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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well first of all, yes, I won a marathon last weekend -- but it was a very small race (27 people, I think). It was immensely satisfying (and hard-fought!), nonetheless. But the noteworthy fact, really, was that this capped four marathons in five weeks, the first time I've done anything like that.<br><br><b>Week 1</b><br><br>
The story starts with the Portland marathon, on 10/7. I trained for this with Pfitzinger's 18/55 plan. I really wanted to break 3:10; I'd tried several times and failed. The frustrating thing was that my first marathon, a 3:12, was still my fastest, three years and six more marathons later.<br><br>
Well, I made it! I ran 3:08:50. There are more details than you would ever want <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.<br><br><b>Week 2</b><br><br>
Now, one other goal I had this year was to break 40:00 in the 10K. It turned out that my only real option for a flat, fast course occurred one week after Portland. That might not seem like the best time to try to PR, but my PR of 40 flat was run one week after the Boston Marathon last year, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Might as well try to wring some more profit out of all that Portland training.<br><br>
That didn't go quite so well... I ran 40:18. Here the frustrating thing was that in spite of it being a "certified course", the RD later remeasured and admitted it was 198 m long. So, I didn't actually PR, but evidently I really ran something like a 39:35... cool, I guess...<br><br><b>Week 3</b><br><br>
The following weekend, I still felt good. I was on the east coast now. (I go back and forth between Vancouver and New Hampshire.) I thought, what the hell, there's a nice-looking marathon in Rhode Island this weekend (Breakers Marathon, in Newport). Had I PRed at the 10K I likely would have felt I'd gotten full value out of my training, but I was left a little unsatisfied, so I thought I would run this marathon mostly for fun. It wasn't totally insane -- I had run two marathons two weeks apart this spring, so I could join Marathon Maniacs. Well, this time I certainly wasn't going to try to PR. But I also wanted some sort of time goal. So I figured I'd try to BQ (3:20), a nice compromise between training-run effort and full-on racing.<br><br>
The marathon turned out to be a great experience. The course was beautiful, if fairly hilly in the second half. I turned in a 3:19:10, after running and chatting most of the way with a New York lawyer who earlier had been a mid-2:40s guy. I did cramp up a bit in the last few miles, but not too bad. After the marathon we were served whole lobsters and clam chowder. Later I toured the Breakers Mansion -- aka the Vanderbilts' "summer cottage" (though most cottages I am aware of do not have 70 rooms). The marathon course actually went by this and several other Newport mansions. Then on the way back to NH, I wandered around Providence for a bit, then listened to the Red Sox crush the Indians on the drive home. Great way to spend a Sunday.<br><br>
Oh -- except that I was really struggling to stay awake as I got close to Hanover. Then just a few miles out of town the traffic was backed up and stopped. After 20 minutes or so we finally got moving again. It looked like somebody had hit a moose. The moose was dead on the road, and a ways ahead there was an upside-down car. Not good.<br><br><b>Week 4</b><br><br>
The next weekend I was still in NH, and whaddya know, the Cape Cod Marathon was nearby in Falmouth, MA. Not only that but I was scheduled to spend a day working at MIT on Saturday. I felt fully recovered; in fact I'd even done some LT work during the week. So I thought, well, can I do two one week apart? Now's the perfect chance to find out. So after my day in Cambridge I hopped the bus down to Falmouth.<br><br>
Again, I figured, let's go for 3:20. This course was maybe a bit hillier overall than the Breakers course, but none of the hills were as big. The weather was great. This time I ran mostly by myself, but still had fun. Again, it was a very scenic course, largely along the coast, with views of Martha's Vineyard. Here I held to 3:20 pace until mile 24; that was the end of the hills. Then I picked it up a notch, and ran it in for 3:19:06. This time, no calf cramps at the end; I felt great. I even wandered around Falmouth afterwards, walking several miles. I got a few "why aren't you limping?" comments from other marathoners. Again, clam chowder after the race. No lobsters, but there was lots of pasta. The funny thing was, this was the Dunkin Donuts Cape Cod marathon, and I really wanted donuts, and there weren't any. There were plenty BEFORE the race started, but I didn't want them then!<br><br><b>Week 5</b><br><br>
