It has taken me a long time to get around to writing a race report for Columbus. Since my last report, I ran the Richmond marathon last fall and Boston again this spring. Neither race really came together. For Richmond, my training was all over the place, and I had a plan for Boston that switched things up by running lower mileage and lots of workouts. Though I felt fast in the spring, I didn’t feel strong.
Since I started running marathons regularly, I always have a good gauge of where I am at fitness-wise. A combination of training paces, heart rates, and race times usually gives me a pretty good idea. My best marathons of all time include my first BQ in Columbus, my first sub 3 in Boston, and now this race. In all of these cases, I had a pretty good idea of what I was capable of and felt strong going into the race.
I decided to run Columbus again for a few reasons. This race never lets me down. I ran my first half marathon and my first marathon that I raced for time (second marathon, first BQ). The weather is always perfect, I have a lot of friends and old running pals I wanted to see, and I know the race route like the back of my hand.
Training went really well. I decided to do something different and although I already run pretty high mileage, I wanted to see how far I could push it. I decided to follow the Pfitz 12/85+ plan which goes to 105 miles per week. I had run an average of 70 miles per week since Boston, so I had a great training base.
Initially, I was handling the mileage well, but running workouts was difficult. It was a hot summer in Virginia as usual, and the humidity made it difficult to run sustained paces. I bailed on a good portion of my long runs, especially the marathon paced long runs. I only ran two 20+ runs during the plan, and most of the other weeks were 15-18. Even so, I ran four weeks of 100+ miles with a max of 107. I spent a lot of time travelling for work, but was still able to keep up the mileage. I was running doubles most days. I had a hip/glute issue that popped in and out. It wasn’t preventing me from running and would typically go away after I warmed up. It went away for a couple of weeks before the race but popped back up during race week. Taper induced I assume. All the mileage also kept my weight in check. When I ran Boston in the spring, I was at 165lbs. Over the course of the three months of training, my weight dropped to under 155lbs.
Heart rate was my best indication of where my fitness was. My resting heart rate is in the low 40s and my max is 202. Based on heart rate reserve, my heart rate for recovery runs should be around 145. Before I ran the sub 3 in Boston, my pace for that heart rate was usually around 8:15. This cycle, I was hitting paces near 7:40.
I only ran two races during the build up. One race was the Leesburg 20k which I had run two times previously. The race is extremely hilly and usually humid. This race was at the very beginning of the training plan, at the end of a 94 mile week. I ran the race about a minute faster than the last time I had ran it. This was a good sign.
I typically run a half marathon 4 weeks out from the marathon, and this typically determines what pace I will go after. I ended up having to travel for work which conflicted with the half marathon I had signed up for. At the last minute, I found a 10k two weeks out from the marathon that I signed up for. I figured this would give me a good gauge of where I was, and I would immediately start tapering afterwards. In previous cycles, I would run the half and training would fizzle out by the marathon.
The 10k was good weather and a flat course. I was at the end of the first taper week of 80 miles, and ran a 16 miler the day before. Even so, I ran my fastest race ever. Before this race, I had never broken 6:00/mi for the entire race, not even in a 5k. I ran the 10k in 36:51, which was a significant 10k PR, and a pace of 5:56/mi. Both halves of the race were around 18:25, which is a 5k PR by 15 seconds. Plugging this into calculators gives an equivalent marathon time of around 2:53. I typically cannot run equivalent marathon times, so I figured I would shoot for 2:53 and be happy if I can come in under 2:55.
Stevi and I came into Columbus a few days early and stayed downtown. I bought tickets for a Fleetwood Mac concert for after the marathon and we made a little mini-vacation out of it. I stuck to my typical routine and eating habits. I ran a couple of shakeout runs, and had just gotten back my refurbished Garmin which gave me all sorts of problems. The first day we got there, I stood outside for 20 minutes waiting for a signal and it never got one. I went to run on the treadmill instead, and all of them were wobbly to the point that I was losing my balance. I spent a lot of time outside trying to get the Garmin to sync with satellites, which eventually after three attempts it did.
The day before the race, I had a huge pancake lunch (stack of four pumpkin pancakes) and a small dinner of a sandwich and fries. I also had picked up a box of Boo-Berry cereal which I munched on throughout the day and copious amounts of Gatorade. I mixed up two 32 ounce bottles of Ultra fuel to drink for breakfast. This adds up to about 800 calories and 200g of carbs.
Race morning I piled on the clothes (38 degrees at the start) and walked to the start. The start this year was in a different location, so figuring out where to go took a little time. I got there pretty early so I found a place to sit and chill. I had a bottle of water with me to sip on and five gels for the race. I took a few different flavors since sometimes the thought of one flavor makes me sick but a different one might be ok. The time came around for the race start and I stripped down to a singlet, shorts, and a hat. I took a gel, Thunderstruck starts playing over the speakers (lots of people around covering their ears), laser show is going on, and fireworks start. Time to go!
My plan for the race was to keep the first half pace between 6:35 and 6:45, and pick it up the second half. I was pretty far up in the pack, so it was really easy to get room. I decided to wear my headphones, which I always have mixed feelings about, but I keep them low. The last half of the race is lonely and I could use the distraction. We pass the first mile marker
Mile 1 – 6:19
Oops. That was not part of the plan at all. I relaxed a bit and pulled up the pace.
