Monday, December 03, 2007

Where is the Champagne?

I arrived at my hotel just before midnight on Friday. Slept for about six hours, showered and drove to the Expo where I was to fix a couple of discrepancies; mainly my name was misspelled and to register my own chip.

I collect my bib number and although I am not superstitious, I have a tendency to believe I will have a good race if the number rings true – I know, I am a running nerd. The number printed was 3443, a nice number as it is almost symmetrical and it has two fours (four is my ‘lucky’ number).

Coming into the expo I knew that the weather was going to be almost perfect, with the exception of a SSE wind of 13mph, with gusts up to 25mph…. Ouch! Knowing that the course ran SSW, it meant that we were going to have crosswinds, that –as some of you know- is not nearly as bad a headwind, but it would slow us down nonetheless. Being the insecure runner that I am, I wanted to back off my A goal – once again- and try to stay with the 3:15 pacer for the whole race rather than pick it up at ten as previously planned.

After we picked our bib numbers, Andres, his girlfriend (they had started their journey on Tuesday… from Madison, y’all, over 2000 miles of driving… Ouch!) and I headed to the Spaghetti Factory where we had a delicious lunch, which included – of course- a cold Sierra Nevada. There happens to be a Noah’s NY Bagels across the street from the restaurant and I bought a bagel for further carbo-loading. I am not sure if they have these bagels in your area, but they are GOOD; so good, I recommend you go out and buy a dozen as it will probably increase the price of the stock, which I happen to own thank you (just kidding).

The young lovebirds and I bid farewell right after lunch. Andres and I agreed to meet at the host hotel at 5:45 so that we could ride to the race together.

I drove back to my hotel and just kicked it for much of the afternoon. But I was antsy. I wanted to take a nap, but just couldn’t. So I decided to drive over to a local market and buy a gallon of spring water, two bananas, another bagel (and a muffin) from Noah’s and called it a day.

I drank half a gallon of water during the evening, as I wanted to be well hydrated in spite of the cooler weather expecting me. Water and Gatorade were alternated and I felt I was good to go. I was so well hydrated I ended up getting up THREE times… argh!

Having taken a couple of benadryls, I slept pretty well. The alarm went off at 4:30 and I quickly got up took care of John, and showered. My clothes were all lined up; I decided with a short sleeve neon lime Asics tech shirt (this shirt feels so smooth against the skin that you almost don’t feel it), black Adidas shorts, socks and shoes (supernova classic), black NB fleece gloves, and a black Nike cap.

I drove to downtown and parked close to the host hotel. I waited and waited for Andres and did not connect. It was close to 6:00 when John called me yet gain. Now, being a veteran marathoner sure helps, as I knew this was a good opportunity to take care of business rather than wait ‘till I got to the start.

The bus ride was inconsequential. When we got there, only with about 15 minutes to spare, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was unprepared for the distance; that I had not run long enough; that I had not run enough longish runs; that I pushed the faster workouts too much; man, do I have respect for the distance?

Enough nonsense. Lets get into the race details.

I line up close to the 3:15 pacer. We are packed; so packed that I felt I was inside a crowded elevator. And we are off. I just hope that my decision to use my own chip will not backfire on me as when I went to register it, the volunteer did not seem to have much of a clue as to what she was doing. If my chip was not registered correctly, it would mean I would not have an official chip time.

As the crowd was rather large I could not tell if my chip beeped. The pace feels right and I am just behind the 3:15… but he is ahead of the 3:10 guy, WTF? Soon after the 3:10 pacer passes us with his herd, but our guy stays right behind him… for close to FOUR miles! These four miles went by so quick I almost did not feel them, but I felt this guy was a bit aggressive with his pace. He was ahead a good 30 seconds at this time. The course was rolling, but was full of mild rolling hills. In fact, they were so mild it felt as though we were descending. At this point I knew it was going to be a good race. The opposite is true when you’re running a flat course and it feels as though you’re constantly climbing.

The advantage of running in a pack, particularly during windy conditions, is that the pack blocks the wind quite nicely.

I stayed about 15 meters behind the pack and the forecasted wind was not present or it was well blocked by the 3:15 group. In miles 7 and 8 I felt the pace slow down a bit, and next thing you know, I found myself close to the front of this pack. It was here that I decided to make my move. We had been averaging 7:21s, and I wanted to drop to 7:15s. I try passing them through the right but the pack is too tight. Then I see a curve coming up and start making my way to the left, trying to cut the tangent. But the pace leader had the same idea and before I could exit the pack, they had boxed me in gain. Bummer. I then started running on a heavily cambered portion of the road as runners tended to avoid it.

