A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 2nd Edition
52.4 miles raced in 2009
Race: Carlsbad Marathon
Place: Carlsbad, CA
Miles from home: 729 miles
Weather: 50s; cloudy
The Carlsbad Marathon is an interesting one for me. You see, I ran this race on a complete whim in 2008, acting as the 3:10 pace group leader. (Recap HERE.) SO much has changed since that race just a year ago it would be difficult to list it all here. But one major thing is that my book, See Dane Run, would bee available to be purchased and signed at the expo. As such, when given the opportunity to speak about my running experiences at the Expo with an opportunity to also sign my book, I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, I did not count on running out of books before I even got to the race! So, I had to settle with telling those interested to go to my blog and order them and as soon as the next shipment comes in, they would go out in the mail to them!
As the race was only one of a handful of marathons I have done more than once (I have repeated 10 courses, some, like Marine Corps, more than twice) I had the luxury of knowing all about it. I knew where the hills were, how to run them, and more importantly, how to run them as as 3:10 pacer.
With race time being an hour earlier than last year, I was pretty excited. Even in January, Southern California can get too warm for racing. A 6AM start time, coupled with cloudy skies and projected temps no higher than the 50s bode well for me and my pace group. Before the race started, I got to meet up with my friend Sam, who for the second year in a row was running back-to-back marathons in the same weekend. And people question my sanity.
1st 5 miles: (7:55, 6:28, 7:14, 6:54, 7:19)
I was paired up with another 3:10 pacer named Dave. We decided to not exactly run even "pace" per se, as much as even "effort". This way, while every split would not be the same 7:14 minute mile that is needed in order to run a 3:10, but rather the exact effort needed to cover each mile in a 7:14esque time. Ironically enough, Dave had paced the 3:10 group in 2007. On top of that, he was a 10-time Ironman finisher. With my 88 marathons behind me, I assured our group they were in good hands.
Trying to keep the group in check from running out too fast (and also both of us knowing that first mile marker is actually placed about .1 of a mile too far make the second mile too short) we had no problem with seemingly slightly askew times. We told our group that we knew the course and its hills well and if they stuck with us a 3:10 would be theirs.
Half-marathon: 1:34:10 (7:19, 7:13, 7:18, 7:42, 7:05, 6:59, 7:00, 7:09)
Dave and I offered advice to our runners, told anecdotes to keep their minds off of the hardest part of the course (miles 7-9) and did everything we could to keep our runners right on pace. As the miles increased, we commented on what a large group of runners we had with us. Often the group would swell to 20 or more runners, all working unison.
With Dave and I at the front cutting through whatever wind would arise (which was mostly at our back or a cross-breeze), we cruised through the first half-marathon just a few seconds below the exact pace for a 3:10.
To the Final Turnaround: (7:07, 7:11, 7:14, 7:10, 7:21)
After choreographing a group hello to my girlfriend who was cheering me on from the sidelines, the group ran down the off ramp of Palomar Airport Road and onto the longest beachfront portion of the road. With the cloud cover keeping the energy-sucking sun at bay, we readied for the final u-turn. The group was steady and strong and we actually had to work hard to make sure they didn't run too fast too soon.
Joining the half-marathoners: 7:24, 7:27, 7:18, 7:37, 15:58,
After making the turn-around, the words of wisdom (ha!) from Dave and I became more important. As we reached the very important 20 mile mark, we could see a huge mass of runners ahead. In an effort to try and alleviate a crush of half-marathoners along the course, the Carlsbad Marathon decided to install a wave start to stagger the runners.
Unfortunately, this meant for us 3:10 runners that we had to begin to weave in and out of a herd of runners. As if the last few miles of a marathon are not difficult enough, now my runners had to contend with trying to keep pace with me as a "defense" slowed them down.
Even with our best efforts to keep our group together, my pace group began to fall apart. I have found in the past that runners will stick together when they know others will notice they have fallen behind. With the mass amount of runners encircling us, the accountability factor lessened. The pace group got smaller.
Last two miles: (7:04, 7:10)
With a break in the greater part of the half-marathoners, Dave and I picked up the pace just a bit. A group of abut five hearty runners fell in step with us as well. Half-marathoners began cheering for us as the signs saying "3:10" flapped in the wind. Down and up the final set of hills we ran until the finishline appeared.
With me at the front of the group trying to spearhead a charge, and Dave just a second or two behind, acting like a shepherd trying to get any remaining members of our group to finish together, we picked up the pace as the crowds cheers grew. Marathon crowds know exactly what a 3:10 means and their roar grew exponentially as our matching pace shirts and 3:10 signs on posts rose above the sea of heads.
One runner who had been with me from the beginning but who had said very little was on my left-hand side. With about a mile to go, I asked him if this was going to be his first 3:10. He smiled through obviously exhausted face muscles and then said breathlessly, "I like....how you...used...the words..."going to be." With just a few yards to go, with me waving my 3:10 sign high in the crowd, I could see Happy Guy smiling more and more. When the announcer told the crowd that those in this group were the fastest mandatory Boston Qualifiers, his smile inexplicably grew bigger, as if a dream was becoming a reality.
As I stepped back half a step to allow Happy Guy enjoy his moment we crossed underneath the clock at 3:09:58. My official chip would later read 3:09:52 (just 2 seconds off of my 3:09:50 from last year here) for 34th place overall.
My co-pacer Dave hit under the mark as well in a stellar time of 3:09:55. Way to go Dave!
I handed the 3:10 sign to Happy Guy who could barely utter a "thank you" and weakly grasp the dowel rod between his fingers. I turned and waited at the finish fervently extolling the last few runners who had been with me to make it under 3:11. As about 5 more came through in that time, I high-fived every single one of them. A few sweaty hugs later, a brand new marathon medal around my neck and a water bottle signified another successful marathon.
With this being my 89th marathon, I have now qualified for Boston in my age group 38 times (it would be 39 if not for the Run With the Horses Marathon where I both started the race late and made a half-mile wrong turn) and also have done so 20 times straight (if you count Run with the Horses) as well as 27 out of the last 29 marathons.
Hopefully that streak continues next week at my 90th Marathon - The Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, CA.