Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011 Mardi gras Marathon Race Report

I ate my usual pre-race dinner which is oatmeal with peanut butter.  I checked the weather – start temperature should be in the high 30’s and finish time should be in the mid 50’s.  It could be a little cooler but it was close to perfect.

I had laid out my clothes and set my alarm for 5AM.  The race started at 7AM.  This would give me plenty of time to get ready and make the mile walk to race start.  Everything went as planned.

A packed corral #1


I arrived at the start at around 6:20AM.  I took in the sights.  I shed the extra clothes.  I got in line for the john.  The national anthem started playing while I was peeing.  I finished up and jumped in coral number 1.  It was packed with the full and half marathoners.  I made some small talk.  This was a diverse group.  It had people that were running everything from sub-3 marathons to 1:45 half marathons.

Lots of disposable purple

Frank Shorter kicked us off by saying there should be no excuses today – no wind and perfect temperatures.   He was right.  There were so fast times posted at this marathon.

There was a silly little pop gun that went off and we started running.  I crossed the start line a few seconds after the gun.  I was stuck in a lot of congestion for about a mile.  It was crowded and I was trying to pick my way threw the crowd.  I had my virtual nemesis set for a pace of 6:49 minutes per mile.  For the first time he started out fast.  I was losing ground quickly.  Soon I was a hundred feet behind.  This would not have any bearing on my results.

The crowd started to thin out and I was able to pick people out that were running my pace.  I did see a guy doing a run / walk.  For the first few miles I would pass him while he was walking and then he would almost sprint past me.  I was tempted to throw my routine out the door and see how this worked out.  That would be silly, but …

Soon I came up on a guy that was running my 6:50ish pace and he was running easily.  I tend to make conversations on these longer races.  They are at an easier intensity, at least at the beginning, and I like to talk.  Anyway, I introduced myself to Scott.  He had flown in from Boston with his fiancé.  He was younger and faster than me.  I asked him if he was running a sub-3.  He said ‘No’, he was only going to run 17 miles.  He only had one kidney and anything over 2 hours put the hurt on him.  He said that he was going to run this pace for the first 10 or so miles and then try to catch as many as he could.  He also told me that he coached elite level Kenyan runners.  Afterwards I found his website.  I also looked up his results – I guess he ran the whole thing and finished in 3:06.

He ‘coached’ me through about half of the race.  He tried to pull me up to a group that was running my pace.  I kept up with him and was feeling strong – well I was feeling okay.  I was holding my paces. 

Around mile 10 my left foot started to hurt.  It was on the ball of the foot and Scott suggested that I try to curl my toes under to relieve the cramp.  It still hurt but it was not debilitating.  But my pace started to fade.  I don’t know why.  Scott asked me if I wanted him to pull me up to the group.  They were still in sight.  I said lead the way.  He slowly sped up and I followed.  My hamstrings were hurting and I was just not able to keep the pace.  Everything was going wrong.

Right around the half way point

I crossed the half point and the clock read 1:31:XX.  I made a decision right there that I would not be able to negatively split this course.  I had lost a few seconds here and there in the first 10 miles and then a larger chunk of seconds in the last 5k.  I was frustrated.  I had run a 10 mile run a M (marathon) pace the previous week and while the run was not ‘easy’ it was not as hard as this race.

Anyway, I made a decision.  I was done.  I just needed to finish this race without getting hurt.  I was frustrated but not dejected.  I told Scott that I did not need to hold him back.  He told me that a PR was still possible if I held 7:05’s – I did the quick math (not my strong suit) and saw that a 3:04 - 3:06 was possible.  I thanked him and we parted ways.  He fled the scene. 

My effort immediately eased up.  My heart rate dropped.  My objective was to finish the race without hurting myself.  I said many times leading up to this race that a 3:01 did not mean anything to me.  I wanted a sub-3 or nothing.  My pace slowed to 7:30 pace.  My legs were hurting but not nearly as much as my pride.  I was being passed left and right by runners that started out slower than me.  I moved to the inside track of the lane.  I was trying to run the tangents as much as I could.  Mile 14 clicked off and I thought just 12 more miles.  I thought 12 more miles.  At this point I almost got run over by what I am guess was the 3:10 group.  It was demoralizing.  The next thing that happened I will take as a positive – a positive for me.  It changed my attitude.  I was coming up on someone else that was walking.  This guy was walking slow with his head hung low – lower than mine.  I pulled up next to him and started walking with him.  My time was out the window.  It was time to make the best of the situation.  I have said this before, I am a talker.  Sometimes people are receptive, sometimes they are not.  Neither reaction deters me.  I still like to talk.

So I pulled up and said, I guess you blew up too.  What pace were you going for?  We introduced ourselves and Kyle (maybe Kel) said that this was his second marathon (hey, mine too) and that he was shooting for a 2:48.  Damn.  I did not say this to him but he must have blown up like Hiroshima.  He said that he had gone out at a 5:30 something pace and was in 10th place.  And then it all went bad.  It went bad like Billy Mays in a KABOOM infomercial. 



Kyle had run his first marathon last year in a 3 EVEN – damn again.  He was also in the army and would be shipping out to Afghanistan in a few weeks. 

I told him it was time to start running again and we got back into the race.  We decided to walk the the water stops.  One minute walks – that was it.  This was working and I became the driver of the broom wagon.  I attempted to pick up every “blow’d up” runner out there.  Some would stick for a few feet others for a few miles.  Kyle and I got this routine down.  We would introduce ourselves, say where we were from and how we blew up.  It was kind of like a dark game.

