Friday, November 16, 2007

Grand Rapids Marathon - Race Report

Grand Rapids Marathon Race Report
October 28, 2007

Unknown. Uncharted. Unbelievable. Three words that I can think of that best describe the Grand Rapids Marathon or GRM. Unknown, the feeling in the pit of my stomach prior to the race and the feelings that I would encounter during. Uncharted, the territory that I would venture into for my first marathon attempt, physically and mentally. Unbelievable, the results.

As a preface to the race report I had been training for the Wineglass Marathon since the end of June. I completed my best ever half iron distance triathlon and was recovered and running strong. My mileage was up and speed was increasing. Long runs were increasing each weekend appropriately. In the middle of August I had a long run which included a 10k; run to the race, participate, run home. Heading into the weekend my right quad was bothersome. I ran easy that day in hopes of the muscles warming up and getting loose. At the end of the day I may have done more damage than good. I had to shut things down. In review I had increased my weekly mileage too quickly and the intensity may have added to the problem.

I was reduced to swimming, cycling, and elliptical workouts. I had to get my head around the injury and see if I could heal in time for Wineglass. It was recommended that I get some acupuncture so I went under the needle almost immediately. After several weeks it was clear that Wineglass was out of the picture. Once I verbally made the choice to pass I was free to concentrate on the injury and my recovery. The recovery was progressing nicely with the help of acupuncture. By mid-September I was starting to run again. Slowly at first, but still running. I had felt like a part of me was missing when I couldn’t run. I couldn’t walk out the door and do 5 miles. I had to retreat to the YMCA and “run” on an elliptical machine. So when I started running again I was cautious. I started with 3 miles and worked my way up to 12 miles for a long run. I signed up for GRM feeling that my leg would be heeled by then and I would still have some fitness to carry me through 26.2 miles. Aimee and I kept things quiet and planned on showing up under the radar. We knew some people who would be up there and didn’t want to raise a big fuss about it. This was my first marathon and Aimee’s second in a month. Aimee decided to give GRM a try since her Wineglass Marathon didn’t turn out as expected.


This is my running mileage leading up to the marathon. The first grouping is after the Half IM, empty space is the beginning of my injury, then the mileage leading up the the marathon with the big spike being the marathon.

Fast forward to race day. October 28. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Aimee and I drove up on Saturday for the packet pickup/expo. I had made contact with a Grand Rapids blogger and was hoping to meet Vickie at the expo. We got our numbers and were able to talk with Vickie for a while about the race, surrounding area, how to get to our hotel and other miscellaneous things.


We checked into our hotel and had a nice pasta dinner at Fred’s Pizza. Next time I’m in GR I will get some of their pizza, it looked so good. Back at the hotel we watched some TV and readied ourselves for the next day.

When we woke up Sunday morning the temperature outside was 27 degrees. The clear night brought the temperature down and left a layer of frost on the cars. The cold temperatures would be a benefit for the days run. Not to hot and we could layer-up and peal off items we didn’t need, like the tube socks with the toes cut off and the throw away gloves. We ate our pre-race meal and packed the car for the drive to the start area.

Leading up to the marathon my best runs had been after riding my bike, sometimes for 3 or 4 hours. The cycling would help warm up my muscles without any pounding on the pavement. Besides, being a triathlete this is what my muscles expect. In the parking lot I setup my bike on my trainer and warmed up for 30 minutes. I did some easy pedaling, some high cadence spinning and some big gear mashes so all of the major muscle groups would be warmed up. I did get the occasional weird look and finger point while I warmed up but it didn’t matter since I knew it would help me out.

About 20 minutes prior to the start, Aimee and I said our goodbyes and she left for the start line. I put the bike away and put on my race gear. Sunglasses, headband for warm ears, tube socks on the arms, gloves, Ohio University Under Armour shirt, and my Cleveland Tri Club tri shorts. Everyone must have been jealous or knew I was serious about this marathon because I got several looks and finger points. Oh well, what did I care….I really didn’t know anyone there.

