Saturday, October 13, 2007

Hartford Marathon- Buy Low, Sell High

After missing the online registration deadline by an hour Tuesday, I also passed on chances to drive 50 minutes to Manchester Wednesday and 45 minutes to Hartford yesterday, leaving only race day registration.

Note to self (what this blog is one big one of, after all)- bad idea. Second note to self- check HMF website late the night before if I make this mistake again. At about 10:30 last night they posted a warning that only 20 spots remained for the half marathon. By the time I parked my car at 6:50, the half was closed. Fortunately, I'd decided on jumping into the marathon back on Tuesday for some very specific reasons, so there was no issue for me. The registration was- well, getting registered was not bad. Getting a t-shirt ? That was bad.

Bottom line, I was late to commit to the race, and on race day you take what you can get and get what you can take, especially when you're jumping into a marathon you didn't train for. I know I did get a medium long-sleeve t-shirt- reading one of the message board some people who pre-registered didn't.

After weeks of being spoiled with hot temperatures, today was the first truly cold weekend day of the fall. It was less than 50 when I left the house, and at 7:45 when I dropped my bag off and was committed to a singlet and bike shorts, it was still a little chilly. Bill Sheetz saw me and was surprised I didn't have gloves on. I'm kind of an all or nothing glove wearer. It has to be pretty cold then I don't mess around with those disposable hand-peds. I didn't even bother with arm warmers- I was confident that it would be 56-57 and pushing towards 60 by the halfway point. I saw people with plastic bags and heavy shirts and headbands that covered their ears and of course, whatever works for you works (even if it's a big ear-covering headband and no shirt).

I ran into a large number of people I know in the corral before the race. Most of them were running the half- Charlie Hornak, Frank Tirotello were two.

We traded jokes about how loud the sound system was and kept it lose until the race started. We headed out and the first person I saw at the bottom of the park was Rob Straz, outrunning me early. We traded some pleasantries and Charlie and I settled in and traded casual conversation about fantasy football and the race. After the initial downhill and a short uphill out on the highway, the race got pretty flat.

I was wearing the Elite kit again, and sure enough someone came up behind me and said 'Dave Greenfield'. That was back before 2 miles. We talked about bikes for a while- this guy is getting a new Razor, I think, after putting down his T-Class. I've rarely spoken with so many people about one guy and had everyone be so positive (my coach Eric is another one of those people).

I noticed they had a gu stop at 2 miles, which made no sense to me, but I carry my own nutrition...

I started gently suggesting to Charlie that he should pick it up. My plan was to run in the 6:40 range for as long as possible, with the idea that even if I slipped to 6:50, I'd still break three hours, which was the only goal I was willing to discuss with anyone. But Charlie was running about the pace he planned to run, so we stayed together until the 4 mile mark, shortly after which the two races split. During that time I moved up when I had to, passing people who'd gone out to fast and bringing Charlie with me. I really wanted Charlie to go for his own benefit, but I wanted him to go for mine as well- the 6:36s we were running were too fast for me.

After the split I considered slapping on the headphones. They were not illegal this year although they are claiming they will be in 2008. I think this is a bad rule for this race, given that they don't use USATF for insurance and headphones simply aren't dangerous on closed courses for road races, nor do I buy the complaint from running purists about them either. But it wasn't going to be that kind of day.

I ran up on one athlete in blue and white that would be back and forth with me for the next ten miles somewhere past five miles and he started a conversation- the usual marathon banter, what time are you looking to run, how your form looks at that point, what your goals are. I was willing to discuss breaking three hours, beyond that any explanation would not fit into a marathon running pace.

The bottom line is that I ran a pretty solid marathon within my LP Ironman in 2006. Since then ? Another meltdown at Mystic last year starting at around 19 miles. Despite running a 2:55:40, I was on pace after 15 miles to run under 2:50 and just couldn't hold it- and I was trained for the race, doing long runs and two-a-days specifically to be ready, and that was pretty much how every Mystic went- 2:55, 2:56, 2:58, 3:01. That was followed by my run-walk-run marathon at Arizona. Result- I needed to prove to myself that I can succeed at long-course events, and that means being steady. I wasn't trying to run fast- if I were, I'd train and look to break my lame 2:46 PR, which I believe I can do for the next few years. I wanted to run as close to a flat time between halves as possible. Why ? I want to have my best marathon at LP in four tries next year.

I separated somewhat from that runner, partly to get alone with my thoughts and partly to get away from some foot-slapping noise. Soon a guy with a headband who looked about 50 or so went by at around 6. This is where you ask yourself whether you need to be patient or show some intensity- it's easy when you are being patient to slow down too much. I decided that patience was in order, and also reminded myself that I would be beat by women (5), by guys 50+ (2), teammates (2), maybe even by people I didn't particularly like (0).

Another runner in an orange shirt came up and the same conversation issued. I did share with him that I really needed to use the port-a-loo. I'd actually needed to pee since before the race started and was not willing to do the urination shuffle I'd seen one other runner do. I can pee on the bike. While running ? Forget it.

At the next port-a-loo, I started to break across the road, only to watch a woman wearing two sweatshirts and baggy pants and carrying a purse start in. Someone must have seen that I wanted to go because there was actually an outcry from several nameless spectators (thanks !) but the woman didn't hear and I wasn't going to stop AND wait. I went on. I let the guy in orange pull away and focused on hitting the loo at approximately 9 miles. Since I basically refuse to look behind me, I ahd no idea what was going on but I had this ideal (false) that I was running in a vacuum. Why not ? I typically do.

I ducked in, peed, and timed it. Fifteen seconds was all I gave myself. Anything more I was not willing to try and make up over the next mile. That might be silly, but I figured I'd better have a plan, or I might regret letting nature call later.

When I came back out, at least 20 people had passed me. 20 people ? I was- unhappy.

(more later)

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