Sunday, May 5, 2013

Race Report - 2013 Illinois Marathon

I have purposely waited a little longer than usual to write this race report.  I wanted the pain of running the marathon to wear off and then spend some time reflecting on the high and lows of training and the race itself.

A Quick Summary
My first marathon did not go as planned.  It was a very humbling experience that I do not regret ever doing.  The day after the race I was disappointed in myself.  I am now happy with my marathon experience.  Towards the end of the race I kept telling myself, “never again, NEVER AGAIN”.  I am proud that I suffered through the pain and agony to finish.  As I sit here today I am looking forward to doing another marathon.  This will not be my last.  I would like to thank my wife and family for cooperating with my long and hectic training schedule.  I would also like to thank my family and friends for the encouragement and support along the way.  The journey of a marathon is more than just the training the running the race.
Pre Marathon
Marathon weekend started off great.  Friday morning my daughter had her State gymnastic meet.  It was awesome to watch her compete at State and to see her execute her best meet.  She hit a stretch where she had two meets that weren’t her best.  Her hard work, concentration, getting everything out of practice time, and using our living room furniture to perfect her routines paid off.  She is a fierce competitor like her parents and it is a thrill to watch her develop.

After the meet I drove back to Champaign to participate in the Illinois 5k on Friday night.  Part of marathon weekend is the option to do the I-Challenge which is basically run the 5k Friday night then run the 10k, half marathon, or marathon Saturday morning.  This is my third year doing the I-Challenge, but my first I-Challenge doing the full marathon.  The goal of the 5k was run it at marathon pace or slightly over.  As it turned out I ended up pacing a friend.  Her goal pace and my anticipated pace were going to be similar so it was a win-win for everyone.  She crushed her previous 5K personal record and it was neat to help someone do that.  My 5K time was 25:15.


Time: 4:19:00 (goal was 3:30:00)

Well the day had finally arrived.  After 4 months of training and countless miles of running it all came down to just one day and 26.2 miles.  I did the same pre run routine that I had been doing before every long run in training.  Got to the race about 45 minutes prior to the start which enabled me to get a decent warm-up in as well as get my stretching in.  After that it was a couple of porta potty visits to relieve the nerves then headed to the start line.

A lot of excitement was in the air on this race day.  The temperature was perfect and the wind was ideal.  There was a lot of Boston tributes before the race.  A moment of silence then the singing of Sweet Caroline really reminded us all to never forget how life is so short and to enjoy the mile you are in.  There were countless runners wearing Boston Marathon colors and other Boston apparel.  Even saw Abe Lincoln running with a Boston flag.

I’m feeling good.  Got everything planned out.  From gels to pace targets it was all just down to execution.  

It was hard to slow myself down in the first couple of miles of the race with all the excitement and adrenaline, but I was able hold back a little.  The first 5 miles went as planned.  The plan was to average an 8:12 pace and I ended up doing a 8:07 pace.  I didn’t feel I was pushing the pace too hard but I just felt comfortable.

Miles 6 through 10 were also good.  The plan was to run at a 8:06 pace and I ended up at a 8:02 pace.  This part of the course is probably the “hilliest” of first half of the race and was happy to get through it rather comfortably.

After mile 10 a lot of mind games started raging in my head.  At this point in the race you are still running with the half marathoners who are making their final push to the finish.  As the halfway point got closer and closer I was excited and still feeling pretty good.  I ran 13.1 miles in 1:46:38 which was right at my target.    After the halfway point my pace started to slow a bit.  I wanted to run miles 10-15 at a 8:00 pace and ended up doing 8:22.  

At mile 16 I realized that my goal time would not be reached and I was ok with it.  Thinking I could still get in under 3:45.  Mile 16 is where I started to slowly diminish.  By now my pace is in the upper 8:00 minute and low 9:00 minute pace.  As I got closer to the 20 mile mark my pace had dropped to 9:52.  The race was getting harder and harder.  Even though I had slowed down considerably I was ok with it.  It was becoming a race of will power and the need to just finish.  My mile 20 time was only off 10 minutes of what I projected.  If I could have only maintained my pace for the rest of the race.

In my training I never ran over 20 miles.  I didn’t know what to expect in the last 6.2 miles except to expect the unexpected.  To this point the race was 20 miles of hope and now it’s down to 6.2 miles of reality.  And reality it was.  With each mile my pace got slower and slower, my muscles hurt more and more, and my stride became shorter and shorter.  At each mile I kept calculating what my pace needed to be in order to finish in under 4 hours.  At the end of mile 23 I could barely lift my legs and my run became more of a slow shuffle.  About mile 23.5 I decided to walk and do a walk/jog to the finish.  I didn’t want to do that but after almost tripping over my feet while shuffling  I decided it was time to suck up the ego, not kill myself, and get to the finish.  

It seemed like I did more walking than jogging but at this point it was just a matter of finishing.  I could only jog for maybe a quarter mile or so before I had to walk again.  Trust me, I was giving it everything I had, it wasn’t that I was quitting it was just what I had to do to finish.  I gathered up enough energy to jog the last half mile to the finish.  I wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty.

I crossed the finish line, grabbed my marathon and I Challenge medals, went to the end zone and laid face first on the ground.  At this point, in all the pain, I realized I have done something unimaginable…..I finished my first marathon! 

There is a lot of strategy and planning that goes into running a marathon.  I now have a better understanding on what went wrong and what I need to do to make it better with the help of my experienced marathon friends.  I am looking forward to learning from my mistakes and have a better marathon next year.  That’s right, I will run this race again.

Train.  Race.  Repeat.