Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Walking To The Finish Line of The Headlands Marathon

It seems that the Napa Valley Marathon at the beginning of March, in which I ran my first sub 4 hour, took a lot more out of me than I expected. I knew I would be ill prepared for this marathon, and it definitely showed. Alas, I indeed did walk to the finish line. A little deceptive, but true just the same.

Golden Gate Headlands Marathon - 4:49:50 (12:20 pace; 16/27)

The day didn't start off on the right foot. I had showered and eaten a large breakfast before setting out on the 1 hour 24 minute drive to Rodeo Beach in Sausalito, CA, and I didn't realize that I had forgotten to put body glide on my nipples! Oh, the agony of remembering my first marathon where my nipples were rubbed raw from my shirt, or of seeing other runners with blood running down their shirt. I swore I would never forget to put on the body glide (incidentally I did remember to apply it the other chafing spots at least). This put a spark of doubt before I even started.

The race started and we set off immediately up a hill that would last for about 2 miles. Incidentally, this is virtually the same trails that I ran for the Rodeo Beach 50k and had ran my best race thus far. I knew immediately that I was not going to repeat myself. I stowed away my pride in my back pocket and began the long grind ahead of me as the hills seemed to take a lot more out of me than normal. By the time I was coming up to mile 12 I was already doubting whether I would be able to continue, as this is a two loop course where you pass by the finish line. In fact, you have to walk past the record keepers at the finish line to get to the aid station.

But on I pushed, and not only was there the 2 mile hill in the beginning with some rather steep parts, but at about mile 4.5 is another 2.5-3 mile hill that has no respites. Just keep going up. By the time I rounded the valley and came in view of the Pacific Ocean the wind had picked up and I had to literally lean into the wind in order to stay up right. And this was where the deceptive title comes into play. To get to the finish line, and the half way point as well, you have to run down the beach, in the heavy sand! I don't know if you have ever tried doing this but you can't get a firm footing, then your foot is heavy as you try to lift your sand covered foot. Needless to say, I wasn't having any of this so I walked. Yup, I walked to the finish line. Luckily the last 200 ft. went up the bank and onto concrete, so I didn't have to literally walk across the finish. But it was all the same.

This was a very hard race, and I only have myself to blame. I haven't been running as much so my body wasn't used to the long running, as well as doing only one trail training run recently. And the aid stations were pitiful. Water at every aid station (some with sports drink), and food at every other aid station. And the food was not appetizing at all. I had to resort to my Cliff Shot Bloks which held me over, but certainly wasn't enough to sustain myself for the whole distance. And this is the story of my running career so far: not eating or drinking enough. Interestingly enough, and you would think this would be lesson enough, my two PRs for the Marathon and the 50k both came on days that I ate and drank as I should have. Says a lot right there.

And on a side note I am a little irked at Eviro Sports, the organization that put on the event. They put a note on their website, What's in a distance?, that tries to explain this away, but c'mon, couldn't they try and get a little closer to the actual marathon distance? As is the distance only came in at 24 miles! Imagine finishing your marathon or half marathon and believing you had just set a PR that was faster than a road marathon or halfer! Okay, a bit extreme, but still. I understand a bit off, but 2.2 miles! So if it was a marathon my time would have been more like 5:15, which was still a PR for a trail marathon, so woohoo for me!

Oh well. You win some, you lose some.


Nancy said...

Oh my, sounds like a real challenge with those long hills. I love Sausalito but maybe not for a marathon. :D

Good work getting through. When will you and I quit learning the hydration lesson?

Nice work. Always amazes me how far you have come.


Bill Carter said...

Hi Brian

Sounds like a really tough run and maybe not the experience you were hoping for. But one thing that I really respect and enjoy about your running is the fact that you are willing to try different things. If all you ever strived for was another PR, you would eventually look for only downhill courses or run a very few races.

Congrats on another distance experience even though it wasn't a PR or maybe your best time.

Brian Hawkinson said...

Thanks Nancy and Bill, always love the kind words and support, not to mention reading up on both of your running adventures. Enjoyed reading about your triathlon Nancy, and will be running the 10k on the 10th next month. Bill, rooting for you this weekend at Boston, should be a fun one for you.