Monday, June 3, 2013

Brookings Marathon 2013

I chose to wait a couple of weeks to write my race report for the Brookings marathon to see what important aspects I think about now that the event has settled in a little bit more. It was my first official marathon since 2011 (California) and first in Brookings since 2008.

The minute I woke up I was extremely nervous, going through the pre-race jitters that are normal for this type of event : Did I train enough? Is everything prepared that I need? Should I just stay in bed?
I knew I can run the distance. I knew I had everything I needed. I had seen a physical therapist the prior 2 weeks to work on my IT-bands and left achilles, so that they wouldn't bother during the race. And the only way to get the butterflies out of the stomach is to toe the start line and give it my best shot.

Start line before sunrise
Last June I started running seriously for the first time and I had set my goal for this years' Brookings Marathon to run a personal best of under 3:21:19. In the last few weeks leading up to the race, I had to admit to myself that my training, though extensive, was far from ideal for a marathon PR. I had focused so much on volume, that I completely neglected speed training. I suppose that happens when your other goal is to prepare for an ultramarathon of 50-100miles. Either way, at the time I have nearly logged 1000 miles at an average pace of 9:19min per mile. If your goal race pace is sub 7:45min/mile, then it is not the right training.

Mass start

The weather forecast showed a chilly 40 degrees. This should be no issue as I trained through the winter at sub zero temperatures and I knew this could be a benefit as I don't do well during heat. The timing this year was done through a chip on the race bib and not on the shoe. I had pinned the number onto my sweatshirt, which is not designed for running and collects a lot of moisture underneath. During the cold start I started running in the sweatshirt and collected too much sweat that I was afraid to take of the shirt at the half way point of the race, when I noticed that I am getting too warm. Also, I would've wasted precious time trying to re-pin the Bib onto my shirt underneath. My fear was to start shivering immediately afterwards, as the second half of the race was outside of the comforts of town and mostly into the cold prairie wind. A little more on this in a few minutes.

At the start line, I noticed some familiar faces from the Brookings area. This is a great benefit of running in a small community. Be it a 5K, 10K half- or full marathon, you'll see many faces you know and it gives it an additional factor to enjoy. It was especially cool, seconds after the start gun sound, that I heard my track coach from High School cheer me on. He was running a couple of segments of the marathon relay later on.
As soon as I hit the Mile 1 marker, I noticed that I had gone out much too fast, as I clocked a 7:07min/mile. I guess I stayed with too many half-marathoners and marathon relay runners. The second mile wasn't much better at 7:20ish. I tired already and noticed that the pace is not sustainable and tried to slow down during the next 2-3 mile stretch.

Mile 3 by SDSU campanile (you can see the left IT-Band taping)

My favorite section of the marathon is the mile 2-6 stretch that navigates around the campus of my alma mater and always brings back memories. Unfortunately, the course changes slightly, so that we no longer run through McCrory Gardens (where I had met my wife 5 years ago).
While on campus a spectator's dog got loose and ran along the course with the other runners for a mile or so. When I caught up to him, I stopped him as I could see his owner way in the back, exhausted and frantic as she didn't know where her dog was. I grabbed the collar and went back to the woman, adding about a half mile to my total distance. The next few miles was easy coasting through the town and enjoying a beautiful day as the sun rose higher.
I realized that I am on an ideal pace at the half-marathon mark, as I averaged right around 7:30min/mile and still felt good. I had planned to use my MP3 player during the second half to keep a fast pace towards the finish. I couldn't focus on the music as the headwind was strong enough to out blast the music at times. It slowed me down enough that I had lost most of my cushion of the first half-marathon already during the short stretch from miles 14-16. Not only did I lose a lot of time here, but my moral was at the lowest point as I realized the slow-down and couldn't find another gear to try to counter-act the current events. Running into the wind and being over-heated from wearing the sweatshirt finally showed its result as I noticed that I stopped sweating and tried to catch up with my hydration. I usually train with a water bottle, but didn't think I need it during the race as there was a water station every 2.5 miles. However, I think I am more used to the regular intake of water instead of big gulps at the aid stations. Also, I can't help but spill most of the drink anyways.
By mile 17 I took a gel and noticed the sugar helping a little bit later on. Also the wind shelter of the town helped rejuvenate my spirits and I was able to get back into a regular rhythm. As I entered the Indian Hills neighborhood, I could feel the finish nearing with less than 6 miles out and I tried picking up the pace a little bit. I caught up to a runner (Bill) whom I chatted with a little bit to pass the oncoming fatigue. If I remember correctly he has run a marathon in 14 states in the last 18 months or so. I later found out that he added Wisconsin a week later.
I tried picking up the pace to improve my overall standings and was hoping for the generous downhill portion of the last 1-2 miles. However, with less than a half mile to go my left hamstring and both calves decided to simultaneously cramp. I ended up standing there unable to move for probably 3-4 minutes and had to walk the next 200 yards to shake out the cramps. I think I lost a good 5-7 spots. Hadn't I stopped for the dog in the beginning of the race, would I have made it across the finish line without cramping? In the end I wasn't close to my PR so that question is irrelevant. I nice touch was that my track coach from High School was running a few hundred feet with me right before the finish and helped me catch one more runner.

You can't see it, but my legs are protesting violently against any further running :)

As I crossed the finish line I was happy to see my wife, Who weathered the cold temperaure throughout the race together with our dog cheering me on at various spots. She took this lovely picture, which does not honestly reflect my level of exhaustion and the bitter cold weather that we had.

Overall, 3:43 covering 26.82miles is a good result considering weather, wind and

As I consider this my "home-town" marathon, I plan to continue to run it for years to come!

A brief adrenaline infused smile covering up the cold and painful legs.

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