Knee good. Temperature bad. First 17 miles good. Last 9.2 bad. PR good. Post-race postmortem bad.
The Full Recap, Marathon #36:
I did some calculations before the race and determined that my target pace zone was 8:19 (3:39:59) to 8:30 (3:44:59) based off of my finishing Garmin distance last year of 26.46 miles. Knowing that the course was going to measure almost 0.3 miles "long" I knew having the distance showing on Garfield was pointless and would only piss me off during the race. So I adjusted Garfield's data fields and for the first time ever ran a race without ever looking at the distance measurement.
|I loved how this worked out and will do it every goal race from now on. You've gotta keep the pace 'til you get to the finish so it doesn't really matter what mile you are at. Mile markers were all I needed to keep on top of nutrition.|
I used "Lap pace" as my main determinant and had "Average pace" up so I knew if I was on track or not. I also left a "Time" data field because last year there had been people calling out the gun time at every mile marker. I wore a pace band so I could know where I was without a doubt against the clock.
I got up and did my usual pre-race routine. I had only done a 5 and 4-miler in my knee strap so I lathered up the Body Glide around my knee in case it gave me any issues over a longer distance. I wasn't too worried about the strap since it just velcroed on and I could pull it off while running (versus an ankle brace which requires sitting down and taking of your shoe). If it started chafing I could always remove it mid-run. I started thinking about my knee and got super queasy with nerves.
Last year the weather forecast was a low of 41, high of 58, 50% chance of rain. Regarding the weather, I wrote that it was "perfect." This year the forecast was a low of 55, a high of 81, 0% chance of rain. It could obviously be worse, but that is crappy running weather in my book. I was comfortably cool at the start which is just hot running weather, in my opinion.
My game plan was to stay in the low 8:30's until my knee settled down, and then just see where the day went.
Mile 1: 8:31
Mile 2: 8:24
My knee bothered me for all of 10 steps the entire race. I had a mild awareness of it somewhere after the first mile which I was expecting. I kept waiting to see if it was going to morph into sharp stabbing pain as it has every run the last two weeks but it never did. There were several underpass tunnels which had short, steep inclines leading in and out of the tunnels. Maybe a step or two here and there I was aware of my knee, but no sharp stabbing pain I experienced on training runs lately.
Mile 3: 8:23
Mile 4: 8:17
Mile 5: 8:22
I had told Boyfriend if the stabbing pain developed and didn't stop I was going to stop running and I would try to find a cell phone to let him know I had dropped. I recall there being a distinct moment where I realized that my knee was not going to ruin my day. "Wow, I'm really going to have to run the full 26.2 miles today." I started hitting paces lower than I had expected to see so early on, but I felt good so I decided it was okay. If I could stay in the low 8:20's I might have a shot of my A-goal if I could bring things down later on.
For the first time, the race put on the marathon and two half marathons. The original half marathon ran the second half of the course but started only 15 minutes after the full. This means that the majority of the half runners were already finished by the time we got there. The race also kept separate lanes for the full runners and half runners so it was pretty much a non-issue to be passing the half walkers in their own lane. When the race first advertised that they were creating a first half marathon I actually wrote and told them that they ruined their marathon. And now having run the marathon I stand by this sentiment.
First, some of the first half is run on a recreation path type deal which is really not that wide. There were probably 3x as many people running on the first half course than last year. I could deal with that. But the kicker was that the way they planned the first half and the full courses is that the full course actually diverts away from the first half course twice and adds on an extra three miles with little loops and an extra out-and-back. This means that while you settle into your pace with other half marathoners running the same speed as you in the beginning, twice you are diverted away and rejoin them but now with people running decidedly slower than you are running. And finally, it is just a huge morale depressor to be running with people who aren't running the same distance you are. Too many, "We're almost there!" rally cries among the half marathoners made me want to punch someone.
Mile 6: 8:26
Mile 7: 8:11
Mile 8: 8:14
Mile 9: 8:10
The above miles happened during the first time we pulled away from the half marathoners which literally increased my happiness level and thus my pace. These people were in it with me and that made me feel good. I also saw Boyfriend out cheering which gave me a lift. I don't know what I was thinking. It was too fast. I tried to slow down a little but I suppose that didn't work. I felt like I was working at marathon pace so I went with it.
We passed a bank that had the temperature up at about mile 7 and it said 57 degrees. We passed another building with the temp up just 1.5 miles or so later and it said 64 degrees. WTF. The temperature was rising fast and it was going to be a hot day. Luckily there was quite a bit of shade the first half so I didn't feel like it was bothering me much yet.
