While exhibiting frustration over my injury, I got a lot of advice from a lot of runners. Without exception, every single person told me to "reevaluate my race plans", or "don't run for a while", or "there are more races later, take time off!"
So after careful consideration, I decided to run anyway.
On Saturday, October 15th, I ran the Baltimore Marathon. In doing so, I set a new PR with a time of 3:44:21.
The weather was perfect for the race and I felt great, despite the swollen and bruised ankle. Clearly, I was able to run.
Baltimore and Camden Yards is a great venue for a race.
I went out too strong and had to throttle my pace back during the first 2 miles because I was pulling 7 minute splits. That is NOT my marathon pace.
Eventually, I settled into a nice even pace and kept it there without any trouble. I took plenty of water and Gatorade from the aid stations, but never stopped. I also didn't eat anything during the race. This wasn't really part of my plan, but I never felt the need to take on additional energy.
In all honesty, most of the race is a blur because I was so focused on constant systems management. I was worried that something might start to hurt in my foot or ankle. I was focused on maintaining an even effort at all times. And I was constantly monitoring the road ahead and the traffic I had to negotiate as other runners started to fall off their pace later in the race. I was totally and singularly focused.
It seems like the entire race only lasted a few minutes! I was elated to see the clock as I passed under the finish banner.
The Baltimore Marathon and I are now even and I have no inclination to return. It will likely go down in history as my best and worst marathon.
In addition to my race, Jo ran the half marathon. She and I were wrapping up the Maryland Double, which is the combination of running the Frederick Running Festival in the spring, and the Baltimore races in the fall. She wasn't as pleased with her day because she had hoped for a PR too, but it just wasn't in the cards. But she had a great time and we enjoyed Baltimore together!
As soon as we finished the Baltimore race, we loaded up and headed north for the 6 hour drive to Syracuse New York so I could run the inaugural Empire State Marathon.
This race appealed to me because it was advertised as a low key event and I was hoping to enjoy the fall colors in a beautiful setting. I was not disappointed.
We had been invited to stay with our good friends, Michael and Karen, while we were in town. Michael's daughter and son in-law were planning to run the race too. Jenny was running the full marathon and her husband Mike was running the half marathon.
The three of us before the race.
It was a very cool and windy morning. Perfect for distance running. The sky was clear and blue and it seemed to be a perfect day.
My plan for this race was to simply go easy and enjoy the day. I intended to fall into an easy 10 minute pace and just cruise through the race at that speed.
The first 6 miles were flat and easy, taking us through a local park and along the edge of a lake. The setting was very nice and I was just taking it all in and enjoying the easy run.
After mile 6, we began to climb a series of gradual hills. This continued until mile 17. These weren't steep, leg numbing hills, but they were subtle and seemed to go on forever. I wasn't expecting that level of difficulty and my tired legs were being tested, even at my leisurely pace.
Here I am at mile 6, before the hills began to wear me down. I was wearing my Baltimore Marathon shirt during this race because I could feel assured nobody else at this race owned one!
After my race started, the half marathon got under way. This race shared the same course for 6.5 miles and turned back to the finish line.
This is a picture of Mike running through the park.
Mike had a goal to finish in 2 hours. He had a great race and set a new PR by 11 minutes and beat his goal easily. He did an awesome job!
This picture was taken near the half way point of the race. I was feeling really good as the weather warmed slightly and I was holding out hope that the hills would subside soon. My spirits were high though and I was having a great time on this course.
This is a great picture of Jenny, showing off her bad ass muscles! She was not far behind me and managed to gain on me toward the end of the race.
The pictures below were NOT planned! They were taken at the 20 mile mark as we came off the hills and headed back into the park for the final stretch to the finish line.
We both blew kisses as we rounded the corner and saw our supporters. Great minds think alike!
The final stretch was very pleasant and leisurely as we ran through the park and enjoyed the fall colors.
I had been closely monitoring my split times and focused on keeping an even pace for all 26 miles. I was slowing myself down to keep that pace despite being tempted to aim for a better time. My finish time wasn't important today, but it's hard to fight that urge to run all out.
I came across the finish line with a time of 4:21:28, giving me an average pace of 9:59. I felt great and was happy to have stuck with my plan.
On a side note...I do not wear a GPS watch when I race. I wear a cheap digital watch and constantly do the math in my head to manage my pace. I enjoy this because it keeps my mind occupied while I run.
Jenny finished right at 4:30, which was her goal and a new PR for her as well. I was very impressed by both her, and Mike. They had trained properly, set great goals, and achieved exactly what they planned. I love bearing witness to the kind of excitement that can only come from these types of efforts. I was glad to be a part of their day.
I was glad the weekend was over and that I had met my goals and finished healthy. Both races were challenging, but for totally different reasons.
Baltimore is a big production with national sponsors and a massive amount of runners. The Empire State Marathon had a local feel and exudes a low key atmosphere. Both races attracted great runners and I enjoyed them equally.
My experience this last week begs the question...Do some runners heal or recover faster or differently than others? I don't know the answer to this question, but I do know I had a serious injury 6 days before I ran Baltimore and scored a new PR. I also don't struggle with recovery after long races and rarely take any time off between races. And I also wonder how much of this is mental. I won't pretend to know how these things work. I'll just keep running and enjoy as many miles as my body will allow me to.
Thanks to everybody that showed sincere concern over my injury. Your kind words meant a lot to me while I was wallowing in my self pity.
Now I'll go easy for a few days and hit the trail for a 50 miler next weekend! My confidence is intact and I'm looking forward to a strong finish to the year.