More about that below, but for those with shorter attention spans, I'll start with the condensed version:
- Official Time: 2:55.16
- 3rd place overall (out of over 800 entrants).
- A new marathon PR by 10 minutes
- Less than a minute behind the 2nd place finisher
- Both of my 1/2 marathon splits were faster than my previous record of 1:30.xx (1:27.01 and 1:28.15 were my split times at Colfax)
Okay, enough with that, on to the gory details that led up to that finish...
Quickly rewind to May 2009: The last road marathon I ran was almost exactly a year ago at the Colfax marathon. Even though I set my old PR there (3:05.xx), they had a major timing glitch which made it look like I hadn't even finished the race. I can barely begin to describe how aggravating it was to have finally qualified for Boston after numerous failed attempts, only to have the results be inaccurate and not even show me as finishing! It was finally resolved about a week after the race, but this left a bad impression on me.
Fast forward to May 2010: Saturday afternoon I arrived at the pre-race check-in in City Park only to find that I wasn't even listed as a registered racer in their system (since I was a late entry). When they finally did find my packet it was missing a little thing called a bib number. The reason: Apparently they didn't plan on there being so many entrants in the full marathon (800+) and ran out of printed numbers. Obviously with chip timing this wouldn't prevent me from being able to race and have an official time, but it was the principle and general lack of organization that rubbed me the wrong way. The guy who was in charge of timing at this year's event, Kevin, began bending over backwards to figure something out for me.., to the point that he was willing to give me one of the elite half-marathoner bibs with a low number on it (11 specifically, which was my finishering place in 2009). Unfortunately, all these bibs had been inadvertantly given away by a race volunteer who thought the low numbers were supposed to be awarded on a first come, first served basis. So I was back to square one. Finally I was given an unused half marathon number: 6975. Better than nothing, right?
The next morning I ran into Kevin about 10 minutes prior to the race start and he said I could have an unclaimed bib number for the marathon. The only downside would be that it had the name 'Eric' printed on it. Awesome prequel to the race!
To the actual race:
Having just come off a solid 50-mile performance at Collegiate Peaks two weeks ago, I was extremely confident and optimistic that I might finally be able to break the sub-3 hour barrier. To be safe and not cut it too close, I was planning on a 6:47 mile pace which would put me in the 2:57 range. The variables beteween me and my goal were (1) I had never run more than 12 miles at this pace, (2) I was possibly not fully recovered from Collegiate Peaks, and (3) I've done virtually NO speedwork over the last few months since my primary focus has been on increasing my overall mileage in preparation for two more 100 milers this summer.
I expected to come out of the gate pretty fast for the first couple of miles and then settle into my 6:47 +/- pace, and not surprisingly, my first 3 miles were in the 6:20 range. My lungs were having a harder time keeping up than my legs so I decided to back it off just enough to get to a sustainable heartrate. This ended up being about a 6:30 pace for the next 6 miles or so.
After that point I arrived to the one sustained climb on the course (miles 9-13). Last year this section surprised me by being easier than anticipated... this year was the total opposite, though! Not only did my legs start to finally tell me they weren't used to the pace, but I began to have stomach issues. Without going into too much detail, let's just say I was on the verge of an 'accident' or two.
I surpisingly made it to the turnaround in 1:27.01 (a new PR) and guessed I was in 10th place at that point. Soon thereafter, I not only began gagging due to coughing so hard, but I got a side cramp for the first time ever during a race! The race now officially became a suffer-fest and I mentally conceded to just surviving to the finish. I truly stopped caring if I went sub-3 and figured it was going to be an epic collapse (JT-esque) after a strong start. Based on the level of pain I was feeling in my legs, feet (blisters), and stomach, I fully expected my pace to fall to close to 8 minute miles. This was reinforced when two more runners passed me. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my watch at miles 15, 16, and 17 and saw that each was still 6:47 or faster! Yeah, every stride was painful, but I was still hitting my goal pace! This breathed new life into me and after letting my mind crunch some quick numbers, I realized if I could just hang on to mile 20 before the wheels came off, I'd be able to still hit sub-3!
At mile 20 my time was 2:13.20. As long as I went a slightly under an 8 minute mile pace it was in the bag! Now any time I shaved would just be a bonus. Miles 21-24 averaged about 6:40 and it was about this time that I spotted what looked like two of the early leaders ahead of me! I was already pushing myself to high anaerobic range, but the thought of passing somebody (it had been a while) gave me extra motivation to push through the pain. Plus, I just reminded myself that if this was a 100-mile race, I wouldn't even be a quarter of the way through yet, so stop whining Brooks, and pass them! When I finally reeled them in with just about a mile and a half to go, one of them had a little extra kick and hung on my right side. I couldn't believe that I was running with such a fast guy (1:22 at the half) this late in the race and assumed he would have the kick to finish me off in the last mile. He began to do just that until the last aid station with just over a mile to go. He had about a 15 meter lead at that point, sucked down some water, and then surprisingly, lost his pace. I caught him, I passed him, and I left him!
Now with a only a half mile to go I look over my shoulder to see him charging and gaining ground on me, but also see another runner just a little bit ahead of us. In pushing to keep my pursuer from catching me we both overtook him with only about .2 miles to go! At that point I hear someone screaming my name and it turns out to be my good friend Katie (she was doing the half and the two courses intersect for the last 1/4 mile)! Then I hear Katie's mom and dad cheering for me! This was all the motivition I needed put on the afterburners and go into a full on sprint to the finish. When I crossed, I'd successfully put 9 seconds on the nearest runner.
After the obligatory vomitting in the finish chute in front of hundreds of people, the thrill of breaking 3 hours (a once unimaginable barrier) began sinking in! Just having a handful of familiar faces there shortly after made it even sweeter. My friend Justin Walker broke 3 hours by a few ticks, and another, Reuben Gregory, had his first Boston qualifier by running 3:09.xx!
Now that I've gotten the monkey off my back, it may be a while before I have the desire to do a road marathon again. For now the focus will be on the Jemez Mountain 50-miler next weekend, pacing Jon Teisher at the Bighorn 100, followed by pacing Andy Henshaw at Western States.
After that, the Hardrock 100 will be my main focus.... (gulp)!