Chicago Marathon October 9th, 2005
As I start to write, it is now one week following my fifth marathon. For those of you who have read my previous chapters you have probably noticed the development of what I find important in my life and the telling of the events that make it up. These past few years have taught me that it is not necessarily the marathon itself but the weeks of preparation that really define the experience. With this in mind, I have further expanded the section explaining the build-up to the actual race.
Probably the most note worthy event that has happened since my last marathon was my marriage to Sandra last September. Since then I have also started to wrap things up in school. Most notably, I wrote my first paper that should be out before the end of the year. My running has also taken on a slightly different meaning for me. Throughout the last ten years, my thoughts on distance running have changed with what I needed in my life at that time. Now as I finish my first decade of serious running I find that running can have many different goals. For me it has always been as a way to relax, to escape to the outdoors and enjoy nature, and to test my limits. From time to time, running has also been about joining a social network of like-minded driven people. This last point has been a special focus during the last year.
Dennis had moved back to St. Louis since my last marathon and we had been training together regularly again. We decided to try to get a training group together. We started by just looking in Forest Park and asking random runners if they wanted to train with us. Well it worked and very early on, we had 4-6 guys meeting once or twice a week. Soon after, word of mouth took over and the group quickly doubled to twice that number. Though the full group has never run together, it was nice to have someone to run with if you wanted. By this point in the summer, most runs would end with more people than they started with. This support system soon had me clocking higher mileage and through sharing training secrets, I was soon trying and doing workouts I never thought I could. The pinnacle of this experience came a few weeks prior to the marathon when a large group of us met for breakfast and gave the group a name. We were now the Forest Park Track Club (FPTC). I want to give a short thank you to this group of guys for returning something to my running that I had forgotten about.
I think the best place to start the story of the actual marathon is with the decision to do it. Why run a marathon? For me the driving force has always been to feed the desire for running planted my junior year in high school by Willy. Combine this with the desire to tests one’s own limits and that is the best answer I can give. This year I chose to run the Chicago marathon again because of the feeling of the hometown advantage and a newfound desire to run fast. The St. Louis marathon was a great success for me. I had run my fastest time ever and placed in the top 10 of a small but tough marathon. I knew for my next marathon I had to shoot for something big. I had started the summer running my fastest 10-mile race ever with Sandra, Mike, and Chris (his first race ever). Seeing my level of fitness and knowing what I had down at St. Louis the year before I decided I would aim for a 5-minute personal record (PR) and shoot for a 6:05 per mile pace to squeeze under 2:40. To accomplish this there were going to have to be some major
changes in my training. The first was going to be a change in my mileage. For all of my marathons I follow an 18-week training schedule. For my first three marathons, I trained around 650 miles each. For St. Louis, I bumped that up to about 850 miles. For Chicago I knew I had to do something drastic so I chose to shoot for about 1100 miles. I looked back over my previous experiences and tweaked a couple things and chose to peak with an 80 mile week before I started my taper for the race.
My training very early on surprised me. I had not trained at this kind of mileage for over five years. I was surprised with great workouts that needed relatively little recovery time. Add to that the fact that I was running with people that had posted race times faster than I used to imagine possible and the taste of the 2:40 was soon palpable.
The first week of training finished with a team run at the Hero’s Run 5k. This was the start of the summer of team running. At this point, we already had enough guys to have two full teams enter the race. There was “big” money involved $500 first place individual and $300 first place team. Well I got lucky and ran with Dennis and Tyler as my teammates. The Kenyan who showed up took first overall but Shock and Awe (our team name) managed to place just 20 seconds in front of the second place team to take the purse, a great start to the summer.
Two weeks later and I was already racing again. This time it was the Webster-Kirkwood Connection 5K. To add to the summer of “team spirit” two of my coworkers also ran in the race, my boss Dan and the lab manager Teresa. They both had excellent runs and hopefully have now caught the running bug. In fact Teresa enjoyed her experience so much she recently ran in a half marathon and did very well. For the 5K it was a hot day but I managed to run my second fastest time ever. Things were looking good for my ambitious marathon goal time.
As the summer progressed so did my training. I learned a lot about competitive running being surrounded by many very good runners. The presence of these faster runners had me pushing myself to new levels I did not know existed in me.
About halfway through my training I went to visit my cousin Carrie and run my final tune-up race before the marathon. Sandra and I ran in the Bix7. We both had a great race and I managed another PR and broke 40 minutes for the hilly 7-mile course. Now it was time to focus on the marathon.
After talking with Ben, the newest and fastest addition to our group I ended up making a few changes in my training and wanted to focus on longer repeat workouts. For you non-runners repeat workouts usually involve alternating hard and easy running. I typically do mine on a track for specific distances. In the past I usually did ¼, ½, and full mile repeats. This year I was adding 2-mile and 3-mile repeats. The first of which was Aug. 9th. For this workout, I was to run 2 miles hard walk a ¼ mile and repeat for a total of three. I ended up running each one faster than the previous averaging 11:06 for each. My high school PR had been an 11:07! I was excited.
The next key workout came on Sept. 3rd while visiting family. I was running on the DPR trails near Sandra’s dad’s and finished an easy 22 mile run with the final mile at 5:57. As
planned, my average pace for the run was much slower than what I wanted to run on Oct. 9th. The ability to run at pace that far into a run continued to add to my growing enthusiasm. The following week continued to feed that fire as I did my first 3 by 3-mile workout. I did this workout the same as the previous one with a ¼-mile walk between each 3-mile repeat. Again, each repeat was faster, and better yet, I did not feel like I was pushing.
