Sunday, October 20, 2013

Detroit Freep Marathon - I did it!

 Today, I completed my first full Marathon, the Detroit Free Press Marathon. I am both happy to have done it and glad that it is over. Now, on to the details:

I have been in taper mode for the previous 3 weeks. The first week after the Brooksie Way Half was only a bit less mileage than normal training (the 10 mile long run instead of more was the big difference). The next week was less and this week, I ran 3 on Tuesday, 2 on Wednesday and 2 Saturday.

Last night, after dinner, I got all my stuff (clothes, watch, bib, etc.) ready and went to bed before 9 pm. The only decision that needed to be made the night before the race was wardrobe. I prefer a tech shirt and shorts and dislike wearing much more. It was going to be too darn cold so I decided to go with a light tech shirt, my Brooksie Way 2012 long sleeve shirt and long pants. I fell asleep to a 0-0 Tigers / Red Sox game, woke to a 2-1 Tigers lead when Amy came up and found out they lost at 3:30 this morning.  I was able to get 5 good hours of sleep and a couple hours of on and off sleep, so not too bad. Got up at 4am, ate my Rice Crispies (my preferred breakfast on race day), showered, got dressed and we were ready to go before 5 am.

It was raining when we left and I was not thrilled about it. Luckily, the rain stopped and the race was dry. It was still cold and windy. We parked at Greektown Casino (thanks for the free parking!) and walked to the starting area in the crisp morning air. After about 15 minutes, I got in the corral. Started in the E corral, rather than the D corral noted on my bib because the pacers I wanted to be near were there. I saw Brian D, a Dailymile pal, when I got in, which was nice.

We started about 6 minutes after the elites and were off. I felt great and was moving well without expending much effort. Maybe the taper does work! There was supposedly nearly 6000 marathon runners and 12000 international half marathoners and it was like riding a wave – in the dark. One of the highlights of the race came after a couple miles – the Ambassador Bridge crossing into Canada. Seemed like we were going uphill forever, but it was gradual and not bad at all. The runners were in good spirits at this point with a lot of banter going on, which made it even more fun. Now I really want to run a race on the Mackinac Bridge. The downhill was nice and we ran into Windsor along the Detroit River.

Historical Picture - It was much darker out than this.
The view of Detroit was very nice and our neighbors to the north (actually South in this case) were very hospitable, if not particularly great in numbers. I will be honest and say that something I was looking for was the remnants of a suddenly famous shrub in a riverside Windsor park. (It has gotten attention from various media and internet outlets and was a big topic of discussion on Drew Lane’s radio show on 105.1 on Friday). Alas, I did not see the shrub, which is just as well.

Before and after. You can find the whole story HERE.
I was cruising through Canada and, after the race, noticed my split times in Canada were as fast as I went in this race. I don’t think I was going too fast and probably made up some time by surging for about 10 seconds when I was passing. I passed the 4 hour pacers at this time and had an idea in my head that, just maybe, I wouldn’t see them again. The tunnel back to the US was another highlight, as there aren’t too many (any) other marathons where you run a mile underwater. Yea, it was just a hot, slightly stinky while tiled tunnel, but it was still pretty cool. Out of the tunnel, I saw Sara from work cheering me on and then my wife, Amy. It meant a lot to have her there cheering and I blew her some kissies *blush*.

The race continued to go well through the point where the half marathoners split off to head to the finish. Part of me wanted to make that turn and be done, but that was not the plan this day. Two-thirds of the runners made the turn to the finish and the course became much sparser. It was a bit like some of the air went out of the race, the wave was lessened and it carried us no more. We were on our own (very dramatic).
I continued to feel good through mile 15 and was still at a sub-4 hour pace at that point. I knew the race would get difficult at some point, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen with 10 miles to go. The knees had been sore for a while, but they got worse. My right leg was starting to hurt, my back was sore and my feet were waterlogged and felt like they were blistering (they weren’t, but the bottoms of my feet felt bizarrely bad). I didn’t hit “the wall”, but by Mile 20, my legs had quite enough and Belle Isle beckoned.

