Bring on now the Cowtown Marathon in "Funkytown" Ft. Worth, TX, which I had originally planned on doing the ultra marathon then decided after my fiasco at the Dallas Marathon (see previous blog) in December that I need to focus on the 26.2 distance before doing anything else. First let me get this out of my system so I can make the rest of this blog VERY positive. I was pretty down after finish the race at 4:30, very defeated, ego was shot, wondered if I really had "IT". Not necessarily because I was trying to meet my goal for personal satisfaction, but at that time I felt I should be representing my 3:50 BMF Group, whom I felt I let down among others folks. Now I understand how professional athletes feel, for example one of my inspirations the Dallas Cowboy great Charlie Waters #41, who would say they fought hard during not necessarily because they wanted to win, but because they did not want to let their team mates down. But enough of that...Got lots of pep talk from them afterward so I'm all good now. Let's talk about this Cowtown Marathon...
For once, I got a great night sleep before a race. That has never happened before. I may have awaken twice, thought about what could happen in the next few hours. Pre race meal was a banana and Clif Bar, same as I have always had before races, minus the coffee that I would usually gulp down as I found out will dehydrate you. Got to the Will Rogers Memorial Center to keep warm before the race as it was a chilly 39 degrees when I got there. Walked around a bit, took care of my 'bizness' and right afterward, ran into my partner Tim and wife Stacie and another dailymiler. We chatted for a while as we got closer to migrate toward our respective corrals. I waited around for a bit hoping to bump into fellow BMF'er Michele Peterson and chat with her before the race. I figured she was running late and later I found out I was correct. We had originally talked about running together, but I was going to let her know not to try to run with me as I knew she was much more fit than I and had trained just a wee bit harder. She is one of those folks that you know is fast just by looking at her. So I moved on to corral #2 for the race start.
Timmaay Taggart and I keeping warm just before race start
Let's Get it Started
So the race starts, I'm struggling to get my Garmin connected to a satellite before I get to the start line, which I usually turn on during the National Anthem. I just got this new Garmin maybe a month ago and was unsure if the battery would last 4-5 hours, so I was trying to save as much juice as possible by turning it on at the last minute. To my surprise, no national anthem was sung. Got the Garmin going just about 20 feet before I hit the start line, started my stride. The first thing that got my attention was that I had no pain or soreness from a recent left leg issue that I had battle with for about a month. Good deal. I was really concerned that it would come back, but it did not. The route was very congested to start as expected for a big race. I weaved my way in and out, and was following the same race strategy as for the Dallas Marathon, that is keep around a 9 min/mile pace then around mile 17 start kicking the pace down every other mile depending how I felt. I had about 20oz of hydration with me and figured I would use it up within the first third of the race, then hit every aid station the rest of the way. Right before the 10K mark I had to stop and relieve myself, something that I hoped would never happen during a marathon. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. That took about 2-3 minutes off my time because I had to wait on a port-o-potty to become available. A little ways down after that, to my surprise my DRC 3:50 pacing counterpart Steve Griffin, appeared out of nowhere somewhere within the Ft Worth Stockyards. He ran with me for a few hundred yards asked how I felt and gave me an update on the happenin's including letting me know that Michele was about a mile ahead of me, burning up the pavement averaging about an 8:30 min/mile pace. Just the support I needed as I felt I was out there by myself.
Still truckin', but wondering if the spare tire has any air in it...
Right after that I was still feeling fine, but in the back of my mind I knew there was something wrong because usually by 10K I would have hit my Nite Train stride. There was question if I would hold up for 26 miles. My breathing was a little off, heart rate felt a little off. I assumed it would correct itself. I got to the Main Street bridge hill which everyone told me about and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It was just very very long. After I crossed it I was like "That's it??" Was expecting more. We have much tougher hill routes during training at the DRC. But I had to remind myself to not get cocky, who knows what was ahead.
Feeling OK but having a little bit of doubt
Got to I think maybe around mile 13 or 14 and Steve pops up again, ran with me for a minute and gave me a full bottle of hydration. It was like having your own personal pit stop Just what I needed because I wasn't sure how I would be able to take in the fluids I needed without physically stopping at the aid stations and downing five cups of Gatorade. At some stations the Gatorade was really watered down and some stations it tasted like syrup. He asked me if I was OK. Again I told him I was good. I really did feel OK but there was just something that just couldn't put my finger on that wasn't quite right.
