18 weeks of training came together this weekend resulting in my best marathon in 5 tries.
My first attempt, was at the 2011 Las Vegas Marathon this past December. I was severely under trained, but went anyways. I slogged through 26.2 miles in 5:19:04. Brutal to say the least.
My second attempt, I went in feeling well trained, but was sapped by the 80 degree heat in Pittsburgh. I logged an improved 4:41:45.
I’m extremely pleased to report that I ran the entire course yesterday and had my best training to date. I surpassed my goal by 6 seconds crossing the line at 4:14:54!
Here’s how my weekend went:
We got into town late Friday, after going to the Oglebay Institutes Home Brew Tasting where I had my Oatmeal Stout. Although sleeping in was the goal, the kids had us up before 8.
My plan for the day was to hit the expo early, do a test drive of the areas I had mapped out for family to watch, and pick up a few last minute supplies.
After a stop for
carbs a bagel at Panera, I drove to Mile 2 and confirmed the high school parking lot would make a good stopping point for Christy, Aubrey, my sister in law and niece. It looked great, so I headed into town on the race route so I’d know what to look for when I approached them the next day.
The expo was great, but I suspect my opinion was based as much on it being early and not crowded. It featured the usual suspects of local running shops, and other vendors. I picked up a pair of “throw away gloves” and cheap sunglasses. I grabbed my packet and shirt, and headed back out.
Since the expo was downtown, I drove by the parking garage I had prepaid, and then drove north on High Street to scope out another viewing spot. This spot turned out to provide a story that could only happen to us, but more on that later…
From there, I drove to Grandview where a friend from high school lives, to make sure it would be easy to get to on race day.
After a tour down memory lane at the Bexley W.G. Grinders, and a drive through my alma mater, Capital University, I headed back to the hotel. We had planned for an early dinner, 4:30 or 5, in the Easton shopping area, but that went poorly. By 5, most of the restaurants had 1-2.5 hour waits! Fortunately, we had friends who snagged seats at the bar of an Italian place, and after confirming kids could sit there, we headed in for dinner.
And just like that, it was go time.
I couldn’t risk emulating Seinfelds Jean-Paul, so I set 6 alarms, and added a wake up call for good measure. As you’d expect, the 4:15 alarm did the trick, and I was up and wide awake more than 3 hours before the start!
Someone told me before a large race that as soon as you arrive, get in line for the bathroom. Funny thing is I got in so early there wasn’t even a line! Either way, I went and then found a spot inside of a garage that was heated to sit before getting into the corral. One of the smartest things the organizers did was have 10 port-a-johns inside the corral.
I tried to find friends also in corral C but that was foolish among all of the people. I settled in near the back and ended up talking to a guy about my Altra shoes.
They had a cover band playing rock, and after the anthem, and a few fireworks, it was time to run.
Having run 4 previous marathons, and a few half marathons, I knew the easiest way to wreck a race plan is to go out too hard. In fact, studies have shown that the fastest you can run most races is when your second half is faster than your first. In other words, you can’t go out hard and “bank time” and cruise to the finish. You’ll likely implode.
Although I didn’t exactly pull that off, I did run the most consistent race of my life.
With that in mind, I ran a 10:00 minute first mile, with 9:44 pace being the goal for the day. It sounds easy to “go out easy” but is complicated when it feels like everyone in the entire race is passing you left and right!
I clearly let that get to me, when I turned in a 9:10 second mile. This was partially motivated by pride, and partially by knowing I had my cheering section waiting just past mile 2. I saw them, and chucked my gloves at their feet, and headed towards Bexley.
I went to school in the area, but hadn’t seen the palatial homes until mile 4. Not only are they massive, but each seems to have 3-4 acre front yards! But I digress…
Sign watching is often an amusing way to pass the time, but it feels like there must be a website with 4-5 slogans that EVERYONE uses. For example, I must have seen these phrases dozens of times:
- Worst parade ever
- Chuck Norris never ran a marathon
- Run like you stole something
- Run like you’re being chased
All amusing, but I guess I’ve seen them too many times. This one get’s my vote as the best:
Snarkiness at it’s best.
Right before the 10k split, anyone who isn’t a girl darted towards the woods for an unofficial break. I heard many girls yelling it wasn’t fair. It isn’t, but it’s helpful…
I hit the 10k split mat at 59.47, which was a touch fast, but not awful.
Middle 13.8 miles
We left Bexley, and doubled back on E. Broad Street, the road we spent the first 3 miles on. I knew I’d see my pit crew around mile 7 and that was helpful. My right knee was starting to ache, and I had no clue why. I had zero issues in training, and certainly nothing that early in a run.
I ignored it, saw my crew, high fived Aubrey (who yelled at me after for not doing that the other 3 times…) and dropped off my arm warmers.
I had over-reacted to the weather reports of full sun, and went with a sleeveless shirt. I wasn’t cold, but it was unnecessary. After Pittsburgh, full sun at any temperature wigs me out.
These miles traveled through parts of Columbus I hadn’t been to before, and for the most part were uneventful. Someone was cooking bacon near German Village, I donated $5 to two soldiers running while carrying a gurney with fallen soldiers information on it, and got the “WE ARE…PENN STATE” chant going with a random guy at mile 11 wearing a PSU shirt. Outside of that, not much to report.
That is, except for around the halfway point I voice texted Christy to get me a banana at mile 15.5 when I’d see her instead of the Gatorade and gel I’d planned on getting. I think eating 3 hours before the race was good for digestion, but left me hungry at different times.
