A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 3rd Edition
78.6 miles raced in 2009
Race: Surf City Marathon
Place: Huntington Beach, CA
Miles from home: 701 miles
Weather: 50s-70s; sunny/foggy
After my 3:10 pacing effort at Carlsbad last week, I was looking to run a race a little selfishly this weekend. I have never run a sub-3 hour marathon in February so I thought that the Surf City Marathon would be an excellent time to do so.
Scheduled to speak on both days of the expo and sign copies of my book all day long, I knew I would have a great deal of energy taken out of me the 48 hours before the race. Nevertheless, with the relative ease of the Surf City Marathon course, I figured that I could still get that sub-3 on very little recovery and very little rest on the days before the race.
I was fortunate enough to meet many old friends and make many new acquaintances during the two days of the Surf City Marathon Expo. A special thanks goes out to my friend Rachel 26.2 for getting me a sandwich when I did not have 5 minutes to tear myself away from my booth to grab a bite to eat.
For the second time in as many weeks I got to spend time with the great Steve Scott. In case the name does not ring a bell (and it should!) Steve is America's greatest miler ever. Having run 136 sub-4-minute miles in his career, more than any other athlete in the world, Steve held the American record in the mile for over 25 years.
When it was finally broken by Alan Webb in 2007, it was amazing he had held it so long. Well, fortune smiled on me again as I was able to meet and talk with both Steve and his wonderful wife and tell him how in awe of his talent I was.
After the expo was over, I skedaddled back up to LA where I was staying in an attempt to hit the hay. 4:30 AM would come very painfully early if I did not do so quickly.
Yeah, even going to bed decently early did not help. Ugh. Why did I pick a sport which makes me get up so darn early?! My girlfriend and I made the drive from LA to Huntington Beach hoping not to hit too much traffic once we got there. Too bad on that one. A long line of cars awaited to park about 1/4 of a mile from where I wanted to go. With 20 minutes until the gun, I jumped out of the car and decided to let her fend for herself. Aren't I sweet?
Then I remembered that as a "vendor" I had my vendor parking pass and could park in the lot just ahead. As she got close to me and the police officer waived us through, I hopped right back into the car. After parking, this left me with just enough time to use the bathroom, check my shoes and get ready to run.
I wormed my way up to the front, partially able to do so because, well, people let me and partially because I had been presented with bib number "1" by the nice people at the Surf City Marathon. Talk about pressure. But man does the sea of people part when those low bib numbers come through!
At the front, the announcer, Rudy (who had been drawing people to my booth all day long at the expo) caught my eye from his perch up above the runners. He announced my name to the other runners who very kindly gave me a cheer. I waved to all of them, including my girlfriend who had also made her way to the front - of the spectators.
With the start-spangled banner behind us and the always inspirational wheel-chair racers under way, our race was about to start. An air horn later and we were underway!
First 6 miles: 6:19, 6:48, 6:39, 6:54, 6:37, 6:41
I knew the first 6 miles or so contained almost all of the major hills in this course. As such, I had no problem going out a little fast in the first uber-flat mile to throw a few seconds in the bank for the first hill.
Plus, when you are at the absolute front of a race, you have almost no choice but to get caught up in the adrenaline. My first mile felt great but I knew that was not what I was trying to average on this day.
What I did not expect was the need to pee so bad, so quickly. At mile 4 I hopped off the road to relieve myself and then again at 6 I needed to hit the porta-potty. Holy mackerel, what was I in store for today?
Up to mile 12: (6:58, 7:04, 6:54, 6:43, 6:46, 6:44)
Coming out of the porta-john, I saw that the women's leader had made her way past me during my break. I hoped that she was hoping for well under sub-3 or I was going to have to chase her all day.
Almost immediately after exiting I got a pebble in my shoe. There is no messing with a pebble in your shoe so I stopped and took my shoe off to get rid of that! Then about 100 yards later, I had to stop again as the tongue on my shoe was not properly tucked back in. I laughed out loud at the number of stops I had already made in the race.
About a mile or so later I settled into a good pace with a few runners who would be around me all day. One was Darin who was shooting for his first sub-3. the other was Barry who had finished a place in front of me at the Santa Clarita Marathon in November. Here he asked my age and when I told him 32 he said something akin to how he was 57, or 15 years older than me and he hoped that I could continue to do what he did at his age. I then said, well since you are 25 years older than me, I at least hope I can do math better than you. That got a pretty good laugh. Finally, Barry's friend Rob, rounded out the pack. A very genial fellow, we would see much of each other.
