How is it possible to hurt so much and feel so good at the same time?
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: http://www.eztoregister.com/results/GushMara10.htm#10
My final week of training, tapering mileage up to the actual marathon, from my dailymile.com page: