Ten months ago I was set on the idea of qualifying for Boston with this race. A week before the race I was in the ER to try to find a reason for my recent spikes in heart rate while running. I wasn’t sure that this marathon was even going to happen, let alone what pace I could maintain. Add to it the fact that summer really hasn’t gone away yet in central Florida and I was seriously entertaining the idea of running at a snail’s pace.
Once I figured out that either the Zyrtec or the Albuterol (or both) were at least partially responsible for the heart rate spikes, I stopped using both and saw my heart rate drop, but still not to where it was two months ago. Race time (6am) temperature was forecast at 70 degrees, but weren’t we pleasantly surprised when it was only 68 at the start of the race! Even with the cold front I was still using a conservative race plan (BQ was definitely out of the question) and expected that I’d have to adjust my plan along the way based on how I felt and my heart rate, something that I failed to do 5 weeks ago at the Lighthouse Loop half. I decided to start the race with the four-hour pace group and even managed a few miles just in front of the pacer. Due to the congestion near the start our first mile was a little slower than it should have been (9:22) but not bad. After the second mile (9:06) I decided to jump in front of the pacer in order to grab some room to move.
I am able to know that I’m comfortable with a run when I can run splits that are pretty even without the use of a pacer. The next three miles were done in 8:57, 8:55, and 8:56. I like it! What I didn’t like was that the sun was up and so was my heart rate. For the fifth mile I averaged 165. Miles 6 through 14 were good as far as pacing goes, averaging 9:05, and I crossed the halfway point in 1:59:31. Mission accomplished for the first half, except for that pesky heart rate. Mile 14 averaged 180bpm. At this rate of increase I would have 3-4 miles left before I maxed out. I started working in some walk breaks which worked well for about 4 miles. The problem with walk breaks for me is that my legs don’t want to start running again once they have tasted the glorious feeling of walking. Miles 15-18: pace 10:23, HR 175.
By the 19th mile the bottoms of my feet started hurting and I could feel the burning start in my calves. I was not used to either of these sensations coming from long runs, but I knew that I didn’t like either one. I forced myself to run more than I wanted to and tried to keep the walk breaks relatively short. Miles 19-26 varied from 11:16 to 13:04, with an average heart rate of only 165. I could have pushed harder from a heart rate standpoint, but I just didn’t have any more in me. For the last half mile I used the support of the crowd to keep me running and sent my heart rate to its highest point for the entire race (183), but I finished the race running. I also finished it with a PR at 4:31:37, 16:02 faster than I finished the same race last year.
There were several similarities between this year’s race and last year’s version, and one major difference. I felt aching in my back both years so I need more gym time! I went out faster last year, reaching 13.1 in about 1:54 and I started slowing down about a mile sooner than this year. This year I had only 1 mile over 12:45, where last year I had six in a row over 13:45. This tells me that I have made improvements and I have better self-control, but I still need long-run work, especially at or near race pace. In shorter races the finishing time might tell a large part of the story, but in a marathon what happens along the way tells so much.
And for the race highlights that weren’t about me: My friend Christin drove to Cocoa from Orlando on race morning to see me finish, which I appreciate so much! I got to see some other friends set PR’s. Because of this race I have a new favorite spectator sign: Is that a gel in your pocket or are you following a hottie? Very nice. And if you missed it, consider yourself lucky because the guy who likes to run this race in just a speedo (shirtless too) was back again this year. And thankfully so were the people who live along the race route who take pleasure in spraying runners with a garden hose if they want it. I thoroughly enjoyed being sprayed! I will be back for this race again next year, better prepared and ready to collect my 3-year Milky Way Challenge finisher medal.