Monday, April 24, 2006

Patriots' Day 2006

Boston 2006 was to be my ‘coming of age.’ I really wanted to qualify for Boston at Boston; this meant I had to run a sub 3:16. In spite of my minimalistic training, 40 mpw average, I felt I was ready for I had done three quality runs each week with several long runs of 18 miles or longer.

The weather on Patriot’s day turned out to be ideal, and thus, I could not blame a possible bad performance on it. Yes, the asphalt was the stage and I was the main actor. Corny, I know; the 'benefits' of a substandard education.

I made it to my assigned corral with barely 2+ minutes to spare. My legs felt okay, and more importantly I was confident. We take off and the first mile comes at a not too fast 7:41, which is more than acceptable to me since I want to avoid starting too fast. In the next few miles several faster runners would pass me which did not bother me at all; I knew this would happen, after all this is not your typical marathon.

I go through the next three miles in the mid 7:10s and I ma pleased for I am running easy, just the way the first few miles of a marathon should feel like. The next four miles would be just under 7:30 with the same perceived effort and I suddenly became concerned. I tried to pick it up and the following mile comes in at the expected pace, although the effort was greater. At this point my calves began to feel as though they were about to cramp. I was obviously dehydrated. The four beers the evening before did not help. The feeling of the onset of cramps would come and go for the next several miles. Mile 12 comes and I am looking forward to the Wellesley girls section. The three previous times I have ran this race I have never dared to stop and kiss any of the coeds. This time was different. I saw one holding a “kiss me” sign and I stopped and went over to kiss her on the cheek. It did not downed on me that the salty taste of her cheek meant that one, or more, runner(s) had made kissed her before me. Oh well. I must say that this stop gave me a huge adrenaline boost and I ran this mile in 7:23. Great, I am slightly ahead of my goal.

Now, I must say I had planned on banking one to two minutes in the first 16 miles, give them back the next five miles and finish strong with 7:25s the rest of the way. But we all now how planning turns out in running. I will venture to guess only a small minority meet or exceed their expectations in a goal marathon.

So I hit the half-way point just 45 secs ahead of my sub 3:16. Not too bad. The real problem is that I am beginning to feel tired. Again, I suspect I was not well hydrated prior to the race. As I hit the beginning of mile 17, the Newton hills begin and my calves, once again, began to cramp. I had told a close friend that anything over 3:20 would be a failure so I decided to ‘run’ the next five miles easy. I figure if I kept a tad under 8 mpm pace I would make it close enough. Mile 17 is 7:51 and I am pleased and continue with the shuffling gait. I am actually surprised it was ‘that fast.’ I surely felt like a slug. The other times I ran this race, I always found myself walking at different spots in the hills. Not this time. I was determined to not walk a single step. I run Mile 18 in 7:58. I am still ‘running’ conservatively, yet I feel tired. The next mile passes in 7:37. Wow, where did this one come from? It must be a net loss in elevation. I get to 20 miles in just under 2:30; if I had felt stronger I would have made a run for a sub 45 for the remainder of the race. But I didn’t and besides, I did not want to jeopardize my ‘back-up’ goal of sub-3:20. Mile 21, the one with heartbreak hill, comes as the slowest mile in 8:09.

The next five miles are downhill and should not be a problem for me to run them in sub 8 mpm. In spite of the downhills, they are difficult and my heartrate is a bit higher than I’d hoped. The one good sign was that I was ‘banking’ a few seconds here and there. My mind was so foggy that I didn’t realize I could actually break 3:18. In fact, I had given up on breaking 3:19 altogether; I was just hoping to run in the low 3:19s.

I now see the Citgo sign and it could not seem farther away than it does. I get to the 25-mile marker and notice this woman in black shorts is running a strong race and try to stay with her. We turn, and there is this mild incline and I try to drop her, but she stays with me. We make another turn, this time onto Boylton Street and we both can see the finish banner. Mile 26 is a rewarding 7:32 and she is pulling ahead of me. Darn it! I did not want to push it this late in the race. But the testosterone kicks in and I push it one last bit and manage to barely stay ahead of her. I begin to lift my arms sideways, mimicking an airplane and they feel so tired. I cross the finish line in a chip time of just under 3:18, thanks to the black-shorts woman; had it not been for her I would have taken it easy and finish a tad over 3:18.

I worked hard for this race and not having met my goal sure makes me feel disappointed. But I am pleased with my run because I left everything on the black top; I gave it my very best effort that Monday afternoon; I gave it my all… and that race was respectfully dedicated to the memory of my Mom.

Next up: Flying Pig in two weeks.

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