BlisterBurst Marathon Race Report

BlisterBurst Marathon – June 4th, 2005

Perhaps the official name is SunBurst, but I’ll ever refer to my third marathon (in South Bend, IN) as BlisterBurst.

I finished the Boston marathon in what I considered a disappointing 3:57:41 in April, and soon afterwards allowed myself to be persuaded to do another Spring marathon. Recovery after Boston was quick, and I felt I hadn’t run my hardest, so I set out to train for a 3:35 at SunBurst, 7 weeks after Boston. Training went well, although three weeks before the marathon (following my longest run of 18 miles), my knee was hurting so I cut back on mileage quite quickly and changed shoes. I was between a size 7.5 and 8, but with my history of black toenails I decided to buy large. While I did not try the shoes on a long run, they seemed fine.

I went to South Bend with Andy, Helen and Helen’s friend Paul Wai. We arrived in South Bend nice and early the day before the race, got our race packets and drove the course. It was very pretty and seemed really well marked. I was glad to see the course before we actually ran it, to gain a sense of familiarity. We checked into our hotel and headed for Carrabbas for dinner, made a stop at Meijer’s for breakfast supplies, and I think we were each tucked into our beds by 9pm.

4am came early the next morning, although not early enough for my roommate Andy, who was up at 3. I got ready for the race, donning the same clothes I wore for Boston, but with a 3:35 pace band on my arm. I was a bit angry at myself for not having noticed my socks had the start of a small hole in one of the toes. Perhaps I had a sense of foreboding as we drove out to the start, and I mentioned that I’m always very conscious of how my feet feel the day of a race, as well as the day before. I remarked that my feet felt somewhat tired. As it turned out, my feet were to be my weak point in this latest marathon attempt.

We arrived at the start line with plenty of time to spare, and it was quite nice to gather our wits about us before they played the Star-Spangled Banner and we set off. Right away I let Andy and Helen speed off, and I eased myself into the race. I knew I didn’t want to go out too quickly, and was quite surprised at my first split. I immediately slowed down some, confident that I would take advantage of my ‘speed drift’ in later miles.

Splits:
1: 8:03
2: 8:22
3: 8:22
4: 8:29
5: 8:22
6: 8:16
7: 8:22
8: 8:06
9: 9:15

By about mile 6 I’d started feeling my left foot sliding around in my shoe, and I wondered if thin socks and my new larger shoes were such a good idea. When I hit my mile 8 split I felt I’d found my pace, so I took some time to stop and tie my left shoe. I took a few steps, then sat down to retie both shoes. My left shoe no longer slipped, but now it felt a bit tight.

10: 8:12
11: 8:15
12: 8:28
13: 7:29
14: —
15: 18:45 (9:23avg)

I took my split time at the first of two 13 mile markers. The 2nd must have been right. I then forgot to get my 14 mile split.

I’m not sure, perhaps my body thought I should have only run a half-marathon, because things started to slip at the half-way point. At some point I looked down at my left shoe, and saw some red on the toebox. “Darn, I must have spilt gatorade on my shoe.” It took me another mile before I realized we were drinking lemon Gatorade..

16: 8:43

The final turn-around point was at about mile 16.5, and by this point I was well into the mindset that marathoning wasn’t for me. I was very discouraged, and I was thinking that perhaps I should focus on the half distance. By this point I was walking nearly every mile. Actually, everyone was now stopping to walk at waterstops. There wasn’t really any motivation to run through them.

17: 9:58
18: 8:50

The pace band was thrown away at this point. I’d been still referring to it from time to time, gauging how far behind I was (2-3 minutes), but it seemed silly now.

19: 9:22
20: 9:40

It was at this point that a female runner in the opposite direction told me I was 22nd woman. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that, because I’d gone into the race thinking that last year a 3:40 was a Top 10 finish. I knew I wasn’t on pace for that, but 22nd seemed rather unspectacular. Still, I decided to see if I couldn’t move up in the rankings over the next 5 miles.

21: 9:55

It’s only 5 miles! The Upper Arlington 5 miler was on Monday, Meredith did that in less than 40 minutes. I can gut out some 9:30 min miles.

22: 11:18

No I can’t.

23: 11:23

At the 23 mile marker they were handing out Gatorade, bananas, gu, and sponges. I took some Gatorade and a sponge, and walked for a decent distance. I tried to psych myself up for the mere 3.2 miles ahead. I told myself that it was only a 5K left, and set myself not to allow anyone else to pass me. While I was thinking this, I think at least a half-dozen women went by.

24: 9:31

The highlight of this mile was a makeshift shower someone had set up. After I went under it, another runner must have sensed my discouragement and said “it’s just a slow easy jog til the end’. That helped, and we chatted for a bit. He asked how I was feeling, if this was my first marathon. I said it was shaping up to be my worst, he said he was feeling about the same. Then we hit Niles Ave, and I asked him if this was where the course was new (much of the course is an ‘out-and-back’, until right near the end). I figured it was, which lifted my spirits a bit, and I felt myself picking up the pace a bit.

25: 10:43
26: 8:48

It’s hard to keep up your motivation when people all around you are walking – the half marathoners had joined us at mile 23, and now I sensed there were also fun walkers crowding the path as well. Oh well, I just gotta gut it out. And I /better/ do it faster than Boston. I felt myself picking it up in the last few hundred feet before the mile marker, where someone yelled “only 100 more feet, enjoy it!”

.2: 1:34

3:56:57 Clock Time
3:56:43 Chip Time

The entrance into the stadium was crowded with walkers, and runners who’d stopped to walk. I found myself wanting to sprint to finish the danged thing, but having to swerve to avoid people. Eventually I made it onto the field, and as I crossed the finish line at 3:56:43 I heard my name being announced over the loudspeaker. Ok, that was cool.

I walked through the finish area, happy to be done – 58 seconds faster than Boston. They’d run out of cool towels, so I placated myself with some Gatorade, popsicles and fruit before sitting down. Soon I ran into Andy, who’d had a tough race himself. Helen had finished a few minutes before me, and she was in line at the massage tent. I decided to go for one myself, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to take off my shoes. Overall my legs were fine, but I felt as though the entire inside of my left foot were likely one blister. The massage felt good, and then we relaxed on the grass and saw Paul run in for a PR. Pretty impressive on such a humid day.

We only had to wait a few minutes to get a shuttle back to the start line, then headed back to the hotel to shower, before heading to Perkins for a well-deserved breakfast. Oh, and we had an impromptu photo shoot of my impressive blisters – all four of them). The drive home was nice, and I was pretty impressed at Andy’s ability to drive for 5 hours after a tough 26.2.

Two days later, I’m feeling pretty good. While my feet LOOK pretty disgusting (in addition to the 1.5 inch blister on the inside of my left foot, the blood blister on my right big toe, the smaller blister on my left big toe that already burst and the baby blister on the top of my left foot, the 2nd toenail on my right foot is even CLOSER to falling off than it was after Boston), I feel fine overall. My quads are a bit stiff today, but they’ve been fine. I think I need a psychological break, however. One thing I kept thinking as I ran was that perhaps Columbus (3:38:39) was a fluke, and I was closer to a 4 hr marathoner. I’d been hoping for a 3:35 and I was nowhere near that. I will attempt another marathon this fall, but I don’t know if I would be better running with a pace group to keep my motivation up (as well as my speed). I suppose we’ll see…