Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guest Race Report: Detroit Marathon

See Rick Run!
I am on a little hiatus from racing right now. Fortunately I happen to have some wonderful friends and blog readers who are out running and racing and achieving milestones. One of these, a fellow Playmakers teammate, Rick Rogacki, ran his first marathon this past weekend at Detroit and agreed to do a race report for the blog. 

He apologized because it was on the long side, but I would not cut a word because as I read it I got to relive all the excitement and ups and downs of that first marathon experience, which was a real treat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks, Rick!!

My First Marathon
As the title says, the Detroit Marathon was my first marathon.  A little background about me. I started “running” a couple of years ago.  I am not sure you can call it running.  I would sign up for a race to force myself to get out of the house and do something healthy.  My wife had been on me for years to exercise because in 2005 I had a mild stroke.  So I thought if I signed up for a race I would have to get out and train.  Well, that didn’t work out too well.  I would sign up but run a race without truly training.  Let me tell you, that didn’t work. 

Last year, I ran some of the fun runs that Playmakers had, and during one in late August, I was minding my own business, huffing and puffing around Lake Lansing and came up to 2 women, Cass and Ramona, that little did I know would change my life, not just running life.  It appeared that one was faster than the other and she wanted to run faster.  I told her I would run with her friend.  She and I talked as we ran and had a great time.  At the end we ran as hard as we could to get past the finish line.  I told her we had to finish strong. 

Rick and Ramona at the Autumn Classic

After the fun run was the Autumn Classic.  I ran that race and sat alone after eating my soup while seeing others have a group of people congratulating them on completing the race.  That group had red shirts on with Playmakers across the chest.  I ran a few more races to finish out the year, and the last one was the Scrooge Scramble in Lansing.  I ran into Cass and Ramona again at the race and their friend Tim.  We all finished somewhat together (well Cass finished long before Tim, Ramona and I did).  We struck up a conversation, remembering we had run together at the fun run in August.  They were heading to breakfast and invited me.  This is what I had been looking for, camaraderie after a race.    As we ate breakfast we talked about signing up for the Playmakers running group. 

The four of us did sign up for the group.  Being the newbie in the group, planning goal races was not in my thought process.  As it turned out, the three of them had signed up for running the Bayshore Full.  They were encouraging me to sign up for at least the half.  I did in fact sign up for the half at Bayshore.  A funny thing happened as we started on a training program for that race; I was enjoying their company.  I told them even though I was running the half I would run their training miles.  I was more than prepared for that half.  After our experience up in Traverse City, all of the good and bad, excitement got the better of me and I signed up for the Detroit Marathon before we left Traverse City.  No turning back now.

Fast forward to October 20, 2012. After training the last half of 2012 for a marathon, I now had two sessions of marathon training under my belt, and I was on my way to Detroit. 

We had picked up a couple of other people to ride down with.  The five of us left Okemos at 10 the day before the race and headed to the expo.  It was a cool ride because of the excitement of what we were going to do the next morning.  We discussed all of our goals for the race, who else was running, and how many carbs we had eaten in the days leading up.  During the car ride I was pretty nervous; in fact I was nervous pretty much all day. 

We arrived at the expo and the plan was to head to packet pickup because of possible lines.  We stopped at the licensed apparel booth because several of the coaches were working the booth.  I had to purchase my 26.2 apparel and souvenirs before they ran out.  I bought an outer shirt, coffee mug, pint glass, and hat.  I was asked about the sticker, but said I had to earn that before buying it.  Go figure, I spend over $100 before the race but had to earn a $3 sticker for the car.  We headed back to the packet pickup after the buying spree by a few of us and completed that task within 10 minutes.  The rest of the expo was very similar to a golf show to me, businesses selling their products and advertising their races. 

It was time to check into hotels.  As we left the expo we also realized we were getting hungry, but dinner was still a couple of hours away.  After Geoff checked into his hotel we walked to Comerica Park and looked in the stadium, seeing guys working out getting ready for the World Series.  We stopped for a snack and a beer.  BTW, for those of you saying beer is carb loading, the highest amount of carbs we found in a Google search was 20g.  There are more carbs in grape juice. 