Mile 2 – 6:32
Mile 3 – 6:24
Mile 4 – 6:24
Ok, plan is out the window. I am forcing myself to pull up and still running under 6:30. F*ck it. This is where I am going to be today. Go big or go home.
Mile 5 – 6:23
Coming up the CRC stop. I always get a boost running through here because I know quite a few people. I see Eric, one of the owners of Columbus Running Company and clapped and pointed to him. “There you go Honaker!”
Mile 6 – 6:16
10k split – 40:30
Here we start heading back into downtown and you are running on the other side of the road from the mid pack runners. A few people shouted good work over to me. I always tend to slow down here because it is a bit uphill. I took a gel and choked on it a bit.
Mile 7 – 6:46
Mile 8 – 6:42
Mile 9 – 6:19
Mile 10 – 6:34
The next few miles are coming up on the half marathon / marathon split. The finish isn’t in the same place as it used to be, so I wasn’t sure where the split was. I am already running mostly by myself and I knew when the split occurred, I was going to be alone.
Mile 11 – 6:26
Mile 12 – 6:24
Split happens, and I am close to where Stevi was going to be around the halfway point.
Mile 13 – 6:25
I see the timing mat for the 13.1 mark and look at the clock.
13.1 split – 1:25:14
Now I am a bit worried. This is only two minutes off my half PR and much faster than I should be. I am still feeling good, but I know that 16 – 20 is where I usually hit a rough patch. I see Stevi and Jessica, who’s husband is also running the race and yell over “This is hard!”. Well, it wasn’t yet. But it is going to be. I took another gel.
Mile 14 – 6:23
Mile 15 – 6:22
Mile 16 – 6:23
We are coming up on the OSU campus. I’m not feeling bad, but I am starting to get tired. They have a stretch where you run through Ohio stadium with spectators and the band, but it has a lot of turns and ups and downs. I see someone walking.
Mile 17 – 6:18
After this it is a long uphill until around mile 20. I feel like my feet are dragging and I am still alone except for the stray runners that I pass. My stomach isn’t feeling so hot. I decided to skip the gels and move to Gatorade.
Mile 18 – 6:45
Mile 19 – 6:40
Coming up on mile 20 which starts to move back downhill and towards downtown again. I am still feeling ok. The rough patches have been minimal. Once you hit 20, you never know what is going to happen in the last six miles. I’ve thrown in the towel between 20 and 24 before. If I can make it to 22 without slowing down, I know I can hammer out the rest of the race. I looking for the next runner to pick off. Spectators are few and far between. I passed the 8th place woman.
Mile 20 – 6:14
20M split – 2:10:24
Mile 21 – 6:23
Once I hit 22, I knew I had it. Nothing left to do but hold the pace. I didn’t use any more gels and just used water for the rest of the race.
Mile 22 – 6:10
Mile 23 – 6:23
We are much closer to downtown now, and the spectators are picking back up. We had our names on our bibs so people were shouting my name. I picked off a few more runners and was passed by one for the first time since the half marathon split.
Mile 24 – 6:25
I am now trying to do the calculations of where I am and what time I should come in at. I think I am under 2:53 but I can’t be sure. I know I can hold this pace for the rest of the race, but I can’t figure out where that puts me. Math is hard while running.
Mile 25 – 6:24
I could really use the finish line right now. We passed the point where the old finish used to be.
Mile 26 – 6:27
I am coming up on the guys I have been chasing for the past mile. I don’t think I can catch them, but reeling them in is helping me pick up the pace. My total distance by my Garmin was 26.59 miles. I picked up the last .59 miles at 6:17 pace. The half marathoners and marathoners finish in the same place on different sides of the road. This means I was in a swarm of 3 hour half marathoners. I can see the clock ahead of me. What does it say? 2:53? No, wait…2:50! I can see the clock tick by 2:50:57, 2:50:58. Can I get there in under 2:51? I tried to pick it up but my legs aren’t responding. I remember a quote I had heard before that said “No matter how tired you are, you can always sprint the last 200m”. Yeah right.
Finish – 2:51:03 – 6:32/mi. 70th overall, 21st in age group. Over 7 minute PR.
After I hit the finish line I could still walk. In every marathon I have ever run when I cross the finish my legs don’t really function anymore. I am fine. I am trucking through the finish chute, without even a limp. I get to the end of the chute to the finish party and it is a sea of people. Stevi and I were going to try to meet up, but she didn’t want me to wait too long for her since I didn’t leave a drop bag and the hotel was about a mile away. I had a tough time getting through since there were so many half marathon finishers already and all of their families. I decided to skip trying to meet up and just go back to the hotel. Again, legs are fine. I certainly don’t look like I just ran a marathon. Guess I should have run faster.
This was the best marathon I have run so far. Even though I went out at what I thought was a suicide pace, I was able to hold it for the whole race. I waited for a fade that never came. I have never had a marathon that came in above my expectations. For the first time, I ran a marathon above where I thought my fitness level was, and now the marathon is my best race equivalent.
Now I feel like the sky is the limit. Let’s just see how fast I can get.