Well I was able to log marathon #4 in the books this past weekend with the Bass Pro Marathon. The weather was absolutely incredible for it and the course was great. There were a ton of people that I knew there to run both the half and the full marathon and there were people that I didn’t know that I got to know through the course of the morning.
Bass Pro Marathon comes on the heels of the Dogwood Canyon 25K Trail run and just month after the Chicago Marathon for me. After injuring my toe in the hotel door the Thursday before Chicago Marathon, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete even one of these much less all of them and have a great time doing it! I ended up having a great race on Sunday and getting a new PR. My goal however was to break 4 hours, after not being able to get that in Chicago on the injured toe. I ended up with a 4:11:29 on Sunday. So am I disappointed – yeah a little… but still happy with the performance and the race.
I met a bunch of the Ozarks Running Club folks that morning just inside Bass Pro. It has been so cool to see the folks come together over the past couple of months to form the club and even more cool to get to know everyone. We really have a great group of runners and some really inspiring athletes! David even ended up running Bass Pro with us after flying all the way to New York just to spend one night and have them cancel the next day. There were also quite a few first time half-marathoners and full marathoners running from the club that morning too.
Starting out I was able to run at least the first mile with Adam who has totally kicked butt this year, going from saying he would never run to completing 2 sprint triathlons and his first Olympic triathlon at the Branson Ironman, and now taking on his first half marathon. And… he has done so and been able to jump in at a pretty stinking fast pace – he finished this – his first half mary in 1:49!! We talked for a bit while weaving through the crowd and trying to get a clear path to run. Then we parted ways as the half turned north and the full turned south.
I knew I was starting out quite a bit faster than what I had planned and really did try to slow down the pace a bit. I was also racing for the first time wearing the heart rate monitor. I have started with Coach Jeff with PRSFit (another blog post coming soon on that) and their training is completely based on heart rate training. So it was a little different for me to see how my heart rate fluctuates.
Somewhere around mile 3-4 I heard – “Hey – there’s an Idiot”. I was wearing my Idiots Running Club shirt so I knew he must be a fellow Idiot. Turns out it was Ron Bogart. We ran together for about half a mile or so. Ron was running his first full at Bass Pro as well and we talked about the Idiots Running Club and the Skunk Run. Finally Ron said he needed to stick to his plan and run his pace and I went on.
The course through mile 10 had some undulating hills – nothing major but enough to keep your legs awake. I heard a few people complain about how big the hills were but really they were just about right in terms of enough change in the course. Even with the hills, I noticed that I was still maintaining a much faster pace than what I had intended. In fact my slowest mile during the first 15 miles was at an 8:52 and I had 4 miles in the 8:30s. I originally had intended on trying to keep a pretty steady 8:55-9:00 pace throughout. By mile 13 I figured that by that point it wasn’t going to do any good to slow down and went with the “time in the bank” theory and kept pushing and hoped that I wouldn’t fade too much towards the end.
Somewhere along mile 11 or so I heard another “Hey Idiot” comment and saw a guy in a Marathon Maniacs shirt – turns out it was Randy Acklin… another Idiots Running Club member. Randy and I got to talk a little more and turns out he was in Chicago with me but never saw him in the crowd(go figure… there were only 45,000 others there). It was also cool to hear Randy’s story about how he had transformed his life and health through running and had a crazy schedule of races this year. Randy was also hoping to break 4 hours. At some point around one of the marathon relay check points, I lost Randy and figured we would see each other at the end.
Miles 13-19 seemed to go pretty quickly and honestly I was still feeling pretty good. However – from mile 19-21 I started to feel fatigue setting in pretty quickly. I knew though that Sharena and the kids were going to be somewhere in that range to watch so I kept trying to focus on that. I did finally see not only them, but also my sister, brother-in-law and niece Ashlynn just beyond mile 21. That kept me going for just a bit but my pace was grinding down… I was now averaging close to a 10 minute pace. There is a big difference between 8:40s and 10:00 minutes in terms of pace and I could feel it hitting hard.
