Family and friends after the race!

The Best of Intentions

Last January 2nd I wrote my second Spring Marathon update post. It covered weeks 2-4. My goal was to do an update every 2-3 weeks after that. This is my next update, 12+ weeks later.  What happened?  Let’s see. Cold happened. A lot. Not a cold, but just COLD. Running happened. Again, a lot. Coaching happened even more. What didn’t happen was writing about it. This is mostly due to training just not being all that exciting, interesting or sexy. It really is just a lot of running. I had done regular updates in the fall, during my training for the Marine Corps Marathon, but that was my first training season after my Achilles surgery and it really was a new thing for me. This time around it was a lot of the same.

The other reason is I forgot. I don’t mean I forgot to write, I mean I forgot about the runs and the training that I would be writing about. After the first really cold run I was going to write about it but didn’t. After the 5th or 6th cold run they all seemed to blend together and I couldn’t remember the specifics more than that they were cold. Then one was in the rain, then another and another and they blended together as well. The other thing was I was following the same training regimen I had told you all about in the fall so I felt like much of it would be a repeat. That lead me to giving up on regular updates and deciding I would just do a recap at the end of the season. And voila, here we are.

Otis with his own Medal!


My goals for this Marathon were as follows:

  1. Break my 4:14:47 PR from the Marine Corp Marathon (9:36 pace)
  2. Break 4:05 – 9:20 pace
  3. Break 4:00 – 9:09 pace
  4. Be consistent in pace from beginning to end – meaning no mile would be more than 30 seconds different than any other mile.
  5. Fuel and hydrate properly and consistently until the very end.
  6. Recover properly and slowly after the race, avoid cramping.

Here is what I achieved, with explanations:

  1. Yes
  2. Yes – my finish time was 4:03:41 with a pace of 9:06. But wait, wouldn’t my pace be closer to the 9:20 I mentioned above? See #4 below.
  3. No (and yes). The race was actually mismeasured long by at least .4 miles. My final distance was actually 26.77 (which is why the 9:06 pace), much farther than 26.2. There would be some extra in my Garmin watch measurement due to not running the exact angles, but not by over 1/2 a mile. I checked out the course map versus my tracking map and there was one point where they had us run 6 extra blocks that weren’t part of the measured course. My actual 26.2 time according to my Garmin was 3:58:37. So, even though it’s not an official time it at least tells me I can do a sub-4 marathon.
  4. Yes and No – My fastest mile was 8:49 but my slowest was 10:10 when I had to pull off to the side (at mile 25.5 no less!) with a hamstring cramp and work it out for 30 seconds. Without that mile my slowest would have been 9:12.  Overall, I did a pretty consistent job with my pacing.
  5. Yes – I took a gel every 5-6 miles, including at mile 25 and took water and/or Gatorade at every water stop. I also took electrolyte tablets twice and advil at about mile 17.
  6. Yes – As opposed to what happened at my last marathon (laid down and cramped up really badly) this time I kept walking and standing until my legs were no longer in danger of cramping. By the time I got in the car about 30 minutes later I was fine.

View of San Francisco as the sun rose

Lessons Learned

I always learn something valuable every season and this one was no exception.

