Boston 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Win, a Course Record, and a Brawl by Glenn Stewart

The following is Glenn's unbelievable record setting marathon run at the Phoenix Marathon over the weekend. Remember to tinkle before reading this or you may wet yourself. I've warned you.

A Win is a Win

A win is a win – no matter how improbable at the start. I came to Phoenix for my fifth Rock'n'Roll Marathon and my first as an official senior citizen (60) to win – and ultimately I did.

I knew it would be a struggle and the first few miles confirmed that – what I didn't know is that it'd turn into a brawl – and give an additional meaning to “Mile 14”.

One thing I love about this race (and conversely hate about Boston) is the start is on a 4 lane wide road. Add in the parking lanes and we have about 200 feet of side-to-side room within 400-500 feet of running. Ah – just spread out and find your pace. After a ¼ mile it turns onto an avenue with even more room (about 9 lanes). All of this is pancake flat – so no excuses for going out too slow or too hard.

For me the plan was to try and find a 7:35 pace and stay under control through at least the first 4-8 miles. I hit mile one at 7:20. That was faster than planned – but close enough. But my heart rate was a bit high at 142. I was hoping to run the first 4 at about a 137 HR. I was not sure I could hold 140+ for 3 and a ½ hours. So the goal for the next 3 miles was to relax and get the HR down – and find a place to unload some liquid (or as Linda McC says take a tinkle). The tinkle place – bush at the entrance to an alley appeared half way into mile 2. That made mile an 7:55 and dropped the HR a bit but not enough to make me comfortable this would hold up.

Miles 3 and 4 were right on plan at 7:32 and 7:39, but the HR was 140 – still too high. So I'm through the first 4 at 30:26. Only 6 seconds off pace and one tinkle done.

When I run marathons I break the race into blocks of four miles – and I try not to worry about anything but those four. This was advice I got form running guru John Barbour long ago and its served me well. So at this point I'm happy with the pace, but concerned about the heart rate. The weather so far is on the cool side – cloudy and about 44 degrees and a very light breeze. But the forecast is sunny mid 60s by the time I plan to finish.

The next four block (miles 5-8) is used to settle down and find a grove. It goes pretty much as planned – it's 30:22 for the block – only 2 seconds off pace. But the HR is still too high at 139.

The next block will take me almost to the half way mark – miles 9 to 12. About half way through mile 9 my tinkle bell alarm starts sounding again. I'm thinking if I give in too soon – this will end up a three stop run – so I resolve to suffer for the next couple of miles.

The goal is to reach Mile 12 and reward my self with a pit stop. So now the pace quickens (a little) to try to get there. But halfway through mile 11 it's getting unbearable – and it's too early to let it go on the run (wet pants for 15 miles is a sure recipe for walnut rot). I decide that as soon as I finish Mile 11 I'll look for a discrete spot. This is not easy because we are in the upscale town of Scottsdale (like Belvidre but more security and spots to hide). But before long – thank goodness – there is nice nook. It's a rather long stop – more than 30s.

As I rejoin the race I see the 3:20 pace group has passed me. The leader is about 40M ahead and I'm in the middle of a huge pack. Because of the potential congestion at the water stops, I don't want to be here – so I drop the hammer for a bit to pull ahead of the pacer. Surprisingly I feel better (either because my bladder is happy or the pace is more comfortable). Anyway the block is done in 30:11, so now I'm 1 second ahead for almost half way – so I'm very happy with pace and I'm still concerned about the HR which is still 140 – but it's been pretty steady so I'm starting to feel this will hold up. Also the weather is cooperating – it's still cloudy and the temp is only about 50 now.

I hit the half way at about 1:39 which is right where I want to be. Little do I know that The Brawl is about to happen. I'm working my way through block 4 (miles 13-16) trying to stay relaxed so I can reach Mile 16 – 10 to go and decide just what kind of marathon this will be (success or disaster).

