Last year this was "the race that made me a maniac". I enjoyed that race in the fierce winds and unexpectedly tough course, but did not feel a strong desire to do it again. I had not planned to run this until last month when Jody said that she wanted to see her folks and run the half marathon. Well we can't drive 3 hours to Bellingham and have Jody running a race and me not sign up too. Also with Portland planned for next week, this would be a way to get 12 marathons done within the past 12 months thus securing me gold status in the Marathon Maniacs and a third imaginary star.
I am not so concerned with my finish time today and this seems like an opportunity to try a little experiment. Many, most, almost all of my marathons I have really struggled in the final miles, reduced to a run/walk/shuffle at about 10:30/mile pace. What if I put that slower pace in the first miles by running with Jody, then speeding up to normal pace? Would I be able to finish strong? Jody wants my company but says that the experiment will not work due to "time on feet" issues. She thinks I will tire and slow after 3 and a half hours regardless of my pace.
We stayed with Bill and Connie again this year and were treated to a dramatic WWU football game followed by a late pasta dinner. Connie drove us to the start and will pick us up, making this logistically a snap.
Start - No worries about the weather this year. Perfect 46 degrees at the start with brilliant sunshine and no wind. New course this year looks better with no loop past the finish. About 7 miles of this course will be new to me. Jody and I line up pretty far back, but there are many behind us. Got to be at least 1,000 runners, but only 275 in the full marathon. It takes us at least a minute to cross the start line. Good thing it is chip timed.
Mile 2 - Probably should have worn sunglasses, but there will be lots of miles in the shade eventually. We are running all around a neighborhood, so many turns I would be lost for sure except that I am crowded in with so many people. Jody seems well and we are getting the pace close to 10/mile after a slow crowded start. Walkers really should start way in the back!! Especially when they are walking 3-4 abreast.
Mile 4 - After a long gradual uphill we are now on a long gradual downhill. This one with few turns. Jody thinks that she will need a bathroom break and if she stops I should go on without her.
Mile 4.85 - Jody ducks off course and I am free to go. I accelerate, but this is not the time to "run like an antelope out of control". I try to not go too fast, but after hitting the lap button and running for a minute or two, I see that my new pace is 7:42/mile. I had planned to run 8:45/mile, so this is no good at all. I slow some and eventually settle in around 8:35 my usual marathon starting pace that I know is too fast.
Mile 6 - I am passing people..... a lot of people. I thought of counting them, but that would be too hard. Oh I could count or at least say hi to fellow maniacs. Nice fairly flat stretch till mile 10.
Mile 6.5 - Hi Maniac Mel
Mile 7 - Hi Maniac Monte. He asks me what I am doing back here. Hey Monte you are not THAT slow. Nice pleasant run for a quarter of a mile or so. Gets me into a better pace. I should get moving though and I don't want to mess up his pacing, so I go on.
Mile 7.5 Hi Maniac Jim
Mile 8 - These volunteers are the best. Mostly kids just screaming encouragement and having lots of fun. Every cross road is marked and staffed and all the volunteers are supporting us so positively. I am sure the weather is helping. It is warmer, just delightful.
Mile 10 - Half marathoners turn right and we turn left. Always a little lonely when the masses split off. We go directly onto the dirt trail. I meet and introduce myself to Maniac Spencer running on his home course.
Mile 11 - Maniac Rodger and his posse. We chat a little. Nice pack of manly men. Then I move on.
Mile 12 - California street hill. I was so surprised and horrified by this last year. Much better when you know what to expect. Actually now I like it and I hope they always keep it in the course. Gives the race character. I am still passing people and feeling good but there is no fast way up this baby. Catch up with Maniac Jill. Nice meeting someone who's name I have seen quite a bit but had never met. This is really fun slowly catching up on Maniacs and finding out who they are. Back onto the dirt trail.
