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Columbus Marathon 2014

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.

marathon

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.

2013 Boston Marathon

I wasn’t sure if I should write a race report for the 2013 Boston Marathon. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed as a compassionate human being. My friend Tony said to me at the finish line that no one can take this race away from me. He didn’t know at the time that someone would try. The truth is that this was the best marathon I had ever run. I had finally completed a goal that I started attempting exactly three years earlier at the 2010 Boston Marathon. I had run a personal best by over three minutes. I had broken 3 hours for the first time. And now, it all seems trivial and selfish. Without digressing too much, I realized that this is what the individual that perpetrated the tragedy that took place at the finish would have wanted. That is what terrorism represents. Fear. Confusion. Doubt. I refuse to let the Boston Marathon be mired in such negativity. Luckily, I was not at the finish when the events took place, and Stevi was attending a funeral in Ohio and not in harm’s way. Although my hotel was situated next to the hospital and I could see the chaos from my window, this all seemed like it was happening in another country and not both outside my door and a few blocks away. In order for me to write this report, I need to separate the two events. I will say, however, that my heart goes out to the athletes, their families, and anyone else who was affected in some way by the senseless acts.

Stevi’s grandmother had passed the Thursday before Boston, and we contemplated about what we were going to do. Our travel bookings were mostly non-refundable, and I had dragged myself through training for the past 12 weeks. She decided that she would go to the funeral by herself and that I should go to Boston without her. I felt largely guilty for this, but decided that if I was going to go, I was going to do everything I could to make it worth it.

This had been the oddest training cycle I had ever had. I was worn out before it had even started. I ran a personal best in Philly in November, then ran the Goofy Challenge (half marathon and marathon on consecutive days) in January, and then immediately jumped into Boston training the following week. In the fall, I had run my best cycle ever. I made my own training plan, I was nailing some of the most difficult workouts I had ever run, I was putting in high mileage, and I was recovering quickly. This cycle, however, I was just going through the motions. I didn’t want to think about it. I chose the Pfitzinger 12/85 plan and was just going to run whatever the book said. My first MP workout was on snow/ice and I had to cut it short. Shorter intervals were cut short because of poor food choices the night before. Some (most) mornings, I didn’t even want to run. I found myself running my easy runs too fast because I just wanted to get them over with. I had only run a single race, the Reston 10 miler. I had run this course twice before last year, both times before major PRs in the 10 mile and half marathon distance. The course is difficult and hilly, and both times I had run last year I had run exactly the same splits. This year, I had run the course a minute faster than the previous attempts. Although I could not use the time as an exact gauge of fitness because of the difficulty, I knew I had made some fitness improvements. During the taper I never felt the jumping out of my skin feeling I usually get. I never felt rested. The only good indication I had were a few heart rate runs that had me running from 8:10/mi – 8:03/mi at my recovery heart rate. This was another good indication of improved fitness.

I flew into Boston on Sat night late. I stopped at the store to pick up a case of water and some Gatorade for the hotel room. I had bought a Boston jacket when I ran the first time in 2010 but had never worn it. I decided I was going to wear it around this time. I was stopped on the street and told good luck on the way back to my hotel. This is exactly what I love about Boston.

Sunday morning I woke up around 6am unable to sleep and went out for a short run on the Charles. Boston was chilly and breezy over the weekend which I consider perfect marathon weather. After my run, I got changed and headed over to the expo. Afterwards, I met up with some friends for brunch, had some pancakes (rocket fuel), and traded stories, strategies, and well wishes.

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Afterwards I stopped by the finish line to take a photo. In 2010, Stevi tried to take a photo of me there and I hate getting my photo taken so I hemmed and hawed. Now, I wanted her to be there with me to take it.

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I had planned to go to dinner with my friends Matthew and Steve, but my legs were already tired from walking around and I needed some downtime to come up with a strategy and get everything ready. I mixed up two 32 oz bottles of Ultra Fuel and put them in the fridge, got my race gear ready, reviewed the course profile and came up with a plan. I also took steps to mitigate issues that arose in my first Boston and other sub 3 attempts. I remembered that I had severe blisters in my first Boston, so I bought socks with two layers and wore the shoes I normally train in instead of flats. I remembered in Philly that I wished I had another gel at mile 22, so I took five gels with me total, one for before and four during. I ordered some pasta from room service around 6pm, ate a small amount, and did some visualization.

My plan for the race was as follows:

Miles 1-5 are largely downhill, but I need to avoid going out too fast. My goal pace for the race was 6:45/mi as my shorter distance races indicated. I would run the first mile close to 7:00/mi, and the next four I would just flow with the crowd but make sure I was never pushing. I excel at downhill running (these giant quads are good for something) so I wanted to take advantage of them but not to the extent where I would do so much damage that I would jeopardize the final miles.

Miles 5-16 are rolling flat. I planned to run these miles at or slightly faster than goal pace. This would put me in a good position to give some time back in the next few miles.

Miles 17-21 are the Newton hills, the last of which is Heartbreak Hill. At this point in 2010 I had already bagged my race because of a pulled hamstring and severe blisters. I honestly totally missed Heartbreak because I was running easy and looking for Stevi around mile 22. I have gotten much better at hilly terrain since I moved to Northern Virginia, but I knew I needed to ease up.

Miles 22-26.2 are rolling downhill. Again, I excel at downhill running and the times where I give up in workouts are on uphill stretches. I never give up during a downhill segment. I spent so much time going back over Philly in my head and where I was mentally at mile 25 at the point where I gave up and let that sub 3 attempt go. I was going to do everything in my power to not let that happen again.

I woke up race morning at 3am unable to sleep. I hate the logistics of Boston because you can’t just walk out the door to the start of the race. You have to load up on buses that leave Boston Common starting at 6am, ride for an hour to Hopkinton, and sit in Athlete’s Village until the race start at 10am. I have been successfully using a liquid only diet on the day of races but it was going to be 7 hours before the race started. This was why I mixed up two containers of Ultra Fuel. I drank the first at 3am, which was about 400 cals and 100g of carbohydrates. I got all my gear together and headed to the T to catch a ride to Boston Common. I started talking to another runner who was heading there also from my hotel. I asked him if it was his first Boston. He replied “It is my 35th”. I wasn’t sure if I had heard him right. He said he was from Columbus, where I lived for awhile and we talked about Ohio for a bit. Turns out this was Russel Gill, and he really was running his 35th. Amazing.