Now here's where it starts to get freaky. Monday morning, I didn't feel like I'd run at all the previous day, let alone run a marathon. So...<br><br>
Come the following weekend, I was back in Vancouver. On the Marathon Maniacs race calendar, I saw this little marathon in Seattle called iUWR (for "in Unity We Run", commemorating 9/11, and run the same day as New York). I wasn't sure what to think about it... it looked to be very informal. It wasn't on But... running this one would bump me from a Maniac level of bronze (one star) to gold (three stars), and I'd hate for all those other marathons to go to waste, right? <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="" style="border:0px solid;" title="Wink"> Also, looking at the previous two years' results, it looked like I might actually be able to win it with a 3:16 or so.<br><br>
So, Sunday morning at 3 am (= 7 am to me: east coast time + one-hour fall back), I got up to drive down from Vancouver. The weather looked great: 52° and overcast. At the start line, south of Seattle in Kent, I started getting nervous about the course. I'd likely be out in front. Would I get lost? I tried to find anyone else planning on 3:20 or so. I spotted Annie... a very fast Maniac I'd met before at another marathon. Well, there goes any hope of winning. She's run sub-3 before. I ask her what she's planning today: "oh, maybe 3:20 - 3:40". Huh?? Hmm. Turns out this is largely a year of injury recovery for her. She thinks of a couple of other people who might be running 3:20, but they either aren't there or say they won't go that fast today.<br><br>
So, I might win easily, but I might just as well go off course somewhere and wander aimlessly through Seattle, which I don't know at all.<br><br>
The race starts, and we're off. I decide to do 7:30s through 20, and evaluate. That would put me in at 3:16:30. Faster than the past couple of weeks, but this course is almost flat, and I felt good.<br><br>
Mile 1: 7:20<br>
Mile 2: 7:23<br><br>
Even with the Garmin, I was too fast. Oh, and there were no mile markers, so I would have to rely on the Garmin. I was out in front except for a couple of (I thought) relayers ahead of me. I tried to slow it down. TC, who'd said he wouldn't run 3:20 today, passed me. Somewhere in the second mile a couple of other people caught up with me: Annie, and a Maniac I hadn't met before, Jake. They seemed content to run 7:30s for a while.<br><br>
Mile 3: 7:38<br><br>
Somewhere in here TC caught up with us. ??? Ah, he'd run ahead because he knew where the first porta-potty was on the course.<br><br>
The four of us hung together for quite a while, chatting and running easily, sharing stories from recent marathons etc. For a small marathon, this one was nicely more social than I am used to. Only 27 people (almost all of them Marathon Maniacs, as it turned out)... I was sure I'd be running alone the whole way. Actually at this point I thought it was 50ish people; there's been a lot more than 27 at the start. Some were relayers, but many were volunteers, it turned out.<br><br>
In spite of being a small, informal race, it turns out it was very well organized. The course was marked well, with large signs in some places, and lots of stenciled "iUWR"s on the trail. Oh yeah, the trail. The race was mostly along the Green River Trail, a nice bike and running path paralleling the Green River. So how could I conceivably get lost, you ask? Well, there were a number of deviations from the trail, and as we got closer in to Seattle we'd eventually lose the trail altogether. They run a (slightly?) larger marathon on the same course in the summer, the Green River Marathon.<br><br>
Another great feature was the water stops, about every 2.5 miles. I've had worse water situations at much larger marathons. (E.g. at Breakers two weeks previously, they were 3 miles apart, and all the cups were plastic, so you couldn't squeeze the top together to slurp out of it!) Initially there was Gatorade at every other stop, and later Gatorade at every stop. Perfect. I was carrying one gel as well.<br><br>
Mile 4: 7:27<br>
Mile 5: 7:29<br><br>
The fine misting had turned into a light drizzle. I was wiping off my glasses every couple of minutes to be able spot the iUWR marks on the ground. TC wasn't bothering; we were his eyes.<br><br>
The discussion turned to who was ahead of us. Turns out one of the two people who'd gone out ahead of me had not been a relayer -- it was Bruce, last year's winner, who often ran under 3:10. He was now well out of sight. So, again, maybe all thoughts of winning were moot. But we were all wondering whether we might catch him at some point.<br><br>
Jake was surprising us by staying with us; he'd wanted to run 7:40s. But there's power in numbers. His PR was 3:19, I think, so this was looking PRish for him, although actually this was just supposed to be an easy run preparing for the Seattle Marathon, three weeks later. After the race I discovered he was actually very fast; he'd trained for and tried to run sub-3:00 at a summer marathon, going through the half in 1:27:something. Faster than my half PR. But he had blown up after that.<br><br>
