What a perfect day for a marathon! It was in the low 40s at the start, and very overcast, with very low hanging clouds. Cold enough to chill you while waiting at the start, but not so cold that you needed to bundle up much. Once we started running, of course, I warmed up quickly, and never felt too cold or hot. Wind was not much of a factor this year, like it was last year. A bit of a breeze hit us in the face across the lake, but for the most part it was calm. Shortly after I finished, the sun came out and the clouds disappeared, warming quickly and making me thankful that I was not still out on the course. All in all, pretty ideal conditions for a race.
So how did I do? First, the good news: I finished, with no injuries to speak of. One small blister on my left forefoot, sore feet and legs, and a very tired body, but all of that will heal quickly. No need for medical attention or physical therapy. What a blessing to be able to run! (One other physical item: I remember to put anti-chafing cream on my feet, but not on other parts. That red streak on my shirt will look lovely in the finish photos!)
More good news: This is about as fast as I have ever run! I set PRs (personal records) for four distances.
My previous 10K PR: 47:54. Today: 47:28 (26 seconds)
My previous half marathon PR: 1:57:34. Today: 1:39:56 (18:38)
My previous 20M PR: 2:40:33. Today: 2:37:23 (3:10)
My previous marathon PR: 3:51:38. Today: 3:35:32 (16:06)
I also beat my White Rock time from 2008 by 27:44.
I'd say that's quite an improvement!
So the bad news: I have made no secret that my goal for White Rock was to qualify to run in the Boston Marathon. To do so, I have to run in 3:20:59. I have been training pretty hard, but for the last several weeks, looking at my pace times during training runs, I knew I was unlikely to meet my goal. I figured that even though I had a pretty good shot at meeting a new PR, my chances of qualifying for Boston were probably 30% or less. Nevertheless, I started out with a 3:20 pace team, which means I was following a runner with balloons on a stick who would keep a steady pace fast enough to finish in 3:20. As long as I could stick with him, and cross the finish with him or shortly after, I would meet my goal.
I lined up with the 3:20 group at the start, and looked around at the lean, fit runners. I wasn't sure my middle-aged girth would allow me to keep up with these guys. I did pretty well for some time. I stayed with the 3:20 pack for a good 17 miles. I was beginning to flag, though. Around mile 18, I had fallen behind, but I could still see the balloons and figured I was less than a minute behind him. By mile 19, I could no longer see him, so I knew I would not be qualifying for Boston today. As I noted before, some say that for every pound you lose, you cut 2 seconds off your pace. My average pace today was 8:13; it should have been 7:40 to meet my goal. If only I had lost another 17 pounds before race day, maybe I could have kept up!
I was wearing my Garmin GPS watch for the race, but I had put duct tape over the display so I would only focus on running with the pace team and not on the time or distance. But after 19, I could feel my pace slow considerably, and EVERYONE on the course seemed to be passing me. (I know you might think that was only my perception, but there is a handy stat on the official results page which helpfully points out that during the final 6 miles, I passed 13 runners and 156 passed me! Those 13 were mostly people who were clearly injured and were limping along, just trying to reach the finish.)
So I took the duct tape off my watch, and payed more attention to my pace. While before my pace was in the 7:30-8 miles/min. range, now it was in the 9-9:30 range. I was determined to keep it below ten, no matter how I felt. Even though the hills aren't that bad on this course, and even though I run hills a bit when I train, I was reminded that I'm not too good on hills. Mile 18.5 to mile 20.5 is a pretty good climb; that's when people really started passing me up. As is my habit, I had started too fast, ran too hard the first miles, and the negative splits I always wish I ran again once again eluded me.
Even though I would love to have qualified for Boston, a 3:35 finish, and a 16 minute improvement in my PR makes a pretty terrific day. Running a race like this, I was constantly reminded of what a gift the ability to run is. The wheelchair racers were inspiring. When I passed the lady running on a prosthesis who was pushing a girl who had no legs in a wheelchair, I almost lost it; I nearly started weeping openly right there on the course. And plenty of t-shirts testified that the runner was, for example, a recovered cancer victim, Hodgkins survivor, or veteran, or was running to honor one of the above.
The emotion of running is a mystery to me. Besides the inspiring runners, the mere fact of pushing my body, of reaching a goal brings out the emotion in me. When I saw Kelly and the kids cheering for me at the finish, I nearly wept. I nearly started weeping when I finished. When I found my famity later, I probably would have wept if the boys had hugged me, but no one wanted to touch stinky, sweaty Dad! I can't really explain the emotion of finishing a race. Maybe after a few more races, I will become inured to it. But for now, I'll enjoy the high of the finish, and the tremendous feeling of accomplishment that comes from crossing that finish line!
One other note: I ran today in my VFFs. This was my longest run in them. I ran my last 20 mile training run in them, and ran the Great Brazos Relay in them. It will be hard to go back to running shoes now. And talk about a conversation starter! Several runners asked me about them, or said they had some but hadn't worked up to running much distance. I heard plenty of comments from spectators, like "Look at that guy's shoes," or "Go, barefoot runner!" I saw one other runner wearing some; he said he used to get shin splints all the time, but since he's been running in VFFs, he never does. My feet and calves are sore, so maybe I'm not completely built up to where I need to be, but I really believe I ran faster today than I would have were I to have run in regular running shoes.
All in all, a great day for a marathon, and, in spite of my slower-than-desired finish, I'm proud of my performance. I finished 529 out of 4453 overall, 459 out of 2855 men, and 98 out of 506 men 40-44. Plus, not that it matters, I finished ahead of 96% of female finishers. (Oh, and by the way, if I were 50, or if I were a woman, my time today would have qualified me for Boston.)