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Race Result

Racer: Mike Guzek
Race: Charlotte Marathon
Date: Sunday, January 19, 2003
Location: Charlotte, NC
Race Type: Run - Marathon
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 3:22:35

Race Report:

I thought that if I ran a winter marathon in Charlotte I might see temperatures in the 40s or maybe even the low 50s if I was lucky. As I was getting dressed in the hotel at 5:30 a.m. this Sat., it was 12. 12! It did warm up to 18-19 degrees by tip off, er…kick off…whatever the “off” is for a marathon, but I was more than a little concerned and felt like I was suiting up for a quick trip through hell. The reason I picked this race is because between swimming, biking and running-- the running is my hands down worst. In a triathlon, I can get through the swim and bike in great shape feeling like a rock star but I get humbled on the run. For being a weak runner, Judge Guzek sentenced me to a mid winter marathon to get my butt in gear!

I positioned myself very close to the front. I have seen the Kenyans do this and it always seems to work for them. The gun went off and I “rocketed” out around a 7:00 min/mile pace. My goal was to simply get in under 3:30 which meant that ultimately I needed to average something under 8 min miles. My previous running regimen was pretty haphazard and while training for this marathon I took some good advice from one of the best runners I know—Brady Dehoust! He suggested I haul my 220 pound carcass up some hills while training and that I incorporate some speed work. Things I probably knew, but never really followed through on in the past. His advice seemed to work well and I improved over the winter, but I still was pretty clueless as to how I would do in a race. The only other marathon I ran was the Marine Corps a few years ago and I had a total meltdown by mile 20. It was awful.

I got to the 6 mile marker at 43:36 running about a 7:16 pace. In my last training run of the year I held a 7:30 pace for 20 miles so I knew I was a little faster than what I was probably capable of holding the rest of the way so I decided to slow down a bit and just start chipping away some miles without causing a blow up. I swallowed some gel from my fuel belt and tried to chase it down with some water from one of my flasks. Frozen. Damn. I passed the 10 mile mark at 1:14 (7:23 pace) and got to the half way point at 1:38 (7:27). I was ahead of my goal pace, but the hardest part was still to come. I have “run” 3 marathons in IM races, but at best I could get about half way through before having to liberally use walk breaks…who am I kidding…I was a walker by mile 13 and proud of it! My best time was a 4:27. I was secretly hoping that I could run this thing from start to finish with only a couple of stops to walk through aid stations. So far, so good.

There was not too much to look at on the course. Where ever there we spectators, they went berserk, but for most of the run it was just you, the breath that clouded in front of you as you ran, and the sound of your feet skipping across the pavement. I got to mile 20 at 2:33 (7:39 pace). I was amazed that I felt good. I was just so happy that I had no cramps or crazy knee problems. I was healthy and I felt good. My water bottle even unfroze enough to drink! I basically had 57 minutes to go 6.2 miles but I was still pretty nervous—fearing a meltdown at some point. I tried to step it up a bit. Mile 23 came at 2:56 (still a 7:39 pace!!). I was starting to get excited, but I was also starting to feel the aches and pains in my legs.

Somewhere between the 24 and 25 mile marker there was this hill. I was told it was 9/10ths of a mile long. It was cruel. But hill training (thanks Brady) allowed me to pummel that hill! I even passed a few people. Over the last mile and a half I passed a handful of people who were walking or barely moving and it felt good. The last 4 times I have had to run a marathon, I was that guy, but not today. Today, I was a different guy!! I was running guy! I was running at mile 25 guy!!! I picked up the pace and passed one last person just outside of the chute to finish in 3:22:35! They wrapped me in a space blanket, gave me my medal and I was off to the post race buffet!

I was happy, I was excited, I was tired…I felt great though. I beat my time, I ran the whole thing and I didn’t necessarily feel like I had exerted myself to crazy levels. I am not quite ready to subscribe to Runner’s World, but I definitely got my feet pointed in the right direction.