Sunday, April 23rd was the culmination of 6+ years of running, 2-1/2 years of marathon, 4 months of dedicated training while covering 1031 miles in that time, and one giant step towards running the Boston Marathon. I ran the 2017 Glass City Marathon!
My story starts 2 weeks prior to the race. It was my first week of my taper. It was a small drop off in miles, but a drop none-the-less. The weekend involved a long run of 17 miles. 16 to 18 miles is normal for the 3rd week out long run. The long run ended up being one of my fasted, long runs. About 1pm I went on my run with maybe 150 calories ingested that morning. I kept the run at a pretty decent pace. I think it ended up being 7:45/mi. I normally have been doing my long runs just over 8/mi to keep them fairly easy. I was pretty wiped out by the end. It happens and didnt think anythibg of it. I woke up the next day with pain in my butt and right calf. I ran the whole next week with this feeling. The weekend before the race I had 13 miles on my long run and I stopped at 10 frustrated. The pain hadnt gotten any better. On Monday I feel like I finally figured out I had a case of Piriformis Syndrome and finally could make a plan to fix it. In 6 days! I foam rolled, I stretched, I stopped running and I did lots and lots of clamshells! I ran on Wednesday and the feeling was still there. It didnt slow me down but I knew 4 miles wasnt the same as mile 20 of a marathon. A few more days off followed…
My friend Jeff, my wife Meggan, and I all headed up to Toledo Saturday midday. The drive was uneventful and we got to Toledo about 3pm. Straight to the Expo and we all grabbed our packets. Jeff and I for the marathon and Meggan for the 5K. We grabbed some early dinner and went to the hotel. I drug Jeff outside to go for a real easy 2 mile shakeout. The piriformis wasnt bad but I knew it wasnt 100%. I guess I will try to ignore it as long as possible. Heck, my calf was hurting more than the piriformis. I wonder if they are related from a sciatic nerve standpoint?
So….race morning. Alarm goes off at 4:30am. Again, I drag Jeff outside and we trot a 1 mile out-and-back. I ate a slice of bread, took down some Infinit MUD and had a cup of coffee. I normally like to eat a touch more than that but my nerves were getting the best of me by that point. About 6am we took off for the start line. It was a short drive and a little traffice but we were parked and out by 6:30. A quick trip to the port-os and I do my lunge matrix and leg swing warm-up. A kiss good-bye to the wife and I get in my corral up front.
I knew I was going to stick with the 3:05 pacer and hold on as long as my piriformis would let me. When I got into my corral the 3:05 was nowhere to be found. It was advertised but no one showed up. A 1:30 half pacer was there but I didnt want to be that quick. Well, I did but probably not going to happen. The race was supposed to start at 7:02am but it went a little late with some guest speakers. A fly-over later and we got the green light to go. I stayed reserved at the start, unlike my normal tendencies to blast off. There were plenty of halfers in the mix that i knew were going faster than me so I kept reminding myself to settle down. It didnt take long and I found my rythym. 7:02 on the first mile, win!
Mile 3 had the first hill that I knew about. It came and went without much trouble. We turned into a nice residential area for miles 4-9. There were a number of twusts and turns and even a few small hills through here. This was the section of the race that I skipped during my 20 mile training run on course back in February. During this time my pace had quickened. I clocked off several 6:48 miles. During this time the Sub 3 goal started to flash in my head. 6:51-6:52 was needed for that. I would quickly try to shrug it off and say that 7:00 or so was my goal. I’ve still got a looong way to go.
After mile 9 the half-marathon split off to go towards the finish and we, marathoners, went into the Nature Preserve to start the rest of our journey. The scope of the event was starting to weigh on me at this point and how much longer i still have to go. But i kept going and my pace fluttered around 6:55 pretty consistently. My breathing was efficient and the pace didnt feel hard. Ok good.
After crossing the timing mats at 12.9 miles(WTF kind of time split is that?) we turned north to run along the side of a street. I knew the wind was out of the north. It was only supposed to be 2-5mph but i could feel it. About then a group of about 6 or 7 guys caught and passed me. They were cruising and from a short convo I overheard it sounded like they were going for a 3:00hr finish. Me and the guy I was runnung near both sped up to catch the back of their pack. I stuck with them for over the next mile to block the wind. Their pace was a little fast but I figure it was worth it. After we turned back east I noticed my pace was in the 6:30s so i let their group go and went back to my own pace. During that time we also crossed the 13.1 and a guy yelling out our splits as we passed. 1 hour 30, 11 as I passed by. “Woah! I’m going quick! I feel great and maybe this sub 3 is a real thing now! But it’s only the halfway point. It’s gonna get the best of you if you keep pushing. But maybe if i only need to drop 12 seconds to get enough…..ugh, stop it!”
Miles 14-17 briefly snake through a residential area and a large pond in a park. As I was circling around the pond I came up on one of the guys from the pack from earlier. He looked like he was cramping. “Yeah, 17. That’s where things start to go downhill. That’s as far as I made it last year at Carmel. Not this year, I’m still feeling good not even breathing hard.” Another 6:48 mile at 17. I started to chuckle. “This is where that park ranger pulled me over yesterday to scold me about the park having a 10mph speed limit. Hey buddy, I bet I am braking your speed limit right now! Haha” It was also at this point I started getting a little giddy about my BQ chances. Mile 19 was coming, though, keep it down.
