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My First Marathon: Jeff's Story

Posted Nov 06 2011 10:08am
Jeff  started exercising for the first time in his life in June 2009. Eventually he got into running and he's been improving ever since. He lost 65 pounds running and has completely changed his lifestyle for the better. 
Jeff's first marathon was the Bayshore Marathon 5/28/11. Below is his story of that special day.

Short version:
Stats:  4:12:17 finish time
1/2 split:  1:53:38(8:40 per mile pace)
Second half split:  2:18:39(10:34 per mile pace)
Pace:  overall 9:38 per mile
Place:  800 out of 1,462 finishers
Ranked:  589 at the 1/2 mark
Ranked:  884 at the second half(that means a lot of people passed me!)

Long version:
Wow....what a race weekend it was.  We started off on Friday by driving up to the cottage.  I had a half day off work so we could get up there a little early and beat traffic.  That was a good decision!  We had a nice dinner at home.  I didn't want to eat out that night just in case I ate something that did not agree with me.  It was six of us that went up including my Brother-in-law, Sister-in-law to come and cheer us(my running buddy and I) on along with his wife and my wife.

our awesome dinner the night before
I did not end up getting into bed until 10pm and we had an early morning getting up at 4am!  I think I probably slept 4 hours total since I was tossing and turning all night.

We got up at 4am and I did my usual routine of foam rolling and eating a half banana and a granola bar to get me started along with some water.  My running buddy made some oatmeal for himself and took it along when we left but he forgot to eat it so he had no breakfast before the race!!!  Holy cow!!

We left about 5am from the house and it's a little over an hour drive to Traverse City.  We got there a little after 6am and traffic was starting to build up.  My running buddy picked up our packets the day before so he knew the best place to park.  It worked out great because we were really close to the race start and also did not have much traffic where we parked.  This was one of the great things about running in a smaller marathon.  On the way over, it really started to rain hard but stopped when we got to the race.  Unfortunately, a few minutes before the race it started raining again.  It was not a hard rain but a misting rain.  I tried to stay under a tree until the race started.   Because the race was a small one, only 2200 marathon runners max, I was able to jump into the race start at the last second and off we went!

It was almost a "ready, set, go" kind of start instead of a gun and big hoopla.  We started right next to the high school track and wound around the streets in the college campus there.  There were a few turns to start us out which was good to keep our pace a little slower starting.  I saw Ken from TNT Coach Ken and while I did not have time to talk to him much, I assume he was there supporting all his runners with the TNT.  You could not miss him with his red and white polka dot hat and since he is tall, he stands out.  He was doing a bang up job pumping up everyone!!  He asked me how I was doing and I said good and that I would let him know in about 4 hours!  He said I'd be drinking a beer by then!  Haha!  Ah, my goal of four hours.  I'll get back to that one.

So there we were, starting the longest race I have ever did....in the rain.  All was not lost because at least the weather was in the 50's and it was not really windy either so it could have been much worse.  I chose to wear short sleeves, shorts, arm sleeves and light gloves.  It's a good thing I wore the arm sleeves because with the rain, it helped keep me a bit warmer.

The view was really nice.  There was a water view almost the entire run up and back from the peninsula.  There were also some really nice homes to look at as well so the view helped keep my mind off running.  As far as the crowd support, it was good in pockets.  There were several spots, especially the water stops, where people were cheering.  One spot in particular was really crowded(several hundred people) I think around the 14-15 mile mark.  I love when there is a crowd that can help keep me going.  I pumped my arms up and the crowd went wild!  The first half of the race went really well.  I ran it in 1:53:38 which ranked me 589 through the half.  Unfortunately, that was too fast as you see from my final time.  I should have dialed it back just a notch.  I think that 10-15 seconds per mile slower would have been better for me in the long run.

The course was an overall flat course with some rolling hills thrown into it.  The only real hill was at the end of the split and even that was not that bad.  One thing I did not like was the way many of the road were slanted to one side.  In my opinion, it made it much harder to run instead of being on a flat surface.

