Sunday, October 12, 2008

Towpath Marathon 2008

<- Mile 15, approaching the Boston Store

I had to run the 2008 Marathon to keep the steak alive. But this year I also decided to run the Akron marathon, for the first time. These two are sometimes back to back, sometimes one week apart, and this year, for the first time, two weeks apart.

Two weeks apart? So, I have plenty of time to recover, right? Well, wrong! I ran the Akron marathon hard and my old (going 50) body needed more time to recover. Plus, on Friday, I moved some heavy boxes and ended up hurting my back (I have had back problems - herniated disc - in 2002). So, with my back hurting (when I stand up, my body is tilting to the left), and my legs being insufficiently recovered from Akron, I had serious doubts about my performance today, or even running the darn thing!

I set as a goal (best possible scenario) to beat my 2006 course record of 3:36. Have in mind that this is a naturally "slow" course because the running surface is soft and does not give you the bounce that streets do. But, it is flat (thank goodness!)

At 8 am start time it was 50F (chilly!) but the forecast called for sun and high temperatures in the 80s. While I was standing at the start line, freezing with just a T-shirt at the top, I was thinking of my body as an old car, ready to turn the ignition on. Will it start??? I seriously did not know.

"On your marks, get set, go!" And, to my amazement, my legs are moving and I am running! The first 8 miles are OK: 8:14, 7:58, 7:49, 7:55, 7:50, 7:56, 7:57, 7:56.

But already by mile 8 my legs felt tired, and my hips tight. This usually does not happen until after mile 15 and it is happening already at mile 8. Not good! For some reason mile 9 is slow (there are no hills to explain this and I did not stop for a break). Runners are passing me but I manage to recover, and go back to a good steady pace: 8:23, 8:14, 8:08, 8:01, 7:56, 7:58, 8:00 (mile 15)

My wife is waiting for me right after mile 15. I stop, change shirt, and drink Gatorade and orange juice that she brought. I also grab an energy bar "for the road". This stop has added maybe 1/2 minute to my mile 16 time, but things are not going well, as you can clearly see from these times: 8:56, 8:20, 8:42, 8:51 (mile 19)

History repeats itself: I am clearly falling apart, just like last year. Last year I was walking by mile 19 and mostly walked to the finish line. This year, I am slowing down at the same distance. I am telling myself: “Never again! Never attempt two marathons, only 2 weeks apart!"

But something different happened this year. As we turn at the Northern turnaround point at mile 19.5, I got passed by 3 young (20+) girls. I had passed these girls around mile 2, so now they are back, passing me. Maybe it is the "old man's pride" here, but this motivated me to speed up again. I pass the girls and move forward: 8:40, 8:33, 8:21, 8:05 (mile 23).

I am amazed at myself being able to run fast again... My legs are now beyond pain. They are numb. I now pass all these people who passed me from miles 16-19. Some of them recognize me and whisper "nice comeback", "looking strong", etc. I am wondering if I can keep this pace all the way to the finish, but it is difficult: 8:23, 8:44 (mile 25).

<- Finishing strong

At this point, after the water stop at Highland road, Mel (from Vertical Runner) passes me. She is trying to get 3:40 to qualify for Boston, and she is surrounded by a bunch of guys, offering her plenty of encouragement. One guy hands her a cup of water that he had taken from the last aid station, just for her. "What, no water for me?" I ask. He looks surprised but comes back with "You are a big guy, you can take care of yourself". I speed past them. Mile 26: 8:12.

My Garmin 205 is running slow, as always. It shows I still have 0.45 miles to the finish. I am now running with another girl, Janet, a local runner/blogger. I try to strike a conversation, telling her that I read her blog and identifying myself as “DrT”, but, apparently, she is in no mood for conversation, understandably, in mile 26 of a marathon. So I speed up past her. Now I am running really fast. I pass a couple more runners and enter the finish area looking strong. My Garmin recorded a record pace of 7:16 for this last half mile.

My watch at the finish reads 3:37:29. Even though I did not beat the course record from 2006, I am darn proud of my performance, under the circumstances. Especially the reversal of the decline after mile 20.

<- This little girl's sign summarizes the race nicely "Great Job Everyone!"

