Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hyannis Marathon - Race Report

I knew this marathon was going to be tough, but I have to admit it was tougher than I let myself believe. As it turned out, this was my slowest marathon to date, although it was not my worse, that still belongs to the Myrtle Beach Marathon a year ago. The difference between Hyannis and Myrtle Beach is that I had the benefit of experience this time around. This time I managed to keep an overall positive attitude. I had expected to complete this race faster than my time at Myrtle Beach, which turned out to be overly optimistic, but even as things started to fall apart, I managed to take it in stride. 

I started out with a race pace of 10:30 min/mi, and for the first 5 miles I was quite pleased with how well I was maintaining that pace. After 5 miles however, my pace just continued to slip, which surprised me as I felt as though I was maintaining a steady pace. When I decided on a pace of 10:30 min/mi I knew, in the absence of my planned training, even that pace might have been a bit optimistic. The plan had been to adjust my pace as needed, but it turned out that my pace just continued to slip, 11:00 min/mi, 11:15 min/mi, 11:30 min/mi, 11:45 min/mi, all by itself. Reflecting back, I don't believe starting at an even slower pace, such as 11:00 min/mi, would have made enough of a difference to carry me through to the end at a steady pace. The issue wasn't pace, it was a lack of the conditioning required to successfully run 26.2 miles. Had my error just been running too fast in the beginning, I don't believe it would have become apparent after 5 miles as it did. I had also started to feel the fatigue set in well before the halfway point, which I believe is also an indicator of poor conditioning.

The wind during the marathon was between 18-20 mph, but other than that, it was a beautiful sunny day. The weather forecast predicted temperatures in the low 30s (°F) at the beginning of the race then warming to the upper 30s throughout the day. Dressing for this race was a bit complicated due to the wind speeds so I made my best guess and went with warmer, at least for the beginning. The course is a 13.1-mile loop that those running the full marathon would simply run twice. This halfway point provided a convenient location for my sister to meet me with some lighter gear if I felt I needed to dress down. Just after the point where the half marathoners peeled off, I met my sister as planned and I swapped out my running jacket for a vest and my skull cap for a visor cap. It wasn’t that I was burning up by the halfway point, rather it had became obvious that fatigue was setting in, so I figured at worse, a little cold might help to fend off the fatigue. I remember feeling a sense of dread at the midway point, I already felt drained and I had to run the whole loop again. I changed, buckled down, and just told myself to "get it done." Somewhere around 19 or 20 miles, as my body was giving out, I reflected on my training leading up to the race and I realized just how ridiculously unprepared I was for this race. From 20 miles on it was a constant struggle to keep moving forward, my legs were shot and I started walking/running, which slowly became more walking than running. The closer I got to the end, the further away it seemed to get. It must have been somewhere around 23 miles when I transitioned to mostly walking. I'd walk and then try to start running again only to get a few steps, I was spent and everything hurt. I tried to walk as quickly as I could, which I actually think helped loosen up my legs a bit. After many more false running starts I was eventually able to get the legs going for the last half mile to the finish line.

Despite this being a grueling race for me, I managed to keep my spirits up and cracked jokes with the race volunteers saying things like, "Am I winning", "Am I gaining on the leaders", "I'm getting ready to make my move any minute now", etc. I've only seen a few pictures so far, but I was really glad to see myself smiling in a lot of them. My sister even commented that she was surprised to see me in general good spirits at the 26-mile point and at the finish. I also made it a point to thank the volunteers as I knew they were hanging tight for us stragglers, and they were great and encouraging all the way to the end. I actually did have a good time, even while I was in agony. I found it all to be quite amusing and found myself chuckling quite often. I even laughed out loud at one point when my legs just refused to run. I was just not prepared to run this, yet there I was.

This race was very well organized and the course was not only beautiful, but it was just a great racing course in general. I know that if my training went the way it was suppose to, I would have PR'd on this course. What struck me about this event was the stark contrast between this one and the Smuttynose Marathon at Hampton Beach. I felt that they were more or less the same size, and just assumed that these smaller marathons didn't have the same perks found in larger ones, such as at Myrtle Beach. However, the Hyannis Marathon proved that assumption wrong. First, the Hyannis Marathon actually had a mini race expo, Smuttynose didn't have anything like this. Second, all the amenities I had expected to be at Smuttynose, but weren't, were available at Hyannis, such as a bag-drop, drink stations where they were suppose to be (cough), post race food was abundant and available for us stragglers, and the traffic control was excellent.

