April 14, 2014

Martian Marathon - Go Big or Go Home


I signed up this past December with the intent of focusing on getting back in shape after much of the summer and early fall my running was lacking by using the Martian Marathon. I missed my favorite race, MDI, for out of this world amazing reasons, but I felt like something was missing from my life after all the craziness died down in November.  

After past half marathon performances of 1:19 and 1:18 the past couple of years I know I had more than a 2:52, and many friends said the same. It was a matter of becoming focused on 2:49 and nothing else. Stop thinking about just going after another personal record, and do some real damage. Go big or go home. 

Part of my preparations leading up was for the weather. I overdressed the last 2 weeks to aclimate my body. It sucked on some runs when temps reach into the 40's (That warm considering we've spent 30+ days below zero and countless others below 20) but it paid off when temps reached into the low 50's near the end of the race. 

We arrived at the hotel a bit late, but I still managed to get in a short shakeout on the hotel treadmill. Just enough to feel like a runner. A great dinner was the highlight of the night. When we arrived at the hotel a fraternity reunion was taking place. Hundreds of guests there for the festivities. Sleep and me just weren't meant to meet that night. Music thumping, phone calls, friendly and not so friendly requests to keep it down kept me wide awake through much of the night. I think it holds true that the night before a race doesn't really matter, within reason.  

The race had a very early start time of 7:15. The coffee shop in the hotel didn't open till 6am. I was concerned, but we bugged the lady and she was nice enough to get us in and out in a couple of minutes before 6. Being a small-ish race with staggered starts for all 4 distances, (26.2, 13.1, 10k, 5k) we  got preferred parking, steps away from the start line, and most importantly no porta potty lines!
The Start. Picture Courtesy of RunMichigan.com

The Race

In all honesty it was hard to gauge what the depth of the field would be like. I toed to the line at 7:10, temps in the mid 40's light wind. In my mind perfect. I knew it was going to warm up so I chose not to wear anything like gloves, or arm warmers cause they would just be a hindrance after the half. That's a major regret as my hands didn't work very well at some points.

National Anthem. On your mark. Boom! We were off, a slight uphill start for the first 200m, with a quick right turn immediately into neighborhoods. 6:22, 6:22. Perfect I thought to myself, felt very in control. Running with two other guys, one wanted a sub 3 and the other probably 2:4x.

I didn't pay much attention to splits during the first couple of miles, but by 5 miles in when glancing down I noticed that we (still with those 2 other guys) were clicking off some effortless miles. The course ran through neighborhoods at this point, all was quiet except for the pitter patter of our shoes and some light conversation here and there. A couple of guys by mile 7 had dropped back or out for good. That put us in top 5 (as a group). 6:15, 6:20, 6:14, 6:15, 6:18.

Feeling pretty good at mile 8 I told the guys that I was going to back off a little. I didn't want to dig myself into a hole that I couldn't climb out of. They nodded, one dropped off and the other guy picked it up and by the next mile had about 30-50 yards on me. I was by myself now. 6:12, 6:08, 6:07

So pace wise things didn't slow down much, effort wise it felt easy with so so labored breathing. Around 9.5 we turned onto the out and back portion. The road, closed to traffic, was wide with slight up and downs with many flats. Earlier the two guys I was with talked about this hill at around 12 or so miles. I don't recall anything but a slight change in grade for maybe a quarter mile or so, nothing serious. A clock displayed the half time,1:21:50 it read as i cross the timing mat. I tired not to panic. "Stay relaxed, just stay with that guy in front of me. Don't you dare decide to back off now." 6:08, 6:07, 6:12 (1:21:50 half) 6:05

Still only 40 yards or so in front of me at mile 14, I was slowly able to reel in the guy ahead of me. The turnaround soon after 15 put me within 10 seconds or so of him. He may have backed off, or I caught him, but by 16 we were running together. This was what i need to continue to run well, someone to keep my mind off the creeping pain in my calves. We chatted, but mostly remained focused on the task at hand. 6:03, 5:59, 6:08, 6:12

All this time my hands were frozen, temperatures were slowly rising but my hands had really not improved much. At each water station it took a little bit more effort to grab the cup of water and cup of Gatorade. At mile 19 I took my last Gu (previously had taken 1 @6 and @9 ), before the water station. Serving marathoners coming in the opposite direction, no one on our side, no big deal. I was able to grab hold of a cup, but it didn't stay in my hands for long. I burst at that point. Turned around and ran back the 30 yards to grab another knowing I need a little water to make sure the GU was absorbed. Gathering myself and just relaxed again into the pace. By mile 20 I was able to catch up to the guy I was running with. 6:14, 6:10.

10k to go. "Only 40 minutes, we've done this in training. I feel pretty good. Good luck dude (fist bump)." Masses of half marathoners were running on the opposite side of the road. At 23, the lead half runners passed me (they ended up running Olympic qualifying times 1:11 or something). They looked smooth. I felt like a Rhinoceros trotting down the road.  6:12, 6:14, 6:19

5k to go. "It's a freaking 5k, holy hell get moving. Come on legs." Now truly  by myself after dropping the guy I was running with, I was alone on a bike path, peaceful, but hell it was hard. My calves were getting tighter, and I'm sure at this point I wasn't relaxed. I refused to look down at my watch, I didn't want to know how close or far I was from breaking 2:48. Would I be able to get under? Miles 24 and 25, 6:31, 6:39.

*Side note: I really was thinking about only breaking 2:50, I apparently can't do math after 20 miles or so, or my brain just chose to ignore how fast we were going.I knew where I was at halfway, well below 2:50, but I really thought I may have really fallen off pace during the last 5k....

Just before the final turn. Picture courtesy of RunMichigan.com
I nearly broke down and walked as the bike path ended but I started to recognize how close I was. A small (felt like 100 feet of climbing) climb, much like coming through the tunnel onto the incline before Hereford Street on The Boston Marathon Route met me right before 26. It was miserable.  6:47
Photo courtesy of Brittany. 

The final turn, 300m to go! Legs had nothing, felt like I was barely moving. Tunnel vision.

150m. The clock read 2:44:3x.


Sub 2:45, overwhelmed I just kept walking back and forth, ready to keel over; I didn't have much to say, just relishing the moment. In total awe.....

Marathon # 8
4th Overall, 2nd AG

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