Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tucson Marathon

I will apologize ahead of time for my lack of writing skills and lack of total recall. Some things I just don't remember while on the course because they just really don't matter. Here we go…………As some of you know, I was rocking along in my training with huge improvements since my last marathon in April. Solid progress in a 5k, 10k, ½ marathon and 10 miler in that order gave me great confidence 5 weeks out from Tucson. Now I just need to prove myself in the long one. What I didn’t realize was that I injured myself in the 10 miler on 11/08 and further aggravated it by running a 5k the following weekend. That being said, I had only put in 120 miles in the last 5 weeks and my last 20 miler was October 31st.

My goal immediately after the 10 miler was a 2:49:55 based on McMillan race predictor, but Sunday morning I had no idea if I could finish the race, much less break 3:00. I was constantly icing, Kinesio taping, epsom salt soaking, whatever I could do to nurse the right calf and left ankle back. The ankle cleared up fine, not the calf. In 5 weeks, I did a total of 2 runs on the road. The remaining 102 miles were on the TM. My two longest runs during that period were 16 & 13 and both on the TM.

Got in to Tucson Saturday morning. Other than my Stick being confiscated at security because it was considered "a club", the flight in was fine. I momentarily considered testing the club theory when I snatched it back from the NTSA woman, but cooler heads prevailed and I reluctantly handed it back to her. I stayed at the marathon hotel so I checked in, went to the expo, bought a smaller Stick, compression socks and some pain relief gel then back to the room for a nap. Hit the pasta dinner with about 75 other runners at about 6:00 and was back in the room by 7:30. Got everything ready for the morning including the compression socks that I bought at the expo. Considered wearing them, but opted to pass since that was uncharted territory for me. Still brought them along race morning just in case I changed my mind. Hit the sack about 8:00 and fell asleep watching Gladiator.

Up at 4:10, a couple cups of coffee, dressed and out the door about 4:45 to grab an early bus. Figured I would ride out to the start and take a nap. While sitting in the bus and just a couple minutes before it was to leave I realized I didn’t grab my Powerade. Argh! The driver informed me no time to go get it, but there would be another bus. Headed back to the room and caught the next bus, no problem. Nice heated bus and no one sat next to me. I think I was the only person sitting solo on the entire bus. Was I the only one that didn’t shower or what? It could have been the game face, because I put the headphones on, no smiling, no talking, just focusing on the task at hand. That okay, gave me room for my drop bag full of all sorts of stuff. We got to the start area about 6:00 so I just chilled with everyone else for about an hour other than my quick trip out to the porta potties. At 7:30 it was off the bus, strip down to shorts and singlet, gloves. Left the hat and arm warmers in the bag. It was probably 45 or so at that point, not bad at all. We would be fine once we took off.

In line to take a leak one more time, out the door as the National Anthem was starting, make my way towards the front with a lot of "excuse me, pardon me, excuse me", etc. and then we were off. I screwed around too long and didn’t get into position that I wanted. Just behind the 3:15 pace group as we crossed the starting matt.

The miles came as follows:

6:24 (too fast, slow down)
6:36 (better)

Some pretty good drops in elevation here. This was cake, but I knew I need to settle down.


Somewhere her between 6&7 the leaders where coming back from the "out and back" part. I was just hoping the "out" wasn’t too far away. It wasn’t. The leader was a guy that I noticed walking around at the start. He had only about half of an arm on the left arm. An inspiration when I saw him. Even more so now that he was leading the race.

6:47 (headed uphill here – 86 ft ascend)
7:38 (190ft ascend here - GMaclin’s pace band had 7:35 for a 2:59)
13:15 (missed mile 9 marker, 6:36 pace for 2.01) 10 miles

At this point we turned onto the highway which would be one long curve to the left for 14 miles. I was with a pack of about 5 other guys with whom we had al been jockying for position. We discussed goals a bit and all were shooting for sub 3 so a couple of us made to comment to work together. We were moving along pretty smooth and strong at that point. I could feel my right calf a bit, but I wasn’t too concerned. Maybe just nervous?


1:27:28 @ 13.1 marker/clock. I knew that a 2:49 was not in the cards, but thought that I would lke to hold this 6:30ish pace as long as possible, see how the body hold up. I was okay with a positive split if it happened, but hoped for something better. Starting to get a little frustrated as we are running into a head wind. I was hoping it would ease up, but not happening. Ditched the gloves somewhere in this area. Me and another guy, Shawn from Pasadena, 42, moved to the front and then slowly pulled away. We had a pretty good conversation over the next mile or so about various including him and his son racing the Baja 500 this past year. Cool! I could tell he was pretty competitive and that was good for both of us.


Somewhere in here around 17 or 18 we passed the early front runner that I mentioned above. No idea what had happened, but he was walking at this point. Never saw him again. Felt bad for the guy.


Things were good until about here for me. The wind was getting in my head and on at least two instances I remember yelling out some obscenities about it then quickly apologizing to my running mate. He was pretty much of the same opinion. Not sure how bad the wind was, but many of us that discussed it thought steady gusts in the 15-20mph range. No idea really other than the Weather Channel predicted 20mph when I checked. The wind blew pretty much from about miles 10-24. The rest of the story is ugly. Shawn and I had seen a 3 guys 100-200 yds ahead of us and said we would catch them, one at a time. From about 14-20 we did that. Of course, after them, there were more, 3 that I can remember so the same thing, go get ‘em. The first two we caught. The 3rd wasn’t so easy.

