A few hundred meters to go

Glass City Marathon race report: a new PR

Yesterday I ran the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH and had the best race of my short running career.  I knew I was ready, but, honestly, I didn’t know if I could do it.  While I knew I had put together a great training cycle, I was still pretty nervous.  That made for a nerve-wracking Saturday evening waiting for Sunday morning to finally get there.

I had decided on a plan for the race and checked it out with my coach, Luke Humphrey.  The plan was to try to run a 3:30:00 marathon and to do so by negative-splitting the race:  run the first half at an average pace of 8:05/mile, then crank it up to 7:50/mile for the second half.  The 7:50 pace on the back half wasn’t exactly necessary (a 3:30:00 is an 8:00/mile average), but my history at the marathon has me slowing down considerably in the last few miles, so I built that in to my plan.

After a fitful night’s sleep (as usual), race morning was finally here.  The weather forecast was for a cold-ish, kind of blustery day, with the race start at about 35 degrees.  Luckily, I brought throwaway clothes to keep me warm while waiting around for the starting gun.  Here’s me and my two sons just before we left the hotel for the race.

Pre-race with my sons
Pre-race with my sons

Nope, those aren’t pajamas, those are hospital pants.  And yes, those are the hospital pants from a decidedly different outcome at the Flying Pig about a year ago.  They were chosen for three reasons:

  1. A not-so-subtle reminder to myself to stay hydrated.
  2. I’m tired of that memory and wanted to throw it away, too.
  3. They’re cheap (hospital bills not included, local taxes may vary).

After a bit of a traffic snarl getting into the start area, I gave my wife and two boys final hugs, went to the waiting area and made the requisite last minute trip to the porta potties, stretched, took a Hammer gel with caffeine, then waited for the gun to go off.  I tucked in behind the 3:30 pace group, knowing that I be letting them go during the first half, but I also knew I needed help to keep things nice and easy at the beginning.  I have a bit of a nasty habit of going out too fast, and I knew I wouldn’t achieve what I wanted to do if I did that again.

I got to see my family for the first time just after the two mile mark.  They had made signs and were cheering like crazy.

My son with his sign
My son with his sign

It’s such a huge pick-me-up to get to see your family there cheering for you.  I am so thankful they made the trip and stood out in the cold to watch me run.  I saw them again at about the 7 mile mark (where I took my first gel), then again at about 12.

Mile 12
Mile 12, still feeling good.

I had made myself a little paper with some split times I was hoping to reach, so when I hit the halfway point, I was glad to see I was just a bit under my plan:  1:45:15.  So far, so good.  Now it was time to go to work and pick up the pace.

The miles between the halfway point and about mile 19 are a bit of a blur.  I can’t say I remember much about these miles, with the exception of the wind picking up a tad.  I know I got to see my wife and kids a couple of times, and photographic evidence suggests I was hanging in there.

Mile 18
Mile 18-ish

Just after mile 19, I got to see my family another time, only this time my dad had joined my kids and wife.  I knew there was a possibility that he and my mom might make it, but since I hadn’t seen them yet, I assumed I wouldn’t.  Getting a high five from him was a nice boost just as I was really starting to feel the work I had put in.  Most runners will tell you that the marathon really doesn’t start until mile 20 when you have that final 10K to go, and I agree, so getting to see my dad really helped going into that last section.  Speaking of support, knowing I’d need every bit of support I could get for this race, I had taken the audio from a video clip my older sister had made of me at the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon and put it on my iPod.  In it, she’s cheering like crazy for me, so getting to hear that every 45 minutes or so was very cool.

That last 10K was tough.  In fact, I’ll admit it, I hit a very real low point at mile 21 where I didn’t think I could keep pushing.  I remember seeing other runners starting to walk and thinking to myself, “Man, it must feel good to be relaxing.”  When I look at my splits for the race, mile 21 was my worst, by far: 8:22/mile.  I did manage to snap myself out of that thinking, took my last gel, and began to push again.  Once I got to 24, I was really digging deep but I knew I could stand any amount of pain for those last two+ miles.  I told myself to keep pushing until I hear my Garmin beep and then I could tick off one more half mile.  Next thing I know, I was rounding a corner and entering the campus of University of Toledo and I knew the finish line wasn’t far off.  Whatever little bit I had left in the tank was put toward that final push because I knew my goal was within reach, but it was going to be close.  As I entered the chute, I saw my family cheering for me, I put my head down and just gave it everything I had.

A few hundred meters to go
Just before entering the chute, determined to meet my goal

As I crossed the finish line, I stopped my Garmin, glanced down and saw 3:29:51.  Barring any huge difference from my chip time, I had done it.  My chip time ended up being 3:29:54.

Official Results
Official Results of the Glass City Marathon


With my boys after the race
With my boys just after finishing
My dad and I after the race
My dad holding me up while I fight off post-race cramps

Aside from a great overall result, one of the things I’m most proud of is finally shaking off bad starts (too fast) and bad endings (slowing way down).  With the mile 21 exception I mentioned above, my splits are pretty consistent with what I wanted to do.  My final 5.2 miles splits were 8:02, 8:01, 8:01, 7:57, 7:57 and 7:31 for the final 0.2.  For the curious, here’s the Garmin data.

Let the taper madness begin

And so the taper begins…  I finished my last “hard” effort of this training cycle by knocking down a ten mile tempo run, and I felt pretty good doing it.

