Quite a lot happened this week. I might have been more quiet than usual because I am going through some existentialist crisis. I still love running a whole lot. If I am given a choice, I would choose running. I would love to demonstrate my running feats. One up of things I did so to speak. I like to do hard races.
Lately though, I have been asking, is that all to it. And what is next for my next race. I have reached a plateau last May when I ran the MMT when I met my match. I could still improve certainly but they are no longer leaps and bounce like I used to do. I could still try for a 200 mile race but I see that as an evolution rather than a revolutionary change. I could also change my perspective, running for running’s sake. I do enjoy pure running, outside of racing. Anyway, I know whatever is bothering me will pass.
This weekend I had a chance to do a hard training plus the next day showed up at a marathon a hundred of miles away and ran it. This is what I like to live for and what I consider a good weekend.
I work during the week and during the weekend to run hard. It stretches me to the max, both physically and mentally.
Just on performance, I have reached a level that was not possible a few years ago. Not sure I wrote about the time when I qualified for the Marathon Maniacs club, where they required to run 3 marathons within 60 days. I ran two marathons back to back that year (Saturday and Sunday), and I thought that was hardest thing I did. (if I have time, I will dig up that post, since it parallels to this weekend)
I wondered while writing this, if I have a choice, would I rather have last year’s body or this year body? I think, it depends. Last year at this time, I was pretty beat up. I could hardly walk due to back pain. In the fall though, I was unstoppable. 2021 body is better than 2022 or 2023 in term of stat. I would like to have that body with my present experience. I would like that very much. It is kind of a mystery why my performance goes downhill. I guess it is hard to maintain that peak level.
But over time, I do see changes. Like now every weekend can be like that, being capable of doing big runs and recovering quickly. For those who can run a hundred miles in one go, coming back to run a marathon no longer is that daunting. I think, it is almost a joke to us. It is like me running a 5k. Yet running a marathon is for many people their life time achievement. It was for me once.
So this weekend, I went out and did a 35 mile training run on the Massanutten trail. This training run was considered the hardest of the three MMT 100 mile race trainings we did. First it was long, 35 miles, second it was hard, with a lot of climbing (6000 ft I think), and it was done in winter. Though spring is about around the corner, but we ran on a cold day. It was considered warm and nice, winter so to speak, but still it was a cold morning and the whole day was cold, with temperature around the 40s F (5-8 C?).
Last year I could not finish the whole training run and cut it short by 8 miles. I was determined to finish it this year. I made it to the cut off with 30 minutes to spare. And I was not to the last to finish. Two 72/73 years old men did beat me, but they were incredibly strong. Jeff, the guy I wrote before also, finished before me. Those guys are monsters. I did not even have a chance to catch a glimpse of him.
The first section on Kerns took me 4 hours. The second section over Bird Knob, took me also 4 hours. And the last 10 miles took me 3 hours. Total time spent was 11 hours for the day. So in thoery for the 100 mile race, if you multiply by 3, it would give me a 33 hours finishing and that is a good finishing time.
Doing this run was a different perspective running with fresh legs. I remember that during the 100 mile race, I was half dead, at mile 65. This 35 mile section of the race caused me to miss the race cutoff last year. This time I would train harder, so I won’t miss it again at this year’s race coming up in May.
After the training, with about four hours of sleep, I ran the Virginia Beach’s Shamrock Marathon. I tell you, this is hard. A normal me would not do something like this.
Without much a break, I drove down to Virginia Beach after my training run, arrived there past midnight. I had to make several stops at the rest areas because I was falling asleep behind the wheel. I always get that low energy after a good training run. Having to drive myself was dangerous.
There are a lot of things can be said about this marathon. I couldn’t do it full justice without writing a separate report.
The weather was colder than Saturday. I think we were in the high 30s with blustery winds. I think because we ran near the ocean without much covering, we were exposed and the winds were stronger.
That morning, I did not want to get up. If I could I would have slept in till 8 or 9. I snoozed my alarm a few times until 5 am and I knew I had to get up and get to the race otherwise there might not any parking spaces left. I wanted a free parking at Virginia Beach Middle School. The race did not start until 7:30 but they advised us to get there before 6:30. I arrived at about 6 am. I could sleep in a car for a bit before walking to the start. And we had about a mile or two of walking from our car to the start. Luckily the finish line was closer and so we did not have to walk that far back afterward. The start was at 45th street but the finish was near 25th street.
My feet were tired. I knew it. It was always hard to do a back to back run. Lately, I have been slacking on my Sunday’s runs and skipping many back to back long runs.
I signed up for this marathon exactly for that reason to put in a long run knowing I am a slacker. A race would force me to run even if I don’t feel like it.