Mile 10: 8:18
Mile 11: 8:27
There was a short little out-and-back for the full marathoners and I realized I had a couple of minutes lead over the 3:45 pace group. They had started *just* behind me as they had bumped up against me in the very first half mile of the race. We rejoined the half marathoners for a little under two miles and it was hard to find my pace having to weave through slower runners. I tried to keep my eye on one or two other full marathoners who were slightly ahead of me and figured if I kept equidistant from them I was holding onto my marathon pace.
We had another small out and back with just the full runners before rejoining the half marathoners again. When we hooked up again I felt like they had slowed way down which is probably the case since we had set ourselves back another mile+ in the half marathon pack. To make matters worse there was two-way traffic to contend with. There were still outbound walkers coming towards us and slower half marathoners clogging up the side of the path meant for our direction of flow. We had to run through the narrow dark tunnels and the whole thing was just frustrating. I had been working hard to run the tangents as best I could but with all the weaving it was impossible to care about that.
Right around here my average pace was 8:19. That was short-lived, but nice.
Mile 12: 8:37
Mile 13: 8:47
Boyfriend met up with me at mile 13 to swap out my bottle. Last year I hated refilling my 22 oz with the race's inefficient hardly-filled cups so I decided I would swap out my 22 oz bottle and supplement with aid stations along the way, thus avoiding having to refill the whole 22 oz myself.
|Around the half point. In this photo only myself and the guy in yellow ahead are doing the full marathon. There is no counter-traffic on this part of the course, but you can imagine what that was like.|
Mile 14: 8:19
Mile 15: 8:28
Mile 16: 8:27
Mile 17: 8:22
I was so looking forward to dropping the first half runners for good at mile 16. I was having to keep on top of my pacing more but was still right in my sweet spot zone between 8:19 and 8:30. I told myself once we got to the big out and back the half marathoners would be gone and I could concentrate purely on my effort.
And this, my friends, is where the wheels fell off my race.
Things got really hard. Boyfriend popped up unexpectedly at mile 18 and I didn't wave or smile or even acknowledge all of his awesome cheering. A couple of times I thought about how all I wanted to do in that moment was sit down on the curb and cry. And it is not that I wanted to cry about how I was losing my hold on my goals. I just wanted to cry because it was so dang hard to keep running.
I tried to not dwell on that and tried to focus on that "Lap pace" field. Right here, in this moment, can I bring that down a little? I tried but it was barely improving.
I had to stop at aid stations to grab extra water. My water bottle was nice, but the water at the aid stations was cooler. I tried to keep running and drink from the cups but that was too hard so I'd walk just long enough to allow me to drink. Some aid stations I was grabbing 3 or 4 cups of water. I was losing time doing that but I needed the extra fluids.
I watched my average pace slowly creep up. 8:25, 8:26, 8:27, 8:28... It is amazing how slowly the average pace creeps up even though you're running far slower. I realized this meant I would have to work much harder to bring it back down.
Mile 18: 8:49
Mile 19: 8:45
Mile 20: 8:35
Mile 21: 8:44
Mile 22: 9:10
We hit the turnaround and I thought about how last year I magically came back to life afterwards. This year it was just hot out there with no shade at the outer portion of the out-and-back. We hit the one big hill on the course and I tried to just keep chugging away.
Somewhere towards the top of the hill, I heard a "Great job," to my left as a runner passed me. I said, "thank you," and then looked at him as he pulled in front of me. He was holding the 3:45 pace sign.
My heart broke.
Right before that my average pace had hit 8:30.
I knew this was the moment I could rally and at least make my main goal of sub-3:45 or I could roll over and die and miss it. I tried. I pretended I had a rope attached to that neon green shirt and I attempted to stay with him. But I couldn't. He slowly pulled away from me.
|Boyfriend caught this shot of Mr. 3:45 at the start|
The next few miles sucked. That green shirt and 3:45 sign were not that far away from me but I couldn't for the life of me gain on them. My lap pace was atrocious. These are the miles I am used to kicking it up a notch, running faster than my goal pace and bringing it home strong. It was all I could do to just keep running. I was running as hard as I could and wasn't even close to the higher range of my goal pace.
My inner monologue went like this: "You are going to look back and wish you had dug a little deeper. Can you dig a little deeper now? I would try and would get close to nothing back. Okay, good try. You're going to look back on this and be upset you didn't run faster, but just know that right now, in this moment, you are going as fast as you absolutely can. Don't be upset about it later."
I passed a speaker playing music and the Adele song, "Rolling In The Deep" was playing. Oh, the irony. All I heard over and over was, "We could have had it all." Why yes, I was running at my A-goal for a while there. "I can't help feeling we could have had it all." Yes, I still have time to bring it in under 3:45 if I could just find the energy. "We almost had it all... Could have had it all." Grr. "It all, it all, it all..." Thanks, Adele.