Since she’d be seeing me at a Kroger, I figured a banana wouldn’t be hard to pull off.
I was mistaken.
I passed the Kroger with no sign up them on either side of the road. I called her to see what I missed, and they were stuck in traffic. I didn’t realize it at the time, but here is the ridiculous chain of events that unfolded to make a banana hand off an epic ordeal:
- They hadn’t had any breakfast, so they stopped at a McDonald’s to get food at the drive-thru. There was a brief power outage as they pulled up, so they had to wait until the system kicked back on. When it did, they tried to pay, but the total seemed too low. They tried to question it, but to no avail. Of course at the food window, they were given the wrong order, and had to wait until it was fixed, and paid for.
- By the time this was done, they headed towards N. High Street but it was too late. Apparently they could see me, but couldn’t get around traffic.
- At this point, my sister-in-law Julie (who was driving) stopped in the middle of traffic and tried to run after me! Christy took over the wheel Chinese fire drill style until she caught Julie, who didn’t catch me…
- They got a little further, at which point Christy jumps out of the car to run after me. I heard her screaming and turned around in time to see her racing after me waving a banana! Quite the site I tell you. I took the banana and gel, and headed towards Ohio Stadium.
Traffic let up a little and they drove by with windows down. It was great to hear my daughter yelling “AWESOME” out the window, although I was later told she was yelling “RUSSELL.” Awesome….Russell…same difference I guess.
Anyway, back to the splits.
I hit the halfway mark in 2:06:09, about a minute ahead of pace. Unlikely to negative split, but not too fast to risk an implosion.
After the banana handoff, I rounded into the stadium area of OSU. We ran passed the basketball arena, before looping back towards Ohio Stadium. I’ve been to State College, and seen huge stadiums, but this one looked more massive for some reason. We wound around the end, down the players tunnel (I think) and behind one end zone. I shot some shaky video:
Click here if you can’t see the video
I hit mile 20 in 3:13:31, exactly 1 minute ahead of the split chart pace of 3:14:31.
The last 6.2 miles wandered through the suburb of Upper Arlington, and was mostly neighborhood running. It wasn’t good or bad, just not the most exciting part of the course. My knee that started to ache around mile 5, had continued to hurt all day. I wasn’t hitting the wall in terms of energy, but my legs were screaming around this time.
I knew I had one more chance to pass the girls just before mile 23, and really needed it by then.
I was fried.
I was starting to need more and more liquids, and the 12 oz Gatorade bottle handoff made a gigantic difference. Water stations help, but you only get a few ounces at a time.
Starting at mile 21 or so, a lot of people started walking. This reminded me of my experience in Vegas. No matter what I felt, I wasn’t going to walk. Although many people questioned my sanity in doing 3 marathons in 5 weeks, I did learn a valuable lesson in Erie.
There I walked 3, ran 21, and walked 2. Walking the last two was the most painful experience thus far. I don’t know why, but once you shut it down and start walking, your body revolts. I knew if I even walked a water stop I had no shot at hitting 4:15.
The team at Cliff Shot provided pace bracelets to help you gauge your progress throughout the race. This proved critical, as calculating splits as you go just isn’t possible. You’re just too fried.
When I hit mile 25, I looked at my watch, and realized I had to finish the final 1.2 in under 11 minutes or so. Miles 22-25 ranged from 9:45 to 10:20 so dropping the hammer was my only shot at a sub 4:15 PR.
If I remember right, mile 25 was run in 9:30, nearly a minute faster than mile 24. I hit the final .2 not knowing exactly what I had to do to beat 4:15. But I knew it was everything I had left.
Thank god the final turn into the finish is downhill. I hit it and just lost it. Hopefully there wasn’t a finishing video, because I know I looked like a lunatic. I was essentially yelling at myself with incoherent grunts and F bombs along the way.
I ran through the finish line, and made sure not to hit my watch until I nearly ran over a woman in front of me. Can’t ruin the finish photo, eh?
Since my watch wasn’t official, I grabbed my phone and got the auto-text that sends out when ever you hit a timing mat. I almost collapsed from exhaustion and the numbers 4:14:54.
I used the Gatorade table for support for a minute, and drank a few cups while I was there. I got a bottle of water, and was covered with the mylar sheets by a volunteer. There wasn’t a line, so I did get a picture in front of the race backdrop.
Who knows what that looked like….
When I was walking away, I heard my name from a buddy who’d finished a few minutes before me. We hung out for a minute, but both of us had to start moving again or risk locking up.
A few minutes later, I found my family, and we drove out and around the course to get back to my car.
The two things I’m most proud of in Columbus was that I didn’t walk a step, and my splits were about as even as I could make them. I walked a ton in Vegas, and a lot the last 5 miles of Pittsburgh. I’m sure nailing an entire training plan, and cool temps made that possible.
My official splits are these:
- 10k – 59:47 – 9:38 avg pace
- 13.1 – 1:06:22 – 9:39 avg pace
- 20 – 1:07:22 – 9:46 avg pace
- 26.2 – 1:01:23 – 9:55 avg pace
The first half was almost exactly the same pace. I faltered from around 18 through 25, but saved it at the stretch.
If you’re still with me, you must know me, or reeeeally like running. A 2,300 word recap is a bit absurd, but honestly I wanted to capture what I remembered about the weekend for future training reminders. I know at some point I’ll forget what went into knocking over an hour off of my Vegas time, and more than 26 minutes off of my Pittsburgh time.
For posterity, here is what things looked like in past races: