Friday, May 6, 2016

2016 Carmel Marathon: Race Report

As you may already be aware I pinched a nerve in my right leg at the end of October. The pinched nerve kept me out of running for a full 8 weeks. During this time I cross trained like a boss with pool running, cycling, arc trainer. That might be good enough for some people to stay in reasonable shape but when I pinched the nerve I was in the best shape of my life. I was a finely tuned machine that was crushing workouts and destroying PRs and it would prove to not be any where close to enough to maintain that level of fitness.

I have always used an 18 week training cycle but this time the injury still had me relegated to the aforementioned cross training when the start of the cycle came around. By the time I was back to running I was really out of shape and there was no way I could jump into my usual marathon build up: 7 mile runs were leaving me feeling like I got hit by a truck. I decided to use an abbreviated 12 week cycle and use the 4 or 5 weeks I had until then to just to get my legs back. Over the course of this time I was able to build back up to a long run of 20 miles.

As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I was never 100% or even close to it through the entire training cycle. As 1 injury would clear up another would flare up. It wasn't until 5 days before Carmel that I was anything close to 100%. That being the case, to actually call it a training cycle is a bit of an over statement and I was just about as out of marathon shape as I have been since I started this lifestyle.

When I realized how out of shape I was I decided that somewhere around 3 hours would be OK and I would just use this race as a base strength type of run. Running was very hard throughout this whole thing. The long runs in particular would have been very daunting to have faced alone but I was blessed to have a friend to do long runs with. I ran most of my long runs with Cliff, a friend I met by going head to head in the last few miles of the Bee Bumble 10k in 2012. We have kept in touch via facebook and local races over the years and have talked about running together from time-to-time. I knew I needed some help to make it through the long runs so I got a hold of him and he obliged. It worked out pretty good since he was training to run the Boston Marathon around 3 hours as well.

Enough about the training, suffice it to say I was unable to get to prime form and knew that even 2:59 would be a struggle. Race morning was finally here and the forecast was for sunny 70* and no wind. Sounds perfect to you non-runners, huh? Sounds like miserably hot conditions for running 26.2 miles to me.

I met Garrett before the race and he was planning on running his usual 2:52. I knew we wouldn't be running together and after the start signal was given I watched him barrel off into the distance. With no PR to shoot for and not even a respectable time given my past marathons it was going to be a long day.

That is me and Garrett behind what looks to be a very grumpy half-marathoner

About a mile in I came up on another local runner, Matt York. He's an Iron Man and has a marathon PR just a couple of minutes faster than me. Matt is a smart runner and keeps a controlled pace early on. I figured I'd latch on and just run with him. It was working well for the first several miles. We were running around 6:35/6:40 miles and I was feeling pretty good. Matt and I don't know each other well so the conversation was a nice distraction.

At one point Matt said something to the effect of "Well, if you get too far ahead of me, good luck." I assured him I was running way too fast and this was going to get ugly pretty quick. I knew I was going to blow up but I decided to just try to hold this pace as long as I could and take what comes after. It'd be a good strength builder.

At around 8 miles or so, I saw Steve Williams who i met at this years Sam Costa. I knew he was shooting for 3 hours and a Boston qualifier but he looked like he was out a little fast and I just hoped he wouldn't blow up. Steve end up finishing right around 3 hours and got his BQ so good for him!

Around mile 11 the crash began. It wasn't a total and complete collapse. I just couldn't stay with Matt any more and my pace dropped to the high 6s as I watched gap between Matt and I grow larger and larger. At this point I just wanted to hang on for a 2:59:59 marathon. I kept that delusion for another couple of miles until it became apparent that my pace was just going to continue to bleed. It was getting hot and I was out of shape.

About mile 16 I saw my family for the first time and for the first time ever I saw Hannah before she saw me and I started calling out "Hannah!, Hannah!" Hannah had a bottle of water ready for me and it was a welcome sight. My oldest daughter Kasey took pity on me and threw her bottle of water on me and it felt like heaven. My pace was still dropping but seeing my family was a great boost and while I wasn't feeling real bad yet, I sure shouldn't have been smiling like I was for the picture.

From 16 to 25 I really lost a lot of time with my pace slipping well into the upper 7s for several of those miles. Not a whole lot to say about the final miles other than that it felt like a death march for most of it. I really tried to pick it up in the final mile and coming down the stretch I passed a guy who I had been playing leap frog with over the last several miles. In the final 1/4 of a mile I was ready to shut it down but there is Hannah yelling at me "Don't let him beat you!" I found that last gear for the last 90 seconds or so and was able to maintain my position and that was really the only running win of the day for me.

Yeah this was a bad race. Yeah, I was out of shape and a lot of people would say I ran a stupid race going out faster than even my planned goal pace that I figured would be too fast anyway. I didn't get any kind of victory and there was no glory at the finish line this time; only relief.

All that said, it was a great race because it was at this race that I realized just how connected I am to running. I mentioned a few people in this report that I met through running and I saw and spoke to even more people that I know because I run. I've got to say, I love the fact that I can go to a bigger race in a city I don't live in and see a bunch of people I know because we all share a passion for this crazy thing called the Marathon.

A couple of other great points on the day. First was that both of my daughters ran in the 8k and I always really enjoy when several of us get after it on race day! Also, it was Nattie Jo's first road race and I cannot wait to continue to share this experience with her throughout her life. Foot races are a big part of the life of my family and thinking about sharing that with Natalie and other grand kids yet to be named just makes me smile.

The marathon broke my heart in November and it beat me up pretty bad in April. That's OK because  Fall will be here soon enough I will have my revenge. Looks like I've got a lot of work to do before the Monumental to ensure that I punish the marathon for what it has done to me this year.

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