Looks like the blog has taken a back seat yet again. I wrote the last post over a month ago, just after I’d raced the local Turkey Trot 10K and completed a 66 mile week. Things were coming together nicely according to my notes as I’d “logged 200 miles in the last 3 weeks at an average 6:43/mile pace” with “relatively fresh legs”. A good sign with the Cayman Islands Marathon just around the corner. Right?
Well, exactly four weeks ago today, we made our way to Norfolk International Airport to fly to Grand Cayman via Atlanta. The day previous I ran a great little 6 miler (3 easy/3 steady) at an average 6:21/mile pace. I was ready to race! I remember mentioning to Ally at the airport that my legs felt a bit weird, especially in the region of the quads. A prickly, tingly sensation doesn’t sound much, but even walking to the security gate was painful and awkward with my shorts rubbing against my skin being the biggest culprit. No need to panic, I figured it was probably due to shaving my legs a couple of days before the trip (yeah, I know….), but I must admit, a couple of other symptoms had me a little bit concerned that things weren’t quite 100%.
Fast forward a few hours and we’d landed safely in Grand Cayman, picked up the rental car (a cool MINI Copper Convertible) and checked into the hotel with tons of time for a short shakeout run before dinner and an earlyish night. The 2 mile run at just under 7:00/mile pace was just okay. The legs felt a little sluggish, but I put that down to the day of travel and the heat of Cayman. Tomorrow would be better for sure.
The plan for Saturday morning was just a 20 minute easy run. The pace was quicker than Friday night’s run (6:45/mile for 3 miles), but the effort level was way too high for the pace. Again, my legs felt real heavy, but I put it down to the heat and humidity of the Caribbean island. Packet pickup later in the day was fun, and it was nice to relax on the beach for a few hours in the afternoon before an early dinner at the hotel. The legs were still feeling weird – prickly to touch and annoying as I don’t know what, but I figured a good night’s sleep and the excitement of the marathon would wash all those feelings away.
The 5am race start came around all too quickly. The temperature didn’t seem to bad, and there was a nice little breeze to keep the air moving. I jogged a little to wake up the legs and thankfully they didn’t feel too bad. Even the Theraband monster walks in the car park felt pretty good. I knew the battle for the overall win would likely be between last year’s winner, Justin Grunewald, and the local favorite, Jon Rankin – a 4 minute miler with a marathon personal best of 2:34:xx. My best hope would be 3rd overall, but after doing some research I’d discovered a couple of speedy Canadian runners – Geoff Riggs from Ottawa, and Steve Mattina from Vancouver. Both had very similar race times to me and judging by recent online results were in fine form!
The marathon got away right on time. My goal pace was 6:45/mile for the early stages, with the hope of picking things up in the second half of the race. The first couple of miles were fine with the usual dash of 1/2 marathon and 4-person relay runners sprinting away into the darkness. I settled in to my pace and tried to spot Geoff and/or Steve in the small group of runners around me. No luck though. At around Mile 3, several of the runners in my group gradually moved ahead of me. I figured they were speeding up, but after a glance down at my Garmin, it was me who was slowing down. Weird. My effort seemed to be the same, but the pace had dropped 10-15 seconds for the mile. I tried to quicken the pace to catch back up, but my legs didn’t or couldn’t respond. Huh?
I struggled a bit the next couple of miles and used far too much energy to regain my place and more importantly my goal pace. I can’t ever remember suffering so badly, so early in a marathon, but I stuck at it in the hope that things would improve. Each mile was a real battle and as I crossed the start/finish line in [according to the Race Announcer] 3rd place and a fraction over 1 hour 30 minutes, I contemplated a DNF. My legs had nothing, and the thought of heading back out for another 13.1 mile loop of the course was very daunting. If I’d glanced back as I crossed the halfway mark, I would have spotted Steve Mattina just 22 seconds behind. I’m glad I didn’t. Geoff was a further minute or so back, but again, at this time I had no idea where any of my competition was.
I’ve never DNF’d a marathon in my life, and somewhere between Mile 13 and 14 I decided I didn’t want to start a new trend. I put my head down and gutted out another mile. Then another. And another. At the final turnaround and relay exchange point (Mile 19.5), I took in a bit of the energy from the crowd and found a slightly higher gear. Geoff Riggs also provided a wake-up call as he was less than 2 minutes behind and looking stronger than I felt. Time to gut out the final 10K back to the finish.
I don’t recall too much about the beautiful stretch along the South Sound, or the small maze in and around Walkers Road. I do remember getting to Mile 24 and having the luxury of a bike lead to focus on and follow all the way to the finish.
Time and time again I tried to inject a bit of pace, but each time the response was the same. Nothing. I knew Geoff would likely be closing in on me, so I just kept running. I didn’t dare glance back, but did ask several of the volunteers if there was anyone behind me. Either they didn’t understand or they didn’t want to tell me.
With less than a mile to go I managed to get close enough to one of the bike leaders, Steve Abbott, to ask if Geoff was in sight. He wasn’t. Steve also informed me that Justin (last year’s winner) had dropped at Mile 18 leaving me in 2nd place overall. This helped ease the pain slightly as I made my way through George Town to the cheering crowds and energetic finish line.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved to finish a marathon. My time of 3:03:38 was disappointing, and certainly not what I expected, but at the end of the day I was just glad to finish.
Geoff crossed the line a couple of minutes after me and we briefly chatted as the volunteers removed the timing chips from our shoes. The heat had got to him (not surprising coming from Canada), but he was stoked at his 3rd place finish.
Seems like I’ve rambled on a bit here. To summarize, my 4th Cayman Islands Marathon was a real battle. I’d hoped to run a solid, yet not necessarily fast, marathon, but it was all I could do to finish this one. To add to the story, a day or two later I noticed a weird rash in a rather unusual location. I figured it was just chafing from the race, but after another 2 or 3 days it was still there, and starting to spread. I asked Ally to take a look, and she had no hesitation with a shingles diagnosis. A quick Google seemed to confirm things, so it was just a question of waiting for the pain to disappear and the rash to clear up. I’m not the type to make up an excuse for a poor race performance, but it was definitely reassuring to find out the cause of my lethargy and discomfort. Hopefully I can escape a repeat when next year’s Cayman Marathon rolls around.
I ran another 3 times in Cayman. Each one was a bit of a struggle, not in the sense of just having run a marathon, but purely down to having no energy and non-responsive legs. Day by day things started to improve – the skin rash eased up and the horrible nerve pain and tingling sensation lessened – so on the last day of the vacation I took part in a fun Jingle Bell event. The course was a bit short, and as the “race” was not officially timed, it turned out to be more of a tempo run than a race. I was pleased with the 6:09/mile pace for 6 miles though, and the unofficial “win” was an added bonus too.
There’s still a lot more to tell about December, so I’ll wrap this post up for now and hopefully write some more in the coming days. Thanks for reading!