Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Egg Short of a Carton: My Columbus Marathon Race Report

Sunday was my eleventh marathon.  I was trying to think of something relevant to say about the number eleven which is two donuts short of a "baker's dozen" or one egg short of a carton.  Ten is perfect, seven is a lucky number unless it's the "come out roll" in Vegas, one is special as you'll always remember your first, and twelve is a nice round number.  My tenth marathon this last April was more like a "ten" in that I turned in my most complete marathon in Boston.  I had energy at mile 20 and ran fast the last three miles.  I was hoping for a repeat of ten at eleven.

Going into the Columbus Marathon this last weekend, I had visions of breaking my elusive marathon PR set back in 2009 in Sacramento.  Unlike the week leading up to Boston, I felt rested and was not suffering from a funky bug that had sapped my energy like it did in Boston.  My marathon race week went perfect and walking the expo the day before the marathon I even picked up a 3:20 pace bracelet.  Moments later, I got my "race plan" from my coach Benita.
Optimistic at the Expo

Benita knows best and knew that I had a lot "thrown at me" over my training for Columbus.  Not making excuses, but the facts were that travel combined with nearly six weeks of being sick threw a wrench in the toughest part of my training schedule.  I had also spent the last six weeks in denial about some lower left leg pain that hampered many of my training runs.  Over the phone, Benita told me that this was not likely a PR day based on the training challenges I'd overcome.  Go out at a 7:30 to 7:40 pace (closer to 7:40) the first twenty miles.  After that, run with your heart and pick off runners ahead to pass.

As far as pre-race logistics, we'd mapped this one out perfectly staying at a Marriott Courtyard in downtown Columbus.  Very cool as far as Courtyards go in that this one used to be a bank. (Insert "take it to the bank" pun here.)  Having a kajillion overnight stays with Marriott also paid off as they upgraded us to a suite with two bedrooms.  I did not score points with my wife as I lusted after the king bed I'd have to myself without potential snoring interfering with a perfect night's sleep.  Bonus number three was that the hotel was literally a half block away from my corral entrance and actually closer than the bag check.  This also provided the luxury of a heated bathroom at my hotel vs. having to deal with waiting in a porto-potty line.
Corral Area

Wanting to minimize the "time on my feet" the day before, I spent very little time at the expo.  I'd rank this expo rather high as they had a ton of vendors, speakers, and energy to draw from the day before a big race.  I was able to meet up with the other Columbus Marathon Instagram Ambassadors along with the social media rep for the race, Megumi.  This was a lot of fun as Megumi gave us all a theme each week to post on our Instagram accounts as we prepared for Columbus.  Only regret of the expo is they had some really cool retro t-shirts that were sold out by the time I got to buying any swag. #doh

The evening prior to my race went quite smooth as we dined at Due Amici right across the street.  As I normally do, I opted for the salmon which was excellent.  Despite craving the bread, I resisted the temptation to avoid the gut gluten issues I've had in the past.  This would pay off on race day as my stomach was just fine.  I indulged in one glass of wine to relax before heading back to the hotel for final preparations.  With a room to myself, I slept probably better than I had for any other race so everything was lining up for a great race.

Race morning was somewhat uneventful, as I got dressed and went through my pre-race routine.  With slightly cool temps and lots of leg issues, I opted to race in my Skins compression tights which was only the second time I've done this in a full marathon.  I also provided some additional support for my lower left leg with some KT Tape.  Everything else went according to plan with a bit of a warm-up run and some strides and my last bathroom break.  As I normally do, I "downed" my Generation UCAN 30 minutes prior to the race.  Only issue I had to deal with was showing up fairly late for corral A which was completely packed.
"Take it to the Bank" Hotel

Once the race started, I found the course to be fairly flat and fast as advertised.  For a good portion of the first half of the race, I stayed within proximity of the 1:40 half marathon pace group.  My coach wanted me to race between 7:30 and 7:40 and closer to 7:40 up until mile 18-20.  I tried to hold to that, but roughly 4.5 miles were dipping below a 7:30 pace.  I felt good, but when my Garmin reported my pace every half mile, I would consciously try and slow it back down to the plan.  Later, I'd find that perhaps this would cost me.

Fan support was fantastic throughout the course including Children's Hospital "Miracle Mile" patients at each mile of the race.  It was difficult not to draw energy from many of these patients who were dealing (in some cases) with life-threatening illnesses.  I had studied the map somewhat and knew that around mile 17 I would get to run through Ohio State's stadium.  I also knew this was around the time that I would start running by heart vs. Garmin and the course would start to head back south towards downtown and the finish.  The stadium was impressive, but the crowd around that area was not.  I suppose I have been spoiled by the fanatic support of Wellesley and Boston College students that go absolutely crazy over the Boston Marathon runners.

Everything had gone according to plan all week, but the boost (or kick) I was looking for at mile 18-20 was simply not there.  I tried to avoid checking the Garmin, but caught occasional glances that showed I had in fact slowed down.  I didn't hit the wall in the sense that the wheels had completely come off, but my energy level was not there.  The pain in my lower left leg that had dissipated in the days leading up to the race had returned.  My hips hurt.  My thighs started to sense, this was not a triathlon, a 5K, or even a half marathon, I was running 26.2 miles.
Celebrating #11

Looking at my splits after getting back home, I had indeed slowed down at mile 17.5.  While I tried to hold under eight minutes, at least 4.5 miles were over the eight minute per mile mark.  Math is impossible somewhere after mile 18-20 in a race anyway, but self-doubt also started to enter in.  While I may have "banked" some time in the first half to 18 mile mark, that bank was being drained with these slower miles near the end.  At some point I knew that a PR was not happened.  I didn't get my finish kick until the last half mile getting back down to a 7:30 range.

As I crossed the finish line, I finally stopped.  There were no walk breaks at any point and I finished in 3:23:58.  Thank God for those two seconds because 3:23 sounds a heckuva lot better than 3:24.  I saw my wife just outside the fence as I'd seen her a few times along the course.  My walk was hobbled as I moved over to the fence.  Just as I did when I ran my first marathon and when I finally got my first BQ, I wept.  I can't explain why other than I knew I had put everything I could into the training and in the race that day.  I felt disappointed and sore.

As I often do, I was fairly critical of my race.  Did I go out too fast?  Did I not train hard enough?  As more rational thought eventually came to me over the few hours and days after the race, I realized I had one of my tougher training periods overcoming a lot of adversity.  Unfortunately, even my last long run in London was not easy as I'd tried to overcome being sick, but not getting in the quality training runs I had with my Boston race in April.  What I did realize is that this was another Boston qualifier--my fifth.  Considering the "miracle mile" patients whom many could not even run a mile, I consider myself fortunate to be able to compete in this humbling sport.  I know I have a 3:20 or better, but that will have to wait for now.  One egg short.

Footnote:  If you ran Columbus, what did your Garmin register on mileage?  I know it never exactly matches, but mine came in at 26.42.  #hmm #didIrunSerpentine?

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine