April 20, 2013

Carmel Marathon Race Report

If you've been following me all week, thanks and here is the conclusion of the story.
If you're not interested in reading the whole thing here is what you need to know...I talked a good fight all week, but today wasn't my day.  Still curious?  Read on...
Alarm set for 5 a.m., which means I'm rolling out of bed at 4:50 because you know, I've been awake since 4:30 watching the clock tick minute by minute.  Showered, dressed, granola bar, chocolate milk, granola bar, gatorade, watch, heart rate monitor, gear bag, and go.  Ted picks me up at 5:30, we grab Matt and meet Team Olson to caravan down.  Great company all the way down.  I'm still waking up slowly, but feeling good.  Parked in the garage nearby, potty break, and final prep.
Pre-race YRC photo
High fives all around, good luck wishes, and we settle in with Heather, the 4:25 pace group leader.  I introduce myself, and tell her I'd like to spend the next 4 and a half hours with her if she's not too busy.  Meet a few other hopefuls nearby and it's go time.
Out of the gate, feeling good, chatting up a storm, no worries, and flexing on and off the pace leader.  Walter Evans had lined up in front of us, and we wished him well on our way by.  Mile 1 is perfect in my book at 9:55 - man if I could do that all day!  5 minutes later the gentleman beside me says "Chris?" and I say yeah, without recognizing him at first, then doing a double take - JAYSON SLABACH!  I knew he was running this, but had honestly forgotten and wasn't even looking for him.  I know from his posts that he runs 10 minute pace all day, so hoping he's in it for the long haul with us.  In my excitement I yell at the top of my lungs, "Hey Everybody, I just found my friend I haven't seen in 15 years" which was met with a smattering of applause, woo-hoo's, and some laughter!  We exchanged pleasantries, introduced him to Olson's and carried on.
Mile 2 takes us near Molly's Aunt Norma's home.  Off the main drag and going through neighborhoods was pretty common today, but again out of nowhere I hear a voice - "YRC spotted up ahead" - I wave my hands in acknowledgment trying to figure out who it is that could possibly be behind me and recognizing the YRC shirt - then he goes on "That Chris Day up there used to weigh 310 pounds, and look at him now!"  Seriously, I had to run backwards and look all around before finally spotting - Mike Shunneson!  He laughed and said he was late getting here, so was making up some ground.  Ran with us for a half mile, and let him run away from us.  Mile 2 is 9:44 and we're caught up in the fun with friends, and leaving the pace group behind.
At some point during mile 3 or 4 the half marathoners turn off and the crowd thins out substantially!  Pete and Jayson as well as Amy are flexing ahead of me until Amy has to stop and retie her shoe and now she and I are running together again.  Both still feeling good.  I show mile 3 at 10:07 and mile 4 at 9:50.
Miles 5 and 6 get us into some of the course change area. Due to the flooding on Thursday night a number of homes were underwater, and it was quite sad to witness much of this first hand.  Vehicles submerged, backyard furniture floating, and the river moving quickly.  Mile 5 was 10:04 and Mile 6 was 10:01 - My split at the 10k was officially 1:01:54 which is just 6 seconds under a 10 minute pace.  This was the first time that I noticed the course starting to measure a little long against my Garmin.
After we crossed the 10k mat, and I could still see Pete and Jayson, I decided to try and make a move to see if I could catch up to them.   I ran mile 7 in 9:41 and mile 8 in 9:46.  I felt like I was gaining, but I was working way too hard doing it, so I decided to settle back into my rhythm.  I left Amy behind a bit in doing this, and that pace group...well they were no where to be seen now.
Miles 9, 10, 11 and 12 were cruise control miles for me.  It was mostly through neighborhoods, and I still felt good settling into a rhythm of 9:56, 10:12, 10:11, and 10:09.  If I could do this all day, I wouldn't mind having Pete and Jayson finish ahead of me as I would meet one of my biggest goals of the day!  The course was measuring as much as .15 long for me at this point.  Looking back, still no sign of Amy or the pace group.  But that was all about to change.
During mile 13 I did take some of my first walking steps through a water stop, and ultimately began to feel the pain in my back resume.  As I finished that mile and saw it click off at 11:46, I could really feel the day start slipping away from me.  My official Half Marathon time was 2:14:07 - over 3 minutes slower than a 10 minute pace - time to focus.
As the 4:25 pace group blew by me and into the distance, I repeated the same effort on mile 14 around 11:49, but the pain was growing deeper down the back and into the glutes now, and I knew it was only a matter of time before Amy would catch up.
Mile 15 brought exactly what I had hoped for - MY FAMILY!  I could see them in the distance ahead right at the 15 mile marker - smiling, waving, beating on cowbells, and I already knew what I was going to say.  I took the time to go to all of them with hugs and kisses.  I looked Molly in the eyes, and said, "I just need you to be proud of me" - She kissed me and said, "I'm proud of you, now keep going!"  As I turned to wave goodbye - there was Amy!  Right on my heels!  I ran to the bottom of the hill, and ultimately with my face in my hands shed my first tear of the day.  The pain was too much, and I knew an 11 mile walk was not going to be enjoyable.  She shared that she was dealing with some of the worst pain she'd had in a while too, but with an encouraging "Let's go", she pulled me with her to the next hill, and as I've come to accept - I can NOT climb hills.  It is the way I shorten my stride and lean into the hill that ultimately prevents my back from having the strength to go on.  I watched her run ahead of me, and immediately adopted a disciplined run walk strategy that would have to get me through the rest of the day.  Mile 15 was 12:26 and mile 16 was 12:12.  Mile 17 was much of the same.  Running 3 cones, walking 2 cones, then running 0.1 miles, and walking 0.1 miles, I kept changing it up based on how I felt, and it kept me steady around 12:33.
