Monday, November 25, 2013

A P.R. Ain't Nothin' but a Number - 2013 Williams Route 66 Marathon

So chalk it up, marathon #5 down. I missed my P.R. by a little over a minute. I would have normally looked at it as a big letdown, however I knew going in having a good race is not guaranteed. 
Leading up to raceday, everything was falling in place perfectly. I had followed my training plan, got in some great runs the last month, followed my diet plan and recovered from minor 'injuries'.
Hello Tulsa!
This would be my first road marathon trip. Tulsa was my choice this year after having such bad weather for the Dallas Marathon in 2012. The weather from what I was told is always cooler than what it is in Dallas in late November/early December even though the city is only a 257 mile drive up U.S. Hwy 75. I had a room booked for the Aloft Tulsa and was going to bring family however a mix up with the hotel and my reservation (long story) caused me to have to make some last minute changes. To avoid complicating things, family decided to stay behind this time and I ended up working out a deal to shack up with fellow frunners and DRC members Sanjay and Coach Steve. I rode in with Steve whose hometown is Atoka, OK which is a maybe a little more than halfway between Dallas and Tulsa. Steve gave me a pretty good autobiography of himself and pointing out different Hwy 75 landmarks which is his stomping grounds on the way there and back. We arrived to Tulsa had lunch at a pub where we met up with other DRC members Jamie, Jonno, Chad and Sanjay. This would become our weekend posse. After lunch we went to the marathon expo, got our race packets and checked in to the hotel. I could tell the temps were dropping because my teeth started to hurt. After kicking around all day, we all met up at an Italian restaurant with a couple other runners for some last stage carb loading, swung by Wally World for some last minute items then called it a night.
Race Morning
I was always told that the most important night of sleep is the night two days before the race rather than the night before. Well I did it backwards. I could sleep at all Friday, but slept like a baby Saturday. I woke up at 5:30 went downstairs and indulged in the hotel's complimentary breakfast then got dressed and started to prepare myself mentally for what I was to encounter in 2.5 hours.  We decided to leave our room about 20-30 minutes before race start as to not prolong standing in 23 degree weather for too long.  The worst part of the weather was the first five minutes after stepping into it.  Actually it didn't really feel that bad. I had on two layers, and that was enough.  I was able to check in my drop bag, make some last minute adjustments and squeeze into the corral as the national anthem was being sung.  Perfect timing.  
Race Start
My strategy was to run with the 4:00 pacer for the first 5K, hold a 9 min/mi pace until I got to around mile 18, then if I was feeling good, make a judgement call rather or not to pick it up from there.  I started out as planned following the 4:00 Pacer whom was chatting away to a friend the whole time non stop about kids, holidays, President Obama, you name it; never acknowledged the folks running around her. After the first mile my Garmin bleeped out a 9:14 split and that was enough for me.  Too slow.  I decided to take off on my own. The course started out hilly and never let up. I figured with all of the hill training I had done I should have no problems. There were numerous shout outs to 'DRC' as I was wearing my DRC swag proudly.  I got my 9:04, avg pace at mile 3. First task completed. Now all I had to do is hold a 9:00 pace to mile 18. How hard could that be? Well it wasn't, until I got to mile between mile 15-18. Along the way to mile 18 I was right on point with my hydration, fueling, and supplements. There was however a point at mile 14 where I experienced some lightheadedness. That went on for almost a mile. I had no idea at the time what caused it and you can see it in my splits, but I shook it off and kept going.  Now that I look at the elevation from my Garmin report, there was a steady overall increase in elevation at that point so maybe that had something to do with it.  I fluctuated my speed up and down the hills and did the best I could to try to average 9:00, sometimes I was above sometimes I was below.  The race support was awesome.  I took a 24 oz bottle of water with me and figured to hydrate as much as I could at the water stations.  It seems as every time I felt it was time to hydrate, there was a water station.  
Mile 18
Back to mile 18 from out of nowhere I started having lots of fatigue pain in my left quad. It slowed my pace down by at least :30. No bueno. I knew that the faster I could get done the better. Yeah okay, that's obvious but the longer I'm out there the more fatigued I knew everything else would become.  I looked back halfway through mile 18 to see if the 4:00 pacer was in sight and she was right there.  Damn.  Now I know how it feels when I'm pacing a race and I pass someone who had a goal of finishing before I do.  I hear a lot of expletives when they see me carrying a pacestick bearing the time that they were trying to beat.  That was very demoralizing at that moment.  I knew I would not catch them without injuring myself trying to.  So the only thing I had left was to try to break my personal record of 4:13:09 which has been my P.R. since my very first marathon.  
Gutting it Out
My biggest fear before this race was cramping up.  I knew if that happened, the race would be pretty much over for me.  I have cramped up at almost every marathon and half marathon I have done.  To this day I'm not sure if it is because of lack of electrolytes or lack of training at intense speeds.  I took electrolyte supplements during the race and it seemed to help.  Around mile 23 I could feel some pulling in my hamstrings giving a hint at cramping that slowed me down even more.  I could see I was either going to narrowly make or miss my P.R.  I felt like I couldn't let all the training I had done and traveling that far to run a marathon could go to waste.  My quad was really hurting, but I decided to deal with it no matter how uncomfortable it was.  I'm sure people could see the pain on my face.  Once I got to mile 24, all I had to do run somewhat of a steady pace to beat it.  I'm just now looking at my Garmin and how I produced a 10:14 pace at mile 26, I have NO idea.  I was able to sustain it until the last little upgrade just before the turn to the finish line.  I walked very briskly up that incline then tried to trot as fast as I could to the finish only to be rejected ten feet from the finish with a full calf cramp.  I stopped and drug myself across the finish.  4:14:14.
In Conclusion
All of the planets aligned up except Pluto. Pluto represented race conditions Sunday.  Not making excuses.  I did the best I could with what was thrown at me. What I have learned is that a personal record is just a number. A race result does not necessarily tell the story of all of the training, blood, sweat and tears that proceeded it.  It will fall one day, I will just be patient which is my middle name.  And when it falls I have a feeling it will fall HARD.  Looking forward, I am still in the best shape of my life and ready for the next marathon :)


