Note: I’m posting all my old, pre-blog race reports. Here’s how my third marathon went.
|What:||Bucks County Marathon|
|When:||Sunday November 17, 2013 – 9am|
|Where:||Washington Crossing, PA up through New Hope|
We were blessed with a late start time (9am vs. the normal 7am) so could sleep in till about 5:30 the morning of the race. This gave us plenty of time for the 75 minute drive up to Washington Crossing. We got there about 7:30 and were one of the first cars in the closest parking lot. We were able to chill for a bit, pick up our packets, and then relax some more until the start. Since the race was on a relatively narrow tow path, there was a wave start with groups going off at 30 second intervals. I was in the 3rd wave so started a minute back of the lead group. The Pledge of Allegiance was performed gamely by a trumpeter. This was followed by a brief pause and then an air horn starting the race.
This was my fall A race. In the last 20 weeks, I’ve focused all of my training to running this 26.2 miles as fast as possible. I didn’t train for a specific pace, however my last couple long runs seemed to translate into a 3:27 to 3:33 time. I like my round numbers though so was shooting for a 3 hour 30 minute time or an 8 minute pace. A less quantitative goal was that I wanted to finish strong. I faded a lot during my first marathon and I didn’t want to see a big drop-off in my second half splits.
The race started out on a 0.75 mile one lane paved road. Then came a half mile section of road that lead to the tow path itself. This was a great way to start things off as it allowed everyone to find their own pace and easily pass those around them. This way the pack was well sorted out once we reached the path. The majority of the race was run on a tow path next to the Delaware canal. This is a crushed stone surface and was very easy to run on. And since it was next to a canal, it was flat with only small dips and rises here and there.
I was fearful of starting out too fast so was trying to run an 8:05 pace for the first 2 miles. As you can see from my splits below, I nailed this part of my race (8:04, 8:05). Pacing throughout the entire race was greatly helped by my Garmin, which allowed my to see my current split at any second. Based on how my race ended, I may have gone out a bit too quick though. I’ll need to get a better idea on how to run my early miles before I’m adequately warmed up.
I was trying to take it easy through here and run 8s and just sub 8 minute miles. The race organizers did a great job spacing the aid stations as we never had to run more than 2 miles or so between them. I didn’t think they were going to be stocked with anything besides water and Gatorade so brought gels with me for some additional calories. I took one at miles 5, 10, 14, 18, and 22. I think these helped out with my performance though it’s tough to quantify how much I benefited from this compared to my first marathon.
There were 15 bridges along the canal that we had to run under or 30 total with the out-and-back nature of the course. A couple of them weren’t much more than 6 feet high so it forced me to duck as I was in no mood to add a headache to the pain I was about to go through.
It was somewhere around miles 5 or 6 that I realized that the pace I was running was taking more effort than it should. Rather that’s when the doubts of a sub 3:30 finishing time started to creep in. They weren’t big doubts and I didn’t really do anything besides acknowledge that it was going to get interesting later on in the race.
There was a short loop off the tow path on a little park road at mile 6. It was an odd addition to the course, which I was not a fan of. I’m not sure why they didn’t just make the turnaround farther out on the path we were running. Or maybe the organizers thought the runners would just enjoy a little variety to the run.
At mile 8, we crossed a street in New Hope and ran up a short set of stairs. Then we were back on the tow path and cruising out to the turnaround at the Virginia Forrest area. There were some absolutely gorgeous houses across the canal from where we were running. It was a nice distraction for me from what was slowly becoming a tougher and tougher run.
There was very little passing along this stretch. Several people passed me and I passed a couple others, but for the most part everyone seemed to find their groove and stick to it through the halfway point. I made it till just past mile 12 before I saw the leaders so I was about 2 miles back at this point. There was someone on a bike ahead of him making sure runners recognized that there was now two-way traffic on the path. The path could easily fit 3 abreast through here so it wasn’t too difficult navigating the increased volume of runners. I didn’t bother counting, but there was a lot of people ahead of me. This isn’t too surprising considering that I started in the 3rd wave.