I finished the first half in just over one and a half hours.  It took almost two hours for the second half.  I can’t say I was enjoying the journey but I made the best of it.  I had a martini at my 19 and just tried to keep the moral up.  At this point in the run it hurt just as much to walk as it did to run.  At mile 24 I made the decision to run the rest – no more walking.  Kyle needed another quick walk break at the 25 mile mark.

This is where Ginny from Happy Feet 26.2 picked me up.  She was running some extra miles after her near half marathon PR (on tired legs).  She asked me if I was okay.  I said I was okay.  I had been thinking about the race and putting it in perspective for an hour plus.  I ran the rest of the way with her.  We have run together a couple of times and it has always been enjoyable.  She made this last mile the best of the race.

Running down the finisher chute

I did not achieve my goals.  However, I had some wonderful conversations with old and new friends.  The race was a valuable experience.  I will elaborate on what I have learned next time.  I’ll let you know how I can do better and the steps necessary to get my sub-3.  Did I do my best?  The answer is no.  I am okay with that?  For the most part yes.  I am still coming to terms with the race.

I finished this race in 3:24:xx .  

Post race (no purple)

Consciously or not I shut it down at the half way point.  Knowing that I could not achieve my goal made it harder to run.  The legs got heavier.  They hurt more.  The heart rate dropped to nothing.

This is the mental aspect of the race.  Running is a mental game but you have to have the physical to even get in the ball park. 



Look at that dejected pace drop off. 

Mentally I was not willing to hold the pace.



You can see the walk breaks.

I give you the lessons learned next time.


Matty O said...

Phew.... I know the feeling of defeat.

So as I was reading I couldn't help but to think of a high school buddy who our coach pulled out of our practices a couple times and would talk to him. He told Tim that you can't run like everyone else. Everyone else runs to try and attempt to maintain their pace the whole race. You aren't made to run that way. I want you to start out slow and negative split each mile.

Tim started out the races in the back of the pack EVERY TIME. He would finish 2nd or 3rd on our team EVERY TIME.

I wonder how much merit is to that. Use the first 1/3 or 1/4 of the race as a "warmup" of sorts and bring the pain on the back half? Granted... you have A LOT of makeup work to do towards the end, and for a sandbagger like myself whom likes to dump minutes in my time bank so that if something happens I have a cushion... you don't have that anymore.

Still nothing but mad respect for getting out there and doing your thing man. 26.2 is no joke and it is never easy for me.

You made the best out of the situation and granted you didn't have your perfect race, you made an impact on other people out there, in my book, you are a winner.

The only problem with gunning for PRs is... even though you showed up for a PR that day... sometimes your body misses that memo.

Jon said...

Bummer about the race! It was a good read though. That was very noble of you to take a "blow'dup" experience and make it positive for others.

Looking forward to reading about your lessons learned.

misszippy said...

sorry the day didn't deliver as you had hoped. But there were so many great moments out there for you. Stopping to walk with the guy who blew up was awesome. I'm sure he appreciated the company. And finally, you still ran a time that SO many people would kill for! Congrats on another 26. in the books.

Becky Ryder said...

You will have many more marathons. Your decision to back off and just finish was a wise one. Just think that if you had continued to try to "run your best" how much you would have been hurting and in the end you would not have made to goal (which you knew during the race). Sometimes it's best to just shut it down and think about another day. It's easier to accept than if you had kept pushing and probably ended up with the same time.

Tri-James said...

Thanks guys. I am regrouping right now. I know that I needed everything to be right for the race but I didn't want this race to be a training run ... so what do you do?

Matthew Bradford said...

James, I really thought that after a great string of races I had found a pattern that would work for me every time from meal the night before, to pace, to pace group, to nutrition during the race, to recovering and getting ready for the next race, but my horrible Baton Rouge marathon showed that you're gonna have a shi+ty run every now and then and it's how you recover!

I hope my poorly phrased advice helps in some small way.

Have a great night!

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

oh, the mystery of the marathon... it's haunting, it's intriguing, it's a BITCH, it's a BEST friend, it's an enemy, it's the best thing EVER, it's the WORST running day EVER, it's killer,it's an unending mystery, it's the highest high, it's a low, low.

Now you have "the low" out of the way. Time to run a high! Can't wait to follow as you move forward. This one is in the past!

3:24 on a BAD day - yeah, I'd take it!
Nice that you made some lemonade to share with new friends along the course.

And thanks for teaching me to talk to people at a race. Before reading your blog, I had never considered talking during a race. Now I do it from time to time, and I enjoy it.

Pretend this is real said...

I've definitely been there. "Running is a mental game" - so true. But the good thing is that you've learned some lessons that can perhaps get you through your next attempt. And in the meantime, you probably nudged a lot of people to muster up their own will to continue. Great race, even though it wasn't what you wanted.

Tri-James said...

We do tend to think we have all of this stuff figured out. But if we always succeeded then we were probably not shooting high enough.

I think that I did have a positive take away from the race. I think that I was a bit too ambitious. However, I do know that I am faster than my current marathon PR. I just need to execute and put down in a race.

I appreciate the advice from everyone!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I think you did great

Lindsay said...

Oh man I'm feeling sorry for you and then I get to the part about another guy blowing up like Hiroshima hahaha. That's awesome. Your humor, I mean. I like how you turned it into the bes situation you could, and tried to help others along the way. Very cool that you found Ginny for the last mile! Congrats on sticking out a tough race.