Sunday, August 17, 2008

8/17/08 The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

It is all gentle downhill on the old railroad grade, now a dirt and gravel road/State Park from Hyak (Snoqualamie Pass) to North Bend, parallel but far enough away from Interstate 90 that there is no road noise. For added fun there is a 2.3 mile unlit tunnel and 4 or 5 high trestle bridges. This is the second year that race director Maniac Brian has put on this low key event. The first race met with such rave reviews that many more signed up this year and the race had to be capped at 135 in order make it manageable. I hope to have a good run here, but have never run very far on gravel and of course you never really know what will happen in a marathon. No predictions for finish time. The plan is to set myself up so that I could PR if all goes well, but if it gets bad I will just relax and turn it into a training run for Skagit in three weeks.
Start - Park the car at trails end in North Bend and catch bus number two of three for the ride to the start. Nice talking with some runners, seems like they are all Maniacs. I feel very relaxed, probably the calmest I have ever been for any race. I am so glad to have finally gotten over pre race jitters. Another advantage to racing more often. I jog a little to make sure that my gear is in place. Hat and sunglasses tucked in fuel belt, headlamp secure on head. Headlamp and sunglasses, that is first. I also have a long sleeve shirt on and hat in my pocket as I have been warned that it can be quite cool in the tunnel. Out here it is somewhat warm and very humid, with the expectation of hotter weather as the morning progresses.
Mile 0.2 - Very short out and back in the parking lot to get us started. This tells me that the race is in fact accurate distance (it is certified). Somehow I have found myself way in the back and packed in tight, but it is fine. Plenty of time to sort out.
Mile 0.6 - Into the tunnel. RW and I are side by side with the plan to stay together through the tunnel, then go our separate ways as we feel like it.
Mile 0.8 - Really dark and wet too. Some puddles, some water dripping from above. At least the footing is good and I manage to keep my feet dry. Room for three runners across. We are passing runners as we can but it is not easy to pass two others who are together. Most important is to be safe. I check to make sure my car key pocket is zipped tight.
Mile 1.0 - I see a mile marker in chalk on the ground and look at my watch. "No GPS signal" warning is showing and hiding my timer. I feel like we are going too fast, but I figure I can fix the pace after the tunnel and it won't be a problem. It is humid and foggy in here. I can see my breath, but it is not very cold.
Mile 2 - The small light at the end of the tunnel is starting to get a little larger. Still about a mile to go in here. We are directly behind Pigtails. If RW decides to pass her, she is on her own, because I have a new strategy. If Pigtails has not raced the day before, I have no business starting out faster than she. In the last year I have watched those pigtails pass me at miles 18, 20 and 25 that I can recall. If she has not raced in the last 5 days, her times all always well ahead of me, so I would be wise to stay back and pace myself better.
Mile 3 - Out of the tunnel and here is an aid station. The headlamp and long sleeve shirt go in a drop bag that will be taken to the finish. GPS snaps to position perfectly. I am at 8:40 pace and that is ideal.
Mile 4 - Running faster now and probably too fast. I send RW on her way and ease off the pace. Gentle downhill and a typical dirt road. As long as I stay in one of the two tracks there is not much gravel or larger rocks. Will have to watch my footing the whole way, but the path is better than I expected.
Mile 5-12 - Beautiful course. I would like to stop at the high trestles and look down. Some have talus/avalanche chutes and I would like to stop and scan the area for wildlife. Instead I keep moving along at a steady pace. Leapfrogging with RW and passing some runners. Nice short greetings with other runners. At mile 12 I see that my pace is still faster than it should be (I am at 8:35 and my PR pace is 8:50). There is Maniac Marci an early starter. I decide to walk a bit with her, just to get my average pace a little slower before the half split. Lately I have run about ten minutes slower in the second half and I very much want to even that out. I am hopeful that the electrolyte pills will enable me to do just that.
Mile 13.1 - 1:54. If I can run evenly I will finish in 3:48, a best time by over three minutes. That would be wonderful.
Mile 15 - Rock climbers
Mile 16 - Feeling better than I was an hour ago, not that I ever felt that bad. Leave RW behind.
Mile 17 - I wonder if Billy knows that I think of him whenever I see trail scat.
Mile 18 - Small rough patch. I've had worse
Mile 19 - Blow past the aid station and a couple of runners who are stopped there. I have enough fluids in my belt to get me to the end. Most of the race I have been by myself, gradually passing others and not getting passed myself. I have a new game of looking ahead at the curve in the road and switching tracks to take the inner lane.
Mile 20 - Here is a funny site. I can see about a quarter of a mile ahead (I love this course) and there are three runners strung out in front of me. All are men with yellow Maniac singlets and black shorts, which is exactly what I am wearing.
Mile 21 - Pass two people walking and I do some math. I calculate that I can slow down to almost 10 minutes per mile and still PR. Still a long way to go though.
Mile 22 - Off of one trail and on to another. Course is very well marked, looks like I will not get lost. The downhills are done but the rest of the way is flat as can be.
Mile 23 - Maniac Rob and Maniac Eric are sitting in chairs enjoying the day. Rob gets up and shakes my hand. Good thing there is not another chair there, I might have stayed a while. But I am getting excited about a personal best time and don't stop. As long as I don't walk much I should do well. I would like to dissociate (not think about running or my pace) and just keep jogging for a while to pass the time. I try to think about family and friends. I recall last years crazy Narrows bridge 5K and I try to remember the whole event. Maybe I could think of a song in my head. I can't remember words to anything, best I come up with is Happy Birthday and lasted about 20 seconds. Guess I will think about running, enjoy the moment and watch the landmarks pass by.
Mile 23.5 - Ding Dong.....Ding Dong...I forgot I had my cell phone in my fuel belt. Anyone who could be calling me knows I am running this morning. I consider digging the phone out, it would be funny to talk and run, but it is a pain to get out of there and I would have to slow down. I let it ring. Whatever it is can wait 30 minutes. In addition to the phone I will not need, I have not used my suglasses or hat which has been flapping at my side all day.
Mile 24 - Some leapfrogging with a runner in a white hat. He is running steady but slower than me. I have been running faster, but taking short walk breaks when I see that the pace for the last stetch has been getting faster. I want to run conservatively. There is still two miles to go and I could yet hit the wall or blow up in some other way. Nice easy running will get me in at record time and I try to stick to that plan. I get behind white hat runner and focus on the hat.
Mile 25 - Oh Raymond, do you remember how for years we would talk about how just one time we wanted to run a fast marathon and feel good at the end? I wish you could know how it feels right now. Sure I am tired, but I am not slowing, or shuffling, or staggering. I could pick up the pace if I had too, but I am fine with what I am doing right now. I have probably passed 20 runners in the second half (not including early starters) and was only just now passed by one.
Mile 26 - I can see the finish line. Time to sprint as best I can. Oh, I have calf muscles and they are not happy. Mild cramping up, but not that bad. I watch the clock turn over to 3:48 before I cross the line. 1:54/1:54 even split and 3 minute PR
Mile 26.2 - Get some juice, walk a bit and cheer on some finishers. RW comes in looking great as always. I have some trouble recovering and actually feel worse than I did during the race. Head is a little wobbly and muscles are stiffening. I just keep moving and drinking fluids. I stay for longer than usual, enjoying the moment and talking with friends. Then I get an overwhelming urge for a giant icy coke and hit the road in search of a fast food place.
3 hours 48 minutes 10 seconds PR
Marathon number 22

