Traditionally, my spring marathon is Bayshore up in Traverse City, MI but I have a hard time sticking to my training. We have our annual work conference in mid-April and my training usually suffers while I'm out of town. Once I get back, I never seem to be able to get back in to my training program. With the Carmel Marathon moving it's date to April, the timing worked out perfect for me. The last week of my taper would line up with my work conference & I wouldn't have to worry about missing any key workouts. I still signed up for Bayshore as a back up race. If things went bad at Carmel, I would still have plenty of time to recover to give it another shot 5 weeks later.
I woke up at 5:00am and had my normal race day breakfast of a Clif Bar, Nuun & coffee and by 6:15, I was on my way to the starting line. Another benefit of the Carmel Marathon was how close the race is to my house. It was relaxing to be able to sleep in my own bed the night before a race & not have to worry about getting up around the time most people are leaving the bar in order to get to the starting line on time.
The weather was almost perfect. Temps were in the low 40's with an overcast sky and even though the forecast was calling for 11+ mph winds, it never became an issue. I was holding out hope for the sun to come out at some point & I even wore my sunglasses but they ended up on top of my head after a few miles since they clouds never gave way.
I had 2 goals for the race. Goal A was to go sub 3. Goal B was to run under 3:05 & BQ. The original plan was to negative split the course by running 6:58/mile for the first half & then bringing it down to 6:41/mile for the last half. I felt great in the opening few miles. I was a bit faster than my first half goal pace but I wasn't under 6:50. Due to the long lines at the porta-johns when I tried to make one last pit stop before the gun, I had to take a quick break between miles 3 & 4. I had hoped that the urge would go away after a few miles but it only got worse. I thought to myself about how hilarious it would be if my bathroom break ended up causing me to miss either of my 2 goals by less than a minute.
After the bathroom break, I fell in with a group of about 5 or 6 guys who were keeping a pretty consistent pace of about 6:56/mile. It was a a fun group and a few of them were a bit talkative. I wish I could have contributed to the conversation but I was focused on the task at hand. One guy starting singing "Hurts So Good" & "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" and I remember thinking how pissed I was going to be if either of those songs were stuck in my head for the rest of the race.
By the 13 mile mark, I knew sub 3 wasn't in the cards and I decided to switch to Goal B. I was still running with the group and figured I'd stick with them all the way to the finish line. However, once we made the turn around mile 17 from the Monon on to 136th, the group fell apart. Most of the guys started to pick up the pace &, while some started falling back. I was content to keep clicking off 6:55 - 6:58 miles. I've had my share of late marathon meltdowns & I knew if I tried to stick with them that I'd end up paying for it. I'd end up running most of the last 9 miles on my own.
I had some rough miles between 23 & 25 and the pace started to creep up in to the 7:20/mile range. I hit my first mental low point at the aid station on the trails at Central Park. I dropped both cups of Powerade that I tried to grab and it put me in a terrible mood. I also felt bad for the 2 volunteers I soaked in the process. After that I just kept doing the math in my sugar deprived brain about what it would take to still BQ. I figured that as long as the 3:05 pace group hadn't passed me then I was good. That's when I turned around & saw the 3:05 pace group. I'm not sure how many runners started with this group but by now there was only the pacer leader & 2 or 3 other guys. I tried to stick with them for about a half mile but my legs just didn't have it. I was mentally crushed. The pace leader could tell I was struggling and tried to motivate me. "All you need is 7:25 miles & you've got this." I wasn't sure if I could even hang on to that pace and I started thinking about how that damn bathroom break earlier in the race was going to cost me a trip back to Boston.
When I made the turn on to Main St. from Guilford, I could still see the 3:05 pace team in front of me. I realized I still had a chance to BQ if I left everything out on the road. I picked up the pace & turned in my first sub 7 minute mile since mile 20. I made the trip down Main fairly confident that I had it. When I turned from Rangeline on to 126th, I was right behind the 3:05 pace leader. He turned around & gave me a thumbs up. I knew I had my BQ. Right before the finish line, I spotted my wife, who had run the 8K, and my Dad, who had made the trip down from Detroit to cheer me on, off to the side of the road. I high fived my wife & made my across the finish line. 3:04:18. A new PR by over 6 minutes and my first PR in the marathon in almost 4 years.
The Carmel Marathon is a great choice for a spring marathon. The course is fast. It's a bit rolling but no major hills. The organization is great. It feels like it's been around for years even though this was only it's second running. Added bonus - Upland Brewing Company beers at the finish line. My only complaint, and it's a minor one, would be to change up the shirts over the previous year. The color & design were the same as 2011 with the only change being the date.
As for my training, I stuck with my modified FIRST program. I took the 3:10 training plan from the book "Run Less, Run Faster" and changed the goal training paces to fit what the McMillan Calculator said I should be capable of running if I was in shape for a 2:59 marathon. I also eliminated the cross training in favor of getting in a trail run with the Wednesday night Eagle Creek group. While I didn't get my sub 3, I was still able to PR & BQ on only 3 to 4 days of running per week. I owe a lot to the Speed Demons group that meets at NIFS on Tuesdays & Thursday. Without all of those guys pushing me through some tough track workouts every week, I doubt I would have had the same results.