With 60 marathons on the schedule for 2010, I’m bound to get a little bit of everything. I thought I got a year’s worth of painful misery last weekend in the Med City Marathon in Rochester, Minn. Unfortunately, the San Diego Rock ‘N Roll Marathon served up a second serving on Sunday.
I headed into the race thinking I could get run in the 3:06 range if everything went right. This was my fifth time running the course, and I’ve made mistakes there, but I’ve also run it well. Early on the course is quick, then there’s a good hill about nine miles in, which is followed by a big downhill and then no elevation changes of consequence.
The biggest thing that impacts me in San Diego is the humidity. The temperatures are relatively cool. The first two hours are usually in the mid-60s, which isn’t perfect, but it’s always colder in San Diego than where I live, so it feels okay. There’s a cloud cover, too. So physically, it feels good, but the humidity makes it tough for your body to cool down. As a result, what feels like an easy effort is actually tough.
Last year, I ran by feel and willingly ignored heart rate. My pace was fine, but my heart rate was at the 10K level. If you do that for seven miles, the last 19 are going to be miserable. And they were. So this year, I knew to be very careful and stay within my limits. I did that early and stayed under control. I expected to be a little fast, and I was. I know how I’ve been running lately and I figured I’d be ahead of sub-3 pace until mile nine when we headed up the hill on the 163, where I’d lose it, then get it back down the ensuing downhill and eventually be in a good race against myself.
I could tell it was humid early on, but I ran well. I went through the 10K in the high 42s and felt pretty optimistic about the day. But at about mile 7, I started to get a little stiff in my legs. It wasn’t a terrible feeling, but it was unusual and I was a little concerned.
At mile 8, I started to get the hip pain I’ve been feeling in all of my races for the past month or so. Mile 8 has been where it’s been kicking in, so I wasn’t surprised. And it started to feel pretty painful pretty quickly. It started to work its way down my leg and by about mile 9, I finally realized that the problem is in my IT band in my right leg.
I was in a considerable amount of pain and by the time we started heading up the hill, I knew it was going to be a long day. I actually held a pretty good pace going up the hill, and I moved well on the subsequent downhill, but I was yelling “ouch” a lot more than I wanted to.
Once I was at about mile 12, the wheels came off. I went through the half in something like 1:34:58. Trends to a 3:10, but I figured I’d do 3:13 or 3:14 at best. By 16.5, though, I had a limp in my stride, like last week in Rochester. It was on-and-off the rest of the way, but I was really hurting. It was an extremely painful run and I was slowing down in a hurry.
I’ve gotten pretty good at fighting through pain caused from fatigue, but pain caused from injury is a whole different story. I was just wanting this run to be over from about mile 17 on. The sun came out at about mile 19 and things continued to deteriorate. The Cytomax sports drink on the course made me queasy, which was no surprise — that happened the other times I had Cytomax during the Rock ‘N Roll events. I resorted to water only and started pouring it over myself because I was getting warmer and warmer.
Volunteers were handing out sponges soaked with ice water and I took those three times. Painfully cold, but wonderfully cooling. I was looking at a time somewhere in the 3:20s. I had no idea where, because I had no idea how badly I would continue to slow.
I didn’t even start doing the math until two miles to go, when I figured out that I was looking at somewhere between a 3:24 and a 3:26. I was feeling a tiny bit short on breath over the final two miles. The last 6 or 7 miles in the sun were completely exposed and I was getting cooked.
I saw a friend of mine named Charlie who paced me for a couple of minutes with a little less than a mile to go. It helped me pick up the pace the rest of the way, and I stayed below 3:26 with a 3:25:18 finish time. I was walking with some pretty severe pain in my right leg and a ridiculous limp for about an hour after the finish. Now my challenge is going to be to get better while running a marathon every week.
As for the race, I strongly do NOT recommend this race. Weather is never great, and I’m not a fan of Competitor events. They’re events, not races, and I feel like they’re catered towards non-runners looking to do a marathon, not runners looking to run a marathon. I was nervous about their transportation logistics, and sure enough, it was a disaster. From the time I left the finishers area to go to the shuttle, it took more than two hours before I got to my car. I’ve run this race five years in a row, but I don’t think I’ll be down next year.
All-in-all, a very difficult day at the office. But another race is in the books for Operation Jack. 28 down, 32 to go!
I would be perfectly content permanently forgetting this run.
I got this custom medal holder donated. It has 60 pegs and I’m going to post an updated picture each week as I get closer to filling it up.