Tucson Marathon, Oracle to Catalina, AZ - 12/06/15

Looking at the fall Marathon schedules in neighboring states led me to look at both the Williams Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa and the Tucson Marathon. With the Tucson Marathon being held 2 weeks later and with my buddy Tim Burkhardt living in Tucson, it was the easy choice. I'd have 2 weeks more to train. In addition, talking to folks that had run both, it sounded like Tucson was a better bet to PR.

We took off work on Friday and drove all day to get to Tucson. Unfortunately, Marla had gotten injured earlier in the fall and had not recovered enough to run the thing. Anyway, Saturday morning, Tim took us around to visit local cactus/succulent nurseries, then when he had to go to work, we drove to the small expo for packet pickup. We ran into Russ and Karen Johnson from our ABBA Taekwondo days, who now live in Elijay, GA. Russ had recently qualified for and been accepted via lottery to run in the Western States 100 mile race in late June in CA - exciting stuff! Unfortunately, we didn't have a lot of time to catch up with them, as they had previous engagements. Marla visited for a little bit with another of the 261 Fearless Ambassadors, then we drove out to check out the course, finding it as advertised, mostly downhill, with a few short exceptions. I posted my packet pickup picture with my bib to facebook, and didn't really think about my bib number until someone pointed out how appropriate bib #262 was for a marathon. That was actually pretty cool. LOL. Headed back to Tim's for the night, where I set my alarm for 4:00 in order to meet the 4:45 shuttle bus to the start line (all runners here have to ride buses to the start - there's no parking along the small rural roads above Oracle).

Temps to start were a little warmer than I'd hoped for, hovering around 45 degrees. It was warm enough that I just tossed my "disposable" gloves in my drop bag - maybe I'll need them for the next race (probably Mississippi River). There was some confusion at the start - apparently one of the buses full of 1/2 Marathoners showed up at the Full start, and they had to drive those runners back down the road to where they were supposed to be. I chatted with a few other runners around the start while we were waiting. Anyway, we started right on time at 7:00am about 30 minutes before sunrise.

Some of my students asked me what I think about when I'm running a marathon - I told them that for me time really compresses because I'm not really thinking about much, and that next thing I know it the half way point is passed, then 20 miles, then (if I'm feeling good) there's the finish line. However, I pointed out that if I run out of gas, the last few miles seem like they take just as long as the first 22 did. So here's how this race went, in a minimalist thoughts that passed through my head fashion:

mile 1 - "damn this downhill is steep! I'm flying withouth pushing it . . . "
miles 2-3 - "these uphills are not nearly so bad as the pace charts lead me to believe"
miles 4-5 - "cruising downhills again"
miles 5-10 - "on the highway now . . . check my watch . . . still going too damn fast . . . better ease off"

miles 11-12 - "Biosphere drive . . . almost halfway . . . Russ warned me these hills would slow me down . . . at the turn around, in about 25th place"
mile 13 - "speeding up again going downhill . . . "
13.1 - "dang, this is my 2nd fastest half-marathon! On pace for a 2:55!"
mile 14 - "should I ease back? I'm going a bit faster than I trained for . . . what the hell! I'm going to go for it"
miles 15-20 - "pushing the pace . . . caught that guy . . . caught the next one . . . another group. . . gaining ground"

miles 21-22 - "course leveling off . . . pace not being carried by the downhills anymore . . . having to work harder to maintain"
mile 23 - "holy crap this hill is steep! If I can just run 7s, I can hang on for a PR in the 2:57s"
miles 24-25 - "7:30s, crap, its not going to happen, but I can still sub-3"
mile 26 - "is the finishline ever going to get here? need to just run loose and stride it out"
26.2 - "ok, 2:58:46 isn't too bad . . . especially for a bonk race"

So I basically bonked this one by trying to push harder than I planned. Having aimed for a 2:56:30, then gambling to push towards a 2:55 left me with too little in the tank at the end. Also, the constant downhills did take their toll on my quads, although I really didn't notice during the race THAT much. I was glad that I wore my compression and used KT tape to support the outsides of my ankles, because at times the roads were really cambered/sloped to one side or the other. Finish line temps were in the mid 60s and I got hot slogging through those last few miles as well. Anyway, I ended up finishing 15th out of 667 runners, and 2nd(3rd) in the 45-49 year old male age group (the first place in my age group was the Master's Champion, which bumped me up from 3rd to 2nd).

Maybe I should have run more conservatively, but I'm not particularly upset - I took a risk and it didn't work out. I'll train hard and go into the 2:55s at the flat fast Mississippi River Marathon in February.

Gear Check:

Shoes:  I ran in Merrel Bare Access Ultras, size 10.5.  With the constant downhills, I did get blisters under the toenails of both big toes, but that's more of a consequence of running downhills than an issue with the shoes.

Shorts:  I ran in 2.5” split shorts from Adidas - blue stripes.

Shirt:  I wore a new "Run or Die" singlet from InknBurn.

Hydration: Took water and/or gatorade at most every aid station except for the ones in the last few miles where there's not enough time to get the fluids really into your system before the finish.

Socks:  Injinji medium weight no-show toe socks.

Fuel: Apple/Cinnamon Hammer Gels at miles 7, 14, and 19. Those last two, I mistook groups of race supporters for aid stations and had to run a mile or so with sticky gel in my mouth. I also ate a few gummi worms in between.

Hat:  Marathon Maniacs classic hat, which I took off in the last 4 miles or so because I got hot.

Glasses:  My tried and true Red Iridium Flak Jackets.

Watch: Garmin 610. No problems.

Watch Data