I was planning on meeting a bunch of friends before the race but I mentally just wanted to be alone that morning so I boarded the bus by myself which was largely full of guys who ran cross country in college and were in their 20s. I listened to them talk about the race and share stories and I just sat back and took everything in. We arrived in Athlete’s Village around 7am where I chugged my other bottle of Ultra Fuel, found a comfy spot where the sun was shining, stretched out, and chatted with the folks around me.

The announcement came that it was time for Wave 1 to line up so I started to pack my things up and head out. I have never worn headphones in a race before but had been contemplating trying it for this race. Not really to block things out since I keep the volume low, but I do train with them sometimes. I wasn’t sure if I would even like wearing them, so I took an old iPod shuffle that is on its last leg so I could toss it if it aggravated me too much. Turns out that I had paused it a couple of times during the race when talking to other runners and went for long stretches before realizing it was off in the first place.

I lined up toward the front of corral 4 and went through the usual pre-race stuff and took a gel. The gun went off and it took about a minute or so for us to cross the start. They announced that it was 55 degrees at the start which felt warm, but I knew that the closer you got to Boston the wind would pick up and it would feel cooler.

Mile 1 – 6:55

As I had planned, I started out on the slow side despite the large downhill. People were darting everywhere and that would usually be me. In my first Boston, I had to pull over here to use the restroom and tried to make up the time in the first mile. I now have a system to make sure the tank is empty when the race starts. I will spare you the details.

Mile 2 – 6:42
Mile 3 – 6:36
Mile 4 – 6:35
Mile 5 – 6:44

I had taken the first couple of miles a little fast, but not too far outside of where I wanted to be. My back felt a bit strained from the downhill and I was starting to feel a hot spot on my right foot. I spent a lot of time wiggling my feet around to avoid blisters. The next few miles I wanted to just keep the pace going. Easy effort. I had been alternating water and Gatorade at the water stops. I would take Gatorade every stop until I wanted a gel and would take water usually the stop before and while taking the gel. I took a gel here.

Mile 6 – 6:33
Mile 7 – 6:33
Mile 8 – 6:39
Mile 9 – 6:41

I spent a lot of time giving kids high-fives and checking out signs and taking in the crowd. There were a few times in this stretch where I would consciously back off after tailing someone that was passing me. I believe it was somewhere around here that I happened to run into Tony and we chatted for a bit before I let him go. He was looking great.

Mile 10 – 6:44
Mile 11 – 6:42

The crowds are getting thicker and we are heading towards Wellesley. I turned my headphones off to see how far out I could hear the scream. I ran through giving rows of the Wellesly women high-fives and saw some of the other runners stopping for their kisses. The women looked terrified. As I laughed out loud, I also noticed how positively young they looked and remember doing the math to make sure they couldn’t be young enough to be my kids. I took another gel here.

Mile 12 – 6:34
Mile 13 – 6:45

Halfway point – 1:27:51

This is the fastest first half of any of my marathons, but I am still a good 4+ minutes off my PR so I should be ok. I knew I would optimally positive split the race, so as long as I didn’t lose too much time in the second half I would be fine. I remembered back to my first Boston where I ran into a friend here and he asked me how I was doing. I remember feeling terrible here. Not today.

Mile 14 – 6:43
Mile 15 – 6:50

I did an internal check and everything was still going smoothly. I had a bit of a rough patch in the last mile but it passed quickly. This is where the hard part starts. I was ready to give some time back. Keep moving forward; swing my arms on the uphills and relax on the downhills. I counted down each of the next miles and knew when I got to 21 if I had anything left the race was mine. I remember thinking that I was still feeling really good, which is rare for me at this point. This is the point in my first Boston where the hamstring and blisters took me out. I counted each of the uphills.

Mile 16 – 6:37

One.

Mile 17 – 6:52

Two.

Mile 18 – 6:55

I took a gel here. People around me are starting to walk.

Mile 19 – 6:43

Three.

Mile 20 – 6:51

Four.

Mile 21 – 7:19

In my first Boston, I had so much trouble that I completely missed Heartbreak. This time I felt it. The uphill was long and seemed to go on forever. I was passing people even though I felt like I was crawling. Keep swinging your arms. Keep moving forward. In 2010, I had to stop at a med tent to get my feet taken care of. I saw the med tent and smiled as I started moving downhill again. In Philly, I remember being at this point and wishing I had a gel with me. This time, I did.

Mile 22 – 6:33

Now is where the work starts. Although it is downhill to the finish, it is still rolling. Both my feet hurt. My quads are starting to lock up with every step. This is where I knew I had it. It didn’t matter how much I slowed down, I was going to get it. I just needed to keep moving forward.

Mile 23 – 6:51

Mile 24 – 6:53

I am starting to slow. I feel like stopping, but I won’t. I am flying past everyone around me. Keep moving. Don’t stop. Keep moving. I thought about Stevi, and how I wanted her to be proud of me. I thought about how she couldn’t be here and if I was here without her I needed to make it count.

Mile 25 – 6:54

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I am hanging on by a thread. My quads are on the verge of cramping. It is ok to slow down, just don’t stop. You can lose a few seconds. You have time. I can see the Citgo sign forever. I knew once I hit it that it was only a mile to go. I remembered having to stop in Philly when I was this close. Don’t stop.

Mile 26 – 7:01

I turned onto Boylston and gave everything I had left. My vision was blurring. My legs and feet were screaming. My left leg wouldn’t pick up anymore. The finish line just kept getting closer. Keep moving. I could see the clock 2:59:55…2:59:56…2:59:57…how much time did I have? I sprinted the last 100 yards.

Last .2 – 6:46 pace

Finish 2:58:15.

Finally.

