Race Report: Maine Marathon, 10/2/2016 by Thomas Zotti
I went into the race generally feeling good, but with the usual nagging mental concerns. Did you train enough? Do enough speed work? Are you nuts…four years ago you couldn’t run a 5K at the pace you expect to run this! A few physical ones…lower back sore on-and-off (mostly off since discovering a trigger point and dealing with it) and the once-in-a-while left foot soreness with some swelling on top. It comes and goes, but has not stopped me from training. Right upper hamstring popped while stretching about 8 weeks ago. It hurt to sit on but had no impact on running. It has pretty much faded away.
I knew the distance base was good. Over the summer I started from a typical weekly long run of 12-15 miles (+/- 40 MPW) and ran an 18 miler. Two weeks later, 21. Two weeks after that, a 24. Caught in a heavy thunderstorm around mile 16 but gutted it out. For speed work I did several weeks of Yasso 800s every other week, alternating with the long runs. I like the Yassos and will plan to do that again in the future. I was careful to work in enough rest as a concession to aging if nothing else. Then a three week taper from a peak of 50+ MPW. This was to be marathon number two. The first was here at Maine as well…in 1993.
Race morning (Sunday, October 2, 2016) was overcast and chilly. The hourly forecast called for no rain until at least noon…pretty decent for a 0745 start. Fifty degrees at the start. I elected to wear my short sleeve Maine Track Club (“Run with a Friend”) tee shirt with a pair of throwaway gloves (note: foreshadowing).
Got to the start area just before 0700 and was able to use the porta-pottie before the lines formed. And I was able to sneak back in at 0730 with no more than a minute’s wait.
Chatted with some folks at the starting line…the major topic seemed to be runners doing back-to-back marathons (NH Marathon 10/1, Maine 10/2). Incredible. Also had the usual discussions about my Vibram 5Fingers. (Yes, I like them. Yes, I wear them all the time. No, they may not work for everyone but they work for me.) I did notice some people eyeing me a bit oddly. It started to make sense when after a comment or two I realized that since I was issued race bib number 12 some folks probably were trying to figure out if they should recognize me. No, sorry, not an elite runner, just a guy who registered shortly after registration opened. I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night either…it was a Super 8.
Started to feel a bit cold but knew once we got moving it would be fine.
The cannon fired at 0747 and we were off to Yarmouth.
I planned to start at an 8:10-8:15 pace. Was able to do it but I noticed my lower legs felt very stiff and I realized that standing around in the cold had stiffened them up. I could tell they were loosening so I didn’t worry too much about it.
Had to hold back a bit as I didn’t want to get dragged along faster than I intended. Around the 1M mark, I noticed a fair amount of laughter and chatter behind me. Then I was passed by a dude in a penguin suit. He was waddling along at about an 8:00 pace. Great…all these years and I still can’t run faster than Penguin Man.
Settled in at +/-8:10 pace for a few miles. Tossed the throwaway gloves around mile 4.
Around mile 7 the alarm bells went off…the “Tom, you have to pee” bells. Damn. Zipped off course into the woods and took care of it. Too much race left to try to hold on. Did not pause the Garmin.
Around mile 10 the runners had thinned (half-marathoners turn around at mile 7) and a guy came up behind me. He said he had been right there since the start and we were running at the same pace. We struck up a conversation for a mile or so. He had run Maine 14 times. I mentioned that I was starting to feel a bit cold, and he said I would feel better after the turnaround. I remember thinking, “I hope so.” Then…as we talked…the alarm bells again. Only this time it wasn’t the “you have to pee” alarm. It was the big one…or actually 2. Quick mental gymnastics…can I gut this out? Shortly it became clear the answer was no. Had to let my new friend in on the secret and started looking for a port-a-pottie. Found one shortly thereafter and said goodbye. I regret not catching his number so I could look him up later. Climbed in the port-a-pottie and resolved problem number 2. That’s when I knew a BQ was not happening today…but I was strangely OK with that.
The overcast had turned to a heavy mist. Started to notice I was pretty wet. Then the chill set in. My hands were very cold and I regretted not hanging onto the gloves for a while longer. No wind to speak of.
Mentally things were OK but the cold was starting to bother me. Never got to the point of shivering but I was close.
Hit the turnaround at halfway/13.1M and almost immediately started to feel better both physically and mentally. I think the change of direction helped…although I didn’t notice any wind it because obvious that there was a slight headwind going out and it now was a tailwind. Started to feel a bit warmer. It was also a big mental boost. I heard the timing chip beep as I crossed the mat.
Mile 15 and the alarm went off…time to pee again. At least on the return I knew where to expect the port-a-potties. Jeez.
Mile 20…one more alarm. WTF?!? Power of suggestion? At least at this point I had pretty much thrown any time goals out the window, although I felt much better than I expected to at this point.