I was assigned corral 7, but after checking the crowd there, I didn’t feel I was fit in. I might have put 4:30 as my finishing time and they put me in with the faster people. Normally, I could run that but today, I was doubtful. I felt intimidated to run with them today. I know my place. I don’t feel I could run a 4:30 marathon today. I moved myself to the last corral and I felt much better there.
The race started and I went out. A lot of people in my corral sprinted out. I could not kept up with them even though this was supposed to be a slower corral. Maybe many people had the same idea as me of moving back. I did catch sight of a few having corral 7 on their bibs but started in corral 10. But also there were a lot slower people. I felt right at home. I know it would take a few miles to get myself into pace.
Because I am in the slower corral, there were no pacers. I think the last pacer was 2:45 for the half marathoners and they lined up in corral 9. 2:45 would probably translated to 5:30 marathon finishing time. I set my goal to follow them. However, because they started early, they were gone.
In a race, I call this spagettifying. Fast people get faster and leave you behind. The slower people would drop back. In a perfectly sorted race, you see people’s pace stretches out, like spagetti.
Today though, all different paces seem to be mixed together. There were certainly slower people up front. I remembered walking up to corral 4 and saw some people, I think shouldn’t be there. Maybe they did not know their pace and put a randomly finishing time so got assigned to an earlier corral. So in a race, I would catch up to the slower people that lined up in earlier corrals. Things did not get spagettified until much later.
Miles flew by. I was not fast but I was moving. By halfway, I was in a pretty good shape. I passed people and people passed me. It was all jumbled. I liked how I can recognize many had gone out too fast and couple miles later I caught back up with them. Eventually though, I got into my right pace group of 12-13 min per mile pace.
The course was a loop out and back. squished loop. We ran north then turned around and we ran south and then turned around. We finished in the middle of the boardwalk at the Poseidon’s statue.
There were a lot of half marathoners. It was like a 100 to one in my corral. Everywhere I looked was a sea of green bibs (the half marathoners). It was hard to find someone around my pace and running the marathon. By the time I was halfway, the front runners already finished.
The reason I mentioned this is in some races after the half marathoners finished, the race feels very lonely because you are by yourself alone on a long course. Shamrock Marathon did not feel like that. I felt constantly people all around me.
By mile 19, we turned around one last time. People started to lose steam. People started walking and I started passing them in earnest. Funny I did not bonk or hit what they called the “wall”. I felt fresh by now and could really run. I had the energy to sustain my push all the way to the finish and finished at 5:09. I believe I ran a negative split or at least an even split. It was not a fast marathon for me when I normally ran below 4:30. However, I was happy. I thought the whole time I might finish over 6 hours. I was really aiming for 6 hours.
I stayed around for two more hours until the 7 hour people came in. I recognized many of them because I was around them at the beginning in their corral.
I had a few conversations during the race. I had a good day. Some memorable moments were at halfway we saw the faster people finishing. I believe I saw the first female coming in as I was still going out. There were tons of people who could run sub 3 hours or around there. It was just incredible.
I did have my doubts in the first few miles about if I could even finish because my legs felt like lead at the time. I thought it would be a struggle.
Also the last mile seemed incredibly long. Everyone picked up their pace. I felt my own pace was slowing down.
The winds were constantly blowing. Sometimes we had tail winds and it felt so good to be pushed. But head winds were bad. On finishing stretch, we faced head winds and many chose to walk. I don’t blame them.
Finishing swag was great. We had many things. Snacks, drinks, wafers, cookies and a nice premium blankie. No wonder we paid so much for this race, however, with the high inflation going on, it didn’t seem too bad.
There was a finisher tent where they served beer and real food (I think) but I did not enter because I did not like to walk on sand and did not want sand to be in my car. I think they gave us 4 glasses of beer, which is a lot. Normally, we usually get one free beer only. In some races, two (Cowtown). I missed out on the beer. Many half marathoners stayed behind for the food and beer and live music, which is good. I have been to many races where by the 7th hour, the race finishing line felt like a ghost town. Not here. Many people stayed around even on a cold and windy day like today.
We also ran through two military bases and I felt that was interesting. Normally, I haven’t been in a military base. They had their guards carrying rifles. Their police officers were everywhere. They didn’t want us to sneaking around on the base. We stayed on the main roads.
How do I close? I wish I sort out my heart issue. It is a funny feeling I can’t explain. I love running and I wish I have a reason to run and be happy. I know eventually, things will work out. Feeling like this comes and goes. I call them post marathon blue. They usually happen after I ran a big race.
Also this run was like a dress rehersal for next week run at Outer Banks, a hundred mile run. I hope next week would be warmer. But the wind, now I know I need to dress for the constant blowing. Cap, neck gaiter, lip balm, gloves, etc. I need to plan for my drop bags. At least three, mile 25, 50 and 75. Next week will be a real challenge for me.
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