But, is it possible for someone to drool at the thought of running 26.2 miles? Yes, and that's the feeling I had after I had registered for the Myrtle Beach Marathon just a week before the event. It had been since October 18th that I had run a marathon after running 8 in 2014. After a bunch of skin procedures late in the year and a lot of travel in December, it had been difficult even getting to do basic runs. My first planned marathon in 2015 was Rock n Roll DC in March. After a good month of training in January, I felt like I needed a marathon as a supported training run.
I had been considering heading back to Myrtle Beach to run the only marathon that I have attempted to run that got cancelled. Back in 2010, there was a freak 37-year snowfall of 2-3 inches in Myrtle Beach. After all the runners had arrived, had gone to the expo and carb-loaded (with Kevin Abraszek), the race was cancelled late the night before. Myrtle Beach was going to be my 49th marathon setting up New Orleans just two weeks later to be my 50th marathon on my 50th birthday where Competitor Group had given me bib number 50 to celebrate. In New Orleans, I was also going to run with my nephew, Shawn Doub. So, what do marathoners do when the race is cancelled? We sit around in the bar looking for another marathon to run the following week. Keven, Diane Bolton (now a Maniac Hall of Famer) and me, had our laptops looking at calendars while we had a couple of pints. For me, I needed to get that 49th so New Orleans could be number 50 and the only way to do it was to run the following weekend somewhere, but where and with lodging and registrations sometimes tricky to find, would I even be able to get into a race, not to mention the cost? I set my sights on A1A in Fort Lauderdale. Surely there would be no snow there! The following morning, with the roads barely slushy, Kevin and I went out for a 10-miler while some runners went ahead and did the entire course.
Fort Lauderdale turned out to be a great choice and was Cindy's first experience at a marathon and with me. It was a great weekend at the beach, I ran well and was able to get in my 49th marathon. Next up was number 50 in New Orleans but not without its drama. A blizzard hit NJ and after flight cancellations and paying top dollar for changed flights, stressful drives to Philadelphia by both Shawn coming from MD and me from NJ, we made it to New Orleans for a grand birthday celebration marathon.
So, back to this year. Once I signed up I felt that anticipation and the subsequent marathon drool. Marathon weekends are great. It is an escape from the daily routine, being somewhere new with Cindy, the expo, being at the starting line with thousands of others, the crowds of people cheering (OK, not always, but at many events), and the 42,000 steps taken to get to the finish line. There was a noticeable difference in my demeanor and focus at the thought of running 26.2 miles in a eek.
Until Sunday, February 8, all of my runs since the beginning of the year had been decent. I had been on the hills and flats alike with good pace. Then, on that Sunday prior to the Myrtle beach marathon, on a 6 mile tempo run, I felt a twinge or soreness in my right hamstring, more around the tendon. It slowed me to a crawl for the last 2 miles. I took a couple of days off and tried to venture out on the Wednesday before Myrtle but from the very first step I could feel the pain in the tendon. I struggled with a mile an a half. The drool and anticipation was gone and left me wondering if I would be able to start the marathon let alone finish. In 83 marathons, I have never had a DNF and the only DNS was the Myrtle Beach marathon in 2010 due to cancellation. So, I figured that I would rest it the remainder of the week and see what marathon morning brings.
It is hard for runners not to run leading up to an event and many hate the tapering. This wasn't a tapering kind of thing since the marathon was going to be a supported long run. However, I have found that times where I couldn't run the week before a marathon has always produced a decent marathon. I just kept faith and let God guide me through that day as I do everyday.
The weekend weather in Myrtle Beach was going to be beautiful although marathon Saturday was going to be bookended by two cold days, but no snow in the forecast. It was likely that marathon day was going to be in the upper 20's at the start and in the 40's at the finish but a day filled with sunshine.
We arrived at the Expo at the Myrtle Beach convention center around 4 after a pleasant drive from Durham. If you have never been to Myrtle beach, the summer can be as congested as a big city. To me, all beach towns are better in the off-season. Upon arrival at the Expo, we had to pay $3 for parking which, to me, is absurd. Seriously? The Expo was well-organized and of medium size. It had all the amenities needed for a runner. One thing we found fascinating was the organization Canine Angels Service Dogs, an organization that saves dogs and serves vets. The dogs are trained to take paper money from your hands and put it into buckets, the proceeds going to help veterans. We must have given $30 just to watch the dogs take it (and of course because it was a good cause.)
