Third time is the charm? Not so much for my third marathon. I had high hopes leading up to the Bayshore Marathon after an extremely solid training segment. It was my first time following the Hansons Marathon Method and I felt strong and very prepared. Then I started to scope out the weather.
Forecasts during the week leading up to the race didn’t make race day look very promising. I worried about potential thunderstorms, heat, and humidity. I started to get pretty bummed out because it looked like I wouldn’t get to run to my potential and see how well the training plan had really worked. I do not run well in warm and humid conditions so I knew I’d have to adjust my expectations. Just two weeks earlier we’d run a 5K in the snow, then the weather did a total 180 and went into full-blown summer mode. It’s hard to spend 18+ weeks of hardcore training working towards one goal only to have the weather on one specific day mess it up. I knew I couldn’t go into the race with a negative attitude though.
I already qualified for Boston in 2017 with my time at the Twin Cities Marathon. I really didn’t have to worry about my time. I’ve been intrigued by people who are able to run multiple marathons within a short period of time, seeing as how it’s taken me a while to bounce back from my prior two marathons. I wondered if this would be a good chance to try slowing down and see if I could recover faster.
As much as I worried about the weather, I couldn’t change it. I was still excited that after 18 long weeks of training, the race was finally here and we had a fun Memorial Day weekend trip ahead of us. Matt and I got up early on Friday morning for a 3-mile shakeout run before I went to work for half a day. We started our drive to Traverse City just after lunch, beating most of Michigan’s “up north” traffic. It took about four hours or so. We hit a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, then went to the school for packet pickup, which was available from 5-9pm. We’d participated in Bayshore weekend in 2012 when Matt ran his first full marathon and I ran the half, so we pretty much knew what to expect.
Packet pickup takes place in a gym. I’d seen pictures of race-specific merchandise, but wasn’t sure where it was. Luckily we noticed the smaller gym on our way out where they had a bunch of gear.
Playmakers was there with a bunch of t-shirts, jackets, hats, and other things branded with the race’s logo. They had a good variety and some reasonable prices. I ended up getting a hat and a cotton t-shirt.
In addition to the stuff I bought, of course I also got the official race shirt as a part of the packet pickup.
Marathoners also got a pair of thin Smartwool socks. When Matt ran the race in 2012, the socks had the race’s name on them. These socks were just plain socks off the rack.
We got to our hotel by 7:00. Hotel prices can be ridiculous because of both the race and because Traverse City is a hotspot for tourists in the summer. There’s no such thing as a discounted rate for runners. Hotels near the start can run over $300 per night! We were fine with a *somewhat* more reasonably priced hotel a couple miles down the road.
Bayshore is an extremely popular race. When it opens for registration on December 1st, anyone planning to run the half marathon needs to register immediately because it fills up in minutes. The full marathon and 10K take a little longer to fill, but eventually all of the events sell out. We know that it’s ideal to book a hotel before even signing up for the race because those go quickly as well.
The night before the race I ended up with maybe seven hours of sleep, minus the numerous times I woke up throughout the night. I wasn’t especially anxious, but I was concerned about how the weather might affect me. When I got up on Saturday morning, I had a Honey Stinger Waffle and some water first thing. I also ate a Picky Bar an hour and a half later when we got to the school. Those snacks seem to be enough to fuel me without upsetting my stomach.
As expected, traffic was slow getting to the school. Nothing too bad though. Parking was another story. The half marathoners have to take a shuttle out to the starting point for their race, so they have to get to the school before 6:15. The marathon starts an hour later, followed by the 10K at 7:30, so the non-half racers don’t need to get there quite as early. Parking seemed to be full by the time we got there, so we ended up creating our own spot on some grass.
Matt and I found some friends as we headed to the starting area. One great thing about running Bayshore is that a ton of other running friends are always there.
The morning was storm-free and mostly cloudy, but it was also warm and humid. It was about 70 degrees with humidity over 80% by the start of the marathon. Not ideal for me. I’ve been very lucky to run my other two marathons when it was 40-50 degrees. I knew I wouldn’t always be so lucky! I had successfully trained for a 3:30 marathon, meaning an 8:00 pace. I knew very well that if I aimed for that pace in the conditions that morning I would crash and burn. My new goal was to throw pace out the window and hope just to survive the warm morning. At best, I’d aim for an 8:15ish pace and see how that went.
