Tuesday, March 07, 2006

RR Sarasota Marathon

Race Report
Sarasota Marathon
Sarasota, FL
Sun, Mar 5/06
3:22:11 – 41 OA – 1 AG

Finally - the race of the year – the race that had been the focus of Maddog’s training program for the past 12 weeks – the inaugural Sarasota Marathon - in my hometown!

After five tune-up marathons in Jan and Feb spaced between some good speed workouts I believed I was ready? Only one small glitch. Turned out that a family reunion that had been planned for two years and the one we were hosting in Orlando, FL was the weekend before the marathon. A family reunion – especially a Wallace reunion – where there is lots of partying/eating/drinking is not conducive to good training for a marathon! But the partying took my mind off the race, the medicine (read – alcohol) cured my head cold and the rest from running helped improve the plantar fasciitis/injury in my feet.
When the last Wallace sibling returned to TundraLand (aka Canada) on Thu I locked the beer fridge to begin three days of drying out/detoxification and started eating healthy food in preparation for the marathon. And I carefully watched the weather forecast that changed on a daily basis. I was hoping for cool weather vs the warm/hot weather that was initially forecast.

It had been a long time since I enjoyed the benefits of a hometown marathon – no traveling to another city/state/country – sleeping in my own bed and eating a great pasta dinner cooked by the sports manager. And 75 % of the marathon course was on roads/routes that I use every day for my training runs.

Sun was M-day. There were two races – a Marathon and a Half-marathon. Both races started at 6 am and I was shocked when the sports manager also got up at 4 am to get ready for the race. She planned to watch the start and then walk 10/12 miles of the course. The Weather Gods were kind – it was a cool 57 F and low humidity at the 6 am start and only warmed up to the low 70s by the time I finished. The only negative factor was a slight breeze blowing from the East that sometimes gusted at 20/25 mph.
Both races started and finished on the grounds of the Ringling Museum. There were 500 runners in the Marathon and 1100 in the Half – a great turnout for an inaugural race! There is a large and good running community/club in Sarasota so I expected some good competition. There were runners from 48 states and 15 countries including a Kenyan who decided to enter at the last moment. My goals were: a) to defend my home turf and win my age group and b) finish under 3:30. I figured if I could achieve the 2nd goal it should assure the 1st goal?

The race started on a narrow driveway/road on the Ringling Grounds (one of the few errors of the race organization because the road was too small to handle that large of a start). Because of the congestion I lined up on the start line with the Big Dogs and let them pull me through the 1st mile in 7:32. Two colleagues/runners from the MTC (Manasota Track Club) had asked me if they could pace off me because they needed to run a sub 3:30 marathon and wanted to use my experience to pull them through in that time. I apologized for the quick start and quickly slowed the pace down to 7:50s. By Mile Five I had settled into a smooth and easy 7:50 pace. NOTE - when I tried to recall my split times from my heart monitor/watch I hit a wrong button and deleted the complete race file and now I have to provide my split times based on memory! (Needless to say I was very upset because I really wanted to check and verify my splits over the last 10K!!!) We ran over the Ringling Bridge (the highest ‘hill’ in Sarasota at 65 ft above sea level) at mile 6 and at mile 8 the course headed East on City Island into the wind. I motioned for the youngest runner in our pack to take the lead and dropped behind him to draft for the next mile into the head wind to conserve energy. We passed mile 10 around 1:18. Around mile 12 my two friends started to drop back and by the time I passed the Half in 1:43 I was leaving them behind quickly.

I felt really good/strong but decided that I would be cautious and stay on a sub 8-min pace until at least 20 miles and then do another gut check. Mile 15 was back over the Ringling Bridge into a brisk 20/25 mph head wind and I had nobody to draft behind! It was the toughest mile of the race – and my slowest at 8:30! However when we reached the bay front along downtown Sarasota the buildings shielded us from the wind and it was no longer a factor. At mile 17 I passed my masseuse/friend – Cynthia aka Attila the Huness – whose exuberance and cheering helped shake me out of a slight lull I had fallen into. I picked up the pace and around mile 19 I started looking for a dear old friend/neighbor – Willard - who is 91 years old. The course passed directly in front of his Assisted-Care home and I had asked him to come outside and watch the race. He had driven his electric scooter down to the sidewalk to watch the race and waved and cheered as I passed by. It was a special moment for both of us and provided a big boost to me. When I reached mile 19 in 2:30 I knew that a sub 3:30 marathon was ‘in the bag’. I was still feeling strong and there was no doubt in my mind that I could do whatever was needed to break 3:30.

