Sunday, February 26, 2012

RR - Gainesville

Race Report

Sun, Feb 19/12
Five Points of Life Marathon
Gainesville, FL
4:58:51 – 2 AG
Marathon # 354

I need to get this report finished before I leave for my next international race. It has been delayed due to a nasty flu bug I have been fighting for the past week. In hindsight the fact that I was sick for almost one week after the last race has changed my opinion and feelings about the race. I will try to write the race report describing my actual feelings before/during/after the race without the knowledge that I was probably sick and did not know it at the time?

Having finished the Jacksonville marathon the previous week and finally running an entire marathon w/o walking for the first time in over a year I decided to run the Five Points Marathon faster. I ran the inaugural race six years ago so I reviewed my report from that race. Umm! I ran way over my head in spite of it being a tough course with lots of hills and set the course record- 3:29:31 - for my AG (60 to 64) that has yet to be broken! Well, that record was not in jeopardy. I would be happy to finish 1 hr slower?
The weather was forecast to be much warmer than the freezing temps I suffered the week before in Jacksonville. Temps were forecast to be in the low 60s.

I drove up to Gainesville on Sat, checked into a luxurious Super 8 Motel, picked up my race packet and enjoyed an early pasta dinner. The first shock the next morning was the weather. It was a balmy 72 F and windy at the 7am start. Fortunately it stayed overcast so the temps only rose to the high 70s. There were about 400 runners in the marathon and 1,000 in the Half. I remembered the first 6 miles were hilly with 3 BAHs (Bad Ass Hills) so I tried not to go out too fast through those hills and into a brisk head wind. I was pleasantly surprised when I passed Mile 6 in 58:29 and a split of 10:04. The course flattened out and I continued to push the pace to reach Mile 10 in 1:39:47 and a split of 9:42. However I noticed that my legs were starting to tire already and that was not a good sign? At Mile 11 we ran through the UF campus and Gator Stadium. As we approached Mile 13 the Half and Marathon split off and I now only had a few runners in front of me? As I passed the Half in 2:11:41 and a split of 10:31 I realized that I was slowing down and I knew the 2nd Half would be much slower. I hoped to continue to push the pace to at least 20 miles and then worry about walking? However as I was pushing the old bod up a BAH at 15 miles it suddenly became too difficult/impossible to keep the old legs churning and they stopped! I knew right then the race was over for me! I had ‘hit the wall’ – there was nothing left! It was going to be a long, tough slog for the final 11 miles.

I walked/jogged and struggled past 16 miles in 2:46:44 and a split of 12:31. I had hoped that if I walked/jogged a few miles my legs might recover enough to start running again but when I reached Mile 20 in 3:37:11 my split had slowed to 13:30 and I was walking more than jogging! And I felt like SHIT!
I was really discouraged that I had ‘hit the wall’ so early in the race? I didn’t believe I was in that bad of shape but yet I couldn’t seem to recover no matter how much I walked. It was ugly – and it was painful – but I was determined that I would gut it out to the finish line and finish # 354!
When I passed Mile 24 in 4:30:19 and a painfully slow split of 13:52 I knew that I would finish but I wasn’t sure if I could break 5 hrs? I figured I needed to lower my splits to 13:00/mile and allow a few minutes for the final 200 m.

I was running on energy fumes because there was absolutely no energy left in my body. Mile 25 – 4:43:51 and a split of 13:32. Not good enough! I sucked it up – refused to walk and passed Mile 26 in 4:56:27 and a split of 12:35. I held that blazing pace for the final 200 m to cross the finish line in 4:48:51 and salvage some pride for Maddog! I kept telling myself during the final 11 miles that this pain – this agony- this total feeling of fatigue was a great opportunity to teach the old bod how to cope with fatigue and pain! I hope I never have to suffer through another lesson like that for a long, long time!

My late checkout time at the hotel expired while I was crossing the finish line so I had to drag my sorry, tired ass into the car w/o even washing and drive 2 hrs to pick up the Sports Manager at the Tampa Airport. She was returning home from babysitting duties in TX. By the time we arrived home at 4 pm I was feeling so badly that it was all I could do to take a much-needed shower and go to bed w/o any dinner. I suffered all night with a high fever and hot and cold sweats. I thought I was sick because I had pushed the old bod beyond its limits. Only after the sickness and flu-like symptoms continued for another 3 days did I finally realize I didn’t get sick because of the race. I had probably been sick before and during the race but hadn’t realized it? No wonder the old bod gave up at 15 miles.

When I tried to walk on Mon morning my right calf was so stiff and swollen that pain was shooting down the leg into the plantar fascia and I couldn’t put any weight on the right foot? I thought I had a serious injury but I dragged my still-sick ass out of bed on Wed for a 1-hr torture session (massage) with Attila the Hunness and she managed to correct the problem(s). I think I just stressed too many muscles with that dumb effort to finish the race. Had I known I was that sick with the flu I think I would have dropped out and saved myself a lot of pain? But then I couldn’t have counted # 354 and a 2nd AG (there were only 2 runners in my AG).

But that is past history. The leg is feeling OK now. The flu seems be gone? Although I was unable to run/train all week I did manage to run 11 miles on Sun and my energy level seems to be back to normal.

So I am off to Saipan on Mon for my next international marathon. I will definitely run that race much smarter and slower in the tropical heat.

Stay tuned!

