Monday, September 28, 2009

omaha marathon: 3:38:00

pre-race: saturday 09.26.2009

the griffiths, scott and susan, picked up robin and i at 6:30 am and we hit the road for omaha. everyone was excited about a weekend away that included all of us running. scott and i were registered for the marathon and susan and robin were registered for the 10k.

our trip to nebraska went smooth and we got there in time to take a bus tour of the marathon course. the tour was very helpful and an impressive feature of the "omaha marathon" experience.

we lodged at the "omaha embassy suites". pictured above is a classic gremlin that someone parked in the hotel parking lot. the lodging was great. i enjoyed the hotel's "manager's reception" in the evening. the biggest bonus was being within walking distance of the race starting area.

registration for the "omaha marathon" events included a complimentary pasta dinner. the dinner was similar in quality to a school lunch. in retrospect, we missed out on an opportunity to sample some local flavor. one of the lessons learned.

pre-race: race day

i didn't sleep that good the morning of the race. i was waking up about every 45 minutes thinking i had heard my alarm. another issue was the hotel pillow. it was just too different than my usual sleeping pillow. this was another lesson i learned from the weekend, i.e., bring your own pillow. i finally jumped up at 4 a.m. and ate some breakfast, went down stairs to use the internet in the hotel business center, and began getting prepared at a nice calm relaxed pace.

at 6:10 a.m. we started our walk to the starting area. we got there with a good 30 minutes to spare. plenty of time to get in line for the porta-potties, sip on some water, stretch, etc.

the size of the event, a bit on the smaller size, allowed us easy access to lining up in the starting area any where we desired. i noted the 3:30 pace group when i lined up, and opted to line up a little bit behind them. coming into this race i was hoping to finish at least close to my marathon best of 3:42:18. another part of me was hoping for a new personal record, but i just wasn't sure how much fatigue i would experience from doing 50 miles on 9.11. to take some of the pressure off i opted to not wear a watch for this event. i gave one watch to susan and one to robin for their 10k. i wanted to try a more zen approach, at least this one time.

the race

even with having the freedom to choose where to line up in the starting area, i still managed to get a bit boxed in for the first mile of the race. two minutes into the race and i could no longer see the 3:30 pace group. when we hit the 1 mile marker, and i observed that it did not include a clock, i immediately regretted not wearing a watch. it started to really sink in that i was not going to have the assistance of any kind of split times to help me manage my effort throughout the event.

i tried to get myself into some kind of pace that felt maintainable for 3 and a half to 4 hours of running. one mantra at this point was: leave it in the tank. from doing the bus tour, i knew the hills on this course were located in the first 10 miles.

i enjoyed running with another "maniac" from miles 3 through 6. we did some nice visiting and i found myself reflecting back to my half-marathon experience in little rock and how those two chatty marathoners drove me nuts. this time, i was one of those guys - whoops.

when the hills section started at about 7 and half miles in, i found myself having a blast. i leaned into the hills going up and started passing runner after runner. going down i let gravity assist me, and when it got flat again i would ride that momentum for as long as possible. it seemed like the rest of the day the theme was passing. starting with the one big climb and continuing for the rest of the day, i was a passing maniac. i started to wonder if it would be possible to go the entire 26.2 miles in the role of passer (and possibly even avoid being passed even once).

a little after mile 15, was the portion of the course that was purely for marathoners. i have found that i really love that. i love knowing that everyone i am running with and everyone further along the course is also going 26.2 miles. passing runners after mile 15 was a much less frequent occurrence. for the next 3 miles i found myself chewing on the mantra: you are fit as a fiddle, just relax and glide. i still was trying to be mindful of the distance and do my best to leave enough in the tank for the final 10k.

just after the mile 18 marker i asked a spectator if she had noticed the person carrying the 3:30 sign and how far ahead of me they might possibly be. she informed me that she thought they were only 2 minutes ahead of me. this was really my first time split of any kind. i started to envision myself catching that group and blowing past them over the last couple of miles. i was able to do that with the 3:45 group at the "flying pig" and it was a very encouraging and empowering experience.

