I joined 40 some-odd friends and fellow runners to do the First Call To Run Marathon on New Year’s Day of 2010. Lots of great energy, good company, and conversation. I’ve had better running days, and am a bit annoyed at myself for missing a chance at a December marathon – but all in all, this was a great way to kick off the new year.
My original plan was to try and do the Last Chance Marathon, up in Bellingham on New Years Eve. By the time I went to register, it was full. I thought about just going up and trying to wedge into the field on the morning of the race, but didn’t want to take a chance on burning 90 minutes worth of gas on the trip up, just to be disappointed. I also wanted to respect the limitation on the size of the field, as this seems to pertain to the permitting and liability questions. I definitely don’t want to put the race director in a bad spot, so it was time for Plan B.
As luck would have it, there was another free marathon on New Years Day. Organized by the same person who did Call of the Wild back in May, the race left from Bothell Landing on a double out and back course. Problem solved. Adrian Call, the race director was kind enough to let me register the day before too.
I turned in early on New Years Eve, the first time in my memory that I was not awake to ring in the new year. I woke up early New Years morning, and ate a bit of breakfast before heading out to run. The start was only about 15 minutes from home, traffic non-existent, and parking plentiful. Still – I managed to cut things a bit closer than planned, arriving just 15 minutes before the start. This gave me time to pin the race number on, stuff the gel packs into my pockets, and line up.
It was a balmy 50 degrees when we started, quite a bit warmer than I’d thought it might be. We wound south on the Sammamish River Trail, first crossing the bridge from the park. The field was larger, and faster than the last time I’d done this – so I did not occupy the front spot for even a second.
I joined my friends May and Eric for the first stretch. Both great company, but also usually faster than me. As much as I enjoyed running with them, a glance at my heart rate monitor told me that I really needed to back off a bit, so I did. My first mile was a modest 8:45, but sped up a bit from there. I clicked off the miles all solidly sub-8:30 for a while, knowing that I’d feel it later. But with my heart rate nice and low, I figured I wasn’t doing myself too my harm. Hm.
By this time, May and I had settled into a good conversation about how things were going with life, work, etc. Heading south meant that we had to deal with an annoying headwind, but it didn’t seem too bad. At a certain point I looked at my watch and saw that it felt we’d gone about 7.5 miles. Given that we were supposed to do a double out and back, with four equal stretched of 6.55, this meant we’d probably gone too far. Now, the watch calculates distance according to a pedometer-type device in a foot pod, so I’m never fully confident that it’s accurate. Being a mile off was a good indicator that we were farther than we wanted to be though.
It turns out that someone had made off with the cones that marked the turnaround for us. As annoying as that was for us, it was more impactful on the half marathon runners, who were to do a single out and back. Haven’t seen the race results yet, but I suspect they’ll reflect that some of the runners went out too far. Hopefully – not too disruptive. I’d bet it caused some stress though.
May and I decided to turn around after we’d run about 8 miles. I mulled fashioning a 50k out of this, but decided to keep it to a marathon. This turned out to be a very good choice.
We were joined by our friend Steve for a good bit of the run back to the start. He’s one state shy of completing marathons in all 50 states, with plans to hit Maryland in early spring. He and I first met when we were both in New Orleans back in 2006 to do the Mardi Gras Marathon. He and I both enjoy seeing the sites around a race we travel to. He shared stories about visiting some civil rights sites in Alabama while running down there, and we talked a bit about how different places feel like home.
The funny thing was, Steve wasn’t actually running the race. He was out on a training run, and was kind enough to join Eric, May, and I for a stretch – which was great.
With 16 miles under our belts, I felt good about how the race was going, but was also conscious of more fatigue than I want to feel then. It seemed the last ten miles were going to be a bit longer than desired. And they were. My average heart rate climbed towards 160 as we progressed. By the time we hit 20 miles, I was a bit nervous about how I was feeling. I didn’t have a good fix on what my mile splits were like, but definitely felt tired. I wanted to finish under four hours, but it wasn’t a hard goal. This was really intended to be more of a training run anyway.
The trouble was, I was within spitting distance of finishing under four hours. If it had just slipped out of reach, I could have relaxed and slowed down. Having it within reach made it difficult to slow down, because it would have felt a bit like giving up on the goal. I wanted to push for it, and only give up if I needed to. Still – this may have been the first time I worried about treating the folks at the finish to the sight of a nauseous me crossing the finish line, doing what famed marathoner Bob Kempainen did (six times) during the 1995 Olympic Marathon trials.
I checked my splits as I got to within three, then two miles, and felt I couldn’t give up just yet- even if my legs felt my they had lead weights on them. As I approached the finish, I refused to look at my watch, instead focusing on keep my pace as fast as I could. And it felt hard.
The folks at the finish called out my time as I crossed – 3:59:56. I’d never cut it this close, but it felt good to squeeze in just under four.
So – it was a hard day running, but we’re going to have those once in a while. The important thing is that I’ve rung in the new year with another 26.2, and got to enjoy the time running with friends.
charts and graphs for running geeks
This time, the charts don’t really tell the whole story. Sure – they show us when my wheels fell off, circa mile 20. But they don’t show a trend that way, other than a slight and steady climb in my heart rate from the 140s towards 160 (and higher after that). My mile splits were uneven at best, but not terribly fast after about mile six. The upward trend in splits is clear, but I don’t remember feeling lousy for the longer ones.
The heart rate chart shows the trend more distinctly. Still – not sure what to make of it, other than to think that my body’s been fighting a bug off for a while, and that I’m a bit depleted.