Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The pitch

Rachel told us to look for Brent in his white "Go Team Rachel.com" tshirt on the right. He was waiting to take a picture of the start.

We were all running in a little pack (just like the lead runners!) on the far right edge of the road, and saw Brent with his big camera up ahead. Unfortunately, he didn't see us. We called out as we passed, and he tried desperately (and unsuccessfully) to snap a picture.

Oh well, I thought.

I had severely underestimated Brent. He put his head down and sprinted around the other spectators and got ahead of us again. He set himself up, aimed his camera, and was ready when we got there to take the perfect shot.

But the shutter was delayed and he missed us again.

Once again, he sprinted ahead. This time, he set up the shot, and as we waved and passed by, the flash went off at just the right moment. Posterity preserved, he yelled some encouragement, and headed back to their beachfront hotel.

Running with David and Rachel I was able to avoid my usual mistake of starting way too fast. We ran at a very comfortable pace for the first mile, and hardly weaved around anybody. At some point in this mile, we spotted "Coatman", who was apparently featured recently in Runner's World, so Rachel jogged ahead to take a picture with her cell phone, and that was the last I saw of her. Well, I saw her back for about the next mile, but she was soon far ahead.

David and I ran together for the first two miles, but when we hit the second mile marker at 9:40, I knew I'd be in trouble if I kept up with him. By the third mile marker, which I think I hit at about 10:10, he was far ahead.

It was dark out, but I was already covered in sweat. Partly because it was muggy, and partly because I was wearing sunscreen, which always makes me sweaty. There was a nice breeze over the water, and except for a couple twinges in my knees, and the hint of some stomach cramps (which plagued me the whole race) nothing hurt.

I had been wearing my headphones from the start, but I didn't turn on the music until I fell behind David. By the fourth mile, I was still energized enough to laugh at the puns in my mix ("Run, Baby, Run" by Sheryl Crow. Am I brilliant, or what?).

The sun was up by the time we rounded South Beach, but it was overcast, so it wasn't quite the spectactular sunrise I was hoping for. I started running with Derek, who asked me what our pace was. At that point, we were averaging about 10:05, I told him.

Derek hadn't trained well for the marathon, he told me, and his friends all had a pool betting on where he'd give up. He was sure he'd finish, though. He planned to take the race in 5 mile increments, and start fresh each time. It was a smart strategy, because, as we all know, the hardest part of a marathon is the psychology. And, in fact, I used Derek's strategy, myself, as I paced myself through the miles.

"So,"I asked him, "Did you bet on yourself in the pool? Did you bet you would finish?"

"No way. I'm not crazy!"


"Do you know what my longest training run was for this marathon?"

"No. How far?"

"Six miles."

Derek stopped at a water stop soon afterwards, (I had my fuel belt, so I kept going) and I didn't see him again. I just searched the partial marathon results, though, and I may be remembering his name wrong, but no "Derek" popped up.

I wasn't worrying too much about my pacing. I hadn't printed out a pace band, but I knew that I had to average 10:17 miles to hit 4:30. My real goal, though, was to run at a sustainable pace, so I figured that as long as I kept my miles over 10 minutes and under 11, I'd be okay.

I was bouncing around, alternating slower and faster miles (mile 5: 10:40, mile 6: 10:05), constantly trying to correct my pace, when all of a sudden, the 10th mile marker appeared, and my watch said 9:30. That was even faster than mile 2 with David, and I didn't feel like I'd been racing at all.

The marker was just before a toll booth on a bridge, and as we ran through, I asked another runner if that mile felt short to him.

"Oh yeah. Every mile will feel shorter from here on out. Sure."

"No, really. I think the mile marker was wrong. Otherwise I'm running too fast."

"Well, I think that was a regular old mile."

So I slowed down. But according to David's race report, that was his fastest mile, too. Plus, the next mile wasn't just slower, it was a LOT slower. I hit mile 11 at something over 11 minutes (11:30 ish? Can't remember exactly). Which may have been because of the cheering station at 10.5, but I'm sticking with my original theory: mile 10 was short.

I started seeing runners with half-marathon finisher's medals, and I started to get very, very jealous. I also started to get very, very panicked that I would somehow miss the turn off and end up crossing the finish line at the half. I kept checking around me to see if there were still other orange bibs (the half marathon bibs were blue).

We passed the finish line on a parallel road and turned right, where I could see, about a minute up, two gigantic arches, labeled "half marathon" and "marathon. Plus there were volunteers yelling for the half marathoners to go left and for the marathoners to go right. Plus there were cartoon footprints on each side, labeled "marathon" and "half marathon."

Somehow, I managed to figure out which way to go.


Blogger Denise said...

I can't believe anyone would bet against themselves in that situation (of course, he hadn't respected the need for the long runs, so perhaps he knew what he was doing)! I'm so inspired by your story...can't wait to get to the finish line.

2:55 PM  
Blogger susie said...

I'm having such fun reading your report!!!

6:17 PM  
Blogger David said...

Your attention to detail comes back to me as things I forgot in the weave of my tale. Coat Man, Brent running really fast to catch us twice for a picture, the left lane for halfers and right lane for long runners.
I agree with you on mile 10 and 11 being off.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Running Jayhawk said...

Your Derek reminds me of a guy I met in Phoenix, a former tri-athlete (3 years ago) who hadn't trained a day and signed up for the full the day before. He finished. In 7h25m. Yikes!!!

This is great! I can't wait for the next installment :)

11:48 PM  

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