Mile 15 I started to feel it. Went from "not quite right" to "that ain't right". I wasn't going to make it 26 miles at that pace. Felt my legs really tiring. Damn, at 15 miles? You gotta be freaking kidding me. So I started altering my plan. Decided to kick it back up to about a 9:30 pace, to at least try to get a P.R. I knew at some point I would be doing walk/run, the question was how long before I got to that point. Just as a precaution I started popping the mustard to prevent cramps as I'm prone for those. I didn't feel any hint of cramps until miles later after I ran out of mustard. Stopped at every aid station and took in plenty of fluids. I was NOT going to end up in an ambulance again. No siree Bob.
By the time I got to mile 18 I was shot. So my plan was to do intervals the rest of the rest of the way. I would run until my legs couldn't take anymore then walk a few feet. Repeat. Fellow DRC member Bryan Fisher passed me around mile 20 when I stopped to stretch and asked if I was OK. Another amazing person. He just came off a stress fracture injury and was running the ultra marathon right after doing 18 miles the day before. I was getting pissed with every person that passed me. That was supposed to be me passing everyone else.
Every upgrade was a challenge. I dreaded every corner I turned to see an incline. Seemed like the majority of the last half of the course was uphill. But maybe it just seemed that way since I was running on tired legs.
Strug-guh-lin to the finish
Mile 24 there's Steve again. Hero of the day. He ran/walked with me for a few feet and just as he was leaving he got a notification that Michele (see below) had finished in 3:49:25. Awesome. I was elated as she had been chasing her previous PR of 4:08 for two years. So I need to quit my cryin'. Mile 25 I look to my right and see my coworker Jerry Glazner squatting taking pics. Total surprise to me. He actually got a really great ground shot of me (below). I look a lot better than I felt. And as I was forewarned by my running mentor Blanca Gonzales, the last mile ended on an upgrade. They are so wrong for that. I got enough recovery where I could run the rest of the way to the finish. Hoping that I wouldn't break down in cramps on the last stretch which was lined with photographers, I trotted very very slowly across the finish line. So that is Marathon number 3 in the books.
1.2 miles to go
BMFer Michele, around mile 24 lookin' very strong
Here are the things that I think contributed to slowing me down. If you have an tips or feedback, feel free to comment.
Not enough quality miles. Number one, I had just finished nursing a pulled tendon in my lower left leg back to normal. I am pretty sure that in the process, altering my training schedule contributed to me maybe losing a bit of endurance. Here is my mileage the past two months compared to what I should have been running which is around 40-45 miles per week before tapering. My last 20+ miler was in late December. Then my mileage the following weeks leading to Cowtown was as follows: 56, 32, 32, 32, 30, 32, 35, 30 with my longest run after that run in December being a 19 miler on February 2. The injury happened on January 20, so after then I was running very gingerly, skipping some runs trying to get it to heal up.
Not enough speedwork. I may have only done one speed workout since the Dallas Marathon. When I was in tip top shape in the fall, I didn't miss a speed workout. If I couldn't make it to a DRC speed workout on Tuesday, I would duplicate to the best of my ability on my own. I assumed I wouldn't lose anything and just got lazy, simple as that. So when trying to run at race pace, my body never kicked into overdrive as it usually does during a race.
(No) Trail running. During the fall season, trail runs every Sunday had become a staple of my workout routine. Trail runs developed muscles on my legs in places I never knew I had. Recent transportation issues along with other family events happening every Sunday morning prevented me from making weekly trail runs. Ironically the one trail run I did make it to, I injure myself.
Bigheadedness (overconfidence). Listening to everyone tell me "I got this" when in the back of my mind I had the feeling I had lost a step over the past two months. I actually was thinking going into the race I may even bust a 3:45. Survey said.... XXX!!! (in my Richard Dawson voice) I know hindsight is 20/20 but here is what I should have done... my body was used to my usual endurance runs leading my 3:50 marathon group at a 9:30-9:40 pace. I think I could have done that for 26 miles or close to it. I should have started there and aimed low, I would have at least PR'ed had I kept that all the way through.
The positives... This is only my 3rd marathon. My PR is 4:13 which was my very first and is pretty good for a first and pretty good period. I have been running only three years and my first marathon was less than a year ago. My first ever running coach Nikki Davis who was a pacer for one of the half groups told me long ago that every race is different and to not expect your performance to better with each successive race. No cramps! I hydrated well and used mustard to prevent cramps as I felt them coming. I used compression sleeves for the first time ever. Never felt a hint of cramps in my calves. The little bit I did feel was in the groin area, so maybe investing in compression shorts are in order. My new Garmin lasted the run and looks like the battery life would be good for an ultra if I choose to run one. I love this race and running in Ft Worth in general. Every race I have done in 'Funkytown' has been a positive race experience so far. Great support, well organized. GREAT weather. Couldn't have been better. Race start was in the upper 30's/lower 40's and ended in the mid 50's. Sunny and a little breezy. Good thing is I'm pretty healthy now, so the everything is looking up.