|Run Fat Boy, RUN!|
I felt confident going into this race that I could beat my personal record (PR) of 2:20:52. I set that in 2010 at this same race and I walked about a half mile of it. It's hard to imagine that I actually ran SLOWER in Baltimore last October, but I came in at 2:24:28 and I ran the whole thing.
This time around I was a lot better trained and after looking at my recent times I decided to give 2:00 a shot. I like setting ambitious goals to keep me motivated and I thought that even if I couldn't keep up the 9:09 pace needed I could always drop back and still PR.
After having a lot of success running with a pace group at the Shamrock Marathon, I signed up for the 2:00 pace group at the Expo the day before the race. If you signed up in advance they gave you a wrist band with all your split times on it which was really nice. Also at the Expo I got a chance to meet Sid Bush, who is a runner that I greatly admire. Sid has completed countless Marathons and Half Marathons, each one in the name of a fallen service member. After each race Sid presents his finishers medal to a family member of the service member he is honoring. On top of that, Sid is a super friendly guy and a lot of fun to talk with. More about Sid here
The morning of the race I went through the usual nervousness and second guessing that I'm starting to get used to. I gave myself a stern talking to in the car about running with confidence and that seemed to shut-up the guy that lives in my head and enjoys telling me all the stuff that I can't do. I drove myself to the race and parked on the road a few blocks from the start. I walked up to the Fairgrounds and checked my car keys and just walked around a little to enjoy the atmosphere. There were lots of people milling about and doing the usual pre-race stretching and warming up. I ran into a friend that was running the relay and we talked for a minute. I tend to start off slow and speed up more as I warm up so I went for a five minute jog to help me start off at pace a little easier.
This race didn't have corals, just signs up with different pace times that everyone was supposed to line up at. I found the pace leaders and knew right away that there was going to be trouble. They were both about 5'4" or so and even in their day-glow green shirts I knew they were going to be hard to keep track of. I was already nervous about trying to keep pace and this didn't make me feel any better. The start line was right in front of the Frederick Fairgrounds on a two lane road. There were about 5,000 people packed in like sardines but everyone seemed to be happy and the weather was great for running. It was overcast and about 60 degrees or so with a slight drizzle and an occasional breeze to cool you off. The start of the race was the usual shuffle and it took about a minute for us to cross the start line.
Mile 1 to Mile 4: We passed a lot of people that were not even close to keeping pace. Because the pace leaders were to so hard to keep track of, people in the group kept crowding around them and there was a lot of bumping into other people until we turned onto Market Street and things opened up a little bit and everyone settled in to run. A very light rain started to fall and I felt really good. Keeping pace didn't require much effort at all and I started gaining confidence. I decided I would stick with the group until mile 10 and then see if I felt good enough to push out on my own. Splits: 8:57, 9:07, 9:06, 9:01
Mile 5 to Mile 8: I lost track of the water stops and I couldn't remember how often they were on the course. I had a couple of gel packs in my pocket and I planned to eat one at about mile 5 but I have to chase those with a couple cups of water so I don't get indigestion. I wanted to ask the pace leaders if they knew when the next water table would be but it was very hard to maneuver in the pace group because everyone was crowded around the leaders. Eventually I moved out in front of them and asked my question. When I turned around it was so much nicer being out of the group that I decided I would just stay in front of them for a while. I didn't stay with them for very long and noticed that I was passing people pretty steadily for the next couple miles. I decided to abandon the pace group entirely and just run on perceived effort. Splits: 9:06, 8:59, 8:59, 9:05.
Mile 9 to Mile 12: I don't remember a lot about this part of the race. I mainly remember that I felt really good and wasn't having any trouble maintaining pace. I was a little worried that I might have bitten off more than I could chew but I decided I could always walk through an water station and fall back in with the pace group if I needed to. Thankfully I never felt like I needed to do that. Splits 8:46, 8:58, 9:04, 8:53
Mile 13: I felt really good on the last mile and I knew I was going to beat the 2 hour mark by a lot. The course ends with a fairly steep hill that takes you into the fair grounds and then you turn onto the track. I guess they used to race horses here at some point. I started my sprint as soon as I turned onto the course and passed a lot of people. I heard my buddy that ran the relay shout out my name as I passed him and then I saw my family cheering as well. It was great that they all dragged themselves out of bed to come watch the old guy finish. Splits: 8:11, (7:05 for the .1 at the end.)
In summary, I think this is the first race that I actually raced. The first two half marathons were great but they were more about just hanging on and finishing. This time finishing wasn't in doubt, it was more about trying to run smart and do the best that I could. I checked the race website last night and they list my official time as 1:57:00, which is a PR of almost 24 minutes.
I'm taking a couple week off to let my Achilles problems resolve. They need rest and I haven't taken much time off of running since last summer. Two weeks should be enough to get healed up and then I can start training for the next one. I'm going to run the Richmond Marathon in November.