I did not have a lot of expectation going into this marathon and was certainly not "racing" just one week removed from running 100k in Bandera. My wife, kids and I headed down for a nice weekend visiting friends in a charming Southern city, Charleston. We got to Charleston on Friday night after a nine hour drive, ordered some food and let the kids run around the hotel to burn off some energy. On Saturday morning, after some confusion as to where the race start was, I got to the start line about 5 minutes before the gun went off. As we started, I was moving rather comfortably at around a 6:30 pace, when a guy running next to me (Joseph) asked me what time I was hoping for. I then went into how I had run Bandera the week before and was just looking to have fun...Well, he was looking to run sub-3 hours and qualify for Boston so I decided to pace with him and we chatted for the next couple of hours along the marathon course. This was his second marathon and he had many questions about Ultrarunning, which really helped the time go by fast.
As we approached the second half of the race, still feeling pretty good, the course got quite confusing. They run you on out-and-backs through neighborhoods and you are constantly coming back to a spot you had been before and coming across other runners. We made it through all this only to find around mile 20 that we were lumped together with the back-of-the-pack half marathoners. After about a mile of weaving in and out of "traffic" we separated from the half-marathoners for our last out-and-back to finish the race. At this point we both felt pretty good and decided to pick up the pace. I was surprised my energy level was still quite high as I hadn't really been able to take in many calories (only two Hammer gels). The last few miles I ran around a 6:15 pace and it felt quite easy. The only lingering effects from Bandera were some tightness in my hamstrings, but really nothing to affect my stride. I came in around 2:54, and probably could have run in the mid-to-low 2:40s if I had decided to push it from the start. I was happy that Joseph was able to qualify for Boston, although I think he was a little disappointed that he did not make an earlier effort to break 2:50 as he still felt he had a lot of “gas left in the tank” at the finish line. After the race my family and I spent the weekend enjoying Charleston and visiting with our friends. We ate at many very nice restaurants, took the kids to the Beach, etc. On Saturday night we went out to dinner with Marathon Maniac Hideki Kino and several other Maniacs; trading stories of races run and discussing plans for upcoming races.
What I learned: One of the keys to running many races is that you cannot "race" each one. While I would like to try and see how fast I can run a marathon, this was not the day. As I get closer to solidifying my 2011 racing schedule this will become very important. Currently, it looks like my main races this spring will be the Nueces 50 Mile USATF Championships and Massnutten Mountain Trail 100. However, I plan on running many other races as training at a somewhat reduced effort.
Gear that got me through: I ran this in my Brooks Green Silence running shoes, with my RoadRunner Ultra shorts and an Asics singlet. Since it was about 28 degrees at the start, I wore a pair of Moeben sleeves. I also wore my Zensah Compression calf sleeves and these seemed to work well as my calf muscles never felt fatigued despite running on back-to-back weekends.
Overall, it was a fun trip and my family and I really enjoyed Charleston. I would come back just for the restaurants...but I am sure I would find a race to run as well.