Okay, so I already spoiled the conclusion to this story with my brief report the other day. So, I'll start at the end before going back to the beginning.
Finish time: 3:12:19
Pace: 7:20 per mile
I qualified to run the Boston Marathon and couldn't be happier! Now I just need to get registered (when registration opens) and make it official. This was really the best time I could have hoped for on this day. Really, I thought there was a decent chance I'd get under 3:16 but I expected to just brush under the wire like Dolly Parton at a limbo hoping the room is warm.
It was a struggle though. I didn't follow my own advice and paid for it in the end. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
FORECAST & REGISTRATION
I don't normally believe in "omens" or "signs" but I have to say that a few of them were present if I was bothering to look. All week, the forecast for Saturday morning called for "thunderstorms". Not rain. Thunderstorms. On Friday, the forecast suddenly changed to "partly sunny and 50 degrees". Could that be more perfect? Then, at registration, I'm presented with a Bib # of 100. A nice round number. 100...as in 100 percent...or perfect...or all the way...or can not do any better...get it? Omens!
My wife and I stayed at my folks place on Silver Lake in Traverse City the night before the race. Woke up just after 5 AM. I managed 5 hours of sleep which I was pretty happy to get. I took a meal of two slices of toast with peanut butter and honey, yogurt, and Gatorade. Then, on the drive down to the Start line at the local community college (NMC), I ate a Powerbar and more Gatorade.
I found Mike already present and ready to go waiting amongst the crowd. We chatted a bit and proceeded to the starting area after my wife gamely volunteered to transport our newly emptied GU packages to the nearest garbage.
At the start, I was excited but not overly nervous or worried. The weather was perfect...around 55 degrees, sunny with a light breeze. No rain in the forecast. I thought we had positioned ourselves reasonably close to the front - I could see the start line about 50 feet ahead of me - but when the horn sounded, I realized I was once again having to wade through a large group of runners just like in Chicago.
Okay, so maybe not just like in Chicago. There was only 1700 marathon runners here. But I got that nervous "oh, crap" feeling that I was going to be trapped in a slower pace than I wanted right off the bat. I started scurrying up open lanes and jumped outside of the street onto the grass a few times to pass as many people as I could. I think I might have accidentally cut someone off as I heard an angry comment behind me. It was unintentional. As it turned out, I shouldn't have worried. I turned in a first mile of 7:01 which was quicker than I wanted. And I had emerged from the crowd by the half mile mark and was able to run the race at my pace.
My plan was to stick to 7:15 miles through the first half marathon to save something for the 20+ miles where I knew I would need this energy. I didn't listen. I felt great and got in with a group of 6 or 7 runners that were pacing out at about 7:05 miles. I stuck with them. There was a slight headwind going out the peninsula and I positioned myself right behind them to try and draft a bit. I've heard that real runners do this so I thought I'd give it a try.
The miles were smooth and easy here. Garmin was consistently recording miles between 6:57 and 7:10. I had hoped to "bank" 2 minutes over my goal Boston time by the half marathon mark to use at the 20 + mile range. By the end of ten miles, I was already over 3 minutes in the bank.
Highlight: My local running store Playmakers was blasting music and cheering on their runners around the 4th mile mark. Very cool that they came up just to cheer on their team. I'll have to look into joining their running group.
I started to feel the effects of my 7:05 pace as I approached the half marathon mark. I knew I was going to be in for a rough second half and was already adopting a "one mile at a time" mental approach by the time I circled the half marker and started on the road back. Overall, I was still feeling good at this point and pretty optimistic. I was 3.5 minutes under my planned half time. There was extra seconds banked now if things got rough.
Shortly after the half marathon point, I spotted Mike coming the opposite direction (just past his 12 miles/just before my 14 mile mark). I knew he was moving. I thought I'd pass him when I was at 14.5 miles and that was when I thought I would do 7:15 miles. I was going quick...he was going even quicker. We were both way ahead of our planned paces.
