Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Myrtle Beach Marathon - Rick's perspective

I guess to a large extent, I find running/racing to be a personal thing. Although I enjoy running with others, I can’t say that I feel a compulsion to blog about racing to share my experiences with others in written form. That’s something I’m working on and my wife is encouraging me to do. Katie says she can’t wait to blog about a race or a run and even has them half written while she’s still out on the course. I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point, but I feel encouraged hearing about others’ running experiences. So there may be some benefit to sharing my experiences too. This blog entry is to share and document my experience leading up to and at the Myrtle Beach Marathon on February 19, 2011.

The Myrtle Beach Marathon was supposed to be the last in a string of longer races for us. That string started with the Marshall Marathon on November 7, 2010 and was supposed to include Mountain Mist on January 22, 2011. Honestly, in my mind, the marathons before and after Mountain Mist were secondary; a warm up and a cool down if you will. I started focusing on Mountain Mist 6 or 7 months in advance and printed out multiple training plans (including this one from Dink Taylor) to compare that were between 17 to 24 weeks long. I started seeking out the “euphoria” that only hill work brings and the adventure and solitude of running on trails when I could. I even stopped shaving my goatee in November as a reminder every time I looked in the mirror that I had a mission. The mission was to be well prepared for Mountain Mist and finish feeling pleased about it. The fact that I ran a PR and my first BQ at the Marshall Marathon (I wrote about that experience here) was a bonus the way I looked at it and an indicator that I was on the right track for a satisfying Mountain Mist. Well. I pushed myself right off that track. Looking back, I think I got a bit greedy. I went from averaging a little under 200 miles and less than 5,000 feet of elevation gain per month to 260 miles and close to 10,000 feet of elevation gain in December. On January 2, my body pushed back in the form of Piriformis Syndrome. It took me a little while to figure it out, but a pinched sciatic nerve shut my running down. I went from a hilly 20 mile run with Teddy on Sunday morning to walking during an easy warm up on the way to a track workout on Tuesday. As I was limping back to my car, I remember seeing Greg Reynolds on his way to the track and wishing I could run half as fast without pain. I had felt some discomfort in my left hamstring near the end of the 20 miler, but now I couldn’t even jog slowly due to the pain. So here it is, early January and I can’t run five feet much less 50 kilometers. I tried to hold on to the momentum and fitness I had by training on our elliptical machine, but that got old fast. I visited a chiropractor, finally figured out what was causing the pain, but wasn’t healed up in time for the race at the end of January. God had other plans for me and was likely telling me I was in danger of tipping the healthy balance between family, work and running. But I’m thankful about what He planned to happen next. I made a recovery that was nearly as quick as the onset of the injury. My running log shows several elliptical machine entries, then a “slow and uncomfortable 3 mile run” on February 1, a couple of runs on a treadmill, and then a run I titled “getting there” on February 8. I averaged under 8 minute miles for six miles with a left hamstring that felt mildly sore and tight at 11 days before the race. So, now it was time to taper for the Myrtle Beach marathon…

The Marathon
Katie does a good job documenting our marathon trips on this blog, so I’ll stick to the race here. I knew this race would be slower than the Marshall Marathon. 3:40 or so is what I estimated was a realistic goal. I made a deal with myself to start out with 8:30 miles or slower for the first 8 to 10 miles, and see what happened after that. That deal, based in logic, went right out the window when I got to the start line. The excitement, adrenaline, and ease of the early miles had me clocking in sub-8s by mile four. I talked myself into this pace by saying that I was coming off of a PR in November, this was a flat/fast course and I was “well rested.” Even though I reasoned that a 3:40 would have to be a satisfying finish time going into the marathon, now that I was racing, I really wanted a sub-3:30 marathon. There’s that pride and greed showing up again. So I went for it. “And why not?,” I thought. Aren’t runners encouraged to go for it? We hear stories all the time about people going for it and succeeding. So, I cranked out several miles in the 7:40s and 7:50s, and really enjoyed them. The course was nice, the crowds were good, the weather wasn’t bad (a bit warm and windy) and I was feeling good. I saw Katie at one point where the course turns back on itself and was glad to see her looking strong as I cheered her on. I caught up to and ran with the 3:30 pacing group (running with a pacing group isn’t something I normally do). Well, I went for it, but then I paid for it. At mile 21, I was reminded what I have learned at several other marathons. It pays to run to your ability level at that race. A negative split at the Marshall Marathon was so much more pleasant than this approach. Being properly prepared for and correctly executing a marathon makes for a much better experience. My mile 20 split was a low 8 and the rest of the way would be north of 9 minutes per mile. I hit the wall because of my foolish pride. My mind calculated how much longer I would be running at a 9ish pace for 5+ miles. Running that much longer was a dreadful thought. I remember really pushing to maintain a pace I would call a “slow run” and I was going to have to do that for quite a while. “Slow run” later became a “slow jog.” “Slow jog” became “stopped off the side of the road with a cramp in my hamstring” at one point. Those last miles were tough. Making it through those miles was an accomplishment. I ran a 3:41; almost exactly what I thought I could run going into the race. Running a 3:41 was tougher than 3:14…tougher but it didn’t have to be. Even though I couldn’t do much to improve my preparation because of the injury situation, my execution during the race made it unnecessarily tough. Even splits or a negative split would have made for a far more enjoyable (and possibly faster) marathon. I hope to learn not to let my pride trip me up. This experience has made me think about why I run. I’ve always thought that I run because I simply enjoy running. I enjoy being outside, having a chance to clear my mind from distractions, feeling closeness to God, sharing the company of another runner, feeling fit and healthy, getting a runner’s high…basically I enjoy the benefits running offers to mind, body and soul. Did the primary reason for running become so that I can look back at results with a feeling of pride and accomplishment? That will always be part of it, but I want to prevent that from being my main focus. I’m not fond of the outcome when it is my focus. That brings two scriptures to mind: Isaiah 40:31 and 1 Samuel 2:3


  1. By Him deeds are weighed. What a great reminder. Thanks Rick! I needed that. :D

  2. Good entry, Rick! I am excited that you are getting the hang of this blogging thing! I liked seeing things from your perspective. I never saw you as being "greedy" during the time right before your injury, but we walk a very fine line each day to put running in the correct place in our priorities, don't we? It is great that you are not letting it get ahead of your faith. It is a good reminder that He gives us the ability to run---but He doesn't want us to "worship" running! I really liked your scripture references too. Again, great job!