Near the bag check area rootsrunner called me out and we chatted for a while. If I had kept up with my blog reading I would have known he would be there. So we chatted for a little bit before the race. He was running his second marathon in three weeks, Steamtown in Pennsylvania. He was hoping to finish around 3:08 or something insane like that. Hey….he’s an awesome runner and person.

I made one last pit stop and headed to the start line. There were 3000 people on a two lane road waiting to start. I milled around and decided that hey…..it’s chip timed……I’ll start when I want to. I was one of the last people to cross the starting line and so began my marathon.

Race plan summary:
Miles 1-4 Take it easy and warmup. Hold back.
Miles 5 – 12 Increase pace but still feel like you are holding back
Miles 13 – 20 Get into higher effort but not full blown
Miles 21 – finish Leave it on the course

The first 4 miles it was easy to hold back and go easy. I was working my way up through the field. The course is on bike paths 75% of the time and road the remaining 25%. The bike paths tended to be full and it was hard to pass people, but that did help with me keeping the effort under control. I remember passing Aimee with the 3:56 pace group between miles 4 & 5. I caught two more friends before mile 7 when I took a PowerGel prior to the aid station. I then caught Dale (doing the half marathon) by mile 8. I was still under control heading out to the half-way point. Oh, the aid stations were awesome. I saw a gazelle, Thing One, Snow White, real doctors, nurses and EMTs and eager kids handing out water, Gatorade, gels, pretzels, Oreo cookies, gummy bears, etc. They were great.

I had my Ohio University shirt on but it only says Ohio. I got a lot of encouragement from people yelling “Go Ohio”. Near the halfway point, someone returning yelled “O-H”, so I responded “I-O” even though it’s not an OSU shirt. Aimee also had her Ohio shirt on and said she received some of the same encouragement. Knowing there was an aid station at 13.1, I took another PowerGel at mile 12 so I would be ready for water at the aid station.

I hit the halfway point at 1:44:??. This was the only timing clock I saw on the race course. I liked where I was time wise because I know it was gun time and I started well after the start gun. I wasn’t wearing my heart rate monitor so this was my first indication of my status. I was feeling good so maybe I would be able to negative split the run and go sub 3:30. I tried not to let the numbers get into my head.

On the way back out on the course I saw Aimee for the first time. She was still with the 3:56 group and looked strong. Before the race I told her that we didn’t need to talk or yell words of encouragement. We were there for business and would preserve our energy for the task at hand. As we passed we would simply point at each other and keep going.

Since the majority of the race course was on the bike path we were well covered with trees. It wasn’t until the mile 15 that I took the tube socks off my arms. I dropped them at an aid station before getting some water.

At mile 16 we headed out towards an industrial park that served as the second out and back section. Miles 17 and 18 were back there. I remember that it was here that I started to feel the effects of the race. Mile marker 18 was my wall. I had to fight through and tear down the wall. I used the people around me to pull me through. I tried to stay with some people passing me but I didn’t have the energy to stick. I took off my headband at an aid station and let it fall to the ground. I could tell I was sweating underneath so off it came. The crowds and volunteers were still cheering us on as I struggled with this section of the race. As I was heading out from the industrial park Aimee was heading in still hanging with the 3:56 group. We pointed again and kept going.

Back on the bike path I had to pee, second time. I finally found a tree that would work for me. It was off the path enough that I wouldn’t be offending anyone. The 3:29 pace group went by. I tried to latch onto them but again, nothing was there. It was becoming a marathon of survival. The lack of training and mileage in the legs was starting to take its toll.

At mile 20 I said to myself that I only needed to hang on for another 10k. I mean 10k should be nothing. I’ve done that before. That’s a training day. Keep moving forward and things will be okay. Just ignore the pain, fatigue, tightness, lack of energy, loss of focus, aching feet….you get the picture. JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD!

And I did. Slowly, I think. I didn’t know my pace and that was probably a good thing. Keep moving forward, take some water. Keep moving forward, take some Gatorade. Keep moving forward, wave to the nice spectators cheering for you. Keep moving forward, turn your number around for the photographer. Keep moving forward, turn the corner. Keep moving forward, there’s the YMCA. Keep moving forward, there’s the finish line.

