My goal time is to finish any time under 4 hours. I ran a 3:48 last year but today I doubt that I can do that and I do not want to try and then have a major meltdown. I have not had a sub 4 since last November and I would like to get back there before trying to go faster. Its my 5th TCM. The weather is looking perfect. It will be a little foggy for the first half, then the sun will come out and it will warm up, but not too bad.
This race is Maniac Central. So many Maniacs and the club has gotten so big I just can not know everyone. All the usual suspects are here and it is nice to see them. I line up between the 3:55 and 4:00 pacers. I am committed to staying there, not passing the 3:55 unless I feel very good very late in the race. (That will not be an issue).
Start - Smooth start and very soon there is plenty of running space. The narrow starting corral opens up into nice wide road and we can run our own pace right away.
Mile 2 - I missed the mile 1 marker but as I see this one I check my watch and it only reads 1.8 miles. Somehow my GPS lost 0.2 miles and will be off by that amount the whole way. Same thing happened to another runner.
Mile 5 - Pace is comfortable but not slow by any means. The 3:55 are going faster, probably to put some time in the bank before all the hills. I let them go and instead run even with a fellow Maniac who I do not know. We greet each other and I learn that it is Maniac Mama Lisa who I have been hoping to meet. I have seen her name with finish times similar to mine on quite a few races lately. Nice to make the connection. She ran the Big Sur Marathon last weekend and after we run a couple of miles together, she does not keep up the pace.
Miles 7-9.5 - Along Ruston way, biding my time, happy for these easy miles.
Mile 10 - The steep ascent to Point Defiance Park. As I round the corner at the top of this hill I hear a spectator say to someone just behind me "looking good, guy in pink". That could only be one guy, Maniac Robert. He ran a 50K yesterday and although he said that he was hurting, I expected him to beat me. This is the third time that I can recall in which he passed me during a marathon on the day after he ran a 50K. Since I am on my pace and doing fine, this does not bother me. So many amazing runners on this course.
Mile 11-13 - Long mostly twisting uphill in the park. My left achilles starts to hurt a little. Then it gets worse. I start to worry that if it gets much worse I may have to drop out so that I do not make an injury any worse. I have had a few issues here, off and on, but not so recently and nothing that caused as much concern as it does now. I switch up the stride a little and hope that a change to downhill will help. It does and the issue gradually goes away. By mile 16, I will realize that it feels perfectly fine and it will not bother me at all any more today.
13.1 - 1:56 - I can see the 3:55 pacer ahead. They did slow some on the hills. I continue to do my own thing, running very even paces.
Mile 15 - Out of the park, and into the bright sunshine. Gradually catch and pass Judy Fisher. Another amazing runner.
Miles 16-20 - The hills are not as steep but they are relentless. I am feeling it now. Also in my stomach. I forgot to take any S!Caps until mile 8. I had a minor headache then, which is very rare for me, and that reminded me to take some electrolytes. I also had most of two gels and they went down OK, but now I do not feel so good. More like cramping than the sloshing feeling I get without the S!Caps. My legs are mostly OK, but yes they are getting tired. And I am feeling warmer. My pace starts to slow. Gradually at first.
Mile 21 - Flagging for sure now. And on that long bit along Highway 16. Quick math tells me that I could slow to 10 min/mile and still beat 4 hours. I used to play that game a lot. Not so much any more, but I do reset the watch. I hope to go faster than 10, but after a mile I can barely hold 10:30. My pace is bouncing around, as I find a little energy, lose it on a hill, slow at an aid station.
Mile 22 - Maniac Kimpossible passes me. Soon she is a speck in the distance. Others are passing me too. I am still ahead of the 4:00 pacers but I doubt that I can break 4 hours. I tell myself that it is OK. Last year I worked so hard to get a PR and when I missed it by one second, I was angry. And those last miles were so horribly hard. Whatever happens now, I promise to keep a happy attitude. I'll probably run a 4:02 and I should be thrilled that I can do that. Why should 3:59 sound so good and 4:01 sound slow? It is a beautiful day and I am doing what I enjoy. Maybe I have lost my mental toughness, but today I do not really care. I stay happy, joke with the spectators and thank the police and volunteers.
Mile 23.5 - Finally off the paved hilly trail and onto the road. Mostly flat now until the big downhill.
Mile 24 - Floundering. I look at the watch and the time looks very ugly. I look behind me and there is the Grim Reaper (4:00 paces) to take away all my dreams and joy. They pass me right as we get to an aid station. That is the worst, because I really need to drink and to pour water on my head and I know that they will get out of reach right away. Indeed, they are pulling ahead about as fast as Kim did.
Mile 24.4 - Finally make it to the steep downhill. It is not a long one, and the pacers have already turned on to the next road. Now a fellow racer comes flying past me. I am braking some as the hill is so steep, but he is letting it rip and leaves me in his wake. I try to go a little faster and I am able to.
Mile 25 - The long wide turn and the downhill continues but now it is gentle and very runnable. The guy who passed me is passing the pacers who are at least a tenth of a mile ahead of me. Hey if he could do that so quickly, maybe I can reel them in too. I do not need to worry about the watch anymore, I trust the pacers to come in right on schedule. Beat them and I beat 4. They are far away, but getting closer! Just like last year I find myself in a mighty struggle on this final mile. This mile will be horribly hard, and I will try my best, but I will also stay happy.
Mile 25.8 - Still getting closer, I start calling to them. They encourage me to catch up.
Mile 25.9 - Get even with them and continue on. Now I can give it my all, but also relax and know that I will reach my goal.
Mile 26.2 - 3:59:28. Emotional finish. I am glad that I stuck it out when it got so tough. Its just a slightly lower number in my race log, but it was my goal and I made it.
Another great Tacoma City Marathon. See you next year TCM.
139th of 388
Marathon or Ultra #83
Sub 4 hour marathon# 40