Monday, November 10, 2014

Race Report: Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon

This medal is almost as big as my face!
I came, I saw, I conquered? 

No, that isn't accurate.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?

No, though more accurate. I think I'll go with a gem from James Joyce:

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

On Sunday, November 2 (two years and eleven days after breaking my leg), I finished the Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon in 3:57:55. This finish was not my goal (meeting my PR of 3:50), but another finish under four hours is always welcomed. Here is how it happened.

I set out in the 42 degree chill at 7AM, planning to run around 8:45 for the first half of the race and speed up later if I could. 8:45 put me exactly on track for a 3:50 finish, and didn't seem too far fetched considering my training. I wish I had my Garmin summary so I could be more accurate, but that was lost in the ether when I tried to upload it.

I ran the first eight miles around 8:25 to 8:30, too fast as always. I felt great. It seemed that there were more downhills than up, or at least the uphills weren't as bad as I'd anticipated. I stuck to my nutrition plan (for maybe the first time ever!), having a Gu or Clif Bloks at two miles, then every five miles after. I drank water, but not too much.

Around miles 9 through 11, I slowed a bit, to 8:45 to 9:00 or so. More hills had appeared. I still felt fine, and felt good about being closer to my goal pace. I continued right around 8:45 through the half marathon point, and reached the 15 mile marker, where Neil was waiting, two minutes ahead of target.

The first half or so of the race snakes through downtown Raleigh, which was very exciting to run through. I especially enjoyed passing all of the historical markers at a pace that allowed me to actually read them for once. After heading out of downtown, the race hits the Greenway, where I knew to expect both beautiful scenery and some killer hills.

Heading out along the Greenway, the course goes past Meredith College toward the North Carolina Museum of Art. I realized early on in this segment that being in downtown had been shielding some not insignificant wind, which was now making the run a bit more challenging. No matter, I felt fine.

Unfortunately for me and my grand plans, just after I hit the 16 mile mark, my right hip started screaming with pain. Right hip? But I thought the left was the injured leg? Well, the series of injuries (both my broken leg and an earlier car accident in June 2012) have caused me to favor my left, putting strain on my right. As a result, my right hip is soooo tight that I can barely sit cross-legged. During mile 16, I thought I'd quit when I got back to the spot I'd seen Neil, which would be mile 20. Through 17 and 18, I thought I might stop at the next aid station and quit there. I was going well past 9:00 per mile, and was crossing my fingers that the pain didn't indicate permanent damage.

Luckily, by mile 19 or so the sharp shooting pain retreated a bit, and I was able to speed up. Still hurting, but much less so. Needless to say, my 3:50 goal had flown the coop.

Coming in to the 20 mile mark.
Seeing Neil at mile 20 was a relief, and helped me slog on back towards downtown along the Greenway. Mile 22 brought the worst hill, but I was expecting it. (Side note: The San Francisco Marathon is way hiller than this race.) We exited the Greenway after Meredith College, and made our way along a short out before turing back and heading into downtown.

The last few miles were tough, but I knew I still had a chance at a sub-4:00 finish. I reeeaallly didn't want to go over 4:00. I'll forgive my terrible first marathon, and even my 4:02 at Rome (due to a packed course that stopped dead several times), but I will not accept another finish over 4:00! My strategy involved math right before every mile marker, subtracting the appropriate number of miles from 26.2 and calculating that, at each mile, I could run as slow as 10:00 miles and still make it.

Make it, I did. I crossed the finish in a bit over 3:58 gun time, and headed over to Neil just past the finish. He helped me grab my sweat check bag, and helped me limp to the food area, where I downed a donut and two pieces of pizza before grabbing my delicious Lonerider Peacemaker Pale Ale.

Almost there!
So, getting back to the quote I began with, what mistakes did I make, and what did I discover? My main mistakes, as always, centered around not doing enough PT, both for my injuries and for preventative maintenance. I didn't really foam roll that much. I taped my leg religiously, but that wasn't enough. If I want to continue to run marathons and not feel like my leg is about to fall off, I need to stick to an aggressive stretching and strength regimen that deals with my hip and joint issues. Lesson learned!

Now, to decide if I have enough time to remedy these issues before my next marathon, which is January 17th!

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