Wednesday, June 14, 2006

NODM Race Report

OK, here we go. Another learning experience.

The North Olympic Discovery (Debacle?) Marathon Post Mortem:

First, the course.

Not exactly as advertised. The pictures show you these great images of running across wooden trestle bridges under a huge canopy of shade trees as well as running along the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the edge of the water. Well, those images represent maybe 25% of the terrain. The first 15 or 16 miles were almost all totally exposed to the sun; the remainder was a mix with more shade than direct sun. Some areas of the trail really are as beautiful as the pictures.

It also had some hills. Most of them were not too bad at all (except for where the trail plunges down into a creek bed and then climbs steeply out -- twice -- at miles 16 and 20). Easy to go anaerobic running out of those creek beds.


I was unprepared for the humidity (kind of like San Diego last year). Though it started out cool (about 56F), during the race it quickly warmed up to the mid-60s (Sequim hit 74 that day). Doesn't sound too bad yet, does it? But the humidity started at 90% (fog). The humidity dropped to maybe 70% by the midpoint and remained there.

In the second half of the race, it wasn't quite as bad (the shade helped). And the last 5 miles were almost cold (and humid -- more fog) running very close to the water. By then, though, it was too late. The damage was done.

I believe I was just not acclimated to those conditions. I started this marathon training cycle in the winter and even recently have had mostly very cool temperatures in which to train. I think there were only a couple days where I trained in the low 70's (and they were not humid days nor were they long runs). I also probably went out a little too fast for the conditions.

So here's how it went down.

Race time was 9:00 am (they really ought to think about an earlier start). I did not sleep well at all the night before, and got up around 5:30 and ate a couple hammer gels. I had also been trying to drink plenty of water. I had a little coffee and more water up until about 7:00. After that it was stretching and getting dressed for the race.

The hotel was within a half mile of the start of the race (that was nice), but I still had my mother drop me near the finish. After my last bathroom break, I headed for the startline.

A few minutes before the start, I finally got to meet Sarah and her friend (running her first marathon), as well as Sarah's husband and son (who were not running the race). This picture is compliments of Sarah...

The race started right at 9:00am. The first mile was a gentle uphill and I ran it in 9:18. The pace felt good, but may have been still a little fast for a first mile (and an uphill one at that). There were only about 500 runners so it was not very crowded.The next two miles had a few gentle hills then back down to about the starting elevation. These were too fast even though it was downhill. I averaged 8:30 for both. Realizing I was going too fast I backed off a bit. The next two miles (4 & 5) I averaged 9:04. It felt like a good pace and I don't think I realized yet the impact the humidity was having. Miles 6 & 7, a gradual uphill again, averaged 9:08. Miles 8 & 9, which were flat, averaged 9:14 and that's when I realized things weren't quite right. I was slowing down slightly. Mile 10, a light downhill, was 9:49 as I began stopping to walk through and drink at the aid stations.

At this point I realized I was going to get into trouble if I didn't back off. Miles 11 through 14 averaged 9:53, and I think it was around mile 15 that I went into Galloway mode (alternating running and walking). Oddly, I mentioned this to another runner who said she used to live two doors down from Galloway in Georgia and would run with his wife (as a 3:10 marathoner decades ago, she was too advanced for Galloways classes, "...but those days are gone."). It was also about this time that Sarah and her friend passed me. Yes, it was evident this was going to get ugly and I wished them luck. With the alternating running/walking, miles 15 & 16 averaged 12:01. Ten miles to go, and things are starting to unwind.