The course itself was just better than Smuttynose. A big problem with the Smuttynose course was a severe road pitch to the right, which is really difficult to run on and resulted in me and several other people I talked to during and after the race having some IT band issues. The roads at Hyannis were nearly perfect in regards to pitch, something I was very happy for. Smuttynose also claimed on their website that they are the flattest course in New England, but I don't believe they have a right to that claim. First, my Garmin, as imported into my runkeeper.com, shows an elevation change of about 1,100 feet at Smuttynose, but only 800 feet at Hyannis. Second, it just seemed less hilly, and the hills that were on the course were gentle climbs.

Since this race is in February, the weather from year to year varies dramatically, which has resulted in the cancellation of the race in the past, so it's a hit or miss year to year. Nonetheless, I can definitely recommend this event if you're looking to run a well organized marathon in the northeast in February.

I have it in my head not to run another marathon at the end of the winter season. I ran Myrtle Beach last February, which ended up having temperatures in the 70s on race day, which doesn't really workout when you train in temperatures below 40°F. This time around I just couldn't seem to avoid injuries, which I think, in part, had to do with the colder temperatures. Here in New England, daylight is limited, which I've found just makes training that much more difficult. Oh, and lets not forget about snow, which increases road hazards and/or sticks you on a treadmill for most of the season.

When my calf got injured for the third time, I debated whether or not I should participate in this marathon. I had decided to go forward partly because the odds at that point just seemed against me which just made the challenge that much more appealing. To my amazement, I managed to show up to the starting line, I finished the marathon, and I managed to do it with a good attitude. It was a good experience and I'm glad I decided to go for it. I learned a little more about running and about myself. Nonetheless, I don't believe I would run another marathon if I don't feel I'm property trained to complete it. In the future, if I find I'm just not ready, I’ll know that when I decide not to run a marathon it'll be because I "won't" rather than I "can't". I didn't PR at Hyannis, but I beat "can't" and that's an experience that'll stay with me and maybe even carry me through to my next PR.

My thanks to my sister Natascha who hosted me over the weekend and provided the much needed logistical support to get me through this race and just committed to being there before, during, and after, and to her girlfriend Saraphina (@saraphina) who despite having a ton of work this weekend managed to come out and support me. To my parents for their continued support as I trained, a great dinner the night before, and for freezing their butts off during the race. To my sister Michelle who help me edit this post and has always been a support for me.

I also want to thank my running friends on Daily Mile with special thanks to Alan (@basicbare) and Alyssa (@alyssarun) for their encouragement and support through these last four months, visit their blogs at http://barefootjourney.org and http://notarunner.com, respectively.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Just a note. I completed the Hyannis Marathon yesterday. It took me about 5 hours 40 minutes, which is longer than it took me to run my first marathon about a year ago, and a full hour longer than it took me to run Smuttynose this past October.

If nothing else, this is a perfect example of why training is so important. The fact that I could even complete this marathon given my relative lack of training this time around (as realized during the run) is amazing to me.

I'll write up a small race report soon with a few more details about the course and the day in general.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Steady As She Goes - Hyannis Marathon In Sight

I find I have an ever present sense of disbelief as I get closer and closer to February 26th and the Hyannis Marathon. My training for my last marathon, Smuttynose in October 2011, went really well and I arrived at that race feeling ready. A week after that race I went out for my 3rd or 4th post marathon run and had a pull or strain in my right calf, which prevented me from running for a couple of weeks after. Other than being inconvenient, I didn't give it much thought. Little did I know that this injury would continue to rear it's ugly head. Needless to say, my training over the last 3-4 months has been sporadic, which prevented me from increasing my milage gradually and from just running those critical long training runs that get you ready for a marathon. It has been frustrating and a bit depressing.

In my last post, I laid out a last ditch effort plan to try and make it to the marathon. In that post I said the plan was not ideal, but it was "realistic". I later thought that "realistic" was incorrect, I should have used the word "possible". The truth is it was a longshot and, while committed to following that plan, I was also prepared to concede that fact that Hyannis might not happen if I got injured again or I just wasn't conditioned enough to run a marathon. The week leading up my last opportunity at a long run before the race included 3-6 mile runs after weeks of not running at all. I ran those miles with a bit of a cavalier attitude, I just felt that whatever was going to happen was going to happen and if I was so fragile then I wasn't going to be able to run 26.2 miles anyways. I then ran my long run on Sunday and was surprised to find that out of my planned 20 miles, I ran 19.2, which was well within my criteria for deciding whether or not I would be able to complete the Hyannis Marathon and therefore run or not run. That 19.2 mile run wasn't pretty, it was slow, and afterwards my body felt similar to how it felt after running my first marathon - everything hurt and it lasted for days.