My wife said they almost missed the shuttle bus to get there but they were able to get there and only waited about 10 minutes for me to run by.  My running buddy was also about 3 minutes behind me at that time.  Before that my running buddy and I ran probably at least 16 miles together when I got my second wind and picked it up a little so we got separated for a bit.  I'm really glad that they did not miss us so we got some support when we were starting a really difficult part of the race.

One thing I would have liked was a little more crowd support after the 20 mile mark.  It was fairly scarce the last six miles except for the last half mile of the race.  I can say this, the supporters that were out there were troopers.  Since it was raining much of the time, it must have been miserable to be out there.  Probably the worst cheer I heard was "you're almost there".  As many of you know, when you are at mile 16, you are NOT almost there so tell your support crew not to say that to marathoners looking at 10 miles more to go. Haha!

So as I continued to run, I was starting to slip on my times each mile beginning with mile 17 where I ran a 9:01 mile but I was able to keep it under 10 minute miles through mile 22.  I figured if I could at least keep a 10 minute pace, I would meet my four hour goal.  Unfortunately, when I got to mile 23 I ran out of gas and started walking.  That got me at 13:09 mile for mile 23.  I knew after that point, I was not going to make four hours.  At that point, I was just telling myself to keep going.  I walked some and ran some and walk some and ran some.  I kept going.  I even got back to a quicker mile of 12:51 at mile 25 but really struggled at mile 24 and 26.  In the last half mile, my calves started cramping up and I could not run.  Then.....I saw Ken again!!!!!  My leg was really cramping and Ken said WOW, I can see it moving!! Haha!  I said, yeah, I can feel it!! Haha!  He pushed me and helped me get going again and I was able to pull out running to the finish line.  I also saw my support crew again just after Ken and my wife got a picture of this too!
I was completely out of it at this point at about 26.1 miles!
The announcer announced my name which was a nice finish and said, you are a marathon finisher!  We finished on the high school track.  Garmin time - 4:12:55(forgot to turn off my Garmin)  Official time:  4:12:17; placed 800 out of 1462 finishers

The last four miles of the race were the hardest thing I ever did physically.  It was incredibly hard to finish but I just kept my mind to it and kept going.  It did not help that I saw a kid being taken into an ambulance at about 22 miles(hopefully he was ok).  Also, right at the end, just as I was entering the track, I heard a supporter say "that guy looks bad".  I wished I had the energy to say something but I kept on going!  My brother in law did say afterwords that I looked beyond tired!  From mile 23 on, I kept thinking of my #1 goal - finish, just finish and then my #2 goal, finish in 4:30:00.  So that is it, I was able to meet two of my goals but not the four hours.  Given the rainy conditions and that it's only my first marathon, I'll take that automatic PR and be very happy with it!! 

Marathon completed, check!
Moomers ice crea
My running buddy finished about six minutes behind me so we practically ran the entire race together.  I'm really glad that I was able to train and run with him as it helped keep me motivated throughout the process.

After the race, they had all kinds of food....cookies, chips, pretzels, ice cream, bananas, oranges.  They also had a place to get a massage but the line was too long to wait for it.  My running buddy and I brought a change of clothes so we took a shower after at the Phys. Ed building and went to lunch with everyone.  It was nice having that shower available after the race.  My wife asked me if I would do another one and, at that time, I said I could not make that decision so soon after finishing.
The pub we went to for lunch was crowded with all the racers and so many people were wearing their medals, including me and my running buddy!  I ate like I've never eaten before.  I also drank more water that day than I have ever drank before.  My body just soaked up the water and continued to ask for more.  We also stopped at the local running shop, Running Fit and I bought myselfdrank more water that day than I have ever drank before.  My body just soaked up the water and continued to ask for more.  We also stopped at the local running shop, Running Fit and I bought myself a hat.
Waiting for food in Downtown Traverse City!
Having a beer that evening!
Finishers Medal
Overall I thought it was a really great, well organized race.  While I would recommend it and would do it again, my thought is that I want to train for my next marathon during summer so the next one will likely be a fall marathon.  Yes, that's right folks, I've decided I WILL do another one next year.  I've got to get under that 4 hour mark!  God help me! 

Be sure to check out Jeff's blog Detroit Runner !
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