2005 49th place Time: 2:59:58 Half-split 1:24:11
2007 44th place Time: 2:59:27 Half-split 1:21:28
Two years apart. 3o seconds apart. It seems as though I am destined to run 2:59 on this course, FOREVER. Well, ok, maybe a bit of hyperbole, but I couldn't believe the similarity of this race to the one two years ago.
The start of the race was picture perfect. No rain. Cool weather. Slight cloud cover with some sun breaking through. Ideal race conditions. "If you are going to do it, today is the day do it."
The first kilometre was great. A little slow - 3:55 - which is what I wanted. I would have to run 3:48min/km to reach the gold goal of 2:39:xx, but I didn't want to start out to quickly. I settled into a steady, easy rhythm and was pleased to see that most of my kilometer splits were a few seconds too slow. The easiest way to ruin a marathon is to be a few too seconds too fast in the early going. I also proved that that is not the only way to ruin a marathon.
Through 5km I felt good and by 10k I was about a minute off pace. I didn't let that bother me too much as it was my intention to be a little slow in the first part of the race, thinking that I would be able to make up the time later in the race.
The day continued to unfold well. I started to pass a number of people quite convincingly. I had moved through about 7 or 8 people in the time between 8k and 16k. At 10 miles (16k) I was back on pace and feeling relatively good about things. I had, at that time, put myself in a position to achieve 2:40. But things were beginning to feel a little laboured. Just a little. But that is not the time you want to feel anything but exceptional.
I went through the halfway point in 1:21:27. I was ok with that. A little slow, but that is better than too fast. Or so I thought.
From there things went downhill slowly. I felt good for about another 5k, but then started to feel things get a little heavier. The road home is long and winding one, with a few hills thrown in for fun. While I was slowly starting to feel the race leave me behind, I had the highlight of the race. At the top of a small hill near the end of the Victoria Golf Course, there was a line of students (and one awesome colleague) performing the wave for me. Their energy carried me down the hill and past two more sets of students who were volunteering. If only they could have been at every corner for the rest of the run.
This time, two years later, the cramping started 50m before the spot it did in 2005. The left hamstring. Seized. Completely. I came to a complete stop about 250m after seeing Trevor, Jen, and Sonja (they were superstars, being everywhere on the course, watching the gradual decline). This was Oak Bay. I stopped. Stretched. Ate some salt. And started onwards.
This time, two years later, the lead woman - Suzzanne Evans - passed me 50m before she did in 2005. And she looked strong. I tried to get on the train, but was unable to hold the pace for more than 100m. This was nearing Fairfield.
And so it continued. People passing me. Cramping. And watch watching. I have 40 minutes for 5k. That is 8 min/k. I can run 5k in 40 minutes. Even with cramping. Can't I?
The clouds have covered more of the sky at this point and the rain had started, but it wouldn't fall in earnest until I was within 1km of the finish. I saw Stefan Jakobsen, a great athlete (runner, cyclist, triathlete), and one of the nicest people in the world (literally), about 8oom from the finish. Stefan was supposed to have been racing, but a calf injury had kept him as a a spectator on this day. The reason I knew it was him was that I was able to carry on a full conversation with him as my left hamstring refused to stop cramping. I was stranded in the middle of the road, with people encouraging me to run when those who have experienced a full muscle spasm know that there is nothing you can do until it releases. Stefan was understanding and just encouraged me to move forward. I had about 12 minutes to move 800m in order to qualify for Boston. Doesn't seem like to would be hard to do, but I was afraid that if my leg(s) didn't release, or if both legs went at the same time, I might be forced to run another marathon in order to get a qualifying time.
Stefan's suggestion worked though. I moved forward, very slowly at first, and then into a Terry Fox-like shuffle, and then into a running shuffle. The main goal was not to cramp before the finish line.
And with that, the rain starting to fall with purpose, and the temperature dropping, I approached the finish line. No sprint finish. No triumphant yawp. A glance up toward Bob Reid who was in booth above the finish and a hug from Rob Reid on the ground. A long day, but in the end I got what I came for. I can now register for Boston.
A HUGE thanks to my many friends out on the course who shouted encouragement at every point of the run. As mentioned before, Jen, Trevor, and Sonja were spectacular, and it warmed my heart to see former students out on the course (especially the bald ones - good for all of you!) And I was able to meet PK for the first time as well. That was pretty cool! (Hi Jennie!)
This morning was spent researching marathon training programs. I need to deal with this cramping and the last 12k. Suggestions are welcome. But for now, a week or two of downtime before beginning back into some good base mileage and a strength program.
Lots more to follow.