Tuesday, March 04, 2008

RR - Marathon #300

Race Report
Sarasota Marathon
Sarasota, FL
Sun, Mar 2/08
Marathon #300
3:49:18 – 4 AG

Marathon #300!

Seems like a long time ago and another lifetime since I asked Lisette, the Race Director of the Sarasota Marathon, at the end of the race in 2007 to reserve Bib #300 for me in 2008. I had just finished marathon #282 and only had 18 more to run to complete #300 at Sarasota one year later! Everything went fairly smooth until I suffered a serious foot injury at the end of marathon #289 in Colorado on Labor Day. I still had 10 more marathons to run to make Bib #300 meaningful so I ignored the advice of doctors to take six months rest from running and continued to pursue my goal.

I managed to run through the injury, pain, frustration and embarrassment to line up at the start line with marathon #299 under my belt. I believe the challenge of getting to the start line was much more difficult and memorable than marathon #300 itself! Although marathon #300 was memorable it was not a significant/ incredible feat since many of my friends have run two and three times that amount of marathons! Since some of those friends came to Sarasota to run #300 with me the Sports Manager and I hosted a pasta dinner the night before the race for them and some local runners. If you view the photos at http://www.maddog.smugmug.com/ you will see a photo of four runners that have completed a total of 2445 marathons and 258 countries:
Norm Frank - N. American record of 953 marathons and 6 countries
Wally Herman - 702 marathons and World record of 99 countries
Edson Sanches - 490 marathons and 65 countries
John ‘Maddog’ Wallace – 300 marathons and 88 countries

So you see Maddog is just a baby/novice compared to his illustrious friends! I was so pleased that my good friends were able to join us for dinner and share their time with local runners who were in awe of their experiences and accomplishments.

However I was very concerned on race morning! A friend Rick (who had stayed with us) and I had both suffered a lot of stomach cramps and intestinal problems all night before the race? I was so sick at 3 am that I thought that I might not make it to the start line? Nah! I might have considered that option for a normal race but no way was I going to miss lining up for #300 at my home town race! I was relieved when we arrived at the start line and talked to the rest of the dinner guests. Nobody else had experienced any problems from the Sports Manager’s excellent pasta. Rick and I concluded that the problem probably resulted from a slice of pizza we ate at a deli at the Sports Expo?

I would like to blame the intestinal problems for my poor race performance but fortunately/thankfully after a few last-minute emergency pit stops at the porto-johns I felt OK when I lined up at the start line with my friends and 3,000 other runners. The weather was nice at the 6 am start – a temp of 56 F but humid. The forecast called for the temps to warm up rapidly into the 80s and the humidity to drop. Being an OLD Floridian I actually felt cool at the start and wore a throw-away T-shirt under a singlet that I had custom printed for my 300th! The front read “Marathon #300” and the back read “John’s 300th marathon”. I knew the printing would solicit lots of cheers and shouts along the course and I was counting on them to motivate me. I figured I would need it! The foot injury had not healed until early Jan so I had only two months of good training to try to get back into competitive marathon shape. I knew I was not in ‘peak’ shape but hoped I was in good enough shape to at least place in my Age Group in my home town race!

I took off like a jack rabbit and passed mile 1 in 7:57. Too fast! By mile 3 (24:42) I had settled into an easy 8:20 pace. I had warmed up and had to slow down to remove the T-shirt. During that awkward process the 3:40 pace group passed me. A few friends including Charlie (see the Gasparilla report) were in that pace group so I decided to drop in behind them and stay with them. I would be happy to finish in 3:40 so why not let them drag me through the race? It seemed to work at first as we passed mile 10 in 1:24:45 and a split of 8:27. However when we crossed the bridge over Sarasota Bay (the highest hill in town) at mile 12 in 1:40:38 I was beginning to realize that I had made a big mistake! The pace setter was running exact and even splits for a 3:40 pace. But that is not the way I normally run and I found it difficult and frustrating. I normally experience ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in energy level throughout a race and let my body adjust to those changes. At times I felt good and wanted to leave the pace group behind and other times I felt bad/tired and had to struggle to stay with them. When we passed the Half in 1:50:00 (exactly) I already knew that a (sub) 3:40 wasn’t going to happen! In 300 marathons I can count on one hand the number of times I have run a negative or even split in the 2nd Half! And I was experiencing another low or ‘lull’ and having difficulty staying with the group as we started the 2nd Half.

