The alarm went off at 4:25am and I got in a solid eight hours of sleep. Bagel, banana and coffee for breakfast as I scanned the weather reports. No changes. Cool temperatures, rain and wind were still on tap for the day and the headwind in the final, super hilly 10K was of the biggest concern. The rain I was fine with. The cool temps were welcome.
Kate, her folks and I drove over from Brewer and arrived an hour before the start. Plenty of time for final bathroom stops, saying hello to friends, meeting new people and doing some warm-up exercises. The rain was holding off for now which made moving around easier. I was prepared for it when it came though and had applied so much Bodyglide that I'm surprised my shorts didn't fall off.
|Myself, Matt, Ty and Eric during the National Anthem|
Kate's video of the entire start
Ty and I had planned to do around 7:10/mile until we turned on to Cooksey Drive (at around 10K) and then let the pace fall after we were warmed up. However, there were others with us, and starting at about mile three their pace slipped about twenty seconds slower than planned so I moved ahead alone.
The rain had started and puffs of wind were felt. Raw day for sure. The cold temps (42F/6C) along with the rain definitely made it more difficult for the muscles to warm-up. However, by mile three my splits were now down to around 7:00/mile and would stay there for a while.
I continued running alone but there were other runners in the vicinity, so I hadn't entered No Man's Land just yet. Made my way on to Cooksey Drive, a curvy narrow road lined with luxurious mansions along the coast. These large, extravagant houses always seem vacant; mere trophies for the rich who likely only visit them a few weeks out of the year. What a waste.
Pace felt good and the splits were holding pretty steady... just above 7:00/mile for this section. I knew then that this is what I would be more or less holding. I was fine with that, as getting under 3:10 and hopefully winning an AG award were the main goals for the day.
Saw Kate and my mother and father in-law at Seal Harbor. Ditched my gloves and threw them at Kate. My hands were warm but my leg muscles felt slightly tight from the cold and rain. Sometimes it was my quads. Sometimes it was my hamstrings. At times, my calves. Not cramping, just feeling tight from the cold and rain. This would continue throughout the race. Thankfully, it never turned into an issue.
Shortly after Seal Harbor, Kate and my in-laws drove alongside me blasting Skrillex's "Bangarang" to keep me going. That ruled. I had the song going through my head for most of the race and it really helped.
Approaching Northeast Harbor, I linked up with a Boston runner named Cyrus for a bit. Nice guy and this was his first time running MDI. He asked about the hills, and I told him we were on the tamest sections of the course and advised him that he might want to save something for that final wave of big hills in the last 10K. He soon dropped back, but I would see him again.
Past the crowds now and I remember a steady light rain falling and feeling more wind gusts at spots. This is the fastest section of the course and my splits showed it, four of them under 7:00/mile.
As we twisted and turned through a neighborhood I heard footsteps behind me and I had a guess at who it was. I turned around to see if my hunch was right and it was: Ty! Per our strategizing the day before, I figured he would catch up to me at this point and it played out as if right out of a textbook. Sweet. I waved for him to continue to catch up and he replied to hold my pace and he'd soon be there.
My plan was now to ride his shoulder as long as I felt was comfortably possible. Ty is a stronger runner than me, however he was having knee issues and that would later slow him down. Still, he pulled me along nicely for the middle miles here and his company was most welcome.
We crossed the halfway point in 1:32:18, my fastest time at this point yet. With that time in mind, I began to surmise a realistic finishing time in my head. I knew I'd slow down some on the final hills, but I figured coming in 3:07:XX was very realistic, so that was now the goal.
Ty and I then reached Sargent Drive. We continued to work together here, giving each other words of encouragement and pulling one another along with the very scenic Somes Sound to our left. The scenery during this race is top notch, even in bad weather.
We trucked along and reached the turn on to 198. Starting to feel tired here but kept the pace up. Shortly after the turn, some moron driver with Illinois license plates pulled a three point turn and nearly took out a runner about 100 feet ahead of us. I shouted some choice words at the driver as we passed. The anger from the incident gave me a burst of energy though and I used it.
The course hits a side street (Butler Road) and comes back out on 198. Soon after that, there's a short but very steep hill that is a real bitch to climb. It serves as a gruesome reminder that there are more hills ahead. It was around here that I began to pull ahead of Ty and I would be running alone for the duration. I turned onto Rt. 102 and the final 10K, and that really tough section of hills, was about to begin.
As expected, my pace began to slow. I felt the headwind at times but thankfully it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I can't say the same with the hills. I think of them as coming in three waves separated by plateaus and I just plowed upward as best as I could. The splits for miles 22-24 were particularly atrocious compared to what I was running earlier, hitting them in 7:54, 7:43 and 8:20 respectively.
That mile 24 is especially cruel, featuring the sharpest hill of the section. But if there's a bright side to it, the mile marker is right after the top of that climb and once you're up that, the worst is over and you're home free. The pace picks back up after that, and then there is one more shorter climb that bends to the right. You can see the Top of the Hill Restaraunt sign from there and then it's a very welcome downhill towards the finish, so long as your quads are still in good shape. I rejoiced when I reached the sign and calculated my splits again. I lost a lot of time on the hills and I'd have to move if I was going to come in under 3:08.
