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Race Review for the Fox Cities Marathon (part 1/2 - First 16 Miles of the Marathon)

Posted Sep 24 2011 8:28am

Well here it is, my review of the Fox Cities Marathon race. I waited a few days to write the review to let things sink in and to be less sore physically. I am sorry for the length of review (a two parter) but it really was like two different races to me. The first part will cover the first 16 miles of the race. The second covers the last 10 miles and the difficulties mentally of finishing. I did have a third part that was an overview of my kid’s running in the kids fun run and also me attending the 5k race as well. But somehow the blog gods have seen fit to lose it somewhere out there in cyber space. So part one picks up after returning home from the 5k. For the moment I will leave it there and get my thoughts on the marathon posted.

After returning home from the 5k race I wanted nothing more than spend it with my family. The afternoon was spent watching my son play flag football. I tried to spend some quality time with my daughter as it was her birthday on Sunday. With daddy running the marathon on her birthday I needed to spend time with her and thank her for sharing the big day with me. My best laid plans the night before the race did not go as planned. I had hoped to have a very quiet evening and to bed quite early. I had bowed out of a church couple’s event to stay home with the kids and to try and get us all in bed by 8pm. The kids were pretty good but when it came time for showers an bed my son rebelled. Nothing major but by the time I got everyone in bed it was after 9:30pm. I was laying out my running gear for the race when my wife came home from the church event. She was surprised to still see me awake. An hour later I was finally in bed. Would it be enough rest for the race were my last thoughts as I drifted off to sleep.
Sunday morning came pretty quickly as I am sure it did for most. I slept better than I thought I would but not great. Before bed I was truly at peace with doing the marathon and being prepared for it. I guess over the last several weeks if not months I have written so much about this decision and journey that there at the 11th hour I was just done thinking and worrying about it. The only real concern I had over the last week was the weather. There was a chance of rain if not thunder storms for Sunday. How would this impact me and what should I wear? I think I checked the weather a hundred times from Monday until I laid on head on the pillow Saturday night. I would have to wait until Sunday morning to know for sure. But I did wake up in the middle of the night and began to simply count down the time until the alarm would formally start the day. The alarm chimed at 4am and up I jumped. I’m guessing I may have had 4 or 5 hours of rest if not sleep over night. I had a lot to do before the 6am early start I was shooting for. Immediately I looked outside and it was cloudy and not raining. I worked in the kitchen for almost a half hour preparing all of the Hammer Heed I would need for the day. I let the dog out and stepped out to first hand check the weather. A good coolish day as the gear for the day would be shorts and a jacket. I ate a quick bagel, water and then jumped in the shower. I threw on my running gear and noticed I was already running late. I ran upstairs and woke my son up to say goodbye. I had promised I would check in with him before the race. Half a sleep he hugged and kissed me good luck (he later would not remember this) and I headed for the car. I got to the race maybe about 5:30am for the 6am start. It was dark outside and ever little activity yet at the race. Police were just showing up, staff getting into place but few runners yet. I went inside to claim my early start sticker and to relax for a moment. I bumped into a few people I knew and chatted about which race they would be doing. At about 10 till 6 I remembered that I needed to meet my co-worker Beth at the start. I looked around for her with no luck until the final call was given. At that point I turned my attention to the race and moved my way through the runners gathering to the front of the pack. Yes today I would start up front for this reduced early start. I thought if I was going to do this by God I want at least one picture of me doing it! Why not ensure I was photographed at the start? Later I learned that the start was not videotaped (bummer) but at least there are still photos of it. A moment later I checked my Garmin, said a little prayer for all of us runners and waited for the count down. After a year it was finally time to see if I could actually finish a full marathon. From the very first step of the race I promised myself it was all about survival today. I would do what it took to complete the race and I would not get caught up in anything else. What do I mean by this? First my plan was to run later in the race and not early. Some people had suggested getting as much mileage as I could done quickly up front and then stubble in. I had too many bad memories of the Cheesehead half marathon to go with that approach. So I would do the opposite, walk first over the part of the course I had not been on and then possible run towards the end. Secondly I would not allow anyone to push me beyond my self-regulated pace. I would not chance people or even play passing games. I would do nothing to expend energy unnecessarily. Third, I would fuel on a preplanned schedule of nothing but Hammer Heed. I would take in water but all nourishment would be from the Heed. Lastly I promised myself not to think about the race in one large block of mileage. I broke the race down into 1 mile blocks. I would focus on only getting to the next mile maker. I thought that 26 easy miles sounded a lot obtainable that 26.2 miles. When the gun sounded I took off running for like the first couple of hundred feet. I wanted to get out in front of the small pack of roughly 200-250 early starters. I settled into a nice walking pace of around 15 minutes per mile.  