After the snack we headed to our hotel where 4 of us were staying, Marriot at the Renaissance Center.  We got to the hotel and there were hundreds of people just like us excited about the marathon.  Team in Training was staying at the Marriot. Upon checking in we were handed key cards with the marathon logo on them.  I asked if we could keep them and was told yes they were a souvenir.   When we got to the hotel room we looked out the window and had an incredible view.  We could see the Ambassador Bridge, Cobo arena and the exit from the tunnel right out of our window.  You could have sat in the window and watched the marathon go by.

The View

We had an awesome dinner at Andiamo’s.  I will say that we can blame Geoff for slow times; he was the one that suggested we had dessert after dinner.  After dinner we decided to walk to the start line to see how far away it was.  Let’s just say too far to walk in the morning.  By this time the nervousness was gone.  I was very calm seeing the starting line. We got back to the hotel, and I was asleep by 10.  I had a restless night's sleep, not because of the race, but I couldn’t get comfortable with the temp in the room. 

Whew, if you have gotten this far, it is finally race day.  After waking up at 3:30 to find out I couldn’t have oatmeal because of a bad coffee maker, we headed to the people mover to get to the team pictures.  I won’t go into details about what we did after the pictures -- all racers do it before a race and it usually involves some long lines. 

We headed to the starting line from pictures, and there were a lot more people on the sidewalks than I had imagined.  It made it a little difficult to get into our starting corral.  It was during the walk on the sidewalk that the nerves kicked in a little.  Not sure why, my race doesn’t start until I hit the starting line.  We had signed up for a pacer the day before, but when we got to the corral he was in the corral behind where we were told to go.  Ok, not a big deal, we would let him catch us after getting started.  It took him a while.

Thirteen minutes after 7 we crossed the starting line, no turning back now.  The weather was perfect.  It was in the low 40’s and clear, with a slight wind out of the west.  The starting line is downtown Detroit on Fort St.  We quickly left the downtown area and got into some rundown buildings.  About ¾ of a mile in I had a rock in my shoe -- can’t do that for 26 miles.  Ok, rock out, it is time to get going.  We saw a couple of coaches encouraging us, and the bridge was starting to come into view.  Part of the challenge in the first ¾ of a mile is dodging all of the discarded clothes.  Good thing we didn’t trip on any.  

At just short of 2 miles in, we entered the plaza to the bridge.  Running up and over the bridge was a cool experience.  While we were running uphill it wasn’t so steep that it made it a tough run.  Sure we slowed down, but we made it up pretty easy.  By the time we got to the middle of the bridge and on the Canadian side, they were already cleaning up the discarded clothes.  It was much cleaner on the Canadian route than the Detroit route. 

The route took a turn to the north, and the street we ran down ran along the river.  The views from Canada back to Detroit were incredible!  It was a very enjoyable stretch to run.  While running, the 4:25 pacer passed us.  The funny thing was the 4:07 pacer passed us later.  Someone wasn’t pacing correctly.

We turned away from the river and headed to the entrance to the tunnel.  I didn’t know what to expect from running in the tunnel.  I was told it was hot and stinky.  I didn’t think it was too hot, but it did get warmer, and it wasn’t as stinky as I was lead to believe.  It was very cool.  In the middle of the tunnel there are flags of Canada and the United States; many people stopped and took pictures.  Running up the exit of the tunnel wasn’t too bad either.  By this point we were at mile 8. 

I should mention I was running with Cass, the reason I am saying “we.”  The plan for the race was to run the first half together and then evaluate how we were each doing to determine how we would run the second half of the race. 

Rick and Cass at CCRR

At mile 8 we did an inventory of each other, and we were still rolling along.  I mentioned to her I felt strong as an ox.  As it turns out it is a good thing we were doing that inventory.  We had each had at least 1 GU; I think I had two by then. 

