American Tobacco Trail Marathon

After doing the half instead of the full last year, this time I went back to the original Marathon Event. Training has been very solid in terms of the miles and the frequency. The only thing is that most of the training short sessions were done on a treadmill either at gym or hotel with the majority of the long runs done outside. My concern was the speedwork, even doing it with a 1% grade and pushing the pace slightly on the upper range, I knew it will not translate to the long race.

The food and diet have been ok. Hit and missed the earlier weeks prior to the event, but more conscious about it the last couple weeks. I watched the kind of protein and carbs I ate. I addition I started to do my training runs as early in the morning as possible. To train my body to use the bathroom early prior to the events, to make sure that what happened at the Rock and Roll marathon does not happen again. Not really a huge concern about that but since this was an important event I was concentrating on, I did not want it to leave it to chance.

Starting on Wednesday before the event, the breakfast menu consisted of either one serving of Cream of Wheat or Oatmeal, a latte, and a banana. Lunch was more flexible but concentrating on lean chicken and carbs in the form of rice, bread or potatoes. Dinner time on Friday was a serving of pasta, red sauce, and chicken. The original plan was to have the same for Saturday night, this approach has work in the past. The curved ball came in when a relative came in for visit from NJ and staying over that night. So we went out to a restaurant to eat. I got to say, it was really hard to go to your standard restaurant and not order what you normally would like to eat and switch it for something that will align to the running goals/plans. I ended up getting chicken soup with rice. It was tasteful but definitely not a Chimichanga, Fajitas or a plate of Choripollo.

I prepared the gear, shorts, shirt, nipguard, bodyglide, my 920xt fully charged, my music for later in the event, headphones, fuel gels last night. This time I was applying the learnings from previous events. I was planning to use and carry a total of 5 gels (Plus 1 more just in case of low sugars) The plan was to use one high carb, one normal carbs and one with caffeine after it. In the morning, 3:30 AM, got up with the same routine as usual. Got ready, into my running attire for the event and prepared the oatmeal and a latte. Checked my sugars, they were doing great, slightly on the upper range but where I want it to be for a race. I hold off on the banana for later, since the race start time was 7:00 AM, I did not want it to have it too early. I grabbed the rest of the gear hop in the car and drove to the parking and bus pick up area. The drive was a very short and easy, got there with plenty of time and waited a little bit in the car and verified that I had everything I needed. I debated whether or not to bring my phone, but in the end, I was going to try for a PR and did not want it the extra weight. I could have left it in the drop bag, but I am not too trusting to leave it there.

A short walk towards the buses staging area got on one of them and two of the buses, including ours, started the 5-6 mile drive to the starting line area. I was fun to listen to the conversations around. The runner behind me his bib in the car, so he was going to have to return with the bus to the parking area to retrieve his bib. There was enough time but he was getting a bit nervous. As we were getting closer to the area, the bus in front did not turn into the area that during last year’s event they were using to drop of runners. Our bus followed. Then it also skipped the main entrance and also our bus continued following. I thought that was weird because I was not aware of another entrance, but kept looking outside to see if there was another drop off area. After 5 -7 minutes, I think the bus in front of us realized that it made a mistake and now the road was too narrow to turn around. Couple more minutes later we found an area to turn around. As we were trying to get back to the area, the bus in front again did not know where to turn. As soon as we got close to the turning point I voiced the following to the driver, “The next right turn”. He turned right and about 500m ahead there was the drop-off area.

Lots of runners in the staging area, I sat down to relax a little bit. Next to me another runner that seems to be very nervous. She was new to the area and although it was not her 1st Half she was not familiar with the route or the trail. We talked for a while about the event, other running, races, running shoes, and food strategy. I think it helped her and also helped me to relax a bit. For me, it helped me relax, since while talking I realized that I had a decent strategy and approach to the race, but forgetting the challenges of how hard it was going to be to break the 4:00 mark still lingering on the back of my brain. With about 1hr to start the race, I ate the banana and drank some water. 20 mins prior I stop at the porta potty area and walked to the corral area.

At the corral, I saw the pacers for the full and half. There was the 2:00 and 4:00 pacers, 2:10 a little bit behind and the 4:30 just a few feet off the last one. In the previous event, I started way, way in the back. But taking from what I learned from the last half and the choke point about three miles in I decided to start somewhere between the 4:00 pacer and the 2:10 pacer for the half. It was a little bit crowded but manageable. The count down began and people started inching forward. Off we go, like every event I have been able to run, it is a slow start and a few bumps with runners. Since I do not have vision on my left eye and it was still a little bit dark, I needed to be a little bit more careful, especially moving or sliding toward the left.

