Rick Albanese (MM11181)– It’s been a whirlwind of recovery, celebrating, catching up on work, family and life since accomplishing my goal of running a sub 4 hour marathon last weekend. I was also waiting for the free professional race photos to incorporate into this post. These photos below are sequenced to tell the story and really captured the moments very well and you can definitely see the effects the altitude and later heat had on me! I promised a full race report in all its glory so here it finally is!!:
Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon, Nevada 4-1-23:
I set the goal of a sub 4 marathon when I signed up for this race. It would be a cool Spring race and would drop 5000 ft downhill at a manageable -4% grade. I felt with the proper, aggressive training plan I could get this done having run two half marathons in the 1:54-1:55 range last year. My previous marathon PR was 4:14 in 2016. I had not done a serious marathon training block since then!
I chose the Hanson Marathon Method for the training. This is a method based on building cumulative fatigue tolerance at marathon goal pace. My mom, Laura Albanese, had bought me this book 8 years ago and it collected dust until now after I decided to run multiple marathons and ultras instead of focusing on 1 goal race. The “beginner plan” was the hardest training I’ve ever done mixing in 3 SOS (something of substance) workouts in every week. The plan featured weekly track workouts that later became strength runs on roads at faster than marathon paces. There was also a weekly marathon pace run for 5-10 miles and a long run on Sundays that was not the usual easy pace but closer to 45s to a minute over goal marathon pace. 6 days a week of training in the 3:55-4:00 marathon pace range with some easy runs mixed in. At the start, I could not even complete the first 5 mile marathon pace work but steadily built up from there and never missed a pace goal again until week 6 when I was literally stopped in my tracks by a shortness of breath from a Covid infection mid rainy run that I had mistaken for a cold. I lost 4 days of training to Covid and took an easy week to come back to the Hanson plan. I had come too far in my mind and heart at this point to adjust my goal pace. I struggled with a higher than normal heart rate at times the rest of the training but knew I was still building fitness and breathing well. All of my training was done in mostly miserable, uninspiring Midwest cold, rain, snow and even ice depending on the day! I only did a couple of specific downhill treadmill workouts for a couple miles at an easy pace. I did do many faster paced runs over hilly terrain though to build the necessary quad strength. I capped off the training with a hilly local half marathon that was so cold in March it really didn’t give me much confidence going into the final weeks of preparation. I cut some of the last two weeks of marathon speedwork in half, trusting my body and experience and felt recovered and confident at the end of the taper. I stand behind this plan for anyone seeking improvement towards their best race.
I got into town late afternoon Friday met by a clerk at the Dollar rental counter that shared my birthday!! What a great vibe, and he hooked me up with a Camaro as a wild card dealers choice! I made the Expo with a couple hours to spare and collected my bib and swag bag with a hat and shirt. There was also a detailed course preview that was done 3 times that day but I had watched the video the week prior and had my plan of attack in place. I drove directly to my favorite Italian restaurant in Las Vegas the, The Bootlegger Bistro, which provided a fantastic last bit of carb loading top off. I then got settled into my room at the Tuscany Suites and Casino and prepared my gear for an early 2:30am wake-up call. The bus to the start line at the top of Mt. Charleston loaded 3:00-3:30am. I rolled out of bed with no alarm and had gotten several short hours of fairly decent sleep. We had over an hour bus up the mountain road to get us to about 7700ft. There is nothing but a parking lot and 20+ small cabins at the start and I had a gracious invitation from my friend Michael Gerhardt to join him prerace in one of those cabins when I got off the bus, sparing me from sitting in 20ish degree cold for an hour plus before sunrise and the 6am race start! That was a relaxed and enjoyable time! Thanks again Michael!
We rolled out of the cabin at 5:50am with a space blanket and caught a sunrise surrounded by 5-10 foot snow banks on each side. I felt good about my gear choice from the start. 50 States tank top, arm and calf sleeves, PATH projects shorts and XOSKIN toe socks and 3/4 length underwear with Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 shoes that had a fast, light feel. It was a little cold at the start but I warmed up quickly with the faster pace and knew the temps would be sunny and 60s later in the day once we got down off the mountain. Having had positive experiences at many hours at altitude of 10,000-14,000 feet in Colorado I was not expecting much trouble between 5000-7500 ft with this race but it hit me the first few miles. I was short of breath and knew I had to respect what my body and the mountain was telling me. I think the difference was my effort and heart rate was higher running faster than my previous experience of hiking in the mountains at an easier pace. I clocked my slowest mile of the race, 9:42, in that first mile negotiating the altitude, a short hill and done black ice patches. The race then went smoothly downhill and I settled into the goal pace of 8:45-9:00 minute miles. It was getting comfortably warmer as I worked down the mountain but the altitude continued to play a factor as we we still above 5000 feet up to mile 10. I had to cut down on my usually inspiring and fun conversations with other runners as I was conserving my breathing and effort for much of the race. I uneventfully crossed the halfway point 13.1 marker at 1:58:33 with plenty left in the tank for the second half. My training and instincts told me not to press the pace much harder before mile 18. I likely waited until 19+ to try to press the effort and was still well under the sub 4 hour pace. My cautious, slower start the first half set me up nicely to make a move the second half. I met in person a long time FB friend and Marathon Maniac Eddie Hahn somewhere in that final stretch of miles still unable to carry on an otherwise great conversation but we would later reunite and celebrate at the finish line beer garden with Brian Johnson and several other new and old running friends I had not seen in years! It got flatter and hotter those last 5 miles and there was even a gradual hill at mile 24 but I refused to blow the pace in the final stretch. I had suffered and trained way to hard for way to long to lose this moment! I knew all I needed was a 10 minute mile pace the last 4 miles and I had it in the bag but I still pressed trying to keep the fastest pace possible. I drifted into the final mile and knew I had it now it was just a question of by how much time! I thought it was a straight shot to the finish but of course there was one last corner to round! Finished!!! 3:57:33!!! Mission accomplished, exhausted, victorious! I ran the fastest marathon in my life at age 50!! I took in the moment and the medal and some chocolate milk but could not stomach the free donut! Normally, after a race, I turn the page quite quickly moving on to the next challenge, but I’m still quite proudly savoring this moment and have not started running again yet!!
Photo and Post Credit Rick Albanese