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Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012 Honolulu Marathon Recap

15 minutes from the start with my wife and 16 year old son
     Five days have passed since the Honolulu Marathon and I'm finally getting over my disappointment.  Wait...what?  How can someone who just set a PR (breaking a 20 year old previous best by 10 minutes) and finally qualified for the Boston Marathon after 30 years of trying (and #2 on my Bucket List) not be ecstatic?  
     I don't know why.  Maybe it's just a case of post race blues.  I dedicated the past 11 months specifically for this one race and qualifying and maybe now that it's over I'm sad?  Or maybe it's because I have thought so much about how it would feel that I was disappointed when those exact feelings never came to light.  Maybe I had gotten so wrapped up in racing and qualifying that I had forgotten the most important part - that running is a gift and a joy.  
     Other than meeting my BQ time, the finishing time wasn't terribly important to me.  But I had basically dedicated the last year to this race and based off my preparation, I had certain time expectations - 3:15 was my goal with 3:10 being ideal.  Anything under 3:25 would be a disaster.  I also had several other goals (in order of priority):

2012 Honolulu Marathon Goals
  1. Don't repeat any stupid mistakes that I had made in previous races.
  2. Qualify for Boston (sub 3:25).  This would also encompass a sub 3:30 and a PR.
  3. Run the entire 26.2 miles (22 miles was my longest non-stop run).
  4. Don't make any new stupid mistakes.
  5. Don't be a wuss.
  6. Have fun.
The Plan
     With a great year of training under my belt and some pretty good recent results at the half marathon and 25k distances, I felt a 3:10 marathon was very achievable.  3:15 was probably more realistic with the heat and humidity, but I decided there was enough buffer between 3:10 and the required 3:25 needed to qualify for Boston that it was worth the risk.
     My plan was to average 7:15 per mile for the entire 26.2, but to go out 20 seconds per mile slower (7:35) for the 1st three.  I would then push up to 7:05 per mile for files 4 through 20, except for the climbs up the front and back of Diamond Head between miles 7 and 9.  With the heat and humidity, I also planned on fading 10 to 20 seconds per mile in the last 10k and an extra 35 seconds for the climb back over Diamond head at mile 24.
      Before the race, I wrote 4 splits on my race number to keep me on track - 6 miles @ 44:04, 13.1 miles @ 1:35, 20 miles @ 2:24, and 24 miles at 2:54.


First 11 Miles
     Under a blanket of fireworks, we stepped off at exactly 5:00 am.  Malia was running her own race and the plan was for our 16 year old son Makai (first marathon) to stay with me as long as he could.  He's a faster runner than either of us at shorter distances, but hadn't put in any runs over 13 miles, so we didn't know when he'd fade.
     Lots of traffic in the first mile, but we were able to (maybe not so gently) navigate through it.  With the help of my Garmin, we were able to hold back and hit pretty close to 7:35s for the 1st three miles.  Hitting 7:05 after that was a bit more difficult.  My body just seemed to want to settle into a 7:09 pace.  I didn't fight it.  The pace felt good and I didn't want to get into the "uncomfortable zone" before the half way point.  Four seconds a mile for half the race wouldn't even cost me a minute overall, plus, I could make it up on the backside.  Makai was running effortlessly and we actually were having fun checking out all the crazy spectators lining the streets of Waikiki.  
     After my disastrous episode of hyponatremia on Pikes Peak, I started taking Succeed S! Caps every 30 minutes on any run over 10 miles.  I went to take my first one at the 2nd aid station.  I had 6 in a little zip-loc baggy and I dropped one.  Luckily I learned a very important lesson long ago - "If you need one, bring two".  I was carrying 2 bags with 6 S! Caps each just in case something like that happened.  Crisis adverted.
     At the 6 mile mark, we were just 2 seconds shy of plan - 44:07 vs 44:05.  Looking good!  Shortly after hitting mile 7, we started the first climb up Diamond Head.  Makai dropped off at the base of the climb and I didn't see him until the finish. It's hard to leave your kid behind, but we had discussed this plan before hand and he knew he would be running his own race on his own terms.

Splits:
1 - 7:36
2 - 7:39
3 - 7:28
4 - 7:09
5 - 7:06
6 - 7:09
7 - 7:09
8 - 7:27
9 - 7:06
10 - 7:04

Miles 11-16
     Miles 11 through 16 are along Kalanianaole Highway and head directly into the prevailing trade winds.  Although they had been virtually non-existent for the week leading up to the marathon, they were back on race day with a vengeance.  You'd think that with 31,000 runners, you'd find somebody, anybody, to draft behind.  But with only 200 people stretched out over 6 miles between me and the race leaders, I was pretty much left to battle the winds on my own.
     After pushing to stay close to pace between mile 11 and 12, I opted to focus on perceived effort vs actual pace until I got to the turnaround out near mile 16.  I pretty much kept a 7:25 pace and didn't feel like it was taking much more effort to keep it.

