I want to start off this blog post a little differently than I usually do. I want to talk about my experience at a different marathon first, the 2016 Lehigh Valley Via Marathon, a race that has plagued me for almost two years. After running 2:53:16 in only my second Marathon at age 18 at the 2015 Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, NC, I decided I still had better times in me. I signed up for the 2016 Lehigh Valley Marathon held the first weekend in September in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Then, I went to work. During the Summer before the race, I put in an average of 85 miles a week over a 10-week period, with two weeks at 100 Miles. I was in the best shape of my life, having run 16:35 for the 5K in high 80 temperatures, and a solo 14 Mile Marathon Pace Tempo in the middle of July at 6:14 Pace. I was ready to run a huge PR.
|2016 Lehigh Valley Marathon - 10K Split|
Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for me. The weather that day was already 72 degrees by the start at 8am, and only climbed from there. The humidity was also in the high 80s to low 90s. Obviously, not ideal marathon temperatures, but I was so steadfast on my goal of 2:45 that I didn’t even consider adjusting. I hit the first mile in 5:58, still my fastest split at any point in any marathon to this day, and kept going from there. I hit the 10K in 39:20, about a 6:17 Pace. I still felt great at Mile 11, but then I took a Gu, missed the water stop right after that, and everything went crashing downhill from there. Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you that Mile 11 is not where you want to be really hurting. By Mile 13, I had slowed considerable, by Mile 17, I was walking and running. At Mile 22, I passed a medical tent and an aid station. I ran about 100 meters past it before I threw up, and then promptly turned around back to the tent. I sat in the back of a stationary ambulance for about 10 minutes while I had my vitals and my personal information being taken. Afterwards, they asked me if I wanted a ride back to the finish and I briefly contemplated taking my first DNF ever, before saying I wanted to go back out. The last 3.6 miles of the race, after the 22.6 Mile checkpoint, took me over 56 minutes to finish. I finally crossed the finish line in 3:42:31, almost 50 minutes slower than I had run about 10 months before.
|Finished! (Medical Tent Time)|
I didn’t post about this marathon afterward, and I didn’t put it on Strava. I had worked the hardest I ever had to get myself into the best shape of my life, and everything collapsed. In the 20 months since this race, I have run 4 more marathons (3:01:34, 2:56:30, 3:03:03, 2:58:21) and two ultras, a 50K, and a 40 Mile race, but even completing these races I still feel as if I haven’t really put my best effort forward. I got away with training for all these races on literally no long runs over 10 Miles, and weekly mileage of 20-40 miles a week. Back in February, my Mom and I signed up for the 2018 Run for the Red Marathon, and I was nervous about going back to race in Pennsylvania, considering how poorly things had gone the last time. After running 3:03:03 in the Milan Marathon on April 8th, technically a Boston qualifying time, but definitely not enough under the standard to get in, I knew I had some work to do. After taking about a week of recovery, I put in weeks of 60, 65, 70, 40, and 50 in the five weeks leading up to and including the marathon. While I didn’t have any long runs over 10 Miles I had days where I sometimes ran 3 times a day for a total of 15 Miles.
Fast-forward to May, and I find myself, my Mom, and my girlfriend pulling into the middle of nowhere Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania at Stroudsburg High School for the race expo. The weather had been nonstop rain for the past two days and it looked as if that may continue into the race tomorrow. The race had even issued a special email stating that the weather for early that morning included lightning, and if the lighting was spotted prior to the start of the race, the race would have to be called off. After leaving to the packet pickup, we drove to our hotel near the start, lounged around quite a bit, ate dinner at one of the only Italian restaurants we could find, and then went to bed early.
My goal for this race was, hopefully, to run around 2:55, but more importantly to run under three hours and give myself more breathing room on my Boston qualifying time. When we woke up the next morning, we found the weather less than ideal, although we were anticipating this. The good news was that there was no longer lightning, or even rain, in the forecast. However, near 100% humidity promised to make it an interesting morning. We arrived at Pocono Mountain High School at around 6:20am, about 40 minutes before the start. Usually, the half an hour leading up to a race moves fairly quickly for me, and this race was no exception. It was already 6:55 by the time I decided to do a quick two-minute shakeout and head to the starting line. A quick rendition of the National Anthem, and few words, and then we were off!
|Game-Face On Always.|
The first few miles of the race were largely uneventful, but try as I might, I couldn’t reign in my pace and put 45 seconds on my band by the time we hit the downhills. I consider myself a fairly strong downhill runner, but much to my surprise, I was already developing some pretty strong tightening in my hips by Mile 6. I’m not entirely sure if this was due to my shoe choice or not. I ran in a fairly new pair of HOKA Clifton 4s, with only about 8 Miles and a bit of walking on them. I had not anticipated wearing them, because the weather did not seem like it was going to cooperate, so I did not break them in that much. It was either these shoes or a pair I have been wearing the last few months with over 550 Miles and at least 150 more walking.
