BQ - 11
This is marathon number four for me, in running year number six. I guess I’m a late bloomer or a slow learner or something; at any rate, I’m really enjoying this process of turning into an athlete at what would seem like a rather advanced age. My previous marathons went like this:
2010 4:57:36 Figuring out what makes a marathon so hard. Also, had bronchitis.
2011 3:56:35 I sort of figured it out. Not 100% sure how I pulled this off.
2012 4:17:01 My training had taken a hit due to tendonitis, but got acceptable time.
Training this year has been practically perfect. I really have no excuses, as I was able to get in the miles and the hours that one needs; basically, over 2000 miles in the year leading up to this. My training plan, at its most basic, was the RA plan: Run lots, mostly slow, sometimes fast. I wasn’t looking for the magic training plan, the perfect elixir, etc. I just got lots of miles in, and then in early November, signed on to the holiday streak challenge posted by SeanV2. I was dubious about having no rest days, but as it went on, I just felt myself continuing to get stronger without any days completely off. The best thing about streaking, though, is that it’s a no-excuses method. When you’re in a streak, you don’t have the internal debate as to whether to do your run. You don’t opt for a rest day just because it’s chilly, or it’s a raging blizzard out there. You just have to figure out how to do it.
So, I was getting the miles in, but I knew I needed some semblance of a plan. I was going to continue to run 6.5 miles or more every day, long each weekend, but also midweek I added either a double or speedwork. I added what I thought would be a good taper and put that in. Then I went with it.
All went well, at least up to taper time. Week two of taper was pretty sucky. I felt like I was coming down with something, felt sluggish, tight, and weak. Maybe I really was coming down with something, or maybe it was the high pollen count. Finally, by Thursday, I felt much better, and thought there might be some of that old mojo hiding in my body. My optimism begins to return. Friday evening and Saturday, feeling sore tonsil and some chest yuckiness, so I probably do have low grade crappiness. Ignoring as much as possible. Drinking a lot of juice.
Saturday I kind of coddled myself, except I was quite busy doing this and that. Breakfast of French toast was my official carb load. DW has the car in Eau Claire so she can cheer for DD in her first marathon! Yay! That means, though, that I don’t have a car. In the afternoon, I ride my bike to LRS for Boston shirt, then to packet pickup/pastathon. Ten mile round trip. Met Ginger, Bernie, and their friend Deb for quick dinner in cold tent. Went home, vegged on the couch for one TV show, then packed my bag and went to bed. Slept well, woke up 10 seconds before the alarm.
This was somewhat tricky. You see, I felt that a BQ was in the realm of possibility now. 3:55. This should be a fairly soft goal, since race calculators predict a 3:40 for me. The additional complication is that a BQ now is not a guarantee of entry into Boston; one needs at least a BQ - 10 to be included in the earlier entrants. That, a 3:45, should be challenging, but also possible. That was my plan, then, until I found out that the marathon only offers 3:40 and 3:50 pacers. Now the decision is which to go with: the maximum challenge, and risking hitting the wall and doing a death march to the end; or the softer 3:50, but not having the BQ - 10? I could try to stay halfway between them, I suppose, but don’t really trust my own pacing to stay where I should. In the end, I decide to go for the gusto, and line up with the 3:40 guys. There’s no other way to find out if I can really do this. (At the expo, they had 3:45 pace bands, but the lady at the booth was unaware that there would be no 3:45 pacer. She said that I should be the pacer. Ha ha, I’m not ready for that!)
Picked up at 6:00 by SIL (to be), met my work buddies for a group photo. Went to the bag drop. Our bags are protected by the National Guard, so I have complete confidence I’ll get it back in perfect shape. Thence to Cook Pavilion, the indoor practice field. I should have known about this place in the past, since one can stay warm and be near the starting line. About five minutes before the start, found the 3:40 pacers, introduced myself and asked if I could hang with them for the next few hours. The one pacer said if I knew him, I might have second thoughts about that. He was very cool and supportive, though, throughout the race.
Prayer, national anthem, and the starting gun. They used to have a starting cannon, but it was thought to be ill-advised this year. Stood around and meandered for the next twelve minutes, then finally crossed the starting line. After all the months of training, suddenly it’s here!
First 5K pace: 8:56
Mile 1 is where you pass Elvis, the Japanese drumming group, the first of several bands. Pace is slow. Our pacers use a strategy of not-even pacing; below pace for a couple of warmup miles, at pace for a couple, above pace for most of the middle, and then allowing for a bit of slowdown in the final few miles. Also adjust for course conditions such as inclines, declines, congestion. Smart pacing? I guess it worked okay for me. Miles 2-4 were fine and still easy. Crowd support is great, and turned out to be great throughout, in spite of the chilly weather.
