Let me first start by saying I was on the fence about signing up for a spring marathon this year. Mainly because I had a lot of things going on and it might be difficult to find one reasonably close.
Well, I found the Flying Pig in Ohio. It’s about a 6.5 hour drive from Winston Salem, NC and a fairly large marathon. Win Win right? Everything was looking good for the marathon, my times were faster, my half was a bit slow, which I attributed to the hotter than normal weather, but all other race predictors indicated I’d have a great run.
Leading up to race week I am looking at the forecast and seeing the temperatures taking a drastic increase on race weekend, literally a 20 degree increase. Not good. As I drive into Ohio, the race start temperature is predicated to be in the low 50s and 2 hour later, close to 65. This is making me freak out.
We get into town later than we want, but my parents who drove from Chicago to see me, were nice enough to pick up my packet for me. I was also fortunate to have my beautiful fiance with me during the drive. Usual pasta dinner and a short walk back to the hotel for an un-restful night’s sleep. I review my splits in the morning, get ready to go and walk out the door to walk to the start line with my parents.
They wanted to see the start this year, and I don’t blame them, it’s a very cool thing to watch. Speaking of cool, I invested in a cooling vest (40 bucks online) and wore it as long as I can before the start and handed it off to my parents. I also took a colder shower than normal in the morning but… I wasn’t cold at all, NOT good. I keep telling myself, it’s still a lower temperature outside, you will be fine. I line up behind the 3:15 pace group, telling myself to let them go off at the start and gradually catch them as the race progresses.
BOOM, fireworks and pyrotechnics start the race and we are off!
Mile 1: 7:58 – I tell myself to relax in and go easy, just like Richmond, no rush here. I check my pace a few times to make sure I keep it under 8.
Mile 2: 7:15 – Alright, I am over the first bridge and heading down, the pace goes up for a brief downhill and we are in Kentucky, one of the only races I know that travels through 2 states for the marathon.
Mile 3: 7:25 – I remember noticing the 3:20 pace group on my heels, which a bit concerning considering I could still see the 3:15 pace group. Some good downhill here.
Mile 4: 7:14 – Keeping the pace group in sight, nothing fancy. I almost forgot to take my first blok here, but remembered around a tenth of a mile in. Pretty sure this is where my parents saw me, I intentionally diverge to run towards them to give them high fives, but they both have cameras in their hands so I just smile and run by.
Mile 5: 7:34 – Some steep uphill here, my pace is pretty constant though as I try to quicken my strides.
Mile 6: 7:10 – Relatively flat, I pick up the pace to try and keep ahead of the 1:40 half pace group is riding me. Also took a salt tablet here.
Mile 7: 8:04- The biggest climb of the marathon begins, I take my 2nd blok here, and realize this climb is longer and steeper than the chart shows.
Mile 8: 7:43 – The hill gets to the top, and we get a little break. Damn! There is a drill instructor on the course holding the letter F, saying… get the F up this hill! COME ON! GET UP! Let’s go!
Mile 9: 7:25 – Oh joy, more of a hill to climb. I stay with 1:40 HM pace group
Mile 10: 7:07 – Oh, what’s this? Downhill? Time to make up some of that hill climb. the Half marathons diverge off and my group of 20 people is down to myself. I lose my water bottle and prepare to run.
Mile 11: 7:04 – I meet up with a fellow runner (Erica) and start chatting about what marathons and events we have done.
Mile 12: 7:25 – 3rd blok here, I notice the last 2 miles were pretty fast and try to hit the breaks a bit, but I figure the conversation is keeping me busy.
Mile 13: 7:28 – Downhills mixed with some uphills, we are cruising along, I notice the 3:15 pace group in the distance.
Mile 14: 7:34 – Actually gaining on the 3:15 pace group, I was sort of worried though because I was starting to feel VERY thirsty and the sun was starting to shine brighter.
Mile 15: 7:49 – I tell Erica to go on without me, as she is doing far better than me. No reason for me to hold her back.
Mile 16: 7:49 – She waits up for me after some water stops and we continue to trudge along together. Took a blok around here.
Mile 17: 7:43 – My pace begins to slow and my core temp begins to rise. I realize I won’t be able to hold on and the 3:15 pace group disappears from my sight. So does Erica.
Mile 18: 8:13 – Start to walk through water stops to make sure I get the water I need, and extra to put on my head.
Mile 19: 8:07 – The doubts begin to fill my head and I have no strength left to fight them, especially when I start to get passed by people I passed several miles earlier.
Mile 20: 8:10 – I ran through the wall, but still walked through the water stations… Take another blok here.
Mile 21: 9:13 – Okay, I am really tired of these uphills. Another one forces me to walk after climbing, just sapped every ounce of energy I had. I make sure to grab just water at the station, no gatorade. I think it’s making me more thirsty.
Mile 22: 7:52 – Begin some downhill, and actually feel a bit better. I also get a cold washcloth from one of the aid stations and wrap it around my neck, man does it feel good.
Mile 23: 8:31 – Back to flat land, the 3:25 pace group is gaining on me.
Mile 24: 9:07 – 3:25 pace group passes me, I see a familiar person up ahead limp running. It’s Erica, and she looks to be in worse shape than me. She explains to me that her quad is killing her and walked the last mile.
Mile 25: 9:40 – I tell her, let’s just finish this thing, only 1 more mile anyways.
Mile 26: 8:37 – Here is where I was debating stepping on the gas, but I didn’t have anything to gain by doing that, I wouldn’t PR, I wouldn’t even come close. So instead I remembered an article I read earlier in the week. Race like Meb. In which it highlighted Meb for being an outstanding runner for sticking by his fellow runners. Having paced a half marathon last year, I knew I could get Erica in under her Boston Qualifying time. We pushed the last mile together, every time she would slow I would try and encourage her to turn it on a bit more. And soon enough we saw the finish line.
Last .44 (according to GPS): 3:34 – A little bit more, I told her, finish strong. And we did. She was very thankful at the end, saying she wouldn’t have been able to run that last mile without me.
1:38:50 at the half.
3:29:06 Official time 46/331 in my division… it was a hot day.
Got my medal, stashed some food in my packets and limped off to meet my parents.
So here I am again wondering what went wrong in this marathon. Looking back at my splits, there were only 2-3 miles where I could of gone a bit slower. But overall I ran a solid first half. I think if I were to do the race over again I would line up with the 3:20 pace group, and stick with them until mile 18. Then try and do my own thing from there. Instead I went with the 1:40 HM pace group, always keeping the 3:15s in sight. But honestly, either strategy wouldn’t have changed the fact I do not perform well in heat. I also think I need to be more on it with mixing my drinks up. I should of probably been drinking sports drinks and water the days leading up the marathon, and not just water. Moreover, I think I needed to take the salt tablets at least 2 more times during the race.
The biggest take-away from this race is that I will NOT sign up for a late spring marathon again. Only fall and winter marathons from now on, with smaller races during the hotter months.
Thanks to my parents for making the drive out, thanks for my fiance for coming along and supporting me along the way. And thanks for my training partners and coach Stacie from Fleet Feet. This was a fun cycle, where I did get stronger and faster, hopefully I can prove that in some smaller races this summer.
What’s next? No RTO this year, but I did sign up for the Roselle Run for the Roses. A hometown 5k that starts a block from my parents house. As for marathons…I am looking at Steamtown in Scranton, PA. It’s a net downhill course, and if this race and my past races are any indication, I love downhill. Let’s just hope the weather is a bit cooler…