This past Saturday, I ran the marathon distance of the ZombieRunner Bay Trail Run – MY FIRST FULL MARATHON!!! This was the third edition of this event, put on by Zoom Running Events. The run had three distances: a full marathon, a half, and a five mile and drew a field of 82, 365, and 116 finishers respectively. This was my second Zoom event and simply stated: they know how to put on a fantastic run! (Zoom is a sister org to Coastal Trail Runs, which also does an awesome job on their events – I’ve run one of their events.)
The weather was perfect for a run: cool and partly cloudy. Rain was forecast for about 1200, but I planned to be done by then. I still wore shorts though, but sported my long sleeve tech shirt from the San Francisco Half Marathon and my lite Lululemon running gloves for warmth. There were quite a few runners in long pants and layers. I thought about donning layers, but knew that I’d shed them pretty quickly after the start.
The course was flat and a mix of paved and dirt trails (27 and 73% respectively) that traveled around the Bayland park areas in Palo Alto. Okay, one could say that there was one “hill”, but nothing really to speak of in the scheme of things – it was more of an incline. Those running the marathon simply ran the half route twice. I had never been to this park area before, but do drive by a one mile stretch of the course that parallels Highway 101 every day on the way to work (more on that later.) I tend to zone out while I run, but it did seem like a nice place to go for a run or hike and see the waterfowl and baylands.
This was my “Plan B” race, as I was supposed to have run the Honolulu Marathon for my first full on December 9th. If you’re a regular visitor here, you know that we had to cancel the trip. As I looked for options, this race worked best with my schedule and 2013 training plans (read: gotta get ready for Big Sur in April.) After 18 weeks of training, I was anxious to Giddy Up! At first, I was bummed to be running my first marathon on a small event; but, in the long run, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m a low-key person and this was just right – it would have been interesting to run my first with ~30,000 people; but, in the end, 82 was better.
- Garmin time: 4:05:05 at an 9:19/mile pace
- Official time: 4:05:05 at an 9:21/mile pace
Fair warning: This is my first marathon so this is a verbose post. You only get one “first” and I want to capture everything!
[Recap Soundtrack] Part of my pre-race routine is to listen to my Unbreakable playlist as I drive to the race. This is track one (Outro, by M83), a favorite, and is one of the few songs I hear in my head while I run… I just imagine myself running in slow motion to this music…on the road or on a trail! Click play and read on…
Marathon morning… I woke up, downed my standard plain bagel, took care of “business”, showered, kitted up, and hit the road. I got to the event early and parked close to the finish line – not knowing how I would be after 26.2! I checked out the lay of the land, scored an unused porta-potty (!), and then went back to the car to sit in the warmth (love those seat warmers.) At about 45-minutes to start, I downed a GU, shed my sweats, did some stretches and went for an easy/short jog. At about 15-minutes to start, I downed another GU, then waited. The picture of me killing time, trying to stay focused, and not be too nervous is the only one I took…I was focused. The full and half marathons started together, so when they called for runners, I toed up near the front of the pack so I could start at my desired pace. We got our course instructions and then the countdown: 3-2-1…GO! NO TURNING BACK NOW DEN!
Pacing has been a challenge for me on the last several half marathons that I’ve run (starting to fast, ignoring the pace plan, choking toward the end), so I started out with a goal pace in mind and figured I’d allow myself a -10 second deviation. My goal finish time was 3:48:00 @ a 8:42 pace (based on a McMillan calculation from one of my half marathons), which means I could deviate to a 8:32 pace. That said, I became a watch-watcher to ensure compliance!
Like a symphony, my first marathon can be divided into four movements: two with the soundtrack you’re hopefully listening to (feel free to hit repeat!) and two with this something else (not sure what though.) In short, I didn’t hydrate properly and cramped during miles 17.1 to 20 and again between 22.2 and the finish. A fellow runner gave me a salt tab somewhere on mile 17 which kicked in miraculously at the mile 20 aid station (I never got his name, but thanked him no less than four times throughout the race.) Ah, the miracle of salt and liquid and the human body!
- Mile 0 to 17.1: Average pace: 8:33. In the words of James Brown, “I FEEL GOOD!” I was managing my pace well – sticking within my pace deviation – and just taking it easy. At times, the half marathoners would pass me and I’d be tempted to keep up with them, but caught myself. I chatted with some of my fellow runners, but ended up by myself quite a bit. My HUGE mistake during this movement (LESSON LEARNED) was not topping off my water bottle at the 13.1 aid station. I think that contributed to the events encountered in movement 2…
- Mile 17.1 to 20: Average pace: 12:48, including a brutal mile 19 at 15:16! This is where the wheels fell off…well maybe not off, but wobbled. I could feel my calves start to tighten and started drinking, but it was too late and the next aid station was not until around mile 20. Oh, BTW, I blew through the mile 15 aid without topping my bottle, so that compounded the mistake from 13.1. I was low on liquid! It was right near the start of my cramping that one of the other runner’s gave me a salt tab. I swallowed it and drank a fair amount of water so my stomach wouldn’t get uset – saving some for the next, almost two miles. This was my process: run until the calves started to tighten, stop and masssage my calves for a second, and then speed walk for a bit – all with grunting, groaning, and mumblng going on. I was determined to try and make my 3:48:00 goal if possible! I repeated the process for almost three miles – at a respectable pace(!), with mile 19 being the worst and most painful. It’s funny, I read an article a while ago that talked about “embracing the suck” – I kept thinking about that as I hobbled along on mile 19.
