3:21:32. Overcast, wet pavement, high 30′s. Second fastest marathon. Three minutes slower than my fastest and three minutes faster than my third and fourth fastest. Not bad for an oldster.
The question I set out to answer was how many 7:30 miles can I run in a row? I had logged lots of training miles at between 7:35-7:45 and I figured with tapering, perfect weather, smart nutrition and hydration, that was a good number that would also conveniently result in a personal record.
But just before the race I had a talk with my self. “Forget the watch Self. Respect the distance, stay within yourself, and take what the running gods give you on this particular day.”
Since I had my undivided attention, I continued the self coaching. “Let’s break the race into five parts, miles 1-8, 9-16, 17-24, 25, and 26. First eight are a freakin’ warmup. If you as so much hear yourself breathing, back off. Free miles. Enjoy Lake Washington. Settle into a grove. Remember it’s a long day. Use the first hour to shorten the race with as little exertion as possible. Hit mile eight as fresh as a (just changed) baby’s behind.
Executed this to perfection. Hit mile 8 in 59:30. I was cruising comfortably, and for a bonus, I was ripping off one 7:27-7:28 after another. The out and back on the floating bridge allowed me to size up how far behind Jesse Stevick (neighbor and Oly High cross country/track coach) and Jon Riak (former lost boy from Sudan, St. Martin’s alum and apparently all around great guy) were from the leader. He had seriously gapped them. Turned out his lead at mile seven was at least as much as at the finish. The East African looking winner won it with an especially fast opening 10k. Ballsy.
I struggle with multitasking. I wanted to take my two-mile splits, but I was also drinking every two, taking gel every four, and a salt tab every eight. The running, drinking, gel taking was as much as I could handle so I just let the watch run for the first hour.
Then I cleared it and started the 18 miler. “This is such a nice grove, no reason to get excited or play the hero and push the pace, just maintain it for another hour and you’ll be in very good shape. Yeah, let’s shrink this bad boy down to a more humane distance.” This is a really nice section along Lake Wash and around Seward Park. Long story short, ran miles 8-16 in 59:45. Eight more 7:28’s, 29’s. I passed lots of people during this hour. Still felt nearly as fresh as a (just changed) baby’s behind. Great consistency, everything in control, not frantically sighting the mile posts, not even checking the watch too often, not trying to get ahead of myself. The overarching goal was to shrink it down to a 10.2 miler. A Saturday run around Capital Lake with the posse.
Mile 16. Clear the watch, restart. Self, “You know hour three is going to be considerably harder than one and two combined.” I executed part three of the plan really well too for 30-35 minutes or through mile 20.5. Then things kick up pretty seriously, including a ¾ of a mile steep segment that would prove tough on a 10k training run. By mile 21, I had a definitive answer to my question of the day. I could run 20.5 miles @ 7:30/mile pace.
Weather was perfect, didn’t overeat the evening before or morning of, salt tabs kept the cramping at bay, drank a ton of Gatorade, and ran smart, so what went wrong? Simple. I ran too few long runs (two 20 milers) and didn’t have a high enough three month mileage total to run through to the finish. Had I gotten one more massage and switched out my shoes earlier, things might have turned out differently. At mile 21 I began to fight it big time, and the quads were trashed, which made the steep downhills from 25 to 26 especially slow and painful, but it was a classic case of having to go farther than I was physically trained to go.
During the last five miles Fifteen’s question from the car trip up rang in my ears, “Hey Dad, why the marathon this year?” Over the last five miles I wasn’t fighting the “whimp ass” voice DG refers to as much as a surly contingent of whimp ass voices. It didn’t help that I was running through the half marathon walkers. “Just keep running, doesn’t matter how slowly. No walking, no way. Salvage a great day.” I was as proud of my last much slower five miles as the first 21.
Thanks Denny for the kindness and generosity. Thanks especially to the GalPal and Fifteen for great race support especially immediately afterwards. Dano for being the best training fodder a guy could ask for. Thanks DG for the foot tips and inspiration. Katie, Lance, Courter, the Principal, moms, and other family and friends for cheering me on from a distance. I felt it. And my brother for the 3:31 prediction or whatever it was.