At mile 10 we did another inventory, and we had a wobble.  Prior to the marathon, both Cass and I had some physical issues, she a hip and I strained my hamstring in a race 2 weeks prior, and yes there is a lesson in there.  I checked with her, and she was starting to experience some discomfort in the hip.  With having a hamstring issue, I was only able to run 2 miles in the two weeks leading up to the marathon.  As we got to 13 miles, the run hadn’t been as comfortable as my previous 13 mile runs.  There is a point in the race where the half marathoners split off from the marathoners.  Cass mentioned a coach had told her runners could turn off and complete the half and still get a medal.  It didn’t register until later she was considering it because of her hip. 

At this point, the goal pace was pretty out of reach.  We could have pressed, but I am not sure what would have happened had we pressed, but for me deciding I was very happy just finishing was an important hurdle.  We continued our quest to finish.  We had some other problems along the way at this point that caused us to slow also.  

At mile 16 we turned into Indian Village. There are some huge, beautiful homes in this area.  There was a 15 year old young man cleaning up cups after mile 17 that seemed to be having a riot.  He was taking pride in the fact there wasn’t a cup around him.  He picked them up as the cup hit the pavement.
Right after mile 18 there was a left turn. We ran 20 yards and then had to run the other direction around a cone, kind of a goofy exercise, when they could have made up 20 yards somewhere else without the turn around.  At mile 19 we turned left and started to cross the bridge to Belle Isle.  Now I have to admit, I had never been on Belle Isle, and I am not sure what I was thinking, but I thought the bridge was flat.  Guess what: it isn’t.  Other than the water stations, this was the first time we walked.  We walked up the bridge then ran down the other side.  Turning left on the island, there was mile 20.  The second half of the race awaited us. 

I was reminded that once we crossed mile 20 it was the furthest I had run.  I didn’t need that reminder.  Taking inventory again with each other, we were both feeling the effects of being on our feet for so long.  We were still able to run, but just not as fast.  To this point from the beginning our pace may have fallen 30 seconds a mile.  We were still a “we” at this point.  

We got to mile 21 and Cass started to have a noticeable limp.  The hip issue possibly had started to affect her ankle as well.  We walked again.  She was, at this point, encouraging me to run ahead.   I told her, “if I run ahead the only difference would be that I finish a little ahead.  I would still be walking too.  If I am going to walk, I might as well have company doing it. “ At this point in the inventory process I started to tear up because I knew for a fact I was going to finish this race.  I will mention too, I am kind of an emotional guy. 

It is at this point I use a quote from Ramona, “It is time we go get our medals.”  We headed back over the bridge, waved to a couple of Team P runners and headed for home.  We were still talking about me running ahead, even though I thought we had finished that conversation.  It was at this point I got more emotional and told Cass I wasn’t leaving her limping and that the only reason I was going to finish this race was because of her and Ramona.  In a text later to her I said, “There are more important things than a time for a race, the two of us getting to the finish was more important than my chip time.”  Well that ended that subject. 

The rest of the race was pretty uneventful, other than the aches I was feeling.  I was aching from the waist down.  Just after mile 25 they decided to stick a hill in there, and then just before mile 26 there was another hill.  Go figure. 

When we hit mile 26 and made the turn is when a ton of emotion swept over me.  I couldn’t see the finish very well because of the tears in my eyes.  As soon as we crossed the finish line, I started bawling and hugged Cass: We had done it!  Very near the finish were Ramona, Geoff and Amy to greet us with hugs and more tears, and Geoff gave me a small bottle of champagne to celebrate.

Lessons learned:
1.      No races two weeks before a goal race.  I think only running 2 miles in the two weeks leading up to the race affected my performance. 
2.      No walking a couple of miles the day before.  Best to stay off of feet as much as possible. 
3.      Put as much thought into the post-race plan as put into the pre-race and race plans.

1.      The course is much more difficult than what a website can explain.  This course is all concrete.  The only part that is blacktop is the bridge.  The concrete is much harder on the body. 
2.      My pre-race and race plans were solid.  I feel very confident going into another race with the plans I created and followed.
3.      There are more important things than a goal time; there are always other races to meet and exceed goals.
4.      There are just over 200 days to my next marathon, Bayshore.

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