Mile 23: 8:50
Mile 24: 8:32
I knew I had a PR in the bag if I just kept running. I would have to really, really slow down to lose a PR. I told myself to be happy about that. A half marathoner walker was saying to her friend as I passed, "It is hot as a bitch out here." That made me feel better.
Mile 25: 8:35
I passed the mile 25 mile marker and there was a woman calling out the gun time. The whole race there were maybe 4 mile markers with someone calling out the gun time. Last year every single mile marker had someone. She said, "3:35" as I ran by. She didn't say the seconds but what I heard made me think. I had 10 minutes to run the last mile. Easy peasy! For a second I thought maybe I had run the tangents better or maybe Mr. 3:45 was ahead of pace a little. Then I remembered that extra 0.2. It wasn't in the bag but it was doable. I tried to channel the sub-7:20 mile repeats I ran in training. Can't I get just one of those suckers now? Obviously the answer was, "No." Okay, I really don't need one of those but maybe just something a little faster than goal pace? Again, the answer was "N-O."
Mile 26: 8:39 This absolutely breaks my heart.
We rounded into the finish area. Having run the race before I knew the line was still a few turns away and not right there. As the finish line came into sight I tried to kick it up little. I started to dry heave. I slowed down and tried to calm my breathing. My poor body knew it was almost at the finish and was getting excited and telling me it had enough. Speed up a little, dry heave. Slow down. Repeat. Fine then, I'll just run it in normal. I missed the goal. I'm not about to puke on myself for 6 extra seconds.
Mile 26.2 (26.47-- blech--per Garmin): 8:35
Finish time: 3:45:25
A medical volunteer gave me a look of concern as I passed her and I flashed a smile to let her know I wasn't going to topple over. Boyfriend caught up to me in the chute and gave me a hearty congratulations. "It's hot out here," he said. "I broke a sweat just standing there to cheer at mile 18."
I was just so relieved to be done. I was happy I had pulled off a PR close to my goal the way I had been feeling at the end. I hadn't walked. It was hot. My knee had not bothered me. I wasn't upset at all the way it had gone down.
Writing this report now, honestly I am sad over those 26 seconds. I should have easily been able to find them somewhere but couldn't. The way I was running at the end, it didn't require a super-sonic mile to get those 26 seconds back. Just one strong mile or two miles on-pace would have done it. I don't know if I went out too fast or if the heat just zapped me that much. I imagine it is a combination of both though I'm hoping the heat was a bigger factor.
My knee was feeling 100% normal (absolutely no issues from the brace, either) but I went to the med tent to get some ice for it. It had been good to me and it was my turn to be good back. Two Cities has an awesome food spread (sundaes, eggs, sausage, bananas, fruit, etc) so I grabbed some of that more to feed Boyfriend than to feed me.
I can say with 100% certainty that I will never run Two Cities again in its current iteration. The first half is a terrible idea if you care about your time. And there is no way I would run this marathon for kicks and giggles and not care about my time (scenic it is not) so it is off my list as a goal race candidate.
In other ways the race slipped: This year the gun time callers were strangely absent (the website said they would be at every mile marker). There were also no bands playing live music on the course. They had some speakers set up here and there but last year they had bands and dance groups out to entertain (they even claim to have a competition where you vote for your favorite and that group wins a prize). So they definitely dropped the ball on a lot of the things they had said they would do.
The swag. Plentiful and decent looking but none of it is stuff I'll use. Sweatshirt too big. Hat not Headsweats. Gender specific shirt but only down to size small so still too big (though better fitting than last year's "small" dress). But if you are a medium-sized man who is not a running hat snob like me, you'll find plenty of great stuff to use from Two Cities.
I got to see my two friends, Jess and Jessica get their own PR's. At all the out and backs I'd see them coming and that was always a huge boost. Also, cheers to PavementRunner who I totally spazzed about seeing but who earned himself a shiny new PR, too.
A special shout-out to Boyfriend who worked Saturday, drove me 4 hours to Fresno, woke up early Sunday, drove all over Clovis/Fresno to cheer, and then drove us 3 hours back home. That's love. He was as tired as I was Sunday night.
So at the end of the day I missed all my goals but did end up with a 3+ minute PR on a bum knee in the heat. Boyfriend told me, "It could have gone so much worse," and he's totally right. I am proud of the way I held in there and I'm happy to get close to my goal for this race. I had a great training cycle which was a big success for me. I'm so looking forward to next year which I'll talk about later.