Monday, February 13, 2012

RR - Jacksonville

Race Report

Sun, Feb 12/12
26.2 With Donna Marathon
Jacksonville, FL
4:31:16 – 1AG
Marathon # 353

I planned this race as the 2nd of my ‘training’ marathons although I don’t like the drive to Jacksonville and I think the $125 registration fee ($135 with online fee) is ridiculous. However it is all donated to Breast Cancer Research and it is still easier and cheaper than flying to another state to run a race. I ran the inaugural race in 2008 when I was sick and struggled to finish under 4 hrs and 2nd AG. That finish time seems like an impossible dream these days? I was hoping that I could run 20 to 23 miles as part of my training program to get back into race shape.

As race day approached the weather forecast became bleak. A ‘Northerner’ was coming through FL and temps were forecast to drop below freezing with brisk North winds. I drove up to Jacksonville on Sat and arrived in the afternoon to pick up my race packet at the Expo at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in downtown Jacksonville. The weather was sunny and cool.

I stayed at a hotel in Neptune Beach that was a shuttle stop for the race. The race starts and finishes at the Mayo Clinic and since there is not enough parking the race organizes shuttle buses to bus 7000+ runners to the start. Fortunately the hotel agreed to extend a 3 pm late checkout to all runners. When I went for pasta dinner the temps had dropped to the low 50s but with a blustery North wind it felt much colder. It didn’t portend well for a 6:30am start on Sun?

The race starts at different times each year because 3 miles of the course is on Jacksonville Beach and it needs to be low tide to provide room for the runners. I planned to catch the last shuttle bus to minimize the amount of waiting time at the start but somehow ended up on a bus at 5:15 am that arrived at 5:30am. Damn! One hour to wait! The temp was 31F and with a brisk North wind – it was friggin COLD!
There were no tents or buildings to hide in! I had 4 layers of clothes on and I was still freezing! I waited until 10 min before start time to remove my warm up clothes (1 layer) and store them at the gear tent. Unfortunately as I approached the start line they announced that the race start would be delayed 10 minutes because some shuttle buses were late. I later heard from a friend whose shuttle bus arrived 20 minutes after the start of the race and she and others had to start late and try to catch up!

Since there were 7,000 cold runners lined up we huddled together and used each other to stay warm until the race started at 6:40 am. I started the race with 3 layers of clothes and the usual garbage bag to trap the body heat. After climbing a long bridge over the St John’s River (Intercostal Waterway) during the 1st mile I discarded the garbage bag. The bridge was followed by two overpasses over the next 2 miles so when I reached mile 3 in 30:36 I felt toasty and removed a sweatshirt. I hoped I wouldn’t regret throwing that sweatshirt away later. I passed mile 5 in 49:36 and turned on to the beach. With no protection from the brisk North (head) wind it was friggin COLD – I wished I had my sweatshirt back! At mile 8 we left the beach and turned into residential areas that provided some shelter from the wind. I passed mile 10 in downtown Neptune Beach in 1:40:41. I was averaging a 10-min pace even though my legs still felt stiff and tight from the cold. At mile 12 the race turned west and we finally got some relief from the head wind.

I reached the Half in 2:12:25 and I knew right then that the 2nd Half would not be that fast. My legs were already starting to tire! I passed mile 15 in 2:30:53 where the course finally turned South and we would now have a tailwind for the rest of the race. I finally started to warm up with the sun out and the wind at our backs. When I passed mile 18 in 3:01:29 and a split of 10:05 my legs really felt tired and I figured I needed to slow my pace down by 30 to 45 sec/mile if I wanted to make it to Mile 20 or 22 w/o walking. I reached mile 20 in 3:23:08 and a split of 10:35. My legs had recovered some with the slower pace and I figured I could probably make it to mile 22 or 23 before walking? I decided to push on. Each mile was a new record for me for quite some time. When I reached mile 23 in 3:55:31 and a split of 10:58 I was really excited and happy that I had made it that far w/o walking. I became determined to finish the race w/o walking!

Only a few ‘wee’ problems in the way! The last three miles were the same two overpasses and bridge as the 1st three miles and my legs were wasted! Thankfully Maddog showed up – he has been missing for some time and many races! He was determined to finish the race w/o walking so he made me suck it up and gut it out through the final 5K. Mile 25 to the top of the bridge was the toughest mile and longest split of the race – 11:17. But once I crested that bridge I knew I would make it to the finish line w/o walking! That final mile was tough – it was ugly – and it was painful – but I kept the wasted old legs churning and crossed the finish line in 4:31:16! For the 1st time in more than 1 year I had run an entire marathon w/o walking! I was not pleased with my time – I really thought I was ready to break 4:30. And I was very surprised to learn that SLOW time was good enough to win 1st AG?

Once I stopped it suddenly became bitterly COLD again – it was a balmy 41F at the finish! Thus I retrieved my warm up clothes, took a mandatory finish line photo and quickly retreated to a shuttle bus. Only when I got on the warm bus did I realize how COLD I really was. Back at the hotel I filled the tub with scalding water and submerged the old bod for 30 minutes. Only then could I begin to feel parts of my body that seemed to be missing?

I was not looking forward to the long (5-hr) drive home. I was tired and my legs were sore. And I will never drive through Orlando again – I 4 was a parking lot through Orlando! When I arrived home I was so tired that I didn’t even have enough energy to cook dinner or unpack. I went straight to bed and slept 12 hrs.

Now it is time to begin training for the next marathon – next weekend! I am encouraged and ahead of schedule. I didn’t expect to run an entire race until next weekend. Now I can push the pace a little harder and try to lower my finish time?

Stay tuned!