Monday, December 21, 2009

RR Jacksonville

Race Report
Sun, Dec 20/09
Jacksonville Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
Marathon #322
3:43:32 – 2AG

Oh – what a difference two weeks and forty degrees in temperature can make – exactly One Hour!

I had added this race to my calendar as a ‘required’ fast training run because I figured Singapore would be a long, slow run. However when Singapore turned out to be such a disaster it really shook my confidence. I wondered/worried if Singapore was just an exceptionally bad day or was my training program and conditioning also bad? Thus I was lacking a lot of confidence and motivation as I made the 5-hr drive up to Jacksonville on Sat.

I picked up my race packet and as I was checking into the host hotel I met a group of runners whom I knew from the Bradenton Running Club (neighboring city to Sarasota). They invited me to join them for pasta dinner which turned out to be a blessing since it was an enjoyable meal with great company and provided a distraction from my concerns.

Sun was M- day! The weather forecast called for COLD temps and high winds. It was fairly accurate. The skies were cloudy with a temp of 40 F and gusty winds at the 7 am start. It was very chilly with the wind so I wore a throw-away shirt and garbage bag over my race T-shirt and shorts to stay warm at the start of the race. It never warmed above 50 F during the race. On the bus ride over to the Bolles School where the race started I kept thinking “What am I doing here – I don’t feel like running a marathon”? I had little confidence and no motivation! But then I reminded myself that I had faced similar situations and feelings many times before and in most cases ended up running great races.

I decided to stick to my original plan/strategy to run a fast training run. I would go out at an 8:30 pace and hold it as long as possible. If I crashed – I crashed – but at least I would have an answer to my concerns/questions! I lined up at the start line with 2500 other runners (1000 in the Full and 1500 in the Half). As I lined up a few rows from the start line I found myself (coincidentally) lined up with the 3:45 pace group. I asked myself “Why don’t I just stay with that pace group”? They would prevent me from going out too fast and were running the pace I wanted. I don’t normally like to run with a pace group because my old bod experiences several ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ in energy during a race and typically I like to let my body go with the flow and my pace may vary by 10 to 15 secs/mile as my body goes through these cycles whereas a pace group will run a consistent split/pace.

The pace group pulled me through Mile 3 in 25:21 and a split of 8:21 and I removed my garbage bag. When we passed Mile 5 in 42:13 and a split of 8:21 I removed the throw-away shirt since I had finally warmed up. There were a few times when I experienced ‘highs’ and wanted to surge ahead and a few times when I experienced ‘lows’ and struggled to stay with the pace group. But I forced myself to be patient and stay with the group. Another benefit was that I was able to tuck in and draft behind the group when the winds got nasty! I followed the pace group through the Half in 1:51:30 – slightly ahead of pace! The good news was that I felt good and found the pace very comfortable so I decided to stay with the pace group till at least 20 miles and then re-evaluate!

When we passed Mile 16 in 2:16:01 and a split of 8:27 I was concerned that over the next four miles I would face some difficulty with a severe ‘low’ that I usually experience during that section of every marathon? Sure enough, when we reached Mile 18 in 2:32:51 the group had lowered the pace to 8:20s and I started to suffer a ‘low’. I started to fall back but then resolved that I would stay with the group till 20 miles and I forced the old bod to catch up! We passed Mile 20 in 2:49:46 and the pace group started to slow down and break up. As most marathoners know/understand it was crunch time and the race was just starting! And luckily the old bod gave me a shot of adrenaline and a burst of energy and another ‘high’. Maddog wanted to surge ahead but I wisely told him to be patient and stay with the group. When we reached Mile 22 in 3:07:09 the split had slowed to 8:42 and the pace group (including the pacer) started to slow down and fall apart? At that point three of us surged ahead together and fed off each other until we reached Mile 24 in 3:24:29. I knew right then that a sub-3:45 was in the bag and that gave me a boost of confidence and energy and I finally let Maddog surge ahead and left the other two members of the group to cross the finish line on the school track in 3:43:32!

Needless to say I was very happy with both my time and performance. I had run consistently even splits throughout the entire race and other than a few normal ‘lows’ never experienced any serious problems/troubles! I had exceeded my expectations and regained confidence in my training program and conditioning! I stuck around the finish area long enough for a finish line photo and to check the preliminary results. The initial results only showed finish times to 3:35. I naively figured that the best anyone in my AG could finish would be just under 3:30 so I checked the results down to 3:25. Nada? Maybe I did win my AG?

Since I was in a hurry to get back home to attend a Christmas party with our running friends I rushed back to the hotel for a quick shower and then made the trip home in 4 hrs. When I arrived home I quickly searched the race website to see if results had been posted? I was surprised to discover that my time was only good enough for 2nd place in my AG. I was shocked to learn that the winner finished in 3:16! Damn - I could never catch that guy. No matter how much I trained there ain’t no 3:16 left in this old bod! I didn’t recognize the name but I tip my hat off to him because he is a World-class runner – definitely way out of my league!

Although disappointed in a 2nd place finish I am still happy with my time and performance. I will continue my training program with confidence and motivation and lower my target to sub 3:40 for my next race in three weeks.

Stay tuned!

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