By that point the course had looped back on itself three times and I was confident that I was in first place in my age group so I had a decision to make. Should I continue to coast at an easy sub 8-min pace to finish under 3:30 and win my age group – or push the pace and see how much faster I could finish? I decided to go for it and immediately lowered the hammer. I don’t remember my split at 20 miles but I vividly recall my surprise/shock when I passed mile 21 in 6:32! That was not possible! One of the last two mile markers had to be wrong. But I continued to push the pace – actually I wasn’t pushing - I was floating. I was so juiced up on adrenaline and endorphins that I seemed to be floating - I seemed to be having an-out-of-body experience – it had to be somebody else’s body because my old bod wasn’t capable of running a 6:32 mile in the final 10K! I passed mile 22 in 6:53 and mile 23 in 6:50! I was so amazed and shocked that I began to question what the Hell was happening? I was going to break 3:25 at this pace? That was not possible. I was running ‘way over my head’ and I felt good???

By mile 24 reality started to set in and I started to tire and hurt but I was still pushing a sub 8-min pace. (I wish I hadn’t screwed up my watch so I could review my actual splits). I recall reaching mile 25 around 3:13 and commenting that I would finish close to 3:20 if I could hold the pace. I was now very tired and hurting but the old bod was still producing adrenaline and endorphins because of the exhilaration and sweet smell of victory and I was able to ignore the pain and keep pushing. I crossed the finish line in 3:22:11. I had left absolutely nothing on the course but I was in such shock/disbelief that I searched out one of the race organizers to question if the course was short. She assured me that the course had been checked and rechecked before it was certified by the USATF!

Maddog advised me to quit questioning my performance and time and to accept and enjoy the fact that I had a good day and great race – “and live with it”! My time placed me 41st overall and 1st in my age group. Since it was an inaugural marathon I have the honor of holding the course record for my hometown marathon – for at least one year!
I waited at the finish line to cheer in many of my running friends including my buddy Frank (the only other sane person in the world – with the quadruple heart bypass) who finished in 4:45:02. I did not stick around for the awards ceremony because the group awards were lame medals! When I got home I immediately checked my running log to find the last time I ran that fast? Other than a 3:20:48 in Podgorica, Montenegro in Oct 03 I had to go all the way back to Aug 95 (Edmonton, Alberta) to find a faster time. It was my 2nd fastest time in the past 11 years and most certainly a PR for my 6th decade!! I still find it unbelievable – but very, very satisfying!!! Home turf had to be a HUGE factor because I still don’t believe I am in peak condition yet?? I need another month of speed work to get there? We will soon see since I have another marathon scheduled at the end of March.

This marathon was unplanned/unscheduled in my race calendar until a few weeks ago when I received an offer I couldn’t refuse. What was the offer and where is the marathon?

Stay tuned for the next race report!!

P.S. A short comment/review on my hometown marathon.
It was an excellent race and very well organized for a 1st time race. All the credit goes to Lisette Riveron, the tireless race director who overcame many obstacles to make the marathon happen. The packet pick up and expo was small but well organized. Traffic control was excellent. There were plenty of water stops and markers at every mile.

Things that can be improved:
-the Start
– needs a bigger road/area to accommodate that many runners
– should have a timing carpet to enable computation of true ‘chip’ time

- could use some more digital clocks along the race
- the timing carpet should be located at the Half and not at 13 miles

- the city needs to get more spectators out but that will come with time
- awards should be artistic/creative items such as a ceramic grouper to represent the city of Sarasota or the race (Grouper marathon)

These small things can be improved with the next versions of the marathon that are already planned.

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