Monday, October 21, 2013

Sub 3:00 in Detroit!

A Bad Omen?
After arriving in Detroit on Friday, I was striding confidently in my new running shoes down the moving walkway at the airport.
I had untied my shoelaces on the airplane and was too impatient to retie them.  As I stepped off the walk, the shoelace was sucked into the rollers and suddenly the walkway was trying to eat my foot like a hungry mechanical carnivore. The laces tightened and my foot was trapped, being drawn closer and closer to the metal teeth.
"Oh, uh"
Fortunately the lace snapped before any blood was spilled. "Hmmm. That's not a good sign..."

One More Time
This was another big attempt at a sub-3:00 marathon. Maybe my last, as I am getting older and more brittle.

My last attempt was here in Detroit back in 2010.
That time I ran the 6:52 pace required for a sub-3:00 through 24 miles, but was derailed by a cramping calf at the end, finishing in 3:02.

This time I would finally break the barrier by training a little smarter; running more miles and less races.
  • I had put in about 600 miles the 3 months
  • 200 miles of that was marathon effort tempo runs.
  • My benchmark race, 3 weeks prior, was a successful 2:05 Salem Lakes 30K.
  • I had a 3 week taper and was rested. (Well, except for a few 5Ks the weekend before, which I rationalized as "tune-ups")

Me with my two siblings: my marathoning freak-of-nature sister Monique (right),
and my brother Chris who is an older, larger, and scarier version of myself (left)

Race morning was perfect. Shannon, Monique and I drove down with my brother Chris who was doing the half. He is a detective with the Michigan State Police and a perk of his job was rock-star parking at the Michigan DOT headquarters a few hundred yards from the start. This was complete with our own private porta-potties, which I used several times to shed those last few ounces of dead weight.

Lining up at the start, I was prepared. The conditions were perfect:
  • 40 degrees, light breeze, partly cloudy.
  • I was wearing a brand new pair cushy, springy shoes. Same ones as 2010, except zero-dropped. 
  • Had my finely tuned 400 calories of of water down, caffeine enhanced Gu in my fuel belt.
After 160+ races I usually predict my finish time to within seconds, and thought I had a good chance at sub-3:00 this time. I knew it would be very close.

At the very least I would be able to keep up with Shannon and my sister Monique who have left me in the dust (or on the sidelines) our previous 6 marathons.

The first thing the Detroit Marathon does is leave Detroit and head to Canada,
where there is free healthcare and the drinking age is 19.
Here We Go Again.
Just before 7 AM, I hopped the fence to line up ahead of the 3:05 pace group and hit start on my garmin and was off. The first mile was very dark a little chaotic but the crowd thinned out quickly and I settled in behind a guy running a steady sub 7:00 pace in full banana costume.

With my experience three years ago, this all felt very familiar, and I knew what to expect.
The one thing that felt odd was the pavement. It felt very different than Umstead bridle trail I had trained on and the timing of my stride was off. Each step was a constant adjustment like I was stepping on and off a moving walkway at the airport. 

Still, the effort felt easy and doable. I resigned myself  to an intensely focussed, yet mind numbing three hours split evenly into perfect 6 minute, 50 second chunks. 

Oh! What's this??! Could it be???
We Have Had Enough Gu
The first 12 miles were uneventful. Over the bridge to Canada and back through the tunnel. I hit all the mile markers within a few seconds of the targets: 6:50, 13:50, 20:40, 27:30...

There was an Aid station every mile or two, where I took a sip of my Gu solution and chased it with a sip of water. This formula had worked pretty well in my previous 20 marathons, but not this time. Nearing the halfway point it boiled in my gut like a vinegar and baking soda volcano, threatening to erupt.

I slowed several times trying to hold it in. Crossing the first half split in 1:30:41, I had no time to spare, but the situation grew into a red alert emergency. At mile 14 I had to hit the porta john again, losing another 90 seconds. But I emerged refreshed and tried to make up the time with a faster pace.

It is! 
At the 16 mile mark, I was only 70 seconds behind but suddenly something happened.
My legs went caput. Pain shot my hips, knees, and ankles. My hamstrings and calves tightened into beef jerky. It felt like I was running on tree stumps. In the span of a mile I went from running a 6:45 pace to a 10:45. I was done.

I walked for a while, watching the pace groups pass, 3:05... 3:10... 3:15. Eventually I got cold so I tried jogging again which was horribly painful. Ug, I still had 8 freaking miles to go.

Monique cruises to a 3:18:57 at age 45
Around mile 19, Monique caught up to me. I told her I was dropping out and walking back to the start, but she talked me into trying to finish with her and we ran onto the Belle Isle loop together. She complained about being sick and just wanting to finish, but she never varied from her 7:35 pace. I simply could not stand the pain, so I let her go on. She ended up as 3rd masters, and 16th overall out of 1869 women, and won some serious cash. She is 2 years older than me.

Hashers saving the day!
Around mile 22 Shannon caught up to me. She was still on pace for her goal of a 3:23 PR, but was looking for any excuse to quit. So she joined me in my quitting. We walked and jogged the a few miles, stopping for any excuse to take pictures. 

Then we saw some white flour on the cement and got excited: "ON ON". The trail led to a hashers aid station around mile 25. We stopped for several cups of beer, but turned down the Blueberry Schnapps and whiskey. Recharged with beer, we ran in the last mile. The pain was excruciating , feeling like my hip sockets were filled with rusty nails, but I was glad to be done in 3:42:55. Shannon beat me again, with 15 second faster chip time. 

It was a good day after all
Not sure why I fell apart so abruptly. 
My training was not as smart as I had thought, and I was probably worn out from the 30K and 5Ks the past few weeks. Bottom line is I have aged a lot in the last 3 years and can't race like I used to.

So I guess it's time to move on to Ultras...