Two weeks ago I ran a marathon. And let's be honest, it did not go very well. Sure, the time of 3:00:20 wasn't necessarily embarrassing on the surface, but in some ways it was especially after running a 1:16 half and turning in a great cycle. Recovering from this race hasn't been very difficult for me physically but it has taken its' toll mentally. This is why I was pretty glad to have another competition on the schedule shortly after the marathon debacle. It was a new challenge, and an old one.
The week before my marathon, my club, USM Malakoff qualified for the Ekiden marathon relay championships of France. I wasn't on that qualifier team but there needed to be some changes for the championship so they needed my help on race day. The breakdown of the race is : 5k-10k-5k-10k-5k-7.2km. I ran the second to last 5k.
I really had no idea what to expect from this race in terms of my performance or what the environment and ambiance would be like. I was pleasantly surprised in both cases. When I arrived at the race at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday for the 1 pm start I was just thrilled to be on time. I had just spent the entire weekend outside of Paris helping to lead a young adult retreat where I spoke and led music and didn't get a whole lot of sleep. After a 2 hour morning drive I got to the race and met the team.
There were around 90 total teams including the women and definitely some studs, especially the foreign legion team boasting some beastly Kenyans and Ethiopians. The atmosphere was pretty electric near the start where the race would feature loops of a 5k course.
It's a bit particular to run this race because of the weird warm up times. You find yourself trying to time it during a certain leg of the relay and trying to calculate the time before your Go Time. I incidentally warmed up just a tad too early and spent too much time standing around before the race. The warm up was the standard variety à la Fitz then the 5k course to check it out and try to get my legs under me. I did not feel good during this warm up.
I'm not sure if it was the lack of sleep, different "fueling" during the weekend, or the 2 hour drive the morning of the race, but my legs felt heavy and dead. My stomach kind of hurt too. 1 p.m. is a really weird start time.
Our 5k legs weren't blazing but both the 10k legs were around 33:00 (much slower than usual for one guy but pretty right on for another) and then it was my turn. The relay is done by passing one of those slap bracelets that used to get confiscated when I was in 4th grade at school but was surprisingly effective as you remove it and then just give it to the other guy to throw on. I took the bracelet and took off around 2:35 p.m. The race went directly up hill for about 400 meters into the wind. So, no matter how you felt going in you were a bit winded by the top of the hill. Since it was kind of chilly too the winded feeling was more pronounced.
By about half a mile in I had no idea how fast I was going but it didn't feel smooth at all. Saw the mile at around 5:15 and figured ok, I don't feel great but there are only 2 miles left, that's nothing! Fortunately the second mile had some downhill and I ran it hard. Then, the third one went through the woods and I picked a couple of guys off before running a sharp left, then flying around a little blue barrel to run 100 meters back to the relay zone. When I looked down and saw 16:50 I was pretty shocked. Not only have I not gone under 17 since 2001, I had done it on tired legs.
The last leg ran very well and our team finished 8th! It was pretty incredible to be with the guys, cheering each other on, and exchanging all the high fives and smiles at the end. It's been a long time since I've been on a team. While there was a pretty huge difference between the first team and ours, I was still pretty stoked about the finish.
More importantly, this race served as the beginning of the next phase. Clearly the marathon training is still there, sure I had a bad day but it's not the end, there is much more to come. I have a couple of "new phase resolutions" post race:
1) continue to have fun with running and don't get too concerned with performance. This is not my profession, this is my hobby, and one day I'm confident I'll run a sub 2:45 marathon but it's gotta be the right timing and it needs to be fun.
2) In training I'm making the decision to run most if not all runs in the pre-dawn like El Jefe Greg Strosaker. It's already made a big difference for me and for my wife and I think it will make the next marathon cycle much better for everyone (including my two sons).
3) I'm going to have fun racing some shorter stuff for a while like cross-country, 10ks etc. before re-launching another marathon cycle in the spring. I haven't even decided which one the will be yet