Another long straight stretch of road and no one around me. It was a little boring for a few minutes but I knew mile 19 was coming. I’m going to try to get a little rest on this coming downhill. The hill of the race is coming up. Hills kill me. In each of my last 2 BQ attempts the short hills late in those races zapped my energy. I had run up to a couple other athletes as we started downhill, briefly. I relaxed my arms and flopped down the hill. As we approached the base of this hill at 19 I told myself to just stare at the ground at my feet, keep my effort and i’ll never even know there was a hill. It seemed to work as I cruised uo the hill without even as much as slowing down. Towards the top of the hill I noticed a female athlete I had ran with briefly at the beginning. She was walking right before the hill and now i had caught her as she resumed her run. “What is that on her leg? That’s a weird spot for a tattoo. Oh wait, is that??? Aw man, this chick let a fart get sloppy. Gross. Oh even worse her butt is wet! Ok, pass her quickly and get that visual out!”
Back up to the top of the hill and my good pace had resumed. Actually, i had sped up and was again running high 6:40s at the time. I correct and got back into the 6:50s. I had accomplished my goal of owning the hill but I still had a 10K to run. “Don’t fool yourself into thinking you had won.” We made our way back into the Preserve and on the same path as before.
Another time passed the mansion and the short little climb in front of it. On this little climb was the first time I had felt the fatigue in my legs. “Mile 21 and I am just now starting to feel something. This is going pretty well! You may just do it. 5 miles, 7 minute pace….wow Im going to be just over 3hrs! 3:01 maybe, can I push and get under 3?! No wait, you still have to finish. 3:01 is a great time!”
Before the race i had told myself that once I got to 21.5 the bike path back to the finish would feel downhill. Yeah, i must have looked at it wrong on my training run because it didnt feel that way! It is net downhill but you can’t tell.
Again past the 22 mile mark, quick math in my head(if I can still do math I know my head is in the right state of mind) and i know I am still close to 3:01. “Ok, 22 miles…lets try to push this thing a bit now. Woah, I just felt dizzy for a second, I need water. Man, I havent seen an aid station in a while. Shrug it off and keep pushing. Ok, what is my pace now? 7:02?! What?? Im going harder and slowing down? And I can tell I am breathing hard now too.” Getting close to the end and i was mentally pushing myself harder but all I was getting was just to maintain the pace I had been keeping. But the good news was I was passing miles in the 20s and still hadn’t faded. Maybe my bonk-test long runs and 70 mile weeks are paying off now!
Mile 24…”only 2.2 miles to go! I still see 3:01 as my finish time. Ok, man i am getting tired now. I want to stop. I could run a couple 9 minute miles and still get under 3:05. No, push! Get under 3! It’s too late. Just keep running! Only 1.5 miles to go”
Mile 25. “1.2 miles to go. You’ve got this. Just keep oushing itll be over soon. Catch up to that young man in front of you. His friends just told him the finish is around the corner. Did they say downhill? Ahhhhhh, down a hill!! 3 minutes to the finish that guy in the bike said? That doesnt sound right?” As I passed the young man going down the hill, I told him he was doing a great job and that we were on our way to BQ. Didnt get a response but that’s ok. I was feeling great, maybe he wasnt.
I could see the stadium by this point. I had just entered a blocked off area of the finisher party for the runners.
I took off the sock hat I was wearing and knew I must have been grinning ear-to-ear. I heard someone say, “Yes, keep that smile all the way to the end!” Why, yes I will, thank you! I was also trying to fight back tears at this point. I knew I had accomplished my dream. I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A few turns and a short little uphill into the stadium and i was onto the turf of the football field. I looked up and saw Meggan screaming on the side of the path and I looked at her and shouted. Woooo!!!!!! I continued on to the 50 yard line pumping my first and yelling “BQ baby!!!!” I heard the announcer say my name and let out another yell and reached my hands to the sky as i crossed the line and the clock. I reached up to jump and touch it but held myself back and just stretched. I pointed to the sky to thank God as I had prayed for him to give me the strength to overcome my injuries and tfor the wisdom to run a smart race and He delivered for me. A volunteer told me good job and handed me a medal. I put it proudly around my neck and took a blanket and crouched down on all 4s to kiss the ground and to say thank you one more time. Another volunteer cam up to me concerned and asked if i was doing ok. I grinned real big and said, “Yeah, i’m doing great!” I quickly hopped back up and started walking down the chute. I still had energy left. I stood back up without any pain. I disnt feel drained at all. I’ve always felt so wiped at the end of marathons i couldnt believe how aware and connected I was feeling. A few seconds later i saw Meggan running into the finishers chute and she gave me a biiiig hug. I just said, “I did it,” and I returned her embrace.
My official finishers time was 3:01:16. It averaged out to be a 6:55/mile pace. Good enough for an automatic qualifying spot for Boston this September when registration opens for the 2018 Boston Marathon. I finished 58th overall and 7th for my age group. My first mile was 7:02 and my last mile was a 7:00. My fastest mile was 6:48 and I had no fade. My first half and second half splits were within a minute of each other. I honestly couldnt have asked for a better race. The weather, in the 40s the whole time, was perfect. There was no wind to factor. This winter has been the mildest i can ever remember and therefore the best for me to train in. This race was definitely one to remember. Thank you, Toledo and to the Glass City Marathon. The celebration will continue in Boston next Patriot’s Day, Marathon Monday.