I got a coach again a few weeks back to help me get through my summer running goals. My two drivers again this year are to complete the Mt Hood PCT 50 miler in less than 11 hours to give me a Western States qualifier and to finish the Waldo 100k again this year but to do it under 16 hours. Last year I took over 17 to finish. Our goal over time was also to get this Fatboy to a Boston Qualifier which is 3:35 now and soon goes to 3:30 I think. Coach Nikki just keeps me accountable for my workouts and gets me to a new level. Last summer she had me run almost 100 miles more in a month than I had ever run before. So if definitely works!
On July 4th it was the annual running of the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon. I like running this race because it is close to home and can be run midweek if that is when Independence Day falls. The course is not totally flat anymore but is probably the flattest marathon I have ever run. Many times a group of us have gathered to run the the full or the half. So that is always a great time too. But the best part is the free strawberry shortcake at the finish!!! So this year I just figured I would run it for fun. Not push real hard but just take in the views, chat with other runners and just overall have a good time. I didn't put any real focus on this race, it was just another marathon to do. Well that plan didn't last for long after I told Nikki about it. She told me that she wanted to take my 3:56 time at Eugene and whatever time I got at Sauvie to set up my pace work for the next few months. She said "I want you to Race It." Hopefully I could finish sub 4 hours or at least do better than the 4:07 I ran here last year. Well "oh crap" I thought. Now I have to work at this. It is so much more fun to just go run, but that is why I got a coach. To push me to new levels.
Marc and Sarah running their 3rd marathon in 3 days! Photo by Steve Walters
My plan was to bring up my pace right from the start. Most of you probably know by now that I start out super slow. It takes me a few miles to get moving up to pace. Well not this time. I needed to be at a 8:45 pace for the first 10k. As the gun went off Gail and I took off. The start was pretty packed because only one lane of the road was open due to incoming traffic that was running late. I usually will run with Gail for at least a mile, but today I was told to race so that is what I did. After a slow 9:25 first mile I got my splits down to about 8:35 so that by the 10k mark I would average a 8:45 pace. My goal was to pick up the pace every 10k so that I wouldn't be dead by the last 6 miles. This was risky for me as I am a second half runner for sure in most marathons.
The course was sunny and a tad cool for the 6:30 am start. Around mile 6 we ran into a pretty good headwind. I just relaxed and told myself don't overdo it as you can push when we turn around and get the tailwind. Which is exactly what I did. I started clicking off some 8:15/8:20's with the tailwind through mile 12. I was efficient going through the aid stations. I would use a hand held bottle today rather than my belt as I feel sometimes the belts pressure on my gut makes me stop to water the bushes a few too many times. That worked too today, I didn't stop once, which has only happened a couple of times in the 85+ marathons I have run.
Around mile 16 we had this 1/4 mile out and back. It was a good time to see who I had passed and how close they were to me. When I made the turn I was sort of shocked on how close these folks were. I was starting to feel the first fatigue of the day here. Back on the main course I heard the patter of girl in the pink top. I caught a glimpse of her in my left eye. I had passed her a mile or so back. I new I had slowed down a bit and hearing her come up reminded my that I was racing today, not just running. So up went the pace. At this point I was up to around a 8 minute/mile, which is pretty quick for me at any distance. She hung a few strides back for about a mile. I wasn't going to go any faster but I figured this would test both her and me. Soon it worked, she must have dropped back and the sound disappeared.
As we got into an open section on the course and headed back North, the headwind picked back up. I knew we would be out of it in a couple of miles but it just sucked right now. As we hit mile 20 I felt pretty good but a bit slower. This mile would be my first one over 9 minute pace except for mile one. My hips and left glute were really starting to bother me. This has been an issue for the last few weeks. I kept trying to keep up the pace but pain and fatigue was a constant battle. I think a few years earlier I would have been walking with this pain but over time I know what is bad pain and what is just something that you just have to get through. Today I had to push through so that is what I did.
Around mile 23 pink shirt girl tried to pass me again. This time she had another women on her shoulder too. "Ain't gonna happen if I can help it" I said to myself. So I picked up the pace again and the 3 of us ran line abreast for about 1.5 miles. It was so cool! Not a word said but you could feel the sharing of energy. All three of us were hurting for sure but by banding together we ran harder as a group. We were coming up upon the slower 1/2 marathon runners so we were weaving in and out but would always join back up when the pack cleared. At about the mile 24 aid stations the women stopped. Not me I had to keep going. In my mind over the last 4 miles or so I calculated there is a slim chance I could break 3:50. "Wow you know how good 3:49 sounds?" Never in my dreams could I be a 3:49 runner. When I broke 4 hours it was amazing, now I have done that 4 or 5 times. I had crossed mile 20 at around 2:54 or something, by far my fastest point to that distance in my career. But the wheels were falling off after 21 miles but I guess that is what happens when you actually try and run hard from the start.
The course markings were a bit off on the back half of the course, not sure why but the first half was perfect. I was worried that the last mile or so they would be long as they need to catch up to the actual 26.2 mile distance. (Gail said the same thing after the race) Sure enough it was a bit long towards the end. I was really tired by mile 25 and my hip actually made my leg collapse at one point. My entire left leg was in pain the last 3 miles. I kept pushing as it was going to be very close to break 3:50. At least I was going to get a PR for the marathon unless I just fell on my face. With less than I mile to go it was a real battle. I went by the Oregon Live aid station and Kelly yells out a "Hi". I respond back but with no real energy. I am laying most everything I got to finish this sucker. I heart kind of fell out of the race at this point. I was pushing but I could have gone faster but really didn't want to. I knew I would PR but probably not get the 3:49.
With less than a quarter of a mile to go, my watch said something like 3:48:30 or something. It still would be close. A sprinter passed me but I was staying ahead of most. I turned my tunes off to enjoy the sounds of the finish. I never tire of this, it's a great way to feel good about what you just did, no matter what the distance. I looked at my watch as I turned the corner the finish, it clicked over to 3:50:00. "Oh well". I cross the line at 3:50:12, which is over 2 minutes faster than my previous PR at the Portland Marathon back in 2009. So at a fat 51 years old I am running even faster! This was a pretty motivational event for me.
"I think I done good!" Photo by Steve Walters
After finishing I chatted with a few folks and just walked around trying not to get the low blood pressure thing. I could tell it was really trying to kick in but I also was trying to walk for at least 20 minutes and stay upright for an hour. As I walked back to the finish line I saw Gail coming in. She was having a much better day than I thought she would. She crossed in 4:28 her 5th fastest marathon time! She had a great time out there she said, even though her iPod never worked all day and she never ran with another person. I was very proud of what she did. She needed to have a day like this.
Sorry guys, she is taken. Photo by Steve Walters.
Well after a couple of bowls of awesome strawberry's we headed back home. As I reflected on this race it a few things came up. One is maybe I should push a little harder at the start of races, yeah the finish was harder but I hung on for my best time ever. I think its a risk issue. Do I want to take the risk of blowing up on the course? Also thank to Nikki I got a unexpected PR. I also quietly had a pace band in my pocket to run a 3:49. I just ran some numbers the night before and thought if I had a really good day maybe I could run this fast. Only checked my pace 3 or 4 times against the band but every time I was ahead of schedule. Maybe the mind is stronger than we think? When I have worn pace bands before I have usually done pretty well.
Now it's back to summer training. I am going to hit the weights more this year. At the end of July I have the PCT 50 miler which I am going to really try to run strong. After that we might do Haulin' Aspen Marathon in Bend but we have not committed yet. Then on August 20th the Monster Waldo...again!