Mile Splits
Avg Pace


Steve taking a pic of all of his inventory.  Not sure how
 he toted all of that through the race, but it worked out.  He B.Q'ed.
Just before race start waiting in sub freezing temperatures
Some of the DRC Tulsa crew: Chad, Steve, Jamie, Jonno, Sanjay and me
And the medal.  #5.


  1. Nice work!! I always say it's pointless to compare ultras (like 50k, 50 miles, whatever) trail races b/c EVERY course and every day is different. Looks like road marathons are the same way. Even if you didn't get the time you hoped for, you did the best you could with what the day gave you, and that's pretty much all you can hope to do with every race. You're a great runner and I'm proud to call you my pace leader.

    1. Girl, thanks! I really appreciate all of your support lately. I'm ready now to come back to the trails which I know will make me an even stronger marathon runner :)

  2. Sorry it didn't go as you hoped, Clay, but you still did awesome!! You had really great, steady splits for almost the entire race, and even when things went sour, you still held it together better than most people would!

    I'm definitely not a health professional, so I don't know if this is really worth looking into, but have you thought about having your potassium levels checked? If you have cramps in every half and full you've ever done, there seems to be a trend worth looking into.

    1. Yeah I thought about it and every marathon course will be different, just like every football stadium is different for an NFL team, or baseball park is different for an MLB team and every golf course is different for a golfer. So for me to think I will perform the same at each one would be silly. I will definitely look into this cramp thing. I have notice though it has been happening less and less and further into the runs. I think strength has a lot to do with it

  3. You did awesome, Clay! Congrats on a good time in what sound like really tough conditions!