February 5, 2008

Surf City marathon report

Marathon number three was quite an adventure. I didn't have a whole lot going for me this time around. I was sick for most of the week leading up to the marathon. This meant no running and 4-5 hours of sleep each night. This trip would turn out to be a lesson in what not to do.

We flew down to California Saturday after another short night of sleep. We met some friends at the expo then went over to their house for a great dinner and to stay the night. Up again at 4:00am to get to the start line before the sunrise start at 6:50am. We were running late so Sean and I were dropped off at the start line while the wives found parking.

The weather forecast for the past 10 days highlighted only one day of rain - marathon day. I checked it every few days, but that one day of rain never budged. For once (unfortunately) the weathermen had it dead on. This was our drive in:

Sean and I hopped out of the car with our trash bags ponchos on. We only had time to find a bathroom before queuing up at the start. No real time to stretch or warm up. The marathon route spends much of the time within view of the ocean, but with the wind blowing rain in from the west, I didn't spend much time looking at the surf. Sean and I ran together for the first 8 or 9 miles. I had hopes of a 4:30 finish and he was looking at a 4:20. Our pace was slow for him and a bit fast for me. Not really fast, but not taking it easy early on like I normally would. Since there were many things pointing to a messed up day, I thought I'd experiment and try to build up a little time cushion for the eventual slow down later.

My right knee started hurting around mile 6. I have had IT band issues for quite a while, but my 20 mile run two weeks ago went well enough that I thought I'd be O.K. I waived Sean on as it looked like I would be doing quite a bit of walking. I had to start the "run 'til it hurts, walk 'til it subsides" rhythm much too early. It was going to be a long day.

After mile 9 or 10 the route runs along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or the path along the beach. We were back in the full force of the wind. The poor volunteers were trying desperately to get us water while preventing everything from blowing away. I am always thankful for volunteers, but these really earned a place in my heart. The route had several out and backs, so the wind was always at your shoulder, sometimes in your face, other at your back. We were soaked to the bone by that point, making dodging the large puddles almost pointless.

By mile 16, the time cushion I had built up disappeared. A 4:30 finish time was out. By mile 20, it was clear I wasn't going to beat my last marathon time of 4:39. I tried making small changes in my stride to see if I could find a sweet spot with less pain, but couldn't find it. The walk breaks became more frequent and I even stopped to use the restroom a couple of times.

The rain and layout of the course meant I wouldn't be seeing the wife in the crowd cheering me on. There actually weren't that many spectators overall. Couldn't blame them. The field of marathoners was also smaller (about 1700), so once we were on the path away from the half marathoners it was pretty lonely. I traded leads with a couple other walking wounded, but no one was talking much.

After one more frustrating out and back near the end, we were back on PCH with a half mile to go. On my last walk break I figured I'd walk to the next traffic signal then try to run in to the finish line. There at the intersection was the wife, friends and fellow runners cheering me on. That boost got me running again and I made it to the finish at a jog.

Sean had a good run and cut 15 minutes off his goal by finishing in 4:05. My final time was 4:48:55, about 9 1/2 minutes slower than San Diego and 19 minutes more than my initial goal. Disappointing, but not too surprising with the day we had. I just wish my knee hadn't fallen apart so early. My 20 mile run two weeks ago went pretty well, so I still had some hopes at the start line, but you really never know what the day will bring. After changing into some dry clothes Sean, Marci and I had a couple of complementary beers under cover of a tent. The chilly wind prevented us from lingering too long though.

Lessons learned:

  • Do whatever it takes to get some quality sleep leading up to the marathon. We may need to take a day off of work and get into town a day early next time.
  • Always get to the start line early so I can warm up and stretch.
  • Run the way you have trained. I have always tried to take it easy at the beginning of my long runs so I don't run out of energy at the end. If I want to start more quickly and get progressively slower, I need to train that way.
  • Always pack for every weather possibility (I was prepared this time, but it is tempting to pack lighter).
  • Train better.
  • Aggressively work to prevent injuries. This is my fourth marathon (third finish), and I have had IT issues each time. I need to get past this before I will ever find out what kind of time I can run, and the marathon becomes something other than just surviving to the finish line.

At least the medal is cool.


Anonymous said...

You finished another marathon - rain and no shine. Way to go!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wahoo! You rock! I can't imagine how 'not fun' that must have been. I think I would have found the local watering hole and called it a day. But hey, that's some pretty cool bling!

Anonymous said...

I am so impressed with your MOXY!