Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Med City Marathon Race Report

Oh my. This was less a race and more a survival test. With the mercury climbing over 85 with humidity making it even hotter, a PR for 26.2 miles was not even a consideration within minutes of starting this slog fest. So whereas I usually expound on my personal reflections during the run in race report posts, today there is not much to say beyond I knew I needed to finish and I got it done. And that's that. But this would be a short blog post if that were really all I said, now wouldn't it....

In truth though, I didn't enjoy a minute of this race. It was really, really hard. And I place the blame for this squarely on the shoulder of Mr Sun whom I may or may not have given the bird a few times during the race.

But, in all seriousness, the Med City Marathon itself is a great race. The course was really nice and varied. The first 6 miles were rolling hills out in the country starting in the town of Byron. The 7th mile was a straight downhill (which was definitely the most tolerable mile of the race!). Miles 8-12 meandered on a local bike path through many green areas and well-kept neighborhoods. Already by mile 0.5 I had established that my race goal was going to be simply surviving a crash course in heat tolerance. As I've mentioned before, I'm NOT a good warm weather runner. I'll take a long run in 20 degrees before a long run in 70 degrees so 85 was absolutely out of my comfort zone. And since it's so early in the year, I have not adapted to the heat at all, not even a little. So I thought, once I survived this (and I had no question I'd survive, just that it wouldn't be pretty) maybe the rest of the summer would be a bit smoother.

Mile 0.5 is a bit early to give up on having a good race though so I tried to stay optimistic and chugged along doing my best to ignore my Garmin. However, with each passing mile, I felt worse and worse and when things still hadn't turned around my mile 9, I decided to pull it back a bit. I ran with Adam from 9-12 which made things a little better. But when he broke off at mile 12 to finish the last 1.1 of his half, I couldn't find a way to put a positive spin on the fact that I still had 14.2 to go. UGH!!!

Bottom line is, I got through it. I finished in one of my worst times to date (4:40:26), but I finished. And despite my slow time, I feel like I earned my medal. I did work hard, harder than in previous races, certainly harder than my PR race at Rockford (4:05:18) roughly 1 year ago. Starting at mile 14 I did a 0.75 mile run, 0.25 mile speed walk plan. Luckily I walk relatively quickly - b/t 12-13 min/mile pace according to the Garmin. I was able to keep a 9:30-10 minute running pace when I was running. The last 3 miles were a total blurry disaster, I don't remember much besides trying my best to keep running to the finish.

Both during and after this race, I certainly entertained some discouraging thoughts such as maybe I'm not as in good of shape as I thought, maybe a sub-4 marathon is not possible for me at all, maybe I'm just a wimp. But I tried my best to push these out of my mind and instead focused on how I can improve things for the future. Like doing more training in the heat. Yeah, that was a real pleasant thought while running in the heat. Ug.

Today, when I was out for my daily mile in the oh-so-pleasant 60 degree weather (WHERE WAS THIS SUNDAY????), running felt easy, free and wonderful. And I realized there are many dimensions to "perceived effort" and "suffering". There's muscle/joint pain, there's shortness of breath, there's mental fatigue. I had none of those during my 1 miler today and I really didn't have much of those during the marathon. But during Med City I felt something else. Some intangible difficulty that I believe was the perception of my body fighting to cool down. We all know it is physically more difficult to run in heat, even if one stays hydrated. This is a known physiologic fact. But I learned Sunday this is not necessarily perceived as shortness of breath or pain, rather - for me at least- it's a nondescript sensation of things being  harder than they should be. That's why I plan to continue to firmly place the blame for my "bad race" on the heat. At the same time, I'll work to improve my performance in the heat by training hot so this doesn't happen again.

My 11th marathon, 0.1 mile from the FINISH!!
On the upside, the crowd support was AMAZING! Considering the size of the town (only 106,000) the number of people out to support runners on the course was incredible! There was water every mile and kindly locals with buckets of ice just about every mile as well. They did such a great job of trying to mitigate the weather. On some of the country roads there were up to 50 spectators at a time with candy, ice, signs, so wonderful. I gave a bunch of small children high fives because they were just so darn enthusiastic....I'm waiting for the head cold that surely will result from that:) (Kids=germ farms)

Despite the distance from Chicago (6 hours), this race was easy-peasy logistics wise and can certainly be done in a two-day weekend. Getting to the town was easy. Getting our packets from the civic center was easy (free 15 minute parking hurray!), there's a decent Italian restaurant (Victoria's) just steps from our hotel (the Marriott), our hotel was 3 blocks from the start, the start line shuttles were well run and easy, the finish had tons of food. Everything was simple.

I highly recommend this race. The average high temperature this weekend of the year is usually in the high 60s, so most years this is a pleasant race. I'd do it again myself if I didn't have 43 other states to run marathons in in the next 17 years!!

11th marathon, 7th state. Done and done.

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