Sunday, September 13, 2009

9/13/09 Skagit Flats Marathon

Last year I dwelt on the negatives about this race (boring course, flat out and back, too hot and sunny) but today I am thinking about the positives. Although it is 120 miles from home, it is an easy drive and just off the freeway. No problem parking at the High School. Easy day of race packet pickup. I like out and back because I can see so many Maniac friends. Finish on a track with bleachers providing a good recovery and spectating area. Shower facilities available too. Logistically this is a terrific race. Unfortunately the weather is shaping up to be sunny and hot yet again.
Start - I do not have plans to run with anyone in particular. I am also completing my third marathon in three weeks and do not feel the need to run conservatively like I did last week, but also have no idea how the recent races will affect me today. I will just set my own pace and hope to do well. I would like to get in under 4 hours. I'll go out just a little faster than that, just in case I am feeling great, and want to go for a PR, though with the heat and recent races this is unlikely. What I do want to do is focus on my form. With all of these long straight and totally flat miles I can set and hold my pace. I decide that I will try to concentrate on one element of form (elbows straight, head steady, slight lean forward, navel to spine......) along each straightaway and change to thinking of another element after the turn. White cap and sunglasses. Find some friends and then we go off.
Mile 1 - Crowded with all the halfers too. Started a tad fast but find my pace and stick to it.
Mile 3 - Aid station. I am sweating already. Tempted to pour a little water on my head, but it is too early for that.
Mile 5 - Thinking about holding my head steady. I zone in on a yellow cap in front of me that I am gradually catching up to. Soon I recognize the hat and the runner. Nice to run with Ron, Una and Herb for a few minutes. Halfers are coming back and I see three Marathon Maniacs who are doing the Half Fanatics thing today.
Mile 6.5 - Half turnaround. Happy that the runner with me (18 years old) is continuing on. Pleasant conversation, then she slows some and I move ahead. Try to think about form, but then catch up to someone and run with them for a mile or two. This would become the theme of the race till mile 22. Run for a while with someone I do not know, but enjoy a little conversation. Try to not talk too much, especially with the two who are trying to BQ. With each runner though they can not hold the pace and I slide ahead.
Mile 13.1 - Halfway in 1:56
Mile 16 - Bob Dolphin Sighting
Mile 19 - Starting to be a grind. Not so much fun anymore. Pavement seems old in places, some uneven surfaces. I wish that I could adequately describe the blazing sunshine. I have been pouring water on my head and the slow drip through the hat is nice. I have run in hotter situations though and I am ever so gradually passing runners. Diligent with the S!Caps, Gu and hydration. Aid stations staffed by High School athletes and I like most of their enthusiasm. One guy offers me a branch of blueberries he just plucked from the field. I take one berry. Pass a runner who is scraping her feet on the ground with each step.
Mile 22 - I almost always speed up a little prior to the aid station, then walk through to make sure I get what I need and this gives my legs a change of pace. Leaving the aid station here I can not help but make a wailing cry like a baby because I do not want to start up running again. A woman behind me must have recognized my cry, because she asks if it is me, then I recognize Maniac Susan who I met a few months ago. If it was nice to have some company from strangers along the way earlier, this is wonderful. We run together and encourage each other. My spirits are lifted, although the body is tiring. I am starting to slow, but not dramatically. I'd like to walk, but we look at sights ahead, telephone pole or corner, and commit to running that far. I did a horrible job of concentrating on form, with all of the out and back folks to wave to and run with, now it is too late to think about anything but persevering onward.
Mile 24.5 - Small patch of shade and without any conscious decision I find myself walking. This lasts about two seconds and I break into a shuffle, then get back on pace. Odd moment. I am pleased with how this is going, my best Skagit race as far a even pacing.
Mile 25 - Susan gets ahead and I am fine with that, but she is staying 30-40 feet in front of me. Every few minutes I yell to her to keep running. That is the thing about the marathon. The idea that we are competing with each other never entered my mind. I am happy for her that she is having a good run and she is encouraging me to keep going.
Mile 25.5 - I can tell that the end is near and I have a little kick left. I pass Susan and a couple of others. At the last aid station I dumped three cups of water on my head and now I feel that my shoes are soaked. I also had water roll down my back and front so I am pretty much drenched all over between sweat and water.
Mile 26.2 - The friendly volunteer most excellently removes my tag and I walk off to shower and recover while watching others finish. Pleased with my time (one second slower than two years ago, but two minutes faster than last year) and a much more enjoyable final hour than previously here. Not my favorite race, but I hope to do it again.

76th of 225
Race #174, Marathon #37, Marathon or Ultra #38

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