 7:20 

I already crested one hill with good results.  The last one was in the Cemetery... but I thought the last one was at 22? I was hoping maybe that maybe the hills were over. 

And then we enter the cemetery. We have a serious descent first, where I passed another woman and then I passed one more as we crested the Cemetery hill. At this point my count was off, there were early start runners to consider, but I hoped I was at least in 5th. 

Once out of the Cemetery we are gifted with a rejuvenating descent! I am catching the men ahead of me. M24-7:22.  One points to the woman up ahead and asked, “You gonna catch her?”  I tell him, “I am gonna try! I have 2 miles to do it”.  I feel no compulsion to do anything sudden.  What I am doing is working. I am reeling people in as they naturally fade and I feel amazing. By Mile 25, I catch her.  M25 7:19.

The final mile is what I have been training for.  I don’t want anyone passing me back and if they want to I want to make it hard.  I kick.  For the entire mile.  It is hard.  People keep telling me I am almost there.  I feels like it is taking forever.  There are so many turns.  Where is that finish line. M26 7:09

Why cannot I still not see the finish?  People are getting more densely packed.  Cow bells are ringing.  Dogs are barking. One man calls out"73% of the field is currently behind you!” :)  Little kids with hands out for high five get my attention and a high five because it makes them happy.  I see Sidney.  That makes me happy.  I dig a little deeper. I make the final turn onto Keene State University. I finally see the shoot. I hear my name announced. The roar of the crowd is so loud for such a small race that I fear someone is chasing me down.  I cannot bear to look back. I finish harder instead.  Last .2 at 6:52 pace. 

Final time 3:15:44... a 2 minute negative split on a course with the hills in the back half and a descent to start!

I find out once the results are posted that I took 3rd female OA. :) What a great race

Time: 3:15:44 (7:27 pace)(6 seconds slower per mile than last week's half)
OA:  22nd
Gender: 3rd
AG 1st

So the final conclusion of this informal anecdotal study of humidity’s impact on performance is as follows:  Humidity in the 90% range sucks.  Or more specifically as Jimbo keeps informing me, the Wetbulb temperature is really important when setting performance goals.  The second half of my marathon was practically run at the same pace as my half last weekend. I ran an entire marathon only 6 seconds per mile slower in temperatures that were slightly cooler but significantly less humid.  It seemed impossible to consider running a 3:15 after my 1:36 performance at Newport.... but running and racing is fair.  A bad race happens for a lot of reason, but if you are well trained, know your course, pace yourself smart, and get lucky with weather, you will have your chance to shine. Control what you can control... manage the rest. And if weather doesn't cooperate, just keep on racing. 


  1. Awesome write-up, Shannon. Congratulations again! You were amazing on Sunday. If you're interested, I posted my review of the race, too:

    Sorry again about my reaction when you passed me in mile 22!

    1. Hi Daniel! LOL!!! You are funny. Your reaction was funny and I still think you should join Clifton Road Runners and by on my team! I am going to head right over to read your report! I love reading Race Reports as much as I love to write them!

  2. Shannon - congrats on an amazing performance. But that's not why I'm commenting. The reason I'm commenting is because of that photo - holy smokes. That photo makes you look like you could be leading a pack with Kara, Deena and Shalane. How come my race photos never come out that good? hah. Congrats again, and hope to see you soon.

    1. :) Thanks Steve… I rarely purchase race photos, but I did by two from this race and you just made it worth the super high cost ;) I will see you soon!

  3. Hi Shannon. That was a great read! We are so happy you enjoyed your DeMar experience, and ran such an amazing race. We would love to welcome you back anytime your up for another beautiful New England fall "long run". Planning is already well underway for 2015.

    1. Hi Alan! Thank you for leaving a comment. Your marathon is really wonderful race. I can't wait to come back next year. What a wonderful course and fast too!