Sunday, June 24, 2012

Respectable at Grandma's

This years Grandma's Marathon in Duluth was nothing short of a smashing success for me.  I had a short goal list for my first marathon in three years (in fact, my first road race in that time):
  1. Get under 3:05, the open qualifying time for Boston
  2. Get under 3:10, my qualify time for Boston (actually 3:15, but I found that out afterwards)
  3. Beat my PR of 3:25
I figured the last was a shoe in, since I ran that without really trying, and it was three years ago and I am way more fit this year.  As it happened I popped of a 3:03:36 (204 overall, of 5800), getting all three goals with a big 22 minute PR and I felt I had gas in the tank at the end.

Getting to the start Saturday morning was a breeze, despite heavy traffic, and my mom and Amy were able to park right there and we all walked to the starting area with Trip and hung out.  It was warm, around 60 and clear skies, not optimal, but nothing to really complain about.  I spent about half of our hour there waiting in lines for a potty.  Lots of loose systems before these things, and with 5800 runners you can't have too many loos.  As soon as I was done with that business I headed down to the corral and found my 3:05 pace group headed up by Tommy Neeson of Clif Bar.  Amy and mom found me there and we traded waves as the last few minutes wound down.  I counted it as fortuitous that 'Sexy and I Know It' was playing as I got there.

Soon we crushed forward, the gun went off and we were rolling.  Surprisingly, the first mile was spot on pace, so no time to make up, and we got down to business.  There was a lot of banter up through the first half and Tommy chatted up a storm, making sure his 'virgins' were still with him.  The miles just rolled by banging out about 7:04, which was our goal pace.  There were a few bands along the way providing some great entertainment and some big crowds at road crossings.  A nice treat was waiting at about 9.5 miles when a high-school classmate of mine, Cassie Chura, was waiting with her family, a big glass of ice water, and a high five.

Around the halfway point it became completely overcast and we could feel a nice breeze coming off the lake and the temperature dropped a few degrees.  The race was pretty thinned out by now, and our group of 3:05ers had reduced by a few.  My legs had started feeling the pace by 8 miles or so, but hadn't gotten any worse, and with every mile I was becoming more and more confident that they would hold out.  I had been diligent about cooling myself and taking Powerade at aid stations and it had paid off.  By 20 miles I think there were only 5 of us left and Tommy said he was fading.  I asked him when I should go for it if I was feeling good and he said now.  I gave him a quick thanks and took off with fellow ultrarunner David Hyopponen from Duluth.  Mile 21 was faster, but a little conservative, then we started really hitting it and he started pulling away.

So, I ran the rest of the way by myself, passing a lot of people and shouting encouragement to them.  I was really flying by mile 24 where my family was waiting, and I barely saw them as a cruised by with a quick wave.  I was cruising much faster than I ever had by this point.  Things went pretty quickly running through downtown until the turn down to Bayfront.  This last 1.2 miles seems to take forever, running around the arena, and the Irvin seemed like the longest ship in the world.  But with a few short turns I entered the last stretch and started beating it for the line.  I had a nice quick sprint against another guy, whom I one stepped and...done.  He was excited and gave me a hug as soon as we crossed.  Awesome.

All goals met, a fine day of running, and I found how much fun a marathon can really be.  And hopefully I can fit Boston in next year.