Monday, May 28, 2012

The Marathon

The short story is that I hit my pace right how I wanted through about 20 miles.

Then it got hot.

And I slowed down.

And I cramped (aka the legs seized up and I collapsed to the ground AGAIN) about a half mile from the finish.

But at least I PR'ed.

The details for #898:

The goal was to be around 7:00 pace through 20 miles, and things started out well.

7:06 (although I had to weave all over the place since I got put back in the "B" group),  6:49 (so 13:54 through 2), 6:48 (over the 16th street bridge), 6:57, 7:00 (back over the 9th & 7th st bridges), 7:01, 6:51 (downhill to the West End bridge), 6:56, 6:56 through 9 on the south side.

Then, I lost some focus and remember thinking, "geeze, I wish I could just fast forward to mile 20" and it showed in that mile of 7:11 for 1:09:36 through 10. Oops!

I see Beth over by the Birmingham Bridge and split 6:56 for mile 11. Intentionally taking it easy on the "up" into Oakland with a 7:10 and 7:44.....actually that 7:44 was to 13.1 (missed the mile 13 so probably 7:00- ish for mile 13). So, I'm at the half in 1:31:27 and right on my plan to be around 7:00 pace and then negative split down the hills through Bloomfield and through the strip.

6:06 from 13.1 to 14 (so more like a 7:00ish), then a 6:48 through Shadyside and 6:54 as I make the right onto Penn Ave and head towards "the hood" of the course. Along Penn Ave I was running right behind two guys and pacing off of them. I see (about 1/4 mile ahead) a pack of 7 or 8 runners and I was thinking this was probably a group aiming for the 3:00 mark. So, I rolled with my two guys and followed along as we began to close the gap on that group. 6:38 for mile 17 and also another 6:38 for mile 18 along Braddock Ave and along Frankstown Rd back towards Shadyside. Closing on that "pack." (Aside: perhaps these two were a smidge fast, but they were A - downhill & flat and B - came at the point right after a gel)

6:58 for mile 19 and then to the Highland Ave/Bryant St "rectangle" and I noticed it was getting hot. 7:20 for that mile. Uh oh. But there was some uphill. Now, I knew it had been sunny and hot and had been dousing myself with cups of water since the south side (mile 8-ish). But, it felt like the heat was really setting in.

Okay, with that 7:20 I was at 2:18:51 through 20 and figured a 41-minute 10k may be tough but potentially still feasible with the downhill and flat nature of the course.

Didn't happen. It just got hotter. And I felt it. 7:23 for mile 21 onto Baum Blvd and back to Liberty Ave. 7:49 for mile 22 and I figure just control the damage and still get a 3:0x marathon and PR.

I walked through the next water station and took in more fluids and dumped more water on me causing a 9:08 mile 23. Okay, 3 miles to go and it's downhill.

Wouldn't you know I would then get a side stitch that felt like a knife jabbing under my ribs at this point. Not a big deal as long as could hold my hands above my head, but easier said than done after 23 miles of running. So, I locked my fingers together on top of my head and proceeded down the hill out of Bloomfield to the Strip District with people probably looking at me odd. The stitch would go away and I would drop my arms. But, then it would just come back. Bummer.

In spite of my "prisoner" type running style, a 7:51 and 2:51:02 through 24. 2.2 to go. A couple of 8-minute miles on flat would put me at a 3:07 or :08-ish. I could deal with that considering the heat and my side stitch.

Did I mention it was hot? Back on the flats in the Strip District I again walked through the water station and split a 9:04 for mile 25. I didn't look at the overall time during the race, but I'm now at 3:00:07. 1.2 to go. Still on pace for sub-3:10. I make it towards downtown and past the Greyhound Station. I make the left onto Smithfield St. I see Beth by the Mellon Square garage. I see fellow Etowner and co-worker Rich K giving me a wave and thumbs-up. Beth cheers me on and encourages me on to a PR. Rich cheers me on and I give him a thumbs up back.

Only a few blocks away! It was hot (I think I mentioned that). There was a table of water (I don't think it was even an official water station) and a lady was holding out water. I take the ever-so-slight lunge to the right to reach for the water and BAAAAAAAAM!!!!!!!!! Everything (quads, hammies, calves) all seize up and I go down (with the scrapes on the elbows to prove it). NOT AGAIN!?!?!?!?! (You knew this story couldn't end without a leg muscle seizure, right?)

Beth had already made the dash to the finish line so she doesn't even realize it happened. Rich saw it happened and came over to see what he could do. The people standing by me when I went down were awesome. They were offering me bananas, Gatorade, water, and other stuff I'm sure. As I'm grimacing and seizing on the ground, they were all asking what they could do. Of course, since I had been in this situation TWICE before, I knew exactly what needed to be done. The solution - move my legs in a bicycle-like motion until the cramping went away.

After a few minutes, a couple of people helped me up. I feel bad for the guy who was on my right because I squeezed his hand sooooo tight because the one leg started to cramp a little again. But, it went away and Rich walked with me for a block to make sure I was okay. It seemed like things were okay, so I started jogging to get done and split my annual double-digit mile split at 12:23. Ugh! But, things were kind of loose and I jogged the last 0.2 in 1:42 (which, all things considered, is a decent 8:30 pace).

So, feeling "relatively" decent, I lift the sunglasses up on my head for my "glamour" finish line shot and finish in 3:14:07. A PR, but not what I wanted. (The kids at school the next day pointed out I should have waited a few more seconds to run 3:14:16 so I could have run "pi." I think I'm rubbing off on the kids and don't know if it's a good thing).

But, not all was lost. I was involved with Ken Lambert and Running for Laptops with our Etown alumni group and we raised $1,992 as part of the approximately $15,000 RFL raised to supply students graduating from the foster care system with laptops. Thank you for all the awesome people out there who helped!

Also, there was not much time to sit around an mope because of the Etown alumni post-race party. This year, we had it at one of the lawyer offices of an alum's father and the view was amazing! It looked out across the Allegheny River.

As a reflection, the one thing I noticed was that the heat affected just about everybody. I signed up for email alerts of a handful of friends and all of them had their pace go WAY UP after mile 20. Just one of those days. Also, math nerd that I am, I did some numerical analysis.

This tells me that it was a tough year and I would have done better place and/or time-wise in all the other years. Oh well, I guess there will be a next time. Stay tuned for details this summer.

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