14:37 (missed the marker again - some had blown over with the wind)

By the 24 mile marker my legs were toast, endurance was gone. I told Shawn to go get him, I had nothing. He reluctantly left and went after the guy. It was the only racer that I could see ahead of us, but I had no idea at the time, maybe top 20-25? I watched Shawn surge ahead after the guy while convincing myself to hold on. From mile 20 on I was just telling myself "see how fast you can do this one, just one more", of course until the next mile marker. No way I was really going to quit, but the quads were really not working for me. As I saw Shawn pass this guy, maybe 50 yards ahead of me at this time I thought fvck, now I need to go get him. It was like a turtle passing another turtle, but I eventually caught him with maybe a little less than a half mile to the finish.

7:34 (141ft ascend here, slow motion, I think a walker may have passed me here?)
7:26 (1.01 avg pace 7:20)

Miles 25 & 26 were pretty tough, maybe worst ever for me. I felt very light headed and the possibility of passing out entered my mind. I could see a few spectators around so if it happened, I'd be okay? Okay, so I passed him, Shawn’s up ahead and will beat me handily, I’ve got no problem with that. He was the better man today. Then my legs just want to quit. I had hit a top speed of 10.1 mph on mile 26 , but must have slowed to 8:30 pace or so once I passed by the guy. Couldn’t keep it up. He went right back ahead with about a qtr mile, damn! Okay he got me, uh no, you can’t do that. I’ve got more in me than to roll over this close. We made the final turn onto the straight away which went from pavement to deep sandy type dirt. Maybe 50 yards. I could hear the announcer "we’ve got a race" and I turned it back on to pass him and edge him out. I crossed the finish line ahead of him by maybe 2 seconds, and then bit the dust.

1:37 final .2
2:57:45 Garmin, 2:57:42 chip time 26.27 on the Garmin

I collapsed to my hands and knees just beyond the finish line and could not get my self up. I crawled a bit struggling to get up, but it wasn’t going to happen. A couple of ladies from the medical team helped me to my feet and walked me around. Shawn was right there waiting. I think he finished 25-30 seconds ahead of me. We were both pretty satisfied at that point. Not sure what the conversation was, but as the medics walked me away, I heard him say 8th and 9th out of 1,246. We finished 1 & 2 out of 110 in the 40-44 AG. I’ll take it. It was not the 2:49:55 I originally wanted, but all things considered, I was pretty proud of the time despite the ugly finish. It was a top 10, something I would never have dreamed about 2-3 months ago, certainly not last year when I was still dreaming of breaking 3:20 for a BQ. Actually went to the searchable results page last night while waiting in the airport and I didn’t have to search for my name, it is right there on the Leaderboard.

I want to give a shout out to Smick. Met her after the race walking around. I was looking around for a blonde wearing pink and thank goodness for printed names on our bibs or else I would missed her. I enjoyed the conversation and I'm sorry the day didn't play out as well as you had hoped. Also, didn’t know that Spinderella would be racing, but I believe I saw her hanging out near the back of one of the buses just before the start. I hope you had a great race.

A PR by 19:42 and a lot to build on for the next one. Sunday’s race gives me some confidence that the 2:49 is possible on a great weather day with a good training cycle.

So Boston is next with a coupe of halves before then. In my training this past cycle, I kept trying to get up over 70 miles a week, but couldn’t get there. A tax practice, DW with her own career and 4 kids keep us busy. 60 & 61 were my two high mileage weeks back in October. My thinking last night was to just stick with it. Longer tempo runs, get all my 20-22 milers in and stay in the 50-60 mile range for 12 weeks. If I can’t get a 2:49 with that, I probably never will because I’m not getting any younger and life isn’t stopping for me any time soon.

I want to thank all of you guys from the 3:20 thread that have been a huge support to me and have had all the confidence in the world in me. Thanks to those of you from the Boston threads that have chimed in as well. It truly means a lot to me. Shawn, while not a RWOL guy, still want to point out that he was a huge help. We pushed each other pretty good out there and it helped immensely. There was a lot of distance between runners up towards the front. Finaly, DW will never read this, but I still want to acknowledge her here and say thanks as well. She thinks I’m crazy at times for "doing this to yourself", but she is my biggest fan! Couldn't do it wihtout her.

Take care and thanks for taking the time to read this piece.



ExSoccerGuy said...

A Gladiator-worthy performance all the way around. Fantastic race, Steve. My Boston goal is to finish within 20 minutes of you, so don't make that impossible for me by dipping to far into the 2:40's. ;-) -ESG/Ron

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Well, you already know I was proud of you back when, but decided to repeat it AGAIN tonight since it's been a while that I blogged.

You seriously have some talent and just imagine if you had ALL the time in the world to train, how much you could accomplish?, but then again how much fun would that be, right??

It's all about juggling and managing our time during our busy lives. Keep up the awesome work!

Best Wishes!