Here we go with another race recap. Can’t guarantee it will be too exciting, but I figured I might as well get a few thoughts online before the details start to fade. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled with my build-up to the event this year. Sure, I ran a confidence-boosting Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October – 2:49:15 for my fourth fastest marathon ever – but motivation was slightly lacking in November as a busy work schedule kicked in and I found it easier not to run than to head out and log some miles. Thankfully I managed to redeem myself with a couple of decent weekend workouts, but as Thanksgiving approached and the Cayman trip got closer, I was a bit concerned with a relatively low mileage (215 miles) month.
Three days into the vacation and my confidence took another knock as I strained something in the upper thigh area of my left leg – sartorius muscle perhaps? I’d planned to log an easy 5 or 6 miles on the East End, but 3 miles into the morning run I needlessly pushed the pace chasing a Strava segment and felt something “pop”. I immediately slowed things down and limped home feeling somewhat despondent, but still knowing there was a full week to go until race day.
However, as the week rolled on, the discomfort in the leg was pretty constant. Twice-a-day icing helped, as did regular self-massage with the Addaday roller, but instead of focusing on a positive race, doubts of even finishing the event started to enter my mind. Thankfully on Friday I was able to complete a 5 mile run at Rum Point – not exactly swift, but at least my leg was doing better. I was tempted to try a couple of marathon-goal-pace miles, but for once I was sensible and decided to leave any speedy stuff until race day. Saturday was another rest day (no point taking any chances), and after my traditional hamburger and lucky Guinness dinner at the Wyndham Reef Resort, it was soon time to turn in and set the alarm for the 3am wake-up.
Onto the race itself. The first 4 or 5 miles went pretty well considering. My upper thigh was a bit tight (probably from lack of miles during the week), but there was no pain, the pace felt effortless (6:42, 6:51, 6:51, 6:51, 6:48) and having a little pack to run with made the miles pass very quickly.
The pace quickened a bit for Mile 6 and 7 (6:40, 6:40), but despite being about 3 minutes behind the race leader, Chadwick Webster, I made a conscious effort not to get carried away so early in the race. Been there, done that, and Cayman is definitely not the place to go crazy early on. With a marathon, half-marathon, and 4-person relay all taking place at the same time it’s kind of difficult to tell where you stand in the race, but looking at the bib number colors at the Prospect Point turnaround I knew there were 3 guys right on my tail too.
I ran much of the next 3 miles (6:46, 6:39, 6:42) along South Sound Road with Cayman resident Conrad Proud. We chatted about Tailwind Nutrition, hydration strategy and his upcoming marathon in Houston. The pace felt good, Conrad was starting to pull away from the other half-marathon runners and was looking solid for a 3rd place overall finish in his race. I planned to stay with Conrad until the end of his race and the start of my 2nd 13.1 mile loop, but as we turned the corner onto Walkers Road a hamstring cramp in my left leg stopped me in my tracks. The pain was intense and totally out of the blue. Somewhat stunned, I reached down with my left hand and tried to massage the big knot that had appeared at the back of my leg. I walked a bit, limped a bit, then gingerly started running again. Conrad was already way off in the distance, so, despite the discomfort, I just put my head down and tried to get back into a decent rhythm again.
The next 3 miles (6:57, 7:11, 7:00) were a challenge both mentally and physically. The cramp had eased slightly, but I was struggling to stride-out and my form was definitely compromised. Thoughts of a DNF (Did Not Finish) entered my mind – “Jog back to the finish line and call it a day. Save myself for the upcoming Seashore 50K. Do no damage. Listen to your body.” – you know, all that great advice I dish out to all my running friends on a regular basis. However, I popped a couple of Endurolytes at the Mile 12 water stop and made a decision – no quitting, finish what you started and keep the Cayman Marathon streak going no matter how long it takes to finish.
I made it back to the finish line (halfway point of the marathon) bang on 1 hour 30 minutes in good spirits, but still in a fair amount of discomfort. Race leader Chadwick was nowhere in sight (I found out later he had increased his lead to 6 minutes at 13.1 miles), so with a big boost from the Race Announcer and finish line crowd, I set off for the long and lonely 2nd loop.