After mile 16, my pace suddenly dropped. I managed to hold the 7:05 - 7:10's through 16 miles but miles 17 and 18 were at 7:30. This was okay though. For Boston, I needed to average 7:28 so I consoled myself with the fact that I hadn't actually used any of my banked seconds for these two miles...I just hadn't made a deposit either. Mile 16 was also the point where a runner I had been jockeying back and forth with since about mile 9 finally moved ahead of me by about 60 feet and threatened to leave me behind. He looked strong and I wanted to stay with him.
At mile 19.31, my Garmin ran into signal interference and I was without it for the rest of the race. Fortunately, I had planned for this occasion and had my trusty Timex running on my other wrist. I could still monitor my pace! I had run without taking a walking break to this point. I had passed many people and only passed by a handful. This was the point at which the race started to go downhill for me. I began paying for my lack of early race conservative pacing....
MILES 19.31 to FINISH!!
By mile 20, I felt dog tired. I was mentally kicking myself for going too fast through the first half marathon. I knew this would happen. Why didn't I listen? I consoled myself with the fact that I had banked over 5.5 minutes by this point. Boston was well within reach if I could just avoid a complete breakdown or injury. Keep the legs moving. Ignore the pain. No, what did Karnazes say? Embrace the pain. I actually had these mental conversations with myself. Keep moving. You only need 8:15 miles to safely make it under Boston. 8:15? I think. I was having trouble doing the math with my Timex. Crap, why did my Garmin fail?!
Miles 22 and 23 were tough. I had no idea what I did those miles without Garmin or the ability to do mathematics at this point in the race. Looking back, I could have simply started hitting the Lap button on my Timex but that was the farthest thing from my thoughts. I started taking walking breaks through the water stations. My body felt okay - no muscle pulls or strains - just an overwhelming feeling of being drained and wanting to stop running.
Past mile 23, it was only a 5k to go right? I'm pretty sure I still have a few minutes banked for Boston. Keep movin...
Mile 24, is that the runner I'd been envious of a few miles back when he put some distance between us? He's walking through the water station and doesn't appear to be ready to start again anytime soon. I took a shorter walk break and passed him on the run....I won't lie, that felt great.
Mile 25. When will the damn race end? For the first time through either marathon I have done, I took a walking break for no other reason than to rest. I had been walking only while taking water at an aid station previously. This time, as soon as I passed mile 25, I stopped and walked. I knew I still had a few minutes banked for Boston at this point. I wanted to finish strong at the track in front of my family and friends. I walked for 35 seconds. Amazingly, the mystery runner I guess I had been unknowingly competing against, did not pass me. I coaxed the legs into a running stride again....
Mile 26. After winding back through the college campus, marker 26 was at the beginning of the high school track. I could see and hear the crowd as I approached. I knew my wife and kids were there. My parents and in-laws were somewhere inside. I knew Mike's family and friends, Animal and Tess and others, were there. I looked forward to finishing in front of them. I was pretty sure Boston was in the bag at this point. However, I was so mentally and physically exhausted I did not know for sure if my Timex was right...how much course was left (duh!)...just KEEP MOVING...
Mile 26.2. I missed the encouraging words from Mike's friends though I appreciate the effort. I couldn't hear anything (partly due to the MP3 in my ears but mainly due to the concentration I had just to run each step). I pumped my fists as I crossed the finish. Even accounting for the variation between my start time and the gun time, the official clock showed me well below what I needed. I did it and was ecstatic! I saw my family right at the finish line snapping photos and cheering me on. That was a moment I won't forget.
In the end, I finished with 3.5 minutes still in my Boston bank. I could have relaxed more over those last 6 miles but I didn't want to take anything for granted. I am thrilled with a 3:12:19. This exceeds even my most optimistic expectations.
After waiting for Mike to come in, we headed out for some food and refreshments (and ice packs) back at my folks house.
This was a long post. So, I'll break here. For the next one, some thoughts on the Bayshore Marathon...how it was organized, the course, the swag and, hopefully, some pictures.