Road marathons are unforgiving. Sometimes, the weather is too. Such was the case for the 2015 BCS Marathon. The forecast was for rain all night and all day, and thats what we got. We drove into College Station on Saturday afternoon before the race. About half way through the 2 hour trip the sky opened up and it did not let up at all for the next 24 hours.
Kat and I stayed the night at a friend (Jim Grau) of a friend’s (Laura Dugan) house, who were both also running in the morning. We anxiously watched the weather to see if any changes might happen. We knew we’d be getting wet, but the last thing we wanted was humidity. Luckily the temperatures were scheduled to drop by 15 degrees at 5am. Some other runners came over, we ate a lot of good food, and went to bed to the sound heavy rain on the roof of Jim’s home.
We got up that morning and sure enough the temperature had dropped into the low 50’s. By race time it would be dipping into the high 40’s. Perfect running temperature. It was still pouring rain.
I ate a typical breakfast of black coffee, sweet potatoes with sea salt and maple syrup, and a cherry larabar. I had been supplementing with a new cordyceps mushroom powder (made by Four sigma Foods) for the last week. It seemed like it was having a positive effect on my energy, focus, and breathing. I felt really good, just anxious about the wet and cold before the race start.
We parked the car with 30 minutes to spare. Unfortunately I had to make another bathroom break, so I leapt out into the cold 25 minutes before the start. Much sooner than I planned. The car was warm and cozy, and Kat was there. It was hard to leave. It was that feeling of walking into some unknown battle. I put on a trash bag poncho to keep some warmth in and rain off. It sort of worked for 5 minutes… then I said screw it and tore it off. I ran in a Trail Roots singlet and Pearl Izumi ultra shorts stuffed with 5 Vfuel gels, New Balance Vazee Pace shoes and Feetured socks. It was cold and uncomfortable, but I knew it would be perfect once we got moving. I was drenched within minutes.
The race started at 7am. We sped off into the morning with fireworks shooting off behind us. It felt amazing once we started moving. In fact I felt to good. It felt deceptively easy to run around 7:00 minute miles. I kept looking at my watch thinking “I really need to slow down. Be careful, Billy”, but it was to easy to run to fast. I came through the 10k split in 45:07. Okay, that was not to fast, but I decided to stay aggressive and try to hold onto the 7:15-7:20 pace. I came through the half in 1:35:56 on pace for a 3:12 finish time. 3 minutes faster than my goal. This was aggressive for me and I knew that it would be extremely difficult to run an even split, let alone try to negative split. It just felt so good that I didn’t want to run slower. I didn’t think about it in race but my shoes and clothes were probably carrying an extra 2 or 3 pounds of water. That extra weight combined with the slightly to fast pace set up an imminent blow up around mile 20. Pretty typical in a marathon, right?
After the half marathon split I began fighting to keep my pace below 7:30. After mile 15 or 16, my pace was in the 7:40’s. I knew if I could back off and keep it around 7:45 that I would still be very close to my goal. However, the damage was already done. My overall energy felt great but my leg muscles were getting tired. Left hamstring getting tight… calves getting tight… hip stepping in to pick up the slack…. one by one muscles started to fight me in a chain reaction that brought me down to an 8:20/mile at mile 20, and from there it was a fight to just keep moving. The biggest issues were with my left leg. My hamstring became very tight and caused my gait to suffer. My left hip had to do the extra work to get my leg off the ground. When I finished the race it was extremely painful to walk on it. The last 3 miles were the slowest with me averaging about 9 minute miles. I came into the finish at 3:28:47. Not what I wanted but It was still a 24 minute PR on my previous (trail) marathon time of 3:52. I knew I could have gone faster if I set out slower, but I am happy that I decided to go for a lofty goal. I am very green with road marathons and this was a great learning experience in pacing.
The course was nice and easy to run, but nothing special in terms of scenery. Aside from the University there isn’t much to see in College Station. It was kind of cool to see parts of the Texas A&M campus.
Race nutrition was simple. VFuel gels every 30 minutes and small cups of water at each aid station. I’d squeeze the gel in my mouth coming into the aid stops and wash it down with some water. No stomach issues or cramping.
My wife is amazing. Even with the constant rain she made it out to 5 different points along the course to see me run. Navigating an unfamiliar town with many blocked off streets in some crappy weather.
And lastly a big thank you to Erik Stanley and Trail Roots for getting me ready for this race. I’m looking forward to the next roadie.
At the time I am writing this it is exactly 1 week later and I have signed up for the Rocky Raccoon 100 on February 6, 2016. I need the Western States 2017 qualifier! The priority is to finish recovering and start putting in some really really easy long runs. Super low intensity with some solid time on my feet! I am almost completely recovered. Unfortunately, I sprained the extensor tendons on my right foot during an easy trail run on Saturday. Recovery might take a week longer. Good thing is that it is Christmas week and I am totally cool with the extra down time!