Somehow I pulled myself together for Mile 14 and 15 (6:44, 6:51), and seeing Ally during Mile 16 (6:49) gave me another boost. It was also great to get a race leader update from Ally before she turned onto Walkers Road to close out her race. Chadwick was just over 4 minutes ahead and still running well. I must be honest, at this point, I really doubted I’d be able to pull back 4 minutes in 10 miles – the equivalent of 24 seconds per mile. Chadwick was running a smarter race than in previous years and my dodgy leg wasn’t allowing me to fully stride out which was frustrating as aerobically the pace felt comfortable.
Mile 17 and 18 (6:49, 6:50) along the South Sound are always beautiful miles – the sun is rising and it almost takes your mind off the pain and suffering of the marathon. With 8 miles to go, however, I felt the hamstring starting to tighten up again. Thankfully there was a water stop ahead where I was able to grab a handful of ice and jam it in the leg of my compression shorts. The relief was immediate and I was able to resume running pretty quickly. Mile 19 was a bit slower due to the stop (7:02), but surprisingly the hamstring felt slightly better and I’d managed to pop another Endurolyte at the water stop too.
Just past Mile 19, and here comes Chadwick running effortlessly towards me – water bottle in hand and looking great. I shouted out “Great job, Chadwick!” but deep down I was a bit gutted that he still had a decent lead, and sure enough, at the Prospect Point turnaround, my watch had him still almost 4 minutes ahead with only just over 10km left to run. I downed more fuel at the water stop, then set off for the last leg of the journey. Mile 20 was okay (6:47), but I took note that 3rd place Phil Reed was only 4 minutes behind and looking strong. I knew Phil, a Cayman resident and talented sub-3:00 marathon runner, would be ready to pounce if I slowed at all – nothing like a bit of pressure to keep you running.
I grabbed more ice for my leg at the next water stop (so glad I bought compression shorts the day before the race at the only sports shop on the island!) and battled on. Mile 21 was decent (6:46) but the biggest boost was hearing from the side of the road that Chadwick was only 2 minutes ahead and “struggling a bit”. Thanks, Trevor! Despite the pain, I worked tirelessly along South Sound Road (Mile 22 – 6:43), desperately hoping for a glimpse of the race leader in the distance. Finally, just when I’d almost given up on seeing him, I spotted the orange vest of the bike lead guy with Chadwick running alongside, and noticeably slower than just a few miles previous. At Mile 23 (6:47) I drew level, offered a few words of encouragement, and pressed on as the new race leader.
The next 3 miles are a bit of a blur to be honest, but I knew just one mistake and Chadwick or Phil would be there to take advantage. It’s difficult to describe the level of suffering during the last 3 miles of a marathon, but I think one of my strengths is my ability to embrace the hurt. I ran the last 3 miles at my absolute limit, not the quickest last 3 miles of a marathon, but definitely one of the most determined. The minutes ticked by and I knew a sub-3 hour marathon (one of my pre-race goals) was going to be a close call. “Keep on running, Steve. Keep on running. 3 miles to go.” (6:53, 6:49, 6:50). Sure enough, as I rounded the last bend of the race and approached the finish line clock, there were only 19 seconds left to break 3 hours, but somehow I found the strength and speed to sprint home for the win in 2:59:54.
It’s now Wednesday, 3 days after the race, and I’m still in shock that I managed to win my 4th Cayman Islands Marathon. My hamstring is still painful (getting a much-needed massage this afternoon at Balance Therapeutic Massage), but I know the memories of such a fantastic event will live on forever. Huge thanks to the wonderful brands below for backing an old Welshman who loves to run, the Cayman Marathon Race Director & Team for putting on another fantastic event, the Wyndham Reef Resort for providing an excellent annual vacation location, Marshall’s Rent-a-Car for consistently great service and prices, Balance Therapeutic Massage for keeping me healthy and speeding up the recovery process, and of course to all my family and friends for supporting me near and far. Finally, biggest thanks to Ally for being the most supportive, dependable and level-headed wife I could wish for – it’s cool to be married to someone who shares the same passions and encourages me to chase my dreams.
Steve Speirs – 2:59:54
Phil Reed – 3:06:17
Bart Forsyth – 3:17:19
Media Race Reports
- Cayman Compass – Old hand, new challenger win Cayman Islands marathon
- Cayman 27 – Speirs Wins Fourth Cayman Islands Marathon
- Topo Athletic
- Tailwind Nutrition
- Squirrel’s Nut Butter
- Running Etc.
- Christopher Bean Coffee