A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 19th Edition
479.1 miles raced in 2009
Race: Long Beach Marathon
Place: Long Beach, CA
Miles from home: 703 miles
Weather: 60-70s; cloudy to clear
56 whole days between marathons. A car accident which messes up my shoulder. Fifteen or so extra pounds around my waist. These are not things which I am used to having to deal with. But life really doesn't care much what your plans are.
That said, what this marathon was for me was the first of my new century of marathon running. Number 101. The beginning of getting back into shape. I had told people who asked what I thought I was going to run that I was either going to run a 3:04 or a 3:06. Why? Because I felt I was in shape for that sort of running and I chose those two particular numbers because I have never run a marathon time equal to that. That was good enough reason for me!
I was once again one of the featured speakers at the Expo prior to the race and once again got to enjoy speaking to many runners and their families. I always enjoy the fresh outlooks and insights from runners who wish to share their experiences with me. The rest of expo went very well with many others coming to tell me that they had really enjoyed my book and were inspired by it. One guy "blamed" me for his current obsession of running a half marathon every month this year after reading my book in January! I love being blamed for that sort of thing. If I am partially responsible for the slightest improvement in someone else's life, that is a darn good thing.
I also got to hang out with a plethora of friends and other random nice people.
After two enjoyable but long days of working the expo, I had to grab a quick dinner, hit the showers and try to fall asleep early, something which I really cannot do. Fortunately, I was in one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on and around 11 pm or so, I turned out the lights for nappy time.
First 10k: 7:06, 7:02, 6:50, 7:08, 6:58, 7:06: (43:35)
As my hotel was situated rather close to the start of the race, I was very pleased to wake up at 6:15 AM for the 7 AM start. I know this is impossible for other people, but I needed my damn sleep. Signing books and talking to people for two straight days at the expo is deceptively tiring, especially when I have to answer questions like: "Will this guy be here to sign his book?" and "Well you could not have possibly...
1. been employed
2. not been sponsored
3. ran real marathons"
I got to the race with about 7 minutes before the start, listening to a very nice Star-Spangled Banner and then tried to weave my way through the crowd. I knew that with my projected time and what the race results had been last year, I should have about 45 or so people finishing in front of me. Too bad the Spartan-phalanx of nearly-locked armed runners had more or less made it impossible to scoot to the front. Right before i figured I might just drop to my hands and knees and crawl, I ran into my friend Sam and his wife Tiffany who was going to be shooting for a Boston-qualifying time.
Unfortunately for Tiffany, she had been sidelined by injury as of late and getting the time she wanted would be a tough row to hoe. We spoke for a while and I made as many jokes as possible to lighten the mood so she would not be quite as nervous.
Soon the gun was fired and we were off. I spent the first few miles simply dodging runners (and to be clear, not all were out of place- some were half-marathoners as well) and just trying to feel out my body. In the crowd in front of me and all around me were the usual menagerie of runners.
Newbies: wearing their bib number on their back.
Californians: wearing long sleeves and gloves because it was 64 degrees.
High school/ College jocks: wearing knee-length, mesh basketball shorts and a cotton t-shirt.
Running at this pace was different. I was not trying to set a new PR and I wasn't trying to pace the 3:10 group as I have done so many times. This was a pace, somewhere in between; one I was not used to running and felt quite odd. Throw in my shoulder injury and everything else and getting a nice pace going was difficult.
To the Half: 8:37, 6:52, 5:49, 7:05,7:15, 6:56, 7:22 (1:33:01)
But I knew for damn sure I did not run a 8:37 at mile 7! This was the first of just a few markers that were slightly misplaced, but I told everyone not to the worry. The finishline is in the right place and that is all that matters. I had begin running with an above 50 year-old man named Bill who would become my companion for the vast majority of the rest of the race. We would gain or lose new members to our little group but Bill and I chatted, shared stories and just enjoyed having the company.
We had also acquired as company a few other runners including one of the top female runners named Bonnie. Shooting for anything "under 3:10" we told her we were on about a 3:04-3:06 pace and we would love her company but she was welcome to slow if she wanted. She did not for quite some time and we were pleased. I also saw a fellow Big Cat Member, Steph, who has lost a ton of weight since I saw her earlier this year. Thanks for the photo, Steph!
