Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Skagit Flats Marathon Review and Results

Let's start it off right. Those six fine folks above all qualified for the Boston Marathon at the Skagit Flats Marathon on Sunday. So it was possible! Check them out on the Skagit Flats Facebook page here - nice photo by Ashley Degen.

If you're just looking for results of the race:
-here are the marathon results.
-and here are the half marathon results.

Also, if you're looking for photos from the race, the link at the Skagit Flats Marathon page is incorrect. Here is the correct Jon Brunk link. It doesn't look like the photos are up yet, but I did see at least one guy out there taking shots, so I assume they'll be up soon.

Now to the gory details...

My Skagit Flats Marathon Experience!

Due to some bad luck and timing issues with family and work, I headed up to the race on Saturday. It was about a six hour drive and I was on my own. Not a great way to prep for a marathon, but you do what you have to do. I picked up my number, chip and shirt at about five, had some dinner and then headed back to Seattle to stay the night at my brother's place.

Woke up early Sunday morning and headed back up to Burlington. The weather looked just about perfect: fog and/or low clouds seemed to be the order of the day.

Of course, with that kind of weather, you also usually get some high humidity. My Garmin said it was right at 100%. So, yeah, that's pretty high. It felt good standing around, but once we got going, the sweat came out pretty fast.

I went to hit the Honey Buckets about 30 minutes before the start, then remembered that they were going to open up the high school locker rooms for showers after...might they be open before for bathroom use? Yes, they were! So I walked in to the locker room and just off the entrance door, there was the toilet. No, I mean it was right there. It had a wall around it...about 3 feet tall. And there was a guy sitting on it. I sort of nodded at him...I'm not sure what the correct greeting was for saying "hello" to a guy on a wide-open toilet in the middle of a locker room, but I really didn't want to get into a full-blown conversation. Then I quickly decided that I was going to have to put up with the Honey Bucket after all. Anyhoo...

So the Full and the Half started off at the same time, which wasn't a big deal as there were only about 700-800 runners total, so it wasn't crowded at all. We took off right beside Burlington-Edison High School and meandered north and west toward Padilla Bay on the lonely farm roads that run around the town.

A couple of notes about the course. As the name of the race suggests, this is a flat course. It doesn't go up much and it doesn't go down much. It's just flat. And frankly a little boring. This is farm country and you're pretty much stuck looking at fields and cows and dirt and road. Once in a while, at the few road intersections, where people could find parking, you would have a few people cheering on the side of the road. But if you're looking for crowds and/or interesting sights alongside the course...nope, this isn't it. This is where to come if you want to try to run fast on a flat course. Period.

Here's the elevation profile from my Garmin:

Because of a strained and sore quad muscle in my right leg, I hadn't really run in about a week before the race. It felt OK during warmup and really, during the first 10 miles of the race, it felt pretty much fine. So that was not an issue. Well...the not running may have been an issue, but the muscle was fine.

I fell in with the 3:45 pace group, thinking I could hold that pace. Maybe a mistake, but I had done the first three months of my training program working on a 7:50 pace, so I didn't think an 8:30 pace would be a killer. I was wrong. I only made it about 8 miles before my pace started to fall off. At first I thought I was just sort of tired and would come back around with a second wind, as I sometimes do in training runs. Instead, between miles 8 and 12, my legs tightened up horribly and I slowed and slowed. I tried slowing the pace, stretching a bit, and finally walking breaks, but by mile 16, I was getting cramps in my quads and in my calves. I was even getting cramping in my toes! By mile 18, my legs felt like boards and I was having a lot of trouble running at all. Of course, that's about the time that the fog and clouds lifted and all of the sudden it was HOT and I was looking at trying to finish the last eight miles without being able to do much more than walk and shuffle/jog once in a while.

Check the mile by mile carnage here:

Why the cramping? At first I wanted to blame the humidity, but I was taking in water and sport drink pretty well and I had four GU gels during the race. Besides, newer research says that heat and humidity are not usually to blame for cramps. The more likely reason: my last month of poor training (vacation time plus injury time) left me undertrained to even go out at an 8:30 pace. I really didn't think I'd lose that much fitness that fast, but it's the most likely cause.

If you want to see what it looks like to walk a good part of a marathon, here you go:

So I struggled, STRUGGLED, in to the finish line with a 5:04:13. My slowest marathon ever. Wow.

The worst part, for me, is not the bad experience or the bad result - it's just one more race, after all, there will be plenty of others - but the fact that I wasted four months trying to gauge the effectiveness of the Hansons Marathon Method and pretty much didn't learn anything about it. So does the Hansons Marathon Method work for the Average Joe? Will it get you to Boston? Probably, I don't know, maybe. And I'd love to be able to say, "let's try it again!" But that just isn't going to happen anytime soon. I'm thinking I'll concentrate on some shorter races for a while and have a little fun before heading back to the marathon.

The shirt is nice, you don't see a lot of green shirts except for St. Patrick's Day races, so that's cool. The fit is a little small and the neck hole is tiny, but I've said many times before, the sizing on different brands of tech shirts are an absolute mystery. You get what you get. This one may end up with Payton as I'm not sure I'm fitting into it.

Decent medal. Nothing too exciting, but it fits the race. And I'm not saying that in a bad way. I think this is the perfect marathon for one thing: running fast. It's small, it's low-key, it's flat, and judging from the results, most people had a pretty decent race here. Unfortunately, not all of us, but I may return at some point to try to fix that.

So that's that. We're just not going to think about Boston for a while. Not going to think about marathons for a while. I think I'll let the desire come back on its own well and good time. For now, I'll just concentrate on the shorter races that are in front of me. Moving on!

Next up: McDonald Forest Trail 15k on October 27th.

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