A croissant and a latte at TIBS on the way back from my ride today. What with the cafe-stop and some quiet roads, it was a time to reflect on my marathon.
I felt very disconnected from the race this year. I didn't go to the Expo (la belle picked up my dossard and chip), I didn't go to the kids' run, I didn't make the pace-bunny meeting on Friday. I just rocked up to the Metro Centre on Sunday wearing my ears.
As you know, I was my usual basket-case beforehand. Perhaps more-so because of the lack of racing this year. I think it showed in the run-up to the start. I was able to relax a little with my fellow pace-bunnies, but that was it. I felt as focussed bfore this as I had for any race I was running solely for myself!
We (the pace-bunnies) were all sitting on the floor in a corner of the Metro Centre and everyone was laughing at me because of my pre-race drugs plan
Imodium, Advil, gels and water. Embrocation to kick-start my muscles. What's wrong with that?
As we did this, we had one guy come up to us and get all aggravated there wasn't a 3:30 marathon bunny. He started to complain there should be, the last race he had done had one blah blah. It was hard to be level and calm and diplomatic (but I was, I think). With the minor shit-storm swirling around BN, it seemed the perfect start to the day; a bunch of volunteer pace-bunnies getting aggravation for something totally out of their control!
I started a tad too fast, but we always do, but took some corners wide and slow and tried to slow to to pace, about 4:15/km. I hit 1 km on the money, but after that, we always seemed to be on the back foot, always five to en seconds per km slow. Each and every time. We hit the park late, whereas I always like to get there early. We always lose time in there. I think it's easier to run 4:10 to the park, get there a minute early, slow down to 4:30 in the park (uphill, draggy, off-road) and leave the park on-schedule rather than run 4:15 to the park and try to keep 4:15 through it!
Somehow we left the park on-schedule and stayed there to the end. As usual, I picked up a lot of guys who'd gone storming off the front in the first couple of miles to the usual refrain
"No I'm not"
Not as usual, I didn't have a group with me; just two guys who stuck with me all the way; one guy sped up after the park to get his time (which I always tell them they can do) and one guy ran in with me for a 15 minute PB! I feel bad that I didn't have a big group, or that I dropped the group I did have, but I ran my set pace and if no-one could stay, well? Surely I was there to run 1:30, and that was my prime motivator.
As I ran through the start/finish area, la belle ran next to me for a bit, having just been part of a team that pushed a 17 y.o. boy with cerebral palsy in a chair in the 10K. Now that's hard! To be honest, I wanted to know how fast they could get going down Nantucket! The child really enjoyed the run, he likes the sensation of "fast" and laughed his head off all the way around.
At the CBC on Sackville and South Park, Denise met me as planned to run the second half with me. She filled me in on the marathon; who was leading who and the inevitable course fuck-ups that this race seems plagued with.
Back in the day, when the Halifax loop was just one big loop of Halifax; Citadel, North End, Waterfront, Park, Oxford St, West End, Citadel, no-one got lost. This one and one-half loops of the North/South End, someone always takes the wrong direction somewhere. Invariably it's a front runner taking an under-trained volunteer by surprise and being sent left instead of right. By the time the fuck-up has been remedied, the bulk of the runners are there, playing follow-my-leader and have no idea of the ruckus they just missed. Tough shit they think, fricking "elite" runner, serves 'em right (the logic escapes me). Except this ain't no wiry Kenyan out for a payday, it's an age-grouper just like you and me, who's been training since Christmas with this one goal in mind, and all those interminable miles in snow and freezing temperatures have just been pissed down the road by a race-organisation that seemingly values a runner only until they've paid, and a front-runner even more-so.
Anyway, Denise and I dug into the second half; any attempt at conversation on my part was cut off with "if you have enough breath to talk, you have the energy to run faster, so run you bitch".
The lack of quality racing miles was starting to show even three miles into the second half, with my quads feeling heavy. Heading over the bridge, even my hamstring started to give out that warning twinge, the one that says "try that again and I'll cramp, you bastard".
Nonetheless, the endless hills in the second half came and went; Bridge, Nantucket, Woodlawn, and no cramp. I felt pretty good heading into Shubie at 30km all things considered. Denise was being a hard task-master.
The wheels started to fall off in Shubie coming up to the 20 mile mark. We met Shawn Beaton in there and he started to run with us, but he pretty much had a nice chat with Denise while I wallowed in their wake. Sorry Shawn, I wasn't much of a conversationalist.
As you can see, Shawn and Denise had the energy to dynamically pose for the camera whereas I think I just ran into a trash-can!
Out of Shubie, 33kms done. The works starts now. I told the guys I just needed to hold it together until Maple, at 38km, because by then the work was done. Sounds counterintuitive, with three major hills in four kms, but by 38 you know it's in the bag, plus I like hills. I'm too lazy to really give it all when it's flat, I need a hill to bring the best out in me! The five kilometres between Shubie and Maple are sterile death. Yes, flat, but no diversion, no crowds. Just a lake on one side and a busy road on the other. This year, those kilometres just flowed by with Shawn and Denise talking a storm in front and me tagging along behind like an idiot child; the illusion complete when at each water station Denise would take a cup of water and give it to me!
Maple then hove into view; 38 kms, three hills. Then a surprise. At the bottom on Maple, club-mates and friends; Louis Brill, John McQuaid and Nick McBride. Together with Shawn and Denise they ran me all the way up Maple, shouting encouragement and coaching advice; dig in, back straight, knees up, breath. I may not have looked it guys, but I was so grateful.
Over the top and Shawn peeled off, leaving me with Denise and Nick, who coached and cajoled me all the way home. The nice thing about runners is they don't give you that sugar-coated "it's all downhill from here" crap (it's Bluenose fer' goodness sake. There is no downhill!). They tell you like it is, but also tell you how to get it done and that you can get it done. In very explicit terms too. Honest advice, in other words. The stuff you appreciate.
The cramp finally came on the bridge, but I was lucky and didn't have to stop, but ran it out.
Nick and Denise peeled off on the hill on Brunswick with the finish-line in sight. Big thanks to both of you for dragging me around. I quite literally couldn't have done it without either of you, and having seen the pain and suffering up-close and personal Nick seems more determined than ever not to do a marathon!
I saw la belle just before the line and she gave me Cookie Monster! I took Cookie and ran over the line with him; it seemed like the thing to do to celebrate getting marathon #14 in the bag, and my 5th Bluenose full.
I posted a 3:05:57, my best marathon outing since BN in 2009, which was also a 3:05. I was 10th overall, after Mark from Sportstat transferred my time from an embarrassing 3:05 half to a respectable 3:05 full!
Obviously, I"m pleased with the time; one of the best I've posted for a while. Does this mean the legs are coming back at last, or was this a statistical blip; the low time to average out last years PW at Boston? Time, and perhaps Johnny Miles, will tell.