Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Bit Nipply - Marathon #3 Recap

Last Sunday [ed. note: I started this in October, but it's now 4 months ago] was the running of my third marathon; the 2009 edition of the Twin Cities Marathon. Year one (2007) was ungodly hot (88 degrees in October), year two (2008) was soaking rain for half the race. For 2009, it seemed like the weather was finally going to be more indicative of October in Minnesota - low 50's.

However, as we made our way to the starting line - I was wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants, a hat, and gloves. 45 degrees when I woke up, overcast skies, but no rain (or snow) in sight.

Let's roll.

5:30 am - Breakfast. Croissant with peanut butter, half banana (only half, because it was way too green to stomach more than half), OJ, LaraBar (organic granola bar), 20 oz diet coke, bottle of water, one GU packet (Espresso Love flavor), and 3 Advil.

6:15 am - B and Josh show up at my place, and we carpool down to the Metrodome. We are all dressed like we're heading out to build a snow fort, not run a marathon.

7:00 am - We've made it to the Dome, and take our turn waiting in line for the port-o-potty. This is slightly more challenging when you have to remove gloves and 3 layers before getting down to business. Temperature is now a balmy 46 degrees with a slight wind.

7:25 am - We find an enclosed tent by the Vikings ticket office that allows us to get out of the wind and cold while we stretch and lube up with Vaseline. Not a bad find; it was like a VIP tent for 20 minutes. Josh, doing his best 'Intervention' impression, has a baggie of 13 Ibuprofen that he stuffs in his pocket. B and I are alarmed. "13?"

7:55 am - Line up for the start. With such a big crowd (11,000), we find ourselves back with the 6 hour time group. This necessitates hopping a fence, and moving up toward the 4:30 pack. Fence hopping wasn't really the way we expected to start the day - but when in Rome.

8:00 am - Race starts. We're clad in long sleeves, gloves, and I'm sporting an earwarmer. I expect to ditch most of these at some point early on in the race, but it was cold enough to at least start with a few layers. We cross the start line, and our watches click on.

8:03 am - This year, we actually spent some time discussing race strategy - and all 3 of us plan to at least start running together, and then...."we'll see what happens." My long-shot goal is 4:30, but realistically we're shooting for 4:45. My Marathon PR (Personal Record) is 4:57, so anything under that would be a victory.

8:25 am - We're getting into the flow of the race. My legs feel a little dead, but I attribute this to the cold and just taking time for the muscles to warm up. We run the first two miles at about a 10:20 pace.

8:45 am 'The Incident' - Around mile 6, Josh, unexpectedly, announces that he has to take a piss. No nice way of saying that. Unsure of how to handle this request, we kind of shrug it off for a quarter mile.
Josh pipes up again, "all right - I'm gonna pull off into the woods. You guys go ahead, I'll catch up." There was no real discussion, he just disappears off to the right - up into the woods. Nature calls.
B and I continue, not really knowing what to do. We agree that we won't sprint ahead, but we're also not exactly going to stop and wait for this bladder-challenged woman. Not 2 minutes later, we come across a water stop, and we decide that we'll take it slow - walking a bit, and figuring Josh should be pulling up in no time. Any minute now. Where is he. Seriously, where is he?

9:00am - 9:30am - Still no Josh. We suspect he's running about the same pace as us, and just can't seem to catch up. Whatever. We keep going.

9:45am - We come across B's girlfriend, and mention to her as we run by that Josh should be behind us by a few minutes. "No." she says. "He's about 10 minutes ahead of you."

"WTF!!" Our minds are racing. How is that possible. No way. She's mistaken. She must have started drinking early this morning, because Josh is way behind us after having stopped for a piss.

9:48am - We come across my parents a bit further up the road. "Have you seen Josh?" "Yes" says my dad. "He's maybe 2 or 3 minutes ahead." (My dad, having run multiple marathons, is a bit more of a reliable source on race timing than B's girlfriend - so we trust him.) Somehow in the confusion of that water stop - Josh had gotten ahead of us. This completely shocks our system.

