First I want to give a shout to my companions for this trip. Great job Jeff! He ran a 2:19 in the half, beating his goal. Nice job! Great work and determination leading up to this race!
Second, Shane O'Neill ran a blistering 1:21:33 to set a half PR and win his age group. Setting a PR on that course is huge! Winning your age group in a race that large is pretty sweet.
And thanks to Lori and Leigh for supporting us before and after the race. We had some logistical difficulties caused by the race (dis)organization. I don't know what we would have done without them! I really enjoyed all of the company on this trip!
You can view any combination of the marathon and half marathon results at the Country Music Marathon website. I ran a 3:07:29 which was good enough for 43rd overall. (Though I'm not sure how 2 people with that exact same chip time but with a higher gun time get ranked ahead of me. Further evidence of the mismanagement of this race.) That's another BQ time, and that's a BQ no matter what my age is. I didn't back in to a BQ.
I heard lots of people yelling, "Go Fleet Feet!" as I was running the second half today. It really feels great to be part of a team that people recognize! I hope I can continue to represent. When I heard the cheers, I always picked up the pace a few steps.
I've carried a water bottle in every marathon I've run to date. After dinner the night before, Shane told me that I'm too fast to be carrying a water bottle during a race like this. Hmmm. I hadn't thought of that before. There is aid nearly every mile, so why do I need it? I lost about 2 pounds preparing for this race, so why would I add 1.5 pounds back carrying a bottle? Makes some sense. So, nervously, I ran this one with no bottle in my hand. That worked out pretty well. I got wet at every aid station, but with today's heat, I didn't care.
I chose my Nike Lunarelite+ for today's race. I REALLY like that shoe better every time I run in it. I think I'm ready to make it my regular trainer. It was just a comfortable ride. If you've tried Nike and passed before, but haven't tried anything in the Lunar line, you owe it to yourself to try the Lunarelite or Lunarglide.
The start was early, at 6:45 AM much to my (and everyone else's) surprise. I met my friend and Ragnar team mate Justin Hulsman in Corral 1. I was a little surprised that they put me in Corral 1, but learned soon enough that that was the right place for me to be. We both were thinking 3:00 or bust, so we were planning to stay together as long as we could. Our secret plan was to stay with the 1:30 pace group until they split at about 11 miles and then just HOLD ON!
The First 10k
Yep, I was thinking 3:00 or bust. And I started that way. 6:45 and 6:48 seemed plenty fast, but the 1:30 group was way out front! Apparently, the leader knew what he was doing, because miles 3, 4, and 5 are doozies. I maintained what felt like a 6:50 pace, but ended up running them all over 7:00. And even though those miles are absurdly early in a marathon, I just never recovered from the time lost there.
Justin stayed with the pace group, and I didn't see him again until a few yards before the finish line.
I hit the 10k mark in 43:26, nearly a full minute behind plan. I knew that would be difficult to make up, but I was going to give an effort at making it up a few seconds per mile.
On to 13.1
I hit the 10 mile mark at 1:09:35, and 3:00 didn't seem so unreasonable any more. I honestly felt GREAT! I ran miles 9-11 with a guy who had just run a 3:09 the Saturday before in Indiana. He really didn't need to be running a marathon this weekend, and it showed after a couple of miles together. Maybe one day I'll be as good as Marty Clarke and run 3:15 in back to back weekends, but I'm nowhere near that now.
After 10.8 or so miles, where the courses split, the company dwindled significantly. I was cruising from miles 7 to mile 14, hitting mostly 6:47-ish miles with a 6:40 thrown in for good measure. I just felt good. I hit the half split at 1:31:11. Because I have marathon experience, and I know what awaits me in miles 22, 23, and 24, I knew that 3:00 was not going to happen today. It really doesn't matter how good you feel at 13.1. The race doesn't begin until mile 20. Maybe 3:05 is attainable.