Mile 6: 7:30<br>
Mile 7: 7:25<br>
Mile 8: 7:29<br>
Mile 9: 7:31<br>
Mile 10: 7:24<br>
Mile 11: 7:28<br>
Mile 12: 7:27<br>
Mile 13: 7:34<br><br>
The miles flew by as we swapped war stories. TC was trying to decide on his next 100-miler. Turns out he mostly runs ultras (100+ of them). Try to sign up for Western States again this year, or not? The risk was, he might get in and have to run it! Also we talked about Ryan Shay, of course; the olympic trials had been the day before. What a tragedy.<br><br>
One thing I learned was that Annie had won many marathons, as first female finisher, but had never been the first overall finisher. She had come close once, but another Maniac had held her off at the end... she has no kick (she says!).<br><br>
I didn't get an accurate half split, but it was 1:38:something, about right. Of course that was by Garmin, and the Garmin often measures long even on certified courses, which this was not. TC thought this course might be long. So we had no idea really whether we'd run 26.5, 27, or more by Garmin. So the theoretical 3:16:30 pace was probably an underestimate of actual finish time.<br><br>
Mile 14: 7:35<br>
Mile 15: 7:25<br><br>
I began teasing Annie, Jake and TC about how all of them planned to run slower than 3:20. I told them I appreciated their sacrifice of running with me to keep me on course.<br><br>
We speculated some more about how far ahead Bruce might be, and whether we could catch him. I told them I planned to speed up at 20 if I still felt good.<br><br>
Mile 16: 7:35<br>
Mile 17: 7:32<br><br>
TC dropped off around mile 17, leaving Annie, Jake, and me. But then Annie and Jake began to speed up. I'm not sure whether it was getting tactical at this point, or whether that's just what they felt like, but they gradually pulled ahead. I was determined to hold my pace until 20.<br><br>
Mile 18: 7:40<br><br>
But there was a big (though short) hill in mile 18. I was speeding up a bit, keeping them not too far ahead.<br><br>
Mile 19: 7:23<br><br>
Somewhere in here Annie dropped a gel, and stopped to pick it up. That was enough for me to catch up. I'd done the same thing with my one gel, a couple miles back, then quickly caught up again. Jake was still a bit ahead of us, though.<br><br>
Mile 20: 7:23<br><br>
OK, 20 miles, and I still felt good. I told Annie I was going to kick it up a notch. She came with me. We caught up to Jake, and he came with us. Then, what do you know -- there's Bruce, maybe a quarter-mile ahead of us! We were running 7:00 pace now. It wouldn't take long to catch him at this rate. I hadn't really planned to start running 7s at this point, though, maybe 7:10 - 7:15.<br><br>
Mile 21: 7:03<br>
Mile 22: 7:08<br><br>
Annie and Jake began to pull ahead again. I was getting tired, and couldn't see running 7:00 pace the rest of the way. Maybe I would catch them, maybe I wouldn't, but I'd keep them within range, anyway.<br><br>
Mile 23: 7:06<br><br>
Annie and Jake passed Bruce, and I passed him a bit later. We wished each other luck.<br><br>
There were a few not-too-bad hills thrown into these miles as well.<br><br>
Mile 24: 7:01<br><br>
Annie had pulled ahead of Jake now. She was running each mile faster than the one before. I was hurting, but I didn't want to let her completely get away. Finally I caught up to Jake and passed him.<br><br>
The last couple of miles were along Alki beach (pronounced "alk eye", apparently). Now we had nothing but flat beach ahead of us, and were also running into a headwind.<br><br>
Mile 25: 6:47<br><br>
Now, here I have a confession. I'm not sure whether this win should really count (apart from how informal the race was anyway!), because I might have had some aid the last couple of miles. When I hit the beach, one of the relayers had run back from the finish, and offered to pace me in. I told him I was fine, I had my Garmin, but he ran with me anyway. He offered to break the wind for me, but I told him no thanks, that wouldn't be fair. So I'm not sure how much difference his presence made. Actually I preferred to be in my own mental space at this point, and he did block my tangents a couple of times. Still, I think I had better mention it and come clean.<br><br>
Now... I was working VERY hard to keep Annie within possible striking distance. I was really hurting, and very, very tempted to give it up and back off. I thought, she just keeps speeding up, and there's no possible way I can hold this until the end. (Also, I knew she'd never won a race outright before, and I'd feel bad if I took this one away from her, but I didn't think that was an appropriate rationalization for backing off.)<br><br>
