Sorry fellow runners for the baseball title, but that’s how my race at the Shamrock Marathon yesterday went. It was my first marathon without the pressure of having to qualify for Boston since I checked that mark in January, at Charleston. That left me with BQ -250 which I wasn’t very comfortable with. I wanted to improve on that time which is the reason I ran this race. I swung for the fences, but ended up with a bunt.
I was watching the weather from about 14 days out of the race. That would be my main determining factor if it was worth going up or not. The temps were looking warm at first but lowered as we got closer to the day. The rain was supposed to be moving out around race time. That wind though. This was the biggest variable I needed to watch. I pulled the trigger on signing up the Tuesday before the Sunday race. As it got closer, the temps steadied around 40 for start time, rain was going to be there for the duration of the race and the winds increased to sustained 20mph NNW with gusts to 30+. As I studied the way the course was laid out I realized it would help for more miles than it would hurt. Miles 9-15 would be directly into the wind. As I planned my strategy I had a few key decisions to make. First, what time did I think I was capable of running? Given the answer to the first question, I had to determine a pace group. I felt like I was in 307/308 shape. The two closest pace groups to that time were 305 and 315. Do I go with the 3:05 group and risk running my legs out? Go with the 315 group and negative splitting by quite a bit to try and make the time? Given my “swing for the fences” mentality I decided to latch on to the 305 group.
As I sat in the car at the race I was just watching the rain be blown all over the place by the wind. I didn’t really even want to get out of the car, and I can’t lie I even thought about just canning it altogether. It was 40 degrees, raining and with that kind of wind, it was going to be miserable. I struggled mightily with another decision, what to wear. My top was decided, I always wear compression socks for marathons, which left shorts or tights? I have NEVER worn tights for a marathon. I always thought it would be a recipe for disaster and I’d overheat regardless of the temps. I had my shorts on sitting in the car but as I got out to walk to the race decided I was going to go with the tights. Gadzooks! I couldn’t believe I was going “there”. I was just praying this wouldn’t come back to haunt me later in the race (spoiler alert: it didn’t).
I had gone out to buy a throw away poncho the night before, which I put on as I began my two block walk to the bag check and start line area. I had executed my fueling plan except for my gel and banana 15 minutes prior to start. I dropped off my bag and headed out for an easy mile warm up with several strides. I met up with the 305 pacer and asked him the strategy given the weather. He said he’s paced this race 4 times and we’d let the wind guide us. In other words the first 6 would be a little quick with the wind on our back, knowing we’d give some time back heading right into the wind from 9-15.
The race starts and we get out clean and are on our way. Immediately, I start thinking about whether or not I’m too hot. Get out of your head moron, calm down. I was fine, and settling in. We start clicking off the miles and I knew I was walking (err, running) a fine line with these miles but also told myself they’re not causing as much debt due to wind at our backs. 656, 706, 656, 653, 658, 651, 655, 701 were the first eight splits. It was also just after this that our pacer announced he had a cramp and dropped out of the race, WTF?! He had informed us another pacer would pick us up at the halfway point, but geez that wasn’t a welcome sight. I was feeling good at this point and knew we were just about to the toughest miles of the race. I just knew I HAD to be in the pack, tucked in as much as possible to reduce the effects of the wind. Here we go, 700, 703, 702, 710, 710, 714, 709. On the boardwalk (miles 10-11.5-ish) I took my turn of blocking for others. It was pretty brutal. Probably the worst place to do it in all actuality, but I was still feeling good (for now). Around mile 14, I realized the rain had turned to sleet. That was quite a surprise. We had made it through the hardest 10k-weather wise. I took an inventory. Had a few hotspots, left ankle, left elbow (that’s odd), right hip. Nothing too bad, let’s roll. As we made a left onto Shore Dr. it began about 5k of slight uphill and me and another pack of about 4 runners formed our own group off the back of the 305 pace group. I knew at this point, by super stretch goal of 305 wasn’t happening.
Miles 16-19 (725, 711, 718, 716) were run mostly on the flat shoulder of the road which also provided a bit of cover by the trees. The windy miles followed by the slight uphill for 3-4 miles were starting to wear on me. I was keeping the pace “respectable” but it was getting harder. Mile 20 (719) had a pretty strong crosswind as we made the turn to get ready to head South. Mile 21 (720) and 22 (713) were a challenge, but I was managing. I could feel my legs were starting to seize up a bit. Cadence was consistent but muscles weren’t propelling me forward with each step as they once did.
I really began hurting at some point on mile 23 (726), despite strong tailwinds. So much so that I could literally feel my self being “pushed” forward. I even thought it was like “the hand of God” pushing me. Then mile 24 (749), happened. NO!!! Mile 25 (816) was a freaking disaster and I could barely move. Kept trying to do the math in my mind and realized about the only goal I could still attain was a PR. I pushed with everything I had on mile 26 (800) and got the pace back down a little. Then, with half a mile to go we get back on the boardwalk and it’s straight ahead and I can see the finish line. I have to say that’s an awesome setup to have it visually to chase and watch the timing clock. I had looked at my watch and said “I have suffered out here too much today NOT to get a PR.” I summoned all I had left and ran 709 pace for the last 237 of the race as I watched the Finish line get closer. I had done it, barely. An 11 second marathon PR. 🙂 I guess any PR day is a good day, but I had more aggressive ambitions. So, that’s my story of how I swung for the fences, but ended up with a bunt.
I learned a lot in this race. Wind is a real game changer. Even though you may not feel the debt you accumulate during the windy miles you will later. I knew 305 was a stretch, but I stand by being in 307/308 shape. 🙂 For now, that will have to be enough. No more marathons for this boy until probably Boston 2018. Which by the way, I did improve my BQ time from 250 to 416. I’m very confident in that being enough. My body is/was trashed after this race. It took me probably 15 minutes just to change clothes afterwards between the inability to bend a limb and lack of dexterity in my frozen fingers. It would’ve been an awesome video to be sure. Also, I don’t regret my strategy. Although it didn’t play out like I would’ve liked I think it made sense. Also, the tights were the right call, because I know you were wondering. 🙂