Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hartford and Amica Marathon recaps

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 36th Edition 
527.7 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Hartford Marathon
Place: Hartford, CT 
Miles from home:  2270 miles
Weather: 60s; bright sunshine

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 6; 37th Edition 
553.9 miles raced, 7480 meters swam and 202.3 miles biked in 2011
Race: Amica Marathon
Place: Newport, RI 
Miles from home:  2339 miles
Weather: 60s; bright sunshine; wind

I am writing these two recaps as one as they really do belong together.  When I began mapping out this year in 2010, I planned this as my attempt to try and do a sub-3 hour race on back-to-back weekends.  I also planned for St. George Marathon to be a PR attempt and a variety of other things to happen, if at all possible.  At the Fox Valley Final Fall 20 a few weeks ago I spoke with an older runner who said he never really plans to have a good day or bad day, he just goes out on race day and gives it what he has.  I admire that quality and when you are only doing a few races a year that is something which can be done more easily.  If you are not going to try for a PR in this race, well, chances are it will be one of the other two or so you are doing.  I am not, however, afforded that luxury.  In addition, as I think it smacks of both dishonesty and cowardice to not state your goals ahead of time and instead simply say that whatever the result was your intention, I know I have to let others know what I want to do- even if there is little shot for it.

That was indeed the case here in this double weekend. While I have had a great year of racing with new personal bests in shorter distances races, all distances of triathlon and sundry other events, the past few months have been quite exhausting. No need to get into it all but things completely outside of running (and for the most part no one else's business) have drained me. So while I can be realistic with myself in knowing what may or may not happen, I still like to stick with my stated goals. Which brought me to the starting line of the Hartford Marathon.

I had tried one back-to-back weekend before at the Mississippi Blues and First Light Marathons in January of last year. In preparation for my upcoming 202 mile running of the American Odyssey Relay in April of 2010 I had, on New Year's Eve, ran for 6 hours straight around the 1.5 mile loop in Liberty Park across the street from my home in Salt Lake City. Then one week later I proceeded to run a 2:59/3:17 at this back to backer in 16 degree weather and only the second and third times I can ever recall wearing tights in a race. It was darn cold.  I had no business running those speeds but it happened, proving my theory that one simply has to get to the starting line to see what the day will hold for you.

The second day's 3:17 has been even harder than it sounded because I was trying to run exactly a 3:17.  Even when I had the urge to run a tad faster, I had to keep it in check.  I am pretty sure I had a sub 3:10 on that day but definitely not a sub-3.  So on days which seemed to be much better weather-wise forecasted for this weekend, I was hoping to get it done here in New England.

However, when things went sour at the St. George Marathon two weeks ago, instead of being macho and pushing through in a futile attempt to salvage a still-fast-but-not-PR time, I tried to focus instead on a quick recovery for this double. I knew it would be hard  to get sub-3 on consecutive days but if the outcome was known, what would the point be. Running a time that is easy for me and then declaring it to be something special is insipid. That is one reason why I been more impressed by those who are giving as much of their effort as possible, regardless of what the time is on the clock. So after a couple of wonderful days at the Hartford Marathon expo I was ready to take on race number one.

The morning broke slightly chilly but I could tell it would be clear with bright sunshine beating down on runners. I could only hope for some cloud cover, shade from buildings and a little bit of luck. We were foretasted to have a great deal of wind on the course and while there were some gusts for sure, the course meanders around enough that throughout the day, whatever was in your face was often at your back.

For the first half of the race, I was nailing splits exactly. To run a sub-3 hour marathon one must run 6:52 per mile. I was within a second or two of that mile after mile. I felt good even though on one occasion I had felt a small twinge of pain in my achilles around mile 7 on a small uphill. I had battled a sore achilles tendon for two years but it went away miraculously about a year ago. It had resurfaced a little during the St. George Marathon but given the downhill nature of that course, that was to be expected. Going into the race it really was not much of a concern to me. My mind was much more on the foot on the other leg which had been giving me some trouble since May and I was hoping that it would hold up for these 52.4 miles.

On one long stretch, I saw a plethora of runners I knew, including Mike Wardian who I interviewed just a few weeks ago.  He would go on to take third place overall and then win a marathon overall the next day. Phenomenal. I also saw a new friend, Dave Cilley who was attempting to get his own first sub-3.  When I saw him he looked great and I told him I didn't want to see him again.  He went on to run a stellar 2:53. Unfortunately, not long after seeing Dave, my race for the sub-3 was done.

I have no idea why on a flat stretch of road on a relatively flat course my achilles decided it was done, but there was no arguing with it. Around mile 17, a sharp twinge went up my achilles into my soleus of my calf. I have experienced similar random pains in random parts of the body in many marathons and one or two steps shakes them off.  But a few hundred yards later I could tell this was not going to be "shook off". My day, or the day I wanted, was over.

The last 9 miles had me losing 18 minutes, or nearly 2 minutes per mile off of my previous pace. I was in full-on pamper mode. There is no real story to these final 9 miles other than disappointment and worry that I had done something much larger than just be in pain.  I was able to finish the race in a respectable time of 3:17 (ironically what I finished the second marathon of my last back-to-back marathon attempt in) but was almost immediately relocated to a table where I sat. And sat. And waited.  Finally, I tried to get up and move my legs. I did not feel pain per se but my foot simply refused to flex.

