Date: Sunday, March 21, 2010
Location: Wrightsville Beach, NC
Time: 2:47:49 (gun) 2:47:45 (official)
Pace: 6:24 mpm
Place: 3rd overall male
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/27691016 (GPS of my run, including splits and elevation)
http://wrightsvillebeachmarathon.com/ (Official website)
http://www.setupevents.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=event_results&id=1703 (Official results)
http://www.starnewsonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Date=20100321&Category=SPORTS&artno=321009999&Ref=PH&Params=Itemnr=4 (Picture after finish)
My ideal goal was to run a 2:45 marathon. My second goal was to run a personal best, which I missed by a mere 35 seconds. I had to settle for my third goal, running a marathon in less than 2:50. Yes, I’m disappointed. I’m also very confident that the changes to my training are paying off. I just may need to wait a little while longer to get a personal record.
I experienced many emotions the day of the race: excitement, anxiety, embarrassment, joy, anger, happiness, disgust, shock, disdain, fear, amusement, acceptance, disappointment, and denial. Physiologically, I experienced: pain, extreme pain, discomfort, light-headedness, nausea, torn skin, bleeding, hunger, thirst, and inability to stand upright.
Jeff and I traveled to Wrightsville Beach on Saturday. Upon our arrival, I picked up race packet, including bib (number 400) and chip. The expo was exceptionally small. I bought Jeff and myself each a tee shirt. I also purchased some salt tablets (as I knew I’d need some for the race and had forgotten to pack them) as well as a hat.
I woke up at 4, and completed my typical pre-marathon routine, including eating a honey grain bagel with peanut butter and honey, and a banana. I also made sure to drink much water, as I knew the day was going to quickly turn warm.
I wore Mizuno cap, Nike sleeveless shirt with Bull City Running Logo (shout out to Jason and Kim), Brooks throw-away gloves, Sugoi shorts with pockets, 2XU shin/calf sleeves, Drymax socks, and Mizuno Ronin shoes. Everything worked fine, with the possible exception of shorts. More in a moment…
The race began just west of the Banks Channel. The race start was postponed until 6:40, so, we were told, that there would be enough daylight for runners to safely race. (Jeff informed me that it was because so many runners were still attempting to get to the start.) I briefly spoke with Tim S., who ran and placed second in the half.
The announcer asked that the fast runners move to the start of the line. Surprisingly enough, no slower runners did so. The gun went off at 6:40 and the first 20 or so runners, including yours truly, took off and almost immediately formed a single-file line. Just before mile 1, we crossed the drawbridge. Fortunately, the organizers had stationed volunteers to inform us that the bridge was slippery, and indeed it was! I stayed on the sidewalk to avoid the grate; nonetheless, even the sidewalk was very, very slippery. Mile 1, 6:15.
Mile 2 was on Eastwood Dr., and I stayed on pace, 6:14. Miles 3 and 4 were on the dreaded, awful, Military Cutoff Rd., a heavily traveled, straight section of road exposed to the elements. I ran these miles in 6:04 and 6:09, a little faster than I intended, perhaps because I was so bored. Just after mile 4, the course took a sharp right turn into Landfall, a gated community. The homes are beautiful, and there were many spectators stationed along the course. I saw many of them twice! Mile 5, 6:12; mile 6, 6:24; mile 7, 6:20; miles 8, 9 and 10, 6:26, 6:27, and 6:26. I began to lose some focus, as my calves began to ache.
Just past mile 10, the course took another sharp right onto Eastwood Dr., then yet another sharp right onto the dreaded Military Cutoff Rd. Miles 11 and 12, 6:19 and 6:17. You guessed it, yet another sharp right turn into Landfall for the second trip through the neighborhood. I was anxious to see my time at the halfway mark, as I had kept my breathing for the first half at one breath every fourth step, and planned on picking up the pace and breathing at the half. I ran mile 13 in 6:15. Time at 13.1 was 1:22:45—exactly the time I was shooting for! It was at about the halfway point that I began passing half marathon runners. They fell into four categories: (1) those that remained alert and made way for faster runners (about 15%); (2) those that cheered for me (another 15%); (3) those that muttered sh*t, d@mn, and even f%ck (as in “F%ck, he’s going fast!”) as I passed (20%); and (4) those that were completely oblivious to me, often running four or more across and taking up the whole lane, wearing headphones and unable to hear my warning that I was passing, adjusting hair and/or clothing and elbowing me as I passed, stopping to walk as I was running through a group of them, etc. Yes, this included the remaining 50% of runners. The throngs of half marathoners continued to increase, and I had to do much weaving and dodging from mile 13 to mile 21.