At the Mile 14 water stop I pull over to the left – I almost never go to the left (if there is a choice). As I reach for my cup of water – the moron in front of me comes to a complete stop. Not a shuffle and not a walk – but he slides to the right and stops! I see him for an instant before I crash into him. I stick out my right hand and push him on the shoulder, which I think causes him to turn to his right even more into my path. His foot clips my left foot and now I'm headed to the pavement.

All I can say is F*&^ as I go into a roll landing on my left elbow, shoulder, hip and knee. The other runners are horrified. I hear several asking if I'm OK. Someone is asking if they should call medical. Me – I'm just pissed! I complete the roll (at which I have plenty of practice from trail runs gone bad) and I'm on my feet and running. I shout I'm fine and keep going. Oddly there is still some water in my cup – so I pour it on the blood running down my arm from my elbow. Someone points out my shoulder is pretty raw – which I can sort of feel. The knee and hip – I don't even feel. So much for my rush to stay ahead of the 3:20 pace group – I got taken down anyway.

Now I'm really pissed. I've also got a load of adrenaline coursing though me. I figure I might as well take advantage of the adrenaline as long as it lasts and get as much as I can before stiffness sets in. I run Mile 14, even with the brawl, in 7:23. I finish the block in 29:48, so now I'm 33 seconds ahead. I finish Mile 16 with the adrenaline gone and feeling bit stiff but not bad. Mostly the stiffness is in my back.

The 17 to 20 block goes OK – it's 30:29. So I've given back 9 seconds, but it passes without further incident. It's still cloudy and about 50, but the clouds are starting to break.

It's time for the last 10K of the race. This is where marathons are won and lost. After all it's a 20 mile warmup and a 10K race. I'm still on pace – actually a little ahead. My HR still hasn't changed – it's still right around 140. Despite the brawl – I'm feeling pretty good – In fact it's starting to feel a lot like Sugarloaf (when I ran 3:15). So I decide to push the pace and see where it takes me. I run the 21 to 24 block in 30:11, so it's 9 more seconds for me.

At about mile 22 I start doing the arithmetic that all marathoners try to do during those last 4 miles or so. I can see that 3:20 is looking really good. So I figure that unless someone special shows up I'm in good shape to win – but you never know. When I get to 23.7 miles I know I have only 2.5 miles to go and I ran that same 2.5 miles the day before. So I know all of the landmarks and I'm starting to see that breaking 3:19 is possible. I've got to go for it. I'd looked up the previous results fort this marathon and the fastest time by anyone 60+ is 3:19:05 set by Mel Williams, then 66 (damn good!) in 2004 in the first running of this race (on a slightly different and easier course). I've got to break that! So I drop the hammer and push hard for the last 2.5 miles.

Mile 24 is 7:20 and Mile 25 is 7:25. The last .2 is a left onto an access road and then a right on a driveway behind Arizona State U's stadium. I really start pounding. Just before the right, with about 200M to go I see a guy with gray hair – no f*&*ing way is this guy going to rob me of the win. I drop to yet one more gear – I'm red lined now – and power past him. I can see as I pass him, he's cooked – no way will he be able to respond. He doesn't. Turns out he's 54 and he finishes 3 people back 21s behind me. I run the last .2 miles in 1:18 at a 6:30 pace.

I cross the line at 3:17:44 gun time – new record and 3:17:38 chip time!

I do my jog down to get my heart down from 159 to 125. That done I get my medal and the medical staff, who have been watching me, intercept me to direct me to the med tent for cleanup. First I get my finish picture taken. Then it's the med tent. The first thing they see is my knee – which I didn't know was bleeding. The blood has run down to my ankle – it's their number one concern. My number one concern is the elbow. We get those cleaned and bandaged. I ask them to check the shoulder – which they hadn't noticed. Turns out that this is the most sore spot. But we get it cleaned.

All in all – it's a great run. I win and I set the course record.

I'm writing this the morning after – my elbow, my shoulder and my hip hurt (from the brawl) but my legs are fine – so I'm headed out for a run (at least 3 miles) to officially start my training for Boston. There's no time to rest on laurels.


BadDawg said...

I can only dream of such a magnificent effort, Glenn's the man. All hail El Presidente!

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