A fair amount of people began to pass me but I was presently surprised at the number of true walkers at this time. The only people kind of running were members of the Marathon maniacs club. Yes, the Maniacs were having a reunion at the race and they were in full force. A great bunch of runners. I would meet some of them throughout the race and learn more about their club. But for the moment I let them run on and I settled in to my own groove. Around mile one I walked by my friends Greg’s house and it looked like another friend  Jay  (yes from the Shamrock, green Bay and Packers runs) was there as well. Funny to be already started and they still had a couple of hours to go before they did. Don’t worry I am not going to do a mile by mile overview of the race. Overall the first half of the race was a great experience for me. By focusing on each mile I was very relaxed and focused. I spent time working on some of the Chi running principles like walking with a mid-foot strike and feet pointing forward and not outward. I took the time to engage all of the volunteers, water people and supporters along the way. I loved chatting with these people if not joking around with them. The volunteers for the Fox Cities are so friendly and fun that the first half of the race felt like a 5k. The mileage flew by and I was just happy and so relaxed. I was having one of the best times I ever had in any race and thought the day would be entirely this way. Beth did catch up with me along with her sister in law Nicole around mile 8 or 9. We talked about the morning how things were going and engaged other runners near us. But I felt bad that my walking was like at a 5minute per mile faster pace that she was sue to. So Nicole and I slowly started moving away from her as we went through the hilliest part of the course. I would see Beth one more time during the race at around mile 13. I guess my marathon struggles began at around mile 12. Small things that I saw or happened began to break down the positive energy that I had going. Granted that anyone of these things is nothing, but as you accumulate them they began to impact the second half of the race. It really started when someone I knew who had not trained and had never gone beyond 12 miles was starting to pull away from me. How could they do that? About this time I also was well into dealing with my crazy sock issues. Yes, yet again I had one sock (my left one) that would feel funny or hurt. In the first half of the race I stopped roughly half a dozen times to fix it or replace it. No joke I was losing time due to my socks! So dealing that with all of my sock issues I was wasting time for non-training reasons. But it started to make me think about my condition. I was still bouncing along happy but some clouds started to form around my mental sunshine. Shortly after this the lead runner appeared with the race pace car. Exactly at mile 12 the pace car stated 1:10 as the leader blew by me. I cheered him on along with all of the front runners as they ran by. But wow, here I am on the course for three hours and they were doing it in just an hour. At this point my overall time was about what my slower half marathon would be so I was pretty much on track considering I had really not run yet. I was feeling fueled and hydrated and was excited to see my family for their sole appear around mile 14. At about mile 13 I looked at my pace band and realized that I was like 31 minutes ahead of the time I had planned for. I printed off a pace band to show what the slowest official pace I could do to make it under 8 hours. The 8 hours works out to be like 18:18 minute miles. I was currently walking around 15:18 miles and picking up roughly 3 minutes per mile buffer for the race. I felt really good about that on one hand as I knew I would slow down most likely at the end of the race. But I suddenly realized that my family would still be in route to the 14 mile marker when I got there. The family Sunday morning had church to attend first to. Normally a first marathon would trump any normal church services but this past Sunday was the first choir performance for my daughter. It would also be collectively the first choir performance under a new youth choir director for both kids. The family had planned on having the kids sing, grabbing my mom at church and then head off to the mile 14 marker to meet me and resupply me. I tried to call both of them and no luck. Mentally I wanted, no needed, to see the family at 14. It had been a secondary target for over 3 hours now. I was somewhat emotionally deflated now as I found myself walking past the mile marker and no one there.   Over the next mile I repeated tried to call finally got my mom on her cell phone. I asked where they were and they stated just getting to mile 14. I told them that I had already passed 14 and that I would like for them to meet me at 16 if possible.  Miles 13 – 16 were really in my neighborhood. So I was very familiar with the streets and sights. But even this did not help to prevent the onset of clouds of doubt. I walked on and during mile 15 two things happened. The first is a volunteer saw me looking down a side road for the family. I guess she through I was trying to quit and jump off the course. She looked me straight in the eye and said “Don’t you dare quit!” I honestly was not thinking of that (yet) and shrugged her off. Soon after one of the Marathon Maniacs I had passed earlier caught up with me. We had a nice chat about her 98 marathons she has done, her family and running in general. In a sense that conversation helped me to at least get to my family at mile 16. As we rounded the corner to head towards the mile 16 marker I saw my family standing on the corner. I walked over to them and was pretty much tackled by the kids. I spent like 10 minutes or more there refueling, having a Coke, checking socks, playing catch with my son and taking pictures. My wife said I was looking good and full of energy. After another round of hugs I headed off to do the next 10 miles without a secondary target or family support. The weight of the day and the mileage was beginning to catch up with me. Little did I know that the next 10 miles would be some of the longest of my racing life. Part two of this race review will cover the rest of the race and the hours of doubt and struggle that I dealt with.

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