On Saturday, April 22, 2017, three days ago, I ran what is to be, God willing, the first of three marathons in 2017, this would be Marathon No.18 and it took place in Carmel, IN. After my first marathon in 2009, I concluded that there would be no more marathons. Yeah, that worked out well.
As predicted by me and secretly, I did not sleep well the night before the race; this I have grown to accept. No matter the distance, no matter the race, the night before is always short, very short. After some tossing and turning and more tossing and more turning, I got out of bed some 15 minutes before the 4:40 AM alarm would go off. I have my race day rituals, that's why I always get up so early.
After some quick research, I decided on Carmel mostly because of its size, its a small(er) race; this year it boasted 655 marathoners. I registered for this race on November 2, 2016. Three days after the chaotic Marine Corps Marathon 2016, there were some 30K+ runners in this race.
We arrived in Carmel on Thursday. On Friday, we would take it easy. I would do a small, easy 4-mile run and we would go pick up my race bid and stuff.
Immediately upon getting out of bed, the first thing I have learned to do is to take an inventory; Toes... check. Heels... check. Ankles... check. Calves... check. Hammies, Quads... check. Back... check. Shoulders... check. It all seemed and felt normal; they all hurt and were all tight. So, I walked gingerly to the shower and took a hot one. Time to get the day started.
I have always been open and transparent in my training and with my goals. All six of you reading this blog know that. And if you have followed me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Strava, etc, etc, etc. you know this. I tell all. This time around, I have chosen a more subdued, quieter approach. This was done with a specific purpose. More on that someday.
After some discussion with my coach and my nutritionist, I came to the conclusion that I would fly solo. Cut the cord if you will, and let things fall where they may. I am, after all, old enough to know better, although some may question that statement, and I have been around the block a few times, so I just knew I had what I needed to do this on my own.
I tend to overdress. I hate cold weather. I had followed the weather report, although I have also learned not to bank on it, all week long. Midweek the prediction was for 100% rain and 20 - 25 mph winds. Greeeeat! I was hopeful, however, because I knew the chances of them being wrong was 90-95%. The weather in the morning showed no rain, low ~ very low 40's and windy. Lots and lots of wind.
I have a personal benchmark that I follow for running weather. Anything under 45º and the long pants goes on. As the long sleeve first layer shirt and the long sleeve tee. I had a windbreaker I planned to wear pre-race. I would toss it to my wife at the start. Nothing doing, It did not go off. Did I mention, I hate cold weather?
During the training cycle, I took up yoga. Yoga helped me decompress, destress and helped my mood and my overall state of mind. I now practice at least three times per week. It's come to be "my" time. I follow the practice with at least 10-15 minutes of meditation. Oh, my!
I had my race day plan written down. The first thing I would do is eat breakfast two hours before race start. That would make it at 5:30 am. I had spoken with the fine folks at the hotel the day before and they had breakfast for me ready 30 minutes earlier than normal. Boom! Belgian waffle with peanut butter, honey, and fruit and a large cup of coffee. Thank you very much.
One hour before race start, I would take two O2Gold and three Muscle Strength, both by Advocare. Note: this is not an endorsement, but dang... these work great. Consult with your local distributor to see if these are right for you.
Training for this race went well. Except of course if you don't count the incident on Monday, March 20th, when my back went out. Totally out. The bulge on my disc decided that it was time to make an appearance. I could not walk, literally could not walk for two days. That Thursday, March 23rd, I would leave with my team to run Ragnar Relay Tennessee. We had lost a teammate earlier, which luckily we replaced immediately; I was not about to let the team down. So, I stretched, stretched, and stretched some more until the disc was back where it needed to be.
I ran Ragnar, the Oak Barrel Half Marathon, and the Purity Moosic City 10K also in preparation for Carmel. I am happy to say that all without any pain. But the thought lingered in my mind; at any time the bulge could reappear. This was my biggest fear. However, it did not.
Fifteen minutes before the start I took my first gel. I would take four more during the race. Well, actually three, because somewhere before mile five, I lost one. Greeeeat! I would be sipping water all morning long. A bottle's worth before race started. I had my 22 oz of Infinit mixed in my bottle and another baggie with more Infinit to refill when the first was gone. The volunteer that helped me refill my bottle with water so I could mix my Infinit was very curious about the content of my baggie.I'm thinking the officer at the other end of the table was too.
I took my long run training to the streets of Nashville, to the parks and the greenways of Davidson County. Most all, if not all these Saturdays, the roads would be filled with runners, of all sizes, shapes, and speeds. Most were training for the St Jude RNR Nashville Marathon and Half Marathon. I discovered during this time that in fact, running trails could be fun and a great option for me. We'll see.
As the ceremonies commenced, I took inventory again: Toes... check. Heels... check. Ankles... check. Calves... check. Hammies, Quads... check. Back... check. Shoulders... check. This time, however, all the discomfort had disappeared, and it would remain a non-issue throughout the race. Opening prayer, National Anthem, and the runners were off. I was in corral "C". It only took about 3-5 minutes to get past the starting mat.
Probably the biggest change I've made on my racing strategy is that I now run with music. I found that my mind lingered with negative thoughts throughout the race(s), mostly about the physical pain and mental anguish I was going through. On one of my long runs, I thought I would give this music thing a try. It worked! I also found that my music choice helped keep the pace up. Good news all around. And what type of music did I listen to? Click here to see my playlist. I tried Amazon Music's Upbeat Running Channel... it gave me a headache!
The race went pretty much as planned. The course had some rollers, nothing of big consequence. It was also not crowded at all, except for the first mile. The wind, however, was brutal. I'm not good at guestimating wind speeds but I would venture to say anywhere between 20 and 600 mph! The course runs through three parks where the trees protect you from said wind, but the city's open roads, oh goodness. The wind.
I could go into mile-by-mile detail of how the race went but I'm sure the four of you reading this would appreciate me not doing so. So, I will not.
I've run 15 marathons and I've raced 3. Although they have all been fun, this by far has been my best and most productive. I went in hoping for a strong showing; a PR would be awesome and a strong PR would validate decisions I've made.
My previous best Marathon time was in the NYC Marathon 2013. My time then was 4:51:27. On this day, Carmel netted me a time of 4:27:42. A PR by 23:45. Not quite the 26 minutes I had first thought, but heck, I'll still take this!!!
It's going to be a great summer. I will take it easy for a couple of weeks, recover some, let the back heal completely and get back to the gym some. Then comes May 15th. That's the day training commences again for my first fall marathon. Added bonus: This one I will be training, and racing, with my daughter. God help me!