I had trouble getting myself to write this race report for Philly. I took the spring off of marathons because I had burned myself out after a string of injuries/issues/bad races. Although MCM went really well in the fall, I needed a break to recharge my batteries. This was probably the best thing I could have done. Stevi has still been fighting with her IT band issues that were a result of our Rome marathon adventure, so it seems it is up to me to dust the blog off.

Training went really well for Philly. I maintained my usual paces throughout the summer which never happens, and I decided to try something different for my training plan. I figured I would play to my strengths, and instead of doing a bunch of track workouts and repeats I would do everything as long tempos and marathon pace miles. This training cycle felt different than any of my others. I was hitting all the paces on my workouts (training based on my 1:02:28 10 miler from the spring). I remember coming home a few times in the spring and telling Stevi how I was disappointed from quitting my workouts. I remember glancing at my Garmin a few times on tempo runs or intervals and if I didn’t like the average pace I saw I would give up.

Notable workouts from this cycle included a 14 mile run w/ 12 @ MP (6:37/mi), a 16 mile odd/even run (odd miles near MP, even miles near HMP) that averaged 6:48/mi, a couple of 17-21 mile runs with the last half at MP (6:4x averages), and tempo runs of 6-7 miles @ 6:1x averages. Despite being 10 lbs heavier than my usual racing weight, I was still faster.

Four weeks out from the race Stevi and I travelled to Columbus and I ran my tune-up race there. My prior PR was 1:24:40 that I set back in 2010 and all of my half marathons since then have been disasters ranging from 1:27-1:29. I felt great, training was going well, and I knew I would PR again, but I had no idea by how much. I planned to go out near 6:15/mi and hold the pace as long as I could. I managed a 1:23:09 and I was confident I had a sub 3 hours in me for Philly, and set an A goal of 2:55. The plan was to run 2:57 pace (6:45) for as long as I could.

Smiling too much. I should be running faster.

On Saturday morning I got up early and did a quick 4 mile shakeout run. I drank some Ultra Fuel immediately afterward (50g carbs) and had a bowl of cinnamon chex and almond milk. We drove to Philly and were staying in a hotel, so I brought my pancake griddle and everything I needed to make my gluten free pancakes. I stuffed myself with those and we headed out to the expo, which was a nightmare. I grabbed my race packet and we got out. We waited around for my friend Kevin and we walked around and chatted before we headed back to the hotel. I had my dinner of a gluten free peanut butter and banana sandwich (and a couple of french fries I stole from Stevi) and hit the sack around 9pm. I had been struggling with some neck/shoulder pain for the last couple of days and had been fighting a headache most of the day. I hoped that would be gone by race time.

We got up at 3:55am and I gulped down two huge servings of orange Ultra Fuel and got everything together to head out. The temps were low 30s at the start, which I think is perfect. We got to the race site at 6:15 (7:00 start) and we couldn’t figure out how to get me into the maroon corral. We finally found an entrance in the black corral, but I need to hit the porta john and they had some serious lines. I had taken care of business and gotten into the corral at around 6:45. I took a GU and took a few sips of water. I found Kevin before the start and we chatted for a bit before the gun goes off.

We had somehow gotten behind the 3:05 pace group and I didn’t want to get stuck there so I weaved a bit to get close to 7:00/mi pace. I was going to run the first couple of miles around 6:5x and then try to keep the Garmin in the 6:4x/mi range for the rest of the race. I don’t like lapping manually because my attention span is really short in races and Kevin gave me the idea to auto-lap at 1.01 miles instead of every mile. It is a great idea because the mile markers will line up most of the time, but the pace will be off by a few secs per mile (which will happen anyway). So the splits for this race are the duration it took me for the 1.01 splits.

1 – 6:55

I am starting slow like I wanted. The road is severely crowded and I really have to use the restroom. I figured I would give it a few miles and see how I feel then. I was running with a crowd that was keeping a good pace so I just relaxed and settled in.

2 – 6:46
3 – 6:47
4 – 6:47
5 – 6:47

We are turning around and starting to head back west. Crowd support was great in these few miles, but the buildings were messing with my Garmin pace. I wasn’t sure if I should speed up or slow down because the average pace showed a 6:18/mi at one point but I didn’t feel like I was working that hard. I slowed down a bit until my watch caught up with me and took a GU.

6 – 6:50
7 – 6:45

For some reason, the elevation chart does not indicate it and no-one ever seems to mention it, but what seems like the largest hill is in this section. I remember cutting off to the left to grab some gatorade since everyone else was moving right.

8 – 6:57
9 – 6:43
10 – 6:43

I can hear a lot of chatter behind me and hear a spectator say the three hour pace group is coming up. What??? How in the world are they catching up? I moved up a little bit to try and move away.

11 – 6:34
12 – 6:44

Stevi and Flo are here on the course and I took my gloves off and tossed them to her. I tried to grab Stevi’s hand when I went by but I missed. I told her I loved her and kept moving. I saw our friends Matt and Sarah and waved to them as they yelled to me. I took another GU here.

13 – 6:45

We are coming up on the full/half marathon split and to my surprise there aren’t that many people cutting off for the half. It seems a bit crowded all of a sudden and I turn to my left and running directly beside me is the three hour pacer. What. The. Hell. I thought I was on 2:57 pace this whole time and still he caught up with me. I was suddenly enveloped by a sea of runners from the three hour group. It was getting crowded and I didn’t have any room to move. I needed to get out so I went for it and a couple of guys went with me.

14 – 6:39
15 – 6:32

I am passing people left and right. I can hear two or three guys behind me that are staying with me but we are flying past everyone else.

16 – 6:42
17 – 6:44

This is a section across a bridge with a turnaround and you come back across the bridge. I am starting to feel tired but still ok. The Garmin pace looked off and I heard afterward that this typically happens at this point of the course. I see Kevin and wave to him.

Why don’t you like my shoes?

18 – 7:27
19 – 6:42

We hit another turnaround and I am really starting to feel it now. Doubt it starting to creep in and I don’t know if I can hold it for another 6 miles. I see Kevin again and he seems much closer than before. He yelled that we only have 10k to go and I remember thinking to myself “only”? I took my last GU during 18.

