Sunday, December 13, 2009
2:38:16 for 3rd place overall.
The title of the post reflects my relief that I was able to achieve all I set out to do, but only just! By the end of the race I was riding that very thin line between marathon success and failure but luckily I was able to just about hold on!
I had an amazing day, without doubt the most satisfying, exhilarating, emotional and hardest running experience of my life. Now it's time to chill out for a while, put some weight back on and reflect on this and start thinking about next goals.
The day started with me waking at 2.30. Oh shit, early for me even! tossed and turned for a while but just got up at 3 anyway. Figured I could get away with a slightly bigger breakfast now. Had the usual big bowl of Chex, raisins and skimmed milk, hot cup of tea and a couple of hunks of left over Italian bread from the pre race pasta meal the night before. Dairy and a bit of fibre and caffeine seems to work well for me. Let's just say I like to empty myself out before the race!
I messed around on the computer for a while, watched an 'Everest' DVD and put my various layers of clothing on. It was 25 and still falling at this point- but this was to prove as cold as it got.
I headed out the door at 6 so that I could park easily. Found a place right near the start and also near the Westin Hotel where Billy had stayed the night before and had kindly offered me use of before the race! Spent the next 30 minutes or so with Billy in his warm room just chilling out, stretching and helping him pick what outfit/technology to wear out of the 6 choices available! Billy and I had done some workouts together leading up to TR and were both pumped and ready to hit the race hard.
We headed out for a little jog just to warm the muscles up a little and with 15 minutes to go were ready and waiting down on the start line. Sucked down a Gu and got to talk to a bunch of people who were racing, including Pete who I had coached and was just about to set out on his first Marathon adventure. Everyone was ready to roll, the nervous anticipation was building, we just wanted to 'start our engines'...
Five minutes to go and I had a nice place right at the front of the throng of racers (the beauty of a 'smaller' marathon!). I looked around to check out the potential competition. I'd heard that 2 sub 2:30 guys were starting but I didn't see them, most people seemd to be running the Half or had their numbers covered by their external layers. Did some light striders and finalized what attire I was going to start in. It was probably about 30 degrees with no wind which was better than we had expected, so I shed a layer or two and went with racing singlet, shorts, calf sleeves, Dollar store gloves and my light jacket over the top. This would be shed at the 5 mile mark where family was going to be watching.
Then it was time for the National Anthem which is a great touch at the start of the race- even a Brit had goose bumps, God knows what it would have been like if they had pumped out God Save The Queen!
All of a sudden we were off. Weeks of dedicated training and it came down to this, no turning back now, it was time to perform! Time to shine, no excuses...
Going into the race my aims had changed slightly from when I first decided to run TR. 2 months ago I had only just got back into solid training. Coach and I sat down and devised a plan with the main aim to beat my previous marathon best of 2:43:50 set on this very course three years before. However, despite my distinct lack of base, my training had gone as well as it could. I'd run three back to back 75 plus mile weeks, long runs of 22 and 24 miles at a good lick and a 'marathon pace' 18 mile run that I had blown out of the water. Coach thought I was at least in sub 2:40 shape and if I had a perfect day, sub 2:35!
Being the pragmatist I am we decided that sub 2:40 would be a realistic goal, which in itself was hard for me to believe, the way injuries had treated me the previous year. The plan was to hold back as much as possible on the tougher first half, go through in around 1:20 (6:10 pace) and negative split the back half. It didn't quite work out like that!
Mile 1 is downhill. 5:55. that's fine and actually slower than I expected it would be. Mile 2 5:57. Hmmm, that mile is uphill. But I'm running very relaxed and easy. It was already clear that 6:10 pace was not going to be followed! At this point everyone is just feeling each other out and trying to get into a nice rhythm. Brian Mcmahon and Greg Isaacs who were looking to go around 1:15 for the Half were safely up in the group ahead, I just hung out with some guys who were looking to go sub 1:20. They weren't from Charlotte so I enjoyed playing the 'local expert' telling them what they could expect from the course, etc. Aaron was out on his bike cheering out encouragement, all was good at this point.
Through 4 in 23:48, feeling like I was jogging. The bar had been set now of course and I was expecting sub 6 minute mile cumulative pace when I looked at the clock every mile (which is very easy to work out obviously- this probably isn't a good thing!). I knew mile 5 was a long drag up Providence to Wendover so I made sure I just maintained a nice even effort. I was hoping this mile would have slipped a bit otherwise I was pushing too hard. 6:06, perfect
This was where I dumped my jacket. Lisa and the girls were right there cheering and waving their posters, it was great to see them and a couple of other friends who had come out. This was the point where I had my first experience of the crowd effect. Felt like a rock star as a big group had formed and were whooping and hollering!
