Monday, March 21, 2011

Notes to Self: Tobacco Road Marathon Race Report


Hey Pfitz.  
Yeah?  You ran yesterday didn’t you… how did it go?
Well Pfitz, despite doing just about every mile of your savagery cum training plan, I didn’t feel fit.  
Get out.  How can that be?
I don’t know.  I just didn’t get my ‘marathon skinny’ going. 
Well maybe if you’d put down the chardonnay and candy…
Don’t get all scientific with meI get it.  But I also think it’s because I haven’t done a marathon in 4 years.  And I was
 I was…
 I was kinda sorta scared. 
First, stop stealing my punctuation.  Second, UP. YOURS.
OK ok .  I know, you’re probably all sore and cranky today.
Meh, my quads are little sore, but I feel pretty good.
See, I told you I trained you good.
Well, you know I missed my last planned 20 with that foot thing.  And that did wonders to sprout the seeds of doubt already sown in my head.
Is this a race report or ‘The Grapes of Wrath’?
You wanna test the ‘Cranky’ part of your “sore and cranky’ theory?
Um no.
Then pipe down and listen, I’ll tell you about the race.
Oh.  OK.  Let me pull up a comfy chair.
Sure, whatever.
Should I order in some food?  You tend to ramble on.
If you wanna keep those kneecaps I’d suggest you pretend you’re mute for a bit.
Sorry.  Carry on.
Thank you your highness.  So, about a week before the race I started to kinda think ‘How am I going to get through this?’
It’s called ‘Taper Madness’, remember?
Well, it was more than that.  I didn’t have any explicit time goals, I just wanted to have a good race and not suffer badly.  I wanted to finish and want to do another one.  I didn’t want to be chanting ‘Never again….never again…never again…’ with each footfall.
I don’t think you could said ‘Never again’ 3 times with each footfall unless you’re talking really fast.
Don’t – DO NOT – make me get the duct tape.  OK, so I started to toy with the idea of Gallowaying the first half of the race.
Galloway.  Jeff Galloway.
Oh, the guy who ran the 10k in the 1972 Olympics?  The guy who is the proponent of the wussy ‘RUN-WALK-RUN’ program?
Yeah.  He was a non-medalist in the Olympics just like you.
Anyway I’d done Galloway when I’d come back from injuries.  And it was kinda fun and I thought “Why not?”  The theory is that it delays the onset of muscle fatigue.  So I made the decision to run at least the first half ‘a la’ Galloway.    I also decided that if it was warmer, it would be smart to keep me from overheating.
Is that all it takes?
You are treading on some thin ice dude.
I know, sorry.  Some days I just crack myself up.  How was the weather?  Was the forecast apocalyptic?  Your track record makes me think you pissed off Mother Nature something fierce.  What – you don’t recycle or something?
I have to agree with you on that.  But apparently, Mother Nature and I are now BFF’s because IT WAS PERFECT.  Seriously.  44 degrees at the start, maybe 52 at the finish.  And the course – THE COURSE!  - 20 miles of it was on a converted rail bed that was mostly packed earth.  So nice to run on!  And tree-lined throughout – near constant shade!  Anyway, here’s how it all shook out:
Michel and I went down the day before and I hit the tiny little expo.  The merchandise was pretty thin and we both cracked up at the guy in a booth who was selling rugs.  Oriental rugs.
Yeah.  Total non-sequitur for sure but gave us a hearty laugh.
After the expo we went to buy Gatorade and bananas.  Then we went to dinner at Bonefish Grill.
What – no pasta?
I can’t do red sauce before a marathon and knew if I got some rice and bread or something I’d be fine.  While waiting for our table we were sitting at the bar tables next to some people who turned out to be from Niagara Falls, NY.  Small world.  Then, on the other side was a mother and son who were running the race.  They were really nice, had a great chat with both of them.  By the time we got our table it was like 7:15 and I was getting itchy to just eat and get outta there.  On the way home, we saw the incredible “Super Moon” on the rise.  Nice way to end the night.

