Sunday, September 28, 2008

Road Runner Akron Marathon Report

First things first, I didn't qualify for Boston at this race. I finished 3:52- my 2nd best marathon...but I didn't make 3:40. Oh well.

I drove to OH Friday afternoon in about 4hrs 45mins. I went to the expo, to the hotel, and was in bed by 7:17pm. I woke up at 4am, got all of my race gear together, and got to the race around 5:30am even though it didn't start until 7am. I thought I was going to get lost and it would be really crowded at that time. Turns out I was only lost for about 5 minutes- trying to figure out how to walk from the parking garage to the start line- and no, it wasn't crowded until about 6:15am.

I haven't been to a bigger race in awhile so it was kind of fun to remember what it was like. They had a big tented area where runners could get free Gu and bananas and water, which was nice. I had a jacket, pants, and gloves on in the beginning and was still cold, but somehow it warmed up very quickly once I started running and it was good weather.

The race consisted of a marathon, half marathon, and a relay. They said there were 10,000 people all together but I don't know how many of those were doing the marathon. I finished 404 out of 1582 so either some people dropped out or the majority of the runners made up the relay teams and such.

So anyway, my goal was to try to qualify for Boston at this race. Women my age needed to run a 3:40 marathon, which is about an 8:24 pace. Why do guys my age have to qualify in 3:10? Even though that's WAY too fast for me, I think it's dumb that the men's time is 30 minutes faster. If I were to have qualified, I was thinking that I almost wouldn't be as proud to have qualified because I would know that it was so much slower than the guy's time. Whatever.

For the first time, I wanted to try to run with a pacer. They had a pace group for a 3:40 finish so I thought I'd give it a try and stick with this group. I knew it would add more pressure to me to stick with this group, and that I HATE pressure during my runs, but I thought I'd be strong enough to keep it up- mentally and physically.

I was at the start line and I was looking all over for the pacer. It was about 6:45am and I still couldn't find him, even though I was standing in the "8:15 per mile" section. I kept looking behind me to see if I was in front of him. I didn't see him the last time I looked behind me so I turned around and somehow the pacer, Roger, popped up 1 inch away from me on my right side. That was good luck. I wanted to be right by his side, and not at the back of the 3:40 group.

Ironically enough right when the gun went off, the "3:40 group" sign came off the pole that the pacers carry and fell down before we even crossed the start line. Right when we all started running Roger scrambled around, against the grain of runners, and thankfully someone happened to pick up the sign and gave it to him. That would have sucked to lose the sign that everyone follows before the race even starts.

As I mentioned, I hate being pressured for time during a race. I tend to be stubborn and quit if I am pressured and if I think I can't make it. Sooo, I kept telling myself beforehand and during the race that I needed to have good mental energy and I was going to enjoy myself, and not worry about my time.

The first 10-11 miles flew by so quickly. There were a good amount of people out cheering and a few little HS bands and some of the classic weird/old people bands. Something I hadn't realized before the race was that there were going to be so many hills. The course description said "a rolling course..." but I didn't pay much attention to it. Then I was deceived because before the race, the race director sent out an email stating that we needed to practice our hills because there were big hills at mile 16 and 23 (or something). So, I wrongly assumed that the whole course was pretty flat except at those 2 points.

Anyway, I was by Roger's side in the beginning and then for about 7-8 miles, I was about 10 seconds in front of him. I was feeling good and it actually helped me mentally to be in front of him. Whenever I was at his side or even 1 foot behind him, there was a different pressure of having to stick right with him and not get behind. But when I was in front, even if it was just a little bit, I didn't see him and I was able to run my own race.

I don't have anything to compare Roger to but I liked him as a pacer, for the most part. :) He would talk some, give us some tips about not zig-zagging and taking extra steps around curves, and so on.

He would call out each mile and what our time was for each mile. That was fine with me. However, the time that he kept yelling out seemed to be around 8:13-8:20 per mile. Even though it's safe to go a little quicker than the 8:24/mile, I was seriously annoyed that he was going 10+ seconds faster per mile. I knew I could do an 8:24/mile but I didn't sign up to do 26 8:13/miles. I could tell I was getting a little out of breath at some points but I tried not to worry about it.