10:00am - Still somewhat confused at how Josh got ahead of us, we re-assess our strategy. The plan was for everyone to stay together. Should we kick it into overdrive and catch him? Stick to our pace? We start swearing at him. "That little sh*t. How did he get ahead of us..."

10:30am - B and I are running well, and I calculate that we've just run the fastest half marathon I've ever done. We're on pace for a Personal Record.

Mile 21- B starts having some mild leg cramps. Slightly concerning, as I know he hasn't gotten in any long runs over 18 miles during his training. He's in slightly uncharted territory. I'm feeling good, but not perfect. My legs have never quite hit their perfect stride all day - and they've felt slightly 'dead' all day. Tough to put a finger on the reason - but my personal feeling is that the cold has prevented my legs from having their optimal performance, and strange as it might seem - I feel as though I've packed on 3 or 4 pounds during the 'taper' period leading up to the race, and I can feel myself hauling that extra weight.

Mile 23 - We turn onto Summit avenue, and B is hitting a major hurdle with his legs. Cramps all around. I'm pushing for a PR here, so I don't really want to slow down. B has to stop completely and walk and stretch. I keep ahead of him by about 20 feet....then 40 feet....then 50 feet up the road. I'm partially trying to be his rabbit so he'll start up again and catch me...but I also want to just keep going.

Mile 23.2 - I'm about 10 seconds from turning my back on B, and just pushing ahead and finishing by myself. I'm a team player, but at this point I want that PR. Just as I'm about to turn and go, he perks up and starts to run. I congratulate him for pushing through it, but we still have 3 miles to go.

Mile 24 - I'm back in the mode of intently monitoring my watch. I know that we'll finish under 5 hours for sure. I'm fairly sure that we can beat our PR - but we need to keep pushing. Any setback could put that PR in jeopardy. We're running about 4 minutes at a time, followed by 20 seconds or so of walking.

Mile 24.2 - I hit a wall. Not a full-on shutdown, but I feel pretty gassed - and this has never happened to me in my previous marathons. Not cramps or injury, just feeling like I'm out of energy. I can barely run a minute without needing a few steps of walking. Surprisingly, B and I have now flip flopped roles. He's feeling strong again, and I'm struggling. B barks something at me, and we both pick it up.

Mile 25 - We can sense the finish, and both are moving at a decent pace. Nothing will stop us now, and the struggles of the last few miles seem to have been overtaken by the will to finish with a PR.

Mile 26 - Finish in sight, we're almost assured a PR - so we kick it up into a dead sprint for the final 400 meters. Sadly, we've never caught Josh - so we know he's most likely finished in front of us. Still, running that last mile knowing you'll hit a PR is a good feeling. As spiteful as B and I are, we have an unspoken agreement to cross the finish line together. And we do.

Finishing time: 4:54.36. A new Personal Record for the Marathon.

2007: 5:52.50
2008: 4:57.20
2009: 4:54.36

Some final thoughts: (I write these so that I can look back on them before future marathons)

- The cool/cold weather seemed to zap the 'zip' in my legs. I should have done more warming up, even a slight jog around the parking lot might have helped.
- Tough to coordinate a running group, and despite how much you plan - you can't plan for everything...such as unscheduled bathroom breaks.
- My marathon training was the most extensive yet, but to cut more time off for future marathons - I'm going to need to take it up one more notch. More speed work is a must. And dropping 5 more pounds (and not putting it back on during the taper) will help.
- Between March and October, I dropped 17 lbs, getting down to a low of 175 after one long run.
- I didn't feel particularly cashed or gassed at the end of the race. I'm not sure if that's because my training was well done, because I 'left' some effort out on the course, or maybe the cold saved some energy...
- I've got a faster marathon in me, no question. With the right training and diet, 4:30 is easily possible.
- I was almost completely recovered from the race within 2 days.

The plan for 2010 is to change it up a bit, and we're planning to run the New York City marathon in November. It's a lottery system, so if we don't get in - it might be back to the Twin Cities for a 4th year.

You may have also seen these video posts here on east coast mark - recapping some of the incidents of race day. Perhaps now they'll make more sense after having read the race day blog.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Stay tuned for Episode 3...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MSD must be keeping you busy, as your posts have dwindled to a lethargic once a month pace, although the hilarity is still there