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.

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