Monday, December 20, 2010

RR - Jacksonville

Race Report
Sun, Dec 19/10
Jacksonville Bank Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
Marathon # 339
3:42:36 – 1 AG

After running a pretty good race the previous week in Cape Coral I had mixed emotions about racing another marathon one week later. I felt that the races were forcing me into better shape but I was not sure how my body and ongoing recovery from UC would react to back-to-back races? I have run the Jacksonville Marathon three times and always enjoy a good time/performance because the course is flat and fast and attracts world-class competition. What I hate about the race is the long/grueling/boring
5-hr drive across FL - especially the 120-mile section on I 4 from Tampa to Daytona Beach. And to make matters worse a storm front moved into FL on Sat morning and I had to drive through rain the entire way! The Sports Manager was smart and declined the trip! However when I arrived in Jacksonville in mid-afternoon it was sunny and warm.

I drove to the race expo to register and pick up a race packet. Because of the uncertainty of my health I no longer pre-register for races because of the risk of cancelling and losing the entry fee – instead I wait and register at the race expo. After checking in at the host hotel I enjoyed a nice pasta dinner and retired early to rest from the long drive.

Sun was ‘M’ day! The course starts and finishes at the Bolles School in South Jacksonville and runs through nice residential neighborhoods along the St Johns River. The roads are narrow, shaded and protected from winds. It was overcast with a temp of 45 F and a light mist as I lined up with 2300 runners (900 in the Marathon and 1400 in the Half) in the dark for a 7 am start. I hate being cold at the start so I wore a long-sleeve throw-away, gloves and a garbage bag over my race clothes of T-shirt and shorts. Based on the results of my past two races where I started out fast for the first 20 miles and tried to hang on for the final 10Km I decided to try a new strategy - to run smarter and start out slower. I would go out at an 8:30 pace and see how long I could hold that pace?

I passed Mile 1 in 8:13 and discarded the garbage bag. When I reached Mile 3 in 25:03 and a split of 8:23 I was overheated! I discarded the throw-away T-shirt. I considered discarding the cotton gloves but decided to keep them for awhile – thankfully a good decision because the temps actually dropped during the race and it was colder at the finish! I passed Mile 5 in 41:46 and a split of 8:18. I slowed the pace 10 secs/mile and passed Mile 10 in 1:23:42 and a split of 8:29. My legs felt really good and I figured I could hold that pace for many more miles? I passed the Half in 1:49:56 and a split of 8:28. That was close to the same time as the previous week except now my legs still felt fresh and good so I continued to hold that pace. There were distance markers and clocks every mile that really help to manage your pace. There were water stations every two miles and lots of support and traffic control along the course. The race is well organized!

I passed Mile 16 in 2:14:23 and a split of 8:24 and reached Mile 20 in 2:48:47 and a split of 8:30. The strategy and slower pace were working – I was 2 minutes ahead of my 20 mile split in the two previous races – and my legs felt amazingly fresh and springy! I considered pushing the pace for the final 10Km? Nah! That would be dumb! I continued to hold an 8:30 pace and passed Mile 23 in 3:06:04 and a split of 8:27. However the legs were no longer feeling amazingly fresh and springy? Now I had to work to hold an 8:30 pace! But I knew right then that a sub-3:45 marathon was in the bag and the excitement of a great finish time provided a final jolt of adrenaline and energy. I tried to lower the hammer and push the pace for the final 5 Km to ‘guarantee’ a sub-3:45 but there wasn’t much ‘push’ left. When I reached Mile 26 in 3:40:50 and a split of 8:36 and entered the track at the Bolles School I could see the finish clock – 3:41 plus change (gun/clock time). I was determined to beat my course PR from last year (3:43:32 and my fastest time in 2009) so I sprinted the final 200 m on the track to cross the finish line in 3:42:55 (gun time)!

As I walked through the finish chute I suddenly felt COLD and began to shiver – the temp was only 44 F! I wrapped myself in a thermal blanket and immediately walked back to the car for my warm-ups and camera. When I returned to the finish area I checked the results and confirmed that my official (chip) finish time was 3:42:36. I was surprised to learn that was good enough to win 1st AG. Typically it takes a sub-3:30 to win my AG in this race but I guess no World Class competitors showed up this year? I didn’t care and gladly accepted the 1st Place award – it is difficult to win one in this race!

Needless to say I was very pleased with both my time and performance. I ran a smart race and was able to hold a smooth and even pace for the entire race w/o any problems. My finish time equated to an average 8:30 pace for the race! (How’s that for setting and accomplishing a target)? I beat my old PR in this race by one minute and ran my fastest time since the Dead Sea Marathon in April 2008! And it is all the more satisfying after a very difficult year of health issues when there were times that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to run or compete again! And note that it was marathon #339 and my 17th and final marathon for 2010!

I would like to run another marathon in a few weeks to see if I can keep improving and lowering my finish times? But alas the Sports Manager and I leave this week for the West Coast to spend the Holidays with our kids and grandkids. It will be difficult to train in the COLD and rainy weather in WA and OR. When we return to FL in early Jan we only have a few days to repack before we leave for a 10-day Caribbean cruise. I do not intend to run during the cruise and expect to gain at least 5 pounds so it will be interesting to see how I do at the Ocala Marathon in late Jan?

Stay tuned!

1 comment:

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