More about me as a runner

2017 Target Events

  • 15th Jan - Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon - 3:49:54
  • 12th Feb - Auroville Marathon HM - 1:46:28
  • 29th April - Western Pacific Marathon
  • 15th October - Bangalore marathon - tentative

Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Impromptu marathon at Hartford CT

My unplanned 25th FM(28th including the 3 ultras) - the ING Hartford Marathon on 9th October was a bit if a disappointment. After the KTM on September 19th my next planned race was the Bangalore ultra on November 14th. However, when a sudden work related trip to NJ happened on 4th Oct and I found out that the Hartford marathon was scheduled the following weekend I was tempted to give it a shot. Considering my recent running form I felt this was a good opportunity to try and leverage the fall weather and see if I could do a sub 3:55 as a milestone towards my target of a 3:45 in a couple of years. Online registration was closed before I left India. I couriered the filled entry form plus the required waiver form and a copy of my photo id to my sister Mrs. Uma Narayanan as soon as I reached NJ. It was due to her efforts that I was even able to register for the event less than 48 hours before the race on 7th Oct afternoon. In fact, this race is dedicated to Uma and her husband Venkat who chauffered me back and forth a few times over the weekend. I felt quite good when Uma dropped me off at the starting point on 9th morning around 7:15am and with the buzz of runners all around I felt a 3:55 might be achievable. My fallback goal was to better my previous PR of 3:56:49 at the National marathon in Washington DC in March 2009 and worst case plan was to do my second sub 4 FM. I missed all the 3 goals finishing in 4:00:02 – my disappointment was not with my absolute timing(it is still my second best ever) but with the fact I did not meet or better the time target I had set myself for the race – something that has not happened for a while now – probably KTM 2008 and London 2006 would fall in this category. Missing my goals also made be introspect as to whether the effort and money spent in registration was really worthwhile. However, now more than 48 hours after the event I feel that this setback was a timely jolt to bring me down to earth and help me train harder and better with clear focus on goals. It clearly made me realise that doing a 3:45 even in US fall weather is going to be very very challenging for me and weill require a lot of hard work in the next couple of years. Perhaps the focus needs to be more on quality rather than quantity , that is, I need to cut down the number of races to run. Also I need to rethink whether to stay with the 75K at the Bangalore ultra or change it to a 50K in order to focus on a 3:59 SCMM 2011. My path to Boston qualification is to do a sub 3:55 SCMM 2012 and a sub 3:52 SCMM 2013 and hope that I can shave 7 minutes off of that in a well planned, well executed run in the US in fall of 2013. Of course, all this is a long way off and subject to staying healthy and  injury free for next 3 years. While I got over my disappointment of missing my time target fairly quickly I felt terrible for John Durham whom I met and interacted with in the holding area. John ran this race for the 3rd time - last year he missed the Boston qualifying time by a couple of minutes finishing in 3:38. Yes, John is exactly my age. He was hoping to crack the 3:35 timing this year. Unfortunately, he missed it by less than a minute finishing in 3:36:41!!

I reached Uma’s place from NJ around 6PM on 8th evening, got my race gear ready and went to sleep around 10PM with the alarm set for 5:20am. For the first time ever I changed my Garmin to show distance and pace in miles instead of Km. As usual I ended up waking  a few minutes before the alarm rang. We left home around 6:15am as planned and had a fairly smooth ride to Hartford. As soon as we exited the Capital Avenue ramp we saw waves of runners crossing the road. So I got dropped off there and made my way to the holding area where the baggage UPS trucks were parked. That is where I met and chatted up with John. Both of us walked together towards the starting line around 7:40am after I checked in my bag. Given the temperature of 11 degrees Celsius and sunny weather I decided to run in the hallf sleeves dri-shirt rather than full sleeves. A few minutes later I dashed off and joined the queue to use the potty while John went to the starting line. Ofcourse, I did not meet John again as by the time I came to the starting line it was very crowded and I had to squeeze my way to stand between the 3:50 pacer and 4:00 pacer. Unfortunately, this race did not have a 3:55 pacer which is strange as I expected a pacer for every 5 minutes time as was the case in the National marathon at DC.

