It's been two years since I last ran the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon.
Last Time on Monkey...
In my last experience, the Flying Monkey was my first marathon coming back from injury time-off in August and September. Earlier that year, I had experienced beating my first marathon time by over minutes [4:34 down to 3:39] at Flying Pig, only to be sorely disappointed with a 4:42 at Hatfield-McCoy 6 weeks later. Both of these are hilly marathons, Hatfield slightly more so than Flying Pig. Having been humbled by Hatfield-McCoy, I was pleased with a 4:30-ish time coming off of injury.
Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon DNF
I was coming off of an extremely disappointing disintegration this spring at the Derby Festival Marathon. Lackluster training was compounded by a stomach bug in the household the week of the marathon. I had a chip on my shoulder and buckled down to come back stronger than ever.
Progress Derailed by Injury
Seven weeks out from the Chicago Marathon, I broke down after an 80+ mile week and 2 60+ mile weeks. What started out as a run toward a PR became a race to be able to finish as I tried to stay fit on the bike and walking while I did 3 weeks of physical therapy to heal.
Chicago was hideous. It was hot. I was ill-prepared. I didn't sign up for a seeded entry. I barely broke 4:25--the median time for my 7 completed marathons.
I started reading Advanced Marathoning - 2nd Edition (affiliate link) by Pete Pfitzinger during my recovery time. I was looking for answers and inspiration. I came to a realization in the early pages that I had been neglecting tempo runs, so I paid attention to keeping them in my workout routine.
My former co-worker and fellow runner signed up for the Monkey in August, despite having neglected any form of running for the last 8 months. At his peak--even last Monkey in Chuck Taylors--he is a sub-3:10 marathoner and a 19-minute 5ker. At my peak, I've come near 3:30. Neither of us were at our peak for this race, but I at least had a long run at Chicago [and another 20-miler in between].
He took off ahead of me on the first hill, and I fully expected that he'd pace about a minute per mile faster than me until he blew up, at which point he'd still gut out a sub-10 pace.
Instead, I caught him by at least midway down the first downhill, and we paced each other at a 9-minute pace until I had to hit a portapotty. After that pit stop, I caught him and passed him on the next downhill. He later caught up with me and we paced each other from that point on until mile 14.
At mile 14, I ran with the hard downhill. I was brutalizing my legs with these downhills, but I had to take the opportunities where I could get them. I lost track of my racing partner at that point.
By mile 20, I started breaking into walks on the steep uphills. I'd check behind me every so often to see if I was going to be passed again. By mile 22, I started walking on the slight uphills. Those hills absolutely wear out the hamstrings. Even on the switchbacks, I didn't see my competition higher up on the hill.
I somehow managed to hold on for both a 4:08:33 and the lead over my racing partner... The months of extreme tapering were too much for his usual tenacity to overcome. While the friendly competition was fun, I was most delighted in the fact that I beat my Chicago Marathon time--by 16 1/2 minutes.