I had two sets of goals today- realistic goals and the out there goals. I missed all three of the out there goals- PR at the marathon (2:45), win my age group (first master), and top ten.
My realistic goals were 2:49:59, place in my age group, and top 15. I ran a 2:55:40 (course PR), was 2nd in my age group and 14th overall.
It was a weird race. I was determined to go out easy, aiming for a 6:30 first mile. But somehow I got mixed in with the top three women- the same group I've run with, had my feet repeatedly clipped by and acted as a wind break for in the past. We stayed together and hit the mile mark at 5:55. I was devasted- until I look at my watch- it was closer to 6:10, still fast, but not sub-six crazy fast- the clock was wrong.
Somewhere around 2 miles, all hell broke lose. What I've heard to this point was that Eric Blake went the wrong way in the ten mile race and took the entire field with him. The result was chaos. We literally crashed into the 10 mile field just as they were being told to turn around. I was excited for JB that the 10 mile race had record numbers, but I was not planning to have to weave through them. I yelled 'onto the grass, boys' and led a group through the skimishers. Finally though, we had to cross over to the right, so I picked the best path I could, hoping I wouldn't have to dodge too sharply. The craziness made it hard to keep to a steady pace because of the adrenaline rush. I got back on the back of the two lead women, with the number three woman running beside me. The race loops back around the start at a little over two miles and then we head back out for the real deal.
There was a little deja vu here. I know these three women and how they run. I know that the faster two women are too fast for me, and I know the third woman will hunt me down and use me as a wind shield for miles 7-14. Then she lets me go in town, only to run me down later. There isn't anything I can about the later (Elvira), but at about 5.5 miles I started to back off. It's amazing how quickly people go away from you, even when you let them. Charlie Iselin, the two lead women, a relay guy and someone else all were soon 15 seconds ahead of me.
Meanwhile, there were three people on my back who caught me by Mile 7. Two guys in red who I would see again and again, a shorter guy and taller guy who was running better than the shorter guy but who also veered towards the side of the road several times and looked to be struggling with some upper body problem. The guys in red went by me. Elvira glommed on and so it began. The only question was how long she would stay with me.
Charlie started coming back to me, so I pulled Elvira along and we passed him at around 11 miles. The race gets hard for a while as you run by the starting area of the Niantic Bay Triathlon. I pulled Elivra into town and then, because she's smarter than me, she let me go. I had the shorter guy in red in my sights and I ran him down. By the time we were on our way back out of town, he was only 50 meters ahead. I eased into a pass going by the Niantic Bay start the other way.
Things started to go a little wrong here. The runner I passed did not fade at all and I never got more than 50 meters on him. This is the fifth time I've run this race and what happens is that at around Mile 18, when there's some climbing and wind, I start to subtley fade. I try to just get a little tougher and gut out the next two miles because to me, 20 miles is a big deal in the marathon. There's also the fact that the achilles heel of my Mystic race has always been Miles 21-22, so getting to 20 feeling as good as possible is tremendous.
I never saw the Mile 21 marker. The shorter guy in red came back on me and passed me. Elivra started to close in. Then something strange happened. The taller guy in red was ahead of us, but he went to the side of the road and doubled over. He looked to be throwing up or something. He started up again after the guy in red passed him, then went back to the side of the road. I went wide around him- there was clearly some kind of train wreck going on and I've learned that especially when you are not feeling 100 %, you have to sort of not look, not get engaged unless the person is hurt and you can help. It turned out he was running the race with a sublimated shoulder and dropped out at 24 miles. I felt bad for him- after the race.
Elvira passed me at maybe 22 miles and then we worked our way back to Route 1, three of us, me in the rear until we hit the last (big) hill before Route 1. I amazingly caught the short guy in red again, who said as I went by him 'These hills are going to kill me.' They didn't but they did finish him off. At the same time a guy went by me and said 'Relay', and 'just one more hill'. I appreciated one more than the other. I wanted to drop the guy in red the same way Elvira was dropping me.
I missed the 23 mile marker- two misses in three miles ! 24 came up before I expected it and I tried to hustle back to the park. One last guy overtook me and I asked him his age- 34. I said 'sweet' and tried to stay with him as long as possible. Probably should not have asked his age. He ended up beating me by 20 seconds.
I turned into the park and as I ran the seemingly endless last mile plus point two back, I was glad just not to be on the verge of throwing up (last year I almost had to stop on the course in mile 26 to vommit). I did look back once, determined I was not in danger of being caught by anyone, and finished up with a 9 second PR on the course.
So, what did I learn ? Mystic is not an easy course. I'd spent the last week, and started this blog, to encourage myself and get psyched. I think one of my consistent problems with marathons in general is not appreciating the 'big deal' nature of the race for me. I see a marathon as one of the most difficult challenges I'll ever face- in many ways as hard or harder than Ironman, but less rewarding. I also do not have a positive attitude about what I can accomplish inmarathons. I've run Mystic 5 times in 6 years and always have had to work to break (or fail to break) 3 hours.
The more I run my own race, the better off I am. In the past, Elvira has actually made me mad by shadowing me. This year I offered her water at one aid station and waited for her at mile 11 when something went wrong for her at the water stop. Anyone who knows me, knows just how hard something like that is for me to do.
Patience pays off. I got beaten by two people late, but also beat five people that had been leading me at various points in the race.
Time isn't everything. I PRd the course, placed in my age group and beat my number (21).
I'll take it- with thanks to my coach who got me ready, to Margit, who pushed Ian for 90 minutes instead of her scheduled workout so I could run today, Jenny and JB for giving me an entry into the race, and Chad Brown, who spent a couple minutes at the starting line taking my mind off the fact I was about to run a marathon.