Just after mile 16 is a steep descent into the Seibert Creek bed, and then a steep climb out. At this point Galloway mode is out the window and I take any excuse to walk. In fact, I begin walking more than running as I'm starting to feel nauseated. Mile 17 is 14:39. Somewhere around mile 17 there is an aid station with gatorade. Now, up until this point I've been drinking mostly HEED at the stations, along with a little water. I've also been taking an Endurolyte capsule at each station. I wonder if a change in taste might help, and I take a cup of gatorade. Whether it's heat exhaustion or the sugars in the gatorade, my stomach rebels and within a mile I'm vomiting gatorade. Bright green gatorade. Lovely. But I immediately feel better, take some water and continue walking. Miles 18 through 25 are mostly the same. Almost all walking, and vomiting about every two miles. I consider just dropping out, but decide to just really take my time and finish it. Around mile 21 a volunteer at an aid station can see I'm really struggling and walks with me a bit, asking if my hands are clammy, if I'm still sweating (I think I am, but later notice my shirt is dry). I tell him I've been vomiting and he cautions me to continue drinking and take it real easy. I'm surprised he didn't pull me out, but I think he could tell I was being very cautious. The last 5 miles are along the water where the temperature has dropped. It is very cool -- almost cold. Miles 18 through 25 average maybe 19:15.

I decide that I will try to jog slowly in the last mile. I start jogging. I go back to walking. Then I decide I will jog slowly in the last half mile. Start jogging again. OK, maybe just start jogging when I see the finish line. Mile 26 is 14:04 and the last .2 is 2:55. I stop my watch on the finish line at 5:39:39.

A nice touch at this marathon is at the finish line, every runner gets a volunteer to help them. A woman hands me water, a vitamin drink, gives me my medal, and helps me over to where they remove the timing chip. I sit in a recovery area for a while, trying to decide whether or not to just limp on over to the medical tent. I feel like I can recover on my own and eventually head over to the food. I pick up an orange slice and some pretzels. I concentrate on just drinking water. It takes me 5 minutes to eat a little pretzel. I take off my shoes and put on my sandals. It's cold and my mother suggests I rest in the car where I can warm up. I lay in the back seat, sipping water, for about an hour. Once I feel good enough to move to the front seat, we leave Port Angeles and head for the ferries at Bainbridge. Mom drives and I talk to Anita, Anja and Kai, giving them an overview of the disaster. By the time we reach the ferries (about another hour later) I'm feeling much, much better.

After crossing I take the wheel and drive Mom back to my sister's house where I quickly shower and change. Tammy and I arranged to meet for a bite to eat. It was quite kind of Tammy to drive over to the Redmond town center and wait for me. Over pizza and a beer I described the ordeal and we talked about speed training and triathlons.

So what's my take on this? I really think I was just not acclimated to the humidity. Which means I went out too hard for the conditions. With proper conditioning (training in similar conditions), I don't think it would be as much of a problem. Tucson still stands as my best marathon -- cool and dry. Phoenix was my next best -- a little warmer, but also dry. San Diego and NODM are my two disasters, both quite humid. I'm seeing a pattern here.

Anne has also mentioned hydration problems with taking endurolytes. I think I took too many. Next time, I think it will be only 1 per hour. Also, I have to honestly ask myself if I am really sufficiently hydrating. I'm not sure I drink enough water in general, and I drink a lot of coffee. Perhaps I am chronically dehydrated. Perhaps I should (GASP!) give up coffee?! That would be a tough decision -- I love coffee.

Lack of sleep may have played a minor role, but I don't think it had that much impact. And I do need to lose a little more weight as well. That would certainly reduce the stress on my body. And I have some weight to lose.

I took Monday and Tuesday off and then on Wednesday went for an easy 4 mile run. Noontime. Warm and a little humid. Felt very good.

So where do I go from here? Stay tuned.

C-Ya (and thanks for all the comments and support)


Anonymous Audrey said...

Hi. These are good pics. I never really knew what you looked like to be honest! Well, it sounds like it was a tough race to say the least. I hope your recovery is going well.

6/15/2006 4:52 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

Good news Kurt!! Recent research has proven that caffeine does not dehydrate. The coffee stays!!!!

Glad you are feeling better. It was great to see you again. Keep at it. :)

6/15/2006 6:08 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Wonderful, robust race report, Kurt. Even if the results were anything but, we all can learn from you. I felt like I was Gallowalking with you ever step of the way.

6/15/2006 7:07 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I think we went out too fast too. The humidity was deceiving since it wasn't that hot.

Don't give up the coffee!!

6/16/2006 12:50 AM  
Blogger E-Speed said...

good race report. Sorry it didn't go as planned, but I am sure it will be a good learning experience for future races!

6/24/2006 7:59 PM  

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