Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How to run a sub-3 hour marathon without any long runs

I've found that the key to racing as a senior (50+) is getting to the starting line relatively healthy.  That is not an easy trick.  My mileage is maxed at 80 so there isn't much room for long runs.  I enjoy doing doubles (running twice a day) so it is very rare indeed for me to do more than 8 miles at any given time.  I thought I might have a shot at a sub-3 hour marathon even with my lack of long runs (my longest run over the last 6 months was 16).  The key would be PATIENCE and MENTAL PREP.  I spent a lot of time going over the race in my mind.  After previewing the course I had a feeling that many people would go too fast over the early miles.  There were no "killer" hills but damn there were so many ups and downs that you really get ground down. 

Race day was windy and 45 degrees with sun and clouds.  I met up with teammate Kevin Tilton and we went out for an easy .8 warm-up.  I was nervous but felt pretty good.  We bumped into most of our CMS team including my fellow 50+ teammates Dave Lapierre and Ed Sheldon.  Dave and I had recruited Ed back in May at Sleepy Hollow and he has had an impressive year.  We would all need to finish for the team as 3 runners combined times would decide the championship.

I lined up one row from the front and along with 500 marathoners, 500 half-marathoners, and 50 relay teams we set off.  I had my watch set to beep every 1/2 mile but wasn't really interested in the splits.  With such varied terrain there would be some slow half's when we hit a hill.  I did check just to make sure I wasn't going too fast.  My first 1/2 was 3:18 and I backed off a bit.  I was hoping to be between 650-710 per mile in the early going and was looking to hit the half in 131-133.  I had broken the course down into bite sized portions.  The first part was the 4.5 mile initial loop that'd bring us back through downtown.  Ed and I ran together from 2-3+ then he pulled away as we climbed up Granite street onto Elm.  I kept the effort even and tried not to "work" on any of the hills...there would be plenty of time for that later.  I reached downtown in just a step under 7:00 pace and waved to my parents and a few familiar faces in the crowd who cheered for me.  Wow, it was windy on Elm street and I knew we'd be running into the teeth of it until 7 miles. I found a really tall guy and tucked in behind him.  Eventually we caught a group of Millennium runners including Abbey Wood.  We tucked in and held on for the tougher climbs.  The pace really slowed and the tall guy moved ahead.  I decided it was a bit too slow (707) and upped the tempo a bit.

The next section I was aiming for was the top of Derryfield park at 10.5 miles, from there we'd have a long fairly steady drop back to downtown.   Race director John Mortimer gave me a shout-out as he motored by on a scooter. I slowly closed on Amy Bernard and Mike Wright (a U-Lowell teammate).  Mike noted that he heard me closing on him.  I sat behind Mike as we hit the wind (I tried getting behind Amy but she is so small she doesn't block any wind!).

Mike and I caught back up to the tall guy and headed into the downtown wind again.  I felt pretty good and again waved to my parents and some enthusiastic fans (there were a surprising number of people out on the course and that really helped).  I was 1:30:24 at halfway and my sub 3 goal and a negative split were aligning.  The second half of the course had about as much climb as the first 13 miles but it was a lot more even.  My goal now was to get to the rail trail (16 miles) then start working, then at the top of the trail (19 miles) I hoped to really up the tempo and bring home a sub 3.

I felt a little bad sitting on Mike and the other guy, but hey it is a race and they weren't teammates.  As we climbed to 15 Mike fell back and I felt the pace was slowing.  The only guy to pass me in the race (Tyler Lyon) went by like I was standing still.  I attempted to go with him even though it was a bit earlier than I wanted to.  He was too fast so I ran alone to rail trail.  Thankfully the trail was tree-lined which meant a lot less wind.  It was exciting seeing the leaders come flying by and I counted 27 guys before I took the turn off the trail before 19.  Ed Sheldon was the last guy I saw and he was leading the 50+ and looking strong.  After turning back onto the trail just after 19 I began running my fastest splits of the day (633/628/629/633) from 20 to 24.  I passed quite a few people along the way which gave me a boost.  I also started calculating that I "just" needed to finish in 7's and I'd be well under 3 hours.

The hill from 24 to Elm street was tough and that was followed by the wind tunnel.  My folks gave a shout as I went by and I also got to see everyone in front of me on the out/back section.  It was great seeing so many guys I knew out there having a good day.  I was very pleased to see the line in sight and the clock still ticking in the 2:58's.  I crossed in 2:58:40 in 298th place overall and could not be happier with the result.

Ed won the 50+ and Dave La took 9th, along with my 4th place we ended up taking the team title!
CMS had a great day with the open team taking first (including 1st and 2nd place overall) and the masters taking 2nd (with me and Ed scoring down).

50+ Results
1 Ed Sheldon CMS 2:53:06
2 Charlie Bemis WRT 2:54:12
3 Mike Cooney WRT 2:56:19
4 Dave Dunham CMS 2:58:40
5 Chong Son 3:03:33
6 Mike Wright GCS 3:08:14
7 Ghislan Foy 3:16:55
8 Jim Garcia GLRR 3:18:55
9 Dave Lapierre CMS 3:19:25
10 Doug Guertin GSH  3:22:17

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