When I finally reached the final straight I spotted Dale and Patty on the side of the road. It was finally time to reveal myself to the race and my friends. I slowly drifted over the side of the road. About twenty yards out Dale recognized me and I gave them both high fives. Someone was there to watch me finish. I continued on towards the finish line and was so relieved I could stop running after 3:33:10.

The race director was standing at the finish line to congratulate each and every person who finished. I shook his hand and thanked him for a great race.

I was given my shiny medal and blanket then headed towards the fluids and food.



I ran into Vicki again, she ran the half marathon. It is great to have someone to talk to after finishing a race. We chatted about our finishes and put another notch into our racing belts. I also ran into rootsrunner again. You may know already but he ran 3:04. We were both happy with our finishes. rootsrunner looks too happy while running.

I had grabbed my stuff from the gear check and got dressed to stay warm. I went back to the finish area to wait for Aimee. One of the great things about this race was that I could be right there to watch her finish and give her a big hug. Two more friends, Mary and Gina, finished before Aimee. I surprised them being at the finish line, much less being at the marathon. I gave them both huge hugs to celebrate the finishes.

We didn’t have to wait long until Aimee came across the finish line. I was pumped to be there for her PR 4:04. We chatted more with our Cleveland friends before we had to part ways. We showered at the Y and finally started our drive back home. Aimee was/is an angel and drove home the entire way so I could move around and keep stretching my legs. I knew the stiffness would settle in by day two.

In summary, several important lessons were reinforced during this race. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. I learned it more from this marathon than Ironman USA. At IM USA I was totally prepared and ready for the day. I was severely under trained for the marathon, yet I was still able to complete the 26.2 miles.

Don’t wear anything new on race day. This rookie mistake was costly and I still can’t believe I did it. Remember those Cleveland Tri Club shorts I decided to wear. Yeah, those shorts. The ones I have never raced in. The ones I have never run in. Bad choice. Very bad choice. The under regions were raw. The chafing began around mile 11 and didn’t improve no matter how I tried to re-arrange the shorts. I even had chaff lines from the padding up on my butt cheeks. Without being to descriptive, it was the worst chaffing ever. EVER.

Having a great support system around you during injury recovery is important. Aimee was rock solid the entire time. She listened to me complain about being injured and assured me things would be okay. Angela kept feeding me workouts that didn’t involve running. Scott provided the friendship and support that athletes desire late in the season. Tod provided the needles and mental training to help the muscles recovery and be ready to run. And it doesn’t stop there.

On the back of my race number I printed the following.

Aimee, Tina and Beth were there at the start of my marathon and they were there when I finished. I re-read my post about Beth and her letter to Running Times. Boston was always in the back of my mind. I may not have reached that goal but the changes during the challenge were significant.

I know I didn’t have any technical or numerical details, but does it matter? It’s all about the finish. And that 3:33:10 is a mighty fine number if you ask me. Another marathon is in my future. And I will be healthier and smarter next time......yeah......next time will be different.

Game On.

7 comments:

Bolder said...

great race, great report... congratz to you and Aimee!

following up with you and everyone on your offer for help!

the blog is up here:

http://bloggersagainstcancer.blogspot.com/

we are working through the name, and a graphic design... have a look!

TriBoomer said...

Nice report Eric. Congrats on a well executed race.

Stay tuned...

triguyjt said...

eric---nice report.. was curious how the whole acupuncture thing was done...
you ran very well. congrats.
see you at a race in 08.
j.t.

E-Speed said...

nice job Eric. I'm sure next time you run healthy you will crush your first marathon. 3:33 isn't too darn shabby though!

BreeWee said...

Congrats on your marathon! It was fun to read about your adventure and it got me motivated for mine in 2 weeks! Thanks for the encouragement!

Vickie said...

Well I'm glad you finally got your report finished! I'm behind on reading, so I'm glad you e-mailed me. You did fantastic, and it was great meeting Aimee and you and glad you came to GR.

DaisyDuc said...

Wow I give you a ton of credit. Sounds like you really had to have a lot of mental fortitude to make it through that race. Nice job! Welcome to marathons!!!