Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hamilton Marathon Race Report

Sunday November 1st was race day for the Hamilton Marathon. I had been excitedly anticipating, no wait dreading, no wait anticipating this race for some time. I had done a ton of training but still was a bit worried about this one. Call it piling on a load of self inflicted pressure.

Truth is I had yet to figure out the Marathon. 5k, 10k no problem I got it worked out. Half Marathon, 30k no problem I got it down. 50k, 50 miler no worries I got that one figured out as well. Marathon... hmmmm... not so much. In both Marathons I had run so far I had hit the wall and failed to go under 4 hours.

My solution, training base mileage like a mad man and doing MANY, MANY 20 milers. Well that went as planned as I averaged 60 miles a week and put in thirteen 20+ mile Sundays. You would think that would make my approach to the race pretty straight forward but no the specter of my crash and burns still lurked just over my shoulder.

I then proceeded to hassle all my running friends for their advice... repeatedly. I may have personally been responsible for dispersing crowds when they would see me coming. I got lots of great advice, be aggressive, lay back, don’t be to aggressive, don’t lay back too much. Problem was that all of it conflicted and yet all of it made perfect sense. SIGH

In the end I did what I always do which is to run as close to the edge as I can and hope my blow up is a small burp and not a fart of room clearing proportions.

The Plan - I decided on a fairly aggressive (for me) 5 minute a K or 8 minute miles. I would run this pace for as long as possible and keep a close eye on my HR if it got too high too early I would adjust my pace otherwise I would hold on to this pace as long as possible. A goal = 3:30 (dream goal), B goal = 3:45 (reasonable), C goal = under 4hr (I blowed up real good)

Got picked up at 5:30 on Sunday morning by fellow Longboater and running buddy Gregoire Bonhomme who was running the HM. Kim was kind enough to give up her Sunday morning and come along with us. I was very happy as she is amazing support and I also had a feeling that I might need someone to help me stagger home afterwards if things got ugly.

Got to Hamilton picked up our race kits and grabbed the bus that would take us up to the start line. One of the race directors who was running the HM was on our bus and she entertained us with the history of the race while giving out free hats. She was so excited about the race. It was really cool to see one of the organizers so stoked about the race and thankful for all the people who were running it (are you listening VRpro!!).

Arrived at the start line where they had a high school for us to keep warm in before the race. Weather conditions were excellent about 2 degrees and almost no wind. Met up with other Longboaters here including Roger Moss, and Eric Mohr who were doing the Marathon and Lynn Bourque who like Gregoire was running the HM (also saw George Hubbard warming out outside).

After a brief wait I headed outside to the starting corral. I ended up walking right past fellow blogger Caroline, check out her blog here. We chatted a bit (congratulations on a great race Caroline) and then before you knew it off we went.


We headed out of the school parking lot and along the first stretch of road. I quickly fell right into pace and worked hard not to run faster then my 8 minute mile plan. It was a challenge but it always is. The road headed out among farmers fields and countryside and was really nice. It was calm, quiet and flat, flat, flat. I hit 5k at 25 minutes right on pace. Somewhere around this time I notice a guy just ahead of me who I had been running in front of me for some time. He was pounding out 5 minute Ks at a very steady pace so I decided to tuck in just behind him and let him do the work.

The next 10k went by in a flash all run on flat roads in the country. I geled at 45 minutes as planned. Splits were staying very consistent thanks to my new pacing friend who was still ahead of me. Around this time the two of us became separated from the packs in front and behind. I decided that I would pick it up and run beside the guy as I knew he had no idea I was pacing off him and he was kind of out there alone now.

As soon as I got up beside him he started to chat with me. Mark was from Hamilton and this was also his third Marathon. We ran the next 3 miles at a nice steady pace. I geled again just before the 21k mark but as we hit the half way point I got my last mile split. Oh Crap 7:45 and more alarming my HR had jumped up 5 beats. It was here that I had to make my only really big decision of the day. I either stay with Mark who was running a bit faster now or stick to the plan. You feel great said that little evil voice in my head. Keep going fast. What could happen? I immediately said good luck to Mark but I was slowing it down. I hit the half way mark at 1:46 right on time.

Just after the 22k mark we headed down the Red Hill. The next 6k were all downhill but in a good way. Most of this downhill was more of a slight decline with only a few steeper places so it was not too hard on the quads. Before I knew it I was headed off the highway and onto the streets of Hamilton running towards the lakefront.

I passed the 30k mark at 2:30 still right on schedule but I was starting to hurt at this point. Why oh why is the marathon so freakishly long? I geled again at this point and tried to get mentally focused as clearly my legs were letting me know that this thing was about to start getting ugly. The route keeps heading out along the lake on part of the Around The Bay course. I got a bit slower here dropping from 5 minute Ks to 5:10. As I made my way past the 33k sign I caught back up to Mark and said hello as I passed him and headed on towards the turn onto the lake. My decision to pull it back know seemed like a good one.