Saturday, August 2, 2008

8/2/08 Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon

With the reschedule of the Inna Gadda Davida Challenge I was not able to do 8 races in 8 weeks at 8 different distances. Today's race was supposed to finish off that phase, but instead it feels like the beginning of something new. Last Saturday I ran 20 miles with Club Oly and now I look forward to longer races including a couple of marathons in the coming weeks. My heel responded quickly and positively to the slower but longer runs. I registered for today's race back in May and have been looking forward to it for some time. It has been three years since my last 13.1 mile race.
Start - It is going to be a while before I am actually running. 5:15AM I park in the same spot as I did for the Tacoma Marathon. I catch the first shuttle bus. There is Bob, Marci, Judy and my new friend Ron who I ran with last week. This is getting to be like a second family. Bus takes a wrong turn but we still make it in plenty of time. I sit for a while and even though I have a jacket on, I am cold and start shivering. I walk around the parking lot for a while, try to keep moving to warm up, and that works. With each bus drop off the crowd swells. Looks like an excellent turn out. I introduce myself to two Manaics and spend time chatting with others. 7:20AM I go for a short run to loosen up. Just a half mile and no strides. The plan is to ease into a comfortably hard pace, Get to the bridge at 7:40 average, top of Jackson at 7:50 pace, slowly hammer back to 7:45 overall, then gun it down the hill at mile 11 and hold on for a PR. My previous best is 1:41:39. My favorite racing partner is here but not feeling well, so I will do my own thing for sure and just focus on the pace. It is very crowded, with all kinds of runners, but I think I have positioned myself well. The race starts about 10 minutes late, and I am happy to be running. Cloudy and cool.
Mile 1 - We are getting sorted out and it has been smooth going considering the crowd. Nice little out and back stretch lets me see the leaders.
Mile marker 3 - GPS says 3.00, that is terrific, I can trust the watch. It tells me that I am right at 7:40 pace. Enjoy the views. Nice madronas hanging on the cliffs.
Mile 4 - Up the hill on the other side of the bridge. It is not too steep or long, but I am slowing. At least I am in control. This was the part I was most worried about.
Mile Marker 5 - GPS says 5.00. Thank you TP! and Garmin. Pace is 7:51 but the hills are done and I speed up slightly.
Mile 7 - Cheney Stadium. Running around the warning track with the Rocky theme playing nice and loud. What a treat!! Pace at 7:44
Mile Marker 9 - GPS says 9.00!!!
Mile 10 - Pace at 7:42 but I am starting to flounder. Tough little hill to the end of the "trail" and I lose my form. Nice flat stretch but I think I am slowing. Should I slow and focus on form, or just keep working hard? I split the difference and flounder more carefully. I really want to see the big downhill.
Mile 11 - There it is, the beautiful long downhill, leading to another gradual decline. Same last few miles as the marathon so I am familiar with the course. PR propects look good.
Mile 12 - Average pace is 7:39, just need to hold on, although thoughts of sub 1:40 are crossing my mind. How about I stop negotiating with the watch and just run hard?
Mile 13.1 - PR!! Negative split!!! Very pleased with results, I seldom run exactly as planned, but today I did so. Finisher's glass is cool and will get lots of use. Shirt is one of the best I have seen. Race was well organized for a first time event and I will plan to run it again. I stay for a while to cheer on the others. After it is all done, my right knee starts causing pain. Not sure what that is about, but I think I will be fine.
1:40:23 PR 88th place of 580 finishers
Race number 143