Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wisconsin Marathon 2010 - a 4:17, a tough day, a humbling experience

Today, I ran my 2nd marathon. 

Location = Kenosha, Wisconsin
Date = May 1, 2010
Weather = low 60s at the start, sunny, extremely humid (100%), 20 mph winds. Temperature near 70 during race. 
My time = 4:17, half marathon split 1:55

Tough race today. Despite not meeting my goal time, I'm still proud of my performance, as I was feeling really bad starting around mile 9 and I really did not want to run 26 miles at that point.  It was extremely hard for me to simply finish this marathon (versus my first marathon when I ran a 3:58 in NYC and didn't walk at all). Today, I probably walked 5 miles of the course. When I saw my friend RFL at mile 12 as he was finishing his half marathon, I yelled to him "I'm going to be right around 4 hours". He said "that's ok, that's great". This motivated me to keep going. When I saw my friend BGR at mile 19, I said to him "I think I'm going to be at around 4:40". At one point, I actually thought that I might not break 5 hours, that's how bad I felt.

I'm proud because I kept going. I'm proud because I decided that having fun and staying healthy was more important than pushing myself to misery trying to break 4 hours. I run to feel good, stay fit, keep my Crohn's disease in remission, and so that I can run tomorrow. I had a great time once I decided to walk. I knew 4 hours was gone at that point. I really enjoyed talking to other runners (I think I spoke to every single runner around me except those wearing headphones that couldn't hear me, which is funny, because I normally don't talk to anybody when I run because I listen to music.  My xm radio died at mile 12 so I ran the second half without music). Talking to other runners totally changed my perspective forever. It made me truly appreciate how tough it really is to run a marathon and that everybody has good and bad days.  It was extremely humbling for me. I felt, for the first time as a runner, that I was living the experience with others. Most of all, I'm proud that I ran my 2nd marathon!!

The race ran through the neighborhood that I grew up in (and my mom met me on the out and back, out and back course 4 times, which was great!). My friends BGR (first full marathon, from New York) and RFL (half marathon, from Highland Park) also came to Kenosha to run the race, which is great. I also met my friend MT (half marathon) and SJ (first full marathon) at the race. My friend CBS came to play the his steel drum for runners, which was very cool (and it was great to see him too).  I also saw many old friends before, during, or after the race, which was very cool.

My time was 37 minutes below my goal of 3:40. All of my friends that ran the marathon were 23-40 minutes below their goal time. Tough day for all. My average heart rate was 171 for mile one (during the race, I saw that my heart rate was in the low 170s around mile 8, although I didn't realize that my average heart rate was 173 for my first 2 miles until I checked after the race). Way too high and very abnormal for me. At mile 8, I knew this meant trouble. I had a wicked cold early in the week, but I thought I was recovered by the race. Perhaps the cold contributed to the high heart rate? Even when I was walking after mile 13, it was in the 140s, also very abnormal for me. I've had training runs where I have run long runs at an 8:35 pace where my heart rate averages in the high 140s (although the temperature was in the 40s or 50s and the humidity was low).  The high heart rate shows why I felt like running was so much harder today.

I started out strong and stayed to my gameplan of running an 8:20-8:40 pace for the first 10 miles or so, but I just didn't have it today after that. I was hot, tired, and my average heart rate was way above normal for this pace. The humidity, heat, wind, and loss of my iPod at mile 12 killed me (the battery died, one of my worst nightmares).

Today was quite a humbling experience. I'll use it as a learning experience for my next race, where I will force myself to go even slower at the start (around 9:00 per mile).  Even if I would have started out slower, I'm not sure that I would have had any energy at the end.  I'll never know.

