So I'd dumped my bottle, which was dry. I'd taken two Clif Shots, and i'd rounded the cone. I started chasing immediately. I was far back, too far back. I was in the high teens, I wanted to be top ten.
At thirteen miles, with the backs of three men right in my sights, I was at 1:31:34. That left me over 3:05 for the marathon, which wasn't cooing to work. My suspect Achilles tendons and hamstrings, sore for the last year since I hurt the right one on a training trip, all felt good. I opened it up and caught the three of them on the way to the fairgrounds. Next was a younger guy, in white, backwards cap on his head, who i'd seen was struggling as far back as the first turn around at the out and back. I went by him and quickly dropped him and set my sights on the next guy.
This was one of the great running race moments I have ever had. From mile 12.5, I simply turned up my effort a notch and the people in front of me dropped back, and they had no answer. Granted, there was still a guy twenty minutes ahead of me, running the kind of time I was once capable of. But I looked down the guys in front of me, I saw my family out there cheering me on, and I responded. When I got in the fairgrounds I was running hard. I passed one guy at t his point- I think it was here- who would not fall off the pace though. This was important, but not yet.
Popping back out of the trail grounds you almost immediately hit the downhill. I think a lot of runners miscalculate the downhill a bit- it's a serious downhill. You have to attack it, but you can't open up too much. You are pushing 15 miles and if you tear down the hill you will tear up your quads. So you really focus on form, and let a long but reasonable stride carry you down the hill.
You break around the corner and you are on the out and back again and there are a lot of half-marathoners going the other way, and spectators. The ski jump was out of sight at my back, and now I had a shadow, a runner in back pacing me, not like the first half of the race but different. He's using me...
And oh, you're lapping peole. Yes, they are probably walking but you've run 10 more miles than them. The people on the other side of the road are also quite a few miles behind. I reach across the middle of the road and sap hands with Darren McGeary's brother Dean, he yells 'Al' and then it's back to chasing the guys in front of me. From across the road a woman yells to me to drop my arms.
I am probably carrying them high. I know. Still, I have run 8 miles farther in the same amount of time as this woman has, and low so she can't hear me but definitely out load I say 'Bite me.' I am a completive person....
We passed another runner here, a marathoner, and now it was we. Not I. I was a two-car train, reeling people in...
Not what I wanted. I wanted to be working alone, but I wasn't, and there's nothing you can do in that situation but try to run your own race and is there a time it's ever harder than when someone else is working directly off your pace ? Not really. I mean, dictating the pace is easier in some ways to trying to follow someone, but like in a bike race, you would prefer to share the work and the guy behind me was not showing any interest in sharing the work. He was letting me do it all, breaking what little wind there was, giving him the opportunity to sit in behind me.
We head out on the out and back and I was in a really good rhythm. I picked off a couple more runners, and then went by the 'traditional' out and back.
That's right. Part of avoiding having you climb all the way back into town (why ?) is that the second out and back is rather severe out. The out on this route is always longer than you think. I was tracking four guys in front of me, which seemed like two guys too many. We ran and ran and ran. I know the entire length of the road, having ridden and run it all the way out to where it dumps you onto 86.
The turn around cone for the second back was within sight of 86, and the extra two guys I didn't think should be there ? They ran to the cones and kept going, then raised there arms and starting talking to the people camped out at the turn. Grrr....
Yeah, I was less than thrilled, having chased them down for no reason. But I went around the cone and set my sights on the next guy in front of me. The 19.0 mile mark was before the turn, and the 20 mile mark after. I went through that 20 mile mark and I felt really good. I have always been aware of that mark, and although I don't put any stock that there is anything special in 20 miles, I have struggled at that point.
I passed the mark and nothing changed. I was still running faster than the people in front of me, I wasn't struggling, my plan of a cliff shot every 40 minutes was working well, my stomach was good, my legs were holding up.
I was passing people now- occasionally, that were running pretty well, just not as well. I think my next pass came at about 21 miles, then there was more climbing, then I made one more pass on the back. There were still half marathoners all over the road, and on the other side plenty of marathoners headed out. That was the thing that changed after we hit the turn around, and I'll comment on that out of order. As I saw the people I had already passed, I was surprised by how much time I had put on them- no one was catching me.
No one but my shadow, that is.
I decided to attack on the hill back into town, figuring I would have 2 miles to either recover from a failed attempt or hold him off if I did get a gap.
Simply put, it didn't work. I attacked going up the hill, crested first, found myself very slowly gaining ground on the first woman, who was clearly losing time, and then I was passed. There was almost two miles left I think, when he made the pass and although we both started to close down the woman in front of us, he actually passed her, while I just kept getting very slowly and unsatisfyingly closer. We went through the turn-around from the first loop and then up the road you come down on at the start of the ironman bike. Although I was closing on her I was losing ground on my former shadow and I was spent.
I climbed the hill and headed for the speed skating oval and it seemed like maybe I had one more catch in me, but in the end I didn't. I ran as hard as could around the oval, the nearest guy behind me three minutes and change back, but the woman in front of me maybe 20 seconds in front.
I came around the oval, just like the ironman, and I felt pretty good. I was not blown up, I'd run a smart race, and while I was unhappy two people close in front of me were not held off or reeled in, as I crossed the line in 3:02:30ish I knew I'd run the second half of the race with about a 3 minute negative split, and that was something to build on.
I decided then and there I want to go back and do it again next year....
But what did I learn ?