Thursday night I started packing everything for my trip to Texas for The Gusher Marathon. Obviously, it takes some preparation for any race when you are traveling to the site. I tried to make sure I had everything and was fully prepared. I charged my Garmin and decided since it was just a weekend trip there was no need to bring the charger. Mistake number one, on Friday when I opened my bag to get my stuff for an easy run to shake out the legs I discovered that my watch was on in my bag and it was down to two bars. Can you say slight panic. I went to several stores in Port Arthur and of course could not find a replacement. So I figured I would just go with it and hope the battery would last through the race. Another thing I prepared for was the warm weather. I figured I would need more electrolyte pills with the heat, so I packaged them in small Ziploc bag that I could easily carry. Mistake number two, leaving the bag on the counter in my bathroom in Huntsville. I did not discover this until 8pm Friday night. I saw a booth at the expo earlier that day that had some but of course they were not there the morning of the race. So as a back up I took a small baggy of salt with me. So much for preparation.
The primary goal was to set a PR in the marathon ideally around 3 hours. Building up to the race I looked over the previous times and realized that I should be able to place in the top 5 with a slight possibility of winning. The course was a two loop course, with a half marathon going on simultaneously with the marathon. Each loop circled around Lamar University then went ~2.5 miles down a closed 6 lane highway with the wind at your back, then circled through downtown before coming back ~3 miles down the same highway with the wind directly in your face. The temperatures were suppose to be mid 50's at the start getting up to the low 70's with steady winds between 10-20mph.
When we lined up I looked around and saw 5-6 people with marathon race
bibs toward the front, one of which was Iram Leon. There where some post
about him on the Facebook page for the race because the race directors
made the decision to let him run pushing his 6 year old daughter in a stroller due
to the fact he has brain cancer. I was surprised to see him line up in
the front row but I figured it was for photos. I figured this group of
5-6 would be the people to beat.When the race started I tried to keep the 6:52 pace needed to run 3 hours. I was directly behind Iram and as far as I knew in second place of the marathon runners. I thought it was odd that he would go out this fast doing the marathon and pushing his daughter. I did not try to stay with him instead I tried to run my race. With the tail wind on the highway I tried to keep things under control because it made it seem very hot due to the lack of breeze. In town there was a turn around point where I could see the runners behind me. There were a couple runners with the closest marathon runner probably a minute or two back. When we came back out on the highway the wind was brutal. I was alone with a runner about 20 yards in front of me. It took me a while but I finally pulled him in hoping to draft off of him and work together. I knew he was a half marathon runner but when I caught him he took off. I never had the opportunity to tell him I wanted to work together to make it easier, anytime I got close he would speed up again. Finally coming in off the first loop, I crossed the half marathon point at 1:34 in second place. At this point I could not see Iram any more so I was not sure if he stopped at the half marathon or was that far ahead.
There was a point just before the half where we turned around again and I could see a small group of marathoners. They were not far behind and grouped together, this made me think they probably worked together on the highway in the wind. As I headed back out on the highway with the tail wind two of the runners caught and passed me. At this point (~mile 16) I started walking through some of the aid stations to try to get more Gatorade down and I started eating the salt I had. At the turn off the highway I noticed the guy in second went straight he was roughly a block in front of me and 1/2 block in front of 3rd so there was nothing we could do to get him back on course. By mile 19 my calves were beginning to cramp and I had to stop and stretch periodically. Around mile 21 the runner that took the wrong turn and one other guy caught me. I talked to one of them and offered to try to work together going into the wind. This helped me to pick the pace back up again for about a mile. Then the cramps got worse and I had to let him go. The bad thing was this was right before heading back out on the highway for the final time. All I have to say about this section is it sucked. When we got back to the campus and with a mile to go another runner caught me, I was really struggling my legs were trying to do their own thing and my calves were caving in with cramps. I pushed the last mile as hard as I could at one point closing ground on the runner in front of me. I had to stop one last time to stretch and the two in front of me pulled away to race in to the finish. I did my best to push the last little bit to the finish with a time of 3:24:57 for 6th overall and 2nd in my age group.
Looking back at the results the 40-44 age group was tough as usual with 5th, 6th & 8th places overall. Also, the difference between 3rd to 6th places was only 70 seconds. I do have to take the time to congratulate Iram Leon. I did not mention him much in my description of the second half but that was because he pulled away and I never saw him again. He went on to win in a time of 3:07:36. He said he came in second behind his daughter. It was very inspirational!
Afterthought, we all have to know our limits and what we are good at. I am happy with my finish and time overall. With that said, I will NEVER race another marathon. Road races over half marathon are just not for me it destroys my legs and feet. I love the trails and ultra's and will stick to what I am good at. The trails are much more forgiving on your body. I will only run marathons as a pacer and help other people reach their goals, it is much more enjoyable.