20 – 6:50
21 – 6:57

Right now I am just fighting to hold it. I am having trouble with any uphill sections and my quads are screaming. I am telling myself to just make it to 23 and then you are in the clear.

22 – 6:59
23 – 7:07

I had made it. Now I just need to make it to the finish with whatever I have left. I remember thinking to myself that I wish I had brought another GU with me. I will remember this for next time.

24 – 7:07

I am fighting the urge to stop. I had one instance where I actually started to and then jolted back to running. I am literally screaming in my head that I am still on pace for sub 3. There is only two miles to go. Why do I want to stop, I am almost there. Then, I get a side stitch on my right side and I can’t breathe. I tried to fight through it for a little bit but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I had to stop. Kevin runs past and asks if I am ok and I tried to tell him it was a side stitch but I couldn’t speak. Then I saw the three hour pacer go by. I am watching in horror as it is getting further and further away from me. He has about 20 seconds on my and then I got the urge to chase him down. Stevi is up ahead at 25 and that is all I need to keep going. I started running again and only got a few steps before the side stitch hits again. It was over. I was done. I didn’t want to fight it anymore.

25 – 8:07

I am jogging off and on until I see Stevi off to the side. I ran up to her and gave her a kiss and told her I had a side stitch. I had completely given up and almost wanted to stay there with her. I started to jog away from her when she yelled to me “You still have a PR to get!”. I thought to myself, “She’s right!”. I am still baffled that someone had to tell me that. I saw Matt and Sarah again and stopped at the water stop to take in both some gatorade and water.

26 – 8:12

I started running again and wasn’t feeling the side stitch anymore and was speeding up. I could hear the announcer yelling that the “That guys is going under three hours! That girl is going under three hours!” and I am still over a minute away. I had lost track of how much time had passed in the last two miles and thought I was coming in much slower. I realized then that I could come in a few minutes under my PR if I just kept running.

.2 – 1:03

Finish time – 3:01:28

I should be happy with the time. It is difficult to look back and wonder if I could have done anything differently in those last two miles. You can’t picture the state of mind you are in until you are actually there. I still can’t believe that I had completely thrown in the towel so close to the finish. I remember thinking to myself throughout the race that you have rough patches, but you get through them and it worked for me several times. I am thankful that Stevi was there to talk some sense into me at the end. Overall, the race is a three minute PR and it proves to me that I have the fitness I need. This is the third marathon I have run that I felt like I actually was able to race to the best of my ability. Even if I didn’t get the sub three this time, it doesn’t seem so impossible now and there will be other chances.

Bustin a move...

Background: I was not going to do a marathon this fall. I wanted to steer my focus away to something else and had started dabbling in ultras so I signed up for the JFK 50 miler. My training was ultra specific, doing double long runs on the weekends and pretty much running 10 miles most other days. Almost everything was at recovery pace both because of not being used to the heat/humidity in Virginia and because I was building mileage. I started somewhere around the 50s and was planning to step up the mileage by 10 miles each month. I was planning on getting back to the 80s and holding that until the race.  10 weeks out from MCM, my friend Phil (Demo Guy on RWOL) offered his bib up (Thanks Phil! I still owe you one…) and having been torn about not doing a marathon I jumped on it. It was local, I already had the mileage, I have been injury free all year (except for the sprained ankle in the spring which I still ran on) and I had enough time to speed things up a bit.

Training: I followed the Pfitz 12/85 mileage template adding some when I felt like it and would either do the workout prescribed or throw in some Hudson inspired workouts either when I felt good or when the Pfitz workout didn’t work out. I kept the quality to once a week, twice if I threw some into my long run. During the cycle, I was never able to get in the MP long runs either because I had a race scheduled, or the run had to be scrapped because of how miserable it was outside. I have literally been training for sub 3 for the past three seasons and having nailed the workouts before I wasn’t too concerned. I’d run a 1:24 half the spring of 2010 and a 1:03 10 miler this past spring (equivalent performances) so I knew the fitness was there. The only question was whether I had enough sharpening to pull off the last 10k this go round. My last four marathons were shot either because of injury from my hamstring (last fall piriformis because of hamstring) or because of GI issues. After severe GI issues that started to affect life outside of training I went to the GI doc and walked away with a diagnosis but no treatment plan other than to stop running. The problems was chronic ischemic colitis…running hard caused the blood vessels to constrict and cut off blood supply to my bowels. The result was inflammation, colitis, severe cramping, and all kinds of nasty GI pain and related symtoms. The hamstring issues popped up for the first time this year in my tune up half marathon and blisters on my left foot ultimately shot that race. With three weeks to go I went all in and started an aggressive physical therapy regimen for the hamstring and a gluten free diet for the GI issues. I had a weird issue with my ankle with one week to go, but luckily the PT doc knew how to fix it and it was short lived.

Strategy:
Since I really didn’t have an exact guage on where my fitness was I had to guess. I supposed that I was still close to sub 3 shape, but I could go one or two minutes either way. I could go out for a 3:02 and probably nail it, but if I did I would wonder if I could have gone under 3. I figured if I did fade at the end, I could still get under a 3:05 and a PR. The course had a couple of hills near the start and one around mile 8. I’m a big believer in starting out slower than goal pace and picking it up. It keeps the heart rate from spiking early and helps you settle in. The plan was to run the first couple of miles slower than goal, run the uphills a bit slower still, the downhills no faster than MP – 10 secs and always keep the pace above 6:40 to stay away from my lactate threshold pace, which is around 6:20-6:30. The day before the race, I did a short 4 mile run, immediately drank a serving of ultra fuel (100g carbs), ate a big meal at noon consisting of rice, plain chicken, and a baked sweet potato. I would eat two more small peanut butter and banana sandwhiches and eat nothing else after 6pm. I had been on a gluten free diet for the three weeks leading up to the race as I had read about individuals with ulcerative colitis reducing symptoms with a controlled diet. I took Zantac the night before and the morning of the race to reduce stomach acid and immodium the morning of the race. I told Stevi “Start looking at 2:59…I will be there before 3:05″.