After getting a couple of snacks (food was a notch down from last year, no roastbeef or scrambled eggs), and socializing for a while, I am heading home. Too tired to even get into the car, my wife drives me home. I took an ice bath, and then a nap (with my wife, she got tired watching me run :)). When I woke up, an hour later, I literally could not get off the bed. I ask for two extra strength Tylenols and only when they start to work, I am able to get out of bed. And then, I am walking like a 98 year old. Why do we, runners, do this to ourselves??? :)

Overall, it was a nice experience. Beautiful weather, nice scenery, great day for running, plus it was nice seeing fellow runners out there... I have gone from running one marathon a year, to running 3 marathons and 2 50Ks this year. I still have 3 more races: Run for the homeless, Fall Classic 1/2M, and New Year’s 5K. I would also like to find a fast course to attempt a sub 20 minutes 5K. Should I sign up for the Winter 50K? I cannot make up my mind and time is running out!
Results: Official Time: 3:37:16, Placement 79/388 overall, 10/45 age group

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why I support the Towpath Marathon?

The Towpath marathon is dear into my heart because:

  1. It is a beautiful area, a great local natural treasure
  2. It comes as close as 2 miles from my house
  3. We (me, wife, running friends) regularly run there throughout the year
  4. I ran my first race there, a 5K in 2002 (21:27)
  5. I have run the Towpath marathon every year since 2003
  6. 2003 - Two people relay, I ran 15.2 miles in 2:00 (7:54 pace)
  7. 2004 - First full marathon! Goal (under 4 hours) achieved: 3:55
  8. 2005 - Improved Course time: 3:45
  9. 2006 - Again improved course time: 3:36 (course record so far)
  10. 2007 - The heat and fast start took their toll.... 3:47
So, I have to run the 2008 Marathon and keep the steak alive

I don't feel I have recovered sufficiently from the Akron marathon... I struggled last Sunday in an attempted long run. The best I can aim for is a course record. This is my goal, but it is hard to achieve. The running surface of the towpath does not favor speed. I run faster in road marathons. In addition, today (Friday) I carried some heavy boxes and my back is hurting (I had a severe back pain problem & herniated disc in 2001).

Target: 3:35

Wish me luck :) I'll be at the "Pasta dinner" tomorrow 5:30 pm (Quality Inn, Richfield, on Brecksville Road, very close to my house)

Friday, October 3, 2008


Reflecting back from the Akron marathon, I have good memories and I am happy I was able to beat 3:30 in such a difficult course. I read that there were some problems in the first water stops. Maybe the race has grown too big. There were a lot of relay runners and some times they interfered with the marathon runners, when they are running “out of pace” (if, for example, a slow runner follows a fast runner in a relay team, or the other way around). I did not mind it, but I think the race has reached its maximum capacity by now.

After the marathon I took an ice bath and this helped recovery quite a bit. I became a believer of ice baths when I tried one last year and saw the results. I don’t do it often. Only when it is absolutely necessary, for example after a hard marathon. Some people fill the bath tab with water and ice and then get in. Ouch! I get in first, then run cold water until it covers my legs, and then dump in the ice. It more gentle this way.

On Sunday we went to visit our daughter in Toledo. We had signed up for the "Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio Race for the Cure" 5K. Since wife Liz is still recovering from injury, daughter Lea is not running, and I was hurting from the marathon, we decided to take it easy and run at the slower runner's pace, which is Lea.

The first mile was at 10 minutes. Liz and I could continue at this pace (or even speed up to 9 min/mile), but Lea could not, so the next miles were at 10:30 and the last mile at 11 minutes. We crossed the line by holding our hands up. The crowds apparently liked it and were cheering us up.

So, at 32:30, this might be the slowest 5K in record for me (for a while :)) but it was fun though doing it as a family and finishing together. There were about 20,000 runners and walkers. The crowd support and entertainment was amazing. There were bands and songs in every corner. This is definitely an “ipod is not necessary” race. We will do this again.

The next day I woke up with very little pain, so recovery was surprisingly quick this time. I ran every day (short distances, slow pace) and went to my fitness classes on Tuesday and Thursday. By Thursday there was no sign of pain/discomfort in my legs. Our training group is planning a long run tomorrow, and I will join them.

My next race is in next week and it is the Towpath marathon. I have a special connection to this race. I will talk about it in the next blog.