Missed this one last year, so it is nice to be back for my seventh time. Second time on the new course.
Other than having to wake at 3:45, this is easy to get to. Actually I did not have to get up so early after all. I found good parking and ended up on one of the first buses to the start. It will be warm, but in the early dark it is cold out here. I go to the hangar to wait in the warmth and see that it is not open this year. I have long sleeves and a beanie hat but I am feeling really cold, with little place to sit and 90 minutes till the start. I find a curb and watch the later buses unload. Here is Deb and then Tim who tells us that Marie is at their car and we could probably wait inside their vehicle. We jump at the chance. Marie is taking the early start but kindly lets us sit in her car until our start time. Comfortable and warm and a nice time catching up with Deb.
This makes three in three weeks and I am not hopeful of having a fast time. My plan is to stay behind the 4:00 pacer as long as I can. It makes no sense to go in front of him as a sub 4:00 is improbable and it would not be wise to go faster than that. I find the Rogue Wave just before the start and she has similar plans.
Start - Nod to my next door neighbors (father and son) who are running the half, that starts in an hour and away we go. Crowded but runnable. Behind 4:00 and 4:15 pacers but RW says to be patient, we will catch up to them on the bridge.
Mile 2 - Bright sun, sunglasses go on. Glad that I left the long sleeves in my drop bag. It is great running weather now. Over the Narrows on a beautiful morning.
Mile 3 - This is so great. I am very relaxed. Running with my favorite racing pal. I know the course. I don't have to think about pace at all, just stay behind Ian the 4:00 pacer. A few potholes to watch for, but nothing like last week's trail.
Mile 7 - Ian has put almost a minute in the bank. At times I feel like I am going too fast, just trying to keep up. Then he slows, often on a downhill, and it is easy to stay with him.
Mile 16 - After the Proctor Neighborhood, it is over to Point Defiance and the Five Mile Drive. It is just a bit of work to stay with Ian, but everything feels good. Taking gels and S!Caps and my stomach feels fine. Pass MM#2. Lots of MMs. One woman from Illinois is marveling at our giant trees. I mention the 500 year old tree that is coming up. RW has slipped back. I get closer to Ian and talk a bit with him and the two women that are staying with him. Mostly just try to stay relaxed and hold the pace. Better to run a few steps behind him and not get too chatty.
Mile 20 - Every mile Ian does some calculations and now he says that we are 48 seconds ahead of schedule. Out of the park there is the short out and back in Ruston and it is fun to see those ahead and behind me.
Mile 21 - Ruston Way. Not too warm yet and sometimes a little breeze at our backs. RW has caught up! Happy to see her. Then she drops back again. Passing lots of walking halfers now. For the rest of the race I will have to think ahead about how to get around a walker or two together. I get in a groove that I feel I can hold for a long time and it is right behind Ian. My head is down a bit, I am just looking at the ground and the feet of the two runners ahead of me. Not the most fun but it is getting the job done. I start to think that I might be able to stay with the pacer the whole way.
Mile 22.5 - The dreaded overpass on Ruston way. Its a giant bump in the road. People walking. As 4:00 gets ahead of me, one marathoner who is walking starts cursing that "there goes his time goal". I can sympathize and I wonder is this it for me too? I could be really happy with a 4:03 or even 4:05. It would be so easy to let Ian go. But 3:59 is still in my grasp. I dig deep, make some grunting noises and force myself to work harder than I thought possible. Catch Ian on the downslope. That was close, but my hope returns. I even go in front of 4:00 pace, so that I can walk a water station and not get left behind.
Mile 24 - Really warm now. The sun hits the road and the wall along the road, boxing the heat in. Patches of shade feel so much cooler. I perk up in the shade and melt in the heat. Glad that I have been carrying a small water bottle. Water on the head is so cooling. But 4:00 slips ahead again. I think this is it. But just where the half course splits off, there is Bart Yasso yelling at me to stay with my pacer. Bart Yasso the writer for Runner's World. The man has a world famous track interval workout named after him. He is a running legend, who coincidentally shares with me 100 marathons and 25 ultras completed. Spectators are so helpful to keep me going, but Bart Yasso takes the cake. How can I not do as he tells me? I pick it up and catch Ian.
Mile 24.5 - Now I really can not keep up. Ian and the one woman who stayed close to him the whole way get farther ahead. I can only hope that the 40 seconds we last had in the bank plus the 18 second differential in our chips starts will be enough cushion. But there is this last hill and I start walking.
Mile 25 - Almost to the top of the hill. Doubt 4:00 will happen but I am at 3:48 on my watch so a ten minute mile would make it real close. Get running again. Encourage a woman and we leap frog a bit. Skip the last water station as I have water in the bottle and its just a mile to go.
Mile 25.5 - This long straightaway. So many traffic cones. I can see far ahead, the turn to the finish is too far away. Depressing. I start walking a bit. Look at the watch and I am still on pace....barely. Dig deep again. I can't not try for it.
Mile 26 - Just before the turn to the downhill finish. I want the sub 4 and that mark has given me incentive to run my best today. I am really going to be happy with whatever happens. Last look at the watch, right at the 26 marker (0.2 to go) and it reads 3:58:20. Can I run a quarter mile in 1:40? On the track when I am fresh yes. This is less than that and downhill, with turns. Again I have to try.
Mile 26.2 - The final sprint is crazy. The finish line crowd is cheering. I am going surprisingly fast but it is so far. Run through the chip mats. Stop my watch. 4:00:01!! I am not disappointed at all. There is a good chance that my chip time will be lower. I was not that careful at the start and I might have taken a second or two to stop the watch after crossing the line. And it really does not matter....it was a great day and finish time regardless. Whoa, here is RW less than 30 seconds behind me. She must have been stalking me the whole way. Fun to have finish times so close. We should be hugging, but we both seriously need to recover. I sort of feel like passing out or vomiting. RW is kinda hunched over and I wonder if she feels the same way. We get over it quickly and neither needs medical aid. It is so hot that we go find some shade to sit in for a minute. With wet shirts and a breeze in the shade of this overpass we both get chilled quickly. Then I see the results tent. Plug my number into the lap top and there is my official chip time.....3:59:59.
I walk back to my car but take a longer route along the course, cheering friends. Bart Yasso is coming toward me so I get to meet him and thank him for the encouragement.
136 place of 460
Marathon or ultra#125, marathon #100, TCM#7