So as I said, practically the whole course consisted of long, gradual rolling hills and they were getting to me. I kept expecting Roger and the group to walk up some of the hills since that was what I was used to. It was getting tough for me to keep up a 8:20 pace.

At around mile 17 or 18, we were on the road in some kind of woody area and it seemed like we were going up a 2+ mile hill. In the beginning it was hard but I kept waiting for it to level out or go downhill. It never happened and the incline kept on coming. The group started to get a little ahead of me but I didn't worry to much since surely the hill would stop soon and I could catch up.

Unfortunately the group kept getting a little farther and farther ahead of me and I couldn't keep up. I knew that I couldn't keep running up these hills at that pace and so that's when I kind of gave up on the qualfying goal. I started to walk up the hill some, now that I figured I couldn't make it.

At that point, I seriously wanted to just quit. I didn't care that I only had 6-7 more miles. The only reason I wanted to run this race was to try to qualify for Boston. Since I knew I couldn't do that anymore, I wanted to stop. Butttt...I decided to keep on trucking because I didn't want 2 DNFs.

I kept on running and I continued to run some, walk up hills, run some, etc. The end of the race was fun. They had you run through some tent and then enter onto the baseball field with tons of people in the stands cheering for you while you cross the finish line. It looked like the Olympic marathoners finishing on that track. It would have been awesome to finish like that if I had known I was going to qualify for Boston. :)

I felt kind of gross after finishing. I never like the way you feel after a hard race. It's like you're so hungry but you can't eat yet. You just feel sick. I sat down after the race and decided to just head on home. After about 1 hr on the road, I stopped at McDonalds and slept in the parking lot for 30 minutes...then continued on home.

I didn't like the big race scene where you try to run fast, but something about it was attractive. I probably would have liked it if I was good at it. If I was a faster runner who could run up hills fast, I might have enjoyed it more (that's obvious though, right?).

I wonder if I'll ever qualify for Boston. A girl I was talking to said yesterday was the first day that if you qualify for Boston, it'll qualify you for the '09 and '10 race. I don't know how long that period is for though.

What I think I need to do is next time, I'll try to run with a 3:10 group. Once I get discouraged and think I can't keep up with them anymore, I'll start slowing down and eventually meet up with the 3:40 group without even meaning to. Perfect.

Overall, Akron was a good race and when I think about it (of course the day after the race, not the day of), I kind of liked running fast for a long distance for once. It felt good to actually push my body and not lazily run a race. Maybe I'll try it more often.

Oh ya, my knees killed me yesterday after the race. It was kind of scary how bad they hurt. It felt like if I continued to run road races, my knees would fall apart and I'd need replacements. Luckily they feel better today but I certainly don't like my legs feeling like they're not up to par.

Now I'm going to think about what races to do for October. Maybe I'll do the Indy marathon but I want to make sure it's flat so I can go fast, and that it's also halfway entertaining so I don't get bored out of my mind and want to quit.


Anonymous said...

Sore knees are bad news. Buy some new road shoes!

Clara said...

I was actually running in relatively new shoes. I think/hope it was just the pavement.

Annnddd since I ran this race, I'll get some free shoes soon anyway. Woohoo!

Running 2 Mohican said...


A 3:52 at Akron was a great time. You can obtain that 3:40 time. Looking at your previous times and races you kicked butt at Akron on a tough course.

A good close race also to consider is Columbus Marathon. Great race to PR and qualify on. Of course my 3:18 in 06 left me short of my needed 3:15...

Looks like you like trail running and the impact of the road made for sore knees.

If you do not qualify for Boston this year put the following race on your calendar. I am working on it now. If you go after Mohican 100 you can get a run in there in prep. It will also be part of the Western Reserve Trail Running Series in 2009.

Clara said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Rob!

I'll definitely consider the Mohican 50k in April if I don't qualify. Thanks for the info.