Friday, December 11, 2015

California International Marathon - 2:31:54 (PR)

“What comes around goes around.”  A couple weeks out from the marathon my daughter caught a cold.  It wasn't that bad and within a few days the cold was gone, but not until she passed it to her mom.  You know where this is going.  On Monday of race week I picked up the cold from my wife.  At first, I didn’t think much of it and thought that it wouldn't get any worse, but by Wednesday I had a nasal congestion and a minor sore throat.  I tried everything in my power to fight off or shorten the cold during the rest of the week.  I drank plenty of fluids, continued to take my vitamins (C), took an extra dose or two of DayQuil, and went through a box of tissues.  By Saturday I was feeling better or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.  Just as I was getting over my cold, my daughter caught it again. 

My race strategy going into CIM was to run 5:43-5:45 for the first half and then hopefully pick it up and negative split the second half, just as I did in last year’s race.  If I execute this plan perfectly then there is a very good chance I’ll achieve both of my goals: (1) run a new PR, and (2) break 2:30 for the marathon.  Since I felt that my cold was almost gone, I decided to stick with my race strategy.

Just before the race started it began to rain.  Fortunately, it was light rain and the temperature only in the low-50s with little wind.  Any colder and windier and I would have felt like I was running in the 2015 Boston Marathon.  Personally, I thought the conditions were “almost perfect” for marathon running.  My only wish was that it didn't rain.  With the roads wet, I felt like I wasn't getting good traction or push off with my Saucony Type A6. 

I felt really good and comfortable early in the race clicking off mile splits mostly in the range of 5:43-5:46.  The first mile, which was mostly downhill, was 5:41 and on the fast end of MP.  Somewhere in the first mile my friend (who I haven’t met in person until now) and former Guam resident Johnson Lee pulled alongside me.  Johnson, who lived on Guam until he moved stateside to attend college, ran cross country and track for the University of Portland and holds the Guam 10,000m record.   We chatted a little and he asked me what time I was planning to run.   I told him that I was hoping to break 2:30.  I think after I told him that he backed off on the pace as he was aiming for 2:33.  Although the first mile felt very easy, I also backed off a little on the pace and settled in at my planned pace for the first half. 

The 2:30 range can be a lonely pace in a lot of marathons.  I was glad that within a couple miles into the race I had the company of Scott Trummer and Justus Meyer.  Scott shared that he was planning to go through the first half around 1:15:30 and then negative split the second half and hopefully dip under 2:30.  I told him that I had the same plan except that I wanted to be closer to 1:15:10 at the half, so I wouldn’t leave too much time to make up on the back half. 

We cruised along averaging right around 5:45 pace for the first 8 miles.  Scott and I came through 10K in 35:55 with Justus a couple seconds behind us.  Around mile 9, Scott put in a surge and immediately gapped Justus and I by about 20 meters.  I chose not to go with Scott, because I wanted to stick with my plan of running my own race.  Additionally, I was already running my planned 5:43-5:45 pace, and putting in a surge with 17 miles still left in the race most likely would have come back to bite me in the rear. 

Around 10 miles I started to get worried because my left hamstring was feeling tight.  It was almost as if a knot was developing in my left hammy.  I’m not sure if the rolling hills early in the race started to take its toll or if I wasn’t taking in enough fluids.  I know it wasn’t the latter because I was drinking at almost every aid station and even took in an energy gel right before the race and at 5.5 miles.  I tried hard not to think of it and continued on with my pace. 

One thing worth sharing is that shortly after the 10 mile mark, I caught up to one of the blind athletes.  Blind or visually impaired athletes started 5 minutes ahead of the main field and were running CIM as part of the US Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) Marathon National Championships.  When I caught up to the blind athlete (Matthew Oliver) I was surprised and caught off guard when he turned to me and asked where we were at in the race.  My thought at the time was where was his guide and how did he get this far without one?  I told him that we had just passed the 10 mile mark and then wished him luck and continued with my race.  It wasn’t until I read this article on USABA that I learned Oliver’s first guide could not keep up with the 6:21 pace he was running.  Wow, impressive!  According to the article, Oliver continued to run without his first guide and just followed random people; I guess I was one of them.  Oliver finished in a blazing 2:50:41 winning the USABA National Marathon Championships. 

Oliver running with his second guide
Photo from USABA website
Despite a tight left hamstring, I split the next four miles (10-13) in 5:41, 5:44, 5:41 and 5:42.  Justus and I both came through the half-marathon mark in 1:15:12, exactly where I wanted to be with my plan to negative split.   Scott, on the other hand, was about 10 seconds in front of us, but seemed to be slowly coming back to us.  Right when we hit the Mile 16 marker Justus turned to me and said “the fun part begins”.  I knew exactly what he meant. 

Justus and I ran together for the next few miles at around 5:45 pace until about 19 miles, when he slowly pulled away as my pace slowed.  Shortly after, I caught Scott just before the 20 mile mark and encouraged him to go with me. He tucked in behind me for about a minute before slowly fading back.  I split miles 19/20 in 5:48 and 5:54 respectively.  Any thought of breaking 2:30 was thrown out the window.  I now had to focus on holding things together if I wanted to run a PR.  In a marathon, time adds up very quickly when you’re running 10-15 seconds/mile or slower than your goal pace. 

