Went out faster than anticipated, felt good 'til 20 miles, Will.Not.Walk. Second fastest marathon time (faster than Austin 3 weeks ago!)
The Full Recap, Marathon #13:
First off, I'd like to recant my previous statement that, "I consider this course to the be the fastest marathon course I have ever run." Two years had obviously dulled my memory of some pretty long uphill climbs. I'm sure the 20 mph tailwind in '08 also helped skew my previous perception. It is a fast course (net downhill) but be prepared for some climbs.
We drove out to Napa Saturday afternoon. The race is a point-to-point course that runs from Calistoga to Napa. When we arrived in Napa I had Boyfriend snap a photo of this sign:
I was miffed when I found out that they had run out of women's small shirts at the expo. I was given a unisex small which will never see the light of day again. Is it so hard to order the shirts people say they want, and then hand them out that way? Rant Over.
Ate two rows of these fellows as a midnight snack before going to bed :)
Back in 2008 I ran Napa Valley and posted a 4:35 (which at the time was a PR). I am finding that I am more competitive with myself than I thought I was and so figured I'd go for a 4:34 to beat my last time.
I met up with Ron at the shuttle bus pick-up in the morning and we got on a school bus to take us 26.2 miles to Calistoga. We discussed our race strategies for the day and I said that I was planning on going for a 10:20 pace from the get-go. We were dropped off at the start area at 6:40 (race start at 7:00). We headed to find the portapotties and were shocked at how long the lines were. I didn't have to go that bad, but I knew that at some point over the next 4.5 hours I would have to make a pit stop. So I decided to take my chances and stand in line. Long story short, I got into a portapotty right after the National Anthem started (I am pretty sure sitting in a portapotty is about the most disrespectful thing you can do while it is being sung), and made it over to the start area with about 30 seconds to spare.
It was nippy at the start, but I wouldn't have called it cold. I knew it was going to shape up to be a pretty warm day for me out there. The first 6 miles, the weather was lovely for running, though!
Mile 1: 10:00, 9:57
Mile 2: 9:45, 9:51
Mile 3: 9:56, 9:46
Mile 4: 9:50, 9:36
After the first few miles, I knew I was going faster than I had planned. I was running at a comfortable pace, though, so decided to just go with the flow.
Pretty much the first 20 miles of this course is like this: Vineyards and mountains. In some areas, the view is quite beautiful.
Mile 5: 9:46, 9:41
Mile 6: 10:17, 9:36
Mile 7: 10:01, 9:57
At this time, I'd like to highlight Annoying Fellow Runners. The usual cast of AFR's were out in full force (feet slappers, loud chatty Cathy's, rustling clothes/fuel). But I had the delight of discovering two new classifications of AFR's.
The first was a man who was wearing a metronome. I am assuming he had it set to his optimal cadence. I heard him coming up behind me. For a few annoying moments he was right there by me. I found myself automatically running to the beat of his metronome. Since had had come up behind me, I figured that he was running faster than I was and was SO happy to see him gradually disappearing off into the distance. There is a point in a race where you settle into a groove and are "stuck" with the people around you. I seriously felt bad for the runners who got trapped running next to him! I have no qualms with runners in headphones, but I think they should seriously outlaw metronomes. I actually caught up to him and passed him 10 miles later. Thank god I was able to keep up a faster pace!
The second new-discovery AFR was Basketball Shoe Man. Every few steps, his shoes would squeak as if he was doing a fast stop or turn on a basketball court. It was mile 4 and I wanted to yell at him, "Dude! Pick up your feet!!"
Mile 8: 10:03, 9:47
Mile 9: 9:53, 9:44
Mile 10: 9:55, 9:46
Boyfriend popped up a few times along the course to cheer me on. He ran with me a minute or two the first time he saw me to tell me this story: He saw Dean Karnazes running and for some strange reason, decided to run after him and talk to him! Anyhow, the meat of the story (for me -- Boyfriend loved the fist bump Dean gave him) was that Dean wished me good luck in the race!
Here is a screen shot of a short video Boyfriend took. He sadly got nervous and hit the stop button so he did not get the "Wish your girlfriend good luck for me," on tape. Boo. I overheard some women talking during the race who said that Dean ran to the start of the race from San Francisco during the night!
