Tuesday, November 10, 2009

RR - Fort Worth

Sun, Nov 8/09
Fort Worth Marathon
Fort Worth, TX
Marathon #320
3:55:22 – 1 AG

As mentioned at the end of my previous race report (Ottawa Marathon) I figured that since no body parts had fallen off or hurt during that race I needed to schedule another marathon in Nov as part of my training program to regain my ‘marathon shape’. But where to go? Since the Boulder Marathon had been too hot and the Ottawa Marathon too cold and both courses too hilly I needed a location where the course would be flat and the weather pleasant? And the whole USA was open to me since I had a ‘free’ airline ticket! When I was forced to cancel Boston (Marathon) in April because of the mystery injuries US Airways kindly offered me (after heated negotiations) a full credit for future travel – with the caveat that I use it before Dec 09 - or lose it! I selected the Fort Worth Marathon for three reasons:
1) the race was in early Nov when the weather is normally nice in TX
2) the course was mainly on bike trails along the Trinity River and flat
3) my brother lives about 10 miles from the start/finish of the race. I could stay with him and he volunteered to be my temporary Sports Manager so my only expense for the race was the entry fee!
Thus I left Sarasota early on Fri so I could have some ‘Q’ time with my brother Doug and his wife Darlene. Race registration was only a few miles from his house so we picked up the race packet on the way home from the airport so I didn’t have to worry about anything until ‘M’ day on Sun.

The race started and finished at LaGrave Field – a sports stadium near downtown Fort Worth. There were 4 race events and the marathon started first at 7:30 am. I lined up with about 200 runners. The weather was pleasant as expected but a wee bit warmer than forecast with a temp of 58F. Fortunately the skies were cloudy and stayed overcast through the entire race so the temps never rose above the mid 60s! The course was a 13-mile out -and -back loop that left the stadium and dumped on to a series of paved and dirt bike trails along the Trinity River.

I had researched the race results from last year to learn that the winning time in my AG was 3:54. I decided before the race that I had three goals:
1) to finish under 4 hours. Since I had been able to complete two weeks of speed workouts since my last race I was confident that I could beat 4 hrs.
2) to run the first 20 miles as a time trial i.e. run those 20 miles as fast as I could remembering that I would still have to struggle through the final 10K.
3) to win my AG! I figured if I accomplished 1) & 2) then 3) should follow?

I started fairly fast and dropped in behind a small group of runners that included a lovely young lass (half my age or less?) with a firm bod and cute butt. Heh – what better view and motivation can one have for 26 miles? But alas – when she dragged me through 3 miles in 24:43 I had to accept the cold,hard truth. There was no way in Hell I could follow that cute butt at that pace (8:15/mile) for 26 miles! So reluctantly I had to let that cute YOUNG butt leave my sorry OLD ass behind in the dust! (That would never have happened in the good old days!) I slowed my pace and settled into a smooth/comfortable 8:45min/mile pace by the time I passed mile 5 in 42:58. I had run many sections of the trail/course on previous visits to my brothers’ so the course felt familiar which helps. There was only one hill on the course – around 7 and 18 miles. After climbing the hill I passed mile 10 in 1:25:42 and reached the turn-around at the Half in 1:53:17. Oh-oh – a wee bit too fast and I considered slowing the pace but I had noted an old fart on the return leg and he had about a 3-minute lead on me. I decided that I needed to hold my pace as long as I could and hope that the old fart faded or crashed before I did? I did OK until I climbed the one hill again at 18 miles where my legs started to feel very heavy and tired and I knew trouble was not too far ahead! I passed mile 18 in 2:36:42 but my split had slowed to 9:01! I was determined to achieve goal #2 so I continued to push the pace as hard as I could and reached mile 20 in 2:55:25 – but a split of 9:27! And I was in trouble! My legs were tired and sore! I was forced to start playing mind games.

All runners know what I mean. The final 10K of a marathon is 90% mind games and willpower! At first I tried denial – denial that I was in trouble! I was just a ‘wee bit tired’ and if I slowed down just a wee bit for the next few miles the legs would have a chance to rest and recover and I could hammer the final 5K. Right!!! I plodded/struggled along at a 9:25 pace and passed mile 23 in 3:24:08 and a 9:52 split. At that point I played the anger game – pissed off at myself for being such a wimp! That worked for a few minutes and then I struggled to reach mile 24 in 3:33:37 and there was nothing left in my legs and the game changed to ‘survival’! Now I had to convince myself to keep the old, wasted legs moving – “one step at a time” to the next mile marker. When I passed mile 25 in 3:43:44 and a split of 10:06 – my worst split of the race - I had had enough of the whining and feeling sorry for myself. Maddog screamed at me “any old fool can hurt for one measly mile”! He was right! I sucked it up – ignored the pain and screams from my legs – and pushed as hard as I could for the final mile to cross the finish line in 3:55:22!

The screams stopped as soon as I crossed the finish line – but not the pain! My legs immediately tightened and were very sore - I can’t remember how long it has been since my legs were that stiff and sore at a finish line? We stayed around long enough to confirm my finish time and place (while watching the medical staff try to revive a man who suffered a heart attack after finishing the 20-mile run - sadly he died on the way to the hospital). The ‘unofficial’ time posted was 3:54:06. That did not match my watch time and I later confirmed my ‘official’ time was 3:55:22 and 1st place in my AG. The old fart who beat me by 5 minutes was a youngster (only 60 years old!).

I was very satisfied with both my time and performance. I had accomplished all three goals and it had been a very good/valuable training run. I ran a fast/successful 20-mile time trial and then (re)taught the old bod how to cope with pain and exhaustion through the final 10K – both necessary ingredients for that fast and complete race that lies ahead in my future. Once again no body parts fell off or hurt (injury-wise) during the race. And I got a good reading of the gauge or level of my marathon fitness – OK – but not great – and certainly not competitive with the top runners in my AG! Any improvements in time from this point on will come in small amounts with large amounts of pain! But I am willing to expend the effort and hard work and accept the pain to get to the next level. My biggest concern is that I now have to be cautious and manage a very fine line between speed and injury to get my finish time below 3:45. After that I will re-evaluate my goals!

I have already decided the race strategy for my next marathon. It will be a long, SLOW training run because the weather will be brutally hot and humid in S. Asia in Dec!

Stay tuned!

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