I got up the next morning at 5:00 and the thought of eating anything was nauseating;  I have such a hard time eating in the morning.  I made some coffee and then mixed some Gatorade and chia seed gel with it.  I’d bought bananas and instant grits but the only thing I could manage to eat was some of Robin’s granola bars she’d made for me and the Gatorade/chia mix.  It was not a breakfast of champions but I typically run on a mostly empty stomach.  My plan was to supplement along the way.

Michel drove me to the start at the USA Baseball facility – I got there with about half hour to spare.  It was 44 degrees out and I was wearing my bike-style CW-X shorts and a fitted tank.  20 minutes before the start, I ditched my jacket and pants giving explicit instructions to Michel to meet me at the finish with them.  The race gets two thumbs up for having ample port-a-potties for sure.  On my way there I saw the sign for the Beer Garden after the finish.  My only thought was there has to be an easier way to score a couple free beers than running 26.2.  The race does get a thumb down for starting late.  The Half was supposed to go off at 7:00, the full marathon 15 minutes later.  The half didn’t go off until 7:15 and by then I was really chilled.  When we lined up for the start of the marathon, I picked up a ‘throw away’ sweatshirt from someone in the half and put it on to stay warm.  My only thought was that Robin the germ phobe would be horrified.

The gun went off at around 7:30 and off we went.  I started easy and at eight minutes and 30 seconds my watch beeped for me to walk for a minute.  I was very self conscious and made sure I walked off the road so as to not impede runners.  I just KNEW there was someone out there sneering at me, but I just kept thinking “Yeah, and I’ll see you at mile 20.”  Ahead of me, two women stopped to walk as well.  At the two mile marker, I stopped for my minute walk as did the two women.  They were also doing walk breaks.  At this point I was looking for a darn port-o-potty with all the gatoarde I’d consumed.  At mile 3 we turned off the roads and on to the American Tobacco Trail.  It was really pretty – nice packed surface and lined with huge pine trees.  At mile 4 I finally saw 1 port-a-potty and by the grace of God a woman jumped out just as I was running up.  In and out and no wait.  I exited and 100 yards later saw Michel in the throng of spectators, gave him the thumbs up and kept going.  I looked for the two woman and saw the hot-pink top of one of them up ahead.  I passed the 4:15 pace group in which my new friend Sondra was running.  By mile 5 I’d caught up to the other two woman and we walked together.  A guy ran buy us and said grumpily “You’re impeding other runners.”  We weren’t walking 3 across at all – he was just a running snob.  We started running again and passed grumpy guy.  At our next walk break we walked single file and he went buy us.  I’m sure he was feeling a bit self-conscious that he’d said something to us and we kept passing him with reckless abandon.  About this time the lead runners had looped back and they went flying buy.  I still get a thrill seeing people run so fast with such apparent ease.  Lots of cheers from the crowd.   We hit the turnaround at mile 7.5, and I looked at my watch split of 1:10:27.  I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t faster, but I hadn’t been paying attention to the splits.  I remembered Galloways benchmark that you lose about 15 seconds a mile with the walk breaks, but the math wasn’t quite working out.  Oh well.  I kept running and at this point one of the two women – Christine – and I had separated from the other.  She asked me if I thought we could break 4:00 and I told her we might.  At this point I did glance at the average mile pace for the running portions and saw they were in the 8:40’s and 8:50’s and I thought we might have a shot to make up some ground.  We were still playing ping-pong with the grumpy guy and he was starting to look hot and sweaty.  We saw a woman who was dressed up in St. Patrick’s day gear and I noted I’d seen her pass her on the way back from the first turnaround and that we’d made up some significant ground on her.

At mile 11, we passed the spectator area and I tossed my hat, gloves, and arm warmers to Michel.  My legs still felt very good, very fresh.  At that point I made the decision to Galloway until Mile 20.  I looked forward to the rest stops and it made the miles just fly by.  In mile 12, Christine and I dusted grumpy man for good.  She was in good spirits as well and we hit the half at 2:03 and change.  I knew a sub-4 was probably out of the question but I really didn’t care.  It was here I clicked ‘stop’ on my garmin instead of ‘lap’…and I didn’t realize until a good 30 seconds later.  DAMN. 

