(Two posts in as many days! Zoiks!)
I generally have a hard time saying “no” to a race whose cause I appreciate. The Iron Andy Cup directly benefits the Iron Andy Foundation whose mission is sending diabetic kids to camp. I was diagnosed later in life and managing this condition is difficult enough; I cannot even imagine how difficult this disease is for a kid – see, good cause! In any event I ran this race last year and really enjoyed it (winning my age group may have had something to do with that) so when I saw registration open I signed up. What I hadn’t considered at that time was that I would be just over a month from the Philadelphia Marathon (donate!) and I’d have a long run scheduled that day. So I did the only logical thing – I did my long run Saturday and raced on Sunday.
Saturday’s long run was… concerning. I expected to run 20, but bagged it after 18 due to my hips telling me in no uncertain terms how unhappy they were. Other than that it was really nice; the weather was perfect and I ran it at Forbidden Drive. In retrospect I probably should have gone a bit slower. Most of the interviews I’ve heard with folks who train with the Kenyan or Ethiopian marathon clubs remark that the real key to their success (aside from altitude, genetics, culture, and socio-economics) is that they run hard sessions really hard, and easy sessions really easy. I know I’m among the most guilty when it comes to not following this advice, and it’s beginning to really show in my training and racing. So Saturday I averaged 8:28/mile, and while it felt fairly easy, given how my training has been going (which is to say not spectacular) I really should have been closer to 9:00/mile. Ah well, hind sight and all that. Anyway while the first 12 or so miles felt great, my legs and even more so hips began to feel the fatigue for the last 6 miles. This is a bit of a worry for me roughly five weeks before a marathon. I know I’ll get around and I’m not overly concerned about my time, but I suspect the experience is going to be far less pleasant that it could be.
Fast forward to Sunday morning I stumbled out of bed bright and early, legs feeling heavy, stiff, and tired (long live the Oxford comma! – grammar references are fun!). Had my usual breakfast and took an 80% bolus for it, then made the 30 minute drive to the race. Got my number, checked my blood sugar (198 – a bit higher than I would like but not high enough to correct), and thought about doing – but didn’t actually do – a warmup. Soon enough we were gathered at the start where Iron Andy himself said a few words before sending us on our way with an old school “GO!”. I had seeded myself about halfway back to prevent myself from going out too hard, but I needn’t have worried. I had the unusual sensation of my heart and lungs just loping along easy, but my legs felt like they were cranking for a 7:10 first mile. We hit some hills leading toward the turnaround, but nothing serious, though at said turnaround something happened to me that hadn’t happened before: a volunteer stepped RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! Interestingly I had a brief moment of mental clarity in which I had to decide whether to stop short and spare her or drop the shoulder and drop her like whatever it was Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion!) dropped like it was hot (I like to think it was a potato). I chose the more humane route. You’re welcome, volunteer lady! So the second mile went by in 7:22, legs still protesting like mad, but now many of the people that had raced away from me at the start were coming back. There was a brief moment of panic in the third mile when I though that the 9 (yes 9) year old that I passed was going to re-pass me, but I managed to hold on and crush his dreams. Final time 22:36, over a minute and a half slower than last year but somehow still good enough for top 20 overall and third in my age group. Blood sugar had dropped to 160, which is another sure indicator that on fresh legs I could have gone much faster. So I guess what I take from this is that I’ve got good cardio fitness right now, but my legs probably need some rest. Maybe I’ll consider that…