And then for some unknown reason, God put a hill in front of me that for the first time all day I actually debated quitting.  I had tears in my eyes, and struggled to even powerwalk up the hill.  When the watch finally clicked off at 13:22, it was everything I could do to keep going.  If I could only manage that coming in, I would not PR, and I debated if it was worth risking further injury.  The 4:40 pace group blew by going up the hill, and I had nothing to go with them.  By this time the pain is deep beyond my glutes and into my hamstrings.  I was obviously chaffing under my armpits also as a result of the increased arms with the powerwalking and the rubbing that caused with my base layer.
Obviously, I ventured on and was overcome by another slow mile 19 at 13:03.  I began to try and increase the running distances, but the problem was getting started.  By now the pain is actually into my calves, and coming out of a walking stride with a little "giddy-up" to kick start the run would send a shooting pain all the way from my ankle up into my calf that would force me take two little tip-toe steps and try not to fall.  After much experimentation, I figured out how to get in motion, and then it was just a matter of rolling the foot enough to stretch the calf to prevent the cramp and shooting pains.
Mile 20 was brutal but I got it down to 12:21, and that was as good as it was going to get.  I think the clock was around 3:40 because I started doing the math.  I know that with a 10k to go a 10 minute mile would take 1:02 - but of course I'm not running a 10 minute mile.  I figure an 11 minute mile would add about 6-7 minutes to that and a 12 minute mile would add about 12-14 minutes  If that's the case a 12 minute mile will take 1:16 and I will finish at 4:56!  But again...I'm not moving at a 12 minute mile - In fact as the 4:55 pace group blows by before mile 21 I realize that with 5 miles to go I need to only lose a minute per mile to them and knowing that a 5 hour marathon is 11:35 pace, I will need to do 12:35s to have a chance.  Did you follow all that?  Believe it or not, I did the math on the move!  Mile 21 was 12:48 and I feel like I'm at the end of my legs.
As I enter the Monon Center park, I am SHOCKED to see Matt walking out of the park.  I'm not sure how long we're in the park and therefore not sure how far ahead of me he is, but he is walking slowly and is in obvious pain.  In some ways, it's redeeming to know that the Beast (That's what my friend Ann calls the marathon) can bite anyone at anytime!  I keep trying to find a rhythm and running the downhills, when my eyes spy Pete walking near the exit to the park and not far behind Matt, and there is Jayson less than 30 seconds behind him.  Looking in the other direction I see Amy and realize she is a good 4-5 minutes ahead of me.  Mile 22 was 12:44.  All I can do at this point is repeat the math and give all my body will allow.  We exit the park at Mile 23 which was a 12:37.
No clue where I am, I'm looking to the skyline to locate the Palladium to get my bearings, but no sign of it.  As I come up on mile 24 - THERE'S MY FAMILY!  Of course I try to jog to them, but never able to go more than 30 seconds, all I can do is smile, and shrug.  Molly confirms that it's my back; amongst other things that are the culprit.  But my shocking surprise she points and says, "See that red shirt? - That's Chuck!"  What?  He's not that far ahead of me - "He's hurting?"  "Yes - BAD!".  Wow!  The BEAST bites again!  mile 24 was 12:38, and I can do the math to know that I've got to pick it up to have a chance at 5 hours, but that's not going to happen.
I continue with my run walk strategy and I'm slowly catching him.  Then it occurs to me - Hey, wait a minute, I bet this is a trick!  Chuck probably finished an hour ago, then walked back to mile 24 and schemed with Molly to walk ahead of me and try to pull me in a little faster!  You sly dog!  But alas, No, that was not the case at all.  And as I got closer and could make out his limp I knew his legs were toast.  I reached him near the top of a hill, and of course I have to run the downhills. I say "Come on" as I run up on him, and he replies "I'm sorry bud, I want to, but I physically can not run".  Wow, he was hurting!  I walk again and jump into my next run and hear him say "Keep it up, you're going to PR!"  I did all I could but at this point mile 25 is no better than any other at 12:48.
Now here is where the issues of frustration take over.  My watch clicks off mile 25, but I'm a good quarter mile or more away from the mile marker.  By the time I reach the mile marker and do the math, I realize a 5 hour marathon is no longer possible.  My watch clicks off mile 26 at a steady 12:47.  I'm still doing all I can, but again, no where close to the finish!  As my watch hits 26.2 I was sure to burn the number into my mind.  I will call this my GARMIN PR of 4:58:11 - and sadly yet, I could see the finish line in the distance at that moment! 
Sadly, the course measured 26.5.  As I made the final turn, I could hear my family cheering for me before I saw them.  I could not run even one step at this point.  In fact my pace over that last half mile was the worst of the day at 13:41.  It was all uphill to the final turn, and the legs were gone.  The announcer spoke my name and the kids ran out and held my hands.  They crossed the finish line with me, and there may be a picture or two with a tear in my eye.  Must have been the wind!?  ;)

