Saturday, April 23, 2022

Race Report: Carmel Marathon 2022

ORN:  26.2 miles, 4:54:32, 11:15/mile; 6/1, then 3/1 R/W; 696 of 842 overall, 456 of 520 men, 6 of 10 M65-69

First 13.1:   2:13:28      Last 13.1:   2:41:04


The Marathon proves, once again, it is a master teacher.   The lesson this time?  The six-month plan I’ve been on failed.   Thus, I pivot my running trajectory.   

Gory Details

When I finished the Monumental Marathon last November, I knew something had to give.   It went poorly, I felt awful and didn’t want to repeat a marathon in that manner.    5:07:32, when I had targeted 4:45, just didn’t cut it.   

I set out to discover if I could run a marathon at something approaching the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon one more time.   The BQ for me, starting in the fall of 2022, will be 4:20; to actually get into Boston, I’d likely need 4:18.   

How to get to 4:18?   How would I know?    I set out a plan.   Fundamentally, it was about a) increasing my weekly miles and b) building in speed work to those weekly miles.    I set up a plan and started in mid November.   

How would I test if it was going to work?   It seemed wise to set intermediate milestones.   The first of these was this race, the Carmel Marathon on April 9, 2022.

Logic said if I was to run 4:18 by this fall, I’d better be able to run  4:30 this spring.   I worked hard through the winter weather and was encouraged by my weekly mileage and the speed sessions.    Two weeks before Carmel, I ran a 2:08:50 at the Sam Costa Half Marathon...VO2 max calculations said that effort was equivalent to what I’d need for a 4:30 full marathon.   So, I thought I had a shot but I knew the proof was in carrying pace through the final 8-10 miles of the marathon. 

Race day weather was not kind.   Temps steadily dropped in the days leading up and the forecast came true; temperatures in the low 30s at the start with a west wind increasing from 10mph at the start to nearly 20 by the finish.     It was darn cold as we gathered and set off right on time at 8:10am.   

My aim was to run a 6/1 run/walk sequence, running at a 9:40/mile pace when I ran, which would yield an aggregate pace of 10:18/mile.  This worked well for the full first half of the race.   I felt comfortable and held up in the portions of the course that faced the wind head on.   Around mile 6, we ran in full-blown snowfall for about ten minutes...yikes, springtime in Indiana 

Check the snow here on my sleeve

I came across the half marathon timing mat in 2:13:28, about right for my 4:30 target.   Mentally, though, it was tough to run through the finish area, zig-zag around the half-marathoners finishing and then head out for the second loop.  It knocked my rhythm a bit but I regained composure and got going again, south on the Monon Trail.   The wind was quartering from the right rear and the heavy tree cover over the trail broke it up.   Visually pleasant, quiet, mild.   It proved the “shelter before the storm”.

We turned left and then north at mile 16.5 and entered what I knew ahead of time would be the determinitive portion of the race. 

Up through Mile 23 was in a wide-open commercial district with little wind break and commercial buildings and parking lots to observe.   Into the teeth of the wind, I could feel my energy lagging.   At mile 17.5, the 4:30 pace group caught up with me, showing me just how much I was lagging.   I fell in with them for a while and that helped. 


At Mile 19, the course turned west across a long overpass traversing busy US31.   We went uphill, into the wind, completely exposed.    And it broke my effort for the day.   I was struggling and the attempt to stay with the pace group simply wasn’t there.   I didn’t think that bridge would end.   It did, of course, and we turned back north, 3 more miles of what felt like open wind tunnel.   I admitted the 4:30 wasn’t there, backed off to a 3/1 run/walk and determined to just get the race done.  

Yet, further insult awaited.    Around mile 22, I detected what we’ll delicately call “intense lower abdominal cramping and distress”.   Yeah.   In all my years of marathoning, I’ve never had this happen.   I was looking around for trees or bushes, fearing I’d need an emergency stop before the next aid station.   Thankfully, I made it to an aid station with an empty porta potty and resolved the issue.   Yikes.   And the clock kept ticking. 

I finally made it to mile 24 when the course turned back south onto the Monon Trail.  

The wind once more at our back and with the trees diffusing the wind, it was just a matter of getting back to the finish line.   With a half mile to go, I allowed myself a look at my watch; I was relieved that I’d finish under five hours. 

Crossing the finish line, I collected my medal and observed how deserted the finish area seemed compared to most years at Carmel. The cold and wind was so gnarly very few people were hanging around.   Yet, the key volunteers remained, I got some chocolate milk, some granola bars and some hot pancakes.   I lugged them to my car, got out of the wind and started to process what had happened.   

On the one hand, it was disappointing to run so poorly and take so long to get through a familiar marathon on a familiar course.   While the weather didn’t help, that wasn’t the reason...I just didn’t have it.   

So, I shift to simply enjoy running for the sake of running.   But qualifying for Boston just seems a reach too far. Therefore, racing now means participating and enjoying an event, more than “needing” to hit a particular time.   I can pivot to try more ultras and trail races.   I’m getting comfortable with this.  

Reality can be jarring.   But it is wise to understand it. 

Thanks for reading.   Persevere.