2:19:48, 2nd place overall. Missed qualifier by 48 seconds, but close to a 3-minute PR, plus breaking the 2:20 barrier felt good. First half perfect in 1:09:18, struggled the last 8 miles, second half in 1:10:30. Fought hard to take 2nd in the final miles,and that was the beauty of the race. Feel quite pleased right now. Exhausted from the race and travel back to Utah, so will write a report sometime Sunday.
BTW - chip time original reported a minute fast, so sorry to those who got all excited thinking that I broke 2:19. They have since fixed it.
Okay, full report. I realize that my race reports tend to be oppressively long. I try to make up for it with one-line blog entries for regular training runs. When you put that in perspective, my total Blog word-count is actually quite low. For the race reports I try to record all the details I can think of before they leak out of my head. Since I'm writing this one the day after, I think I've already forgotten half the race already, but I'll fill in the blanks with fabrications and perhaps some random 'Simpsons' quotes.
If you want to skip all of the boring, lead-up "journal" stuff, scroll down to the bold "The Race" heading. I actually recommend it.
I flew into Indy on Thursday evening, on a direct flight. I met my brother-in-law at the airport, and then triangulated with Jeff McClellan, who was staying with us too. Found Jeff, and we headed to my sister's house. Chatted with my sister until midnight, and chatted with Jeff until past 1AM (very much like a runner slumber party). But I still wasn't tired, so it took a while to fall asleep. My niece Lauryn woke up in the middle of the night too, crying, which broke my sleep (although I'm pretty used to that with Seth). Slept about 6 hours total.
On Friday, Jeff and I went for a short run, then I pretty much hung out most of the day with my sister & brother-in-law. Went out for lunch, etc. Around 3:30PM, my sister took Jeff and I downtown, and dropped us off at our hotel, the Omni Severin. This hotel was about 1 block from the expo, and maybe three blocks from the start and finish line. Very convenient, which I'm all about. It would come in handy on the cold race morning.
Jeff and I checked in, then went to the expo. Decent-sized expo, although about 1/10th the size of the Indy Mini. Met the elite coordinator, Jon Little, who was very enthusiastic, and I suspect had been going on coffee and Red Bull for the last 72 hours (a trait common to most race directors on race-week). Had a very short athlete meeting, and dropped off water bottles. Then I went out to eat with my parents and my sister's family. Came back to the hotel after dinner, watched the weather a little bit, and then went to bed, after some more slumber-party conversation with Jeff. I was actually quite tired, and slept about the best I've ever slept before a marathon. I was completely out, and didn't wake up much. Got about 8.5 hours of sleep total.
Finally, race-day arrived: it was Saturday morning. I've been counting down to this morning for literally months. Especially the last two weeks. Now it was finally here. All I wanted was an opportunity to validate my training, and an opportunity to make a legitimate Trials attempt. For that I would need:
- no lingering injuries
- no hint of sickness
- good training cycles/buildup
- no/little wind
- no precipitation
- no heat or humidity
- fast course
- competition and people to run with
- good race/course organization (no distractions)
- crowd support
This is essentially a checklist that Kevin Hanson rattled off on a letsrun.com thread about the Chicago marathon, while debating the heat issue. Hanson's big quote: "Races are not run in a bubble and to ask for more than 90% is ridiculous."
Well, I've been perfectly healthy all year, without even a hint of an owie. What a blessing. I managed to stave off any colds (thanks to 4 packets of Emergen-C per day). My training had gone very well, and I accomplished everything I wanted to in terms of mileage and workouts. Wind was 4-5mph, wow, how much better than the Mini is that?? Clear sky. Temperature at the start was 27 degrees, and never got much above freezing. But cold is fine, hot is not. I can dress for cold. So temperature: check. The course was to be flat and fast, good reputation. Check. Competition was to be deep: about 10 or 12 Kenyans, plus some good regional American runners. Plus Jeff, who I have run with before and who would be an ally. Check. Race organization: same people who put on the Mini. Top Notch. Check. Crowd support...turned out to be non-existent.
Okay, so the only thing missing was crowd support, and I suppose 10 degrees warmer would have been ideal. But we're shooting 90%, and as Hanson said, to expect more is absurd. This was a perfect setup to race. No excuses today, and I got what I wanted: an opportunity. What more could I ask for? I was already grateful, and was certainly excited on race-day.
