Monday, February 04, 2002

RR Ocala Marathon

Race Report
Ocala Marathon
Ocala, FL

I decided to go back to Ocala since I had run such a great race last year and finished in 3:26 - my fastest time last year. When I had finished a summer of hard training in the mountains of Colorado last year I was in great shape and planned to go back to Ocala and beat 3:25. But the constant injuries to my right leg that started last fall unfortunately killed that idea. However the latest treatments seemed to be helping and I had been able to run one tempo run last week - my first in several months.Ocala is about 140 miles north of Sarasota. It is the location of Florida's thoroughbred horse industry and the area is much different from Sarasota and South Florida. It has lots of rolling hills -yes, there are actually some hills in FL although they aren't big - and huge pine trees. The horse ranches are similar to those in Kentucky - miles of white fences along the roads. It is very scenic.It is a small local race with a marathon (250 runners) and a half (another 350 runners). But it is well managed.The race had been designated as a regional meeting for the 50 States Club and there were about 60 members of the club that showed up so I managed to meet many of my colleagues.Last year the weather was miserable - cold and rainy. But this year it was sunny and a pleasant 46 degrees at the 7am start. The course starts in the parking lot of the town mall and winds through horse country southeast of the town. There are lots of rolling hills but they are not big and I actually enjoy that type of course because I get to use all my leg muscles instead of suffering from the constant strain and 'muscle memory lock' of a flat course. I was lined up on the start line and looking around to see if I could spot my friend Marty from Lake Mary, FL (remember the guy who beat me by 30+ seconds at Disney?). As I was walking back into the pack the gun went off so I had to turn around and take off with the pack. First mile - 8:34. That was right on pace. I knew that 3:25 was out of the question. With all the damn injuries and lack of hard training the past few months any thought of a sub - 8 minute pace would be folly. But the leg had felt a bit better last week so I was hoping that I could at least get my finish time back down below 3:45. By mile 4 I had settled into an 8:20 pace which felt comfortable . My right hip started to ache a little but some massaging and pressure on the IT Band reduced the pain to a dull throb.The miles kept clicking by comfortably at 8:20s and I cruised across the half in 1:49:35 - the first time I had run the half under 1:50 in a long, long time. I still felt good and decided to hold that pace until my body told me otherwise. It didn't take long. At mile 15, I began to feel that if I tried to hold that pace till the end I would probably pay dearly in the last 10K. Besides my right hip started to flare up again and the massaging trick was not reducing the pain. So I decided to back off to 8:35 to 8:45s until 20 miles and reevaluate. About mile 17 a very pretty, long-legged lass about half my age blew past me and jokingly asked me to join her. "I'm only running an 8:20 pace - you can keep up to me" - she shouted. As I sadly watched her cute little buns leaving me behind I momentarily considered catching up and running with her but wisely decided to run my own race.20 miles -2:49:35! I did my customary gut check and was pleased to find that the old bod had indeed replenished some glycogen/energy during my slower pace so I decided to push again. I lowered the pace to 8:30. At mile 21 I spotted Ms Blonde Long Legs about one-quarter mile ahead and resolved to reel her in. I dropped the pace some more. Now my whole body was starting to hurt but it masked or overrode the pain in the right hip and it never bothered me again during the last 10K.It took me 3 miles but finally I passed her at 24 miles and sadly had to leave those cute little buns behind. I was determined that she would not pass me again so continued to push to mile 25 - 2:32:20! I knew that a sub 3:40 was not possible and was about to back off the pace when I noticed a few 'gray heads' about one-quarter mile in front of me. Oh Hell! Why not try to catch them? They just might be in my age group. I figured that I probably had no chance to place in my age group since my 3:26 last year was only good enough for 2nd place - but - I might as well try eliminate them anyway. So I begged the old bod to give me everything it had left and surprisingly it responded with my fastest mile of the race - a 7:53! I passed the last gray head at mile 26 and continued to sprint across the finish line in 3:41:51. It isn't a fast or great time but I was very pleased that I had run a smart race and felt good all the way. The right leg had some minor pain throughout the race but was much improved compared to the last few races. And you can imagine how surprised I was when I read the race results to learn that I had finished in 1st place in my age group (Old Farts!). I guess the competition didn't show up? And then another pleasant surprise - Marty came struggling across the finish line behind me - I had reclaimed my championship! However I get a chance to lose it as early as next weekend when I meet up with our other friend (Edson from NYC) at the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, AL.So I have to get back to training, continue the treatments on my leg which seem to be helping and prepare to defend my championship. I also plan to return to Ocala next year to defend my age group award. It is a small but very well-managed race and I believe that most runners would enjoy it.

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