Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Race Report: Va Beach Shamrock Marathon

I had quite a few goals heading into Shamrock, most of which, I kept to myself throughout this training cycle.  Not because I didn't feel like sharing them, but more just because this had been a personal journey back into the realm of marathons, and it allowed me to stay focused.  The simple goal was to just better my marathon PR (3:49:14), which I knew was pretty much a done deal, given my training leading up to the race.  After that, there were some more specific goals, among them running a 3:10 to BQ.  I knew that my training, which included a 20 miler at faster than 3:10 pace, had put me in a place to achieve this goal.   As a result, I felt fully prepared  to achieve it.   

Now I know that any race that takes place along the beach is going to have some winds.  The forecast was calling for about 10 mph winds with gusts up to 18 mph - pretty typical of what you get at the beach.  What I didn’t expect (and wasn’t in any forecast), was the 20+ mph sustained winds and gusts beyond that.  As I stepped foot outside on the morning of the race to start my warmup, I knew that BQ goal was likely slipping away before I even had a chance to try.  I also knew that this would be my last chance before the standard goes to 3:05 and come hell or high water, I was going to go for it.  I made the executive decision to stick with the plan.  I knew all too much that this decision would put me in a pretty dark place later in the race if the stars didn’t align, but I did not want to accept the disappointment I would have in myself for not at least trying.  I knew I could run a smarter race based on the conditions by adjusting my pacing, but that would yield something slower than 3:10, still missing my goal and not providing me the opportunity to qualify at the 3:10 standard.  So rather than try for the best time in the conditions, I threw all my chips on the table and went all in.

Miles 1-5             
With about 20 minutes till the race start (it was actually delayed 15 minutes prior to me getting in my corral) I lined up about 5 rows back from the front.  I noticed the road had a slight camber, so I moved over to the middle where it was flat.  Before I knew it, we were off.  The 1st few miles were easy, as we were assisted with a slight downhill and tailwind.  And my effort remained pretty consistent with my plan of 7:30/mile pace.  Before I knew it, we were at Mile 5 and it was time to lock into my Goal Pace and hang on for as long as possible. 

Miles 1-5 Splits: 7:27/7:22/7:30/7:27/7:27 

Miles 6-20           
I began picking up the pace and holding right at goal pace as we entered Camp Pendleton.  I found myself noticeably speeding up when we entered the wall of service people cheering us on.  It was truly inspirational and all I wanted to do was thank each of them for what they did.  I took a peak down at my watch as I neared the next mile marker and noted that I needed to slow down.  The 2 miles through the Camp were slightly faster than goal pace and I knew I’d have to run this race smart if I had any chance at making it through.  After Mile 10, we landed on the boardwalk, which is actually just a giant concrete slab (hard on the legs) and faced the brunt of the winds head on.  I knew from the course that this was about 2 miles long, so we were in it for a while.  I did my best to find a shoulder and run off to the side and benefit from some slight protection.  However, I think I might have spent a bit too much effort here trying to stay on pace.  My HR was noticeably elevated during this section.  Once I observed that, I started to go into damage control, since I was on my way toward approaching ½ marathon type HR levels and fell back to plan B, which was to slow by about 2-3s/mile and still be on target for 3:10, just with a little less room for error later in the race.  Though it wasn’t a significant difference, I managed to bring my HR back into the high 160s.  Though the next bunch miles were away from the headwinds, the road began the false flat uphill trend through Mile 19.  While I was holding onto my pace, I could see my HR starting to tick up again.  I also started getting the urge to “water the foliage”.  I held off that feeling for about 3 miles before I came to the realization that it was beginning to impact my running.  So I ducked off to the side for 45s and continued running.  No less than ½ mile later, my body started to protest in the form of calf cramps.  At first, I slowed my pace to keep them in check.  But very quickly, I began the recurring cycle of stop/stretch/jog.  Miles 19 and 20 were filled with enough non-running that I was able to problem solve the situation and come to the conclusion that the added wind factor was likely dehydrating me more than I realized.  I had been taking extra Endurolytes due to the wind, but I quickly ran out of them around this point.  I knew the Gatorade Endurance the race was providing would have added electrolytes, so that would be my attempt to get back in balance.  The next aid station was at Mile 21, which I REALLY wanted to be closer at that point so I could get this show on the road.

Miles 6-20 Splits: 7:10/7:03/7:09/7:11/7:10/7:08/7:14/7:12/7:11/7:15/7:08/7:23/8:07/8:24/8:49

Miles 21-26.2     
It was during the time between Miles 20 and 21 that I had my darkest moments.  Though I had diagnosed my issue, I couldn’t do anything about it, because there were no aid stations nearby.  I did a lot more stretching and cramping than running during this time and just felt frustrated by my body.  I had also been passed by the 3:20 pace group, which was somewhat discouraging to see.  Everything else felt good still and I knew if I could somehow get some electrolytes back and get to a place where I was able to run again, I’d be ok.  Though I will say that I have never seen a race littered with bonking/cramping casualties as much as I did in this race.  It was pretty epic.  I felt bad for myself, but there were plenty of other people in way worse shape than me.  I think those winds did a number on a lot of other people!

I finally arrived at the aid station and downed 2 cups of Gatorade Endurance.  Sure enough, it gave some life back to my legs.  I was very hesitant at first though, because if I could jog slowly, it was better than having to stop every 10-15 steps to manage a cramp.  Over the course of the next 4+ miles, I continued to gradually pick up the pace.  At the next aid station, I took in as much Gatorade Endurance as I could.  My legs moved a bit faster and I got a bit more confident that the cramps were gone.  The last few miles felt like I was back from the dead and I was passing people again.  I latched onto 2 other runners and we each helped pull ourselves through to the finish.  

Miles 21-26.2 Splits: 10:01/9:23/8:53/8:36/8:25/1:49 (7:59 pace)
Final Time: 3:29:07 
Overall: 322/3160
Age Group: 43/266        

Post Race Thoughts
Though I came through nearly 20 minutes slower than my goal finish time, I couldn’t be more proud of my accomplishment.  I finished knowing that I pushed myself to its limit and though the conditions weren’t ideal for a BQ time, I gave it my all.  I am fully satisfied with running a slower time than I would have if I played it conservative, because I can say I went for it all on this one with no regret.  With the pressure of trying to BQ with a 3:10 off my back, I can look forward to my next marathon and run it conservatively to give me the best possible finish time.  

I knew this race would likely be a PR no matter how much I blew up, but I can’t discount the fact that despite the issues I experienced in this race, I still beat my previous time by 20:07 and ran a sub 3:30 marathon.  And I can’t be disappointed in that!

Now it's time for some R&R ;)


Stephen said...

Congratulations - sounds like a great success under difficult conditions. Nice one!
ps. thanks for all the effort you put into the blog - it's great.

it's all about pace said...

congrats on the PR - the marathon is a fickle mistress

Anonymous said...

hii!! a 20 minute PR is certainly something to celebrate!!!! congratulations on your race-and way to go for BQ glory!!! balls to the wall!! :)

Rainmaker said...

Serious congrats man! Wind is a brutal competitor, and you still kicked the crap out of your PR. Awesome!

Btw - RE: your other post on runners for your wifes production on Monday, let me know if you 'need a bigger response' - I can tweet/post something and probably gather a ton.

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