This left “one” final workout to complete before the marathon. As has become tradition four-weeks out from the marathon is my peak in training. This is my highest mileage week ending in a half-marathon at goal pace with a >20-mile run the following day. The setup for the week is to test my fitness level for the marathon and build confidence for race day. For this week, I ended up running 82 miles. I completed the half-marathon at an average mile pace of 5:55 with the final mile my fastest at 5:40. The following day I ran 24 miles with Dennis and still felt great on Monday. I was ready for the marathon; now all I had to do was stay healthy and get to the start line on time. With the workouts going as well as they had a 2:40 seemed all but guaranteed and if I ran the race in the right way a 2:38 even seemed realistic.
5:30 AM Time to get up, down a little water, and head downtown.
7:00 AM Last minute preparation, don’t get nervous, stay loose.
7:45 AM I spot Tyler in the sub-elite corral and say hi. We are both ready to go.
7:59 AM Go! No ready set this year…
The only mile in a marathon harder than the last 0.2, is the first mile. All the training, all the resting, all the people, all the energy, at the start of a race have a way of supercharging your legs into doing things you don’t necessarily want them to do. However, my training had paid off and I kept the first mile under control in a 5:59. There are a few people running by me but no one really going my pace so I stick to myself for the first two miles. The second mile is a perfect 6:07 which would put me right in for 2:40. That gets me a little excited and the next mile is back under 6 (Mile 3; 5:58). I’m feeling good and there is a slight head wind so I duck behind two other runners (Mile 4; 5:58). Nice and consistent but my game plan is to conserve energy for the second half so I let those two go (Mile 5; 6:04). At this some one comes up along side me and asks to run together to “catch” the two guys in front of me. I ask the guy what pace he is shooting for and when he tells me 6:15 per mile I suggest that maybe we run together but hold back. He agrees but we still hit Mile 6 in 5:59. A little too fast, so I decide to run on my own again and run through Mile 7 in 6:07. At this point, I am getting very excited. I’m not breathing hard and except for the little bit of wind it doesn’t really feel like I’m pushing. Add to that the fact that I know my mom is waiting just around the corner and then I get to start my trek south with the wind and you can almost feel the excitement as a physical entity. About mile 7.5 there is mom and Steve. They hand me my sugar water and I down the whole thing. Still feeling great (Mile 8; 5:59). At this point I see a few of the elite female stragglers and start to catch them (Miles 9 and 10 both 6:04). Well this is awesome, almost half-way and still on pace. As I catch them I ask one of the women what pace she is shooting for and she says 6:00 (Mile 11; 5:57). I decide to just stick with them. However, I soon see the 12 mile marker and the split reads 6:11. So back on my own again. I actually miss my split at mile 13 but see the half-way marker and it reads 1:19 and change. Sandra, Mike and Chris are standing there to give me my second sugar
water and now I’m ready to go. Up to this point, things have been going exactly to plan, and I kept thinking to myself just hold it here and the goal is yours.
However, here is where the race begins. I completely miss the 14-mile marker and as the stretch of road drags on, I start to get a little concerned about pace. I finally hit the 15-mile marker and my average pace for miles 13, 14, and 15 is 6:09, still well within my goal time. But my quadriceps start to cramp. This is a new one for me. My calves yes but my quads, a little strange (Mile 16; 6:19). Not bad but I’m like this is not happening the training is there and I know I can runner faster than this (Mile 17: 6:16). Well that’s the idea good job. Sandra and Mike should be up there on the left. No? Oh well, hopefully they are at the finish seeing the world record go down. Eileen said she might be around the next corner, maybe next time (Mile 18; 6:22). Well a little bit of fade in pace is expected. Just keep it under 6:30 and you’ll still PR. Now is when you need to push! (Mile 19; 6:27) Ok, hold it there don’t slow down anymore (Mile 20; 6:41). Did you just hear that? Well that was me crashing into the fabled wall at mile 20. It is a strange feeling. My head and upper body feel fine but my quads will just not release. There is mom and Steve again, for my final sugar water. Maybe it will give me the boost I need? (Mile 21; 6:48) Or maybe not. The next mile is very surreal, I don’t really feel like I am running anymore but I’m still moving forward (Mile 22, 6:47). What was that mile actually not slower. Good maybe the sugar is helping maybe I’m getting my second wind. Now let’s try and at least get 2:42! There is the mile 23 marker (split; 6:38). This is great I can do this just over a 5K to go. Thump! There’s that sound again. Oh, I didn’t know that they had a second wall installed in the course. Very nice of the U of C campus to put that in the middle of the road like that (Mile 24; 6:52). That hurt. Now all I can shoot for is to stay under 7:00 and try to hit 2:44 and change (Mile 25; 6:54). Just barely. Now come on crowd this is the last mile carry me with your cheers! I have to push I need to run a 6:30 to get under 2:45. Ok I’m pushing. Legs? Legs? Are you still down there? (Mile 26; 6:57) I guess they weren’t. Oh, there is the finish line. Hi, mom I’m trying. Push! Push! Push! I can see the clock; oh, there it goes 2:45. Just finish.
Final 2:45.21 a 22 second PR
Now the first question you ask someone after they finish a race is: how did you do? Now this seems like an easy question that should have an easy answer. However, still one week later I’m struggling with this. One thing I heard is that Satisfaction = Accomplishment / Expectation. By that definition, I guess I was a little disappointed. However, there are many things that I have taken from this marathon. First: You don’t know until you try. Second: There is always next time. Now being the nerdy scientist that I am I have spent some time this weekend looking over my splits and a few things really have me encouraged. First, my fastest mile 5:57 my slowest 6:57 not too shabby. Second, my first half pace 6:03 second half 6:34 still not too bad. Overall though I did not obtain my goal I had a great marathon. Looking at the marathon as a commitment of 18 weeks, I would say that 3023 hours of the marathon were great it was just that last hour that got me!
Thank you and I hope you enjoyed, Adam