1/4 mile in, I was feeling good, very near the 4:00 pacer. 1/2 mile in I am feeling ok, it seems like we are going too fast, but in reality, I know we are not. Not passing people, just holding steady, but it felt like too much of effort to hold the pace. Passing the 1-mile marker I start feeling like I need to stop at a porta potty. Mile 2 passed and I really needed to go. Sugars ok, a little bit on the high side hovering close to the 200s but steady. Closing into the entrance to the trail portion of the event and I am not struggling but feeling it a bit. I saw the entrance and I knew from previous years, there were porta potties and indeed there were there. I stopped for a quick stop, but it took longer than I want it. Couple runners in front of me and one of them took much much longer than usual. As I got out the quick stop, the pacer for the 5:30 mark passed by turning right into the trail. I got out to caught up with that pacer and try to gain all the time I lost due to the quick stop. I started to focus on the pacer in front and increased my pace. The next couple miles I was well under 9:00 pace which it was a little bit faster than planned, but after the quick stop I was feeling much better. I kept repeating to my self, “this is my trail, this is my race, I own this.” I quickly passed the 5:30, then 5:00 and 4:30 pacers. The runners in front of the race already coming from the turn around were passing by zooming by, as well as the woman running on 1st place trailing the male runners but not by much. She was running so focus, it was amazing to see how fast they all were running. That provided me a good surged of energy.

As I was getting close to the 1st turnaround, I quickly did a form, pace and sugars check. I was feeling strong, on the way back I was able to see the runners passing by. I saw one of the runners that we have been participating in all of the triple crown challenges for the past two years. Again a familiar happy face that provided me with more positive energy to move forward. Feeling great I pressed on with confidence. A couple miles later I saw the 4:00 pacer about 200 meters ahead and I felt that I had no need to rush and took my time to catch up with the pacer. As I got closer to the 4:00 pacer group, I did another self-check, form, checked. Cadence, checked. Sugars, good. Stamina, good. Time, on track. I passed slowly and making sure that I kept him behind me at all time. Few miles passed and I am well ahead. Getting close to the second and final turnaround I realized that the 3:50 pacer is not that far ahead of me. Realizing that I had about 4 and a half minutes to spare and less than 6 miles to go my brain started to do some running math.

At that point I was doing ok, tired but not really suffering much, legs were good and still a decent pace. With less than 5 miles to go I decided that at the water stations I was going to grab water or Gatorade and walk fast until the average pace for that mile hits 10:00 mi/min and then start to run again. My goal was to break the four hours and I got concerned that something could happen and needed to make sure I had the legs to finish strong. 1st water station went fine, second water station did well again with two more water stations before the finish line I decided to keep with the plan.

At the next water station I grabbed water, walked fast for a little bit and with less than 3 miles to go I pressed on. I got a second set of air and was feeling great, I knew I was well ahead of the 4:00 mark. I forced myself to walk a little bit at the last water station but did not even waited for the lap pace to hit the 10:00 and started to run, too excited!! As I came up the last short up hill and transitioned to the last downhill towards the finish line I cracked a big small smile. I crossed the finish line comfortably under the 4:00 mark. Tired and little bit winded but extremely happy to be able to PR and finish strong.

[vtftable cols=”{0}0-4:c9daf8;{/}”] {f1}Month/Year;;;{f1}Event;;;{f1}Location;;;{f1}Type;;;{f1}Time;nn;
Mar-15;;;Tobacco Road Marathon;;;NC;;;Full;;;3:55:23;nn;
[/vtftable] [vtftable cols=”{0}0:c9daf8;{/}”] Event Highlight & Learning Points;nn;Highlights:

Course: Great ample road right of the start the switches after mile 3 into the ATT (American Tobacco Trail). Both Half and Full start at the time, expect some weaving between runners for the first couple miles. Water stations were well staffed.

Venue: Start/finish line with bag check. At the finish area the post event has a band with great music and lots good food, plenty to drink

Expo: Decent expo. Good goodies and great info on products and services.

Weather: Sunny skies, 48º with 93% humidity.

Fueling: Pre-Race: 1 serving Hot Cereal, banana and Latte.

Race: Water at the water stations. Carried E-Fuel and E-Gels.

Post: Water, banana and pizza.

Learning Points:

    • Repeating the course helps to create a better strategy, but could get boring at times.
    • Flat courses are good for fast events.