Finish was just after this arch

The race started from Capitol Avenue in the center of Hartford a couple of minutes past 8am , after a prayer , a couple of speeches from some officials(have not experienced this in any of the other US marathons earlier) and after the wheelchair race and 5K race were kicked off. With both FM and HM runners starting together the start area was very congested. However, once the FM and HM runners separated around the 1.6 miles point things were much better. I started at a good pace covering the 1st mile in a little over 8 minutes – versus my target average pace of 8:58 per mile for a 3:55 finish. I kept a pace of around 8:30/8:35 for the next several miles getting to the 10 mile mark in about 85 minutes at an average of 8:30. Around this point the 3:50 pace leader over took me. The route had more gradients than I expected and took us through the riverfront park of Hartford. In this stretch I met a woman runner who had run this marathon last year when she was pregnant and was now running it again 6 months after delivering her baby( she had also done a 100 mile ultra last year). She just took off and should have finished way before I did. I felt very strong when I hit the halfway mark around 1:54 – I drank a cup of water at every other water station(every other mile) and by now had consumed most of my energy bar. The next 7 miles were definitely tougher but when I hit 20 miles at 2:56 I felt a 3:55 was possible . However, after the 20 mile mark I started to fade pretty rapidly. Both my lower legs started hurting with cramps. At times the feet and the toes froze completely and refused to move. I had started sipping Gatorade at every aid station the last few miles. However,  I had to walk for a few minutes after every aid station before being able to run again. On top of that strong headwinds also affected my pace adversely. By the 24 mile mark I knew that I had blown 3:55. And as I stopped to stretch a couple of times in the 25th mile at 3:49 I knew that a sub 3:57 was also gone and the only thing to focus on was a sub 4. But at this time I think the mind pretty much gave up - something that has never ever happened to me before. I could not carry on through the pain and stopped and walked a few times too many. Some spray on both the legs might have helped but I did not find any at the aid stations. As a result when I crossed the finish line after the Bushnell Park arch with gritted teeth my Garmin showed 4 hrs. I was hoping I had managed just under 4 hr finish but of course,later, I found that my official chip time was 4:00:02! A lot of ifs and buts went through my mind. I could not understand the cause of the severe cramps in both my lower legs – calves, feet and toes. Was it because I ran the 1st half too fast?. I had my usual 3 bananas before the race, 1 energy bar in the first 15 miles and kept hydrating myself. It was not very hot and I did not sweat much so I could not have lost excess salt and other minerals. I was tempted to blame the travel and the hectic work week but this is not my first experience of running in such circumstances. I did not like the course that much and that could have had a role. Another thing is I was probably more timing focused in this race than in most other races which also meant I did not enjoy it as much - neither the chit-chat with fellow runners nor the ambience of the route(which anyway was average). One notable positive was live music every couple of miles in the course. Llater in the day at home when I researched some literature on foot cramps(more on this in the next post)  I realized that the most probable causes were : 1) new shoes – I had done just one 25K run with this pair of shoes 2) over running – having done a grueling 58K just 3 weeks ago. While I definitely need to replan and rethink my training to improve beyond sub 4 timing , in retrospect, I do now feel much more confident that a sub 4 at least in the US fall or spring weather conditions is definitely doable with better planning and preparation.

The results tent in the finish area was very chaotic. There were print outs of results in no particular order scattered all over the table with runners scrambling to look for their names. There were laptops for online search for results that had glitches. Mine and those of several runners gave an error message for a while. When I went back nearly 45 minutes after finishing the race then I was able to find my results online. The food for the finishers was also not that great – cookie, veg soup, apple, chips etc. I reached back home just before 2 PM determined to refocus my training and efforts to improve my FM finish timings. As part of this I need to make a decision on the distance to run at the Bangalore ultra. I will decide this by the end of the week depending on my recovery as well as a few other factors. Had a decent  first run 48 hours after the marathon - a 38 minutes/5Km today(Monday) morning.

The winner of the Hartford marathon , Michael Wardian, won his 6th marathon of the year -finishing this one in 2hrs 24 minutes 38 seconds. See report here.


ddhaya said...

though you couldn't "leverage the fall weather", the pic with blue fall sky is beautiful!!! You went the first mile too fast...but approx 3:40 finish if you can keep that pace :-)!! Nice account of your run, as always

Deepak Dhayanithy

ddhaya said...

what am i saying 3:30 infact!