Mile 11: 9:47, 9:46
Mile 12: 9:38, 9:53
Mile 13: 10:17, 9:39
Mile 14: 9:54, 9:49
For most of the race I was averaging about a 9:51 pace. I knew I would easily break my Napa course PR and realized I could probably beat my Austin time, too. For about 60 seconds early on I even thought about going for a PR in general, but I couldn't remember what my PR pace was, and I also knew I didn't have the training to back that up!
When I still had a 9:51 average at about mile 15 I decided my goal would be to finish with a sub-10:00 pace.
It was sunny and hot at the end. When I saw Boyfriend cheering with his jacket off, I knew it was a warm day for me to be running. Comfortable spectating weather = uncomfortable RoadBunner running weather!
Around mile 16, I started to have some problems. My right calf was getting really tight and I slowed down my pace a bit to try to work that out. Around now my "comfortable" pace was slowly slowing, too. That 9:51 average pace slowly creeped up...
Mile 15: 9:53, 10:01
Mile 16: 10:13, 10:07
Mile 17: 10:45, 10:22
Mile 18: 10:02, 10:01
I knew the last big hill was shortly before mile 20. What I didn't remember was how long that freakin' hill was. I swear it was uphill for a mile straight. And it was the kind of hill that rounded turns just enough that you thought you were there and then you round the bend and realize you aren't. I kept plugging up that hill and told myself that after it was over, it would be downhill or flat the rest of the race.
Mile 19: 10:06, 10:52
Mile 20: 9:55, 10:13
I crested the hill (Triumph!) and decided I needed to push a little the last 6 miles to have any hope of finishing with a sub-10:00 pace. I think at this point my average pace was up to about 9:57 and I knew my official pace would be slower since the distance on the Garmin always reads longer than 26.2 miles.
I started to push, just a little, and was quite disheartened when the pace for the next splits read:
Mile 21: 10:07, 10:06
Mile 22: 9:57, 10:11
Umm, that wasn't going to cut it. I knew at this point the wheels had fallen off my day. I slowly watched as my average pace creeped up, and I almost lost all will to run when it went over 10:00.
The next few miles were long, hot, and difficult. Sometimes you hit walls when running and you just can't run another step. I wasn't at that point, but it was a constant battle to keep myself from walking. I did walk through a few water stops, but I told myself I had to otherwise just keep running 'til the end.
Usually the last few miles I have a pretty good attitude. I tell myself, only two more or three more miles to go! At mile 24 a volunteer at a water stop yelled, "Only 2.2 more miles!" I literally almost cried. Tears welled up in my eyes. What?! There are 2.2 more miles!? There is no way I can keep running another 2.2 miles! I told myself I'd be so mad at myself later on if I gave up and walked so I sucked it up and kept running.
I felt like my form was terrible. I felt like I was lurching forward. But I was running. It didn't help that tons of people were doing the death march. I thought how nice it would be to join them. But then I figured it would still be hot, and I still wouldn't be finished. The more I ran, the sooner I'd be done. So I kept plugging away.
I thought about the finisher's medal. Some marathons are almost effortless. Others just plain suck. I was earning this medal today and wasn't going to take it off all day once I got it.
Mile 23: 11:08, 10:26
Mile 24: 10:24, 10:14
Mile 25: 10:38, 10:16
At the 25th mile marker I did some math and realized I was going to be cutting it close to beating my Austin time. I'd be danged if I didn't break 4:25 at this race. So I dug deep and kicked it up the last mile and change to the finish.
Mile 26: 9:45, 9:41
Mile 26.4 (per Garmin): 8:35
Official time: 4:23:51
Good enough for my second fastest marathon time.
I got my medal. I took it off to take a shower, but I didn't take it off for good until I went to sleep that night -- even sat around with it on in my PJ's knitting before going to bed!
Overall, I don't consider this race to be a strong showing. I hate, hate fudging out at the end of races. I'd rather run an even keel the entire race then crash and burn at the end. However, the way I ran at this race makes me rethink what I consider to be a "good" race for me. For such a long time I was a 5+ hour marathoner and anything sub-5 was exceptional for me! I find it very strange to be in a place where posting times in the 4:20's is not a major push or something I can do even with a slight crash and burn at the end. I never expected to be running these types of times when I committed to this 15-marathon year. I told Boyfriend I would be pretty pleased if I could finish most of them in the 4:40's.
So, another marathon in the books! I've got less than two more weeks 'til the LA Marathon!