I finally exited right after mile marker (MM) 9, and the course has open space for the first time. I run the next two miles in just under 7:10. Now, winds don’t behave linearly; they shift direction from time to time, and sometimes they stop. During those two miles father wind (or is it mother wind) was kind to me that I can almost bet I had a mild tail wind. But then I started feeling a not too strong wind – this in itself would be enough to slow me down about 10 seconds per mile, but coupled with a couple of challenging rolling hills saw my pace drop into the 7:30s. I am okay with that though. It was either that, or sit back and relax behind the 3:15. I crossed the halfway point in 1:36:08. All I need to do to accomplish my A-goal is to run even splits. Easier said than done.

The second half is purported to be faster as it drops most of the course’s 300 feet in this half. I am feeling sporadic crosswinds and I’d like to draft off of someone, but that would mean running at his pace, or constantly shift positions, neither one appealed to me.

Right around 14 I notice a female runner who’s running strong and about my pace so I ask her if she wants to work together, shielding the wind one mile and tucking in for the next. She is not sure she can sustain the pace though. I insist and she gets behind me. Half a mile later the winds subside and I drop back right next to her. She innocently asks me if it is her turn to block the wind. I say no, there is no wind to block. We chat for while and find out she want to run sub-3:20. I tell her we’re on pace for 3:13, to which she responds with: ‘I better back off then; it’s too fast for me.’ I tell her that her body can do more than it thinks it can. I keep on blabbering and it must have gotten on her nerves as she pulled ahead at the next water station and I decided to skip it, so I ended up dropping her.

The course is pretty wide open now. I notice more yellow (relay) bibs than white ones.

I feel the wind from time to time and wish, again, I could draft off of someone, but the field is so sparse it not worth pursuing. I reach mile 20 in ___, and I am feeling tired but in control. My hip flexors have been tight for the last couple for miles and I hope they will loosen up. They don’t. I have a painful blister in my right small toe; I try to ignore it. 10K to go.

At this point it is more psychological, at least for me, than physical. I tell myself I can run 7:30 miles and I will be happy with the result. I pass MM 21 and it is now just over five miles. I am passing thousands, hundreds, okay – dozens of runners per mile and the adrenaline stays put. I reach 23 and the hip flexors are not protesting anymore. The pace now feels closer to half-mary pace. I am working; but this is what it’s all about, no? Hard work.

Mile 24 comes and goes. About 16 more minutes to go. I can keep this pace for that much longer. Mile 25, and contrary to those times when I struggle at the end, I am not looking at my watch every minute or so. One more mile and change. I can see the Capitol and I know I am close. The 26-mile banner is on my sight. I concentrate on form. I run this mile in 7:07!!! This almost makes me tear; I feel choked up with emotion. It looks as if I will meet my A goal. I run the last stretch passing a few more runners. As I make a couple of more turns I encourage the crowds to cheer louder. Damn it, I am going to get a PR! I hear my name; the choked-up feeling comes back with a vengeance. Whoever said macho-men can’t cry? :-)

I cross the finish in 3:11:32 by my watch; a one-minute PR. I hung out a couple of minutes and see Allyson come in 3:14 and change. She was full of emotion and I go over to congratulate her. I give her a hug. She takes it and returns it with sincerity; because we runners have that connection, we understand what it means to breaks PRs --- even if we’re total strangers.


Love2Run said...

Congrats on a great race, PR, BQ and you make it sound almost too easy. Recover well (and maybe find time to fix your color scheme? It's hard to read you know ;-)

Fran said...

Well done! You ran a perfect race! Congrats on the PR and another BQ.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Buddy. Rest up and then on to Boston.

adidas San Francisco Urban Run said...

Great seeing you on course...if ever so brief. Didn't plan on qualifying for Boston just a 3:15...I finished in 3:14:19, so I'm happy. I will hopefully qualify at Eugene Marathon in May for Boston 2009.

E-Speed said...

great report and great race! Way to hold on and hammer for the PR!

jen said...

Congratulations!! Great race. I loved reading your report and could really feel your anticipation and excitement. You ran a perfect race! Well done. :) Enjoy your recovery.

adidas San Francisco Urban Run said...

I don't work at the store other than the adidas Urban Run on Monday evenings. I have a real job and do the adidas gig for fun (and get compensated for it too:) ).

Quinto Sol said...

Thank you guys for your kind words...

love2run: done, changed the white font to blue

Mindi said...

Congrats! I loved your report! I laughed about your analysis of the bib number - I do exactly the same thing! For my last marathon my number was 1379 and I just couldn't decide if I liked it. But then I decided that if you add the numbers and divide them by 4 (because there were 4 numbers), it came to 5. Since it was my 5th marathon, I determined it was the perfect number. LOL.

Anyway, congrats again on an awesome race and a big fat PR.

Recover well.

Brent said...

Congrats! Looks like you ran a great race, and I ended up just 15 places behind you...