Monday, October 4, 2010

The Marathon. A Crap Shoot?

First I have to review the week leading into the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.

I don't have a lot to report. I don't have any " I feel amazing, I can't wait" postings. For the most part, race week was much of the same that I have experienced all summer and fall. On Monday I ran an easy loop after a pathetic 90 minute run that left me in total doubt. Tuesday I woke up with the intentions of running a nice warm up and turning in a four mile "steady state" run at 5:55 pace just to get a feeling for the pace one last time. That failed miserably and I couldn't get myself to run under 6:30's and feel comfortable so I scrapped the workout and just ran easy. Wednesday came and I felt it was necessary just to get up and run and I started feeling better but still nothing too speedy. Thursday I took a rest day and did my back stretches and workout video. Friday I ran an easy 5 miler and actually felt very fluid and relaxed. A first in many days! Saturday I traveled to the Cities for the race but opted for a day of rest once I got down there, no running.

So, as you can see, I put together yet another week of "less than ideal training" heading into a marathon. No threshold, no speed, nothing. Just plain ol' running. Not exactly what I was looking for during race-week but then again, I have been going against the regular training plan all summer.

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

Just to shed a little light on how my pre-race plans went, I have to mention that I continued to "go against the grain" in terms of marathon preparation. I drove to the host Hotel to get the final race instructions, check in, and get my race number. After a quick trip to the race expo and visit with some friends, I had to find my way back to the vehicle that I was sure would be sporting a parking ticket since the meter was malfunctioning when I had left it. I got lucky and found my windshield clear of any paper citations. It was now 1430 and I had last ate at 0830 before I left for my trip. I was getting hungry and I needed food. Thankfully I had left a Powerbar in the truck and I made it disappear quicker than I could imagine. I did manage to keep up on my fluids very well, just lacking in the solids. Once I made my way to the Hotel I checked in and soon was making the jaunt to Leann Chins for a healthy plate of vegetable fried rice with cashew chicken and two pot stickers. (I had done the Asian food thing once before a long run and swore it was the reason for a stellar run, so I figured if there was a time to test it before a race now was the time.) A bit later that night I made my way to an Irish Pub for a Summit Extra Pale Ale and a bread and cheese tray before settling in my room for the final checklist and preparation.

That night I drank a lot of water and finished a 32 oz. Gatorade I had started earlier in the evening. I was peeing clear upon awakening and I knew the hydration was well taken care of. I forgot one major detail. I had NOTHING to eat race morning!! I had a lot of gels but I needed solid food. What was I going to do? As I was leaving for the bus shuttle I saw a Rainbow food store only to find it closed until 0600. So I took off for the bus and downed a gel as I was driving east on I-94. I kept thinking to myself, "you have plenty of time, hit an exit and find a gas station for a breakfast bar or something." As I approached Snelling I hit the blinker and blasted up the exit before quickly eyeing up the golden arches. Yes, the McDonald's golden arches. I flew into the parking lot and ran in to order an egg and cheese biscuit. As I was driving out of the parking lot I discovered that the guy gave me a sausage and egg biscuit instead. The sausage ended up on the street and I ate the egg-biscuit. Another test in my not-so-ordinary race preparation plan. I made my bus and the rest of the morning was relatively routine.

If you are still reading I am sorry to yak about all the crazy shit I did but I just find it funny that a lot of the pre-race plan was so different that I am amazed to write about how the race unfolded.

The morning was made for marathoning. Clear skies. Cool, 40F just as the race was starting, and NO wind. Simply amazing and I was part of the 8000+ participants that got to take advantage of such a glorious morn. I got a decent warm up and stretches in and was ready as the gun sounded. What the hell? One last glitch in my race plan. My Garmin had not found all the satellites and was still searching as we left the dome. The gps would not work until 2 miles of the race, it was at that point I was able to start my watch. Not a big deal, but in past races it would have freaked me out big time!

