Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Gusher Marathon - Beaumont TX - May 1, 2010

How is it possible to hurt so much and feel so good at the same time?

(It was a little crowded in the early going, but thinned out considerably as the 5K and half-marathoners finished.  A little less than 200 of the 1,200 runners ran the full marathon.) 

While it felt really great and satisfying to complete a marathon, it was a brutally tough day for running. I didn't quite make my target time of 4 1/2 hours. After a series of great training runs, I thought I could probably run this one between a 10:00 to 10:30 pace. One minor detail intervened-- the weather turned warm and muggy. Most of my recent training runs were at 50 to 60 °F. The pre-dawn low this morning was 74 °F, with oppressive humidity. Light rain fell on us as we waited for the 7:30 AM start. I was prepared for the possiblity of a warm morning, as the likelyhood of cool mornings in SE TX diminishes as April turns to May.

This was not a matter of having an off day. I went out feeling great, but I soon realized that I wasn't going to be able to hold 10:00 very long, and simply had to make adjustments. Mercifully, it remained cloudy most of the morning, and it only warmed to the low 80s late in the race. It could have been much worse. We also faced 30 mph headwinds as the miles got into the 20s.

In addition, my left achilles tightened up in the early miles. It felt better by the halfway point, but was soon replaced by twinges in my right upper hamstring that continued through the second half.

In the last 10 miles, as the day warmed further, I didn't see anyone on the course that wasn't taking at least short walk breaks, myself included. I never felt like I "hit the wall," just had to catch my breath occasionally. I took my final walk break just before the final turn. That let me gather a little strength to make the final push through the finish line at about 8:42 pace. It felt much better to finish quickly than to walk or limp across!

Several unfortunate circumstances occurred during the race. At the half marathon finish, the full marathon runners continued for another lap.  Apparently, a number of marathoners were directed incorrectly, and missed a turn on the second lap, which cut two miles from their route and caused them to finish with 24 miles.  Some of the runners took an extra two mile loop to correct the distance, and some just left with 24 miles.  I had studied the route map before the race, and had run the route by the published route map during one of my training runs.  I knew the course and all of the turns, which helped me to avoid missing that critical turn.  Most runners aren't able to run a course ahead of a race, and it's really the race organization's responsibility to make the route clear.

The second problem was that about four consectutive aid stations had run out of water on the first half, and were awaiting resupply.  One or two wouldn't have been so bad, but four in a row on a warm muggy day resulted in a bad situation.  By the time I reached the fifth station, some of the rain puddles on the road were looking tempting!  I was able to recover by getting extra cups at the next few stations.  I'm sure it helped that I started hydrating heavily a week before the event.

This was a first-time marathon event in this city, and I'm sure that lessons learned will improve next year's race. 

This race gave me the chance to meet up with dailymile friends William and Jeremy F, the Fermo brothers. They both ran the full marathon. Good job, guys!

All in all, I'm reasonably satisfied with this finish under these conditions.

Finish: 4:44:38, 10:52/mile pace, 96th out of 161 overall, 5th out of 11 in age group.
Official results posted at:

My final week of training, tapering mileage up to the actual marathon, from my page:


Barbie said...

What an astounding accomplishment Vern. You should be so very proud of yourself.

Vern said...

Barb, it was a very satisfying moment to cross the finish line of that race and savor the culmination of 4 months' intense training, plus an additional year of building solid base mileage as a foundation for the training. I am proud!


FoodFitnessFreshair said...

Wow, congrats!! A full marathon is such a big accomplishment. I can imagine the heat was tough. Although I haven't been training, just making it to 5 miles today was really tough. I was more than profusely sweating...but I loveeee the summer! Anyways, you should feel so proud of yourself!

Brian said...

Congratulations Vern! Great job. And nice job adjusting to the race day conditions. Better to take a little longer on the course than to try to push through the heat and humidity and win a trip to the hospital. Enjoy a well deserved break!

Vern said...

Grace and Brian,
Thanks so much for the kind comments! Yes, I am proud. Running a marathon has been a dream of mine for years. Feels great!

asheley said...

WOOHOO VERN! awesome job! I cannot imagine running a marathon in those conditions, not to mention that fact that 4 aid stations in a row didn't have water. you should be very proud of yourself!

On the technical side, did you carry anything with you during the marathon(gels, water, anything)?

Vern said...

Asheley, thanks so much for the comments! The support I've received from other runners, fellow bloggers and friends on has made the marathon experience even more rewarding!

To get through the marathon, I drank LOTS of water (with the exception of those 4 aid stations), and I carried gel energy supplements. Before the race I put three Clif Shot gels and two packages of Clif Shot Bloks in my pockets. This was plenty of supplemental nutrition. I chewed on one package of the Shot Bloks in the early miles, had Clif Shots at about 12 and 15. They had GU gels at some of the aid stations, and I had two of them, I think one at about 18 and one at about 22 miles. This was more than enough fuel, and I came home with one package of Shot Bloks and one of my gels. In addition, I drank about a quart of Gatorade before bed the night before and another quart about three hours before the race.

I had also fueled and hydrated well ahead of time. During the entire week, I loaded on extra carbs and drank about a gallon of extra water daily. I'm sure that was a factor in making in through the dry aid stations!

I took the approach of trying to plan for everything I could think of and leave as little to chance as possible. I studied the route map and ran it during one of my training runs. I trained in cold and warm, rain and dry, windy and calm to be prepared for a variety of conditions. I chose an excellent 18-week training program that took me to 20 miles three times. I credit the training plan with strengthening my running more than I thought possible in 18 weeks.

I also tried to get a better idea what to expect by seeking input from other marathoners about their first marathon experiences. Just like you are doing now!

Good luck on your continuing quest to run a marathon! The feeling you will get when you cross that finish line is priceless! If you have additional questions, feel free to ask!