At mile 21 there was a marathon relay hand-off point. I had stayed as far away from those as I could figuring I didn’t want to get hung up in traffic. As I approached this one I thought I saw a friendly face wearing a reflective vest and working the transition …sure enough it was a local man who organizes many local races. He looked up in time to see me and I got a “Go, Tom!” along with a high five. I had seen him the weekend before when I ran in one of his 5Ks just to get some miles in. (Southern Maine locals…it was Robert Randall). It was a nice pick-me-up.
As the mile markers went by I found myself smiling a bit. As they did I knew this was going to happen. I was pleasantly surprised with how fast they seemed to come up on me after about mile 17. I was even more surprised that I felt like I still had a lot of energy and there would be no death march to the finish. Leaned into it a bit and tried to pick up the pace a little after the 21M marker. By this point we had rejoined the half-marathon course so I was very familiar with it. We were also returning to civilization as we moved from the more residential areas toward downtown Portland.
I had worked on a plan during my long runs to have a light breakfast (cup of nonfat Greek yogurt) about 60-90 minutes prior to heading out. That seemed to work well. It was combined with a Gu at various intervals. I settled on a Gu at 10M, 15M, and 20M for the last long run. That seemed to work so I decided to go with 10M, 15M 19M, and 22M during the race. (FYI…a Jet Blackberry first, then two Chocolate Outrage and a Peanut Butter). Water…is an issue. I generally don’t drink water during a run until it gets over 15M or so. But I stashed water on the long routes beyond that and would drink most of 12 ounces at a time. That worked out OK, but I knew during the race they would be giving out small paper cups of water worth no more than a gulp or so. I made the decision to hit every other water stop and try to get at least some in me. I slowed pretty much to a walk to make sure and that seemed to work well.
Around mile 22 I caught up with a fellow Beast Pacing who was running a leg of the marathon relay. We were able to talk for a while and she gave me a bit of a pep talk, noting that I still looked strong and she had followed my training on Strava and knew I was ready. It was nice to hear. I lost her at a water stop.
Mile 23 went by…I did a quick body scan and noticed my legs still felt pretty good. My feet were starting to feel it, and my lower back was sore. I could clear that up by adjusting my lean a bit, which I did.
Mile 24 and into Payson Park. It was in Payson Park that my pace picked up enough so that I abandoned my rhythmic breathing technique. I knew I could make it from here even if I had to crawl. Starting to smell the barn. Starting to rack up some kills. (For the uninitiated, a “kill” is when you pass another runner. Also known as “going fishing”—reeling them in.) Broke into a smile at the right turn onto Baxter Boulevard for two reasons. The first…it’s the last turn on the course. Just a quick jaunt along Back Cove to the finish, which I have done many times before, including several runs this summer on the Back Cove Trail. The second…one of the runners I passed on the turn was the guy in the penguin suit. I. KILLED. PENGUIN MAN. I almost laughed out loud.
Baxter Boulevard has a pretty severe cant to it. I tried to stay toward the middle and at the same time run the tangents as best I could. I looked at my Garmin and tried to do some math in my head. If I pushed it appeared I could break 3:50. Hammer down. Legs still feel OK.
As I concentrated on m noise level. I realized the finish was right around the corner.
Couldn’t help but smile…and I had the presence of mind to wipe the drool off my chin as the photographers were lining the course. I did notice one of them seemed far out into the middle of the road…that would be my wife.
I think I heard the race announcer mention me as I approached the chute. I crossed the line and heard the timing system beep to register my finish. Hit stop on my Garmin.
Chip time 3:50:07. Damn those pee breaks. Gun time 3:50:23. Overall place 197/728. All Men 143/383. Age group 17/43. Pace 8:47/Mile. But…3:46:24 without the bathroom breaks. Grrrr. I really was able to drop the hammer in the last few miles…last 2.5 miles at a pace of 8:22, 8:22, 7:35.
Another quick body scan in the chute…still all systems go. No acute pain, just overall tiredness. A volunteer said “congratulations” and put the finisher’s medal around my neck. I thought I was hallucinating as it was blinking at me. No, it actually was. The medal design includes a lighthouse and the light actually works. Cool.
Then I did something I’ve never done before…another volunteer offered me a Mylar space blanket and I took it. I’ve never actually used one before. I immediately felt warmer. Another offered me a bottle of water. I couldn’t open it. That’s when I realized my fingers were stiff and numb from the cold. I handed it back and asked her to open it which she did.
Did a bit of walking around the finish, and got a few slices of pizza. That tasted really good. Unfortunately the coffee was gone.
Walked to the parking garage to my truck and then across the street to the USM gym for a shower. That hot shower may have been the best thing EVAH. Brought me right back to life. And, no chafage.
• Long runs/strength training seem to be on point, endurance was not an issue.
• Fueling strategy worked. No bonking and fast finish.
Areas for improvement:
• More speedwork
• Resolve the bathroom issue
• Dress for the weather
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See more race reports, photos courtesy of Chamber Photos ti be posted soon & more ~ the 25th Maine Marathon Reports