Splits:
11 - 7:10
12 - 7:15
13 - 7:23
14 - 7:25
15 - 7:25
16 - 7:24

Miles 17-22
     Runners have bad days.  I realize that.  You just hope it doesn't happen on race day.  There's probably a rational explanation that I'll figure out sooner or later, but I just couldn't hold pace once we turned around in Hawaii Kai and got the wind at our back.  Every mile after 18, I just kept slowing down about 15 seconds per mile.
     Maybe I'm just a 30k runner.  It seems like everything seems to go south for me after 18.  I think I've addressed any electrolyte imbalance, but I probably still need to look at dehydration as a possible culprit.  I sweat over a liter per hour on training runs.  On race day, I've probably lost 2.5 - 3 liters by 30k.
     At the 20 mile mark, I looked down at my watch and bib for a quick time check - 2:27:19 vs a planned 2:24.  I started crunching numbers.  3:15 was still doable, but I'd have to get my legs back soon.  Almost 58 minutes to do a 10k and still get my BQ?  That's over 9 min/mile.  I'm good.  Just keep running.
     Once I saw my pace drop into the 8 min/mile range, I told myself "Quit looking at your watch.  Just focus on running.  Running slow is faster than walking fast."  3:15 was quickly becoming a distant dream, but a BQ and running the entire race were getting closer.

Splits:
17 - 7:26
18 - 7:24
19 - 7:39
20 - 7:55
21 - 8:07
22 - 8:23

Miles 23 - Finish Line
     Mile 23 is probably the easiest mile after the first 10k, and I seemed to find a sustainable grove.  But 24 and 25 are the most difficult.  24 has an almost visually unnoticeable incline, but your legs feel it.  Coming up on the mile marker, I did another planned vs actual check - 3:01 vs 2:54.  Seven minutes behind schedule.  A 3:15 was nearly impossible.  I would need to do 6:20s for the last 2.2 miles and I still had the climb up Diamond Head.
      I think this is the point that ruined my race.  Instead of digging deep and giving it everything I had for another 15 or 20 minutes, I made a mental shift out of race mode and into just plain run mode.  The last 100 yards of mile 24 has a good step up before hitting an aid station.  The climb was enough to cause a hamstring to cramp as I was grabbing a cup of Gatorade.  Without thinking, I walked.  Damn!  So close!  I really wish I had just sucked it up and pushed.  But I was able to get up and over Diamond Head without walking, so that was a small consolation. 
     With sub 3:25 still safe, I cruised the last mile through the park.  I saw Malia's parents along with my youngest son, so jogged over to them and gave Kanoa a high five.  25 yards from the finish, I stopped and pulled out my camera to capture the moment.  I wasn't ecstatic, but I has happy.  Malia finished close behind at 3:25 and Makai pushed hard to post a 3:51!
    
Splits:

23 - 8:22
24 - 8:56
25 - 9:28
26 - 8:54

Positives
  • Didn't repeat any previous mistakes.
  • Not only did I PR, but now I know what my actual PR is (3:22:05).  I no longer have to say "I ran a 3:32 or 3:34 back in the 90s"!!!
  • Qualified for the 2014 Boston Marathon
  • Single furthest continuous run (24 miles)
  • Ran very controlled in the first 3 miles
  • Ran the first 11 miles very close to plan
  • I ran the entire way up and over Diamond Head between 24 and 25 1/2 mile
  • First time using Peppermint Altoids during a race (at mile 22).  Besides settling my stomach, it gave me a little mental boost (and fresh breath).  I may use them in every race from now on.
  • I finished another marathon!
  • I ran almost 3 hours faster than I did at the Pikes Peak Marathon just 4 months ago
  • I had fun
  • I usually feel like crap for most of the day after a marathon.  Not this time!
Less Than Positives
  • I allowed a clock (instead of a distance) to dictate when my race was over
  • I think I should have held back a little more when running into the wind between miles 11-16
  • I was never able to recover once the wind was at my back at 17
  • I still haven't actually run an entire marathon yet
  • Not even close to a negative split (1:35:51 and 1:46:14)
  • 1 + "I have no clue how many marathons I've finished" = "I still have no clue how many marathons I've finished"
      Okay, so when I look at on paper, there's lots more that went right than wrong.  Maybe I should just sit back and enjoy it for a bit.  Nah, I got more miles to run.

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