Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Marathons

It's been far too long since I've updated our blog with some running and racing updates.  I've missed documenting a few fun races!  This spring/summer I have twice succumbed to the temptation of running a road marathon.  One went decently well, the other did not.

Kentucky Derby Marathon (April 27th) 3:04:29

I ran this basically on a whim after a tempting "free entry and trip full of fun" offer from Scott Breeden to visit his Louisville friends (Kenyan runner Pius Nyantika and Beau Hollis).

This was by far my favorite road course I've run.  It begins flat and fast, and at the midpoint (roughly) has a nice 3.5 mile stretch of tough hills in Iroquois Park followed by more long flats and a few challenging hills toward the end of the race.

I didn't have any hard goals going into this race, but aimed to run around a 2:55.  I had some great Kenyan style black tea before the race that really kicked me off feeling warmed up and ready to race.  I started off easy and naturally fell into a 6:30-6:40 pace for the flat and long straights leading up to Iroquois Park at the 12 mile mark.  I actually was pleasantly surprised as I hadn't done anything resembling a tempo run in a while and felt quote comfortable despite some "dead quads" earlier in the week.

I came through the half at 1:27:54, close to goal pace and felt pretty good about that as the miles through the hills were a little slower.

I had miscalculated one logistical necessity however.  I had heard the course would have gels so I assumed I wouldn't need to carry any.  This became a huge issue as I started to slow down at mile 20 and still hadn't seen a gel.  I felt strongly that a single caffeinated gel could save me at this point and felt mentally drained in my fruitless constant surveying of my surroundings for some sort of a fix.  Finally just before mile 23 I found a gel, but by that time the gel didn't kick in and revitalize my pace till about the 24 mile mark.  I picked the pace up gradually to a 7 minute pace but knew my 2:55 hopes were gone.

A lesson was learned.  I won't fully plan to rely on course nutrition ever again!

Despite this I finished at a <6:45 pace for the last mile and just barely managed a Boston Qualifier at 3:04:29!  This was still a big marathon PR or me as I hadn't run a road marathon since the 2008 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (my first, and a 3:15).

Post Race - Me, Scott, Pius (Won Half!), Beau

Sunburst Marathon (South Bend, IN June 1st) 3:35:23

I went into this marathon ready to run hard and fast, with another 2:55 goal in my sights.  The weather conditions promised to be much more humid and hot, but with morning rain seemed better than originally expected.

Most unfortunately my pre-race preparation did me in this time.  I ate a large amount from a salad bar on Friday night (unusual foods that didn't sit well) and on Saturday morning decided to ease my already uneasy stomach with some super concentrated coffee that I thought would help kick off my digestion before the race.  I started to gag and feel a little sick while drinking this black oil and should have thought better and stopped before polishing off the cup.

Another lesson was soon to be learned.  I did pack my own gel, but never ate even one during the race.

I started off well and ran with the second pack of leaders and my friend Becky Boyle (a fast girl aiming for a fast marathon debut at around my goal time) which seemed well enough at the time.  After 2 miles at below goal pace I started to gag.  Soon I was throwing up in my mouth and swallowing it back down hoping the nausea would subside.  By mile 7 I slipped from a 6:20 - 6:30 to a 6:54 split and stopped at some bushes by the river to throw up.  I did throw up and threw up volumes.  I tried to run again but by mile 10 I had dipped to an 8 minute per mile pace with nausea still overtaking me whenever I tried to pick up the pace a bit.

It was at about this point that a long forgotten tendonitis pain came back in my flexor hallucis tendon and plantar fascia.  Every step started to hurt, and the pain stayed with me. I contemplated a DNF but realized that the easiest way to find everyone was at the finish in the Notre Dame stadium so kept forging ahead.  I decided at this point to throw out my goals and just use the marathon as a painful long run.

I finished but it was a painful journey the entire way.  I stopped a few times to massage my foot but nothing seemed to work.  I finally finished at 3:35 after seeing everyone I had been running with on the long out and back river section of the course and galvanizing my demoralization.  The one bright spot was seeing Scott and Becky run extremely well and each finish in 1st place for the men/women wins!

I will say the course was not all that great.  Although not terribly hilly it did have plenty of twists, turns, and turnarounds to kill momentum.  Although I think I could run a good time here, the time of year and course probably make it a poor choice for a stab at a PR.

Strangely after the finish Katie (who ran the 5k quite well at 24ish minutes) used my race medal to perform some nontraditional graston on my foot.  It worked like a charm and I never felt the pain again after this!

Sadly it took a real beating to drive the lesson home.  Take care of your stomach, and be careful not to abuse it before a race!

Happy finishers, some just happy to be finished

Where do these two marathons leave me?  I got my road marathon fix for a bit, but I'm still eager to put in the performance that I think I'm capable of.  Perhaps after a summer of training and a turn of cool weather in the fall I'll take another stab at this road marathon thing.

A great marathon is truly a difficult accomplishment.  One error, and hopes quickly fall by the wayside as a few miles way off pace can be insurmountable to reverse.