26.2 in the watershed

This morning I had a couple of firsts.  I ran my first marathon in the month of March (got the other eleven months covered).  And I ran my first marathon in the Redmond Watershed.

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Over the past ten years or so, I’ve run hundreds of miles there.  It’s been a favorite place to do longer runs.  You can do a 5,8, or 12 mile loop and get back to the car to pick up more fuel.  The terrain is varied – some up and down, but the hills never dominate the course.  Great place to prepare for your average marathon.

The day started out with rain – the first significant bit in over a week.  I got to the Watershed early, to make sure I got a parking space.  The lot doesn’t have spaces for 150 runners, and the people putting on the event.  It felt cold too – although the temperature was apparently in the low forties.  I picked up my number, then kept warm in the car until it was time to head out.

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Northwest Trail Runs Organizer Eric Bone gave us the pre-race talk, laying out the course (simpler than in the past), and the rules of the road (follow the flags).  At about 9:33, we started.  The pack spread out pretty quickly, as we headed up the Trillium trail.  I fell into a steady pace just over 9 minutes per mile.  Within the first couple of miles, I felt tenderness in my right Achilles tendon, as well as some suspect pain in my right plantar fascia.  This didn’t bode well for the next twenty four or so miles.  I tried to ease up my footstrike and glide, ala Chi Running.

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From time to time I felt like I was running a bit faster than I should, like I was working.  The name of the game in the early miles should be to settle into a comfortable pace, and try to go to sleep for the first half.  Not so much today.  Rolling in for the end of the first lap, I was at 59 minutes.

This was both good news and bad news.  Good because I was running well enough to stay within reach of a finish under four hours.  Bad news because I was within reach of a finish under four hours.  I needed to see how the second loop went.  And it was more of the same.  My foot continued to hurt a bit, but I was keeping a steady pace of just over 9 minutes per mile.  This meant I couldn’t ease up and still feel good about my effort.  Why scale back when you’re within a minute of your goal pace?

And so it went.  Lap two was a little slower, but I was halfway in just under two hours.  By the time we were on lap three, I was definitely working harder.  I was feeling the miles, but knew I couldn’t ease up.  The hills were harder, but there are enough slight downhills to make up some time on.  By now I was running alone, and free to live or die on the four hour plan.

Funny thing happened during the third lap.  I simply decided I was going to meet the four hour goal.  No walking, no whining, just keeping as strong and steady a pace as I could.  And it worked.

Starting out on the fourth and final lap, I was pretty wasted.  Climbing the easy hill on the connector trail about twenty miles into the race was much more difficult than it had been the first three times.  I focused on keeping my column straight, and leaning forward to use my momentum to keep going.  I surprised myself at just how much I seemed to be able to muster.  I was tired and hurting, but actually picked up the pace a bit on this final lap.

I caught up with two other runners with four miles to go.  One of them was a very nice, and fairly talkative guy.  I simply did not have the energy to talk, or even to respond with more than a single word here and there.  Eventually we separated (he may have thought me rude).  I kept pace with the other runner for a while, before passing her, and driving up the hills as we closed to just two miles from the finish.

By the time I hit the final quarter mile, I was fighting some cramping in my calves.  After twenty six miles, they decided I hadn’t hydrated enough.  The trouble being that I didn’t have much time to lose without missing my goal.  Somehow I tricked myself to keep moving, and made it into the finish in 3:58:38, as the tenth person to finish.

Although this wasn’t one of my faster marathons, I was very happy with my effort.  I definitely did not leave much out on the course today.

charts and graphs for running geeks

Picture tells the good part of the story.  Overall, pace was pretty consistent, varying 20 seconds per mile between the slowest (third) and fastest (fourth) laps.  I’d posit that this was equivalent in effort to a 3:45 on a flat course.  I’ll take it.

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