We stayed at the Breakers Resort which was on of the host hotels. Little did we know that the resort is made up of a series of hotels. It said on the race site that it was 1 mile from the start/finish. I always look at the logistics of the start/finish for Cindy. Well, the hotel that we stayed in, north of the main resort, was about 1.6 miles away from the start/finish. We registered one place and then had to drive to another. The lobby was under construction, dark with an electrician in the ceiling. We're thinking maybe this wasn't such a good place to stay. Our room did overlook he ocean from the 17th floor and it was right on the beach, but the room itself had a lot to be desired and the beds were awful. But, it was at the 13 mile mark on the course so I know that I could see Cindy half way. I always look forward to seeing her on the course.
I drove to the starting line at Broadway on the Beach. There was a lot of free parking and probably the most port-o-potties I have ever seen at a marathon. It was cold in the mid-20's. I wore shorts, calf sleeves, 2 long sleeve shirts and a short sleeved one. My dress would prove to be perfect for the conditions. Of course, I was still concerned about my hamstring. I could even feel it walking during the week so I was pretty concerned about running.
The marathon had an early start, 6:30 AM. The cannon sounded right on time. It always takes 5 or so miles to warm up. With not knowing how my hamstring was going to respond and with the cold weather, I started our slower than normal at a 10:15 pace. I really didn't have any expectations of time although I told Cindy that if everything sent well, I should be back in 4:30. Even from the first few steps I could felt he tightness and some pain around the tendon of my hamstring. I knew that this was going to be a flat course so at least I would not have to overwork it on hills. I kept the pace consistent for the first few miles while watching the sky get brighter. My stride was shortened and I suspect my gait slightly off kilter but I kept trudging along. I hadn't felt the piercing pain that I felt the week before because that pain might have kept me from finishing. At about mile 6, I felt like it had loosened up to the point where I could increase my pace. Looking at my watch, there were some splits between 9:40 and 9:55 for the next several miles (except for a short pee break in the bushes.)
There is a long stretch on Ocean avenue from miles 8 through 18. In between the hotels, you could see the sun rising above the ocean. There were more people out and about cheering and I finally found a good rhythm. I still wanted to manage the hamstring issue because I could tell it was going to be with me throughout. I also knew that I would be seeing Cindy soon which kept me going to the half way point. The half-marathoners dropped off at about mile 11 so it was just us marathoners and relay runners now. By mile 12 I was feeling pretty confident in my pace. Before the race, I thought that if I did need to drop out due to injury, I could do it at the hotel. Oddly, enough, I was feeling like I was managing this marathon better than most I had run last year. I was not 100% but at Bataan, in New Mexico, I was not 100% and also ran a well-managed marathon. So, maybe that is the secret sauce. I manage things better when challenged at less than 100%.
Finally, I see Cindy in her bright red windbreaker. She always puts a smile on my face. I always stop for a kiss and hug and today was no exception. I told her that I was feeling pretty good and I thought that I could make it to the finish around my projected time of 4:30. I would be half way around 2:12. She would need to walk 1.6 miles to the finish. I then ventured off for the second half. The hardest stretch for me in a marathon is from miles 13 to 18. To me, that is like no man's land and that is where, mentally, I must focus. I knew that in this marathon, mile 18 turns back toward the finish so making it there would make me feel that the home stretch was waiting. With a short out and back between miles 18 and 19, sure enough it was time to head home. I felt really good. For some reason although I was on a consistent 4:25 pace I caught up the 4:30 pace who really should have been behind me the whole time. Sometimes running with pacers is a crapshoot on pace so if you ever feel like the pace is off while running with a pacer, recognize it and get on your own pace. I passed him around mile 20, so maybe his plan was to run 20 faster and the last 6 slower.
The home stretch was much windier but not really enough to slow the pace. I started recognizing the roads and knew that if I just kept the legs churning that I would be in fine shape to be sub-4:30. Sub-4:30 doesn't sound like much these days but as I age, it still sounds like success especially since the age-graded time is sub-4:00. When I hit Broadway on the Beach, I then know I had a bit more than a mile to the finish at Pelicans stadium. I felt like I had passed about 100 runners since mile 18 and that is always a good feeling because I have been on both ends of the passing and being passed brings you down. I finally made it to the finish chute which was pretty empty. I spotted Cindy and gave her a hug and kiss and ran through the finish line in 4:25:52. Each time I stop for a kiss and hug from Cindy, I always hear, "Aweeee." Its the best!
So, marathon 83 done and it went better than expected. 83 marathons later, I continue to learn and what a great learning experience it is. We also had a nice Valentine's weekend with two nice dinners at Toscana and Greg Norman's Australian Grille followed by a show at Legends. We walked on the boardwalk, the beach and visited the world famous Gay Dolphin. We even got a little skee ball in.
My next drool is for Rock n Roll DC marathon, March 14.
Here are some pix from the weekend.
|Balcony of the Breakers|
|Ready to rumble|
|Sunrise marathon morning|