As we reentered the Pacific Coast Highway, Darin and I were soon running pretty even. We chatted here and there and joked around about things to keep our mind off the fog that was lifting far earlier than we hoped it would. Nevertheless, the weather remained cool and foggy at least for a few miles more.
Up to mile 17: (6:47, 6:41, 6:49, 13:26)
As we made the turn back down the PCH, Darin and I caught the female leader. I had mentioned that she did not look as strong as she had a few miles later and predicted we would pass her soon. Around mile 14, I proved to be right.
About a mile later we began cresting what would be just about the final bump of a hill of the whole course. Here I saw my girlfriend for the 3rd time of the day and stopped to give her a nice sloppy kiss. Darin said "That will get you some bonus points."
I missed the clock at 16 as we turned off the PCH and started down the adjacent bike path. By now the sun had completely burned off the fog and the wind that we would face when heading north was ever-present but cooling. I missed the clock as I was once again concentrating on finding a bathroom. I had to really go! Finding a bathroom I did my business as quickly as possible and jetted out again. as I passed Rob, he said: "Rocks in shoes, girlfriend kisses and bathroom breaks really don't slow you much do they?"
To mile 23: (6:41, 6:50, 6:39, 6:42, 13:41)
I caught up to Darin here and ran for about half of a mile with him before feeling a surge and deciding to harness it. Picking off a runner every half or mile or so I steadily moved up from about 30th place. Regardless of my placing, people still got excited about seeing the runner wearing the "1" bib. I could only hope the leaders got the same excited treatment. Making the u-turn on the bike path now meant we more or less had a straight stretch to go. The Sun may have been in our eyes but the wind was at our back.
Heading up the bike path, hordes of runners coming the opposite direction right next to me streamed by. Up on the PCH, hundreds and hundreds more headed either to the half marathon finish or were marathon runners who would be putting in their 4-5 hours today. Unfortunately, while the PCH was closed, the bike path was not. Most runners/walkers/cyclists not in the race were pretty considerate. some however, seemed oblivious to the racers around them.
Even worse was when, at mile 22, two race participants got so overjoyed at seeing a friend with a dog that they darted across the pavement to give it a friendly little pet and went right into my path. No motor skills or agility could have stopped the collision and unfortunately I think the girls got the worst of it. Not quite sure what they were thinking but then again, I am not quite sure what most people are thinking most of the time.
Final miles 7:26, 7:00, 7:04, 1:25
At the very least I used the interlopers' ignorance of etiquette to give me a little surge. About 200 yards previously a runner who I had passed a few miles back had passed me. I was later told by a few runners that they were using me as a target as I continually picked runners off who were fading. Well this collision gave me the boost I needed to pass this runner and a few more. As we headed down the bike path towards the Pier I saw one or two more runners who looked ripe for the picking.
We turned right before the pier and headed right back the way we came for about half a mile before beginning the last little stretch on the PCH. Up a cruelly placed but very small hill I passed one more runner. Now just mere steps away from the enormity of the half-marathoners to our left, we began the last 3/4 of a mile. Race volunteers were doing a fantastic job of not only keeping the halfers corralled to their side but also continually telling spectators that they had to get off the street so marathoners could pass. Obviously, many of the spectators thought the admonishment could not possibly have been directed towards them and one or two nearly got run over.
Nearing the finishline I saw my girlfriend once again and smiled big for her. Rudy caught sight of my bib and once again gave me a wonderful announcement. I waved to the crowd and ran underneath the finishline in 2:58:28 for my 11th sub 3-hour marathon in 19th place. Since going sub-3 for the first time in my 54th marathon, I have now done it about once ever 3.6 marathons and almost every single time I was actually trying to do so.
I turned and saw Darin finish just 7 seconds behind me for his first sub-3 ever!! He later told me that I was a great help in him achieving this. I told him that he was the one who did all the work but I was happy to take any credit he wanted to give me. Way to go, Darin!
The "ouch" story of the day goes to Rob, however. Sprinting like a madman towards the finish, Rob ended up with the worst imaginable time ever: 3:00:00. For anyone who has ever tried to break a huge milestone time goal, I think you can imagine how awful that is. I can only hope Rob has gone sub-3 elsewhere i his running career.
I quickly changed clothes and drug some books out of my car. Many runners had stated that they wished to get one after the race, so I threw some water in my throat and sat down at my table. A few books signed and about an hour later, I finally decided ti was time to go treat myself to a double cheeseburger.
I think it was well-deserved.