Friday, October 21, 2005

Race Day - October 1, 2005

I was to use this race as a Boston Qualifier. To say the least my expectations were high. I had done the training; I was ready. However, anxiety was getting the best of me and had two consecutive bad nights. Not only were the sleepless nights a bad omen, the lack of sleep made me feel tired before the race.

The bus ride to the start was inconsequential. I did chat with a nice fellow. I made it to the start with an hour to spare. There were several bonfires all over and made myself comfortable by sitting close to one. I ate a banana and this helped me go to the john for the second time that morning. Fifteen minutes to the start and I took my warm-ups and placed the in the plastic bag provided by the organizers.

I was seeded with the red/pink bibs (and apparently coded as elite – I found this quite funny since I remember I wrote I was trying for 3:15; boy those are slow marathoners), right behind the green bibs. The start was delayed for about 10 minutes.

And so we’re off, and quite surprisingly as I don’t remember having trouble breathing three years ago, my breathing was labored. The first mile came in 7:38 and I thought my chances were not looking good. I just continued on and the next one came in at 7:25. Hmmm, I seem to remember that I was running faster last time. As luck would have it, I started running a bit faster, banking some time over my projected 7:25s. Then we hit mile eight and the beginning of the worst hill in the run. 8:15, 30 or so seconds faster than last time… However, I do not gain much in the next three miles and cross the apparent half way point in 1:38:45 or a minute faster than last time. So I am getting a breeze of confidence that I can do it. However, a lot of things can happen in the second half of a marathon, even in a fast second like this one. I tell myself that a sub-seven minute mile will do wonders to my confidence in an upcoming descent, with a 6% grade. I ran it in 6:55. I remember that I ran it in 6:52 three years ago so I am a bit disappointed but not too much. Then I ran a 6:45 and it all makes sense. It was this mile that I probably ran in 6:52 then and it makes me stronger.

I continue steadily to pass a few runners but not too many. Some rolling hills are in front of me but they have a negative net loss in elevation so they’re not too bad. Then we hit mile 23 and I drink a cup of Gatorade and ask the last volunteer to hand me water; after all, she’s holding a white cup (up to then these white cups had water) but she turns to her side and attempts to grab another cup. As I do not want to lose momentum I keep going; I wanted to pour that cup on my head. Not two seconds later that I see the volunteer running next to me and handing me the proverbial cup of water! What a volunteer!!! She was awesome! Thank you again!
The next three miles are somewhat a mystery to me. Not really. I know I held quite a steady pace but when I check my splits, mile 24 was ran in 7:02, mile 25 in 7:30 and mile 26 in 7:00 with the last stretch in 1:37. Now I know I could not have slowed down that much in the last stretch and that 7:30 squeezed by two 7 minute miles just do not compute. My conclusion: the mile markers were misplaced. No matter, I crossed the finish line with my arms fully extended, pretending to be a plane; after all, my bib number was 737 :-). My final chip time was 3:12:35, or almost two minutes faster than three years ago! Oh and I did qualify for Boston. Yeah, life is good!