Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 Detroit Marathon

2010 Detroit Marathon start

Mile 25
"OH, COME ON!" I shouted out loud, pleading with my calf.
"Really? You're going to cramp up now?”

The guy running next to me glanced over, and then slowly veered away.

“Now. At mile 25. Are you kidding me? "
My left calf responded with the sound of a pot of pasta about to boil over.

What had started as a tiny tweak in the muscle at mile 22 had evolved into squirming and thrashing, like a litter of baby raccoons trapped under my skin.

This has happened before. My calf was telling me that it had taken enough abuse and if I didn't slow down immediately, it would pop off and scurry away into an alley somewhere.

I looked at my watch, which showed the exact 6:52/mi average pace I needed for an otherworldly "sub-3:00 marathon", I just needed to hold on for a little longer...
Runners approach the Ambassador Bridge to Canada

Sub Three
In the spring, we signed up for Detroit so that Shannon could redeem herself from a bad experience in Boston.
I was ecstatic with my 3:05 in Boston, and felt no need to improve upon it. Still, I needed a goal, and the arbitrary but numerically pleasing 2:59 loomed out there.

But it was only 3 years ago that I had done my first 5K at a 7:00 pace. I will always regard that as being "really fast", so the idea of running an entire marathon at a faster clip remains incomprehensible to me.

To everyone else, a "sub 3:00" was no big deal. "You can easily do a 2:59!" Shannon told me, "You already did 3:05. It's only 5 minutes." Several others, including some sub-3 freaks of nature (you know who you are) dismissed it as well. "You got it. No problem.”

But I knew better, because I am a running geek, and love to crunch numbers. Forget the McMillan running calculator, it is full of shit when it comes to marathons. I have my own calculator, and it’s the Salem Lake 30K, which has been my benchmark race every year.
It said I am roughly 2% faster than 2009, when I did the Detroit Marathon in 3:06:31.

So, the simple calculation predicts:

3:06:31 (2009 Detroit)  –  2.13% faster = 3:02:34 (2010 Detroit)

Even this was doubtful for me, because my training this summer was derailed by excessive heat, too many races and several minor injuries. I only managed to average 40 miles a week, and maxed out at 51 miles.

Magic Juice
So I wasn't going to get a 2:59 from my training. I needed some supernatural help, some ridiculous gimmick to pull me through.
That's when I heard about beetroot  juice. The article promises:
... an approximate 2% reduction in the time taken to cover a set distance
Yes! That's the ticket to sub-3! I didn't bother reading the rest of the article. Instead, Shannon bought me a bottle and I guzzled it on Friday before we left for Detroit.

I drove down into Detroit with Shannon, my sister Monique, and her friend Laura.
Despite the nearly 20,000 runners, we managed to park fairly close to the start and squeeze in two trips to the porta-potties. The weather was perfect, in the mid 50's.

I said good luck to the others, and wiggled my way into the first corral. Every second counted, and I was afraid of getting slowed down in a bottle neck at the Ambassador bridge.  At 7:00 am, the horn sounded and I settled into my 6:52 pace. My legs felt old and battered, and there was no threat of me going out too fast.  

The bridge looms ahead at mile 2.
Shannon and Monique started together, going out fast to beat the crowd to the bridge.  Shannon was taking pictures the whole way, more than 300 during the race. As Bubbles noted, that is 11.5 pictures per mile! Which is a photo/mile PR for Shannon.

She managed to narrow them down to 39, and they are here.

Canadian hero Dudley Do-Right, my dogs namesake
The race goes over the bridge into Canada for a few miles. The crowds were lively there and I slapped a few hands. Then it heads back through a tunnel under the Detroit River.
My sister Monique,  poses at the border
Notice the Godiva shirt
Tick Tock
Most of the race was a mind-numbing experience, just an intense focus on staying on pace. Constantly looking at my watch, making sure I hit the mile markers on target. Every aid station I took a sip of gu from my bottles and a half cup of water. No stopping, no slowing down, no speeding up, all while trying to stay relaxed.

With every mile, I had to exert slightly more effort to maintain the pace but things were going well up to mile 22.

The bridge to Belle Isle

Belle Isle
Coming off Belle Isle I saw my sister Monique coming across the bridge, followed by Shannon.
"Whoooop!" I called to her. But just as I did that I felt a twinge in my left calf.
Joe, a friend of my sister's, was out on his bike to pace her through the last miles. He pulled up along side of me.
"How you feeling?" he asked.
"Well, my calf might be cramping..."
"Don't talk!" he was giving me some coaching, "Save your energy. How's your hydration? Are you good?"
"Well I..."
"Don't talk! Good luck. See you later."

My sister ended up running next to a guy who needed a 3:20:59 to qualify for Boston.
She talked his ear off while he seemed to be struggling. Joe pulled up on the other side and they ended up bickering.
"If he's going to qualify you need to pick up the pace!" Joe yelled
"What are you yelling at me for?" she replied.
 The poor guy must have thought they were crazy, and he went ahead, getting his qualifying time.

Even though she was injured a good part of the summer, my sister set a PR with a 3:21, finishing 25th out 1161 women. Not bad for a 42 year old!

My sisters friend Laura finished second in her age group. Amazing.

Despite starting out too fast and stopping and taking pictures, Shannon finished in 3:23:07. More than a 4 minute PR! Of course, she immediately started thinking about her next marathon.

Sub Super-Three 
I was right. I was not capable of the illustrious "sub 3:00".
With my calf muscle about to pop off, I had to slow down at mile 25. I guess beetroot juice doesn't help with uncooperative calves. I was able to keep running though, and ended up with a 3:02:09. Pretty close to what the 30K predicted.

I don't know when I will try again. Right now I have a more worthwhile and insane goal:  The Uwharrie "Organ Donors Club"