Race:
Stevi and I got a hotel room the night before the race. Even though the race was local,logistically it still would have been a pain to get there. The temps were in the low 30s with a wind of around 11mph. For me this was ideal. I got up at 4am to drown myself in 48 oz of Ultra Fuel which translated roughly to a little over 225 grams of carbs. After choking that all down I didn’t take in anything else except for a few sips of water just before the start. Stevi went with me freezing her butt off while we tried to find the start line which was elusively hidden from the runners village. I made use of the porta johns every 5 minutes because I had drank so much stuff that morning I didn’t want to have to go but I was apparently pretty cleared out. After the pre-race festivities I make my way up to the line and we are off. I realize as I take my first steps off the start line that I now have to go to the bathroom.

True to my strategy I start out slow. I am immediately engulfed in people zig-zagging everywhere getting passed in a huge wave. I settle into a comfortable pace and try to warm up. I really had to fight the urge to pull over like a bunch of the other guys to take care of business. I figured if I kept moving eventually the urge to would pass.
1 – 7:06
We hit the two hills early on in the race that stretch through mile 2. I left my Garmin on auto-lap because I am terrible at paying attention during marathons and I just tried to recalibrate laps when I was mindful. Overall the length was about 26.5, so the paces given below are what I have as time between mile markers.
2 – 7:20
Taking advantage of the downhill I picked it up a bit. I found myself caught up with the 3:05 pace group. I followed them for the next couple of miles. There is a huge wheelchair pileup, apparently there was an accident. I had a few of the wheelchair racers passing and/or being passed by me throughout the race. A lot of encouraging words were spoken back and forth.
3 – 6:41
I kept the pace up and decided it was time to move in front of the pace group and settle into goal pace.
4 – 6:42 (this is actually 1.04 miles on my garmin, the pace for the first mile was 6:27 and 16 seconds for the .04 calibration…I think this is where I shot myself in the foot. Too fast.)
5 – 6:51
I started running with a gal who is from the NAVY team somewhere around here. We actually ran together for the and  next 8 miles or so taking turns drafting. We had picked up a second girl who didn’t want to get passed by NAVY and now I am running with two girls. Chasing ponytails. I took my first honey stinger here.
6 – 6:40
7 – 7:06
Up to this point I had been taking water from every stop and planned to until toward the end. I would remember having to use the bathroom every time I grabbed water.
8 – 6:45
9 – 6:43
I took my second honey stinger here but missed the water stop. The last guy gave the person in front of me water and I just had to keep going.
10 – 6:44 (6:32 for 1 mile with 11 seconds for .03 calibration – again too fast)
In the middle of mile 10 I heard a very loud scream coming from the crowd we were passing through. I turned to the right and saw Stevi and a friend of ours yelling for me. I smiled and waved and was feeling great.
11 – 6:39 (also too fast)
12 – 6:41
I’m starting to feel intestinal cramps and am afraid it is over. We ran past a set of three porta johns and I wanted to stop. I was afraid this was going to get worse and I was done. I decided to keep moving to the next stop and if I still had cramps then I would do what I had to. Luckily about a half mile later the cramping stopped.
13 – 6:47
I hit the half in 1:29:42. I saw the clock and wasn’t happy. I was planning to pass through the half after 1:30 but made up time too fast. I was pretty sure the last 10k was going to hurt.
14 – 6:50
I’m losing a bit of confidence and the pace isn’t feeling easy anymore. The remnants of the blister that popped up in the half four weeks ago is now starting to get hot and I am wiggling my foot around trying to shift the sock or something. I had the urge a few times to stop and adjust my shoe but I knew if I stopped now it wouldn’t be the only time. I was running behind two guys that were chatting about their recent race times. One of the guys said he just ran a 1:25 half and the other said he just ran his half marathon PR in this race. I decided to let them go.
15 – 7:01
My pace is dropping but I didn’t want to panic. I used to freak out if I started to get off of pace and would surge eventually wearing myself out. I took another honey stinger and figured I would get another wind if I just kept moving.
16 – 6:48
17 – 6:50
Down this stretch a guy in front of me blew a snot rocket and the wind blew some mist from it directly in my face. Thoughts of pummeling the guy to deathjumped into my mind, but I decided to just tell him to watch it instead. I saw NAVY again here still running with the other gal. I also saw someone walking for the first time. I grabbed water from the water station on one side of the road and NAVY had gone to the other side. I slipped ahead and never saw her again.
18 – 7:01
19 – 6:45
I believe it was around here that I saw Stevi again. I heard her and our friend Matt yelling but I didn’t look over. I was losing steam fast. One of the guys I was running with yelled that there was only 12k to go. Sure…it will only take at least another 40 minutes… I passed the two guys I was running behind at the half. I am passing people left and right. A few guys I am running with I see stop and walk. Then later they catch up and pass me. Then I see them do it again. I’m starting to get annoyed by it.
20 – 7:04
Right around here running down a long stretch I heard someone yell my name and I looked back to see Cris (Darkwave on RWOL) on the side. I waved at her and it gave me a bit of a boost. I took my last honey stinger.
21 – 7:00
My right hamstring is starting to cramp. The bunion on my left foot is throbbing and the blister is getting worse.
22 – 7:15
I saw my pace dropping but I was ok with it. I knew if I just held in the 7’s it would still be a PR.
23 – 7:10
I’m toast. I am out of honey stingers and I never grabbed a clif shot from the course which I usually do “Just in case”. I know what will happen if I take Gatorade but I decide to chance it since there is only three miles left. I took a swig and then chased it with water. Then I prayed.
24 – 7:22
No good. It didn’t help and now I am belching uncontrollably. Around here I can faster runners coming back the other direction and I have a turn around up ahead. It seems like forever until I finally get there.
25 – 7:32
I hit the turn around and coming up to the mile marker I hear an announcement about the 3:05 pace group. I figured they were close behind. I can’t pick my feet up. I am tripping on the ground. The blister hurts. Cramping starts in the intestines. I want to vomit. Having only been able to race one marathon before, I forgot what the last 10k felt like.
26 – 7:30
I hit the 26 mile marker and Stevi is right there. I want to stop. I pointed at my stomach and couldn’t even tell her what was wrong. She yelled at me to keep going, I am right there. It is just up this small hill, so I give it everything I have.
.2 – 8:20 pace
Except I don’t have anything. This is a short, steep hill, but I can’t get up it. I feel like I am running up an escalator. I am trying to power up it, swinging my arms, looking at the ground. I can hear people yelling all around me to move. I remember reading a blog from a girl who was training for MCM and she said that she didn’t want to walk that last hill. I wanted to walk that last hill. I felt like I WAS walking. I eventually got up it and even though it was a short sprint to the finish I was completely drained. I hit the timing mat and remember telling myself “Thank God.” I was slightly disappointed when I saw the time on the clock, but relieved at the same time. You bargain with yourself during the marathon. Thankfully I didn’t have to bargain much this time.
(Note: Because my actual running distance was over 26.2 there are some extra seconds here and there. I need to get better at lapping during a marathon correclty).

