Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mardi Gras Marathon Race Report

I had brought 5 different shirts for the race. I had a contingency for everything. I had 3 sleeveless shirts, a short sleeve shirt and a long sleeve shirt. I knew that I would not be wearing the long sleeve shirt but just in case.

I knew that it would be cold / cool prior to the race but I was planning on running hard. I did not want overheat in the later stages on the race. Race morning would be in the high 30’s / low 40’s.

I decided on a triathlon Zoot sleeveless jersey because it had a ½ length zipper. I had also brought a pair of tube socks that I had cut the ends out of – these would be my disposable arm skins. In addition I also had disposal gloves and a disposal long sleeved cotton shirt.

After walking the mile to the starting line I milled around corral number one for about 45 minutes. I used the bathroom twice – I was nervous. The first time there was no line – the second time I only had minutes to spare. I was cold and nervous and shaking. I was not as anxious as before my ironman but there was a lot on tension in the air. I wanted to do well. Like I said, there was no fear just a heck of a lot of anxiety.

When the gun fired the elites, corral 1 and corral 2 started. It was crowed at the start but I crossed the timing mat within seconds. I had my ‘virtual partner’ going on my left wrist and a regular stopwatch on my right. I got passed by hordes of people in the first 2 miles. I stuck to my plan. I kept to my paces. The half marathoners split off early in the race. I saw many people making the half / full decision. The split was between mile 3 and mile 4. I thought to myself that you had to be having a bad day if you jumped ship this early.

I continued on with the full marathon. My paces were maintaining. In fact, they were maintaining easily. However, I was running about 10 seconds slower than my last 30k race. I had some doubts start to creep into my mind. How could I have run 10 seconds faster for 18.6 miles? I am not sure how I did it three weeks ago but this was a different race.

Anyway, I was sticking to my race strategy, I was going to try and run even splits for the entire race. If I had more at the end (yeah right) I would pick it up. I ran with a couple of older guys for a couple of miles and I was chatting up a storm. We were swapping race stores left and right. I saw Becky from the running club around mile 7 or 8 – she yelled at me and I was sure she was going to tell me to shut up and race (I would see Becky and Holly a couple of more times during the race – they are fantastic cheerleaders!) The older guys started to drop off of my pace a little bit so – I had made this decision earlier – I was not going to slow down at all to talk. It would be okay to talk but I had to keep to my race plan. I dropped the older guys and picked up with a guy that I had met that morning. He needed a 3:10 to qualify and we were running similar paces. I ran with him and another guy for about 8 more miles. At times it was tough to stay up with them. They would drop me at the water stops and I would have to quicken my pace to catch back up. I am not very good at running and drink at these water stops. However, even though I had to quicken the pace to catch back up, I felt it was worth the effort to ride along with them. Although I was pushing it my ‘virtual partner’ kept was telling me that I was a little slow. I tried to catch back up to him but I just did not want to get into any danger zones.

At this point we were entering City Park. The half marathoners broke off to finish their race. I had run about 15 miles and I was still feeling strong. The course had the half and full marathoners break apart and come back together twice– after the first break we never actually intermingled – there was always an island or cones separating us. We, the full marathoners were running up the west side of City Park. I recognized this section from the Ole Man River Half that I had run back in December. This was a long flat straight section. I crossed the 17 mile marker at 2 hours and thought to my self, no scratch that, I said it out loud, that there was only about an hour to go. I proclaimed “That we could do anything for an hour.” Even though there was very little wind I had been tailing these guys for several miles. I was starting to push past them. It was time to move out on my own. I left them – I would not call it a pass, definitely not a pass with authority or anything I just got in front and kept going. We rounded the north section of the park and I was worried. I still felt strong but I knew that “The Wall” would be lurking. The temperature had climbed into the 50’s. This should not have been warm much less hot but most of my training has been in the 30’s. I had to take off my sweat band a couple of times to wring it out. I passed mile 20 and there was such a relief. I was past the first 20 miles and just had a 10k to go. There was an out and back for a couple of miles and then the course would come back into the park for the finish. I ran mile 20 on schedule (7:08 minutes / mile) – just as I had planned. I actually felt really good. I passed several people during this mile and kept to the plan.

This little out and back section turned 180 degrees at mile 21. That is when it hit me. I was running strong because of the tail wind. I don’t think the wind was that strong but it did not have to be. Running into the wind I was still passing people but it was hard going. These next 3 miles would be the slowest miles of the race. I lost 59 seconds during these 3 miles. It got hard in this area. And I was alone. I was trying to sight up ahead and reel runners in but they were getting few and far between. In a race this large it is amazing how many people I saw that I knew. At about mile 24 and a half I passed another runner. He knew my name and I looked up. This was a guy named Michael that I had run with at the 30K race 3 weeks ago. He needed a 3:10 to qualify for Boston and I told him to jump on – to finish this race strong. I don’t know how it made Michael feel (he finished in 3:11:xx – heart breaking) but it was encouraging to me. I knew the finish was within my grasp and I knew that I could push harder / push farther. I picked it up and my times got back on track. Mile 24 was the absolute slowest of the day (7:32) but mile 25 was back (7:07). I would continue to push hard until the end. Mile 26 felt like it took forever but I was on – it clicked off at 7:13. Down the finisher chute I kicked it up. I saw the clock and it was ticking up – I was damned and determined to not allow another minute click past. I sprinted the last minute and finished by a clock time of 2:08:5X and a chip time at 2:08:44.

When I finished I was spent. I was hurting – not a bad hurting like something permanent just sore from the effort. I received my finisher’s medal and got my photo taken. I did not feel hungry but ate a banana and a bar of some kind. I also took some sports drink. My face was crusty from salt.

I only needed a 3:15 to qualify for Boston so I knew that I was safe several miles back. This probably let me slip off of my paces. I had wanted to finish in a low 3:07 (as per the running calculator). I have become a better, more patient racer over the past 3 months. During the fall of last year there was no way that I could have come close to qualifying. Now, both the first and second halves of this marathon would have been half marathon PR’s in early December.

I am indebted to many friends that have allowed for me to experience this race. As I have said, I would not have even taken on this challenge without the encouragement from so many Pinebelt Pacers (special thanks Charles and Jim who talked me into running all of the build up races). I also could not have done this without the constant encouragement of Jodie who had to put up with all of the talk – the training this / the racing that. I am sure it has been tough on her for the last 3 months (not to mention all of the ironman stuff from last year).

Splits for the race - slowest - mile 24 - 7:32 / fastest - mile 15 - 6:59 average - 7:11
Average Heart Rate - 169

So, this is the race report. I would also like to put together a lessons learned for this marathon and a race review - a review of the Rock & Roll Mardi Gras Marathon itself. Stay tuned.

My race - by the numbers.

2 Cliff bars for breakfast
8 gels during the race (1 before / 7 during)
7:09.00 pace 1st half (1:33:57)
7:13.81 pace 2nd half (1:34:47)
7:11.90 pace Total

Qualifying for Boston in my first marathon … pretty sweet!

On yeah, at the expo I already signed up for next year’s race.


Big Daddy Diesel said...

Congrats on making it to Boston!!!!

dawn said...

great race, enjoyed your report! very proud and excited for you!!! reading this motivated me a lot! keep up the good work!!!

Amanda said...

Nice work! great race

Jon Gilchrist said...

you rock!! Great job!!!

Matty O said...

That is awesome man! Really strong pace the whole way and sticking to the plan is key. 7 gels during the race?! Wow, I have definitely been slacking on my races. Nice job qualifying for Boston too! Keep up the great training!