Mile 14, 6:20; mile 15, 6:23; mile 16, 6:19; mile 17, 6:09; mile 18, 6:08; mile 19, 6:12; mile 20, 6:15. I was repeatedly told by spectators that I was in fourth place. (The marathon runners were easily identifiable as we were wearing yellow arm bands that we picked up at mile 12.) Yes, I had picked up the pace, and I was feeling good. It was then that the unexpected happened.
I had taken a Gu 15 minutes before the start, and had packed two additional Gus and a packet of salt tablets in each of the back pockets of my shorts. The pockets were kept closed by a thin strip of Velcro, which evidently doesn’t work very well when saturated with sweat. One Gu and one packet of salt tablets had fallen out of my pockets, and I hadn’t noticed until I reached for them and they weren’t there. To add insult to injury, the Heed at most of the aide stations was very weak, and I began craving salt. I began slowing down and even stopping at the aide stations to stay hydrated, but to no avail. I became increasingly thirsty. I passed the then third place runner at mile 22. I shouted words of encouragement and was on my way.
The last 5.2 miles of the course were brutal, and I would suggest that the race organizers consider changing the route. The course traveled through neighborhoods with dogs running loose and over dirt roads with potholes. Ugh. After running 22 miles, no one wants to have to pay attention to potholes. In addition, there were numerous turns, many of them sharp, and there were two separate occasions where the volunteers had to shout at me, as I had missed the turn. It was also at mile 22 that my arms began to tingle, and I began to become light-headed. My thirst was unquenchable.
Mile 21, 6:20; mile 22, 6:31; mile 23, 6:46 (the wheels begin to come off of the bus); mile 24, 6:35; mile 25, 6:47. I had slowed down significantly. I also began to become somewhat incoherent. I was seeing spots. I was losing my peripheral vision.
The last 1.2 miles were the most difficult I have ever run, and it took me 9:02 to do so. I found my body leaning forward, and bending at the waist. I didn’t have enough energy to remain upright. At mile 26.1, I could finally see the finish line. Jeff tells me that he and the other spectators were cheering loudly. I couldn’t hear anything. I found my body collapsing and then falling—not tripping—and I hit the ground hard with my hands. Jeff says that there was a collective gasp from the crowd, as I was very close to the finish. I walked a few steps, and then ran again. I fell for a second time, and Jeff tells me that there was a second gasp from the crowd. I stood up, looked at the finish line that was but a mere 20 yards away, and I did everything I could to run across the finish. Once across, I collapsed, rolled on my back, stretched out my arms, and remained prostrate. I was helped up by some wonderful volunteers who informed me, “You can’t lay here. You have to get out of the way.”
Jeff met me, and held me up as we walked to the first aid station. I was provided oranges and Sponge Bob Band-Aids. I don’t recall much of what transpired in the next 20 minutes, but it involved four visits to the first aid station, changing out of my dripping wet clothes, dousing myself with cold water in an attempt to cool down, and eating a couple of cookies. I also had a small glass of delicious, cold beer.
Jeff and I attended the Awards ceremony, emceed by a former student, Tom C. The top 5 male finishers received a nice pint glass and a check. As Tom announced me as the third place finisher, he said, “Paul also gets the ‘hero’ award for making it to the finish after falling.” I then pretended to fall as I received my award. Hey, I have to laugh at myself, don’t I?
This was my 26th marathon/ultra, and never before did I test the limits of my endurance. After every other race, I felt like I had a least a little bit left in the tank. Not this time. I gave 100%. I was completely empty. Unfortunately, this happended before I reached the finish.
Yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t reach my ideal goal. Given how uncertain I was going into this race, I am, believe it or not, more confident that I can run a 2:45 or better marathon. I have a tough choice: do I run a marathon or ultra this summer or do I focus specifically on Chicago in October? Look for updates.