the drama

while i was thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts about the possibility of catching up with the 3:30 group, i approached the crazy downhill that is located close to 18 and a half miles. the race has you run past this hill for a mile, turn around, run back to the hill, and then turn left down the hill. as i approached this hill for the first time i heard a loud polka band playing their tunes. on my right side i observed a police car coming up the hill. i had been thanking police officers all day for their assistance at a variety of intersections. all of the sudden i realized that this police car was not stopping at the top of the hill, it was coming right at me. now that it had my full attention i looked and noticed that the female officer was looking behind me to apparently see if anyone was coming. she had failed to notice that i was right in front of her and she was proceeding to hit the gas in what appeared to be an attempt to quickly go through the intersection. she was going to hit me. i proceeded to yell out, make a quick dodging move to my left, and use my right hand to push off of the grill guard that was beginning to come into contact with my right side. once i knew i was clear of the car i was extremely upset and yelled out something along the lines of damn it. the next few steps i noticed my change of demeanor, my heart rate, etc. while i was still attempting to pull myself back together, the same police car was following me and coming up along my left side. i took note of the car number (800). the officer lowered her passenger window and apologized to me. i don't think i even responded.

a couple moments later my left groin muscle started to do some tweaking. this is the same groin muscle i have had issues with a couple of times over the last few months. i quickly realized that i had aggravated it with my dodge and push off maneuver. from past experiences in training, i was aware that if i kept my stride short and my gait tight i could continue to run when this muscle is aggravated. for the last 7 miles of the "omaha marathon" i ran with a short stride and a tight gait. anytime i would attempt to pick up the pace, i would experience a burst of pain in my left groin muscle. i started to realize that it was not likely that i would catch up to the 3:30 group, but i did feel confident i could keep moving and i might possibly run close to my best marathon time.

miles 22 through 25 were a little bit rough. i found myself thinking: 26.2 miles is still a long ways. i did continue in the role of passer during these miles, but i was starting to feel a little bit vulnerable. i could feel myself fading off pace a bit. i was tempted a time or two to walk. but part of me thought that if i started to do that i would have great difficulty getting myself running again. i wanted to do this event without walk segments. just after the mile 24 marker i was passed for the first time. i said to myself: run your own race.

just before mile 26 another runner came up and passed me. i recognized him from the bus tour and from the aid station just past mile 17 where i had passed him. i broke down and asked him if he knew our time. he looked at his watch and said something like: "3:36". i said: "wow, i might p.r."

when we finally could see the finish i attempted to throw it into a kick gear and the groin muscle communicated to me that it was not interested in doing any such thing. so i kept it in the same gear all the way into the finish. i wanted to do a clark griswald into the finish [1:30 into video], which was suggested to me by timothy (a dailymile friend), but i think i might have messed it up. i think i made more of a tripping - hands in the air - move. i am looking forward to seeing that picture.

my official finishing time was 3:38:00. a personal record by 4 minutes and 18 seconds. i also got my first recorded 20-mile time: 2:44:19. this was also my first marathon as a 38 year-old. i was not able to negative split this race, but my pace slide over the last 10k was not that bad. it is possible that without the drama involving omaha police car #800 i might have caught up to that 3:30 group. but i live to run and race another day, and i intend to blow by that group in the not too distant future.

overall place: 85 out of 453 finishers [only passed by two runners]
division place: 14 out of 52 finishers
gender place: 71 out of 312 finishers
10k split: 52:02 (8:22 pace)
20m split: 2:44:19 (8:13 pace)
last 10k: 53:41 (8:38 pace)

scott had a great day with a huge marathon p.r. this was his second marathon. he completed the "flying pig" in a time of 4:50:16. his new marathon p.r. is: 4:18:02.

robin and susan ran together for the entire 10k. they employed a run:walk:run approach that was 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking. they stayed consistent and kept it rolling for the entire distance. for both of them, this was their first time participating in a 10k event. they finished together in a time of 1:23:50. i think they are intending to do another 10k in the near future, and then on to their first half-marathon event.

after the race we got a free lunch at qdoba via a coupon located on our race bibs. we had a bit of an adventure with the gps while trying to find the restaurant, which gave our stomachs a few more minutes to settle.

on the way back home we stopped at a mcdonalds that had the above pictured duck. given that i often refer to scott as the "flying duck", i thought it would be apropos to get his picture with the duck.

i have now marathoned/ultramarathoned in 5 states! next: iowa in october and oklahoma in november. BORN TO RUN!!!

(1) consider passing on the event pasta dinner and partake of the local flavor instead
(2) bring your own pillow
(3) polka music is a warning of impending doom
(4) racing without a watch is not for me
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