I only signed up for this race because Erica was going to be running her first marathon and I was going to need to run long anyway. What better way to run long then with 1800 of my running friends? Pre race stuff all went smoothly and Erica was ready to get her first marathon done with. I spent the morning playing Sherpa and making sure she was ready to go for her big day. With about 15 minutes left till race time we walked down to the start line and got her seeded where she needed to be. Before I knew it she was out on her journey to become a marathoner. I'm not afraid to admit that I got a little choked up as I saw her cross the start line knowing what she went through to get there and what she was about to go through to cross that finish line in just a few hours. I went off for a quick warm up to see what I would have to give on the day. Surprisingly my legs felt like they might have come around but only time would tell.
I started front and center to limit the amount of energy that would be wasted by weaving in and out of the mess that a mass start of 1800+ runners can become. I figured after my warm up that I would at least be able to start fast and then if I faded I wouldn't get in anyone's way. In talking to the athletes around me I knew I was in for a long day when they were talking about how fast they were going to be running in minutes. Especially when they were spitting out numbers like 68 and 75!
The gun finally went off and we went out hard, I went against my better judgement and I was dragged by my competitive nature to run with the lead group. The run started off downhill so it was a little easier to stick with the skinny guys, but when I looked down at my watch and saw that we were holding a 5:00 pace I backed off. The initial burst was enough to get me in the clear but also had me questioning if I really was going to be able to race the whole time as the pain set in almost immediately where as in a normal half I at least get a little while before it becomes uncomfortable. As we approached the 1 mile mark I was somewhere around 5th place and surprised that could still see the leaders as they went past the clock in around 5 flat. I slowed down to hit mile one in about 5:45, way faster than I expected to be running.
At first my goal was to just finish and see what I could do but I found myself at the front of the field and my competitive nature forced me into seeing how long I could hold my position. While I was uncomfortable I was now focused on the task at hand, finishing strong. The next few miles went by pretty smoothly even though I was passed by a few runners. I could hear that there was a group of runners hot on my tail both by the sound of their footsteps as well as their labored conversations. I just focused on maintaining a steady pace and heart rate knowing that I only had so much that I would be able to give.
Somewhere around mile 5 I noticed that there was a bicycle following me and I was starting to wonder why. After a few minutes I realized it was the escort for the 1st place female runner. I was at a tough place at this point, probably more than at any other point in the race, I was uncomfortable, and I was mentally starting to lose it. Hearing the bike actually propelled me to push and stay focused. Considering the bike hung around longer than I would have liked it to, it seemed to be that I was losing time to both the lead female and the group running behind me. I was using the cheering at the aid stations as a gauge and that only confirmed my fear.
In talking to the guys before the race they said the course was hilly until about mile 7 or so and after that it wasn't that bad. There was a long steady hill right around mile 7 where I decided to make my move. I pushed up the hill hoping it would separate me from the group that was chasing, and once I hit that top I was happy to no longer hear any conversations or bicycle sounds. While I might have broken away from the majority of the group on the back side of the hill I was hurting. I pushed hard to get up that hill but I managed to lose 2 places on the way down. One guy had been on my heels the whole race where as the other one came out of nowhere and seemed to be super fresh. As he passed me he shouted out some form pointers, which I found odd at the time, because in all honesty who shouts out form pointers to another runner while in a race running a 6 minute mile? That being said I have actually incorporated his tips into my running this week and have noticed an improvement. Go figure. While the 2 guys passed me, they had not been able to do it in a significant way as I was still hot on their heels.
As I came into mile 9 in just under an hour I was looking at my watch and was in complete shock when I realized that even after last weekend I had a shot to hit a personal best if I just finished with somewhere around an 18 minute 5k. I was ready to push the last 3 miles and see what else I could squeeze out of myself. As I crossed the mile 10 marker it was showtime, I was ready to push out every last ounce of energy I had left. I had finished long runs with a 5k tempo finish plenty of times in training so I was ready to go.
I stopped caring about my pace and just started caring about my heart rate, if my heart rate wasn't 170 or above I wasn't working hard enough. There were numerous times when I looked at my watch and I saw a number under 170 and yelled at myself to push harder. I was pushing s hard as I could yet I only managed to eek out a 6:29 for mile 11, disappointed in myself I resolved to push harder for the next mile and was able to sneak a 6:15, but I knew that still wasn't good enough. I unzipped my tri top to let some air in hoping it would have a cooling effect and allow me to dig a bit deeper. The last mile or so I started to talk to, OK yell, at myself out loud. I kept on pushing. I know we had an uphill finish but I was a little disappointed when mile 13 clicked off at a 6:24. I asked one of the cops at the final turns how many ahead of me and he told me 8 or 9. I zipped up my jersey at mile 13 and continued to push, I didn't seem to be gaining or losing an ground so it looked like I was about to cross the line in 9th or 10th place overall. I had the course clocked slightly long at 13.19 which gave me an average pace of 6:15 when I crossed the line at 1:22:35 which was good enough for 10th place overall and 2nd place in the M30-39 age group. Garmin Data
After the race I got a much needed massage and waited for Erica to finish her race. I changed into something dry and put a windbreaker so that I wouldn't freeze. I went back to the finish line with camera in hand getting ready to get her coming across for her first marathon finish. For the second time of the day I teared up knowing that she would soon be accomplishing the goal that she had worked so hard for and I couldn't be happier for her. She came across the line at 4 hours flat finishing strong, and happy to be done.
While I was initially disappointed that I wasn't able to get much speed in that last mile once I got home and downloaded the race data I was much happier. There was almost 100 ft of climbing over the last mile or so to get back up to the finish line and because of that my normalized graded pace was a 5:51 which was much more indicative of my efforts at the time. I was happy I was able to have so much to give a week after a really intense effort. My efforts landed me 10th place overall and 2nd place in the M30-39 age group. I can't complain with my first podium finish at a huge half marathon. I decided after the race to take off a few weeks from racing and focus my sights on the Revolution at Rev3 Quassy in June.
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