Put simply, Belle Isle sucked and for a couple reasons. The wind was pretty brutal and I just felt bad. I started walking the drink stations, then I started employing the run / walk method for the next 5 miles. There is nothing wrong with walking, but it sure wasn’t speedy. The 4 hour group passed me about Mile 17 and the 4:10 group near Belle Isle. While I had ”energy”, my legs and core were failing me. It was all about finishing.
When I hit the 25 mile marker, I decided I would not walk again and I ran the 1.2 miles in to the finish. I don’t know if I have hurt as badly running, ever. My first half-marathon may have been close, but I think this was worse. I was happy to finish strong despite the rough last quarter of the race. My finishing time was  4:17:48. I had no set goal, but that was in the ballpark of where I thought I would finish. I am disappointed only because I was doing so well through about 2/3 of the race and it felt like, in a way, the wheels came off. That is the marathon and a first marathon to boot. I finished, I enjoyed my experience and feel like I accomplished something – that is what counts.

Saw Jeff and Trieu and then my wife. I may have had a couple tears when I saw her, but not too many. J Had a not-free beer and then waddled almost a mile to the car. Thankfully, she drove home.

While it was not an official goal, I did have a bit of a “contest”with Jared from Subway. Without further ado, here are the results:

Subway Jared (5:13:28)


Josh + 1 hour (4:18:48 + 1:00:00 = 5:18:48)
Oh, the agony of defeat. Eat Fresh!

I hope to have some more thoughts about the marathon in the near future, as I learned a lot in this experience. For now, I must rest. Must sleep... No! I'm starving! First eat, then sleep...


  1. YAY congratulations!! I hated Belle Isle as well. Ugh.

  2. Congratulations on your first marathon!
    I'm a bit confused. You beat Jared's time by a lot. You wanted to beat him by over an hour??
    Hope you feel less sore soon! I have always thought that going down stairs backwards is easier the day after a marathon!

    1. Thanks! Yes, I wanted to beat him by an hour. He had celebrity trainers and was younger, but I had never weighed 400+ lbs. :)

  3. Congrats my friend! The first is always a memorable one! I see many more in your future!

    1. Thanks Jose. We'll see about more. I think next year will be more about getting faster than training for long races. Maybe a couple half marathons mixed in. Perhaps marathon running may be an every other year thing. That or I'll change my mind and run them all the time. :)

  4. Congratulations!
    I know exactly what you mean about miles 13-20. I was so alone along Larned. I thought I had horrible blisters, but after the race when I expected to see a bloody mess, there wasn't a single blister. Everything seemed to fall apart for me just after mile 16.
    But you got through it and with an excellent time!

    1. Thanks Johnny. I thought the first half of the race was about as good as you'll find, the second half was OK but just didn't compare.

      Need to figure out the foot moisture thing in the future - never had been an issue before, even on long, hot runs. Have wicking socks, but the bottoms just ended up soaked and made by feet feel like they had been in the bath tub for hours.

  5. Congrats on your first marathon and great job! I definitely recommend running the Mackinac Bridge race sometime. The incline doesn’t feel as bad as it looks, and I think I gain more from the downhill stretch than I lose on the uphill. I’m sorry to hear the rough patch was 10 miles long. The bottom of my feet felt pretty bad by the end too. I figured they’d be a mess when I took my socks off, but they were fine. Even if things didn’t go quite as smoothly as you hoped, you still did great!

  6. Congrats. Awesome job! Start planning #2. Haha! Ok, rest first.

  7. Congrats, Josh! I also recommend the Mackinac Bridge race. The incline is gradual and not as bad as it looks from a distance, plus the second half is mostly downhill with the last half mile or so flat. Great job Sunday!

  8. Congratulations on running your first marathon!! I am sure you've already got #2 in the works. If you are looking for any suggestions, Bayshore! :-)