Last Saturday I ran the Mayor’s Marathon here in Anchorage. This was my 2nd time running this marathon, and for 2 years in a row, it has fallen on pretty much the nicest day of the year. This turned out to be a good thing and a bad thing. Of course everyone likes to run in nice weather, but if it gets too hot, it can seriously slow you down.
Now I use the word “hot” in a very relative way here – it was 65 at the start of the race, and climbed to 75 by the end. Considering that nearly all my long runs are done in the wee hours of the morning, when the temperatures are typically low-to-mid 50’s, 75 felt pretty dang hot. That’s about the hottest it gets in Anchorage. The first 20-ish miles of the course offer very little in the way of shade, so there wasn’t much relief to be found from the sun.
But enough about the heat, onto the race itself…
This was my first marathon since qualifying for the Marathon Maniacs last October at the Marine Corps Marathon, so it was my first real opportunity to wear my Maniacs shirt with pride! There was a decent little group of us, and we got together for a quick photo before the race:
It was fun getting a chance to talk to some fellow Maniacs. I realized what a totally different mindset we have when I said that this was my 6th marathon, and they assumed I meant so far this year.
Once the race got started, I quickly slipped into my groove, ticking off the early miles at a pretty consistent pace, right on target. I was happy that I had managed to hold myself back and not start out way faster than my goal pace. However, I really should have taken the heat into consideration and adjusted my goal pace from the get-go (this is what storytellers refer to as foreshadowing).
After finishing this race last year, I really must have put on the rose-colored glasses, because I didn’t remember quite how hilly this course was. One part I did remember well was the Tank Trail. This “trail” is actually a gravel road on the military base, presumably where they drive tanks. It stretches on from about miles 7-15, and the gravel/rocks can really start to wear on your feet. I’ve heard stories of “baseball size” rocks along this stretch, but I never saw anything that bad. Golf ball size, maybe. And in most places, there are worn-down treads from where vehicles have driven that are a bit easier to run on. This section is also where most of the big hills are. Maybe I was so fixated on the gravel and rocks last year, that I forgot all about the hills.
After the Tank Trail, there’s a short stretch of single track trail (a real trail this time) for about a mile. We have a friend that lives near this section whose husband was also running, so she came down to cheer and bring us bananas for our own private aid station. This trail dumps us back out onto a paved road around mile 16.5.
The marathon course comes very near my house around mile 18. My folks were watching the kids this year, since my wife was walking the 1/2 marathon with her mom, and they came over to cheer me on as I ran past. The kids brought squirt guns to help cool me off, so I stopped for a minute and let them have their fun squirting daddy. As you can see from the photo, my son’s a pretty good shot – right in the eye! 🙂
At this point in the race, I was still feeling pretty good, and still right on my target pace. This wouldn’t last much longer though… Somewhere around mile 20 or 21, the heat finally caught up with me, and my left hamstring started cramping up. I had been taking one S-cap an hour, which had worked great for me in training, but as I discussed earlier, the majority of my training was done in 20 degree cooler temps. For the rest of the race, my pace was slowed pretty substantially because I had to keep stopping to stretch my hamstrings, as they began taking turns cramping. Even when I was running, it wasn’t particularly comfortable, and I’m sure my form was a site to see.
I was still moving at a decent clip though, and I was close enough to the end that I knew I’d still be able to finish sub-4. The race ends on the track at one of the local high schools, and just as I was entering the track, when you would normally try to sprint into the finish, both my calfs cramped up on me. I really had to struggle to bring this one in strong, but I managed to cross the finish line in 3:49:47, an 11 minute PR, and 27 minutes faster than I finished this same race last year.
It’s hard to be disappointed with an 11 minute PR, but it’s also hard not to wonder how much faster I could have run on a flatter course and in better weather. I guess I’ll just have to run another marathon to find out 🙂