|Moms 6th Marathon Finish!|
My favorite part of this race was definitely Mile 7 & 8. It was absolutely, totally, and 100% downhill. I just let my legs fly, even faster than I had anticipated. Nothing feels better than a 6:08 at Mile 7 and a 6:00 at Mile 8 with minimal effort. However, after the race leveled out the next mile, I could really feel the effort of running on rolling hills versus running downhill. I hit Mile 9 in a time of 58:50, about a 6:34 Pace Overall, and 1:29 ahead of my pace band. By this time, Andrew had been running a great race and he pulled away from me as well so I was working with a few other guys for these middle miles. It was shortly after around Mile 11 or so where I just felt off. I’m not sure if I worked it too hard on the downhills, or if the humidity was getting to me, but I lost almost 40 seconds on my pace band in just 3 miles. Once I took my second Gu at Mile 12 I started to feel a bit better, then earlier and picked it up to hit halfway at 1:27:07, still 43 seconds ahead of the band, and only 29 seconds behind my PR pace. For the next several miles I ran with only one other person, working together to try and close the gap on a group of runners up ahead. Even after the half marathon split off and finished I found that we lost very little people, as most ahead of me were in the Marathon.
Overall, I would say my largest gripe with this race was that the road was not closed off from traffic at all the second half. The course was completely open and we had cars going by us constantly. We were relegated to the left of the white line, only about two feet at a time and slightly cantered to run on. I understand it may not be entirely possible to shut down the whole course, but there were not even cones or markings blocking the runners from passing cars. Regardless, I was willing to put up with it for a downhill course and the beautiful scenery of the Poconos.
|Obligatory Post-Race Medal Pic|
Shortly after Mile 16, I lost contact with the guy I had been running with the past few miles. This was definitely a rough stretch for me for whatever reason. I did not feel like I was slowing down a ton, but I still had about 5-6 people pass by me. I was worried that the last 8 Miles would be a nightmare if I was not feeling great already. At Mile 18, to quote numerous people, the “party is over”. Unrelenting hills awaited us. I hit Mile 18 in 1:59:50, about a 6:39 Pace, and only 7 seconds ahead of my pace band. I had run the Miles from 9-18 in about a 6:45 Pace. At this point I was already calculating the pace I needed to hold to the finish, about 7:20 per Mile, in order to finish under three hours. I decided I needed a “reset”. I needed to take a Gu, get my breathing under control and focus on my arm movement. It actually helped tremendously, at least for a little while. I thought I could ride my second wave of energy all the way to the finish, but alas it was only until Mile 21. The last split I remember hitting was a 6:45 at Mile 20 before I stopped looking at my watch. The good news was that even though I was slowing down, so was most everyone else. In fact, looking at the results after the race, I went back to look at the top 75 finishers and only two negative split, or even managed to positive split within a minute. Going up the largest hill of the race at Mile 21 I managed to gain ground and eventually passed back 4 of the people that passed me earlier.
|The Best Support Crew!|
The last few miles of the marathon for me are always the same, a painful fight to the finish. The only race I can say this wasn’t true was the Vermont City Marathon last year, the only marathon I have ever negative split. Maybe I should try that strategy more often… The last few miles I was running entirely by myself without a person in sight on either end, or so I thought. Right before Mile 25, I had another young guy, who had asked to look at my pace band while we were waiting in line at the bathroom before the race, blow right by me. I hit Mile 25 in 2:49:50 overall, so I knew a sub-three-hour finish and a BQ were within reach as long as something drastic did not happen. The last bit of the race, as we entered Stroudsburg High School seemed to last forever. Even though you “enter” the grounds of the high school, the last 300 meters on the track where we finished is still a good half mile away. I managed to pass one person during this last part before entering the track and another runner on the backstretch before finishing on the straightaway in a time of 2:58:21! I finished in 21st Overall for a pace of 6:48 per mile. The eight miles, despite the hills, didn’t cost me too much time as I averaged about a 7:08 Pace. I also want to give a congratulation to my fellow Charlotte runner, Andrew, who finished in 2:57:11 for 16th place overall!
As far as my racing plans go for the future, I have a busy schedule. I can confirm I will be running the Boston Marathon in 2019 so I am very excited about that. This summer I will be training for two very important races: the Kodiak 50 Mile in Big Bear Lake, California, and the Ghost Train 100, in New Hampshire. Finally, I will also be racing the Drummer Hill 50K in New Hampshire, and the TARC Fall Classic 50 Mile as tune-ups!