Then it was into the quiet of the beautiful Foxcroft neighborhood. This section and through to the bottom of Morehead we had identified as a section where you could really roll and so it proved. I was feeling really smooth through here clicking off the miles. Hit mile 11 in 65:43, still comfortably under six minute pace and feeling good. During this section I sucked down another GU (and had been taking on water at every station) and it did seem to give me a boost. I also came across the first other marathon competitor i had seen. he came rolling up behind us at about mile 7. I asked him what he was shooting for and he said 2:37 and moved ahead of our our group.
Then we hit Morehead. I knew this was an important part of the race. Not only was there going to be a couple of tough uphill miles but also the Half marathoners were going to be finishing and I would suddenly be alone. Going up mile 12 I moved smoothly past 2:37 guy and didn't stay with him I just rolled on. I pulled up alongside Steve Spada as he turned off to finish his race and we wished each other luck. I was now on Berkeley and it had gone quiet. A cyclist who was clearly a course guide pulled alongside me and was to keep me company for a while. I actually asked him if I was leading as I hadn't seen the two actual leaders at the start!
Through the Half in 1:18:34. Much faster than planned, but too late now and still feeling good. I kept rolling through 14,15,16 in 5:56,5:49,5:53 but was definitely starting to work hard now. This is a pretty desolate and bleak part of the course and that combined with the lack of crowd support really makes this a tough section even though it is flat. I took in my third Gu of the morning and looked forward to hooking up with Jay who was going to jump in for the last 10! Ran underneath the overpass next to Panthers stadium where a steel drum band were cranking out an amazing racket! I cheered them as I passed. Every bit of support now was going to be welcome!
No sign of Jay at Panthers Stadium where I was expecting him to jump in. Panic over, he's at the corner of 4th Street looking ready to roll! I was mighty relieved and happy to see Jay! We rolled through mile 17 in 5:56 getting some big cheers from Danielle and Chad and headed up Trade Street. This hill was a lot tougher than I remembered and I was now conscious that I was having to work hard to stay on pace. This mile was 6:11 my slowest so far.
Still, only 8 to go now and I had rolled on this part of the course in a training run two weeks previous. Miles 19 and 20 were 5:54 and 6:01 and I was through 20 in under two hours (1:59:45). All you've got left is a 10k now Paul, shouted Jay. "Hmmph" I assented. To this point we had tried to maintain conversations but Jay now asserted that I was to shut up and he was going to tell me stories. Through mile 21 down 35th Street in 6:05. Jay was relating some story about a July 4th night out. Sorry mate no recollection now of that story, but it was sure helping! On 35th a 'wall' had been set up in the street to 'push through'. I was determined I wasn't going to hit the wall but it was definitely touch and go at this stage! My fourth and final Gu was consumed and on I pushed.
This was actually a good section of the course as it was flat and straight and I could just zone out. We turned on to the Plaza and were now heading back towards the city. Jay was drumming up support from every person he could see. Miles 22 to 24 passed in 18:10. Somehow I was holding it together. Not that I knew this at the time. I wasn't even looking at the watch at this stage, scared as I was that it would only tell me bad news- I felt like i was running 7 plus minute mile pace now but I clearly wasn't. Phew!
Less than a 5k to go now but the infamous Hawthorn Hill was now looming. Two weeks previous I had flown up this hill and wondered what all the fuss was about. Now I knew it was going to kick me in the butt again! And it sure did. The hill is only short but is steep and carries on climbing as you turn back on to Central. I felt like I was practically walking when I got to the top! I let Jay pull ahead a little and reassured him that I was just pulling myself together for the final couple of miles. Luckily the crowd support at this corner was fantastic! Aaron was whooping and hollering from his bike, all I had to do was try and keep my focus and form and push through to the finish.
Mile 25 was 6:13 and I could smell the finish line. Along Mcdowell I was just counting off the blocks, my face a picture of pain. I had to get from 7th to 2nd before turning for the finish. Danielle and Chad made their 2nd welcome appearance on the sidelines and now I could hear the crowd support from the finishing line. Mile 26 6:20. I was sliding but nearly done. I saw the clock and it finally dawned on me that I was definitely going to be in the 2:30s. Jay peeled off, an awesome job done, and I milked the crowd's applause, waving my arms with them, jumping up and down, I felt like a rock star! I had my arms aloft as I crossed the line, I think that was the first time I had ever done that! Memories that will last forever.
I immediately went over to thank Jay and Scott and Lat came over to congratulate me. Then I saw the kids and Lisa and I got kind of sappy, emotional. What a race!
So I smashed my PR by over 5 minutes. My second half was 1:19:42 so I hadn't actually dropped that much from the first half, it just felt like I had while I was running it!
I tried to get warm and watched a bunch more people come in. Billy hitting one out of the park to run 35 minutes faster than he did last year, Mo winning the first marathon she had ever entered, Theoden smashing his PR and then Pete completing his marathon journey.
What an event Tim and the guys put on! The volunteers were amazing, the crowd support fantastic and the whole general feel good factor was tangible.
Thanks for reading. I am now very sore, looking forward to some down time and filling my depleted glycogen stores with every type of food I can find!
5.56 (Half 1:18:34)