4:23 with a lot of walking the last 8 miles. I had multiple goals for this race but the most basic one was definitely to "just finish" after the DNF at last fall's marathon.
After that DNF, I knew i'd aim for a spring marathon and decided to go ahead and try to get into the Light at the End of the Tunnel (LET) marathon. it sells out usually the day it opens for registration in january. It's a point to point course that starts at a mountain pass (but low elevation) and goes through a pitch black tunnel for 2 miles. Then it's a very gradual downhill for 23 miles on packed gravel surface of a former railroad track. it's got a reputation as a nice local, small race with very high BQ potential. But there was a lot of confusion about registration so i waited a while. the confusion ended up being squabbling business buddies doing stupid possibly illegal things. The marathon investigation website posted this article about this issue last week! https://www.marathoninvestigation.com/2017/06/tunnel-marathon-controversy.html
It really was a crazy situation and runners on FB didn't know what was going on except obviously there had been some sort of fall out. After much searching, i knew the race i wanted (the original race) was on a sunday in June and had a local race director. I did register as soon as i felt confident that i had the right race. There was going to be the same race with the other race director on teh saturday before ours.
Having read this article and knowing what i know now about the current race director, i'm not sure I'd register again. But more later about that...
After i signed up, i realized that i was going to have to go back to full time working during the last 6 weeks of training. Ok, that's fine. But then the coaching group that i also work with ended up getting a new gig where we were a free training group if you bought a registration for a local half marathon. We bid on this and got it in mid-march. it was going to require group runs twice a week plus a weekly email and blog. I do all the email/blog stuff plus we'd have to rearrange group runs to accommodate this group. how the heck was i supposed to get in any long runs if i'm working more than full time, have to still commute in to my regular job every day and cover the group run on saturday? So, i decided to go with an advanced hanson marathon training plan. The long run was just 16 which i was able to get done before the group run on the weekend. And the last couple training cycles, i just didn't seem to recover well after long runs. i got slower and slower on them plus then started running slower and slower on my easy runs. i've started a hanson training program before but had never really completed the cycle. I did modify it by adding in a couple rest weeks and tapered more than they advise.
Training went great. I was very successful on the workouts and able to hit goal paces. I felt very strong. My overall training place stayed at a consistent pace instead of death slog. Everything was feeling fine too even hitting 60 mpw a couple of times. I'd wanted to do a couple races and i was signed up for disney races but they just aren't all that conducive to actually racing. I couldn't fit in anything else with being so booked up. That's my one regret as i think race effort can really help me during a training cycle.
This course is on a packed gravel bed. Now i knew that could be an issue race day as the gravel used to really bother me. Was i past this issue? I did the last two training workouts on the last few miles of the race course (so downhill and on gravel). it went fine but then the last few weeks started getting this odd sacrum feeling. is that related to gravel? is it from last few weeks of training and was i overreaching? I cut back way more and everything seemed to settle down. I felt pretty crappy during taper but then i always do. I felt very ready and kept reminding myself that i was very well trained.
There was hardly any communication from the race director. Then 5 days before the race, the race start was changed from 8 to 7 am. GREAT! it can really be warmer by noon here rather than 11 and i thought that would really help me. People were freaking out a bit about it online though. Then i talk to my running partner and it turns out the reason the race start changed was because my former coach was taking on volunteer/race coordinator duties for this race. What? So he's great for a lot of reasons and really knows racing but he can have a hard time coordinating all the little details (as in, we can't always read your mind!). There was also a call out for more volunteers and he texted my husband the day before asking him to volunteer. I said no.
They had promised a lot but i just knew i had to be self-sufficient on the run so i planned on carrying my water and gels and not planning on needing anything from the race besides official timing.
it was great weather. 40 at the start and probably about high-50s at the end. Mostly cloudy with sun breaking through. It was a bit windy at times on the race to the point that i worried a bit about it. The former coach had arranged for heated tents for runners to loiter in before the race. We had to bused there and this was much appreciated and i told him so! Turns out they'd forgotten drop bags.
I'd grabbed an extra trash bag from home to either sit on or use for warmth and it was good that i did so i could have a bag to give to bag drop. A lot of runners were just using tape to mark their clothes.
We started on time and ran about half a mile on flat gravel and very crowded before we entered the tunnel. the tunnel really is impressive but having run and biked through it before i know you don't get satellite coverage (ie no pace info) and its so dark i can get claustrophobic. fortunately with all the runners and their headlamps around, that wasn't an issue. it was a little slow but overall it's a good surface. With no pace info, i felt like i was going a little hard and backed off pace. I ended up running those first 4 miles in about 9:20 pace. Then i started speeding up to goal mp of 8:40-8:45 which is what i'd trained. Remember that it's a gradual downhill so you get a little bit of a boost or "like you are having a really good day" is how someone put it.
I'd hoped to BQ with enough cushion to get in the race (3:50), i'd hoped to PR (under 3:53), i'd hoped to BQ (3:54:XX), i'd hoped to finish under 4 hours and finally i just wanted to finish. I hit the half in 1:56 and was feeling pretty good. I carried 35 ounces of water in my race pack and was taking gels every 4 miles. Good call to carry water as the aid stations every 2-3 miles were minimally staffed plus they just felt rather far apart. it was only crowded feeling the first few miles but after that there was plenty of room. We had spectacular views looking around off of the trail. At mile 17, all of a sudden i just was walking. Everything hurt. I ended up walking in most of the way to finish 4:23. I had a lot of different goals and a lot of fear about the marathon, just finishing was going to be and is fine. i can't really say what the issue was except things like i shouldn't run marathons and the pace must've been too aggressive etc etc. It's very telling to me that i have been completely missing doing shorter races and so my focus will change to that for the rest of the year. This was marathon #10 and i don't have much desire to do another but running has definitely taught me not to say never.
The medal was really nice. they had excellent vegetarian chili at the finish along with watermelon and strawberries. Very tasty. it's a small marathon with just 500 finishers or so and the party atmosphere at the end with so many people BQ-ing (
) was really fun. The course logistics of being bused to the start and then from the finish to our cars worked very smoothly.
I expected issues with the race. Between no bags, no photos on course (this was mentioned as a perk), it did have issues. Whatever. those are pretty minor imo. I have more issues with some of the business practices of the director trying to force races off the course and just some stuff which makes me uncomfortable in general. I'm glad i did the race as I have always wanted to run this course but I'm not sure i'd run with this race director (and certainly NOT the other race director who'd hijacked the FB account) again. In her defense, i do believe this is her first race directing by herself and she's not a runner. It's a great course for BQ potential with stunning views and an interesting twist with that tunnel so i'd definitely recommend the course!
thanks for reading.