Got up at 6AM. Race start would be 8AM. Ran hot water through the coffee machine for oatmeal, then repeated for coffee. Had oatmeal, a banana, and a small pot of coffee. The coffee was pedestrian at best. Watched the morning news. Temperature was 31 degrees, but still falling since the sun was not up yet. Would be 27 degrees by race start at 8AM.
At about 7AM, Jeff and I went for a little jog, to check out the air and get some blood moving. I thought the air actually felt really good, did not seem excessively cold. Did about half a mile, then went back up to the hotel room. Earned 3 stars in the comfort of the hotel.
We hung out in the room until 7:40AM, then headed down. We jogged over to the start, and then I ran into the State building for one more potty stop. Got to the start line about 5 minutes before the gun. Did a few strides, said hi to Sean. Temps felt okay with my warmups off. I was wearing compression shorts, compression socks, singlet, arm sleeves, an ear band, gloves, and a throw-away top. I ended up throwing away the long-sleeve shirt before the race even started, as I realized I wouldn't need it.
One good thing about hanging out in the hotel room so long was that I didn't have to worry about the temptation of scoping out the competition. It's almost never fruitful to do so, and just psyches me out. But as promised, there were plenty of Kenyans at the line. I rarely get nervous before races, and this was no exception. Just excited, and full of anticipation.
The half marathon and the marathon was combined for the first 6.5 miles, so all 9000 people were lined up at the start. 3000 in the marathon, the rest in the half. The wheelers started at 7:59, and then they started us right at 8:00AM. Awesome. Months of waiting and training was finally...going. Running. Whatever. It was good though.
At last I was finally running my Trials attempt. This was about 3 years in the making, and in terms of this year, I've been training with this in mind it since January, and doing marathon-specific training since late July. It's been a long grind. I believe you really have to love training in order to do this, otherwise it's just gambling, with no fruit if you come up short. But if you actually enjoy the process and the journey, then there is no way to lose. While training is grinding at times for me, I do love the journey. I enjoy the process of getting in shape, the smaller races I do along the way, and especially the people I meet along the way. At this race alone, I met several new very cool people, reconnected with some older contacts, and met one or two "virtual" (blog) contacts. It's the kind of stuff that keeps me going, and makes my life richer.
Due to the cold, I planned to go out a little slower, maybe 5:25 the first mile, then 5:20, and then hopefully get into my goal pace of 5:15/mile.
During the first mile, which was all downtown, a big pack just took off, and they were way the heck up there. A second pack, including myself, Jeff, Sean, and about 10 others, formed behind. It was great running with that many people. It turned out to be the only part of the course with any wind (probably due to the buildings funneling the wind), but I could just tuck in behind people.
We hit Mile 1 in 5:14. So much for the need to "warm up", but it actually felt really good, and my muscles felt warm. Maybe all of the compression stuff (which made me feel silly) actually works for circulation?? The lead pack must have been 4:55 or 5:00. They were really that far ahead. Turn outs that some of the Kenyans didn't know about the half marathoners, so the half guys took some of the marathoners out too hard (good for me later on). Chip times showed the lead marathon pack going through 10K in 31:14, which is just barely over 5:00/mile!
The second mile was 5:26. It was feeling incredibly easy, but I guess that's because we slowed down. I think this was partially because we were still looping around downtown, and there were lots of turns. I wasn't worried about hitting a 5:25, since I was planning on a slower start anyway. Still had the big pack here, including Jeff and Sean.
I picked it up some during the 3rd mile, and took the head of the pack. As we headed out of downtown, the wind died too, so leading the pack was no big deal. I wanted to get the pace back under 5:20 and get into a groove for the race. Sean dropped back this mile, but Jeff ran alongside me, and there was still a big pack behind/with us. Turns out most of these people were half marathoners, but it was good to have extra bodies in the mix. Mile 3 was 5:16, so a great pace. Now just to lock in...
The course thus far was perfectly flat, although got kind of ugly (un-scenic) after we left downtown. My muscles were feeling good, and sub-5:20 pace felt easy on the breathing. I could hold a conversation (gotta love sea level). Our pack was breaking up some, but there were people coming back from up front (half marathoners). Mile 4 was 5:17, perfect.
Mile 5 was a little fast, 5:10. Not sure why this was so fast, maybe I got sucked into catching people drifting back? But this was the fastest split of the race, and not outlandish or anything.