As the course looped around and did a few out and backs, we were able to see both runners behind us and ahead of us. This allowed me to see more than a number of friends and acquaintances and I had a blast saying hello to all of them. I continued to crack jokes, offer advice and keep the minds of the runners around me off of the task at hand. Bonnie quipped right before the halfway turn-around: "Can we pay for this humor?" I usually assume people want to pay me to shut up.
20 miles: 7:08, 7:12, 7:16, 7:15,7:19, 6:48, 7:07 (2:22:22)
When a few mile markers are off the mark, it always makes you wonder a little bit if others are too, especially when you seem to be running a little bit slower than expected. Granted I was expending energy dispensing advice and feeling sort of like a mother duck with my herding, but I did not think that my miles had slipped as much as the did after hitting the halfway point.
Around 18 miles, as we entered the Long Beach College campus, we encountered some of the biggest hills of the course. As we passed by an awesome pyramid structure, Bill and I powered through the biggest of the uphills and created a gap between ourselves and the rest of our little group.
A downhill mile a few minutes before 19 allowed us to stretch our legs a little and run a rather quick 6:48 (which we again questioned because of not knowing about the mile markers)
Bill mentioned he wanted to leave nothing on the course today and I replied I was running no faster than I planned so if he needed to jet, he was on his own today. He said he would wait until mile 22.
Last 10k: 6:51, 6:59, 7:27, 7:05, 7:03, 6:55, 1:41
He waited until mile 21. as he began to pull away, I was really happy to see him turning it on. One of the gentleman who had been running with us earlier, Craig, had caught up to me and began to pull away as well. Craig and Bill apparently will swap age group wins often and I wondered if it would be be another battle.
As we hit the last two hills at mile 23 and again mile 25, I was able to catch up to and pass Craig. Changing my pace not much at all, I only cared about the 3:06 time.
I could tell when I hit mile 25 that I had it and just kept going. Bill stayed in sight as we both passed runners who were faltering on this deceptively humid day. Soon after mile 25, some girls at the ClifBar tent were hula-hopping. One got out of control, went careening into the runners and lo and behold, ended up wrapping itself around my legs.
I was able to get out of it rather quickly without breaking my neck but the look I gave the girl would have melted diamonds. I did not say a single word though. Just the stare. I knew she did not meant to impede but one must use a little common sense! Soon, Craig caught up and passed me as well. I cheered him on and loved the fact that he was doing so. It amazes me sometimes how I am able to turn off my competitive juices when I know there is no point in being competitive. While Craig would not catch Bill in the end he ended up running a stellar 3:06.
With about .2 of a mile left, I was thunderstruck. I had run a 3:06 at Jackson earlier this year. Well, Son of a B*tch! now I knew I had already run a 3:05 and there was no way I was running a 3:04, I just settled back into my stance and enjoyed the downhill finish.
Announcer Rudy Novotny, who has been at many of my races this year was kind enough to announce me coming in and tell people this was my 101st marathon. Thanks a bunch, Rudy.
Three hours, six minutes and 19 seconds after the gun sounded, I put my foot on the finishline. Earlier in the day I had been reminded that my finishes at Surf City and San Francisco has qualified me for a California Dreamin' Medal. Woo-hoo. Bling me!
I was surprised how many others were qualifying for this medal and it showed that the Rock N Roll series does not have a monopoly on people wishing to run multiple marathons to enhance their running experience.
All in all it was a good comeback race. I most assuredly have work to do and am hoping the next few weeks will allow me to race my way back into shape. But in the meantime, it was wonderful to get out an experience the wonder that is the Marathon. I am even more glad to announce that Bonnie did hold on and ran a 3:09:50 (gun time) which had Bill (who ran a 3:05 and one of his better times in years, if I recall what he said correctly), Craig and myself all giving her sweaty hugs at the end. Excellent work Bonnie!
Next up for me, the Marathon Makeover Marathon in Jackson, MS! See you there!