Pages Navigation Menu

PalmettoStateRunner.Com

Race Report: 2013 Columbia Marathon

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” That familiar phrase, borrowed from the opening of Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities, pretty much sums up my 2013 Columbia Marathon experience.  Let’s break it down.

The Best of Times

The Event

  • Good expo: The expo moved from the Columbia Convention Center to the Columbia Marriott.  No big deal there.  Easy bib and shirt pickup.  Then I wandered around the vendor area and made a couple of impulse buys – red Headsweats beanie for the forecasted cold start and a pouch n attachment for my iFitness belt.
  • Shirt: Hands down best event shirt I’ve ever received.

Participants Shirts. Image Courtesy of Columbia SC Marathon.

  • Weather: Good weather.  Sunny and a cold 32 degrees at the start, but it was close to 60 degrees by the end.  Perfect running weather, unless you were dumb enough to wear a long sleeve shirt (guilty!)
  • Course change down Main St = two thumbs up.   This made the 2012 finish seem little league.
  • Another improvement over last year: excellent course mile markers, complete with balloons.

My Experience

First, a tip: On race days, set a backup alarm.  I woke Saturday to my iPhone vibrating and playing music.  I looked at the regular alarm clock, and it was on, but the local radio station was out, so no music alarm!.  Had I not set the backup alarm, I may have slept through the start.

Pre Race

I arrived downtown around 6:30am, right on schedule.  The start change was near the Governor’s Cup start and also near a place I once worked.  I knew the area well and easily found a parking space right where I wanted.  I started walking around to warm up, and returned to the car to get my coat.  It was 32 degrees and windy.  Brrr.  By 7:10 I had warmed up enough with a 2 mile walk/easy run and returned to the car to drop off the coat and long pants.  Off to the start!
Strategy

I came up with this crazy strategy where I’d run try to run at an 8:20 per mile pace on all miles expect the 2nd pass up Trenholm Road, where I’d like by closer to a 10:00/mile pace. This is called banking.  This is a fairly universal no-no in long distance running.  It just doesn’t work. I was going to try it, though.  No one’s life or livelihood was riding on my performance, so why not?  If I could manage this, I’d end up somewhere in the range of an 8:30/mile pace and a PR around 3:45.  If I bombed, I could write it in my blog and remind others not to use that strategy.

First Loop

My marathon race history told me this strategy was too aggressive.  Race time predictor charts said my marathon times should be closer to 3:35:00, based on my 5K, 10K, and half marathon times.  I felt really good on the first loop, and ran it around 1:48.  I clicked my watch screen over to show pace per mile and saw that I was at an 8:14/mile clip.  Wow.  That  was too fast, I thought.  I was going by feel, at this point though, and I felt great.  My play list selection for this section said it all – Carry On by fun.  On I went.  Perhaps a better tune would have been the theme from Jaws.

The Worst of Times

So here it is at halftime of the big game.  The home town hero is up 30 points on the defending champs and the locals are getting excited.  The half marathoners are gone and I make my way back down Sumter Street and hang a left on Blossom Street.  Just as I head down the steep hill,  my mile 14 split sounded and the time shows 8:09.  This is the same hill at mile 12.5 or so of the Governor’s Cup.  It is nice to be going down this hill for a change, instead of cursing it going the other direction.

After bottoming out as we passed Maxcy Gregg park, I hang a right on Saluda Street and the sleeping giant that is loop two of the Columbia Marathon woke up.  And it was not happy with the butt kicking I had administered on loop one.  The Saluda Street hill hits me hard.  I felt like I was walking.  I managed an 8:52 split for the mile.   Earlier I had managed 8:24 on the mile that contained this hill.  Those extra 30 seconds seemed like 5 minutes.  My wheels were not just a little wobbly now, I had run over a spilled load of nails, and my tires had holes.  I started leaking air fast.

At this point, I told myself, ‘OK, that is not too bad.  The first really bad mile, but your overall pace is still around 8:15.  If you can manage 8:45 or better from here on out, then the average will be 8:30 and the goal will be met.’  So, on mile 16, I recovered slightly and managed 8:39.   Problem was, this section was fairly flat.  My body was shutting down.  In fact, miles 17  through 19 didn’t have any scary hills. I needed to get back on pace, but I could only manage 8:44, 8:41, and 8:58.  Then the last section of the Lake Katherine neighborhood decided to throw in a couple of sucker punches before Trenholm Road and knocked me back to 9:18 and 9:48 for miles 20 and 21.  If my run was the televised game of the week, the network would be changing to another game at this point.

Mile 22.  My arch nemesis, and I don’t have any fight left in me .  I’m staring up Trenholm Road.  My overall pace is still sub 8:30 per mile, but now the beast is just playing with me.  I try to keep the keep moving, but I have to succumb to walking and some sort of foot shuffle that probably doesn’t resemble a run.  At the aid station in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church, I ask a volunteer if I’m winning.  She looks confused for a second, then laughs.  Delirium has set in.  Miles 22 and 23 are a brutal 10:01 and 10:26.    Overall pace 8:38.  Fans are leaving the stands.

There’s one last downhill section during mile 24.  I try my best to push it.  Landscapers at a house on Gervais Street look at me like I’m crazy.  They may be right.  Mathematically, I still have a chance to beat 3:50.  At this point, I’m too hot and regretting the long sleeve shirt.  Despite the downhill and thinking I was moving decent again, I can only manage 9:46 for mile 24.

Mile 25 contains the last hill – a short steep quarter mile or so up Gervais Street before turning right on Pickens.  I have to once again succumb to walking.  During this hill, I have a sudden onset of nausea and light headedness.  I manage not to throw up or pass out, and  I’m coherent enough to realize I’m in trouble.  I tried to breathe deep and just make it to the top of the hill.  I have some water in my water bottle, but I need Gatorade with sugar.   I take a sip of my water and pour the rest on my head.

I turn right on Pickens and hope to see an aid station.  Not yet, but the course is now flat again, and I’m feeling better, so I try to run again.  Eventually, I see the aid station and yell out ‘Gatorade!’ as I approach.  The young guy is kind enough to ask something like “Blue or Purple?” “I don’t give a crap” is my response.   At least they laughed. I down the two small cups of Gatorade and keep on.  Mile 25 split: An awful 11:11.  Only about a mile to go.    I start running again, and a few blocks later I turn left on Richland Street.  Just one more turn and it’s straight down Main Street to the finish.

At this point, my finale song is playing, Top of The World by Van Halen (Live and Sammy Hagar version of VH, of course).  Unfortunately, I’m not going to make my 3:45 goal.  I turn on Main Street, and there’s just over a quarter mile to go.  Mile 26 split goes off – 10:32. I can see the State House dome and there’s a bit more of a crowd thanks to some Saturday morning street market. My playlist starts over, and I try to push it.  My calves are starting to feel like cramps coming on.   The cramps hold off, and I complete the final .2 in about 2:29, right at a 9:00/mile pace.  Someone hangs a finisher’s medal around my neck and guides me to a photo spot.  They snap two pictures, and I need a banana…

My final official time was 3:52:57, an 8:55/mile pace.  I finished 8th out of 36 in the 45-49 age group.  My first half was about 1:48 and the second half was 2:05.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

For complete results, click here.

POFIFOTO!

The Collapse in Chart Form

 

No Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Race Preview: 2013 Outer Banks Marathon | Palmetto State Runner - […] my disappointing second half on the killer hills of  last March’s Columbia Marathon, I decided I wanted to go…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *