Monday, January 24, 2011

RR - Ocala

Race Report
Sun, Jan 23/111
Ocala Marathon
Ocala, FL
Marathon #340
4:11:26 – 1 AG

I can sum this race up in one word – Disastrous! Or maybe –Disappointment!

I wasn’t expecting to run a great time like Jacksonville in Dec after two weeks of minimal training while visiting the kids on the West Coast over the Holidays (too cold) followed by no running/training during a 10-day Caribbean cruise (and an extra 8 lbs thanks to gluttony) but I hoped to at least finish under 4 hrs!

After the cruise I ran a couple of long easy runs to re-introduce my legs to running and lose half of those 8 lbs. I knew I couldn’t run a sub-3:45 because of the lack of training and the difficulty of the course. The course is 26 miles of gentle rolling hills in the horse country of FL. But I figured I should be able to run an ‘easy’ 9-min pace to finish under 4 hrs and use the race as a long training run to get my body and legs used to going the marathon distance again.

I checked the weather closely as race day approached. FL is experiencing another shitty winter (weather-wise) with lots of cold fronts coming down from Tundraland (aka Canada). It was going to be COLD with temps forecast in the 20s at the start.

I drove up to Ocala on Sat afternoon, picked up my race packet and enjoyed a pleasant pasta dinner. I retired early but woke up several times during the night suffering from stomach cramps and diarrhea? I was hoping it was just a case of bad food and NOT a flare up of the UC (Ulcerative Colitis)? The symptoms persisted right up to the start of the race – thankfully there were lots of portable toilets at the start!

It was COLD – a temp of 28 F as I lined up with 200 runners for the 7am start. Thankfully there was no wind. I had dressed like a wimp – tights, polypro shirt and T-shirt and gloves! And the usual garbage bag to trap body heat. And I was still freezing and shivering as the race started. I didn’t know what to expect health-wise so I started slow and 5 min into the race I was suffering from nausea, stomach cramps, and a lack of energy and sucking desperately for air. I had experienced these same symptoms during training runs and knew it was a sign of UC! In the training runs I was forced to stop and walk/jog back home. While I considered dropping out of the race some friends from the Bradenton Running Club (a neighboring city) caught up to me and we started talking. They pulled me though the next few miles and distracted me enough that the nausea and stomach cramps passed. But I was still feeling totally fatigued and sucking for air so I told them to go ahead and I slowed the pace down to 9:45. I decided I would try to continue to 5 miles and if I didn’t feel better at that point I would drop out. At that point I discarded the garbage bag and another friend from Tampa caught up to me and slowed down to run the next few miles with me. When we passed mile 6 in 56:01 and a split of 9:10 the sun was shining - it was warming up- and I felt a wee bit better and could breathe easier so I decided to continue. By that point I had noticed that my heart rate was averaging 10 bpm slower than my normal marathon rate? I tried pushing the pace to increase my heart rate into the normal range but that quickly resulted in “sucking for air” so I wisely decided to back off and let my body dictate the pace! That pace was 9:15 to 9:30/mile. Thus I was pleasantly surprised when I passed the Half in 2:02:54 and a split of 9:07.

The course has changed at Ocala. Previously it was a 26 mile loop through horse country. Now it starts with a 16 mile loop on many of the same roads followed by a 2nd loop shortened to 10 miles. The half marathon starts 15 min after the marathon so initially we were passed by the fast half marathoners but by the time I reached the Half I was passing the slower runners.

I actually felt better at the Half and for a few brief moments suffered from an illusion of running a negative split. But I soon realized that fantasy wasn’t going to happen. There were 13 more miles of hills and although they are ‘gentle’ hills some are quite long and take a huge toll on the legs and body.
However I did manage to push the pace down to 9:10s and increase my heart rate into the normal range for the next few miles but that only lasted until a long ‘gentle’ uphill at mile 19 -3:00:22 and a split of 10:54- my slowest split of the race! I reached mile 20 in 3:09:50 and a split of 9:28. I was struggling and decided my top three priorities were:
1) Go into survival mode to finish the race (ALIVE) and complete marathon #340
2) NOT to walk. I was running so slowly that I should be able to keep the old legs shuffling.
3) To finish under 4:15 (BQ – Boston Qualifying time). I calculated (worse case) that if I slowed to a 10:30 min pace I could accomplish that goal.

The marathon and half marathon courses split at mile 16 and after that point I ran the final 10 miles alone. I only passed 3 runners in the final 10 miles. I had expected to see a lot more walking because of the hills but I guess I was running so slowly I couldn’t even catch the walkers?

I passed mile 23 in 3:38:53 and a split of 9:25 but the next two miles were tough hills and my pace slowed to 10:15s min/mile. However I managed to keep the old legs moving to cross the finish line in 4:11:26. One nice thing about small races was the 100-ft walk to my car for the camera to take the mandatory finish line photo. Although the temp had warmed up to 46F it was still too cold to stand around so I returned to the hotel for a quick shower and then went back to the finish area to check results. My official finish time was 4:11:26 and surprisingly that was good enough for 1st place in my AG. The awards had also changed- they are now a nice statue of a horse (for horse country). Although I would have liked to receive mine I didn’t want to wait around and I wanted to get home to watch the NFL payoffs so I skipped the award ceremony.

Although I could use all kind of excuses I was not pleased or satisfied with my finish time! I guess I should be happy that I accomplished goal #1 – I finished ALIVE and completed marathon #340 in spite of the health issues. One benefit of running so slow is that my legs were not sore or tired after the race. However I am in a bit of a quandary with regards to my next race. In my exuberance of running such a good race in Jacksonville I signed up (yet again) for Miami thinking that I might have a chance to finally win my AG in that race? Now I don’t know what to do or expect. If the UC is truly flaring up there is no hope and I don’t want to suffer through another race/26 miles like that. I will try to run a fast 5 to 8 mile tempo run mid-week. If I crash or suffer the same symptoms I will skip Miami.

So who knows? Stay tuned!

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