Saturday, May 15, 2010

Race Report: Windermere Marathon

Where do I start? It was simply a beautiful day. But of course, a beautiful day is not what you want on marathon day. It was 48 degrees at 5am when I woke up but it was probably close to 60 by the start and near 70 by 9:45 or so when I finished. Met up with Michael Bresson who was the clear favorite to win the race. He is a few months older but has had a much more profitable training year than I have had. His plan was to go out in 1:10 and then hang on for dear life.

The race got started 15 minutes late because they had to synch it with the start of the half marathon because they only had one clock at the finish line. Not acceptable. But I would have let it slide if that had been the only hiccup today.

The plan was to run 5:35s shooting for a 2:26.

The start of the race was the only portion of the course that was remotely confusing so since I knew I would be toward the front of the pack, I asked three different volunteers at the star, including one of the lead bikers, which direction the first part of the course took. I got three different answers. I should have seen the writing on the wall. They finally got us started and about 1.25 miles into the race we passed the 2M marker. Ummm…what the freak? I set a world record in the 3M crossing in 12:10. Awesome. I have to say that it was a pretty deflating thing to know that just more than a mile into the race I was no longer running a certified, full-length marathon. I spent much of the race trying to figure out if I should drop out and look for another marathon in the next week or two, but I couldn’t think of one so I plugged along. I thought again about dropping out and thought about maybe the Newport marathon in three weeks, but that would have a really negative impact on my summer race schedule. So I carried on. I think what really kept me going was the desire just to finish the marathon regardless of the actualt distance. I hadn't finished a marathon since Newport in 2008 so I really "needed" to finish this.

Mile 3 – 5:34

Mile 4 – 5:28 (By this point, no one was in sight. It was me, myself and I which is how it stayed until Mile 18 or so when I started catching up to a few of the half marathon walkers. Beautiful, but lonely)

Mile 5 – 5:31

Mile 6 – 5:37

Mile 7 – 5:32

Mile 8 – 5:31

Mile 9 – 5:35

Mile 10 – 5:38 (Somewhat of a guess because they were still putting up mile markers when I got to this point. Seriously)

Mile 11 – 5:36

Mile 12 – 5:41

Mile 13 – 5:45 (Knew I was slowing down but was hoping to hang on to sub 6:00 miles for the rest of the race)

Mile 14 – 5:51

Mile 15 – 5:50

Mile 16 – 5:54

Mile 17 – 6:00

Mile 18 – 5:57

Mile 19 – 5:56

Mile 20 – 6:03 (10k to go and at this point, I was getting pretty upset about the course screw up. All this effort and training to run 25.5 miles.)

Mile 21 – 6:03 (Things are getting pretty crammed with half marathoners. Narrower trail combined with many packs of walkers and slow runners with headphones on made for some frustration)

Mile 22/23 – 12:35

Mile 24 – 6:20

Mile 25 – 6:22

Final ¼ mile to FINISH LINE -- 1:23 (2:28:02) – So about ½ mile before the finish some guy was yelling at me to go to the finish, turn around and run back to him, presumably because he was standing at a place that would make the course the right length. So with hundreds of people, including my family, standing at the finish, I arrive there only to turnaround and try and find where this mystery man was running against a constant stream of half marathoners. Fortunately, I was the second place guy as the winner, Michael Bresson, flagged me down at the "new finish" to tell me I was no done. No clock. No one there to take my time. So my time from the real finish line to the new finish line was in 4:15 for a total time of 2:32:18. I don’t know if this was actually a certified distance. Probably not. My watch said 26.17. So it was closer, but who knows.

Bottom Line: I had a mediocre performance. The course fiasco wasn’t the cause for me falling 6 minutes off my target finish time. It was probably a small mental factor, but it wasn’t six minutes worth. I still continue to struggle in warm marathon conditions. I had cramps from Mile 6 on such that I could get my stomach to accept the amount of fluids my body needed to perform at the desired levels. That is frustrating because I feel like I had the fitness to achieve my time but I simply haven’t figured out how to hydrate in warm weather.

Observation: My marathon PR days are almost certainly behind me. I’m fine with that. At some point, that becomes the case for everyone. It just so happens that at age 37, that time has come for me. No worries. That said, I do feel like I have a 2:25 left in me which is something worth going after.

Observation: Nice course for the most part. Lots of potential but very poorly managed.

Observation: It was nice not having any pressure on me this time around. No Trials to qualify for. No crazy, unrealistic time to shoot for. It makes running a lot more fun.

Observation: The one thing a race director absolutely has to get right – especially for a marathon – is the course. I am a race director. I direct for races a year. Getting the course right is where 90% of my focus is each and every race. It is simply unacceptable to get this wrong. This is especially true for a marathon which people train months for. There are 400 people today who will not be eligible for the Boston Marathon because the race director screwed up the course. The course records are out the window. It’s as if the race didn’t happen because a marathon is 26.2 not 25.5. My so-so performance had more to do with poor hydration than the course screw up. But I feel for those who spent $100 and months of training to qualify for Boston and now can’t. Total bummer. The ironic thing is that their motto is “we don’t bring elite athletes to our marathon. We bring an elite marathon to our athletes.” Ummm…not so much.

I don't know what time they will put me down for...the 2:28 or the 2:32. There wasn't anyone at the end of the "26.2" to take my time, so I guess they will have to go wit the 2:28. What a mess.

So now the recovery begins. A few days of no running and then ramp up for the summer road race season leading up to Club Track Nationals in SFO.