Mile 13.1 - 2:o2. I need to run a 1:58 to finish in 4 hours. That is exactly a 9 minute mile. Could be possible if the experiment works. Hit the lap button on the watch. Plan to run 8:45-8:50 and work really hard to keep the pace under 9.
Mile 14 - Fast runners coming at me. Turn around on the trail is about mile 15. I like that because it is past the halfway point of the race. Fast guys, Maniac Bob, Pigtails (well in front of me where she belongs today and that guy in the pink shirt I see at all the marathons. I try to say a bad joke to him, but learn that is a stupid idea when you are running in opposite directions.
Meet stealth Maniac Sarah and could be Maniac Julie. I just can not imagine how anyone could not think that the Maniac colors are the ultimate in fashion.
Mile 15 - Turn around on this beautiful forested trail.
Mile 20 - Trip back is nice, but I slow on the California downhill. I joke about turing around and running up and down it again, spectator just stares at me. Maybe I will do that next year just to freak people out. Another mile of trail then it is back to the roads. There is a steep little uphill before the road but I manage it OK. As soon as I hit the pavement though I can feel it in my legs. My legs suddenly feel tired and even a little wobbly.
Mile 21 - Legs almost give out on me. Scary moment but I stay upright and am able to keep running. Bright sunshine. Getting warm and starting to dump water on my head.
Mile 22 - Longish steepish uphill in a neighborhood. Tough going. I look at my watch and see that the second half pace has jumped to 9:30. Wow that happened quickly. I did not even get a chance to battle the watch. I am still running though walking through the water stops a bit longer than I need to. And I am still passing the occasisional runner, without yet being passed myself.
Mile 23 - Still in the neighborhood, but now entering the Twilight Zone. No one in front of me, no one behind me. No people at all. No course markings except some blobs of chalk or flour. I'm sure that a few hours ago they were nice arrows pointing the way, but after so many footsteps, they just look funny. I think about walking, but decide to run from one blob to the next. I actually have a good energy level and feel fine in the stomach and head (thank you S!Caps) but my legs are weary. Oh, here comes a kid on a bike. She shouts encouragement just like so many other kids today. I ask her if I am winning. Only one seconds pause then she starts screaming "Yes you are winning!!, you are in the lead, you are so fast!!" I keep running
Mile 24 - Downhill and onto the waterfront. First person in 19 miles gets past me, then two more, but that would be it. Look at my watch and it is blank, the battery has died. Its OK, I had already known I would not beat 4 hours and I do not need the watch for pacing anymore.
Mile 25 - I realize that I have not taken any walking breaks. By walking breaks I do not include walking through water stations or hills that are so steep you don't gain much time by "running". What I mean is the grinding to a halt for no apparent reason that usually occures in the twilight zone. After I let it happen for the first time it is so easy to take more and more walk breaks and the finish time suffers. I have a new goal for this race. No walk breaks. I wish I were running with someone right now, but the only people I pass are walking or moving too slow.
Mile 25.4 - I really feel like a walk break. There is a young woman walking on this urban trail, not a race participant. As I catch up to her I ask her to tell me not to walk. Boy did I pick the right person. She starts jumping up and down and gets all in my face. "No walking!!, you can do it, keep running, I ran cross country in High School" She is absolutely flipping out and I love it. No way I can stop now. I thank her and keep running.
Mile 26 - I see the marker and make a turn to find the finish line straight ahead. Put on speed as best I can and enjoy the end. Jody, Connie, Caleb, and Andy Choi there to cheer me on.
Mile 26.2 - I see the clock flip to 4:08 but since my watch is down I will have to wait a day or so for my chip time. I should pick up more than a minute. Connie brought the ice cooler so I could ice my foot. I do so for a few minutes but it is in way better shape than Skagit. Instead of the post race festivities we head right back to the house for showers and a nice lunch. Then it is 3 hours in the car to get home.
94th place of 269
24th marathon, 2nd Bellingham Bay Marathon