On to Mile 20
Because I was discombobulated at the start, I didn't quite get emptied in the portapotty before toeing the line. During mile 14, I realized that I was not going to make it to the finish without stopping. Ugh. And I was in such a groove, too. Nailing miles between 6:48 and 6:55. Ugh.
I stopped just before mile 15, and that caused me to turn in a 7:45. There was no recovering from that. And I never hit that same groove again after that. This was officially the beginning of the end.
I grunted out a couple more 7:00 miles, and then mile 18 hit. Mile 18 was far and away the most difficult mile on the course. It was one long uphill. It just kept on going up and up. 7:30. Ouch again. I didn't get another mile below 7:00 for the rest of the day. Yuck.
As you're nearing the 20 mile mark, the half and the full courses merge. Miserable. It was a little confusing for a brain that had been running for nearly 20 miles. Should I be on the right or the left? Add to that, there are some 12 minute milers trotting along and getting in front of 7 minute mile marathoners and it's just not good. Am I going the right way? Sentries here would have been a good thing. The cones were insufficient. This REALLY slowed me down and I ran a 7:36 20th mile.
Even so, I hit 20 miles at 2:21:33, knowing that if I run the last 10k as fast as I ran the first 10k that I would break 3:05. That was the goal.
The Last 10k
When I hit 20 miles, I was going to try to just push as hard as I could. I was planning to make myself hurt. Mission accomplished!
I started getting a side stitch during the 21st mile. Surely, if I breathe deeply and ignore it, it will go away. Nope. Can I live with this for 40 more minutes? Maybe. Ok, no, I can't. It HURTS. I try speeding up to see if that helps. Ouch, that made it worse. I try slowing down, but got no relief. I tried to just gut it out again, and did so for another mile. But ouch. My only option was to walk. I walked until the pain was bearable, then started my 7:00 pace again. That meant a 7:55 23rd mile. OUCH! That hurt worse than the stitch. 3:05 is gone.
Also, this out and back from mile 22 to mile 25 is downright sadistic. You run right by the finish and then run away from it. You see the 24 mile marker, but know it's not for you, yet. And there is this NASTY, short but very steep hill in the 24th mile. Then you see the 24th mile and think about how long you ran out before you saw it.
I was digging deep, but sub 7:00 just wasn't in my legs at this point.
After crossing the 26 mile marker, I saw Justin Hulsman ahead!!! I wanted badly to catch him, but there just wasn't enough time. I didn't want so much to beat him, I just wanted to see a friend again! I was tired of fighting this battle alone! I didn't catch him, but I did close the gap some.
I was not as miserable as usual. Stopping hurt worse than continuing to run did. I hate the way they herd you through at this race. I was stuck in a crowd, barely moving. About the worst thing you can do after a marathon is stand still. I needed to either continue walking/jogging or I needed to lie down. Standing and barely moving was miserable.
I had some serious spasms in my calves and quads. Strangers looked on in amazement as my legs just twitched and twitched. When I finally was able to find my family, I had to lie down in the grass. My daughters really thought the twitching in my legs was funny. I had to ignore the pain to find the humor, but it was great to laugh with them!
As always, I think I could have run this faster. However, I am very pleased with my race today. I accomplished some things I needed to accomplish. I had enough energy to enjoy the moment. I don't know how many people I high fived on the course. I don't know how many thank yous I said. I don't know how many bands I heard. I truly enjoyed the surroundings. I fed off of the cheers of the crowd.
It's another marathon on my resume. I'm learning more and more what the last 10k is all about. Respect the distance. I need to get a little bolder earlier and a little tougher later.
I thought my taper worked very well this time. I waited until about 12 days before to reduce the mileage. The carb deplete and load cycle also seemed to work well. I don't know that I'll make that a habit, but if I'm targeting a big race and I'm looking for every conceivable advantage, I'll definitely do it again.
While I didn't have any breakthroughs in training, I was clearly in better shape on race day this time. I ran 4 minutes faster on a hotter day on a hillier course. I think that's the proof. Sub 3:05 is next, then sub 3:00. I will work and work and work until I reach the sub 3:00 mark. I will get there.