Number 10 in the Books
Dear, Boston – See you in
I have to admit, in retrospect, that I was very disappointed to miss out on going to Boston next April by only one second. It was weighing on me quite a bit, but not for what may seem like the obvious reason.
By missing the cutoff by one second, I really missed it by about 51 seconds. As I mentioned in my last post, the Wineglass Marathon had a serious issue with their timing system and most runners got credited with a faster time than they actually ran – me included. One of the most bothersome parts of that was the lack of willingness of the race director to acknowledge the hundreds of people who knew, as did I, that the time awarded was not even close to the time actually ran. Megan Hetzel, a reporter for Runner’s World, engaged in a Twitter conversation with the Wineglass officials that was joined by several other Wineglass runners. The race officials refused to budge – probably because they had no way to figure out what went wrong nor how to fix it. The bottom line is that I did not earn a trip to Boston in 2016 – and it was by more than a second.
No – the reason not getting to Boston was weighing on me was its symbolism of just how badly things went at the Wineglass Marathon. While I knew that the time in New York City prior to driving up to Corning, NY was likely to impact me (we were on our feet a lot), I had not before experienced a nearly complete shutdown of my legs prior to even getting to Mile 20. Marathons are tiring enough, but there is no bigger soul sucking feeling than faltering legs with over seven miles left to run. It occurred to me then that my strongest races may have already happened. After missing Boston, I began to wonder if that was confirmation of the inevitable decline.
The 2015 Twin Cities Marathon
As it turns out, I may have run my fastest marathon Marine Corps Marathon back in October 2013. However, October 4 proved to be what I felt was my strongest marathon yet.
The morning started off easy. I woke up around 4:00 AM and ate my usual pre-race meal. Gatorade, half a bagel with peanut butter, and a banana. I crawled back into bed and flopped around for a couple more hours before getting up, getting dressed, and heading out the door. The lead up to the start went perfectly, and I especially credit the TCM organizers with having plenty of port-a-potties. Unless people waited until the last minute, the lines were never more than three or four deep.
My entire goal for the race, based on how I felt leading up to it, was to finish and hopefully do that around a 3:20:00. While the goal was to BQ again, it doesn’t seem like that is even feasible anymore unless you come in five minutes under that time. That works out to a 7:37/mile pace, and it meant being in a position in the last few miles not having to worry about making up any lost time.
I felt good right out of the start and settled into an 8:00/mile pace early on, although the adrenaline started fueling me before I finished the first mile and I ended up at 7:44. Through the early miles, I felt good and found a comfort zone in and around 7:20…and that surprised me. And then my damn left shoe came untied…from a double-knot to flopping all around. With a grumble, I pulled to the side and laced it back up as the 3:15:00 pace group passed me by.
As it turned out, that was the best thing that could have happened. At first, I elbowed my way back in front of the throng of pace group cattle, as they were clogging up the entire road. Shortly after that, we hit an aid station, and I had a thought. There was no way I belonged in front of that pace group, but if I was behind them, then I could keep them in my sights as a gauge of my relative strength.
Slowly but surely, the miles ticked off as I wound my way through some of the prettiest urban running you’ll ever find. As I passed Mile 10, I employed the first part of my new strategy to avoid the disaster of 2014. I took a Honey Stinger gel and did so again at Miles 15 and 20. After the halfway point, I knew I had a shot at having a very good day. However, I kept waiting for the inevitable beginning of leg failure. Surely it would come before 20, and then I’d have to gut out the rest of the run. While I did start to feel fatigue in my legs around Mile 16, it was nothing that made me think all was about to come crashing down.
To be safe, I slowed down a little bit in Miles 16-18 to ensure I would have some gas in the tank for the three-mile climb that lay ahead at Mile 20. While not a brutal incline, I knew it would be a bit of a challenge coming so late in the race. Yet, the legs continued to churn and I soon found myself nearing Mile 23 and feeling quite good.
In every previous marathon, I have had to stop at or near Mile 23 to collect myself – both physically and mentally – to finish the last 5k. Last year I had to do it three times in the last 6 miles and seriously contemplated quitting. Even though this marathon was not all that close to my fastest marathon, it was my strongest ever because I blew right through Mile 23 and on past St. Paul’s Cathedral and down to the finish. It never even dawned on my to stop and collect anything.
In the last 5.2 miles, I passed 199 runners and was passed by only 4. I cruised the last half mile at a sub-7:00 pace and finished with a smile and a new perspective on what I can expect out of my brain and body. (Finish video clip here)
Oh – and the time? I never let that 3:15 pace group out of my sights, and I came in with a 3:15:10 – a full 9:50 under my Boston qualifying time.
Boston will have to wait until 2017, which will also be my next marathon. I will be best served by taking some time to run shorter races, focus on strengthening more than just my running, and retaining this good feeling that Minnesota helped me find again!