Mile 6 was 5:16, perfect. Hit 10K in about 32:47. At this point, it was just me, Jeff, a Kenyan (whose name was also Jeff), a bunch of guys right behind us, and then a couple guys right ahead of us that we had been reeling in. I suspected from their erratic pace that the guys ahead of us were half marathoners.
Our first bottle-drop was at 10K. However, there was a media van parked right in front of the table! I was a bit ticked, bypassed the table (I would have had to stop to actually get the bottle), and rapped on the van as I passed. The driver was trying to get in and move, to his credit. Bummer. But fortunately I was taking Gatorade at every "regular" aid station, as I can never seem to bank on bottles.
At Mile 6.5, the course partitioned: half marathoners on left, full marathoners on the right. Good organization here, as it was coned and well-marked. Then the two races split off, and suddenly Vegas Jeff, Kenyan Jeff, and myself were all alone. So much for the pack. I could not see any runners ahead of us (as they had gone out so fast and were gone), and I had no idea what place we were in. I was pretty sure Top 10, maybe 7th or so (turns out we were 4th, 5th, and 6th, so my estimate was slightly pessimistic, but not too far off). But I wasn't really thinking about place at all, and could care less if I took home $0, as long as I hit that sub-2:19. This attitude would flip-flop by the end.
We made a turn into a really cool neighborhood, with beautiful old mansions. This was a long straight-shot for a few miles, and I enjoyed it. Chatted with Kenyan Jeff a little bit. Mile 7 was 5:20. A little slow, but I could afford 5:20 once in a while, as long as the 5:15s were more frequent.
Vegas Jeff dropped around Mile 7, so now it was just Kenyan Jeff and myself. We worked well together, chatted a little bit. Still no wind to worry about. It was his marathon debut, but he had run 1:05-flat, and a high-1:04 in the half marathon this year. I said that this pace should feel easy to him, and he agreed that it did feel easy.
Mile 8 was 5:21. With this second "slow" split in a row, I made a conscious effort to pick it up. Mile 9 was 5:14. Much better.
Around Mile 9, I noticed that...we could actually see runners ahead of us! I pointed this out to Kenyan Jeff, and told them that we could catch them. He agreed that perhaps after 10 miles some of them would start dropping back. Looked like 3 or 4 runners, but couldn't tell because of the distance and there were also bikers (course officials) in there muddying up the view.
Mile 10 was 5:18. Mile 11 was 5:15. I then noticed that the runners ahead of us seemed quite a bit closer. Jeff agreed. I was still feeling pretty good, although the first 10 miles had taken their toll on my calves, and I could feel fatigue setting in. I figured that should be expected for running 10 miles under 53 minutes, but at the same time I was hoping that the first half would be "absolutely effortless". Don't we always want that? Breathing was effortless though, so that was good, but I was a little worried about the state of my legs.
Tried to take a Cliff Shot gel at an aid station, but muffed it. My right hand was almost completely numb from cold. My left hand was okay, which is typical. The rest of my body felt just fine, and was not feeling the cold. Just my fingers. No big deal about missing the gel, since I had one attached to my bottle coming up at 20K (12.5 miles).
I tried to keep the pace going. Mile 12 was 5:16. Kenyan Jeff dropped somewhere in here (despite saying the pace was "really easy" a couple miles ago...), so now I was all alone, but chasing an unknown number of runners ahead of me. The were still getting closer. I had no idea what place they were, but I was assuming that it was not the lead pack. Bad assumption, as it turned out that I was looking at 1-3. (based on some post-race timing chip detective work).
I realized that I missed my 20K water bottle, after the fact, just from not paying attention. I was now really distracted about missing two gels in a row. Would my head explode? No probably not, so I kept going. But I kept taking Gatorade at every aid station, and was hoping I'd get adequate fuel from that.
Mile 13 was 5:13, and the half marathon was 1:09:18, as we turned into the cool Broad Ripple neighborhood. The pack ahead of me went through the half in 1:08:47 (again, based on chip times), and I could now see them even on short, curvy sections, as well as the straight-shots. They were definitely coming back, and it was just a matter of time before I caught them, probably in the next three miles.
At this point, my watch data filled up. (forgot to clear everything before the race). Although it kept taking splits, it did not save them, so all I have is my own memory (bad) and a few chip splits. So I'll do the best I can.