Cruised on the downhill and then it flattened out. Many large puddles to dodge. Soon reached that final small uphill that in reality is a mere speed bump at best, but at this stage of the race it seems no better than the hill at mile 24.
Crested the hill and the finish line was in sight a few hundred yards ahead. Around that time, I heard footsteps coming up from behind. It was Cyrus, the guy I had run with just before Northeast Harbor. He passed me with ease and I didn't bother to give any real chase. His kick was way too strong and efficient and I knew I wouldn't catch him, but it was still incentive to pick it up. I talked to him afterwards and he said that he heeded my advice to save something for the hills and that helped him out a lot. Drat, that might have cost me a placing but I knew he wasn't in my age group and plus he was a really nice guy, so I really don't mind all that much.
Finish line getting closer now and I heard Kate yelling for me to keep it going and gave whatever I had left, my eyes locked on the finishing clock as it ticked towards 3:08. I began pumping my fists when I knew I'd break it and I cruised in at 3:07:58. As I did so, Gary swooped over with a big smile and slapped me five as I crossed, which was really nice of him. It ended up being a PR of four minutes and 11 seconds, which is pretty substancial for me at this stage. Stoked!
The finish, angle one: tired, sloppy form is quite apparent
The finish, angle two: head-on and all smiles
|That post-race feeling of awesomeness|
|Sweet granite trophy for 2nd place in the 40-44 division|
|Spoils of the race: A free barley soda and the AG award|
Kate soon came over as well as my in-laws and gave me hugs, despite being drenched from the rain. I quickly changed out of my soaking wet clothes and then checked the results. All computerized this year, and a really nice guy working the timing for the race gave me my stats and I learned I got second in my age group. To me, that was huge. Reason being was I'd never won an AG award in a marathon before and doing so always seemed so far out of reach. I knew I had a very good shot at correcting that today and it happened. I was given a really nice granite trophy and have to admit I got a little choked up as I held it in my hands.
Went over to the beer/food tent and and had a barley soda and the traditional pulled pork sandwich with Kate, her folks and fellow Trail Monster Al. He ran a really smart race and finished in 3:14:33, my exact time two years ago. Really stoked for him as well as several other friends who seemed to all run really well today. Thankfully, the weather wasn't as big of an issue for most folks, including Louis Luchini who broke the course record he set a few years ago, despite having to stop for a bio-break. Stacked race as well, with the top 15 all breaking three hours.
I thought I paced myself really smart overall, especially considering that I felt a bit undertrained for this race and I also had a light head cold going on. With that, it's hard not to be really, really happy with a pretty big PR. It could be argued that I should maybe slow it down a little in the first 20 miles to leave more in the tank for the hills in the final 10K and though I could be wrong, I suspect it wouldn't make that much of a difference. I think it'd all even out in the end because those hills are really killer. Perhaps more hill repeats could help though.
Worth noting that I made it a point to take more Gu than ever before. Took one 15 minutes before the race start and then again around miles 6, 12, 16 and 21. That's five total, two more than I've ever used before. I think it helped.
This is a great springboard for Boston, both mentally and physically. Boston can be a faster course but I really need to focus on strengthening my quads. I'll add downhill drills and maybe even strength training to correct that for April. Could bring my PR down substantially lower again if all goes as planned.
But for now, my race reason is over for the year. As I have done the past two years, it's time to give the mind and body a break. Really light mileage from now until December, like only 20-30 miles a week and mostly all easy paced. Then in December, the mileage starts to ramp up so I can hit it hard when the new year rolls around in preparation for Boston.
Speaking of Boston, another nice benefit of today is that not only did I qualify for 2014, but I'll also be able to register in the first week when it opens since I broke my BQ time (3:15:00) by more than five minutes. Additionally, I can resubmit the time from this race and get myself a lower seed for 2013. Sweet.
And last but certainly not least, Kate was super supportive both before, during and after the race. She knows how much running means to me and it showed. Really appreciate her support as well as my inlaws. Cheering somebody on in crappy weather and never complaining one bit is not something I take for granted. I married the right woman for sure!
Splits (taken maunally at each mile marker):
1 - 7:09
2 - 7:11
3 - 7:03
4 - 6:58
5 - 6:58
6 - 7:03* - average of mile 6 and 7, forgot to hit lap button
7 - 7:03* - average of mile 6 and 7, forgot to hit lap button
8 - 6:58
9 - 7:03
10 - 7:08
11 - 7:02
12 - 7:03
13 - 6:48
14 - 6:54
15 - 6:50
16 - 6:58
17 - 7:06
18 - 6:58
19 - 7:06
20 - 7:02
21 - 7:16
22 - 7:54
23 - 7:43
24 - 8:14
25 - 7:27
Last .2 - 6:46/mile pace.
Ran 26.2 miles @ 7:11/mile pace.
Official time: 3:07:58
Official place: 24th out of ??
Age group (40-44): 2nd out of 46
Lower to mid 40s, overcast, light rain, breezy.
Saucony Kinvara 3, shorts, singlet, gloves (shed at mile 8)