I still was sitting in good position to come in around a 3:55ish time as long as I could keep a minimum of a 10:00 minute pace. Somewhere between mile 22 and 23 I got to a point where I had to slow down and walk for just a minute. I knew this was a mistake, but there was nothing I could do about it. My legs were starting to shut down on me. I knew that once I walked once it would be hard to get back to any type of predictable pace again. But… again… I couldn’t do anything about it. I kept looking at my Garmin and doing the math in my head and telling myself that I was still Ok… I could still break 4.
By mile 23, it had turned into running(or at least believing in my head I was running) for a few minutes and then walking a few minutes. I knew that I had to pick it up to keep a sub 4 in the realm. Between mile 24 and 25 was the lowest point of the race for me. As hard as I tried I couldn’t get back to a real run… it was more of a shuffle and finally it just turned into a quick walk. By this point I knew 4 hours was gone… I just had to try to beat my last PR in Chicago of 4:19.
There is something incredibly humbling (and whether right or wrong – embarrassing) about walking during the latter stages of a race. I had my head hung and the inner voices were working me over. The last mile and a half of the course has some very slight uphills which I remembered from running the half last year. Those slight hills might as well have been like the straight up hills at Dogwood Canyon at this point. I finally made it to mile 25 and I told myself that no matter what, I had to RUN to the finish line.
As I got to the last couple of turns through the neighborhoods before the final turn onto Sunshine I came up on a couple of younger guys that were wearing the same shirts with numbers on them(I assume they were on some type of team together) that I had traded leads back and forth since about mile 10. One of them was in obvious pain and was sitting on the ground while the other one was trying to get him moving and convince him he was almost there. I tried to help and tell him that he was less than half a mile from finishing and he could do it. Shortly thereafter I was hurting myself and REALLY wanting to be done. About that time I heard Vickie’s voice yelling at me to pick it up and keep going. I couldn’t tell where she was at…. I could just hear her and it made me push. I finally saw her and Robyn just up the street a bit and it was exactly what I needed to finish.
I crossed the finish line at 4:11:29 and it was cool to see all the familiar faces as I came down the final few hundred feet. After coming through the finishing chute, I caught up with Jon Wilson heading out and turns out he had a huge PR and hit a 3:31. Then I found Tim who ended up finishing sub 4 but still had issues with his back. I finally saw the family when I got through the food area, I went and gave everyone a hug. I admire them because I know I smelled like I had been working in the fields in July by this point. While talking to my kids I heard someone yell my name and looked up and David Murphy and Charley Hogue were just across from me. I got to catch up with them for a bit and David was his usual encouraging self – telling me that I had a PR and was that close to hitting my goal. He had helped pace Jon(and turns out got 3rd in his age group doing so).
So I left Bass Pro with a mix of feelings. One one hand I had a great day – the temperatures, weather, and course were awesome.. I had set a new PR and got to run with a bunch of friends. But.. in the back of my mind it was killing me that I was on target to not only break 4 but to beat it by 4-5 minutes if I hadn’t just totally shut down at mile 22. I also know that it’s silly to not just be thrilled with a great run and the fact that I had finished another marathon.
I was able to catch up with Coach Jeff with PRSFit on Monday and get some answers. He thought it was funny that I had set a new PR but was still disappointed. After telling the story and how close I was, he seemed to understand. The biggest thing that was eating at me was – why? Was it because I went out too fast, or did I not fuel enough, or was it because I didn’t have all that many miles of training in since Chicago? Coach Jeff was able to tell me within a few minutes of looking at my charts from the race. Turns out that I ran the whole race(well up until mile 23 or so) in Zone 4. In the heart rate training there are 5 zones that you work within with 5 being the highest. What this meant was that I ran for 3 1/2 hours with my heart working much harder than it should have and finally my body shut down. Coach Jeff kinda chuckled and said that he had never really seen anyone run an entire marathon in Zone 4. He said that by working through the program I would get to the point where I could run these type of races completely in Zone 2 or lower 3.
So for now I have an answer. And… I have a new PR .. and I have a great race in the books with a lot of friend and family around to have enjoyed it with.
Now… just 11 weeks until Rocky Raccoon 50 Miler….