I had no problem getting into the starting corral and the race started before I knew it. I didn’t have any issues with congestion and got off to a quick start of 8:08 for the first mile. I knew I wanted to dial it down though, and hit 8:13-8:18 for the next seven miles. I wasn’t really aiming for a pace and that’s what came naturally as I ran by feel. Within the first mile or so my face was already soaked and my sunglasses fogged up from the humidity. About a mile into the race is when we caught the first glimpse of the water – it was beautiful. The marathon is an out and back course along the shore of the East Grand Traverse Bay. You can’t go wrong with the scenery. Plus, it’s basically a flat course. It rolls a little bit in spots, but nothing very significant.
There aren’t very many access points for spectators along the course, so there isn’t a ton of spectator support. However, plenty of people set up outside their houses to cheer, play music, or even offer beer. A guy dressed like Will Ferrell playing the cowbell was pretty entertaining. The few spectator spots that are available are very energetic, and the aid stations are great.
One of the biggest boosts is watching other runners. The half marathoners run down the peninsula on the opposite side of the street, and I started to see them about six miles into my race. I saw Hansons runner (and author of the Hansons Marathon Method training plan I followed) Luke Humphrey go flying by in second place. It was a good distraction to watch everyone go by and pick out people who I knew. It was also fun to hear others yelling out to the people they knew. It’s a very encouraging environment. There was a little down period after all of the half marathoners went by, but soon enough I started to see the marathoners heading back down the peninsula. I saw them about 10 miles into my race. Again, it was fun to look out for people.
I felt okay through the halfway point and had settled into a pace in the 8:20s for miles 9-15. I was still running by feel, and I guess by then I was feeling a little slower. I had a 25 oz. bottle of GU Brew in a hydration belt and grabbed water at pretty much every aid station. I made sure to stay hydrated and didn’t feel like I was ever lacking there. I ate Honey Stinger Chews at a few points throughout the race, then switched to a few Clif Shot Bloks with caffeine later in the race. Fueling didn’t seem to be an issue.
By miles 16-18 my pace dropped into the 8:30s. The heat and humidity started to really drain me. From mile 19 on, my pace ranged from 9-10 minutes per mile because I started to take walk breaks. Nothing hurt and I didn’t cramp up or anything. I was just drained and didn’t want to run anymore. I typically don’t take my phone out during races, but decided to send a quick text to Matt. He had well over two hours to wait for me after he finished his 10K and I appreciated him being so patient.
Taking the walk breaks meant I’d leave him waiting even longer. I let him know that I was fine but not feeling it and didn’t want to run anymore. He was encouraging and told me, “Keep going, you’ve got this.” I kept that in mind as I trudged along, and spectators echoed his words. I was so appreciative of the spectators and volunteers at the aid stations who provided words of encouragement. “You’ve got this, you look strong.” By a certain point, it seemed like I got into a cycle of running past people who had stopped to walk, only to have them run past me a few minutes later once I started to walk. A lot of us were struggling and it meant a lot to have people along the course encouraging us.
Since I really wasn’t aiming for a certain time goal anymore, I didn’t care what it took to finish the race. If walking made me feel better, I was going to walk. I knew that running would get me through it faster, so I tried to run as much as I could. I decided that I’d start walking through every aid station. It was a break to look forward to and it meant I’d get enough water down to stay hydrated. I kept telling myself that even if I was a bit slower, I was still going to finish a marathon. Some people were still on their way up the course, meaning they had even farther to go than me. I knew they were going to finish, and if they could do it, I could do it. It was especially inspiring when I saw a guide running with a blind person. They were going to finish this marathon too. It also gave me a boost when I saw an older guy named Harry (his name was on his shirt) with his knees taped up moving along slowly. He was smiling and I knew he was going to finish. I could do this.
