Today was the first day of the Day of the Dead Series. The first race is supposed to be the easy one. It’s the only day you’re starting with fresh legs, yet you’re going to hold back. I didn’t make it easy on myself. Friday night, I ate a dinner that was too big and too spicy. First, I had trouble getting to sleep. Then I woke up during the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. Lack of sleep wouldn’t keep me from finishing, but it ensured I would feel tired, even on day one.
We got a break on the weather. Rain passed through the area yesterday, but today it was dry. The overnight low was in the 40s, but the temperature climbed into the 60s in the afternoon.
I’ve been sensitive to cold temperatures lately, so I dressed for the cool morning temperatures. If I got too warm later in the race, I could always switch to walking. Since today was Halloween, there were awards for the best costumes. I didn’t really have a costume, but I wore my cheetah tights, hat and arm warmers. I don’t have a cheetah shirt, so I wore a T-shirt from the Independence Series. That shirt has a mottled pattern of brown and white, so it was the closest match I could find to the cheetah prints. The Independence Series was also a Mainly Marathon Series, so it seemed appropriate. It’s a cotton shirt, so I crossed my fingers I wouldn’t have chafing issues.
The race started at 7:00, but I got to the start area a little earlier today to pick up my race packet for the series. I’ll wear the same race number every day, so today was the only day I needed to allow extra time.
We started just after dawn. There was enough light to see, but we would finish one lap before the sun came up. I’m getting better at starting at a slow pace. I ran the first lap, but it was a slow run.
Lots of runners wore costumes. In my second lap, I started taking pictures of the other runners. There were separate best costume awards for men and women in each race. Most of the other runners wearing costumes were women. Most of the men wearing costumes were in the half marathon. That gave me hope that I might win an award as “cheetah man.”
The course was an out-and-back that we ran 12 times. It was paved, but there was gravel alongside the pavement. That gave everyone a choice of surface. I prefer pavement, but I saw quite a few runners staying on the gravel.
There was an aid station in the start/finish area. One table had water, Gatorade and chocolate milk. Another table had a variety of food, including Halloween candy. For the first two laps, I just drank Gatorade. Then I started having a piece of candy after each lap. I made an exception after one of my laps, so I could have a red velvet cupcake instead.
In the early laps, my only rest breaks were picture stops. Starting with my fifth lap, I took a one minute walking break at each turnaround. In my sixth lap, I lengthened that to two minutes. At the time, I planned to lengthen my walking breaks by one minute each lap. That would allow me to do more and more walking, but still be disciplined about it.
During one of my walking breaks, I saw Jim Simpson and Larry Macon walking in the other direction. Larry said, “Hey, David. You’re not allowed to walk. We walk, you run. Don’t you know the rules?” Jim added, “When you’re old, you can walk.”
While Jim and Larry have a few years on me, I do feel old. I’ve always believed that you’re only as old as you feel. When I was 50, I still felt like I was still in my 30s. At 54, I now feel like I’m in my 60s. It’s been a tough year.
As the temperature rose, I started feeling hot. I knew I would be overdressed in the second half of the race. I reached the halfway mark in 2:37:38. Then I went to my car. I took off my arm warmers and left them in the car. I also dropped off my gloves and camera. Then I made a bathroom stop. As I started my seventh lap, I checked my watch again. I was stopped for about four minutes. I was still on pace to beat 5:30, but that was deceptive. I always knew I would do much more walking in the second half, as it got warmer. My plan was to mostly run in the early laps, while it was still cool, and mostly walk in the late laps, as I got hot.
At first I continued lengthening my walking breaks by one minute per lap. Then I started to notice soreness in my right leg while running. I wondered if I should walk the rest of the race.
After eight laps, it occurred to me that I might be able to walk the rest of the way and still break six hours. I needed to average 35 minutes per lap. I wasn’t sure if I could do that, so I mixed running and walking for one more lap.
With three laps to go, I switched to power walking. To break six hours, I now needed to average 37 minutes per lap. To save time, I stopped visiting the food table, but I still drank Gatorade after each lap. My next lap was 34:20. I gained roughly three minutes, giving me a more comfortable margin. I walked my last two laps at a similar pace, finishing in 5:51:19.
Every finisher received a bag of Halloween candy. We also got to pick our finisher medals. There was an assortment of different designs. Here’s what I picked.
I also received this award for best costume. It’s the second straight weekend that I’ve received an award for racing as “cheetah man.”
After getting back to the hotel, I showered, took a soak in the whirlpool, and did some stretching and massage. I used to take ice baths after races during series like this. Lately, my legs have been sensitive to cold, so I skipped the ice bath.
Why was it important to break six hours? Excluding ultras, I’ve only had one marathon that was slower than six hours. That was Pike’s Peak, which is in a class by itself. So far, I haven’t taken longer than six hours in a “normal” marathon.
I don’t know if I can keep that going. I have three more days, and they won’t get easier. It’s all going to come down to whether I can break six without making my right leg worse. If I can, I’ll work to break six, even if it takes more and more effort. If I think I’d be putting my leg at risk, I’ll accept slower times. I have to look at the big picture. For now, I’ll start each race and see how I feel.