Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bahamas Marathon Race Report

It was a pretty basic morning, I walked in circles a fair amount but managed to get everything I needed together in time.  The half marathoners, myself and a couple of support crew headed out for the run.

There turned out to be a number of Canadians in the race and we chatted with them while waiting to start.

The gun went off and we ran through downtown Nassau in the dark, doing our best to avoid potholes and speed bumps.  After that we went over the steep bridge onto Paradise Island, immediately turned right and ran over another steep bridge off the island (seemed totally unnecessary to me). I ran strong over the first bridge and caught a couple of our half runners, John and Kelly, saying hi as I went by.  On the second bridge reason started to show it's head and I tried to let people go and hold a slower pace.

The Bridges of Doom

Off the bridge we ran through a very poor looking neighbourhood.  A number of the residents were up at 6:30 watching us race (some cheering, some bemused) which was cool.

The area seemed to sharply change from poor to hatch sales, then to big banks, then to big, well kept up homes.  Interesting to seem the spread of income as we went.  (And none of the residents of the mansions were out to watch us.)

We did a 180 and headed back through town.  John passed me again and I started catching up with Kelly.

I thought about my predicted time and decided that I felt so good I should definitely go for a 4 hour run.  It was totally possible!

Changing your race plan at mile four in a 26.2 mile race is always a good idea.  Right?

I yelled ahead to Kelly to ask what her pace/goal time was and she told me sub-two.  Uh oh.  I was going way too fast.  I dropped back and tried to let her and John go but had difficulty holding a slower pace.

They eventually disappeared and I caught up with Hank from our group.  He looked like he was having some challenges at that point, I said hi and something encouraging as I passed. 

As I neared the Breezes the half marathon turn around I kept an eye out for returning half marathoners from the group.  First Annie, then Alex then Gustavo went by, all looking strong.

At the hotel Megan, who'd done her first ever running race in the 5km the day before, and some others were out and cheered me on.  Megan took some photos and I told her she needed to get shots of me while I was still smiling.  I wasn't sure I'd be so positive on the return.

Once I was past the half turn around point race narrowed out considerably.  There were about 400 racers in the half and only about 120 in the full.  I lost a my pace bunnies and it was very quiet for the rest of the way, but when I did get to an aid station or group of spectators they were super excited to see a runner.

The weather started to warm up shortly after we split from the half marathoners.  I was worried about overheating wand whenever I was in the shade I took my hat off so my head could stay cool.  I get sunstroke very easily so I kept my hat on in the sun however. And when I saw photographers - didn't want to have hat head!

I also followed Alan's advice for cooling and poured water on my wrists and inner forearms at every opportunity. Some of the volunteers thought I was weird for doing this, but as I never over heated it seemed to have worked.

Aside from the Bridges of Doom at the start and a low bridge about 15 miles in, the course was very flat. It was quite winding and I tried as much as possible to take the shortest cant on every corner as that can considerably cut the overall distance I had to run.

Once we left the resort areas we went past some strip malls then the road hugged the coast and we had a great ocean view. Lots of quiet beauty then every mile an enthusiastic group of volunteers handing out water and Gatorade.

Near the full turn around there started to be traffic on the road and running anywhere other the shoulder of the road became a bit risky.  On the return there were quite a few cars on the road so I shoulder checked any time I got closer to the middle of the road.

Most of the drivers were very considerate and gave me lots of room however I was buzzed by two police cars and a couple of police on motorcycles.  Not only was it rude and frightening, but as it was after 20 miles into the race it was quite dangerous - we were neither steady on our feet nor were we always moving in a predictable direction.

My pace had dropped considerably after I passed the halway mark, I had definitely gone out to fast and I was starting to pay for it.  It was a struggle to keep a 9:20 mile pace, although I'd do the occaissional 9:05 for no particular reason.  As I approached mile 20 I prepared to hit the wall, i was tired and my legs hurt and I was readying for everything to fall apart.  I grabbed a gel from the aid station and downed it so I'd have the energy to push through.  And I kept going on pace and didn't feel much of a change.

I passed the Breezes and saw Deanna, who kindly took my (nasty) Fuel Belt then saw a highly enthusiastic Megan again.  It's always a big lift to see supporters on course!

At about mile 24 I started running out of steam.  My legs hurt and it was an effort to keep running.  I decided that a marathon was a ridiculous distance to run and from now on I'd stick to half marathons.  No way I'd do another full.  "One and done!" I decided.  I may even have said that aloud.

The aid station volunteers were also hitting the wall - the 24 mile crew were mostly napping and the 25 mile crew were a bit out of it. This is NOT a criticism, I think it was awesome that they were out and I know how draining it is to stand around for hours, especially when you have so few runners going by.  It was warm and this part of the course was the most boring, it would have been a long, long day for these guys.

I felt drained and desparately wanted to walk but knew I was very close to the finish so I kept running.  As with the rest of the race, as my energy flagged I told myself "You're in the BAHAMAS!  How could this be anything but good!"  An unweildy but effective mantra.

As I neared the finished I could see half marathoners walking towards me, some cheered me on and even the ones that didn't were heartening as I knew I was so, so close to the finish.

Finally I could see the finish and the yellow shirts of my group.  Wendi and Gustavo yelled and waved and ran with me for most of the last 200m.  This was absolutely phenomenal, I was psyched to be finishing but their support made it so much more special.

After 4 hours, 7 minutes and 22 seconds, I crossed with a smile. Even though I was far off my dream goal of 4 hours, I smashed my goal of finishing happy.

I grabbed some food, said lots of incoherent things to the group members and we jumped on the bus to head back to the Breezes. At the resort we went straight from the bus to the bar for a celebratory glass of champagne and I stood in the ocean sipping it while icing my legs feeling pretty darned good about life.

This would be a great spot to finish the race report but the next day I got an email from my Mum.  She'd checked the results online and informed me I'd finished 22nd overall and had won my age group!  What a way to start my year.  Made a very fun race even better.


Cassandra said...

Brava for such an excellent race! Go you for winning your age group, that's awesome!

"I decided that a marathon was a ridiculous distance to run and from now on I'd stick to half marathons. No way I'd do another full."

That's exactly what my friend Janine said at Disney a week before you, after she ran the full there. :D

Alison said...

And when's Janine planning on doing her next marathon? Endurance races seem to be way better experiences the further you get from having done one.

Claire Thompson said...

Sure you won't do another marathon; at least unless you can swim and bike a ridiculous distance directly prior to running ;-) I'm glad that you met up with such a great group of people and congrats on a good race.