Monday, February 18, 2008

LCFB Marathon - Race Report

I qualified again for the Boston Marathon yesterday. Here is a recap of my race experience.

I flew into Columbus on Saturday morning. I spent Saturday driving around in my rental car. I revisited the places where I began my career and spent my first years after college. This included trips to the satellite college for the university from which I earned my MBA, my old apartment and the office of the company where I started out ten years ago.

After I got the trip down memory lane out of the way, I checked into the hotel. After picking up my chip and what I would call a questionable race windshirt, I stepped out of the hotel and ran a few recovery miles on the course.

My friends, Steve and Aaron, drove over in the evening from Pittsburgh. Both are registered for Boston and had planned to help pace me. Aaron decided to run the half at the last minute.

We got up at 5:30 AM on Sunday. As I gain more race experience, I've learned to not fret over the weather forecast for race day. The fact is that no one knows which way the wind will blow.

Forecast was for solid, steady rain with high winds and temps in the 40's. Had this not been a small race with me staying right on the course, I probaby would have over-dressed. The race was at 8:00. I made a call at 7:20 to wear shorts and two long-sleeve layers and a hat.

The course is set in an office park that includes various buildings, a few hotels and a Max and Erma's. Thrilling, right?

At race time, the rain died and the winds were mild. It was great. The weather was going to cooperate, it appeared. I knew I would be shedding my top layer pretty early in the race.

They set the marathoners 0.2 behind the start, so your first lap is 1.2 miles. Although they used a chip system, everyone was on "gun time". As usual, the start was a bit chaotic and my first 0.2 was slow. Then I over-compensated by running a 6:45 first mile.

This was a high-traffic race the entire way through - especially in the beginning, since a 5k, 10k and half were all being run. The course was marked by pylons and the pathway was very narrow. Most annoying was a very plus-sized woman walking in the dead center of an already very narrow path. Couldn't she have walked on the outside edge of the pilons?

There were quarter mile markers, which is the main reason my splits were so consistent. After I got the lay of the course, I would hit 1/4 around 1:45 (this marker felt slightly short), the 1/2 at 3:31, the 3/4 at 5:17, which would get me in around 7:08-7:10 for the lap. I needed a couple of miles to figure this out, which is why my first mile was too fast and my second was a little behind.

After I knocked out 5.2, Steve hopped in with me to run the final 21 miles. He was running strong. Later, after completing his half, Aaron would join us for the final 5. Steve and Aaron pulled me through the last few miles.

Really the majority of the race was uneventful. I just kept nailing splits. Winds became increasingly a factor, but only for 0.5 mile increments. The benefit of a 1-mile loop is that you are never in the head winds for more than 1/2 mile at a time.

Once I had six miles to go, I knew I had a BQ. When I hit the final three, I wanted to be sure I got a 3:07.

To summarize, this race is not about getting any scenery or fanfare that comes with large marathons. It is not for those who need spectators to cheer them on. It is about predictability. It is for those who want to meticulously plan out there splits and want to know where they are on the course at all times.

Although it sounds painfully monotonous, running the 26.2 laps wasn't that bad. When I hit 20, it actually felt easier counting off the final miles six knowing exactly what to expect. It took away the uncertainty.

I attribute this comfort to training also. I think back to a tempo run I had on the track over Christmas time. I ran 48 laps on the track, including 7 at a very consistent tempo pace. This workout helped prepare me for this particular marathon.

The official race results show that I finished 8th overall with a 3:07:46. Never dreamed I would be a top 10 finisher in a marathon. Okay, so it wasn't exactly a Chicago-sized field. No matter, it is a BQ and a PR!

Obviously, I am pleased that I ran the race. I think what it is astounding to me is that I had no tune-up races whatsoever this training cycle and no training partners to run with. I know I have more minutes to shave. I negative splitted even after you take out my 35 second pee break on mile 8.

In short, I know I can go faster. I had gas left in the tank and my training was not all that difficult. I may kick it up to the Pfitz 70mpw when I am ready to go for sub-3 again.

So would I do this marathon again? Not likely. I'd need to be pretty desperate to get into Boston and have no other options. I do recommend it for people that are experienced marathoners who need a BQ. This is not a first time marathoner's race. The organization was fine. However, there is only so much appeal to paying $80 to run around an office park.

For now, I will plan for Boston, which will be a last minute call depending on Jen's doctor's input. I have the March Madness Half Marathon in four weeks.


robtherunner said...

Good summary of a race like this. You're right, it's not for everyone. You knew that going in and planned things out and followed through with your plan. Once again, congratulations!

Love2Run said...

Nice job BQ'ing! Your splits will never be so consistent there. Lots of time to recover and get ready.

yumke said...

Great job. You are running strong which gives all of us hope that hard work and smart preparation can improve marathon times. How many of the other marathoners were going for BQs?

jen said...

Ryan!!! Wow!

Great report and spectacular race. You are a machine. You are a strong, consistant, confident runner and this race proved it. Beautiful. Congratulations on the PR, the BQ, the top 10 finish, and being insanely fast. Nice work. :)

Ryan said...

Yumke, it was hard to tell who was going for what out there. It's interesting running a marathon on a 1-mile loop - that is also hosting a 10k, 1/2 mary and 5k. There are all kinds of people everywhere. Talk about anti-climatic at the finish... not even the race officials knew that I was finishing until I was pumping my fist!

Darrell said...

Awesome job Ryan, very proud of you and your effort. I appreciated your humble attitude going into race morning from a couple of posts ago. This is certainly a special race and not for everybody. I'm really glad it worked out so well for you. Very cool to have your friends there to run the last miles with you.

All the best with the new arrival and I hope Boston works out for you.

See Zanne Run said...

i almost ran this race! i tried to BQ at columbus in october 2007 (my second marathon) and it was disastrous ... so i wanted a second chance - while i knew it was a total long shot, my coach was going to pace me at the birmingham marathon - birmingham is crazy hilly ... it was not a BQ which was hugely disappointing, but it was a PR. lcfb sounds mind-numbing, but it does seem like a guaranteed qualifier.

congrats on your run - fun to be in top 10! have a great time in boston!