Thursday, March 19, 2009
My First Full Marathon
Ran my first marathon on November 16, 2008. Wanted to report back for the few who care
I picked Tulsa because Chicago was full when I decided to run one. Tulsa is also 90 minutes drive from my house and the timing worked out well. This marathon is relatively small, though, with a little over 1,000 full 2,000 half plus various other relays, quarters, 5k, etc, for a total of 5,000 runners.
The course is very flat until around mile 22 when there is a set of pretty rough hills for 3 miles. Nice downhill finish after that. I live and run in a very hilly area so I wasn't afraid of them, but I was concerned how I would handle them at that time of the race. More on that to come.
Being my first full I didn't know what to expect. Based on my training I knew I could finish and felt confident I could meet my primary goal of sub-4 as long as I didn't crash. My training fitness, especially the speed work and LRs of >=20, also led me to believe I could set an achievable goal of 3:40 if things went really well. I also felt if things went totally perfect I could have a very slight possibility of hitting 3:30. So, my strategy was to go out with the 3:40 pace group and play it by ear.
Weather was about 38 to start, which is cold for me, being a hot weather guy, but I knew it was going warm up when the sun came out. I was prepared with a throw-away jacket and toboggan and gloves, so I figured everything would be okay.
On to the start. I lined up behind the 3:40 pacer. Mile 1 crosses the Arkansas River and ventures onto the actual Route 66 road for a short time only - about a mile. You would think a good chunk of the race would be on the road of the race's namesake, but that was not the case. Hit mile 2 and cross the river again for a long stretch of 9 miles straight down the side of the river. Between 2 and 3 I felt uncomfortably slow with the pace so I sped up just a bit and shed my jacket. I saw a guy from my hometown area and started running alongside him. I was a little faster than my planned pace but felt like I wasn't exerting much energy and was still at a very comfortable talking pace. I was reasonably consistent for a while after this. I took fluids at each station and gels at every 5 miles. I walked through the stations to make sure I took in enough fluid.
This stretch is long and boring with very few spectators, but I felt great - almost like a comfortable cruising speed. Mrs. HogFan is going to try to meet me somewhere in here but I never see her. Plenty of aid stations along the way and the weather is just perfect now. Mid-40s, sunny and no wind.
Just before mile 12 we cross the river again to make a loop and by this time the wind had picked up. Very strong breeze for the next couple of miles before turning back.
13 0:08:07 half time 1:47
Back across the river and heading north for the home stretch. Good to be out of the wind. My running buddy tells me he's going to have to back off the pace a bit. We wish each other well and I pace up just a bit. Nothing noticeable. Still feeling great. I think at this point a negative split is possible and a 3:30 is in range, even with the hills, if everything goes perfectly.
Somewhere between 18 and 19 I feel a twinge in my left calve and I swear it shoots up to my right shoulder. Oh, crap. What the hell was that. It doesn't linger but I fear it's a sign of things to come.
Approaching the next aid station and I see Mrs. HogFan. I can't tell you how happy I was to see her. I don't know how to explain it but it just did wonders for my psyche. Only a 10k left! I gave her a kiss and proceeded to the aid station. My 21 split was a little slower because I took a few extra seconds to take a gel and two waters with it. I also rubbed my calve because it was trying to cramp up. See, I knew something was wrong earlier.
The hills start. I don't walk at all through all the hills. I'm picking off runners left and right. That hill training was paying off. My body was starting to rebel, though. My calves, yes both of them, were officially cramping now. My right hamstring is starting to cramp, too. I've been getting gatorade at the stations to try to help that. Of course it's only getting worse. I keep pushing forward. At this point I'm using my quads to pull me forward, because they don't hurt at all and I actually expected them to hurt. I wasn't quite shuffling but wasn't far from it. Mrs. HogFan found me again at mile 23 but I couldn't stop this time because I was afraid I couldn't get going again
I knew the hills would slow me and considering the pain I was happy with my splits during this stretch. I knew unless a miracle occurred 3:30 was out but 3:40 was definitely easily in reach.
Whew! I'm through the hills but I'm feeling worse. Trying my hardest to run as fast as I could without popping a muscle and pulling up lame. I wanted so bad to run the last mile hard but it was too much to risk with really little reward at this point. I consider myself lucky seeing the carnage at this point of the course.
The last .2 actually turns a corner and down the chute with everyone cheering. This is what I've been waiting for. Wow, what a feeling! I actually got chills (for a second I thought I was crashing - just for a second :) ) My legs are both about to quit. My right foot even cramped so bad it felt like it lifted my whole leg in some sort of weird spasm. OMG what pain!
I just stood there and rubbed my legs for a minute. Got a blanket, medal and finisher's shirt. I think I had a goofy grin on my face because I couldn't believe I just finished a full marathon. I felt like I gave it everything I could. My legs agreed.
I was very happy with my results, although I wonder what could have been if I hadn't cramped up. I still had energy that last 10k that I didn't use and was not winded even when I finished. I felt like I hydrated and fueled correctly. Maybe some salt tabs could've helped. I don't know.
I'm not sure where to go from here. Before this race I wanted to plan 2 or 3 full marathons next year, but right now I'm kind of down. My legs still hurt pretty bad and I just can't imagine running again. I'm sure those feelings will subside. I can say this one thing - what an adventure!