My 9th time running the full marathon, 8th year in a row. My longest racing streak. Too bad it is so close in time to Tacoma. I generally don't want to push myself that hard so close together. For this year the solution is to be a pacer again. Last year I paced 3:55 for the first half and then just ran my own race for the second half, finishing in 3:59. This year I want to pace the whole race, though I am very happy to have a co-pacer join me at the halfway point. I pick 4:15 as it should be doable, but no cakewalk. This is also the pace that I need to hold if I want to PR in the 50K that I am doing in two weeks.
I have appreciated the pacers that have helped me in races and this seems like a great way to volunteer and help my hometown race. Since I am registered and will have an official finish time, I can count this race for Maniac stats. But now I feel added pressure. I generally do not get nervous before races anymore, but in the past few days I have been thinking and worrying about this added responsibility. One of the best things about racing for me is that all I have to do is care for myself, do whatever I want to get to the finish. No other worries and I seldom think about real life while I am racing. The marathon is a mini vacation, but today I am supposed to run precisely 9:43.8 minutes per mile. I need to encourage others and not let anything make me deviate from hitting my paces. At 4:15 it does not sound like a difficult job, but anything can happen on race day.
Marathoners will receive a medal this year. I don't need one, but I am glad that they brought them back. It is a simple dog tag, but nice. The long sleeve shirt may be the best race shirt I have ever received. I love it. No advertising and stylish. We will also get a custom water bottle and trivet/coaster.
To add to the fun, my nephew Luke is here from Portland to run the half. It is his second race. Two weeks ago he ran a half and had a great finish time but was stopped by a train for quite a while. Today on this certified course with no train stops he will run even faster, a 1:32 something and be in the top 50 of about 1,200. Yay!
We have had a streak of warm weather. I did some solid running in the heat and feel ready for a hot day. But now it is cool and cloudy with showers scheduled for later this morning. I meet my fellow Club Oly pacers at 6:30AM and soon we are lining up for the start.
Start - 1,200 in the half, 500 in the five miler, but only 299 in the full. We start well before the other races so it is a small group on the wide street and it will only take me a few seconds to get to the chip mat. I look back and tell Cherry (4:30 pacer) to be sure and not pass me. A couple of people say that they would like to run a 4:15 and I tell them to stick with me and not go ahead until I say so. I want to pace off of gun time, so I plan to start my watch right away, but I forget and hit the button when I cross the mat. Just a few seconds, but it bugs me that I have screwed up already.
Mile 1 - Oh how this pace seems slow. For the past two weeks I have been doing some running at 9:43/mile pace and I am glad that I did. The first couple of times it was difficult to maintain it. When I do my normal easy runs I often go faster than that but then take walk breaks to make the pace slower. I was told to run as constantly as possible today, to not take walk breaks, and I will try to do that. We will slow down and walk a few steps at the aid stations however. I hit the mile mark at 9:36, just a little fast. The GPS reads 1.00 and I am happy for that. One worry was that the GPS would be off. In my pocket I have a slip of paper with each mile and cumulative time printed on it. I also have a couple of key mile splits written on my hand.
Mile 3 - A very light rain starts to fall. No wind. It will get a little more steady with each mile. Nothing heavy like last year. Really great running weather, but not so great for spectating and I always enjoy the good turnout of locals at this race.
I have plenty of running room in front of me. There are a couple of people at my sides but I can sense more behind me. I look back and am surprised to see a tight pack of 15 all crowded behind me. I thought that 4:00 would get a big group but I was not expecting there to be many runners who cared about 4:15. It makes me feel like I am doing something good and important for these guys, my pacing is a nice feature for the race today. I start to talk to them and find out who they are. I have Maniac Tracy who last ran a 4:14, but that was yesterday! I know her from previous races and it is nice to have the company. She is feeling good at this point and will stay with me for the first half, but will struggle the second half. I have yet to do a double, or want to. I meet Maniac John who is on quite a roll recently with lots of racing. There are also a handful of first timers. Ian, 19, from Oly and Ashley from Yakima. Chau Smith from Missouri is here, hoping to lower her recent BQ time. She is 62 so gets a BQ at 4:25. She wants to go sub 4:20 for the coveted "BQ-5".
Mile 5 - As we approach the mile marker I look at the writing on my hand. To be on pace we should reach the mile marker at 48:37. I know that we will be close and I tell the group the time that we are shooting for. My watch reads 48:31 as we get there, based on gun time we right on pace. I joke with the group, telling them that my work is done now, they are on their own.
Mile 9 - Clicking right along, maybe 45 seconds ahead of pace now. I feel fine. Now the first of the big hills. I figure that I will lose some of my pack on the three big hills, or at aid stations, if they are slow to regroup. My plan is to try to talk with them up the hills as a bit of a distaction. By mile 10 it does seems like a few have dropped back. There are 11 in my group now.