I suppose this would normally be a failure to go out for something you are capable of and come up short. I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed about the fade, but there are so many positives to take away from this race that I can’t be down about it. During the last two years marathon training I always had something come up during the race that I could not control. This past spring I had a stellar training plan. I nailed every workout, my tune-up races and heart rates indicated I was getting faster, and I was more ready to race than I had ever been. I raced the Flying Pig and GI cramping completely stopped me in my tracks just after the halfway point. After that, I said I wasn’t going to do another one this year. I didn’t want to fail again.

I put myself in a few shorter races over the summer with similar results. GI problems in a 4 miler that I was doing very well in. A 20k that despite having no injuries was the worst race I had ever run. Again and again things always went badly. After that I stopped racing. I was giving up. When I realized that I had become scared of racing, I faced it head on. I signed up for a 5k and ran a personal best by a few seconds without any specific training. I had gotten sick before my half marathon tune-up and ran it anyway.
I figured out that things didn’t always have to go my way and I can still pull out a good race. For MCM, I wasn’t scared anymore. Even though things started to go downhill, I didn’t panic and trusted myself. In the end, I ran my best marathon time by almost 5 minutes and requalified for Boston.

I don’t think I will be signing up for a marathon in the spring because I want to dedicate a training cycle to shorter distances. Not because I don’t want to run a marathon, but because I think it will help me grow as a runner. I spent this year working on the mental aspect. Now I need to get the physical part back in line.  That is, if I survive JFK in two weeks…

Yes, I am as tired as I look.

The Honakers have had a busy few months since we last posted. Stevi and I both ran the Rome marathon together, I raced the Flying Pig marathon in May and I had decided to run another 50k this spring. I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in DC.

Since the Flying Pig, I had picked my mileage back up to prepare for the 50k and attempted to get a few trail runs in as well. On the last trail training run where I hoped to get in 20 miles on some portions of the course, I ended up spraining my ankle. Whether or not I was going to 50k was up in the air until the last few days. I was able to get in a 12 miler the weekend before with little discomfort so I decided to go ahead and go for it.

My friend Matt picked me up at 5:30 to drive over to the start of the race at Sterling Park. We picked up our bibs did the usual pre-race stuff and waited around for the race to start.

For this race, I did everything wrong and slightly on purpose. I always stress out about doing everything exactly right and it usually turns out badly anyway. I bought a pair of shorts that had pockets in the back and never actually ran in them, I had a couple of beers the night before, had a late dinner, and ate things the day before I usually wouldn’t eat before a race (but eat normally). My ankle was still sore and not quite 100% yet, so the whole race was up in the air to begin with.

5 minutes before the start they ask us to line up. Matt and I walk up a good distance away from the start line and everyone lines up behind us. Uh…I wasn’t planning on being on the start line, but whatever. I had packed a few honey stingers into my shorts and had a few in my handheld. The race starts and we take off, immediately coming to a ditch that has to be hopped over. I am already cringing because I don’t want to make huge leaps with my bad ankle, but I hopped across and didn’t have a problem. As I start to run I notice that my shorts aren’t staying up very well. I took the honey stingers out of my pockets which helped, but I couldn’t hold on to them forever. I ended up just throwing two of them away, Matt held one for me in an empty pocket and I stuffed the other in my handheld. That worked for a few feet, but then I had to do something. I pulled over to the side and retied my shorts which took care of the problem. For now.

We ran for a stretch on some wide gravel road and just fell into a pace. We were getting passed quite a bit even though we were doing close to 8 min/mi. I knew that once we hit the single track we would get stuck behind all these people that went out too fast, but I also didn’t want to see a pace under 8 on my watch so we just went with it.

We ran on some singletrack for a good while through some tall grass and made our way into the woods. My shorts are starting to fall again so I am literally taking three steps and pulling my shorts back up. 3 steps, pull. 3 steps, pull. The guy running behind me was really close and a couple of times I almost fell on a switchback, but I was still upright and moving pretty quickly. We started to get to some more technical terrain with rocks and roots. I was paying close attention to where my feet were landing because I didn’t want to roll my ankle again when I look up I see a tree branch an inch from my head.

“F&*k…that is going to hurt tomorrow” and the guys running behind me chuckle. I had hit my head on the branch and can picture in my mind the large goose egg that will be there when I am finished with the race. We keep moving around some more singletrack and my head is starting to feel wet. I look down at my chest and I have blood streaming down the left side of my body. “Sh!t.” I said, and Matt turned around and said “Oh God…”. I am completely covered in blood.

I can see it dripping down the bill of my hat and I have to stop. I yell up to Matt and pull over. I take off my hat and squirt some water on my handheld on my head. The people behind me are gasping as they run by and asking if I am ok. I know we are about a mile away from the aid station and I am standing in the middle of the woods. What do I do now? The only thing I can think of to do is jump back in the race and get to the next aid station.

When I get to the aid station I take off my hat and a volunteer yells for the medic. I see Matt talking to a volunteer and the medics make me sit down and check it out.