My left hamstring at this point of the race was getting tighter and tighter, and I was afraid that I would cramp up at any moment.  I even considered stopping to massage it, but then I knew I would lose too much time.  Once you stop in a marathon, it's almost impossible to start back up at the pace you were running.  My pace continued to slow over the next couple miles.  I ran 6:00 and 6:02 for miles 21 and 22, which were my slowest miles of the race.  Knowing that a PR was in jeopardy, I regrouped and psyched myself into finishing the race strong.  I ran 5:51, 5:58 and 5:51 for miles 23-25.  I probably would have ran a 5:51 split for mile 24 if I didn’t scuffle with the Gu.  I know it seems too late in the race to take a Gu, but I went ahead and took it because I was following the same nutrition plan as last year’s race. 

With about a half mile left in the race, I could hear someone closing on me. I was surprised to see it was the Ethiopian girl who I had passed just before the halfway mark.  The Ethiopian girl and eventual winner (2:31:50) pulled ahead and I just tried to stick with her.  I was glad she caught up to me as she helped me to push my pace over the last 1.2 miles.  For mile 26, I ended up running a 5:48, which was my fastest mile since mile 19.  Once I made the turn for the finish I saw the clock approaching 2:32.  I gave everything I had left in the final stretch of the race and finished in 2:31:54, a new marathon PR by 35 seconds!!! marathon PR!
Overall, I'm very happy with my race and PR even though I didn't achieve my 2nd goal of running a sub-2:30.  A 2:31:54 is still a solid time and I can now call myself a 2:31 marathoner, which sounds way much cooler than a 2:32 marathoner.  I still think I have a sub-2:30 in me.  I just might have to find a pancake flat and rhythmic type course to run it, maybe something like Berlin, Chicago, Houston or even Indy Monumental. 

In other results, Justus ran strong to finish in 2:31:03, Scott struggled badly after 20 miles finishing in 2:42:48, and Johnson had some issues with his calves and finished in 2:46:44.

Some thoughts:
I wonder how much my cold had an effect on my performance and how much faster I could have ran if I didn't come up with it the week of the race.  Had I been 95-100% healthy at the start of the race, I think I would have ran 2:30:xx or maybe even dip under 2:30.  The bad thing about a marathon is that you only have one day to showcase your fitness and unfortunately, there are some things you don't have control of that can affect your race. 

The other thing that had an affect my race was the tight left hamstring I encountered starting at 10 miles.  I trained a lot on rolling hills and beat my legs up enough during training, so I don't think the tight hamstring was caused by the hills early in the race.  My thought is that my cold might have stimulated the hamstring tightness.  Regardless, I'm very lucky my hamstring never cramped or seized up, and that I was still able to run well over the last 16 miles.


GPS miles splits: 5:41, 5:48, 5:46, 5:44, 5:44, 5:47, 5:43, 5:44, 5:47, 5:41, 5:44, 5:41, 5:42, 5:46, 5:47, 5:41, 5:47, 5:45, 5:48, 5:54, 6:00, 6:02, 5:51, 5:58, 5:51, 5:48, 1:23 (.2 miles).

Pre-race: Herbalife24 F1 Sport shake, bagel with peanut butter, 2 bananas, 16oz Herbalife24 Prolong/Prepare, coffee.  I also took in one energy gel right before the start of the race.

Race: I took in an energy gel at miles 5.5, 10.3, 15.5, 17.8 and 20.4, and one Gu offered on the course at mile 23.5. 


Kimi Reed said...

Nice job on the PR! Was this your first time running a full in the Type A6? I'm just not sure I can make a full marathon in them. I've been wearing the virrata, but they are no longer making those. . . now I'm looking for a new flat.

Wayne said...

Kimi - I ran in the Type A6 in my last 3 marathons. I think they're borderline for the marathon, but they've worked well for me. Good luck with your marathon trials training.

Marshall Reed said...

That's a heck of a race! I have a couple questions in regards to your nutrition. How much before the race (hrs) did you eat your pre-race meal? Do you do that before all of your long runs as practice? And specifically, which energy gels were you consuming? Are they ones that have caffeine?

I'm still trying to get under 2:37, I keep making it through 22-23 miles on pace for 2:35 and then it all blows up for the final 3-4 miles.

Wayne said...

Thanks Marshall!
I had my shake (~255 calories), bagel and a banana 2-3 hrs before, and then my sports drink and another banana 1-1.5 hrs before the race.

For my long runs, I rarely go into them totally fueled/carbed up. I'd normally just have a shake and half a bagel. I also don't drink a lot during a long run, mostly just water except for when I'm doing a tough long run workout. I think it's beneficial to teach the body to run in a lower carb state, so it becomes more efficient at burning fuel.

For energy gels, I use the PowerBar Gels. During the race, I used 3 gels with 1xCaffeine (Strawberry/Banana) and 2 with 2xCaffeine (Tangerine).

Marshall Reed said...

I'll have to try eating a bit more and see if that doesn't help me get through my marathons better. I don't usually eat nearly as much as you do before yours. I'm usually a bit too nervous to hardly even get down a bagel 3 hours before.

I think I'll try it a couple times before some of our long hard efforts to make sure it sits well with my stomach.