Final official time is 5:02:20 - and yes that is a PR by 2 minutes and 34 seconds.
Nice Bling!

Hugs, kisses and congratulations all around.  The finisher medal is placed around my neck.  And someone hands me a chocolate milk right on cue!  Snapped a few pics to commemorate the occasion, and turned to find Jayson and his wife right beside me.  Turns out his wheels fell off on the back half too and he finished less than two minutes ahead of me.
Now looking for Chuck, and watched him also limp across the finish and literally performed a controlled collapse into the metal fencing.  A friendly medic who was worried about me wobbling was redirected to Chuck, and within seconds they were calling for medical for him.  He shrugged them off, but took a precautionary trip to the med tent (welcome to the club).  I thought to ask Molly how Amy did and she confirmed that she was beaming as she crossed in 4:57:04.  I got a little choked up thinking how proud I was of her, and maybe a little disappointed in myself.  Found Pete and gave him a big hug of congrats as he tells me he knocked it out in 4:47:02.  Was so excited to hear his war stories.  We walked up a little farther, and found Amy sitting on a curb recovering.  We traded smiles, and I leaned all the way down and said, "I knew there would be a day you would beat me, I just didn't know it was going to be today!"  Could not be happier for both of them!
The rest of the story is all about recovery.  We ate well at Famous Dave's on the way home, and Puerto Vallarta (with margarita) for dinner tonight.

 My #1 fan continues to tell me how proud she is of me, and my kids have said it more than once also.  It was not the day I had planned on or hoped for.  No where close, but as I posted earlier in the week...
GOAL #1 - JUST FINISH - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  My 4th full is in the books
GOAL #2 - PR - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  It wasn't by much, but you gotta take what you can get!
GOALS #3-? - NOT TODAY - I could give you many excuses.  I have plenty.  Injury, lack of long runs, etc.  But at the end of the day it doesn't matter.  I learned a lot today, and I will be better for it.  Here is a comparison of all my marathons (I know I'm a data geek) I will be studying this and trying to learn from it.
Many thanks to all my friends that raced today and shared the experience with me in some way.  Thanks to Dr. Schoonover and Indiana Vein Specialists for the sponsored entry today.  But as always, I must finish this post with huge thanks to my amazing family who allow me to do these crazy activities, but especially my wife, who ALREADY gave me a full body massage!  I love you Molly!


  1. Wow - amazing and inspirational! Your perseverance speaks volumes to your dedication to and respect for the sport. Please recover fully...and run on!!

    1. Thanks! So far so good! Racing for the 4th straight weekend on Saturday in Nashville Tennessee!

  2. Congrats on finishing, Chris! As I was reading I thought you were going to say you DNF, but I'm SO glad you didn't! That's awesome that you kept on going through the pain. Your story is SO inspiring too. This was my first marathon and I was working so hard for a sub 5, but I came in at 5:31. (I tell myself I would've gotten a better time if the course was 26.2, instead of 26.5!!) Very disappointing, but I'm super happy to have finished, and I know the next one will be better. I hope you're recovering well!

    1. Thanks and CONGRATS on your first full! My first full was 5:21, and I too wanted that sub 5, and sadly, still do! I will get there, and you will too! Best of luck to you as you continue your journey!

  3. The marathon always has something in store for us that is out of our control. How you dig deep and meet that is what matters, and you certainly dug deep. Congratulations on your marathon! I ran the marathon relay this year - and was probably with you around mile 20. :)

    1. I enjoyed having the relay runners alongside me! It was motivational to have someone with fresh legs move right on up and by me. I always tried to go with them....but rarely could! I would want that last leg of the relay to feel good about cruising by others who are hurting in the late miles! Best to you!