The course had more turns during the next mile or two. I kept the pace right where I wanted it, hitting sub-5:20 every time. However, the pack ahead me, which so assuredly was coming back to me...was now farther away! Given that I was sticking to my 5:15/mile pace, how was that happening? From recreating events from chip times, it looks like the eventual winner threw monster surge right after the half. Between the half marathon and 30K, he averaged 4:59/mile. The other two tried to go with him, but eventually couldn't match the pace, and ended up dropping back, becoming road-kill for me to clean up in the last 10K. The eventual winner ended up biting it pretty hard during the last few miles (based on chip and eyewitness accounts), but he had done enough damage to win the race. I suppose if I had a few extra miles and a extra set of legs, I would have caught him.
So although I didn't get much positive feedback from chasing this pack, my pace was still good, and I was well on pace for sub-2:19. On the second half of the course we went through some cool areas, such as the Governor's residence, Butler University, and a row of museums. And we also picked up some rolling hills, more than I expected, yet not too bad either. Nothing was very long or steep, but it kind of hit me at a bad time. My legs were starting to get really fatigued by 30K, and I was wondering if "this was it" for me. Breathing was harder too. My legs had a rather "numb" feeling, could have been from the cold, but probably more due to keeping 5:17/mile pace for 30K.
Yet, despite this "feeling" of fatigue, I kept rattling off the splits. Average pace between half marathon and 30K was 5:14/mile. I was picking up time during this stretch. Between 20K and 30K was my fastest portion at TOU last year too. There's just something about that segment of a marathon, I guess.
So I just needed 8 more miles at this pace, or even a little slower was fine. My legs were numb and somewhat trashed, but hey, if I can keep hitting the splits, who cares?
But things went south during mile 19 and 20. First off, I missed yet another bottle at 30K. My bottle was bunched together with the other bottles, and I ended up knocking it down with my numb, useless hand. I've decided I hate bottle drops; they're a waste of time. But this bottle had another gel on it, which I missed. I had picked up at gel at Mile 15 (half frozen though, hard to eat), so at least I had that. Missing the bottle at 30K was a distraction more than anything. This mile was in the low 5:20s, I remember, my first split over 5:20 since early in the race.
During mile 20 I managed to get a gel at an aid station. But due to opening it poorly with my teeth (again, hands were useless), and the gel being very viscous from the cold, it took two hands to eat the stupid thing, which slowed me down some. So Mile 20 was also about 5:25.
But I got the gel in me, the second gel of the race, and now I had no reason to be distracted. It was crunch-time, time to put my head down and run. Fueling and hydration are "in the barn" so to speak. My legs were starting to tell me that they were done though. I almost believed them, until I split a 5:15 for Mile 21. Although I had bled some time during the last few miles, I was still on pace through Mile 21, provided I didn't drop too many more 5:25's.
In addition, the runners that had eluded me after the half point, due to their surge, were coming back again. This was a big boost. Not only was I still viable for the Trials qualifier, but I was in the thick of quite a race against my competition. There were two guys in striking range, but the third was not to be seen. I still didn't know what place I was in, but knew I wanted to take those spots from the guys ahead of me!
I pushed hard. Legs were protesting, lungs were working hard too. I was wanting another 5:15, but Mile 22 was well over 5:20, probably 5:25 or so. The Kenyan ahead of me was close now, and I finally passed him somewhere in here, before we hit downtown again.
With 4 miles to go, I still had a chance at the Trials time, if I could just get the pace back on track. But my pace was going the other way. Mile 23 was 5:30. My legs had gone south, and I knew I could not get the pace back. I was running as hard as I could. At this point the marathon route rejoined the half marathon route. The course was nicely partitioned, with marathons on the right of the cones and half marathoners on the left. Well organized, in terms of having to share a course.
I got to half marathon mile marker 10, which meant that I had 5K to go. Doing the math, if I could run 16:00 for the last 5K, I would still get sub-2:19. This pace would have been fine just a few mile ago, but the train to Trials had left the station, and I was no longer on it. While I had (thankfully) not hit "The Wall", my legs were beat up and fatigued, and were giving up 10-15s per mile from what I needed. My race had no room for error, but the the last 10K I was being shown that my legs had some error in them.
That said, I was not discouraged. In fact I was borderline euphoric. I had just made a pass into 3rd place (and a spectator informed me of my placing, for the first time all day), and I was barreling down hard on 2nd place! No matter how bad I was hurting, this guy ahead of me was hurting worse. After mile 23, I took no more watch splits. I just raced, and raced my heart out. I was praising God for a great race, for the opportunity to go for the Trials, and for the fact that I held the pace for so long. And time was no longer a big factor, but I knew that I could still break 2:20, and that was exciting to me.
