It’s been a week since I ran the marathon. I think a week is long enough to mull over the events of the day, the past 18 weeks, or the past lifetime. At any point, I just jump back and forth and reflect.
It started out nice. Temperatures were in the 50’s which by all account is perfect running weather. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up at 5 a.m. raring to go. Although the race didn’t start until 7:15 and my hotel was only 10 minutes from the start line and parking was abundant, I wanted to make sure certain bodily functions had run their course before I ran my course (Enough said).
I got to the starting area with a half an hour to spare. It was your typical starting area for a big city race port-a-potties, people wearing garbage bags, old sweatshirts mulling about doing stretches, sprints and running on the spot same old stuff just a different race. A casual observation had me notice the sparseness of the area, I guess because the marathon started first and the half marathon was a half hour later with 15 minutes to the start the layout of the start area left room for 10 times the people that were there.
I knew from the beginning of the 18 weeks of training that I would be podcasting whilst I ran. You can listen to my production hear. I made it into a Rocky Balboa prizefighter type fight because those thoughts played in my head, a 26 round prizefight with only one winner. In marathons and in prizefights some people get the shit kicked out of them and get knocked out, hit the wall, bonk, or whatever term you want to use something inside them say “No Mas, No Mas”. Some are lucky enough to survive to the end only to be struck down by their time goal, a split decision if you will. Completing a marathon is a victory in itself but if you set a time goal like I did then you can win and lose when you cross the line. Which one you dwell on is up to the person. And then there is the win, the time goal complete. I guess you can knock it out by smashing your goal time by minutes or you can eek one out with a few ticks of the clock to spare. Win, lose or draw I was prepared to podcast.
In my head I was conscious of the fact that there were people around me so the stream of verbal diarrhea that explodes out of my mouth was for the most part corked. That’s okay though, I got to talk to actual people on the run (probably annoyed the Hell out of them)
The people along the course and on the course were amazing. As the weather got worse the people that volunteered stuck it out. I mean runners are like furnaces, boilers chugging out a constant heat so once they get going a drop in temperature or a cold blowing wind only fazes them slightly. The volunteers are standing around for hours and when it starts to rain or a cold wind blows off the lake they certainly feel it. I take my hat off to the “vollies” they are my heroes of the race.
I saw a woman running in Newton Running shoes. It was the first time I had ever seen Newton’s so I had to ask. She pulled the earbuds out of her head as I proceeded to ask questions. She quickly told me about her supination problem. She was from Calgary and the stores there have them. A typical on the run meeting and it was over and done in a minute.
I met a guy doing his second marathon. His goal was 3:30 like mine and he had his eye on the pace bunny. It was late in the race and he was hanging on. He told me he couldn’t run after his first marathon. That just after the finish he felt nauseous and his legs started to spasm which sent him into a long post marathon recovery. But he was back one year later with his eye on the prize, 3:30. And then he took a walk break. . . gone in 60 seconds.
I talked to a women who was also running her second marathon. Vancouver was her first which she thought was very hilly compared to this one. To that I would have to agree. This one had no bridges, no hills and I think the announcer said 5 meters of elevation gain/loss. The woman told me that she had already qualified for Boston at Vancouver. She said her time was 3:40:59, which if you know Boston qualifying standards she used the full 59 seconds allowed for that age bracket. I was impressed. She too was aiming for a 3:30 finish. I never saw her after my break.
After the first loop of 13.1 miles and well into the industrial park the urge to pee overwhelmed me. The course is a two looper, which you could almost call a four looper. You start in City Park and go north into the industrial park, loop back to City Park and go south into a residential area for another loop. You do that twice, hence four loops. On the second time into the industrial park I could not hold it and I detoured behind one of the many buildings on the course. I figured if I didn’t do it now I couldn’t do it on the south loop unless I peed in someone’s hedges. (A marathon faux pas).
I lost 22 seconds but saved a bladder. To that point I was probably right on 8 minute pace with maybe a few seconds to spare. The stupidity of trying to get it all back at once was a grave mistake but a calculated one. Psychologically, running with a crowd is easier than running alone. There was a small pack of about 20 runners on the 3:30 bunny. So after dropping 22 seconds they were that much more ahead of me and I was literally alone. I couldn’t see anyone behind me and only the 3:30’s ahead of me. I ran an 8:22 mile with a break and followed it up with a 7:40 mile. This was about mile seventeen. My legs really felt the energy drain after the catch up mile.
The wall came on the south loop in the residential area. To this point I was well hydrated (I drank at every aid station and had a bottle of Gatorade with me) and I was well fed (I had 3 Clif Shots). The legs felt okay and psychologically I was still in the game. But I could see myself folding . . . slowly. Mile after mile the time slipped and I couldn’t respond to it. I was whipped. The irony of being an ultramarathoner trying to run fast enough for Boston was comical. The farthest I’ve ever run is 100K, 62 miles so you would think a race of less than half that distance would be a walk in the park? Not so!
The Garmin 305 on my wrist said 26.2 miles and yet the finish line was still a long kick away. Mentally that was tough. I remember being out on the course and there were cones at nearly every corner and course marshals telling you to go around the cones, “Go ‘round the cones!” So I did . . . religiously, I stuck to the course. Deep inside I didn’t want to cheat myself. If my Garmin read anything less than 26.2 miles at the end of the race I would have felt guilty or been guilty of not running a full marathon. So being the ethical runner I stuck to the course. When I hit the 26.2 mile mark on my Garmin I was kicking mentally kicking myself.
I approached the final turn and there was less than 100 meters to go. The clock read 3:29:55 or so I sprinted and bore down on the timing mats. In my head I was thinking about how far back from the starting line I started and I was cursing myself. Who knew I was going to cut it that close. I crossed the line with a gun time of 3:30:05 and a chip time of 3:29:38. The gun time is what counts to Boston so I still had 54 seconds to spare. The Garmin said I ran 26.38 miles which is 950 feet beyond 26.2. The chip time is what counts to me because now I’m a sub 3:30 marathoner!
I have a gorgeous wife and four kids. I am a volunteer firefighter in a small suburb about 50 miles from Vancouver. Before the duty bell rings and before the sun rises I run. My priorities will always be wife and kids so fitting running into the schedule can be challenging.