At mile 15 there was a long incline – not steep, but there.  And then at mile 15.8, my Garmin lost its signal.  It’s amazing how easy it is to get hooked on the technology.  I didn’t know what my running pace was so I just told Christine we’d have to go on feel.  We crossed the main road to the other arm of the trail.  We saw the 22 mile marker on the other side.  I said to Christine “3 miles out, 3 miles back.”  At mile 17 I saw Michel again at the spectators section.  I hadn’t expected to see him there and it was a nice surprise.  My legs were starting to ache just a little.  It seemed like we were on a perpetual incline and I made the comment that it would be nice on the way back.  The trail was just so beautiful and we saw some spectators who had with them a very large GOAT.  Not something you see in a marathon every day for sure.  At mile 19 and change we made the turn around and hit mile 20 at 3:07 and I quietly told Christine that sub 4 was pretty much out of the question; she was on pace for a monster PR and she was totally fine with it.  My goal had been to finish anywhere between my PR of 3:48 and my PW of 4:10.

It started to get hard. I sent up a prayer for a friend’s mom who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  This mile was for her.  I put on my iPod but it was more of an annoyance and I took it off after a couple of minutes.   I was looking at my watch for the interval distance and we were both getting quiet.  I started to think I was losing it a bit because I felt like we were on a perpetual incline – I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.  I thought of my mom quite a bit, thought of when she was dying and how much harder that must have been on her than what I was feeling.  I felt her with me out there; I could imagine her voice so clearly.

 I’d been good about hydrating and taking gels, but my legs and hips were aching.  At mile 21 I heard a “Go MONICA!” from the other side of the train and saw Sondra – she was running a hell of a race!  At mile 22 I saw the lady I’d met at the Bonefish grill.  I realized I didn’t even know her name.  At the mile 23 water station I took a cup of Gatorade and my stomach rebelled.  I grabbed a cup of water and drank it down but I felt the wave of nausea rip through me.  At the turn onto the main road with 3.2 miles to go, Christine’s husband Stuart jumped in.  He’d run the half and was pumped up and chatty and said “Think of the PIZZA at the finish!!!” I thought I would vomit.   The running was now a grind.  A woman was holding a sign that made us all laugh:  Bloody nipples turn me on.  My left foot was cramping in the arch and my left hamstring felt like it was going to seize at any moment.  My thighs and hips were very sore.  We’d been shielded from the elements on the trail, and when we turned on the road we got a face full of wind followed by an uphill.  I used my arms as much as I could and made a crack to Christine “That wind wasn’t really necessary was it?”  I wasn’t even looking at my pace, just the distance left to the next mile marker and the walk break.  Christine’s husband was chattering away and she finally said “Stuart: stop talking, it’s annoying me.”  It's amazing how little tolerance you have for anything when you're uncomfortable.  After the mile 24 walk break, my legs hurt to start running, my left foot cramping even more.  I had a couple dark moments, wanting to just break into a walk and thought “Banish them, banish those thoughts.”  The nausea was irritating.  At mile 25, we did the quick walk break and that mile and a quarter seemed very long.  At 25.3 I said “less than a mile to go!”… at mile 25.6 I said “less than 3 laps of the track!”  Christine slowed just a bit and I said “Come on girlfriend, I’m not crossing that finish with anyone but you!”  We passed the mile 26 marker and kept running.  Up ahead we saw the 13 mile marker for the half marathon and a turn and I said “there it is!  A tenth to go!”  We made the turn and Christine said “Come on MONICA!” and we both ran as fast as our tired legs would carry us.  I saw 4:07 on the clock, and I had a momentary wave of disappointment: I thought I’d come in under 4:05.  It didn’t last.  I crossed the finish line and stopped and bent over.  My legs and left foot just ached.  I was so happy to be done running.  I gave Christine a big hug – she’d run close to a 50 minute PR – and got my finishers medal that I joked was the size of a hubcap.

Pfitz: So… what were your splits?
Well, I’m kind of amazed.  As much as I hurt those last 3 or 4 miles, I didn’t really slow down.  My first half was in 2:03:21, and my second half was in 2:03:53.
Well, you can’t complain about consistency.
Nope.  Now that I’ve kinda figured it out a bit, who knows?  Maybe I can run faster.   It was kinda fun.
And the beer at the finish?
It was most excellent Pfitz, most excellent.

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