5K-10K pace: 8:16
The part along Sheridan Blvd. is everyone’s favorite; it’s just such a nice part of the run. Great cheering, funny signs. David F. cheered for me along here. Turned onto 48th, still feeling good at the increased pace. Starting to take a little water at the aid stations. I’m lousy at drinking while I run, since I gulp about 50-50 water and air, but so be it. I had a honey-almond butter packet that I had planned to be my energy boost, but left it in Phil’s car. Fortunately, they hand out GU at selected places, and I took one for later use. By the 10K mat, I’m still feeling fine, but wondering how doing this three+ more times is going to come off for me.
10K-15K pace: 8:17
Now on the Hwy. 2 bike trail, and I semi-lose my pacers to the congestion. Hope I can make it up later. Along Harrison, looked for Amy and her group, but I didn’t see them and they didn’t see me.
15K-Half pace: 8:16
Miles 9-12 feature the long inclines up 20th and 10th streets. They took some effort, but evidently more effort for some of the others; I made up time and caught up with the pacers (well, one caught up with me; he must have stopped at a porta-potty). Passed A Street and O Street in good order, and the stadium is just ahead. This is always a tough mental moment, when you could break off at the half, or must commit to the full. I still felt good, but there’s always that nagging inner voice saying, “How do you think you’re going to be feeling at mile 20, bucko?” Onward, though, around the stadium, past the halfway point, and onto the Antelope Valley trail.
Half-25K pace: 8:16
This is where you see the backs of the 25 and 24 mile signs, and think oh, must I work so hard to get to where I'll be facing those signs? Saw and greeted Ann R. at mile 15.
25K - 20M pace: 8:54
At mile 16, near the end of Antelope Park, I decide it’s time for a potty break. It wasn’t a pressing need, but an opportunity. Still, it took longer than I wanted, and when I came out, the pacers were out of sight. I was not to catch them again. This was not too upsetting, since I knew I had a little leeway on my BQ-10 goal, but it does engender little seeds of worry that this might end up like last year, when they and my goal faded into the distance. Taking water and oranges at the stations, and started working on the GU, very gradually. I wasn’t really able to deal with it in my mouth like food, but took little bits in my mouth and let them slowly dissolve. At miles 17 & 18 I was feeling the familiar semi-cramp in my stomach/abdomen. Based on past experience, that doesn’t mean to stop or even to slow down; rather, to try to maintain the relaxed form and stride to the extent possible. That seemed to serve me well. Came to the tough climb up to Holmes Dam, but was actually a bit happy about it, since it was a significant progress marker. Descended down North Shore Drive, knowing that this was a nice, familiar place (I run it almost every day), but that it was going to seem plenty long. East High(?) jazz band was playing Zoot Suit Riot in their usual place, and I shouted my thanks to them. Later saw/heard my friend Barb playing the trumpet, this year with a little combo. I waved, and she waved back as she played. She encourages requests, and I wanted to ask for the solo from Petrouchka, but it wasn’t feasible this year. Made the turn up 70th, and saw the 3:40 group coming back. That was actually good, since it meant that I wasn’t far behind them; it’s a short distance to the turnaround.
20M-Finish pace: 8:48
Coming back through the park, crossed the 20 mile mat. In past years, this has been where the leg cramps have set in. Not feeling cramps there. Exhaustion, perhaps, but only my stomach is really tightening up. The only good thing about the rest of the course is that you see the successive 22, 23, 24 mile signs and can tell yourself only four/three/two miles to go; I can do this. The crowd is affirming this. Along here is also where I was thinking to myself, BQ-9 isn’t good enough; I can’t slow down now. My legs were more or less flopping under me by this point. Flopping is better than cramped in knots. A good tidbit from the post-race stats: During the last 10K I passed 47 people; only two passed me. Came to the 25 mile banner. Lord, the last 1.2 is long! Still, the last six goes a lot faster when you’re not walking half of it. Made the turn into the stadium, barely able to think, but cognizant that the Astroturf underfoot is a Very Good Thing. The gun clock showed 3:55 as I crossed the finish. I thought it would be good enough, but didn’t trust my math enough to be sure of the goal.
Got chilled almost immediately; was glad they gave us the Mylar blankets. Picked up practically all the food and drink as I went through the tables; good thing I didn’t have a wheelbarrow. Found a bench to sit and consume stuff, and very soon Todd comes along. He finished only about 40 seconds behind me. Glad for the company as I ate multiple bags of Sun Chips, Pepsi, water, chocolate milk, oranges, and bananas. A bit greedy, I was. He had his phone, so could give me my official results. I was in no shape to do cartwheels, but in the back of my mind, I began to celebrate.
Got post-race massage, met up with SIL, showered, then went to El Toro with him for a celebratory Cinco de Mayo lunch. Mexican beers on special today!
Official times and splits can be viewed here: http://www.mtecresults.com/runner/show?rid=7564&race=1428
MTA: Another victory: No tendon or knee trouble.
MTA: 24 May, received big Plexiglas trophy in the mail, and an RRCA Senior Grandmasters Champion plaque (reverently referred to by DW as the Old Farts Award).