Mile 12 - There is Brock, my co-pacer, waiting under a tent. He must be cold, having to stand out in this weather for a while. He joins up and I am very grateful for his company. I let him lead the way and I don't have to be so completely focused on running steady. We now have just over a minute in the bank and really should slow some. I figure that we can take hill number 2 super easy and not lose anyone there.
Mile 15 - That hill is steep and we have lost some more runners. Tamara, Ian and Ashley are still with us for sure, others are struggle and dropping back. Now that long mostly flat and straight road. Brock and I try to get some conversation going. At an aid station I get a drink from my old pal Lance. With this slower pace for me I have been able to tolerate food (gels and fig newtons) and my stomach feels fine.
Mile 16 - Ahead we can see people taking walk breaks off and on. We gradually pick off a racer here and there.
Mile 18 - Ian and Tamara are slipping off pace. Brock is trying to rally them. Ashley is sticking close. Official photographer taking pictures here and my sign off to the right. My sign alright. Yesterday at the expo, the Guerrilla Running Club were making posters for today. I asked someone to make one for me and by the time I was done talking with other club members she had it done. "This sign is for you" it says in big letters. She added a smaller MM660 so I would know that it really was for me.
Mile 20 - My 100th mile for the month, for the 90th consecutive month. Our big pack is now down to one. Ashley is holding on and we are excited to hit mile 20. She should be fine for the next two flat and downhill miles. If trouble will come for her it will be on Eastside Hill. If she makes that on pace, she will have no trouble getting in under 4:15. I really want her to make it. Linda Hyuck sighting at the aid station. She won the five mile race and must have kept on running to get here.
Mile 22 - More than a minute ahead of schedule what with that big downhill on Legion. Heidi and John sighting. And now the long uphill. Ashley is with us and actually just in front. She still has great form and does not seem to be struggling. There is a guy walking ahead of us and I decided to hop up the big curb and run past him on the sidewalk on his right as Ashley and Brock pass on the left. With 22 miles down I should not have tried to hop as my right hamstring cramps and quivers and I have a moment of fear that I have done something very bad. Fortunately it settles right down. We run smoothly, try to keep talking, and get up the hill without using our banked time. Turn on to Fir street and up some more.
Mile 24 - Ashley sticking close and I encourage her to run the tangents of the curvy road. We are passing more marathoners and half marathon walkers. Catch Ron Fowler, but he does not let us pass. Good for him, he picks it up and will finish ahead of us in this, his 233rd marathon. We turn off of Fir and now I know that she will make her goal. We pick up two stragglers who will try to stay with us but falter after a while. I encourage Ashley to go ahead and pick up the pace as much as she wants. We have one mile of flat and one great downhill. She pulls away and it is funny to me that in yet another race I have run with an Ashley only to have her go on faster for a strong finish. This one will finish her first marathon in 4:12.
Jennifer Seward sighting.
Mile 25 - Brock and I are alone now. Passing half marathon walkers, but there are no full marathoners around that we can see. We are still about a minute ahead of pace. The pacers are having a little contest to see who can come in closest to goal time without going over. We really need to slow down. I find a much lower gear and we are able to keep running, but at a very easy pace. Down the hill we go, nice and relaxed. I look forward to finishing and drying off.
Mile 26 - The marker is up ahead. We look at our watches and freak out a little. Somehow we slowed down so much that now we have to speed up if we want to beat 4:15. There are no other racers around so it really does not matter for our pacing duties. Since Brock is only running the second half he should not go through the finishers chute. He runs fast with me and then pulls off like he should. I am looking at the big clock at the finish line and am getting very worried. I have to go as fast as I can. Luckily I have a good kick left. The last minute is crazy fast, I should not be doing this on 26 mile legs. I hear Jody and Luke and the crowd cheering as I fly in, hit the first mat and hear my name called, see the clock turn to 4:15:00 and cross the finish line at 4:15:03. The effort of the last two minutes gets to me and I come very close to vomiting. Volunteers are stepping away from me because it really looks like I am going to lose it, but I am able to recover in a bit without incident. I am a little disappointed that I did not get under 4:15 but my chip time will be under that. And we did a very good job of pacing, till the last mile. By then it did not matter. I am so glad that at least one of our group from the start made it to the end. She is very appreciative. I find Ian and he thanks me too. He was not so far behind.
Hopefully my legs will recover well and I can put on some extra miles later this week. The Rainier to Ruston 50K is on June 2nd and there I will get to do my own thing. Will I pace here next year? Before the race I would have said no, but after being able to help some runners reach their goals and also enjoy the hometown race without going all out, I think that I just may do this again. For sure I plan to run this marathon again. Next year will be my 10th time here and just possibly be my 100th marathon or ultra.
4:14:57 chip time, 4:15:06 gun time, 4:15:03 on the clock at the finish
Marathon or Ultra#84