Naturally, my muscles were very tight after this long run and I was constantly concerned that by running my scheduled miles in that condition, I was just asking for an injury to reoccur. I wasn't being so cavalier this time around because now, after completing that long run, I knew running Hyannis was "realistic". Ultimately I felt it was just as important if not more so to complete the remaining miles on the training schedule since my training had already suffered so much. I needed these miles, not just for my body, but for my mind as well. I took each run slow and continued to stretch, use my foam roller to massage my calf muscles, soak in Epsom salt bathes, and use my ultrasound as needed. After each run this week my legs felt a little better than the run before it and all in all things are moving in the right direction. Nonetheless, I remain weary of something going wrong before I get to the 26th and don't expect to shake that feeling until I'm actually a few miles into the marathon.

I've been considering my race strategy during my recent runs and plan to incorporate some of the things I've been doing in hopes that it will prevent a reoccurrence of the past injuries during the race. The following is a part of my post to Daily Mile for today's run:

As a result of my bout with injuries over the last several months, I've been starting out my runs slow to feel out how my legs are doing and gradually warm up the muscles. This seems like a good strategy in general and has been working out very well for me, so I'll incorporate this into my run next Sunday.

On today's run at about 3.25 miles I shot to the left to get out of the road for a car coming around a curb, and I felt a slight pinch in my left calf (as opposed to my troublesome right calf) which was an all too familiar feeling. I immediately dropped down to my What-About-Bob™ pace (baby steps), which I've been doing when ever I think something might be about to go. The thinking is that if something in the legs feels out of sorts, the pinch/sensation/whatever is the warning, ignoring it risk it becoming a sprain, pull, etc. The pinch didn't turn into anything else. Whether or not my reasoning is correct or not, it seems to be to me, so I'll incorporate that into my strategy as well.

Pace is going to be a little tricky to figure out. I know it won't be my target of 9:40 min/mi since the training just hasn't been there. With this in the back of my mind, I was initially thinking 10 min/mi, but this might not be realistic either. I'll probably settle in somewhere between 10:15 and 10:30 min/mi and try to adjust as things go.

I was very pleased with my fueling strategy during my 19+ mile run last Sunday, which is more or less what I used for Smuttynose - but more practiced. The trick here is to stick with the plan.

Runs left before Hyannis are 8 tomorrow, 3 Tuesday, 4 Wednesday, and 2 on Saturday. All I need to do is stay uninjured.

I just need to keep doing what I'm doing this and keep my goals in mind:

  1. Show up to the starting line, and 
  2. Finish the marathon. 
Just finishing this one is going to make this one memorable. I'm anticipating this one to be tougher than Smuttynose, but I plan to try and enjoy this one as much as I can.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Last Ditch Effort - The Plan

Less than three weeks to go until the Hyannis Marathon on February 26th.

I've been resting, stretching, soaking, rolling, massaging, and ultrasound, um, 'ing my right calf and legs in general.  Tomorrow I will run 3 miles to assess whether or not it's healed up.  The next three weeks will looks something like this:

February 7th - Tuesday:

√ Run 3 miles.  If injury free, proceed to next step. If injured, I'm out.

February 8th 9th - Wednesday Thursday:

√Run 5 miles.  If injury free, proceed to next step.  If injured, I'm out.

February 11th - Saturday:

√Run 5-6 miles.  If injury free, proceed to next step.  If injured, I'm out.

February 12th - Sunday:

√Run 20 19.2 miles.  [With this run completed, the decision is to run on the 26th]

Assuming I make it to Sunday, I'll base my final decision on whether or not to running the Hyannis Marathon based on how this 20 mile run goes. Realistically, with two weeks of not running and just a handful of miles this week before this run, I might not be able to finish 20 miles.  If I'm wiped out at say 15 miles, then I'm not conditioned enough to run 26.2 miles.  If I only get to 17 or 18 miles, then I'll assess my overall performance and decide if I'm conditioned enough to complete the marathon.  If I complete the 20 miles, I'll most likely run the marathon regardless of how well the run went - I'll at least know I'll be able to finish it.

If everything works out, I'll follow the last two weeks of the training schedule.  If I get an injury at any point along the way, I'm out.  On race day my focus will be on finishing the race, which means slow and steady.

I've been back and forth over whether or not to run this race - to just call it and move on.  In the end, I decided that as long as there is a reasonable chance at completing this race, then I have to try, to not try just wouldn't sit well with me.  While not intended, the question that now keeps me going is: Can I successfully run 26.2 with less than ideal training?  For this to be what I would call successful, my overall performance has to be better than my first marathon.  There is a chance that during the run something else goes wrong.  I'm pushing myself, but I'm not going to kill myself.  If my calf muscle pulls at 18 miles, for instance, I'm not going to try and run or even walk on it for 8 miles.

This is a last ditch attempt to show up at the starting line on the 26th, and as is with all last ditch efforts, it's not a great plan, it wouldn't even make a good plan C much less a plan B, but it is a realistic plan......