I hit the halfway point in 1:44:52, which was just ahead of my 3:30 goal. This was probably the last time until the final mile that I thought about this though. All of my focus from this point on went towards hitting my 8 minute pace. I was looking down at my watch to check the pace of my current lap every couple minutes. When it showed a pace over 8, I would push a little. When I was under 8, I would ease up a bit. I passed Andrea and my wife at about miles 14 and 15 respectively and they both looked strong. I gave them each a high five and on our way we went.
Mile 15 is when I started hitting the wall. What I mean is that this is when I really started working to keep my pace. Looking back at my splits, I’m very surprised that I didn’t start falling off until mile 20 because it felt like I had been drifting slower for quite some time before that. Goodness knows I was counting down miles from 11 to go onwards. This was also about when I started passing other runners fairly steadily. Let me be clear that I was not racing anyone else at this point. I was racing myself much more than anyone who happened to be out there sharing the path with me. Everything was about hitting that magic 8 number on my watch. It was kind of cool though to look up and see people steadily getting closer and closer to me. And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it gave me a little boost each time I passed someone.
They had mile markers set up along the course. They were 2 foot by 3 foot white cards with the mile number on them. The good thing is that you could see them from about a quarter mile away. The bad thing is that you could see them from about a quarter mile away. This can be a little frustrating mentally when you’re counting down the miles and you can’t see the next marker! At this point, my focus shifted from running 8 minute miles to getting as close to 8 minutes as I could muster. I was putting forth about as much effort as possible, but my legs were heavy and just not turning over like they were earlier. My original plan was to increase my effort when I got to mile 23, but it turns out I already was going all out once I got to that point. Oh, well.
You exited the tow path right at mile 25. Remember how I said that 0.75 loop is a great way to start a race? Well, it’s an even worse way it end it! There was about a 20 foot section of the course that shared a section of road with a rope marking the boundary. I gave a brief thought to ducking under it (200 yards from the finish) before continuing on the course. The distance seemed so much longer than the first time we ran it and the finish line was in sight almost all the way around. Tempting us the entire way. My watch beeped my last mile and I somehow found another gear for the last third of a mile. As I rounded the last corner, I saw the finishing clock reading 1:33 and knew I had a chance for sub that number since I started a minute back. I gave it everything that was left for the 3:32:38.
Post Race Thoughts
I was a little bummed not to hit my 3:30 target, but am becoming more and more pleased with my run the more I think about it. First off, I set a new PR by over 15 minutes. Any time you knock 35 seconds off your pace for any distance, it should be considered a really good run. Second, I think I picked a more aggressive pace to run than my first marathon, because it felt harder earlier. And I was able to hold that pace much, much longer. My second half split was only 2 minutes 55 seconds slower than the first 13.1 miles, while my first marathon had a split 8:07 slower. This helped me pass lots of people at the end. Nineteen people in total after the halfway mark, while not getting passed once. Again, this wasn’t a focus for my race, but I think it shows that while I may not have finished as strong as I would have liked to that I at least finished stronger than those runners around me.
As with anything in life, there is always room for improvement. I think I could have paced myself a little better earlier on by feel rather than being a slave to my Garmin. I could also given a little more effort in the latter miles as demonstrated by my closing kick, which was a minute quicker than I had been running. But overall, I don’t think I could have executed the race itself much better.
My wife ran her first marathon and did a great job! You should totally congratulate her. And thanks to my parents for again watching our son for us.
I absolutely trashed my legs. . . again, however didn’t do any lasting harm. I was even able to drive home without too much hassle. I’m still sore today, but not hobbling around too badly. And all toenails are present and accounted for.
I thought I’d give you the numbers below on my training plan so you can fully understand what an absolute nut-job I’ve become as it relates to running:
Training Period – 20 weeks
Days ran – 140 (7/week)
Miles ran – 802.8 (40/week)
Hours ran – 130 (6.5/week)
20 mile runs – 9 with a long of 27
15 mile runs on day following a 20 mile run – 6
This was possible because I have really come to enjoy running and because my wife has provided me the time and support to log this quantity of miles.