Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Feel the Need, the Need for Speed!

Morgan Hill Marathon
Well, my ultra-marathon season is finally winding down for the year. I just have the Quad Dipsea left, and at only 28 miles long it's closer to a marathon than a 50K. So now it's time to cut back the high-volume LSD and start focusing on speed again. My wife Amy and I are both running the Boston Marathon in April, and I'm hoping to not only PR, but to go sub 3 hours for the first time ever.

"So what we'll be calling on is good ol' fashion blunt force trauma." Yeah, I stole that line from a Rocky movie :)

In order to assess exactly where I am, and just how slow I am, I decided to run the local Morgan Hill Marathon last weekend. It's a hilly course, with somewhere between 900 and 1200 feet of elevation gain, so it's much more hilly that what I will encounter at Boston. But I figured if I could run a respectable time of 3:05 - 3:10 on this course, then it should set me up well for a shot at sub 3 at Boston. At least that was the plan.

But, spoiler alert, things don't always go as planned.

Free tickets to the gun show :)
With two minutes to go before the race started, I found myself still in the port-a-potty line. But I knew from past experience that if I held firm the majority of people in front of me would bail and head to the starting line when the clock dipped under a minute to go.

Sure enough, I suddenly found myself at the front of the line. After quickly taking care of business I jogged over to the starting line, discarded my shirt, and elbowed my way to the front of the pack with twenty seconds to spare.

I went out conservatively, or as conservatively as I could stand, which meant that I tucked in behind the 1:30 half-marathon pace group leader for the first mile. But when he turned off (the marathon and half marathon courses diverged) I slowed own a bit more and settled into about 7:00 pace.

I found myself basically running all alone for the first 13 miles in about 5th place overall with no one directly insight either in front or behind me.

I hit the half marathon mark in about 1:33 and was still feeling pretty good. I was already thinking of clever titles for my blog and Strava upload. Things like, "Get ready Boston, I'm coming for yo' ass". There was no way I was going to fail. A top 10 placement and sub 3:10 finish were mine. Nothing could stop me.

Well, almost nothing. Except a calf cramp. Ugh.

John and Hermann
Suddenly, at mile 19, I was in a world of hurt. My right calf kept locking up, forcing me to slow my pace. And then, for good measure, my arms starting cramping up as well (making it difficult to even lift my water bottle to drink).

Things were looking bad. And then I heard footsteps behind me. It was my co-worked and good friend, Hermann Lueckhoff! Hermann was running strong and would go on to finish 7th overall with a 3:06 finish.

The last 7 miles were pretty miserable for me. I desperately wanted to drop out. But having already DNF'd twice at this race, I knew I had to at least grind it out and get the finish this time -- no matter how slow.

Eventually I finally made it back to the start finish line with a time of 3:11:30. Several people had passed me in the last 3 miles and I ended up finishing 12th overall. But somehow I still managed to win my age group (thankfully my buddy Hermann was in the 45 - 49 age group).

Will run for booze!
Although I was pretty disappointed with my performance it's hard to stay too grumpy when you get called up to the podium and presented with a bottle of champagne for winning your age group :)

Obviously I have a little more training to do before Boston if I want to achieve my goal. But I've still got plenty of time. And first things first, I have a bottle of champagne to pound!

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