At mile 17 I noticed that Charlie and I were starting to fall behind? I told Charlie (who needed a sub 3:45 to qualify for Boston) that the smartest thing we could do was to try to keep the group in sight until we crossed back over the bridge at mile 21 and then we could slow the pace and hopefully still finish under 3:45. When I passed mile 18 in 2:31:59 and a split 0f 8:51 I was struggling and in trouble! By the time I caught up to Wally, Norm and Frank at mile 19 I couldn’t see the pace group anymore? Norm and Wally had graciously agreed to take my running pal Frank Ouseley under their wings as he attempted to complete his first marathon since his back surgery. They had started together and early at 4 am. I reached mile 20 in 2:50:18 and a split of 9:16. I calculated that I had to maintain a sub 9-min pace for the final 10Km to finish under 3:45 – and I still had to go across the bridge! It felt like Mt Everest instead of a 65-ft high bridge and I reached mile 21 in 3:00:14 and a split of 9:55! I knew at that point that 3:45 wasn’t going to happen either. I figured the best I could do was to try to hold a sub 10-min pace and finish under 3:50? When I reached mile 23 in 3:18:29 I felt like I was close to ‘hitting the wall’. If I let that happen the final 5 Km would be very UGLY and entail a lot of walking so I slowed down even more. I became totally focused on blocking out the pain and lack of energy and keeping my legs/feet shuffling to the finish line. As I approached mile 26 I tried to push the pace but my right calf started to cramp. That hadn’t happened in the past year and I did not want to go through those problems again so I backed off immediately and ‘shuffled/limped’ across the finish line in 3:49:18.

I had finished #300 but I was not pleased with my on-the-spot strategy and performance and I was very disappointed with my time! I wasn’t surprised but was again disappointed when I checked the results to learn that I finished 4th in my AG. The only consolation was that 3rd place finished in 3:37! Even if I had run a great race I couldn’t have beat that time in the shape I was in!

I waited at the finish line for a few friends to finish and some finish line photos. I wanted to stay and watch Wally, Norm and Frank finish(which they did later hand-in hand together) but my legs started to cramp and I needed to get home and into the hot tub. And that’s exactly what I did! After a few beers and a long hot soak I was ready to attend the annual post-race party at Linda’s where I could drown my sorrows in lots of good beer and BBQ. I had a sneaky suspicion that Linda had something planned to celebrate my 300th marathon so I wasn’t too surprised when they sat me down and out came a beautiful, blonde Hula dancer. I had immediate flashbacks to my 60th birthday – same place, same dancer except an Egyptian belly dancer then. Soon Ms Cynthia (aka Attila the Huness) was joined by the two ugliest Hula dancers you would NOT want to see. I think one of the dancers was from Afghanistan? (see photos). One of the dancers was Charlie and the other was a world-renowned Cardiologist but no names will be mentioned! Everyone including Maddog had a great time! We consider ourselves very fortunate/lucky to have such a wonderful group of friends!

Now that #300 is done what’s next?
Maddog wants to continue with intensive training to get into better competitive marathon shape but I have overruled that idea/plan! I do not want to push the old bod to its limits and risk another injury without a good purpose or goal. I am going to ease back on the training miles and intensity and try to improve my aerobic base and leg strength in the Rocky Mtns this summer. In the fall/winter I will start back with speed work, etc. to reach peak condition next spring when I turn 65. I plan to kick ASS next year in my new Age Group! For now I will try to maintain a decent marathon shape so that I can finish races under 4 hours which is a respectable time for an OLD fart!

I have no plans or goal to lots of marathons because I could never challenge friends like Norm and Wally on number/quantity of marathons because:
a) I don’t think my body would hold up and I could never live long enough
b) Cost! We discussed how much even domestic marathons cost today and the fact that nobody will ever catch Norm just because of the cost!

Thus I have decided to focus on countries! I have a new goal but am not ready to announce it officially yet. SOON! In fact my next three marathons are international races in Asia, Middle East and S. America.

Stay tuned!


Sue said...

I'm amazed at your accomplishments & extremely proud to call you my cousin!

Anonymous said...

This awesome. I stress fractured my foot so my thought of doing a half marathon may be out for this spring. I haven't run for over a month. Ever run on a stress fracture?


zbsports said...

Great recap there...nice run looking for more run of yours...:D

Mark M. said...

Congratulations on your, "Countries Run-In", record. I look forward to meeting you when you run in your 114th country SAMOA in June. You'll be an inspiration to local runners.

BlueSky Marathon, Samoa

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