Monday, November 8, 2010
The cold-hard facts of my Marshall University Marathon
I finish the Marshall University Marathon in 3 hours, 42 minutes, 1 second (officially 7 seconds since they didn't have a chip mat at the starting line); nine seconds faster than my March time at the Tobacco Road Marathon); 13th out of 45 in my age group; 141 out of 517 overall. My 25th marathon and the 14th state in which I've run a marathon. I picked the MUM because it got such good reviews on marathonguide.com, and it also would give me another marathon state.
This was different than any other race week. I worked night hours at newspapers for every previous marathon, and had to take two or three days of vacation before the race just to adjust my sleep schedule. Most marathons start at 7 a.m., and I slept until 10 a.m. when I worked at newspapers. Now that I work days, I didn't have to do take sleep-schedule-adjusting vacation days.
Originally, the whole family was going to be along for the 5.5-hour drive to Huntington, W.Va., but Scott and Jean stayed in Durham so that Scott could play in a soccer playoff game Saturday. Alex came along on the trip that featured some beautiful fall colors and the sight of snow on the side of the road.
We got into Huntington in time to pick up my packet, check into the motel and get to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Carolina's win at Florida State (although we had to deal with listening to the audio from the Marshall-UAB game).
Considering many factors that were out of my control, it was a pretty decent time. I had visions of running a PR (which would have required a 3:33:54 or better), but it wasn't going to happen.
Thursday, I developed a scratchy throat and started taking lozenges to try to keep me from getting sick. That helped the scratchy throat, but I still was coughing and sneezing some. To say that it was aggravating for this to come up on marathon week after weeks of training with no such issues would be an understatement.
And if you're dealing with all that, 26-degree conditions at the start wouldn't be the preference. But that's what I got.
It would have been nice to get the extra hour of sleep provided by the time change, but Alex's cell phone made some noise at 4 a.m. (my plan was to get up at 5:15). He was apologetic and went right back to sleep, but I never could fall asleep again.
I woke up with one nostril completely stuffed. After a few sneezes, my nasal passages were amazingly clear and I didn't sneeze again until well after the marathon. Although I coughed a bit before the race, I miraculously never coughed or had to sneeze during the race. Pretty fortunate in that regard.
It is nice that the race starts outside Cam Henderson Center (Marshall's basketball arena, which is just a couple of blocks from the stadium). The arena is open to all runners. That means a warm place to stretch and wait for the race to start. It also means plenty of nice bathrooms so that I don't have to deal with the PortaPotties that are the only option for many races.
I head outside about five minutes before the scheduled 7 a.m. race start. As cold as it was, it is irritating that it doesn't start at 7. A woman sings the national anthem about two minutes after 7 and the race doesn't start until six minutes after. It is really nice to finally get going.
The conditions are 12 degrees colder than for any run during my training for this race. This is my first time in long running pants since last winter. I debate, but finally decide to wear my Lifa Prolite underwear, which makes sure a certain part of your body doesn't get cold. It is a good decision since I doesn't make me feel hot. I also wear running shorts on top of my long running pants.
I wear a Balaclava pulled over all of my face and am surprised that I don't see anybody else doing that. I don't peel that off until 17.5 miles, when I was running into sunlight and it seems too hot. I run with my running cap and still have that on once I take the Balaclava off.
Since there is one runner dressed as Batman and another dressed as Spiderman, I blend in very well. Check out pictures 308, 309 and 310 in this photo gallery to see how I look.
This is the first race I've run where they misspelled the race name on the bib. I wonder if somebody spellchecked it and figured it was fine? I'm kdding, of course. Everybody makes mistakes, and I know they weren't happy with that one.
Despite it all, I come out feeling strong and on target with my goal of running 8-minute splits. Thanks to the constant feedback from my Garmin, I pull back in the first couple of miles when I realize I am going too fast.
I am really consistent in the first 16 miles: 7:54, 7:59, 8:05, 8:01, 8:17 (which I actually think was a bogus reading from my Garmin), 7:53, 7:59, 8:00, 7:57, 8:12, 8:11, 8:09, 7:58, 8:18, 8:12 and 8:06.
My half split is 1:46, so I easily am on pace for a PR at that point. But my splits start falling beginning with an 8:19 at mile 17, followed by 8:43, 8:58, 8:31, 8:57, then the dreaded 9:08 at mile 23.
I have some Advil in a pocket of my shorts and usually grab a packet of Gu to get something in my stomach before taking it around mile 18. They aren't giving any out. I know that it usually helps me, and debate whether it is worth risking stomach distress. I decide to take one anyway, letting it dissolve in my mouth for about a mile before swallowing it along with Gatorade. I don't know if it helps, but fortunately it agrees with my stomach.
With about five miles left, I know I have no shot at a PR. I already am in survival mode, in full marathon shuffle and completely unable to pull off the splits that it would take.
Those are some of the toughest final four miles I've dealt with in recent marathons. I really want to stop and walk. I know that doing so not only would mean it would take me longer, but it would really hurt my time.
There also is the mentality of it. Stopping to walk, for me, makes it tougher to start running again. I don't know how people doing the Galloway run/walk method do it.
We first go down one sideline and you have the option of being given a football. I want one, but they don't have any at that moment. A guy grabs one, runs after me and hands off to me about 30 yards down the sideline.
Once we get to the end of the sideline, we turn at one end zone, then run down the middle of the field-turf surface. That felt really different from the roads and trails earlier in the course.
I have a football, but definitely am not running down the field with Johnny White speed. (Maybe Johnny White speed after he broke his clavicle?) I am quite relieved to hit the finish line!
Impressions of this race
I highly recommend this race. The course is very flat, with the exception of during a couple of short east-west stretches that included about a half-block hill didn't amount to much.
Huntington is a nice small college town. The course includes short stretches at the beginning and toward the end at Harris Riverfront Park. That was an interesting sight running by there early with the thin layer of fog or mist rising just over the surface of the Ohio River.
I loved the miles along the beautiful Ritter Park, which included running on trails. I wasn't a big fan of the two loops that went into the southern part of Huntington. Those were fairly nondescript and boring, but that would be my only beef about the course.
MUM's expo was one of the smallest I've ever seen at a marathon, with only one vendor. But that isn't a big deal to me at all and something I'm glad to deal with when I choose a smaller race with a reasonable ($60) registration fee.
The spaghetti dinner was free, but I didn't think it was all that good.
With that money, I got a nice fleece jacket (which they were selling for $40 after the race). You chose between the jacket and the long-sleeve technical shirt. I obviously made the right choice in picking the jacket, since it only cost me $20 to buy the shirt after the race.
When I bought the shirt, they gave me a free DVD of the movie "We Are Marshall." Sunday happened to be the 40th anniversary of the tragic plane crash that killed most of Marshall's football team. To commemorate that, they offered runners a flower as you entered the campus late in the race.
The postrace food spread was excellent. It's the first race of any length that offered hamburgers and hot dogs to finishers, in addition to the more common bananas and bagels.
Another concession when you pick a small marathon is that there isn't much crowd support. I'm sure the colder weather made the support smaller than usual. I'm OK with that and still much prefer smaller marathons over the huge mega marathons that force you to constantly zig-zag around people.
The actual course support by the race officials, volunteers and police officers was excellent.
Now it's time to recover!