“What is your name?”
“Chris.
“Did you pass out?”
“Nope.”
“Can you see straight?”
“Yup.”
“Are you feeling ok”.
“Yup”.
“What happened”.
I start formulating a story in my head about a mountain lion and saving a small child…
“I hit my head on a tree.”

They grab some wipes and clean up my head to get a look at it. “I know you can’t see this, but you have a couple inch gash on the top of your head. You are going to need stitches. We can call to have you taken back to the start”.

“Can I keep going?”

“Well…the bleeding looks like it stopped and if you are feeling ok then I think you’ll be ok.” They asked if Matt was running with me which he agreed he would stay with me. They put a bandage on my head, but tape wouldn’t stick and I told them I could put my hat back on to keep it there, which they agreed should be fine. They told me they would let me go, but I had to stop at the next aid station for them to check it. As they were cleaning up my face I kept hearing “you’ve got another cut here…no…wait…it is just more blood”. They thanked me for shaving my head before the race (ha!) and gave me an extra gauze pad and Matt and I started off again.

My hat was so soaked with blood than when I would sweat I would continue to have it dripping down all over me. I also think the bleeding would start again every time I started running, because there was way too much coming down. As we passed people everyone would ask if I was ok. I passed a guy and heard “Jesus…did you get attacked by a bear?”

More single track, more roots and rocks, some pretty scary fast downhils and we come to the Great Falls aid station around mile 12-13 where Stevi and Amy are cheering. My race number is pinned to my shorts and covered in blood (just like the rest of me). I pointed down to my shorts and neither of them saw the blood as we ran past, and they thought I was indicating that my shorts were falling down. (yes, they are still falling down at this point).

Pullin the shorts up

I am starting to feel my stomach gurgle a bit and we get to the aid station where a peppy young girl asks Matt hurriedly if he needs more water. She grabs his handheld to fill it up. Nobody asks me if I need anything, so I walk over and fill up my own. I decided I need to take care of the shorts situation, so I stepped over to the side. We are in the middle of a large park with a lot of spectators. I take one of the safety pins from my race number and untie my shorts. The hole the laces are coming out of is growing in size, which is why tightening my shorts is not working. I safety pinned the laces in after tying it to temporarily fix the problem. As I am doing so, a woman asks if I am ok. I said “sure, I’m fine”.

“The only reason I ask is because you are severely bleeding from your head”.

“Nah, its ok”.

“Oh sure, its just a superficial head wound that is bleeding profusely, I understand”. Then her husband tells her that obviously my legs are fine. I chuckled and tried to find a medic to take a look.

I walked over to the medics who were having a conversation that they were obviously very engaged in, because despite multiple attempts to get their attention, noone will look at me. Mind you, I am covered in blood. Finally one of them turns around and goes “Woah!” and then they scramble and try to figure out what to do. I’m not feeling very confident in their abilities.

They basically take a lot of time to do the same thing the other medics did and let me go. We take off for the next aid station and my shorts problem seems to be somewhat fixed for now. We are getting to a sections that is pretty tough because the trail is very narrow and it is out and back to the next aid station . I stopped and filled up with water and now am having the usual stomach cramps. Joy.

We head back down and head around a different trail. My stomach is getting pretty angry but I know there are restrooms at the next aid station so I try to keep up with Matt and tough it out. Matt runs up ahead and is at the aid station talking to Stevi and Amy when I get there. I stopped to talk to them and take some water they were holding when a drop of blood drips from my hat. The look on Stevi’s face when the realization hit was priceless. She started freaking out and was trying to take my hat off and I told her that it had already been looked at and I can’t take the hat off because it is holding the bandage there. Matt reassures her that the medics looked at it and I told her to be prepared for me to get stitches when I finish.

The Nike swish used to be white...

We ran off a few feet towards the restrooms where I stopped to take care of business. I looked in the mirror on my way out and my black hat was now a very dark red. We hit a technical section near the waterfall with large rocks and a lot of climbing. I didn’t do much running here and Matt went off ahead so I could just do my thing and take my time. He was waiting for me at the end of it and we were now heading back to the start area with about 10 miles to go. The bleeding has slowed down now but my stomach is really upset. The stomach would churn off and on, I started feeling woozy, I was getting a headache, and my ankle was starting to get sore. “Matt, I need to walk…I’m [woozy / having stomach cramps / having ankle problems]”. I felt bad for having to stop so much, but he kept stopping with me. We are in the middle of a 7 mile stretch without an aid station and I ran out of water. Matt shared his gatorade with me, which helped keep me going until we hit the aid station.

Just then, we can hear a dog barking in the distance, and I can see some of the runners heading the other direction looking up. Suddenly, a German shepherd pops out of the woods and chases after me. I have been chased by enough dogs at this point that I know to stop, but this dog is p!ssed. He was hunched over, baring his teeth, and generally being unpleasant. Other runners are coming up behind and running past which is getting on my nerves since I didn’t sign up to be the bait for this dog. The dog would give chase to someone ahead and I would tell them to stop to avoid getting bit but if I started moving again the dog would come after me. I can see a kid climbing down trying to get the dog but he has me trapped and seems to be really interested in my shorts, which are, of course, covered in blood. The kid comes down and the dog takes off so we start moving again. About a minute later the little sucker comes back out of the woods and stops me again, and the kid comes out again, and the dog runs away again. This happens about 4 or 5 times before I finally get away.

We finally get to the aid station and I loaded up on all kinds of crap here thinking it would make me feel better, which it did, but made my stomach worse. I did a lot of tripping over the next couple of miles until the last aid station. They said we had 2.5 miles to go, which I think we had about 1.5 miles left. I tried to keep running the whole way and my stomach cramps stopped thankfully. We were on the gravel path again and running at a pretty good clip. We got to the park where the finish line was and we both ran it pretty hard for the last quarter mile. I finished in 5:57 and change.

Finish line

Medic!

I pulled over the medic right after the finish line to get cleaned up. They confirmed I was going to need stitches and asked if I was the “tree guy”. They said that a call had gone in about me and they were supposed to keep an eye out. I told Stevi to throw out the hat because it had become so soaked that it wasn’t going to come clean. That was my favorite hat.