As I got closer to the finish, I passed a house that had music blaring. Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance” was playing. It was nice to actually smile for a bit as I rapped along with the song in my head and watched the spectators dance. It gave me a boost for a few minutes. I still kept doing the run/walk thing right through the end. With about a quarter mile left, I was back on the campus and people lined the streets. They gave me another boost. I couldn’t just walk past them – I had to get moving again. I knew the finishing stretch on the track was coming up and I had to finish strong. As I entered the track, I saw all of the people in the bleachers cheering. I only had about 100 meters to go.
I raised my arms in celebration after I crossed the finish line, thinking, “Thank God it’s done.” I was way off of my goal of a 3:30 marathon, but knew that a time under four hours was still pretty darn good.
I took a few minutes to pace around and stretch, and was relieved that I was actually in pretty good shape. After my first two marathons I had pretty bad IT band pain in my left knee that caused me to limp around. I realized that the tips of my toes hurt a little bit and probably had blisters, but otherwise I was fine. I got my medal and a bottle of water and found Matt waiting for me at the entrance to the post-race party. I hadn’t been too emotional during the race, but had a brief moment when I saw him. That’s when it must have sunk in that I had really done it and he was there being so supportive. I had been running six days a week for the last 18+ months, and at times the schedule seemed ridiculous. It meant passing up a bunch of things we may have done otherwise. It meant adjusting schedules to make my running fit. It meant lots of late dinners. Matt was very understanding and supportive through it all and I know how lucky I am.
Bayshore does not disappoint when it comes to post-race food. I look forward to eating lots of goodies after a marathon, and Bayshore does it right. I got a bottle of chocolate milk first, which is my go-to recovery drink. Then I went to check out the food. I got several kinds of cookies, a blueberry muffin, a bag of chips, a bag of pretzels, and the best thing of all – a cup of Moomers ice cream! I found a few people from work who had also run the marathon and we chatted about the difficult day. We saw Luke Humphrey and I congratulated him on his second place finish in the half, then let him know how much I had enjoyed following his plan…even if I didn’t get to truly put it to work thanks to the weather. We found our friend Karly who ran a great race and got her BQ despite the conditions! Eventually we headed out and went back to the hotel. I had a layer of salt on top of my layer of sweat and needed a shower pretty bad.
A little while later we headed out to downtown Traverse City. One of the perks of doing a marathon in Traverse City is being able to get some great post-race treats, and no shame in eating them with so many calories to replenish!
We picked up a pizza and breadsticks and took them back to the hotel for dinner. We watched the Tigers lose a game miserably then watched a few things on Netflix.
I was surprised that I pretty much felt fine, even the next morning. The one exception was my left heel, which caused me to limp when I took my first steps in the morning. It had been fine after the race, but the plantar fasciitis that I’ve been dealing with since January was still very much there. I’ve gotten used to that misery though, so it wasn’t anything new. When I was able to take my bags down the stairs of the hotel without wincing, I knew it was a good sign. Stairs are typically miserable after running a marathon. I kept telling Matt that it felt like I hadn’t really run a marathon and it was a strange feeling. Though I wasn’t thrilled that my race was so much slower than planned, I had a feeling that it had worked in my favor in terms of recovering faster. I almost felt like I had just run a really LONG long run rather than a race.
The next day was beautiful, so we stopped by the beach briefly before heading home.
We drove 3.5 hours straight through to get home, and that stiffened me up a bit. By Sunday evening my quads were a bit sore, and stairs became a little more difficult. However, I was pretty much good to go by Monday.
I swore that I would take a full two weeks off after this marathon no matter how good I might feel. Whenever I’ve jumped the gun and started running sooner than that, I’ve found out that I’m not fully recovered. The plantar fasciitis has been torturing me for months and I’ve been anxious to get away from the pain. I’m really hoping that some time off will help. I’ve been training so hard for so long that I need to give my body a little break.
During the late, miserable miles of the marathon, I told myself that running half marathons might be a much better idea. Of course now that I’m distanced from the misery, I’m thinking otherwise. I’m already starting to wonder about the next marathon. Am I crazy enough to put myself through the intense training schedule again soon enough to try a fall marathon? Should I try again for that 3:30 marathon that I know I’m capable of? Or should I run another marathon for “fun” at an easier pace?
I’ll give myself a couple weeks to see if I make enough progress with the plantar fasciitis before committing to anything. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy a bit of downtime…something I haven’t appreciated for about half a year now!