- Mile 20 to 22.2: Average pace: 9:23. I got to the aid station near mile 20 and refilled my water bottle/GU Brew combo, ate some potato chips, and downed another salt tab. I was there for all of about two minutes and then decided to resume the race. Cramps, what cramps? I started running and felt great! It was like nothing happened. I left the aid station about the same time as a group of people and paced them for about a mile then passed them. I caught up with the guy that gave me the salt tab back at mile 17 and passed him (thanking him for the tab.) It was weird, just weird. I was cautious, but my calves were not bothering me at all…go figure. I reviewed my race plan in my head and thought about the possibility of still making my 3:48 time. At mile 21, I was at about 3:12 and decided that the prudent thing was to revise to a sub-4 hour goal. I was feeling good again…though not as good as I did for the first 17 miles…and there was no way I could run 5.2 in 36 minutes – I knew I could in 47.
- Mile 22.2 to finish: Average pace: 11:00. I was clicking along and could feel my calves start to tighten again…bummer. They never got as bad as they were during the second movement, but that was because I played it safe and eased up on the pace early. I also refiled my liquid at the mile 24 aid (I should have grabbed a salt tab, but forgot.) I used much the same process I did before: run until the calves started to tighten, stop and massage them for a second, and then speed walk for a bit – with a little less grunting, groaning, and mumbling on this movement. Since the calves were not as cramped as before, I was able to run longer distances. It was pretty cool when I got close to the finish line, there were people cheering me on to KEEP GOING…YOU CAN DO IT! I gritted and ran the final section, crossing the line and feeling AWESOME!
I didn’t really feel the rush of emotion that people talk about when I crossed the finish line, but I did think about my dad, mom, and father-in-law and how proud I know they’d be. I knew I’d see my wife and mother-in-law later (and knew they’d be proud), but not them…OK, maybe I did get a little emotional.
The weird part is that I never really “hit the wall” at the 20-mile mark. Aside from the cramping, which was preventable (and will be forevermore!), I felt great. I had methodically followed the carb-loading plan that I have used since my first half marathon and it proved to be exactly what I needed to maintain energy. Aside from the cramps and some stiffness at the finish, I was walking like a normal person, chatting with my fellow runners, and actually waited for a few of the pack that I ran with during the race to finish. I actually finished ahead of the guy who gave me the salt tab at mile 17, so I thanked him again when he crossed the finish line. I know the “wall” isn’t a myth and I know I’ve hit it in at least one half marathon, but it just never reared it’s ugly head on this race.
Most people were gone as the 5-milers and half marathoners had finished already. As I waited for the results to be updated, I snacked on some food and stretched a bit. I looked at the results and saw that only two people in my age group had finished – I called my wife again to check in and told her that I thought I might get third place! Turns out I did – I was pretty jazzed!
Requisite Carb Loading and Mid-Race Fueling Section.
As I have been on my half marathons, I was pretty intentional about these two areas – actually more so…hey, this was the BIG ONE! I followed my usual loading plan – times two.
- On carb loading, I used the resource that was mentioned in a Runner’s World article called “The Endurance Calculator.” It was developed by a med student who bonked and wanted to know why and how to prevent it. Based on the calculator, a while back I developed a plan for carb loading 36 hours ahead of the race. I basically switched to mostly carbs for two days – 90%! – and increased my base caloric intake by about 1,000 calories each day. To be honest though, I did “drink 520 of those calories in the form of G2 – I read that in another article as well…I just couldn’t see myself eating that much! I do have new pre/pre-race and pre-race dinner plan that has worked twice now without upsetting my stomach: pre/pre-race is spaghetti/green beans/sourdough bread and pre-race is Chinese (broccoli-cashew and steamed rice). Of course, both nights are topped with Swedish Fish and a bottle of G2 – love my Swedish Fish!
- On mid-race fueling, I changed my GU Gel intake to every 4 miles during the final weeks of training and it seemed to be kinder on my stomach (so that is 2 before the race (-:45 & -:15) and the six during.) I also drank ~40 oz. of GU Brew that I had with me (one in the bottle at the start and a packet that I carried/mixed at the mile 20 aid.) I topped off liquid at the mile 24.5 aid station – though my orange GU Brew and the grape flavored drink they had tasted pretty bad. The hydration wasn’t sufficient, the calf cramps were proof of that, so I will be reassessing that aspect.
Bottom line: I’M A MARATHONER!!!! Really, it was a great day and I learned some new things about running. My salt tabs are on order, should arrive this Wednesday, and will always be carried from now on! Also, my daily commute now includes my memory of mile 19…all 15 minutes of it…when I drive through Palo Alto on Highway 101!
Post-race meal: With everything that has been going on in life lately, I opted for a quiet afternoon, with no real post-race feast. We had KFC for dinner and I chilled. I did down a big hot dog and fries on SUnday afternoon, so that was a bit of a splurge.
Training Journal – 12/18/12:
- Current plan: Bay Trail Marathon Training Plan – Recovery Week 1
- Today’s session:
RestCross Train: 60 minute bike ride
- Comments: Legs are feeling good, so I rode 16.43 miles @ 16.3 mph avg. Back to running tomorrow…just a short one though.