Once past the 5K I was working pretty easy and I had the pleasure of running with Pete Miller whom I had competed against many a times over the last 18 years. He and I were looking to run very similar races and it was best to find someone to run with as it keeps a persons mind occupied. We had a difficult time settling on the 6:10 pace we wanted for the first 7-10 miles. Many of which were well under 6:00 minute pace. The good thing was they felt very easy. That was very promising and yet I was concerned. For some reason, at 8-9 miles my right, lower calf was starting to tighten and soon the upper hamstrings and glutes were joining in on the tightness. As we passed 10 miles Pete asked me, "how are you doing?" I told him I had a bad patch back there but things were improving. We ran very consistent through half-way and I mentioned to Pete as we passed the 13.1 mark, "I'm not too sure what the hell I'm doing going through half way at my current PR pace, but I guess it's too late to worry now." We progressed up the course and I progressed to feel worse. Miles 15-17 started to get really tough and I was then planning where my drop-out spot would be. For some reason 19 sounded good to me in my mind. Something told me to keep pressing though. As I monitored the splits for a mile or so it made sense for me to keep moving, despite the way I felt, the splits were staying pretty close and I wasn't walking yet. The gel I had taken at mile 17 must have started to work and soon I was talking myself into 'counting down the miles'. "Just eight miles to go, just seven to go", and I kept doing that as I moved up the course. As I moved up the hills coming off the river bottom something magical happened. I started to feel strong. I couldn't believe it but I was passing runner after runner and I was moving feeling very good. I had heard of this happening to runners before but was it really happening to me? How? I hadn't run over 18 miles since Grandma's Marathon back in June. I kept my eyes up ahead and just kept pressing the pace. From 20 miles to the finish I didn't look at my watch for pacing. I knew I felt good and I wasn't going to let some number ruin my feeling. If I felt that good I must have been moving decent for the last stage of a marathon. I took my last gel at 21 miles and at every aide station I took two cups of Poweraide and two cups of water and drank them all! I'm not too sure if that's what did it but I finally got to feel what it's like to crush the Summit Avenue curse!! I felt amazing but scared. I didn't want to have the feeling of moving so well come to an end at mile 22,23, or 24. I wanted to run strong to the finish. I put those worries to rest and told myself, "you will never find out if you can run strong to the finish if you don't try. Don't be afraid, just keep the same strong, relaxed effort and you may just make it. Don't stop!" I saw and heard many people out there cheering on myself and many runners but there is something about complete strangers looking at you and saying something like, "hey, number 118 you are really moving well, keep up the good work." Thank You All!!!
As I passed mile 25 I knew I had put the worst behind me and all I had to do was press one more minor hill and then the reward was waiting. Most times the last half mile, mostly downhill from the Cathedral, feels horrible. A downhill that steep after running 25.5 miles hurts the quads. As I crested the hill and saw the huge crowds, I focused on the gigantic American flag at the bottom of the hill, all I wanted to do was let out a huge scream of relief. I made it!! I never did let out the scream but I wanted to and I kept pressing to the end. I focused on the finish tape and was very surprised to see the clock tick past 2:39:59. I was bummed out and excited at the same time. To run 2:40:17 was very rewarding with the challenges I had this summer and to get the opportunity to finally, after 15 marathon starts, feel that it is possible to hammer the last 10K of a marathon still brings tears to my eyes. I now have a little feeling of what it's like to nail a marathon. I didn't get a personal best, but it sure felt like it. I wanted to run much faster back in July when I started preparation for this race but some circumstances are out of a persons control. I finished this race happy! I've mentioned this in the past but it's races like this that keeps us crazy marathoners chasing the carrot. I feel like the marathon is what many call A Crap Shoot. I've trained much harder with all kinds of workouts before and raced much worse than I did on Sunday. What gives? I'm not willing to test this training again, but it sure will be on my mind come next build up.

Here are the splits the Garmin spit out starting at mile 2.
miles one and two were: 5:53, and 6:00

Here are the details:
Time: 2:40:17
87th overall, 6th in age group 40-44
*feeling strong at the end, PRICELESS!!

Miles for day: ~28 miles with warm up
Weeks Mileage: 56 miles
Years Total: 2033.7 miles


miller said...

I just can't believe you ate an egg biscuit on race morning.

Nicely done, sir.

SteveQ said...

I saw you at 21.5, but forgot your name until you were 30 yards past me. Sorry.

It's impossible to gauge a marathon any closer than about 3-5 minutes. 2:40:17 is still a killer time.

Chad said...

Way to go!!! You looked great at mile 24.

Dave Schuneman said...

Happy to see my rot gut influence didn't sabotage your race. You're my new hero & I'm going to consume that menu item for the WD50!!