But, history will show that I’m not a good taperer. I get all grumpy and restless and worried and … well, just plain difficult. But this time it’s going to be different. I’m a little older and a little wiser so I should be able to handle this, no?  Let’s just see.

Taper Madness

Through a miracle of modern technology, I was able to jump forward into the future to race day, and look back on my taper. Here are some tidbits from the realtime transcript. [cue wavy effect to show timeshift]

Friday, April 13 — Wake up, check my calendar and remember that I’ve got no run scheduled today.  Oh yeah, I’m going to love the taper.  Just kick back with my feet up; the hay’s in the barn, baby.  Why is my head so warm?  I think I have a fever.  It’s probably my wife’s fault.

Saturday, April 14 — Just a nice, easy 8 miler on the plan today. A leisurely jaunt at no particular pace.  Ahhhh, the birds are singing, the breeze is … crap.  How did I forget to bring water?  What kind of rookie mistake is that?  I hope I don’t do something stupid like that on race day.  Maybe I should make some kind of list so I don’t  forget anything.  Yeah, that’s the ticket, a list.  Now, how I can remember to make a list after my run?  “Make a list, make a list, make a list, make a list, make a list …”  Wait a minute.  None of this looks familiar.  Where the hell am I?

Sunday, April 15 — Ten miles?  That’s it?  How am I supposed to know it’s a Sunday if I don’t have a long run?  Well, I better get on with it.  Got my shorts, my socks, my tee.  Oh my God, I look fat.  I wore these same running clothes last week and didn’t look fat, how can this be happening?  I bet I’m losing fitness every single day.  Either that or my wife is over-feeding me.  I bet she’s doing it on purpose.

Monday, April 16 — Do  have to go to work today?  I am just so tired.  Fat and tired.  There’s no way I’m running a 3:30 marathon, I was nuts to ever think it.  Those damn coaches will tell you anything just to make a buck.  Oh yeah? Well screw today’s run, I don’t effin need it.

Tuesday, April 17 — Man, I don’t know what my problem was yesterday, but today I feel like a million bucks!  Let’s go knock out this little six miler and get back in the groove.  A few miles on the shoes I’ll wear in the marathon will help too.  And we’re off!  Ooh, I’ve never felt that pain before.  Weird, it’s on the top of my left foot. Every time my foot comes down, it’s like a needle jabbing into the top of my foot.  Okay, let’s not panic, it seems to be subsiding.  Maybe I should think about a different pair of shoes.  I wonder what the weather ‘s going to be like Sunday.

Wednesday, April 18 — Doo da doo. Time to check the old forcast-aroo:  http://weather.com.  Oh boy, rain.  Should I pack a rain jacket?

Thursday, April 19 — http://weather.com.  Oh boy, cold.  Why!?  Why can’t I get one mother flappin race day with good weather?

Friday, April 20 — http://weather.com.  Humidity?! How I am supposed to run a decent race with this foot injury, ten pounds overweight, the wrong damn shoes, I’m not packed yet, my wife’s clearly sabotaging my diet, and it’s going to be rainy, cold and humid?  Lemme check a few more times.  http://weather.com,  http://weather.comhttp://weather.com.

Saturday, April 21 — What does that mean, “You are in violation of the terms and conditions of this website.  You have exceeded the permissible number of access attempts in a 48 hour period.”  Now the Weather Channel is against me too? Better get packed.  Now where’s that list?

  • Shoes:  check.  Maybe I should throw in another pair just in case.  Why not?
  • Shirt:  check.  And just to be safe, a long sleever too.  And arm sleeves.  A rain jacket might also be a good idea.
  • Shorts: check.  Hmmm.  What color will I feel like tomorrow?
  • Gels: check.  Fifteen ought to do the trick.
  • Socks: check.  A pair of black.  A pair of white.  And one more for good measure.
  • Garmin: check.  And the charger.  And the dongle.  And I’ll need my laptop.  And its charger.

Sunday, April 22 — And we’re back to raceday.  [cue wavy effect]  The weather is perfect.  I feel strong and ready.  This is not my first rodeo.

“Runner’s take your mark!    10 … 9 …. 8 …. 7 ….”

Two weeks to go before the Glass City Marathon

With a little over two weeks to go until the Glass City Marathon, I have hit the peak of my training.  This week’s training looks like this:

  • Monday — 8 miles, easy pace: 8:35-9:00
  • Tuesday — 12 miles, threshold pace: 7:55-8:00
  • Thursday — 12 miles, tempo pace: 8:00-8:10
  • Saturday — 10 miles, easy pace: 8:35-9:00
  • Sunday — 18 miles, just a bit slower than marathon pace: 8:10-8:20

Sixty miles this week, then I begin to taper down to the marathon.  I’m going into this marathon even more confident than I did in October.  This has been a fantastic training cycle all around.  No injuries to speak of, the weather has been unusually nice here in the midwest, and I’ve pushed myself harder than ever.  I’m feeling strong and confident.


Glass City Marathon Course
Glass City Marathon Course

Once I get past Sunday’s 18 miler, I’ll be focusing on getting to the start line rested.  Do No Harm.

I’ve got a bunch of friends running the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16th, so I’ll get to start what will be marathon week for me by cheering for friends doing what I hope to be doing on Patriot’s Day 2014.  I can’t think of a better motivator.