I made the turn onto the lake at about 35k with legs that were struggling now. Other then all the pain I felt pretty good. My pace had dropped again to around 9 minute miles. Now it was just focusing on the next 10 feet ahead of me and keep on running for 3 more miles.

It’s amazing how long 3 miles can seem but I sucked it up and keep on going as the last few Ks slowly ticked past. I saw George H. and Christine right before the 41k sign and they both cheered me on as I went past. It gave me a very much needed lift. George yelled to me that Kim was waiting for me at the finish line.

I managed to speed up slightly for the last 1.2K knowing that I was almost done. I really wanted to kick in the final stretch but decided to just stay steady. I was completely toast at this point and worried that I might not make it the last 200 meters if I tried to go any faster.

I crossed the finish line and Kim found me right away. I told her get me out of the finish chute area as quickly as possible. I knew that I probably looked pretty bad at that point and didn’t want one of the Vultures a.k.a medical volunteers (no disrespect intended) to swoop down on me and try to take me off to the vast wasteland known as the medical tent. If they were to ask me my name at that point I would have probably answered with something like "dududdda". I had been dancing along the wall, just teetering on the edge for more then 3 miles and had arrived at the finish just in time to meet it full force.

Kim who is very familiar with the exhaustion that comes at the end of long races having been there herself quickly got me out of there. We found place to sit down, I ate some soup and got into some warm clothes, twenty minutes later I felt a great deal better.

This was a MASSIVE PB for me. I finished in 3:38:08 which was just a few seconds under a 30 minute improvement. As important as the PB was even more important for me was that I seemed to finally figure out how I should be approaching and running this distance. Final stats below.

Gun time 3:38:28
Chip Time 3:38:09
Overall placing 262/925
Age group 46/84
Pace 5:11 K (8:20 mile)


  1. Congrats on improving your time by so much! I found this post really interesting because I had previously assumed that anyone who's run an ultra should have no problem with a marathon. I can see now, though, that there's a lot more to it. I'll keep that in mind for the future. I hope to work up to a marathon in 2011. Congrats again on running a great race.

  2. Congrats on blowing through your goal and your PR!! Fantastic race :)

    "50k, 50 miler no worries I got that one figured out as well." LOL Love that!

    btw, my word verification for this post was WINTER.... is that a sign?!?!

  3. Congrats on a great race! It is great to see how enthusiastic the organizers are...and not treat you like they are doing you a favor by being there. (I agree about VR...)

  4. Congratulations on SWEET MARATHON REDEMPTION! You ran such a strong & smart race; clearly all of that training paid off.

  5. That's really exciting-congratulations! Now you have to give free advice to everyone else...


  6. Wow, good job! That's a terrific time and sounds like you've beaten those marathon gremlins!

  7. Nice PR!! Those extra miles paid off! Way to keep pace throughout...I can't wait to bust the 4 hour mark myself...

  8. That's so great and inspirational. I love knowing what goes through people's head during a race. Oh the anxiety, oh the decision, oh the repercussions and how great the reward.

  9. That is a huge success and a great inspiration!! Congratulations! :)

  10. Sounds like you gave it all you had. That always feels goood. Great job.

  11. WAIT! What is this I see? Sulphur Springs 100 miler? Now that's something to get you out the door this winter!

  12. congrats on your time! I love to run as much as I love food, which explains why I wondered what kind of soup you had at the finish!

  13. Congrats! Smart racing and a great PB. The course sounds really nice, I'd like to do that one day

  14. What an absolutely amazing finish!!! It was really neat meeting you there at the start line. I loved how you said you were planning to just run like mad. It reminded me of the Bill Rogers quote in the 2010 Runner's World calendar, where he says something like to win a race you just have to go berserk, haha. Congrats on the most impressive PB!!!

  15. Great PR, ,great attitude, nice race!!

  16. huge pr! congrats!! haha about getting out of the finish asap and your new name, dududdda.

  17. Absolutely awesome! Great job completely rewriting your PB and then some! Recover well and enjoy that big '3' at the front of that marathon time. :-)

  18. You crossed the finish line in 3:38:08. It's a great race.
    Moreover you enjoyed while you were running among farmers fields and countryside. :)


  19. Congrats on a great race, a great pace, and an awesome PR! You deserve it, and there are many more to come!

  20. Congrats on a great race and awesome PR!

  21. Enjoyed your race report! Congrats on your PR!

  22. Congrats on this amazing PR! crazy improvement, I wish I could improve this much next year! I guess those 20 milers did the trick?

  23. Great post, great strategy and FABULOUS PR ! Well done!

  24. Congratulations! Thanks for all the details.

    I started running after reaching 40's. (Could never run more than 1k before then in my whole life - not even when I was practicing a few times a week.) So, I appreciate all these reports you and others write. They give me insipration and an idea of which race to run.

    (In future, would you mind also including a photo of the medal? It will be a bit of a disappointment that after working sooo hard - as far as I am concerned since I am a big fan of the couch - for a half marathon, I get a really tacky medal ;-)



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