Monday, October 10, 2011

Steamtown 2011 Recap

Anyone can run 20 miles. It's the next six that count. 
--Barry Magee, marathon bronze in Rome, 1960


Yesterday I had the experience of running my first marathon, which all things considered is a victory.  I didn't get the time I wanted, but I did finish.  I must thank my wife Patti and my 2 boys for the sacrifices made this past summer so that I could do my long runs and selfishly take the time I needed to support this goal, even on vacations.   As I blogged about last week, it's a marathon of training just to get to the start line.
My finishing time was a pathetic 4:51 (official chip time 4:50:19) but more on that later.  My half-marathon time was 2:15 (2:13-ish chip time), which at that point it looked like my goal time was in the bag.  
Mile 7.6 - Feeling Good
Mile 16.8, Thankful for the Support
I was able to see Patti and kids at miles 7.6 and 16.8.  At 7.6 I still had plenty of energy and didn't feel like I'd even run 5K yet.
At 16.8 I was a little tired  and getting sore and was thankful for the emotional support.  In retrospect I shouldn't have expended any precious energy with hugs and gestures of appreciation.


Pre-Race and Prep
Warming up calves for the hell that awaits!
Race morning started out fairly chilly at 47 degrees.  They were saying it would be 76ish by noon, so it was hard to know how to dress.  I decided to go with my tried-and-true training shirt I'd grown accustomed to, which was medium weight, and then I'd wear some warm-up pants,  jacket and my trusted KPMG training hat until start time.  I followed my standard pre-long-run routine in the morning, I brought my own bowl of steel-cut oats, added Cap-Tri and drank a 1/2 cup of tea and plenty of water.  The drive out to the start line was uneventful, and we hung out in the Forest City HS Gymnasium for about 45 minutes until it was time to start.  
1/4 mile from the Start Line - All Thumbs Up!

The Race
I was watching my Heart Rate while waiting in the start-line queue.  It was holding about 94, until things got close to starting.  Then without moving a muscle it jumped to 128.  With a canon blast at 8:02 the race was started and my HR was over 150 (and I hadn't even done anything yet!).

Steamtown Elevation Drop
About a 1/4 mile from the start line I saw Patti and kids cheering me on and giving me a send off.  Then it was all downhill (literally!) from there.


The elevation drop for the first 8 miles completely fools the novice, and I was taken in big-time.  I was pulling 10 minute splits and not even breaking a sweat, blowing past water stops and eating up the road.

My shinsplints and ankle that I KT-Taped earlier were doing just fine, and all those aches and pains I had during the last 2 taper weeks seemed to have gone away.  I was off to a good start.  The only concern I had was my heart rate was much higher than my training HR, and I knew in the back of head this could be trouble later on.  I trained between 148 and 158, and I couldn't get it below 160 even while coasting.

My goal was a 4:30 with a 4:20 possibility.  My first hint of trouble came at mile 12, when the energy and elevation drop were starting to wear off.  I started to feel a bit tired but I shifted mentally and found an auto-pilot gear that kept me going on pace.  At 13.1 I hit my half-marathon target.  I was GU-ing every 3 miles (in training I did every 4) and it was working well.
Pleasant Rail-Trail Section of the course
It was getting hot and I started to dump water on my head at the water stops.  The salt content from my head that was hitting my lips made me think I'd dumped on the All-Sport they were providing and not water.

T
hen it was onto the Rail Trail which was shady and nice - like the many miles I'd trained on.  It was a good mental break and I was able to find some of that nature-peacefulness I'd come to enjoy on my runs.

I
 saw the family at 16.8 and shortly after I started to get into trouble.  I came off the 2nd part of the trail just before mile 18 and my left quadracep announced its displeasure with me.  Walking was impossible, so I shifted back into a light jog until it subsided.  I continued on at a 12 minute pace for about 2 miles and then I was back on a trail - this one kinda soft and very uneven.  I had to be mentally focused on foot placement--I didn't want to roll and ankle at this point.


When I got to mile 20 the joke was over and I started having serious issues.  Every little downhill caused my quad to scream, and I was doing a part jog/part hobble motion.  At one of the aid stations I grabbed some Icy-Hot rub and slathered it all over my quads and knees.  Really, I don't think it helped much.  When I got to the uphills I could make some time with my well-rested hamstrings.  This worked until about mile 25, when my calves announced their unhappiness.  They were trembling and spasming on the uphills now - I just couldn't catch a break.


Finally halfway into mile 25 I could jog a block, walk a block.  Except for that "little hill" just before  the final descent into downtown Scranton.  I walked that and was scarfing up food from whomever was offering.  I just couldn't process the GU's anymore, they were making me want to vomit.  It was HOT!  People were spraying runners down with hoses, and I took advantage of them all.


Finish line in sight, with Kid Escorts!
Finally at 26 my kids ran out to run the finish with me, and I saw Doug from work (who'd finished at 2:57) telling me to finish strong and gave me a high-5.  Suddenly the quad and calf pains were gone, and I found a tired but comfortable 11 minute pace.  I had to laugh at my younger son, he was hurdling the cones as they escorted me to the finish line.  I saw my finish time was going to be about 4:50 - still better than 5 hours but no where near the 4:30 I was hoping for.


The temperature reading on the bank near the finish line said 87 degrees.  Wow!  I was glad to be done.


Where to From Here
In the days and weeks ahead I'll be dissecting the event and figuring out how to run a better marathon.  I read no less than 3 books on running a marathon, but until you actually run one you have no idea what's coming.  You train alone, but you run with many.  You train your routes but you race the unfamiliar.  You plan your long runs as a routine and almost boringly mundane event, but your marathon is nothing of the sort.  You plan and time your training runs based on weather conditions, but on race day it is what it is.
Pizza, perogies, bagel and a medal
In retrospect I may have peaked a month early.  I was ready to run at the beginning of September.  Next year I'll plan better - armed with the knowledge of what's coming.  

1 comment:

  1. great write-up Bill! Congratulations on completing your FIRST! you know, you are'nt a runner now, you're a MARATHONER! what a great accomplishment.

    I have to thank Patti who helped me with a ton of advice when I was preparing for my first marathon about 2 years ago. She gave me good sound advice for both, mental and physical preparation. Best regards to her from me.

    Once again, Great Accomplishment!

    - michelle soares

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