Monday, March 21, 2005

Ocean Drive Marathon

Cape May, NJ

Sun, Mar 20/05
Ocean Drive Marathon
Cape May, NJ
Marathon #239 - State # 38 (2nd loop)

It was a long, boring trip and a lot of time and money just to expunge a ‘DNF’ from my marathon record but the deed is done! The only disappointment came when I read the marathon history and learned that the course record for ROFs (Really Old Farts) was 3:36:52. If I had not been suffering from a strained hamstring that tore in the first mile of last year’s race (hence the DNF) I would have blown that record out of the water. I was in excellent marathon shape after training hard all winter for Boston and planned/expected to run under 3:20. But alas – it was not to be!

And this was another year and another body stepping up to the start line. After so much forced rest and inadequate/lack of training during the past four months because of injuries and surgery (y’all know the story) I wasn’t even confident that I could run the entire distance let alone finish under my goal of 4 hours? But I was confident I could finish!
The weather was also different this year – worse! In addition to the cold (42F with a wind chill of 37F) it had been raining since midnight and was forecast to rain throughout the whole race. There was a 10/15mph wind blowing from the North. Since the marathon started in Cape May and finished 26 miles north in Sea Isle City that meant a head wind the whole way. Oh Goody – oh Joy!

The weather was so miserable before the start that I refused to get out of my car until the very last moment. Finally I forced myself out of the car and jumped into the middle of the pack along with 600 other runners (300 in the marathon and 300 in a 10-mile race) just before the 9am start. I was wearing a green garbage bag for rain gear and a throwaway sweat shirt on top of my race gear – a long sleeve T-shirt, shorts and gloves. I had decided to skip my usual warm up and stretches because of the rain and use the first mile of the race as a warm up. Bad decision! Every joint in my body was stiff and ached during that cold/wet/miserable mile! I considered dropping out again? No way - I am not coming back here no matter how miserable it is or gets! Mile 1 – a slow, painful 9:38!

However many things improved during the 2nd mile. The weather Gods took pity on us and stopped the rain. It only drizzled a few more times during the race. The wind was not as big a factor as expected and when it did gust I just dropped in behind another runner and drafted. By mile two I had shed the garbage bag and sweat shirt and settled into a smooth/easy 9-min pace. That was my target pace and I was pleased when I reached mile 10 in 1:30:08 and the Half in 1:57:33. That should provide me with enough cushion/margin to come very close to my goal of 4 hours? But I wasn’t suffering any false/silly illusions. My longest run in the past four months had been 16 miles (I don’t count the Trinidad Marathon where I walked and jogged as a ‘Run’) and I expected the last 10K of this race to get ugly! So I wasn’t surprised when I reached 18 miles and found myself struggling to hold a 9:15 pace.

It was too early to slow down – I did not have enough cushion. So I decided I had to push the pace back below 9 min and hold on as long as I could? Fortunately the old bod responded to the pain by producing more endorphins (ahhhhh – those wonderful endorphins) to mask the pain and I started to feel better. Mile 20 - 3:00:57 and an 8:50 pace. I was still on target pace. I continued to push to mile 23 – 3:28:11. The time was good – I had about 32 minutes to run the last 5 K but there was a slight problem. My legs were trashed – there was nothing left! I was both surprised and pleased that I had hung in that long and contemplated walking and jogging the last 5K. But OH NO! – NOT the Maddog! He wasn’t having any such NONSENSE! He could smell the finish line and taste success and he would not give up or give in and slow down or walk! I knew it was pointless to argue with Maddog so I just sucked it up, dug deeper and forced my tired old legs to keep moving.

And I started playing the usual mind games: “One step at a time” – “just one more step” – ‘pain is only temporary”- “any old fool can stand pain for a measly 30 minutes”! Then Maddog explained “the pain is good for me and necessary training for that BIG race when I am competing for 1st place and need to block out all pain”! I had to agree that he was right and so I pushed on. When I reached mile 25 in 3:47:17 I knew that my goal of 4 hours was in the bag if I could just keep the old legs moving. The smell of sweet success was enough incentive for the old bod to provide a few final jolts of adrenaline to carry my old, wasted legs through the final mile and across the finish line in 3:58:18! I had done it!

I was happy and so very pleased with both my time and performance. I had run a smart and disciplined race. I even amazed myself by running the entire race at a fairly consistent 9-min pace. My time was good enough for 2nd place in my age group (indicative of the competition and not my competitive prowess at this stage) and more importantly qualified me for Boston for 21 consecutive years! But before I got too confident and cocky I reminded myself that I still had a long way to go to reach my ultimate goal – to be truly competitive again in marathon races! That requires running a sub 8-min pace in my age group. I believe I can attain that level again if I can stay healthy and injury-free! But that is a BIG IF since my right foot is already giving me problems? During the last 10 miles of the marathon my right foot was suffering the same symptoms and discomfort that I experienced last fall just before the pain got severe and I discovered I had a stress fracture. Thus I need to manage a fine balance between adding the necessary intensity and speed work back into my training program vs. resting and monitoring closely the condition of my foot and knee.

It’s tough being a jock – in a broken-down, 61-year old body!

Stay tuned for my next adventure. It will be a surprise!

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