  • The Will Must Be Stronger Than The Skill – There were plenty of runners younger, stronger and faster than me at the Oakland Marathon. And obviously those things matter to some degree. I didn’t win the race, nor did I win my age group (I came in 3rd in that category). But what I did do was beat a very aggressive time goal I set for myself (4:05), one I was not at all sure I could make. To achieve this would mean I would have to run at least 22 seconds per mile faster than I did my last marathon in October, only 5 months before. I was able to do it because I had a plan that I worked on day in, day out and I had a goal that I didn’t let go of during the course of the season. I trained until I thought my skill was there, but it was my desire to meet my goal that drove me to live out that plan. The will drove me to have the skill.
  • LESSON: The will to do your best is the key to doing your best.
  • Luck Matters – I have run many, many races over the past 10 years and there have been very few where everything out of my control lined up so I could be at my absolute best.  Wind, heat, cold, humidity, course, injury, – you name it and one of those things will likely rear it’s ugly head. That’s why we run races again and again, because they are never the same and there is always a challenge.  This past Sunday every single thing that could line up to be perfect, did.  My will and skill were strong, but so was the temperature, the wind, the course. I was lucky those things were in my favor.
  • LESSON: Control what you can control and don’t worry about the rest.
  • Estimate Long – I had a plan to make sure every mile I ran was under a certain time (9:09). If I did that I knew I would break 4 hours. But that is if I went exactly 26.2 miles. The truth is almost everyone runs farther than what the race distance is because we don’t run the shortest possible route. We take turns wide, we don’t go in a straight line, or maybe the cones are placed in the wrong place making the route farther. Whatever the reason if you run 6.2 miles or 26.2 miles, chances are your Garmin will say you ran more.  My Garmin said I ran 26.77. That is over 1/2 mile longer than the race distance. It turns out this wasn’t just due to me running corners wide, but a 6 block long mistake the race organizers made in setting the route on the morning of the race. What that meant was even though my watch told me I had run 26.2 miles in 3:58, my actual time at the finish was 4:03 because of the extra distance. But my pace was 9:06, 3 seconds below my goal of 9:09.
  • LESSON: Put a little cushion in your time and distance estimate when you are deciding your goal.
  • Support is Awesome – As you may now, I am on a mission to do a marathon in every city I have a sister or a daughter (a total of 6). It’s a heck of a lot more doable than the 50 states challenge or the 7 continents challenge. The main reason is as an excuse to go visit family, but the more selfish reason is to have support even if I do a race in a distant city. At the Oakland Marathon I not only had my daughter Chelsea, but my grandson Otis cheering me on. In addition Chelsea’s boyfriend Josiah was running the 1/2 marathon and his parents were there cheering us both on as well. There is no such thing as an easy marathon, but a hard race can be made much more enjoyable by having your loved ones there supporting you.
  • LESSON: Invite your family and friends to come support and celebrate your accomplishment. 
  • No Detail is Unimportant – My daughter Chelsea’s boyfriend, Josiah, was going to run the half marathon while I ran the marathon. We got to the start in plenty of time for the 7am gun and off we went. Since the half and full course split before mile 2 we didn’t bother to stay together at the start. When I crossed the finish line 4+ hours later Josiah was there with everyone else celebrating my finish. But he didn’t have his medal on. I asked why and found out he had been disqualified. Why? Because he didn’t actually run in the half, he ran in the full. The half didn’t start until 9:30, 2 and 1/2 hours after the full marathon started!  I didn’t bother to check since I had never heard of a half and full not starting at the same time. He didn’t bother to check because it was his first half and he was just assuming I knew what was up.  He ended up running the marathon route for 15 miles when he finally decided he had turn back to the finish line. When he crossed (not yet knowing the half hadn’t even started yet) he was disqualified because he hadn’t run the half route at all. He also crossed the marathon finish line first, messing up the official timing for the real winner (it was corrected, no worries).
  • LESSON: Check Your Start Time!

Left, published map; middle, actual distance traveled; right, difference in distance

New Goals

And now to set some new goals for the rest of 2018.

  • 2 goal races – Chicago in October and New York in November.  I would like to do both but will wait and see if that’s feasible.
  • Time goals –
  • Under 4:05 will qualify me for Boston, 2020
  • Under 4:00 hours
  • Close 3:50 – which would qualify me for Boston 2019.
  • Use the foam rollers more diligently.
  • Be consistent and aggressive in my stretching and weight routines.
  • Lose 15 pounds.
  • Institute a more thorough warm up and cool down routine.

I will keep you informed!


Oakland Marathon Medal, 2018


So, there you have it. I felt great through the entire race and was very happy with how quickly I recovered. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, would love to hear from you!

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