I went into this race feeling very good. My training had gone well, averaging 50 miles a week. I was in great shape. My last long run had been a 16 miler at an 8:05 pace, over a very hilly course. I felt that I had a shot at 3:30, which was my BQ, but everything had to go perfectly for me to reach that goal. As the race drew nearer I made up my mind to give it a shot.
The morning of the race was great. At the 6:30am start the sky was clear, the sun just coming up and temperatures in the upper 40’s. I decided to line up with the 3:30 pace group and see how things went. At 6:25 they announced that at the 20-mile mark of the course there had been a house fire, so they were delaying the start 15 minutes and making a detour on the course. They announced it would make the course “a smidgen longer”. Everyone was in a good mood and the weather was nice so it was not that big of a deal.
I stayed with the pace group over the bridges into Kentucky and then back into Cincinnati. I stuck with them up the long climb to mile 9. I was feeling OK, but I was wishing I had tapered a little more the week prior to the marathon.
From mile 9 to mile to mile 16 I picked up the pace, not really on purpose, but because I was feeling good and I did not seem like I pushing. My legs did start to feel it at this point, but I kept telling myself to run the mile I was in – I think I heard that from Matt at the Dump Runners’ Club – and it helped.
When I got to Mile 20 I was about 2 minutes ahead of pace and starting to think it might be possible to BQ. I knew I was slowing, but I thought I just might have enough to make it. Then we hit the detour caused by the fire and I started to get concerned. It seemed like a significant addition, but there was not much I could do about it.
At Mile 23 things started to unravel. My mind was willing, but there was just no response in my legs. I started to give back time. Mile 23 – 8:35, Mile 24 – 8:24, Mile 25 – 8:51. It was here that the 3:30 pace group caught and passed me. I heard them say they were a minute ahead of pace, so I still had some hope. Mile 26- 10:19. I tried to push, throw in some surges, put there was nothing left. The last 0.2 in 1:50 for a final chip time of 3:31:26 – 27 seconds away from a BQ.
Now that is the bad news, well not all of the bad news. The “smidgen” of a detour, they announced later, had added ¼ mile to the course. I missed a BQ by 27 seconds on a course that was ¼ mile too long!
But there is good news. This was a PR. My previous best was 3:33:49 in 2001, my first marathon. That was also before my ACL replacement in my left knee. Last year, my first marathon after surgery I ran a 3:50. I had improved 19 minutes from last year and 2 minutes from my all time best.
After the race I was drained and having bad cramping in both legs. I thought it best to go to the medical tent and on my way there my left calf cramped up and I went down. They wheeled me into the medical area, gave me some chips, water and a muscle massage. I felt a little guilty using the medical services for something like cramps, but in hindsight it was the best thing to do.
I learned a few things from this race:
1. I should have done some runs longer than 16 and at a marathon goal pace. My weekly mileage and speed work was good, but I think I needed some longer runs.
2. I should have tapered more the week prior to the marathon. My legs felt heavier than they should have early in the race.
3. I should have stayed with the pace group longer, even if I felt the pace was too slow. It might have saved me later in the race.
2. I should have drunk more on the course. I thought I had done well drinking, but the cramping after the race and my last mile, indicates that I was de-hydrated.
5. I know I can reach a BQ if things go right and I correct a few things in my training and racing.
I must say, I feel this was a bittersweet race. I am happy with a PR, but it is too close to a BQ that I can’t stop thinking “what-if”. I am sure time will put things into better perspective, but right now it is hard.
I want to thank John Ellis for looking over my training plan back in January and recommending a few changes. I think it made a big difference.