Race Report for my First Road Marathon
I consider the 100 mile distance my speciality. Although I've run 26+ miles many times in training and racing, I've never actually raced a marathon. Jack & Jill Downhill Marathon would be my first “road” marathon. They never appealed to me course-wise and athletically they felt completely foreign, but it felt like it was time to try a new thing. Working on marathon speed would also set me up nicely for my 100 miler in November, which will take place on a completely flat trail.
I picked JJDM because it was technically a trail race even though it was sanctioned by USATF as a road race and a Boston Qualifier. It is also known for being one of the most beautiful road marathons in the country, something that the race very much lived up to.
JJDM starts off at a ski resort. After a half-mile of running, you enter an old train tunnel for about two miles. The path is fairly convex with many ruts and puddles. For the road runners, I assume it was uncomfortable but for a trail runner like myself it was a piece of cake. Headlamps are highly recommended for this section but there are so many runners that you can get away without one.
After the tunnel, the course turns into a lovely, curvaceous path down the valley. The mountains rose steep and green on either side of the trail and the wildflowers were intense and in full bloom. For the most part, the trail was visibly downhill though there were a few short flat sections. The many railroad bridge crossings offered sweeping views of the valley we were descending into. Aid stations were plenty, every 2-4 miles, offering water and Gatorade. Bathrooms seemed extensive for a trail race (7-10) places along the course though I heard some complaints as apparently road races have many more? (You road runners are SPOILED. ??)
I paced well in miles 0-6, probably pushed 2% too hard for my lungs in miles 6-20, tried to hold on 20-22 despite asthma causing me to wheeze, and in those final four miles adopted a wheeze run wheeze strategy to get me to the end. My lungs held me back such that I never actually got to the point where the running was physically hard. In my head, I thought I should push through the wheezing as I did at The North Face 50 and @javelinajundred but, to be honest, I couldn’t figure out why I would do that. I pushed through my asthma hard in training for this race, which left my lungs burning for days after each workout. I pushed my lungs so hard I actually had to change my asthma medication and am now on two more medications in addition to my emergency inhaler. I earned the phyical training adaptations I wanted in those efforts so it didn't make sense to push at the end of the race. Additionally, race day I wasn’t seeking a specific time, I was going to safely BQ, and I was mainly running to experience what a marathon was like. Plus pushing hard would really only gain me ~2 min. I wasn’t going to sacrifice the lungs for ego points I wasn't seeking. I think it was the right choice.
I finished in just under 3:15 with a negative split. Not fast but this was my "if I had a good day and was fit" expectation. And I finished in time to get to my hotel for a shower! All in all, I’m glad I tried the distance, but I’ll be very happy to get back to my beloved ultras.