As race morning dawned, I was once again feeling confident with my training and hopeful that the hip would hold up for me. I made the drive to the finish area where I met up with Laura and we caught the shuttle back to the start a few miles away at the beach. The temperature was about 10 degrees warmer than forecast but I was hoping that it wouldn't rise too much as they day went on and that it would remain overcast although now there was no rain projected.
Laura went off to warm up for the half marathon and I just did a very slow 1/2 mile jog on my own, just enough to loosen the hip up a bit. I have to say this race had the best music to pump me up as we made our way to the start. Nothing like a little Master of Puppets to get the adrenaline going.
Finally the race started and I went out as planned at a conservative pace for the first mile, content to let anyone that wanted to blaze by me to help themselves. Target pace was anything better than 8:23 per mile and I wanted to be 20 to 30 seconds slower than that for the first mile. I accomplished that with an 8:56 and was happy that so far the hip flexor was just a bit of slight discomfort and the piriformis was fine.
I picked up the pace a bit as the sky begin to get a bit lighter now. I was a bit too skippy for mile 2 so I backed off the pace again. Whoops too much. Finally mile 4 was right where I wanted it to be. Everything was feelling good and it was time to just settle in. Mile 5 was right where I wanted it. For the next 10 to 15 miles I wanted to be in the 8:15 to 8:20 range and gradually make up the time lost in the first 5 by the halfway point. As long as I was running within my range I should have no problems holding the pace because the course was very flat making it easy to run steady.
The miles clicked by rather uneventfully and by mile 10 I had made up the deficit and shortly after that we marathoners split from the halfers at about mile 11. Of course the field thinned out quite a bit from there but still plenty of other runners around. I had hope to have a one minute cushion by the 13.1 poiint and I nailed that. Mile 13 in 1:48:12 and at that pace if there had been a 13.1 sign at that pace I would have been almost exactly 1:49 ! Yep things were looking good.
The next mile was along the beach road and they had the course coned off for the runners in a very narrow area with the drains to send rain water to the ocean so I was being very careful. I caught up to some slower runners and finally I just had to make a quick move outside the cones to get around them before relaxing again. I must have relaxed too much or fallen asleep because that mile 14 was about 25 seconds too slow and that kind of made me mad so I pushed the pace back up and mile 15 was right back where I needed it but with that much of my cushion was gone.
I was beginning to feel a bit warm now but thankfully my wish for it remain overcast was coming true. I was getting sweaty as it was still quite a bit humid too and I was thinking I should have opted for a singlet instead of the Umstead 100 shirt I was wearing. Soon after we were back along the wide open Military cutoff road, the most boring part of the course but I was moving well and gradually passing by slower runners. My pace was still very close to where I needed it . I was slowing a little but only a few seconds per mile.
Around 18 I still had a 30 second cushion and I was thinking now, just get to Laura and she can pull me to the end. Before the race we had planned that after she ran the half that she would try and meet me in Landfall at about the 20.5 mile mark. Fatigue was starting to set in but I was still moving well and close to pace. And then just as the course turned back into Landfall and the 20 mile mark, I somehow I had slowed down too much and when I saw the 8:47 I cursed out loud to myself as now I had zero cushion left.
I immediately pushed the pace back up and begin looking ahead for Laura. When I did push the pace though I was getting a side stitch so I was trying to hold on and make the stitch go away.
I can't tell you how happy I was to see Laura at almost exactly the 20.5 mile mark running towards me. She checked on my condition and I told her I was dead on pace but no cushion and I had a stitch. She took over with her normal pep talk telling me how great this was and that I had this. I wish I had been feeling her confidence and excitement at that point. That mile 21 was great as I dropped back to 8:18. The 3:40 was still there but the wheels were coming off. That mile felt much too hard and although I was trying to stay with her I was now breathing and working much too hard. I was giving it everything I had but slowed to a disappointing 8:49 mile and there was not going to be a comeback.
It really wasn't all that funny at the time but we had some great laughs about it after the race. Over the next few miles Laura would not give up on me and was encouraging all the way. I knew that the BQ was over now but she wouldn't let me give up. Each mile got slower and harder but as bad as it hurt I wouldn't back off the effort and as she would tell me something positive I was mumbling , nope it's over, I'm done. Still she constantly reminded me how I never give up and as bad as I wanted to just walk it in by mile 24 I was not about to let her down so I trudged on. And when she would tell me to surge I would still do it for as long as I could which by now was not but a few seconds. before I was shuffling again
We finally reached that last mile and she is still bouncing with excitement and telling me that it is still a great time. I am so thankful she is there and I just want the pain to end but I am still putting in surges to try and hold the pace until finally we made the final turn with 200 yards to go to the finish line. I had expected her to leave me at 25.5 and take a short-cut over to the finish line but at the last minute she had decided to stick with me so we crossed the line together. I just wanted to collapse at that point as we hugged and I shed a few tears as I thanked her for being there for me.
My friend Mark Manz was there at the finish and the three of us helped me hobble over to the big tent to get some food and sign me up for a massage. It was while we were finally sitting down that Laura who was still so excited and raving about how great I did, asked me if there was some way we could find another race soon for me to try for 3:40 again qualify for Boston. I came so close and if I could just stay healthy now it was going to happen. And that was the moment when I remembered and the reaction I got from her next was priceless. I told her, we didn't need to find another race because I had just qualified by almost 7 minutes ! Because of the timing of my birthday and the 2016 Boston race day I could quailify as a 60 year old and I only needed a 3:55 ! After that I think everyone near us in that tent knew I was going to Boston !
. I am so happy to finally have the pressure off and know I am going to get to go back and even better that my most amazing training partner who is a huge part of the reason I am going will be there too ! But that is a long ways off so we'll talk about all that much later Just know that I am not going to settle for that 3:48. It has gotten me to Boston but I truly believe that if I can stay healthy now and build from this level of fitness that the marathon pr will happen. But that has to wait until the Fall because now it's time to get ready for the next big thing. Western States training has officially begun this weekend !