The short: Finished in 4:41:20, was on-course for a sub-4 until things went wrong with my left knee at mile 19+.
The long: Familiar course. Done it before as the iUWR Marathon and have rode the course on my bike many times for my work commute. Paved bike trails for 85-90% of it, concrete sidewalks for the rest of it. Virtually flat, except for the hill near mile 18.
I rushed out the door in the morning and drove to the finish. I soon got a ride from Nic (aka Marathon Maniac #932) to the start (Thanks Nic!). Point-to-Point courses are usually a pain in the ass when it comes to getting transportation to the start, but so far, so good. Lots of folks were at this race (close to 200 marathon runners, not including the relay runners). Guess when you put on a free marathon with your standard aid station goods (Water & Gatorade), people show up. One person of interest that appeared was the Marathon Junkie himself, Chuck Engle. So this was going to be interesting to see who'd win this race. Lots of folks sporting Maniac Yellow. It was good company to be in.
We started at 8:30am and all did our best to run along the Green River Trail. Even for it's wide paved path, there were plenty of us running along the grassy sides for the first few miles until the crowd thinned out. I ran with Val (Maniac #626) for most of the time since her pace and mine seemed to be about the same.
For the first 6 miles, I was having a difficult time getting into my groove. My left shin was tight, almost akin to a shin splint. But it eventually stopped and I felt good.
Then between miles 8-9, the inside of my left knee started to bug out. This was a first. The pain was something I couldn't really ignore, but I was able to tolerate...to a point. I knew that I had to focus on my form to ease the impact on my knee, run along the soft surfaces along side of the main paved trail to reduce the shock further, and do my best to avoid concrete as much as I could. I did a good job for the most part. Then there was something I didn't anticipate, hurting on the downhill.
I'm a poor uphill runner, but the downhill is where I can catch anyone. My cycling and strength training have helped beef up my quads to take the impact and eccentric movements that downhill running causes. However, I have not done any strength training for nearly a month due to the Bike-to-Work challenge for May and I cut my cycling down drastically the last week of May as well. This, along with my left knee problems turned into a pain-fest as I descended down the other side of the hill around mile 18. Then the concrete jungle appeared. For the next mile, there are no trails. There are sidewalks and streets that are made with concrete slabs. If it wasn't for the fact that this was flat and not a downhill, I would have waved the white flag at this point and begged for a ride to the nearest cemetery to be buried at.
After passing the aid station at mile 19, I was able to go another quarter mile before giving into my knee's demands. I told Val to go on and I'd see her at the finish. As I saw her get smaller and smaller in my view, I looked at my watch. It was over 2:40! WTF!? I was running at a sub-9 pace! A sub-4 hour marathon would have been possible if it wasn't for this blasted knee! Damn. Mildly upset, but needing to regroup mentally, I sat for a bit and then proceeded to walk. It hurt while walking, but the pain wasn't nearly as intense. When I arrived onto the Duwamish Trail, it was past 3 hours. Thankfully, I knew that I only had about 5 miles to go.
By this time, a first-time marathoner by the name of Dean came up from behind me. He was pretty beaten up and was walking the rest of the course too. From his pain description, his problem seemed to be his Achilles' tendon and feeling genuine bonk after mile 16 (his longest training run was 14 miles and he went out too fast). I agreed to walk with him the rest of the way. Misery loves company after all and we were both feeling the misery. At the Duwamish aid station, a nice lady with her cute 6-month old baby girl in a Snuggli saved me with some Tylenol! Despite the pill being smashed and I having to taste the yucky medicine flavor, I was extremely grateful.
As Dean and I kept walking, I checked my watch - no way in hell for a sub-4 hour finish obviously, but a sub-5 hour was possible provided we didn't stop moving. As we continued walking, I gave Dean some tips for recovery, racing, and other things that we sometimes overlook when we do these things. Soon, we were past the West Seattle Bridge and were about a 5k away from the finish. I kept telling Dean, this is where you tell yourself, "A 5k? I've done a 5k run during training! I know I can finish THIS!" He was getting pretty psyched up. I gave him a packet of GU (Espresso Love flavor - Double the Caffeine!) after he told me his stomach was feeling empty. A few minutes later, I could tell it kicked in. He was starting to look better and he made more attempts to run the last bit of distance.
Once we got to the last aid station, it was 2.5 miles to the finish. I told Dean that the finish was in front of the Seattle Bathhouse, a very odd YELLOW building. I told him that once you see that yellow bastard in the distance, you know you're only a mile away. Sure enough, we saw that yellow building and both started to move as best we could. The Tylenol helped me out from earlier, but I still had some twinges, but twinges were better than screaming bouts of pain. I pulled ahead and kept on moving until I crossed the finish. 4:41:20.
Dean crossed a second behind me (he really cranked it hard to catch me) and was winded. I patted him on the back and shouted out, "THIS IS DEAN'S FIRST MARATHON!!!" To which he got a big round of applause from the other finisher's waiting around and the volunteers. He had that typical look that most of us get, the combo of "I'm sore. I'm tired. I'm happy. It's over. I DID IT! Where's the food?"
For my food, I relented and went to eat at Spud's Fish N' Chips again. Not my best choice for a finisher's meal, but I had to eat something and in my rush to leave the house - packing a post-race meal was forgotten.
So, good weather (low 60's, mild wind, mild shower spray rain for a good 30 minutes), good course, good people (Volunteers and Runners), and good aid. For $0.00, you can't ask for anything better.
Things to remember for next time:
- Do Strength Training! My knee problems would probably have not even happened if I had kept up with my strength training. Squats are your friend.
- Train Better! So even with my mileage being so bloody low (between 25-30 MPW w/cross-training), I'm getting a wee bit faster. If I can increase my mileage to have a 40-50 MPW base and continue cross-training, it may be possible to hit that sub-4 and maybe even get lower (BQ maybe? Bah! Wishful thinking!)
- Carry Pain Killers!!!!!!!! I don't know why I didn't think of doing this. How heavy are little pills of "Vitamin I" (Ibuprofen) anyway? I have them in my dropbag during ultras, it would make sense to keep them on for marathon races. If I would have had popped a few of them before mile 18, I think I would have been able to cope better and gotten closer to that sub-4 hour finishing time.
Next race: Lake Youngs Ultra on 06/14. Question is: Will I do three loops for 28.8 miles or do 4 loops for 38.4 miles? Guess we'll find out next week.