Well, marathon number 10 is finished! It really wasn't a bad race. I've run this particular event before and found it to be hot, and to have an insulting hill at mile 25, and this time only one of those things happened. The weather was beautiful up until about mile 18, and while there was a STEEP hill about mile 16, that was the only real challenge. At the same time, I was not as well trained as I could have or should have been, and so I walked a lot of the last 6 miles (probably about 2.5 or so). Here are just a few highlights of this wondrous and painful event.
A while back I read an excellent book called Born to Run which, in addition to other interesting ideas, claimed that shoes are just not that big a deal. It noted that injuries tended to go up after people get new shoes and that despite millions of dollars in research and development on shoes, there have been no improvements in injury rates, performance, etc. overall over the years. Taking that to heart, I decided new shoes were for wusses and didn't buy any shoes for over a year. Which meant that all of the shoes I have, instead of having 300-500 miles or less on them, have about 750-1000 miles on them. A few weeks ago I broke down and bought some new ones, not because of the miles on the shoes, but because they were literally falling apart. So you'd think I'd be wearing my spanking new shoes in this event, right? Wrong. The shoes I got are a new model of the shoes I've been wearing the past 3 years (Saucony Progrid Triumph 9's). The model forces you to land on your mid foot instead of your heal (i.e., not to "heal strike"). This innovation is probably due to the huge popularity of minimalist shoes and other innovations spurred on to no small extent by that very book, Born to Run. However, as I have only had them a few weeks running in them hurts my calves and I was not about to wear them for 26 miles. So I wore my backup pair, which were stained green with grass stains from mowing the lawn. I think I was the only one there with lawn mower shoes on. I felt quite the hick.
Going into the marathon I decided that I wanted to try for a 4:20 finishing time, which is a 10 minute pace. In order to achieve this I hooked up with the 4:15 finish time pace group, with the idea that in the last few miles I could drop back if I needed to. This is generally a good strategy. This time, however, two things happened that made it a bad strategy. First, the pace group leader, a very nice lady, accidentally went out way too fast, so that by 13.1 miles we were on pace for a 4:05 marathon! I was glad that I could keep up with that and actually felt quite comfortable for about 18 miles but then I bonked big time. My final time? 4:35. About the speed of my first marathon. If I'd truly gone out at a 4:15 pace and stuck to it, I probably could have made at least the 4:20 because I wouldn't have bonked so bad. I'd be mad at the pace leader except that she had just run a 30 mile race 2 weeks before and she ended up getting dehydrated and bonking hard herself. We walked about a half mile together (both way behind the 4:15 target pace by then) and I felt bad enough about how she was feeling that I couldn't hold a grudge. Pace runners tend to be highly experienced and competitive runners, and so I know it was really frustrating for her to be reduced to that pace.
The (lack of) a bus.
One of the things about this marathon is that although it is essentially a circle course, it ends up about 1.5 miles away from the start line. I had parked at the start line, and when I finished up, hurting, limping, and tired, I realized I had to trudge all the way back to the start (uphill, in the sun, yadda yadda). I was feeling quite bitter about this until I got to the parking ramp where I saw a shuttle bus leaving runners off. Evidently the organizers had done the right thing and set up shuttle service and I had done the wrong thing and not realized that. So then I just felt bitter and stupid.
The damn iPod.
When I got to the race I realized that although I had painstakingly made a Marathon Number 10 music mix for my iPod, and had charged the iPodt, I had forgotten to move the mix over the the damn machine. I had to make do with some other music, which was ok. But I needn't have worried. I really have a love/hate/hate relationship with iPods. They're amazing machines, and very well integrated with iTunes, and so convenient that I use them in spite of my philosophical differences with Apple. See how pretty they are? But they Cannot Handle Moisture. About mile 9 my iPod Nano decided that its reduce volume button was being pushed, continuously, and so consequently showed the "reduce volume screen" and played no sound. If I pushed the "increase volume" button it would have this little war, as it would increase a fraction, then decrease right afterwards. I got disgusted and did a hard shut down. I was tempted to do a very hard shut down by throwing it on the ground and stomping on it. But as I was smart enough to get the replacement plan this time I will just exchange it and buy an even better waterproof case (like a steal safe tied to my belt or something).
I typically use UnderArmor gear (shirt, boxer briefs, etc) because it wicks very well, is well made, and avoids chafing. It is also, unfortunately, expensive so I only own a few items from them and I have been reluctant to buy replacements. Today I found out that I need to buy some replacements. I finished this race feeling like I had a bad case of diaper rash all over my damn body. A quick bath in a tub full of A&D ointment has been only marginally helpful. I've never had this happen with UA gear, and so conclude that my gear has gotten that "not so fresh" feeling and needs to be burned at once. Ouch damnit. Sometimes being cheap is just not worth it!
This part is what makes people call runners insane. I am really glad I did this race. I had a lot of fun, got to talk to a lot of nice people, and remembered that it is much more fun to run 20 miles (or 26 miles) surrounded by supportive runners and spectators than doing it alone. The fact that I was able to keep up at a 4:00 pace for so long tells me that if I really train, focusing on some speed, I can probably do another 4 hour marathon (if I so choose). It was a good thing!