But then I switched perspectives to 5K / 10K mentality. What I have to do late in faster races and hard speed workouts is repeatedly focus on some object 100 or so feet ahead, a road sign, a break in the pavement, whatever, and make that my target. I can often convince some primitive part of my brain that that's as far as I have to run, and I get finish-line-style energy and expectation of imminent relief. Keeping me from thinking about integrating that pain over the rest of the race is the key thing. Now, I'm not accustomed to running marathons like this, but I had to to stay in the race.<br><br>
As soon as I made this switch, I immediately sped up and started surging ahead. I had to watch it and back off. But, it did the trick. I was able to not only hold on but speed up.<br><br>
Mile 26: 6:17<br><br>
Finally, early in mile 26 I think, I caught up with Annie. Here my pacer answered her questions about how far to the finish, landmarks, etc., so I felt a little better.<br><br>
I pulled ahead. For a while I didn't look back; I just held as fast a pace as I could. My pacer was pointing out the finish, but I think I was looking at the wrong landmarks, and it was farther than I thought. Finally I looked back. Funny how vision works... I wasn't really focusing clearly, from the bouncing or the awkwardness of the angle, or my mental state, I don't know. I couldn't really evaluate how far back she was, but it looked like she hadn't come with me, and I had it locked up. Still, I tried not to let myself back off. I knew she "had no kick", but I was taking no chances.<br><br>
Oh, and that 6:17? My 5K pace is about 6:12. So I honestly don't know how I pulled that off the last mile of a marathon.<br><br>
Mile 26.4 (per Garmin): 2:34 (6:23 pace)<br><br>
Finally the finish line came into view! I crossed the line in huge relief and satisfaction, then bent over wheezing to catch my breath. Annie followed shortly behind, and we congratulated each other. Final results are still not on the race website, but I think she finished 7 seconds behind me. I'd thought she was farther behind. I finished in 3:13:45. I think about a 3-minute negative split, all in the last 6 miles. Not the most efficient way to run a marathon!<br><br>
This was such a great race! It had the whole relaxed, social aspect, and I had my first real experience of struggling hard among the front runners to win a race. I had won one race previously, a small 10K, but it wasn't the same at all; the next guy was 4 minutes behind me. This felt like the real deal. I was thinking about watching the leaders duke it out at the olympic trials the days before. Well, yeah, slightly different times involved, but still! This was an actual RACE. Against people, for first place! Not against my own persanal, arbitrary time goal.<br><br><b>And now...</b><br><br>
I'm done! With marathons, anyway, for a while. Maybe Boston in the spring. I'll run some shorter races over the next few weeks at least. Maybe I could keep this one-a-week schedule going indefinitely, maybe not, but I have had fun doing it for a while, discovering that my body seems to be accomodating.<br><br>
Thanks for reading!

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998 Posts
Wow! congratulations on a great autumn, Bob!<br><br>
If you're going to take a big break from marathons, would you like to run a few 50s and 100s with me (and Tony?) It would be something to keep you occupied for a few months...<br><br><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="" style="border:0px solid;" title="Smile">

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frigging mental man!! Run a 6:17 at mile 26!!! I can't even wrap my head around that one. You rock man. Nice job managing your race throughout. your an smart and got it done. Extra congrats on the win!

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15,296 Posts
WOW!!!!!!!!! I knew you were a super fast stud of a runner, but you kicked ass!!! Congrats on your races, your win, and moving up in the MM ladder.

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I can't even wrap my head running a 6:17 at mile 1! <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="" style="border:0px solid;" title="Very Happy"><br><br>
Awesome job, bhearn - that is one helluva' stretch of running for pretty much anyone

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks everybody!<br><br>
I just finished my first weekend without racing in quite a while... feels pretty weird.<br><br>
Heh. Well if there were time available for that I wouldn't be taking a break from marathons, now, would I? I would like to do a 50 at some point. I think my body's ready. Not sure when, though. I don't know how I'm going to get through the next few months, so many tasks have been piling up.<br><br>
Well, me either -- I'd have to be totally nuts to run a 6:17 at mile 1!
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