The Nike hat that reached a bloody end.

Stevi went with me to an urgent care facility so that I could get six staples. The good news is that I didn’t fall in this race. Always look on the bright side.

Today kicked off my first official training run for my next marathon…the Rome Marathon.   After a very eventful first marathon experience in Chicago I knew I better pick a dozy of a follow-up.

I had a little help from my side-kick hubby when he suggested we run it “together” while visiting the city for our 5th wedding anniversary.  At first I was a little scared, but the image of us running all 26.2 miles together through the greatest city on earth (at least in my eyes) was too good to pass up.  My worries were quickly squashed when we agreed that this run was simply for fun.  Chris will be doing a lot of bobbing and weaving while taking pictures of the run and I will set out on another conservative pace to enjoy the experience.  With that in agreement today marked the beginning of my 12 week training plan.

Originally I had planned to have a few weeks of base building leading up to the start, but a few weeks off were required to attend to another issue of shin splints.  The plan will still be to step things up though a tad from my first marathon training plan.

This is a 12 week plan peaking at 45 miles with two 20 mile runs, and one mid-week run that is between 8-10 miles.   In addition, my average pace is likely to be 30-45 secs faster for a vast majority of my run than what I experienced over the summer due to the heat.  Due to recovering from shin splits I stopped my tempo runs (which I was doing once a week), instead I have replaced it with half mile hill repeats (between 6-10% incline…it burns).  I will likely keep that up through the first month while I insure I have made it safely into my mileage with no injuries.

After Chicago I knew I had a few training areas I felt confident I could increase on right away.  First was overall mileage, which my initial plan was to peak at 50 miles.  Because I got shin splints that took several weeks of base building out I had to water that down to 45 miles, but that is still up by 5 miles on both my peak mileage and my average mileage from my Chicago plan.  The next major hurdle was introducing a medium-long run into my weekly schedule.  For me it seems impossible at a 10 min pace to be able to fit in a 12 mile run before or after work.  In addition, I wasn’t even running 8 mile mid-week runs during my Chicago training (although I was supposed to).  So this time around I have a partner in crime that agreed to dedicating one day a week to running between 8-10 miles.  This gives me at least two runs a week on my feet for over an hour.  Now granted the first 2 weeks of the training plan calls for 7 miles, but that was still a little over an hour of running.  My goal is more time on my feet multiple days of the week.  Combine that with one workout a week, which right now will be the hill repeats and I have my new training plan.

Obviously it is nothing hardcore like my super human running pals that follow Daniels, Pfitz or their own coaches.  I do think this is a safe step up from my last approach which was as simple as they come.  Overall I think it has a good balance and should likely produce some improvements in my running without burning me out.  Oh and heck this marathon is not about a goal time…it’s about the once in a lifetime opportunity I have to run next to my inspiration, rock and best friend.

 

 

 

Sarah, Me and Patty at the Game Day 5k last month. Patty kicked butt, and Sarah and I took 1st and 2nd in our age group.

 

Long time no chat folks. After Chicago I needed a break from running and blogging. Honestly I needed some time to think about what I want to do with my blog for the coming year.

For many of my readers you have watched Chris train for his first attempt at a BQ (and get it), and now you have lived through my first attempt at marathon training (which I did complete). The excitement lives on for us personally, but as far as blogging goes I needed to think about what is next.

The next logical step is to start blogging about training harder, to get faster and to accomplish new goals for 2011. Honestly, I don’t think that is where I want to take my running. My 2 year anniversary of when I first started “officially” running is in a few weeks, and since that time I have thought of nothing else, but training and getting faster. Most runners come from an athletic back ground or at least had some recreational running (2 or 3 miles here or there). I started with ZERO experience and only the desire to challenge myself with something I wasn’t even sure I would like. Running for the enjoyment of running somehow never made its way to my training plans.

So this year I think I will try something different with my blog. I want to share the fun I have with running and not focus on the miles I hit for the week, or the tempo run I did or didn’t do. If something amazing happens on a run, then awesome I will share that with you. If running sucks, then I will share that with you too. All of this doesn’t mean I’m not following a training plan (I actually have had it written for a while), or that I won’t attempt to challenge myself this coming year (I hope to regularly do tempo runs, which I never seem to keep to). However, the fun and excitement for me can be drained when I focus so much on what I haven’t done or hit, and instead I miss reflecting on what made the week a fun running week.

For example, the Saturday after Thanksgiving I had a flare-up with my shin splints that caused me to take 5 days off of running. Unlike past experience, I didn’t go into panic mood because of my lack of running. Instead I saw it as a nice break before marathon training starts at the end of this month, and as long as I was healed in time for my pacing duties at the Jingle Bell 5k I was fine with the break. I may have only logged 7 miles last week, but I had two extremely fun runs. On Thursday night our group run meets up and we had a new runner show up this week that fits right into our cynical banter. It was a great run chatting to the new girl and getting to know her better (even better my legs felt great). On Saturday I was super excited to pace a group of first timers (none of which had run longer than a mile) at the local Jingle Bell 5k. I was dressed in my snowflake crown and knee-high socks, and ready to lead this group of anxious runners through their first 5k race. I was so proud of how far the group made it and how dedicated they were to the cause (they also raised $1100 bucks for charity). So regardless of my low mileage and over coming an injury I had a really great time running this week, and that is what I want to focus on.

If you don’t mind I will be doing away with the weekly recap of my training for everyday of the week and reciting my mileage. Sure I will share as the situation calls for (and no I’m not on a mission to hide anything), but to focus on that week in and week out just isn’t fun (nor tantalizing reading).

Give me a few weeks to get my running mojo back, and I am certain I will have some running shenanigans to share with everyone. Until that time stay tuned I have an amazing marathon on my schedule for March 20, 2011 and training starts on 12/27/10. For those that don’t know where it will be here is a hint…..it will be a colossal good time in one of the most romantic cities in the world, tehehehe.

 

Me, Sarah, Danielle and Patty...my marathon training partners at our celebration brunch. We all did it, we became marathoners.

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