OK, sorry for the hold up on the race report and leaving you hanging in my last post. Finally, here are the details. 🙂
As you know from a previous post my family and I went to the Smoky Mountains for the long Thanksgiving weekend and some mountain trail hiking. We had a great time and did 3 very long hikes totaling 12.41 miles with an average climb of 1,300 feet for each hike starting at 2,000 feet and climbing. The weather was awesome, and the scenery was amazing. I encourage you to click the link above to view a few pictures I took.
Normally hiking and running shortly after is not an issue, and I love how hiking helps my running. However, on this occasion I had the 2010 Space Coast Marathon the DAY AFTER hiking. And this was the marathon I had high hopes of running a 3:30 BQ (Boston qualifying) time. While I knew realistically it probably would not happen, I was still willing to try.
The morning of the race I felt pretty good. No muscle soreness from the previous 3 days of hiking in the mountains, and my energy levels were very good despite waking very early a couple days in a row, and my hydration was exactly where it should be. I had a nice breakfast and orange juice, made sure all of my gear was in place, and race number and timing chip were attached correctly. Overall that morning I felt my 3:30 goal was very reachable, and I was very pumped and ready to try.
I lined up with the 3:30 pacing team and the race started right on time with the launching of the Space Shuttle on the LARGE screen over the start line. The crowd size was very nice, and everyone was very friendly. Temps were in the mid 60’s and you could feel the electricity in the air as everyone waited for the final “GO”!
As the race started we made our way around the first few turns around downtown Cocoa, Florida right. The pacer was excellent and kept us on pace very well. I was feeling very good, and the pace felt pretty easy. My HR (heart rate) was hovering right around 149 and everything was according to plan.
At 6 miles I took in my first gel at 49 minutes into the race. I had slowed to a walking pace at each water station to make sure I stayed properly hydrated, and casually caught back up to the pace group each time. At 1 hour I noticed we were at 7.5 miles, so everything was looking great. I hit 12 miles and took in my second gel at around 1:35, and was still feeling OK, but was starting to feel the distance.
Mile 13.1 passed by and we were about to pass the downtown cheering section, and the finish line for the half-marathoners. (My half marathon time was 1:44:55, still on pace.) It was here I started to feel fatigued and was starting to fade a bit. I was surprised by the rapid decline between mile 12 and 14. I was really finding it hard to catch back up to the pace group after the water stops, but I kept chugging along and was still keeping up.
From mile 14 to 19 the water stations seemed to multiply. I would get a drink, and just as I caught back up to the pace group another one was there to set me back again. I was in a constant battle to keep up with the pace group. Finally at some point between 18 and 19 I simply could not catch up again and was defeated. My stomach was starting to become angry because it was not able to digest fast enough, and my strength was totally zapped. I decided to walk a little allowing my body to regain some strength. I was still clinging to the illusion I could quickly regain my strength and catch up to the pace group. It was right there in front of me after all….right?
Well, my strategy failed. As I felt some strength returning I started running again, then stopped shortly afterward when I realized I had not gained enough strength to run for long. I did this for 3 or 4 miles before I finally came to the realization that I was not going to catch the 3:30 pace group…this was as the 3:40 pace group passed me.
On the fly I re-calibrated my goals and decided that I could still stick with the 3:40 group and still get a PR out of this race in any way. But that idea was short lived as I soon was not able to keep up with them either, and I watched them pull away from me and disappear up ahead.
With only a 5K left to go in the race there was no way I was going to be beaten, and I kept pushing forward. The least I could do was stay under a 4 hour time and salvage some dignity after missing my goal by a full 30 minutes. I had no strength, and was surviving on will power alone at this point. Even if I was crawling I would make it to the finish. This area of the race was deserted, quiet, and painful. In the distance I could faintly hear the music and cheering at the finish line. I was so close. CAN. NOT. STOP!
I am not sure how I did it, but I found some last bit of energy left to make my legs move as I made my way around the pavilion for the final stretch before the finish line. I could no longer hear the crowds, or even see them, as I focused on keeping my body moving. I could not even lift my eyes to look ahead further than 10 feet in front of me as I crossed the finish line in 3:59:40. (I did manage to raise my arm to cross the finish line.)
So there it is, another marathon under my belt with more lessons. Am I upset because I missed my goal? Sure. But the time spent with my family on the beautiful trails of the Smoky Mountains was well worth it. There will be more marathons in my future, and I am convinced I can achieve my goal with the proper amount of rest prior to the race. For now my focus will be on my next goal of completing my first 100 mile ultra in February. Stay tuned.