Pushing as hard as I could, wheezing and making pitiful noises, I managed another 5:30 for Mile 24. 2nd place Kenyan was still coming back to me. The course was crowded with half marathoners, but we had the right lane to ourselves, on the long straight-away into downtown. Very flat during the whole final stretch, thankfully.
Close to Mile 25, I blew by the Kenyan at an aid station, and pushed hard to discourage him from trying to go with me. I was hanging by a thread, and wanted to make the pass a final one. Mile 25 was 5:28, I remember, based on the course clock at the mile marker.
Out of the corner of my eye, though, I thought I saw another runner coming up behind me, with a different singlet than the Kenyan I just passed! This freaked me out, made me press harder, and I was now running scared for 2nd place, the whole last 1.2 miles. (later I realized that this phantom runner was probably a bicyclist/course official).
Exhausted, scared, and holding dearly for second, I careened around Monument Circle and the last few corners. There was nothing more to give. Despite the extra effort of trying to hold of the "phantom runner", I think Mile 26 was in the low 5:30s, slower than the previous mile.
Finally I got to the home stretch, turned the last corner and saw the finish only one block ahead. I poured it, leaving no doubt that anyone behind me would catch me, nearly stumbling several times. It felt like the ground was out of sync with my feet, and that I would pitch forward into the road. Fortunately, I didn't, and crossed the finish line at 2:19:48, 2nd place overall, $1200.
After I finished, Jon Little wisked me away into the elite staging area (or drunk tank), where I was able to keep warm and sit amongst the other race victims. Chatted with a few people, including Sean and Jeff when they returned, but mostly sat there feeling utterly exhausted. It's the most tired I've been after a marathon. After TOU last year, I felt great (probably because I was mostly just messing around), but after this race every muscle hurt. I couldn't believe how much my shoulders and arms hurt. It was all-encompassing.
It is true, I fell short of the Trials standard by a fairly small amount of time. Even as close as 5K to go, I still was "on pace" (although my pace had been going the wrong way since 10K to go).
But I was not, am not disappointed. Sasha would call this a "bummer", but I reject his bummer, he can keep it and give to someone else.
I am proud of my first-ever sub-2:20. I am now a "2:19 guy". I am proud of how I raced down the stretch, on how I ran my own race, didn't force things, kept mentally in it, and beat everyone within reach. This finish was especially significant because in almost every race this year I got beat down the stretch, either out-kicked, out-worked, or didn't say in it mentally. But not this race. It was a great way to end the season, in terms of being competitive the whole way in.
Moreover, this is a PR of 2:44 for me, going from 2:22:32 to 2:19:48. That is big. Going from a mid-2:22 (and a few good downhill half marathons) to a sub-2:19 is a huge leap, perhaps one that I have no business making. Although I believed in my training, I really had no races indicating that I could break 2:19. The goal was very high. I leaped and fell short, but landed on a rock much closer to that goal than where I was earlier. Going from 2:19:48 to 2:19:00 is reasonable, tangible, and achievable.
Why did I fall short? I think the weather was perfect, or at least good enough. I think I'm just missing some fitness. The decay from 5:15 to 5:25-5:30 is not huge, but I need to either move that drop-off back a few miles, or reduce the amount of it. This Indy race was very similar to my Trials race in 2007, where I split 1:10:00 & 1:12:30. I did not hit the wall, there was just drop-off due to fatigue and pounding. The same thing happen here in Indy, but the drop-off was less pronounced: it came later in the race, and was a smaller amount of time per mile compared to Trials. So this is a positive trend. If I can just make one more "jump" in marathon fitness, I think I will be there.
I am taking some time off now, about three weeks with no running. From there I will regroup, re-build a base, and figure out what I want to do, and how much effort I will put into it. It's likely I will find a spring marathon, but I'm not going to really get into that thinking for a little while.
At this point in time, though, I'm going to enjoy my time off. I praise God and give Him glory for the simple pleasure of being able to run a race. About two years ago, merely walking gave me pain and difficulty; I thought I would never run again. I run by the grace of God, just as I live and do all things under the grace of God, and in the comfort of His salvation. This is liberating, and brings me joy.