I approached the Tobacco Road Marathon start line fit, but nervous. My training block had gone well. I increased my mileage a bit and increased the number of long runs I tackled. My taper had gone well. I cut way back on junk food and alcohol, and bumped by bedtime up to ensure 8+ hours each night for the final week. There was nothing to make me think that attaining my goals would be out of the question- except the weather. The weather had been warm and humid all week and race day dawned 60 degrees with 90% humidity. I was just grateful it was overcast. I am very much a cold weather runner, so I was thinking more along the lines of high 30s to low 40s, but the weather gods had other plans. No matter. I adjusted my fueling strategy, but decided against adjusting my pacing strategy. The plan was to run 6:45s the whole way.
My legs felt great on our short warm-up. I was ready. The gun went off and we spent the first mile settling in. The full and the half stay together for 2.5 miles, so it was really crowded and we had to work to stay together and relaxed. Chad had signed up for pacing duties because he is crazy and a glutton for punishment. And he loves me. So Chad took to the helm with me, Michelle, and Mo tucked in behind him. Right after the turn onto the American Tobacco Trial we picked up Kaylyn, who was looking to go sub 3, Allen, who was also looking to go sub 3, and one other mystery runner who didn’t mention his name- conserving energy no doubt. Our group of 7 rolled along the lovely hard packed dirt to the turn around point at 8.5 miles. We really struggled to settle into the pace and were jumping around a bit. Some of the mile markers were off (one was nearly 45 seconds after where it should have been), so that made it difficult to determine if we were going the right pace. Somewhere after mile 9 we lost Mo and Kaylyn. We hit the half in 1:28:37; 6:46 pace. Perfect.
The course is a big T, with the start of the second half of the T starting right after mile 14. Thomas was waiting for us and jumped in to help Chad with pacing duties. I was very happy to see Thomas because I had been running alongside Chad and was looking forward to being able to tuck in and stop thinking. The run out was uneventful. I felt bad, then great, then bad, then great. We hit the turn around just past the 19 mile marker and tried to grab some water at the aid station, but they were completely unprepared for us. We ended up having to actually stop to grab water and Gatorade. Normally I would have just skipped the aid station, but the weather meant this would have been a bad idea. We had gotten fairly lucky and the weather was holding at 60 degrees, overcast, and humid, as opposed to heading north to 72 as was forecast, but that still meant we needed to be vigilant about hydration.
Mile 20 was 15 seconds too slow, but we rebounded with a fantastic mile 21, 5 seconds under our goal pace. I was feeling great during mile 21 and then the wheels came off. Mile 22 was a monumental struggle, as Michelle and I both started to fade. Mile 23 was even worse despite having Dalena, Carolyn, and Anna cheering us on. Mile 24 was an improvement over 23, but still nothing to write home about. At the 24 mile marker, Michelle decided she was ready to be done and picked up the pace. I tried my best to follow and picked up the pace too, but not enough to stay with her. Miles 25 and 26 were back down to sub 7, as I struggled to maintain my composure and get home. The last 0.2 was uphill and slow. At that point I knew a PR was in the bag and sub 2:59 was in the bag, so I was content to run hard and enjoy the moment instead of trying to sprint it in. Not that I had anything left to sprint with. Second half: 1:30:07; 6:52 pace. Finishing time: 2:58:44; 6:49 pace, a 59 second PR.
Michelle finished in 2:58:06; just shy of a 4 minute PR. She looked so strong out there. I knew she was set to have a great race after another stellar training cycle. Mo zipped across the line a few minutes later in 3:02. Kaylyn had some awful blister problems that led to both feet being covered in blood, but managed a 3:12. Our new friend Allen hit his goal of a sub 3 with a 2:59.
Chad was the perfect pacer, as usual. He kept the pace right on, until mile 22 when he realized that I was going as fast as I possibly could at that point. From then on he played a game where he would coax me to stay on his shoulder and run just a little bit faster, trying to get as much out of me as humanly possible. It worked. I am incredibly grateful to him for being so amazing; although I’m not remotely surprised.
All in all, it was a good day at the office. Hopefully there are faster marathons in my future- perhaps Boston 2013! Splits by garmin: 6:46, 6:42, 6:40, 6:45, 6:39, 6:50, 6:41, 6:47, 6:40, 6:43, 6:43, 6:43, 6:47, 6:49, 6:46, 6:40, 6:50, 6:47, 6:42, 7:00, 6:40, 7:01, 7:10, 7:01, 6:52, 6:53, 1:59 (7:01 pace for 0.28; great job running the tangents).