Monday, November 25, 2013

Another Road Marathon

I ran another road marathon.  I learned more lessons.

Columbia City Veteran's Marathon (Columbia City, Indiana)

I ran less in preparation for this race.  Between the last race (Columbus) and this race I put in about 280 miles in 6 weeks (averaging 47 mpw).  I did a few specific workouts that gave me a little confidence leading up to the race:
  • A few miles at 5:30 - 6:00 per mile around campus
  • A 12 miler with a 10K tempo at 6:10 per mile in the middle
  • A 22 mile long run at around 7 minute miles
  • A half marathon distance - marathon pace run on a hilly loop at 6:30 per mile

I pondered my race strategy daily during the week leading up to the race.  Columbia City is a small marathon with a mildly rolling course on the northern Indiana country roads.  The weather promised to be cool with a little sunshine.  

I decided to try a few new things that went against my intuition:
  • Eating more gels (make me sick, but maybe if I start earlier they'll go down better?)
  • Go out more conservatively (try for a 7:00 first mile) (I always feel like running faster feels easy when I start out faster than goal pace)
  • Attempt to run an "even split" (I hate doing this as I like to bank some time and hang on for dear life . . and I like to try to hang with the faster pack just in case it's my day)
  • Choose a more conservative goal pace (2:59 finish - 6:50 per mile). (I hate this too, all of the esteemed Daniels and Noakes formulas say I can go faster.  Why take a shot at less than my best?)

I made my plans, folded my race clothing, grabbed my 8 gels, and packed up for the road.  I was ready to race (conservatively race that is).

I'm not a superstitious person but I am a superstitious runner.  I buy the same shoes over and over again.  I have to eat brown rice the night before a race.  I have to be up three hours before start time or an optimal outcome is impossible.  I also believe in staying relaxed and calm the night before the race.

I was slightly concerned when I managed to hit a deer on the way to my nearby hometown and family.  The deer seemed to flee in an adrenaline fueled state of post-impact terror and fell in the woods.  I don't think he survived.  I could have reacted more quickly, so therefore in my mind I had failed and the ultimate cost was the life of a deer.

I got to my parents house and tried to relax.  The deer had probably enjoyed running carefree across the fields and through the woods much like myself.  This line of thought wasn't helping me.  I vowed to run well for the sake of the deer.  If he was going to give his life for me to race a road marathon I needed to make it worth his while.  I was not calm.

The race start came, and I ran the way I planned to.  I stayed back at an easier pace.  The most difficult obstacle for a northern Indiana runner is the strong wind blowing across the mostly treeless fields.  I forgot about that.  A well formed pack of 20+ half marathoners ran just ahead of me for much of the first few miles.  I thought about catching up and working with them but it would have thrown out my new conservative race strategy.  I ran with the first half marathon woman and one other runner for most of the first loop, but the draft advantage in our small group was minimal.  Still, I finished the first loop at exactly 1:29 as planned.  The deer would have been proud.

I also ate gels, three to be exact over the last loop.  The wind picked up, and the 2o mph winds seemed like 30 mph winds now.  This time every direction of the second loop felt like running into the wind.  I slowed a little but felt like I was working much harder.  I ate another gel.  I caught a few runners and had perhaps reached 5th or 6th place.  As I neared the 22 mile mark and turned out of the wind I knew my time might be a little slow but I was poised to make a great finish.  I downed another gel, this time throwing up a little in my mouth.  The first drop I swallowed brought forth a wave of nausea.  I like blueberry but I should have stopped right there.  

I felt faint, and stopped for water.  I stopped for more water.  Two runners passed me.  I stopped again, this time throwing up all over the road.  Two more runners passed me.  I stopped yet another time, this time leaving my fountain of expunged electrolytes and fluid in the ditch.  I started to run again, and the female winner cruised by.  I was miserable and forgot about my promise to the dead deer.  After four 9:00+ miles I cruised into the finish line for a 3:12:13 finish. 

Finish - 3:12:13 - 11th Place

I cannot eat that many gels.  I cannot slow down and avoid running by feel.  If the pace feels easy and I have a pack to work with I will go along next time.  Cheer up.  I won my age group, I learned some new lessons, the race was well run and inexpensive, and I got to see plenty of family and see two of my uncles run.   

In Memoriam: SR 13 Deer
Unknown - November 8th, 2013

Sorry you got badly maimed and probably died so that I could
run 9 minute miles to finish a questionably executed road marathon.

I will try again to run sub 3 in your honor, but in the meantime
I will learn from your tragedy and probably stick to the trails.