Carmel Marathon race report

by Bruce Butler

Since a couple of you asked, here’s my review of the April 16 Carmel Marathon, along with my race story.  

The expo, for such a small event (3,700 runners in a marathon, half marathon, 8K and 5K), was relatively large. I would say it was about half the size of the Illinois Marathon expo. Carmel is a very nice town with a decent downtown and lots of very nice neighborhoods, many of which you run through. A good town to compare it to is Naperville.  

As many of you know, I was a latecomer to this marathon, having to bow out of the Illinois Marathon, so I only registered about a month ago. I got one of the last rooms at one of the official hotels, a very nice Courtyard by Marriott about four miles from the starting line. My only negative for the weekend was the shuttle did not come to this hotel, so I had to choose between having my wife Mary get up at 6:00 to take me the two and a half miles to the nearest shuttle hotel, or walk to it. Easy decision, let Mary sleep. The area around the starting line was well-staffed and organized. Since it was a little cold, I did not check my gear until about 15 minutes before the 7:30 a.m. race, thus allowing me to keep my pullover on. There were plenty of restrooms in this area, so the lines moved pretty quickly.  

I still have not figured out how to stay warmed up but not expend too much energy before the race. Therefore I started slow, but generally I was always within 100 feet of the 4:40 pacer. The 4:40 pacer, Marie Bartoletti of Pittsburg, PA, was running her 332nd marathon. I “caught” up to her at about the 10-mile mark and she introduced herself. We also ran with Boon-Keat Chui, who was running in his hometown. I stayed with these two until the last mile, when I slowed down a little and Marie and Boon kept up the pace. My first marathon time last fall was 4:56, so anything close to 4:40 was a decent PR improvement. My time was 4:40:31. This was my first time utilizing a pacer. My splits were relatively tight: 10:35 average, fastest was 10:10, and three minutes were between 11:00 and 11:10, with two of those when I stopped to see my wife and restock my water.

One of the reasons I caught up to the pacer was she was walking through water stops, usually for 10 to 15 seconds. This also allowed her to check her time. She does this for several races a year (I think 15 or 20) and came in at 4:39:57, so she definitely did her job. For the last half of the race, I walked for a few seconds at about nine water and Powerade stations. As we got closer to the goal pace, these stops became shorter and shorter. I had never intentionally stopped in a race (now two marathons and five half marathons) except to see family. I know this practice is not uncommon, and stopping before I could not go anymore was helpful.  

There were plenty of water and Powerade stations and they were always well-staffed with volunteers. Remember, earlier I wrote about letting Mary sleep in. Thanks in part to my Map My Fitness tracker, Mary was able to replenish my two water bottles (I own six) plus a 12-ounce Gatorade that were all partially frozen at about the 14-mile mark and also the 20-mile mark. This was a huge advantage on a fairly warm day. It was over 60 degrees for the second half of the race. And the 12-ounce bottle fit in my pocket. If you cannot run the Illinois Marathon, I would recommend this race. It was a little hilly, with ascents of 320 feet and descents of 340 feet, but not ridiculously hilly.  

A few other observations:  

Trust your training and the group leaders, they know their stuff. I had several discussions with, or listened closely to, Ryan, Michele, Erin and Magdalena. You can also learn a great deal from other SWRC members. How so? Laura Owen told me last fall that some of her running certification teachers have said not to overdo the long runs. And when I asked the marathon training group coordinators about only having one 20-miler, they said don’t worry about it. Michael Tankersley mentioned for better times, you have to run faster. To me, that meant to train faster. I made sure to do speed or hills at least weekly. Sandeep Pulluru reminds people there is no shame in walking during a marathon. Erin and Jan both reminded me that the long runs are supposed to be slower, so instead of running them with the 10:00 pace group, I went with the 10:30. I think that helped keep me fresh and healthy.  

The one thing I messed up was my last two weeks of the taper. I ran a hilly (ascent of 180 feet/descent of 160 feet) half in Olive Branch, MS, two weeks before Carmel and ran it way too fast at a 9:40 pace. The reason I was in that area was an annual trip I make to Tennessee to the Shiloh National Military Park anniversary, which for me included about 18 miles of trail hiking on April 4, 5 and 6. My legs never seemed to recover after that week. So who knows, maybe if I’m smarter next time, I can get another PR!

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of In Passing.