It once was routine to make the time for a somewhat detailed summary of any running (and sometimes cycling) event longer than about twenty miles. Likely because, for me anyway, events were completed as part of a group; often one that traveled together for the weekend. Moving away from the corporate environment meant losing the cohesion, and traveling, component of my group. As a result events have felt more isolated. Intuitively it seems I’d ramp up self-reporting if nothing else than to keep a record given the lack of others to help keep the memories.
Shortly after moving to the D.C. area in 2013 I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon. As it took place only eight months after a knee scope and seven months after moving to the area I set no goals. In fact my theme throughout the run was to stop and take a photo of every mile marker–which I believe I did. I also stopped around mile 21 to chat with Amy and Samantha and grabbed a beer around mile 22. What a great event–top 3-4 of all I’ve completed. In 2014 I signed up for the Kansas City Marathon; again shortly after moving to town. I was miserable most of the run. It took place less than a month after a grinding 50 mile trail run and right after moving out of our apartment into our house. Marathoning was so far down my list of priorities I had fewer than five or six enjoyable miles all morning.
It’s been so long since I’ve turned a BQ–probably closing in on five years now. In that time I’ve had the two knee operations, moved three times, lost four dogs and turned toward trail races. Foot speed has drifted about as far down the list as it can. I’d like to think I can do it one more time. After the 2015 version of the Gobbler Grind I’m not so sure. I set all sorts of goals when I signed up a few months ago. A, B, B.1, B.2, C, C.1, and on. I hit only one. First time for that.
We had company for the weekend—a 1/2 participant and he was all in. Fully costumed in his finest Thanksgiving outfit—-preparing it took all the edge off any night-before-jitters. That and a couple drinks.
Early weekend mornings are the only time I ever enjoy driving into the heart of Overland Park. I’ve become spoiled with our good roads and minimal traffic in our neighborhoods. We pulled into the lot a full 50 minutes before the start—packet pickup took all of ten of those minutes. Back in the warm car to change and sit. And sit. With fifteen minutes to start I thought it best to take a swing by the kybos and get to the start. After ten I realized I wasn’t going to make the start so I spied a tree-line which served the need; arriving at the start with just under two minutes to spare.
1000+ of us–combined 1/2 and full–lined up to begin an endless maze. Scroll down a few clicks to fully appreciate the curviness of the course. Smartly the first couple clicks were around the Corporate Woods office park. Even that small bit involved several tight corners and sweeping turns. Nothing, however, compared to what we’d face the final 23.5 miles.
Coming off four races—-three trail, one road–ranging from 5k to 50k–in the prior seven weeks I knew my legs would be somewhat fatigued. I wasn’t sure how much—this marked the first time I’d ever attempted a road marathon immediately following trail races. This also marked my second road marathon without completing speed-work or event specific long runs.
Right at the gun I found my goal pacer–3:30; 8:00 minutes per mile. He was tucked between three 1:45 1/2 pacers. That seemed reasonable to me. I’d soon find out differently. Between miles 1 and 2 I could hear rather loud music behind me. It closed in quickly until it was in front of me—a young gal had a full-on bluetooth speaker facing outward from her running belt. Both she and her tunes were a distraction–she knew as much and wore it well. I must be getting old and am clearly out of the loop. I’d never seen such a thing–it was loud enough to overpower my earbud yet not loud enough to overpower her voice. We’d quickly learn this was Abby from Omaha—she had a goal of running her 32nd marathon by her 32nd birthday–November 15th or 16th. She knew of our pacer and he of her. Their one-upmanship helped pass the time for a mile or so. I was torn between remaining right off their shoulders or drifting back a bit to reengage with my earbud. I did like her music.
Temperatures were perfect at the start and projected to remain that way throughout. All the bodies and sun beginning to peer through the trees onto the office plaza asphalt quickly raised it a few degrees at surface level. Just before the second mile a gal running the 1/2 was struggling with her phone, water bottle and earbuds while attempting to remove her jacket. I slid next to her, first grabbing her phone then her water bottle. We chatted a bit as she continued and jacket tied around her waist I started handing back her gear. She both smiled and articulated her thanks as she turned up another gear; the last I saw of her was her shiny gold skirt bouncing into a quicker crowd.
Just before mile three our mass turned a corner and squeezed onto the Indian Creek trail. Both events onto the trail. We attempted to run 3-4-5 wide; shoulder to shoulder. Quite uncomfortable at minimum. My heart rate spiked—my pace quickened. One of my dozen mistakes on the day. Shortly after the first water station on the trail–between three and four–I tripped up one of a pair of young gals as we all fought for a couple inches of space to weave back from the station, onto the heart of the trail and raise an elbow just enough to take a drink. Shocked she was the only one who went down. Turning both events onto the trail before we spread out a bit more was a recipe for a messy first few miles. I swung back around grabby the gal’s arm springing her to her feet and back with her partner; somehow avoiding mass chaos in the process.
Overly concerned about my time I bumped up the pace until I could again hear Abby’s rear (facing music). By mile 4-5 I began drifting ahead of the 3:30 group; enough to lose Abby’s music and begin dropping under 8:00/min pace. We were down to 2-3-4 wide on the trail and the curves somehow continued; wasting energy. Shortly after mile six we began a four mile stretch on the road; at least half of which saw my heart rate maximum for the day. During this time I engaged both the 3:30 and 3:28 pacers; again a first. I engaged so much I tipped my hat to a couple of my goals for the day–yet again firsts. We split from the 1/2 group during this stretch and jumped back on Indian Creek trail at the 10 mile mark.
By this time I was beginning to feel this would not be my day. While I’d managed to scramble and get slightly under 8:00/min pace it was not painless. Eleven miles in and the 3:30 group started pulling a few seconds ahead. Twelve miles in and it was several seconds. A little before the half we hit another trail ramp and road crossing and it took effort. Somewhere between 13 and 14 I intentionally dropped the pace to get my HR back down (it dropped 12 BPM) and it felt good. Too good.
I spent the next 4-5 miles with an average HR about 12 BPM lower than the first 13 miles and it continued to feel right. Unfortunately that resulted in a loss of about three minutes and I had no gas to reel it back in. By mile 14 I found myself running solo which continued to the end. Passing a couple and getting passed by several my pace climbed even as elevation dropped–albeit only a few feet per mile save mile 20 which rose 90 feet. At 20 I just wanted it to be over. My mind drifting, sweat ceased and my earbud had been silent for miles. Just let it be over. I spent the remaining 10k calculating other race times, long-run needs, upcoming possible events and whether or not the other three in my group would really still be waiting for me at the finish.
To say I won’t do it again is false; I will. To say I’ll make the time to complete road-marathon specific training again is likely also false. I’ve learned to enjoy trail running too much to give it up for the time it’d take. Sub 4:00 with no event specific training—-I’ll simply need to reluctantly accept it.