First – the taper… I did a little less running than planned, and a little more eating…. So, my weigh in this morning was 178. I am sure that my last weigh in of 174 was dehydrated….
My plan for the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon on Memorial Weekend was to camp at the Ventura RV Resort. Two other couples were to join my wife and I. But they had flood damage that they thought would be fixed in time, but was not. They cancelled our reservations two weeks ago…. It would have been great. The campground is just west of the 33 freeway on main street- a short walk from downtown Ventura. I would have walked to the shuttle. My friends and my wife would have walked under the freeway to mile 23 of the race and from their to the finish line…. nice….
Instead, I got up at 1:30 a.m. in Palmdale. I left at 2:05. I arrived at a downtown parking lot at 3:35. I put on some sun block, gathered my things and walked a block or two to take the shuttle.
There was a line, but there was also a slew of busses. I got on the 2nd one. I chatted my way to Ojai, where I found a place to rest until the start of the race.
A side note- I am wearing a hoodie purchased at the thrift store yesterday. I always bring something warm that I don’t mind leaving behind at the start of the race. I find it nicer than dealing with a bag check.
I have been struggling to decide exactly what time to shoot for in this race. My main goal, of course was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The official time needed is sub 3:40 for men in their upper 50s, but the last couple years you needed to be a couple minutes under that to actually get in. So, anything under 3:37 would be awesome. But I felt that I could do much better.
It turns out that HDR member, and marathon freak, Grant Barnett was serving as pacer for the 3:37 pace group. There was also a 3:32 pace group. I started out behind the 3:32 group figuring I would hang with them and see how it went.
I was using a new app on my Garmin Forerunner 620 watch that is supposed to help with race pacing. It uses your time and distance so far, and your current pace to show you an estimated finish time. The cool thing is that at each mile marker, or at the ones that you actually see, you can hit the lap button and it will adjust things using the “race distance” rather than the gps distance. Most races come out long using GPS due to inability to consistently run tangents.
The first 3 miles were a gradual but steady climb. I saw the projected time hang in the 3:30s for awhile but then drop to something slower. I was feeling great so I eased ahead of the group. At the top of the incline the watch was predicting mid 3:30s – I noted that my first 3 miles put me at 24:29 – just about 8:10 pace. As soon as I started downhill, and the watch detected the quicker speed the estimate dropped into the low 3:20s…. This turns out to not be so useful. The app is assuming you will be running this new downhill speed the rest of the way…
Instead I just kept looking a the splits and how much they were under an 8 pace and saw a cushion begin to develop, under a 3:30 finish pace.
At mile 6… or was it 7? the marathon crosses over the start line in the opposite direction. To my right I heard a loud, “GO, Dale!” To my surprise there stood Chuck Fieland! Chuck was instrumental in my last running of this race in 2012 – the day I set my marathon PR of 3:15:20. (Read the story here…) Whilst reminiscing the previous race a few weeks back I had emailed Chuck to let him know that I was running today….
Miles 7 through about 17, I saw Chuck a few more times. My pace remained consistently sub 8. Somewhere in those upper teens I began to feel a lot of fatigue. My mind wondered about fuel and hydration… I had been drinking at most of the stops, and now there was sloshing in my stomach. I had taken a gel at mile 7. I typically count on gels for fuel and electrolytes. I carried two with me knowing that there would be two more on the course. The first was supposed to be at mile 13, but somehow I missed it. Around mile 15 I took my second gel, but it was taken late.
It was starting to get warm, mid to upper 60s, I assume. As the course flattened out nearing Ventura the day’s Sea Breeze began to blow. This was good and bad. It helped to keep me cool, but it provided a little extra resistance. As I got through 18, 19, 20, 21 the pace was noticeably slowing but I knew I had a huge cushion and could cruise in at a 10 pace if I wanted to. By mile 23 the want to became a had to. Chuck met about here as the course headed east on the inland side of the 101 freeway. There was about a mile and a half, maybe two miles of constant gradual uphill. I felt like I was bonking big time, but everytime I looked at my current lap’s pace it was under 10 so I knew I would still make it if I just kept going.
Having Chuck there was huge, I wanted to stop and take a walk break SO BAD, but Chuck was running with me the whole last 3 miles. I took some water at mile 25 and walked about 20 seconds. During this time my right calf felt like it would cramp at any moment. At mile 25, there was mercifully one more brief downhill, under the freeway followed by the slightest of an up. That little up started to set off my right foot, but a quick change in shuffle averted a muscle cramp and I continued onward. After the longest mile ever, Chuck peeled off and I ran through the finish area to the finish line.
I had used up a lot of my cushion, but still finished in 3:36:03 – a Boston Qualifer with almost 4 minutes to spare. WOO! HOO!
As soon as I stopped running I felt dizzy. This has happened before, I walked to the side and grabbed the side rail to wait it out. It got real bad. I straightened up several times and had to bend back over. I could hardly see – as if through a fog. I spotted Grant who’s 3:37 group finished 30 seconds behind me. I made my way to him, grabbed onto his shoulder, told him I was dizzy, and he helped escort me the rest of the way through the chute.
First he gave me a couple of salt tabs, and we went through the food area and got some snacks, then we finally found a place to sit. I needed to sit for quite a while. Once I thought I was good, and Chuck had not appeared, so I started onward only to have to sit down a few meters away for awhile. After what seemed like 10 minutes (of sitting time) I was able to start making my way to the finish line festival area.
Soon, I lost Grant, I never found Chuck (turns out he had reversed direction trying to find a way through the barricade and after going backwards for maybe a mile, he gave up and went home…) I enjoyed the fruits of my labor. There was a special area in the finish area that you could only enter if you had Qualified for Boston. There was a picture area there.
There were more snacks and refreshments there… and some chairs. I stayed along time until I was really sure I was good, then I started the long walk back to my truck. The walk was at least a half mile. I had made it most of the way before remembering that my race shirt still needed to be picked up in the finish area. So, I walked back and got it, and back to the truck again. The longish walk was actually starting to feel good, by the time I got to the truck….
I looked up the dizziness thing. Runner’s World said it is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure, caused by the sudden stop in motion, aggravated by dehydration…. I guess I am going to have to work harder to figure out warm weather hydration. It seems like if I drink lots it just sloshes in my belly, and I get dehydrated anyway…. My best marathon races have all come in sub 60 degree weather…