About this time, my friend Shannon who was attempting her own first double finished right around what she was hoping for and we ambled off to the car. There would be no rest for the weary as we needed to make the 100 mile drive to Rhode Island. Shannon would try for another sub-4 in her own quest; I didn't even know if I would be running.

Arriving in Newport we were swarmed by tourists, runners and just about everyone else that could fit on this tiny island. Getting into the expo for the packet pickup was quite a nightmare, especially when you don't want to walk 10 feet, let alone 5 blocks just to find a parking spot. I finally bit the bullet, got lucky and paid for a parking spot which just opened in front of me near the expo.

The was a massage troupe inside and I immediately plopped down.  I told the therapist I wanted ten solid minutes directly on my achilles. "No pressure, but whatever you are doing back there decides if I am running a marathon tomorrow," I told her. She did wonders. When I got on the table it was 90/10 I was not running the race. When I got off it, it was more like 65/35. I was astounded.  I asked if she had felt any actual "damage" and she said she hadn't. I was hopeful.

I went to get ice and some anti-inflammatory drugs and hoped for the best.  Before I went to bed, after icing and drugging, I put my odds around 50/50. I of course wanted to complete the race, my first ever in Rhode Island, but knew that doing so in a ridiculously slow time just to have completed it was not in the cards. I definitely was not going to run the race if doing so would leave me unable to run for quite sometime. I fell asleep about the earliest I have fallen asleep since I was about 10 years old.

Waking up I could see the weather for this race would be nearly identical to the previous day but the wind was going to be much more prevalent. I dressed like I would run but knew it would be a decision I would make when the starting gun fired. As I happened across friends and acquaintances alike, I saw Suzy Goodwin, a friend I had not seen in over three years. Her friend Jack was competing in his first half ever and was "nervous as sh*t". I did my best to talk him down even though, just 9 minutes from the start, I still did not know what I was doing. I finally meandered over the the starting corral, moved myself WAY back in the pack and thought. I had done a few warm-up jogs and it felt, for the most part, relatively good. I mean, I could not flex the foot to any certain degree but it did not feel like I was doing any damage by running. Finally, as the Star-Spangled Banner began to play, I took one foot off of the curb and had it join its partner firmly in the street. Looks like I was running.

The first half of this marathon is, by far, one of the most gorgeous races I have ever participated in.  Even as I hobbled along at a pace nearly two minutes slower than I had the previous day, with my right leg being more of a stabilize than any sort of propulsion system, I was taken quite aback by the beauty of the ocean and the shore.  The sun was gorgeous (and therefore quite warm), the waves were breaking on the coast and the day really was uplifting. With all due respect to the marathon sponsor of this race, "Amica Marathon" is a horrific name. The old "Breakers" moniker is stellar and really captures what these waves do to this coastline. I began thinking that if the second half rivaled the first half in beauty this would be the most gorgeous race I had ever run.

As we headed back to the halfway point of my race and the finish for the half, I realized that I would be where my drop bag and keys to the hotel would be. I fervently asked as many volunteers as I could if it was possible for a marathoner to drop to the half right here and consider it an official finish.  None knew (and it is not their job to know this stuff.) I stood at the split for a full minute, drinking a cup of water and contemplating. I wasn't dying.  My leg did not feel like it was going to fall off, but I definitely knew it was not doing well. I finally threw the cup down into the garbage can and sauntered off in the direction of mile 14.  Looks like I was running 26.2 today.

One hour and 59 minutes later I finished the second half of the marathon. Battling through an extremely gusty section, more than a few long hills and a pretty (but no where close to "as beautiful ") second half of the marathon, I was able to notch a Rhode Island marathon on my belt in a time of 3:47. Much more importantly, I did so in a way that I felt was beneficial to me.  If not physically, then definitely mentally.  I ran this race as intelligently as possible. I rarely pushed my pace. I took it easy on all hills both up and down. I thought for a great deal about running the second half before letting common sense, and not pride, make the decision for me.

As I walked to the hotel, about a mile away, I was extremely surprised about how good I felt. N.B., I did not say "good". I was still sore, tired and knew something was wrong with my achilles tendon.  But here, with the second marathon done, I felt infinitely better than I had just 24 hours earlier. I have no real explanation for this.  There is no real reason why an extra 26.2 miles would make an injury feel somewhat better.  But it had.

I had put marathons 134 and 135 in the books.  My 42 and 43rd states were also notched as well. I had not achieved what I had hoped to but I had indeed lived to run another day. Now, when that other day will be I am not sure. I don't see myself running for the next week or so.  I have already logged two days in the pool and another on the bike. My leg feels, again, "better" but not close to what it should be. However, I am proud of my marathon accomplishment. I had been able to face something much more difficult than simply running fast.

Now, let's just see how quickly I can heal.

1 comment:

Milly said...

Hi Dane! Great job on your accomplishments! Looking to PR my marathon this fall, did Newport last year and wondering if you know the difference in elevation gain newport vs. hartford? Thanks!