I started to feel bad around mile 9. I was bloated from drinking water/Gatorade together.  Plus, there weren't enough water stations, which was a killer with the temp in the 70s and 100% humidity plus the sun and wind. I really wish that the water and gatorade stations would have been staggered one mile apart (instead of being together every 2 miles), so that I could drink water at one mile then gatorade at the next (I saw the race director after the race and recommended this to him for next year's race).  This would have been beneficial because (1) runners would have had a liquid every mile, somthing that was badly needed because of the heat and humidity, and (2) it would have helped me drink less liquid at one time, as I would not have felt the pressing need to drink both every 2 miles (which caused me to get bloated and feel sick).  I actually thought that I might pass out at a few points (and one woman did with a 107 temperature right as she finished the half marathon - she's in Intensive care). I considered dropping out of the race. I have never considered dropping out of a race before. Generally, it is not a good sign for a marathon runner if he/she is tired of running before getting to double digit miles. When I saw my friend RFL near his half marathon finish (mile 12), I thought to myself "man, I wish I was done". Then, I saw my mom at mile 12, which perked me up. Before the race, I was worried about my xm radio battery dying but I couldn't find a replacement battery the day before. Therefore our gameplan was for me to run with my iphone for the 2nd half of the race if I needed it. So, my mom gave me a couple of GUs at this point but I told her that my xm radio was ok. Oops. About 40 steps later my radio died. I thought about running back to her, but didn't. 2 minutes later, I saw a family sitting on their lawn to cheer runners along. I said to them "do you guys live here?". "Yes", they responded. I said "would you mind if I leave my radio with you and I'll pick it up after the race?". They said yes, and I threw my radio on their nice lawn as I continued to run.

The night before the marathon, there were severe thunderstorms and the temperature was around 80.  When the race started at 7am, it was already 61 degrees, with 100% humidity and 20 mph winds.  The forecast projected the temperature to reach the 70s during the race with sunshine.  Unfortunately, the wind was not coming from Lake Michigan either, so it was not a cool breeze.

Over the course of my marathon training, I have learned that each person is different.  Some people like running in cold weather (me) and others like it a little warmer.  No marathon runner likes temperatures in the 60s or 70s with 100% humidity and wind.  I have only run one other race with this type of weather (a half marathon last fall in New York, and I had my worst race ever, walking a fair amount during the race, logging a 2:04).  Until today, that was the only race that I walked in. 

My goal for this marathon was to finish in the 3:40s.  I was properly trained for the race, having run three separate 20 mile training runs in the 8:23 - 8:35 per mile range (a 3:43 marathon would be an 8:30 per mile pace).  My natural comfortable running pace is usually between 8:20 - 8:35 per mile, and lately I was running many of my short runs below 8 minutes per mile.


- After the race, I sat in Lake Michigan for 20 minutes to "ice" my legs. The water temperature was around 38 degrees. It definitely helped my recovery.
- After the race, we went to the Kenosha YMCA to sit in the jacuzzi and to shower. The jacuzzi really helped us feel better.
- It was great to see my friend CBS playing his steel drum for runners during the race. Very, very cool.
- It was great to see my friend SH (a triathelete) watching the race with his 2 dogs (he said that the dogs like the "socialization"). This made me laugh.
- After the race, it was great going to dinner with my friends JL, TM, SJ, MT, and RFL. We had a great time.
- My splits from my Garmin 405 GPS watch for the entire race

At the 4 mile point....

My friends BGR (full), MT (half), SJ (full) and RFL (half) after the race (with Lake Michigan in the background)


  1. Congratulations! I am happy to hear others had tough days out there. I blamed my heavy legs for the back-to-back marathon thing but I'm sure the weather played a big part, too.

    I'm sure you still had a great experience with friends and family there to share the day with you!

    Were you by chance talking to two girls in the portapotty line before the race? A guy behind me was chatting to two ladies and he was from NYC. The women were doing the half. I'm sure there were tons of NYC runners there but thought I'd ask.

    I wish I had thought to do a soak in Lake Michigan after the race. I lost my sunglasses at the finish, though, and it sort of threw me off.

    You might find another marathon in the next month or so to piggy back off your training. If the weather lines up I bet you could run the 3:40 you were going for.

  2. I was the guy talking to the 2 girls running the half. How funny. What a small world! Good luck in your training and I'm looking forward to reading your posts. I also read the Big Sur post today. I hope to run that marathon someday!

  3. Congrats dude. It must have been great to go back to your home town and run a marathon. Heat and humidity are really tough for a marathon -- it sounds like you handled it well.
    May you have many fine runs ahead.
    Looking forward to seeing you in the park.