The Carlsbad Marathon on January 27. The scenery was great; it's nice to run along the Pacific Ocean. The effort pattern for me was reverse the expected one; it was work early, with no rhythm. Then, around mile 17, it all fell together and miles 17-24 were marvelous, almost magical, they were so smooth. A five-minute negative split was sweet.
A Modest Level of Details:
Last fall, my nephew John invited me to consider escaping the cold of Indiana and run in shorts in January along the Pacific. It didn't take a lot of persuasion to get me to sign up. I enjoy being with John so much, his Mom, my sister, also lives in San Diego, we're all close and so the plan was set. While this is a blog about running, I'm happy to report the entire weekend was a treat for Gretchen and me to be with John, my sister and their spouses. Arriving on Thursday night and flying back on Tuesday allowed plenty of conversation and great time together.
John registered for the half-marathon, wanting to focus on a fast time on this flat, runnable road course. I signed up for the full because, well, because I'm just getting to a point where that's my favorite distance. John cleared out of work at 1pm Friday and the two of us headed to pick up our bibs and packets. Plus.
The "plus" flows from my quirky pattern of stashing bananas along a marathon course ahead of time. I do this for long training runs here at home too...my work associates found out about this and it's always good for a laugh. Scouting out the course on-line ahead of time, I observed this course was not only runnable but "stashable". Around mile 5, the marathon route turned away from the coast for an out and back inland, rejoining the coastal route at mile 14. Then we ran out to mile 17, then back along the coast. Wonderfully, we could go to one single area of the course and I could plunk bananas at mile 5, 14 and 21. Perfect.
The mile 5 banana was hidden in the bush in foreground by this Shell station.
The other two were similarly hidden along the course on Friday afternoon. I hoped they would stay put until Sunday morning. John and I then grabbed our favorite lunch of spinach salad at 4pm and headed back to be with the family.
Race morning reminded me, once more, how nice it is to have a local guide. Having run this race 5 times before, John has all the details nailed. We left his house at 5am, scored a perfect parking spot and had some time to relax before the 6:15am marathon start. The rain which pelted the windshield on the drive in let up just before the gun and we were off in the dark, mist and fog, California Dreamin' on Such a Winter's Day.
My recent marathons have had an expected pattern. The early miles go well, then focus kicks in and the last part requires effort. Carlsbad was a complete reversal, interestingly. I really struggled to find a rhythm. This didn't bother me early, as it is often mile 5 before I find the day's groove. But, The Mamas and Papas lyrics notwithstanding, today just wasn't groovy early.
I went through the mile 5 marker a full minute behind a 4:40 marathon pace. It was great to find my banana, perfectly preserved in the Shell station bush. Yet, while it brightened my mood (and made for a great joke for the folks standing there), it didn't really boost my pace; at mile 10, I was almost 3 minutes behind the 4:40 pace. At about that point, I kept my plan to bump my run/walk ratio from 4/1 to 5/1. We hit the turn around point on the inland trek and had more downhills. I went through the halfway point at 2:21:30.
The marathoners joined the half marathoners on the coastal highway at mile 14, my second banana perfectly placed and timed to charm. Yet, I still felt like it was work, the legs were still heavy, the race was not yet "flowing". And at mile 17, I had slipped over 4 minutes behind the 4:40 pace. I wondered just what was going on and why it was so sluggish.
We made a climb and the final U turn at mile 17. I had decided ahead of time to bump the cycle to run six minutes and walk one minute at that point. Did that make the difference? Or did everything finally just connect? I really don't know. But at the point where most marathons get tough, this one got easy. Miles 17-24 were the smoothest and most enjoyable I've ever had in a marathon.
I just let it flow and started running. The legs got lighter, I felt my posture become more vertical, getting my hips underneath my shoulders, I started smiling more. And running better. By mile 20, I only 3 minutes behind the 4:40 pace. I found my final banana at mile 21, posed for a photo with two other Marathon Maniacs and kept pounding the asphalt. At mile 23, I was 28 seconds behind a 4:40. I autographed a kid's T shirt (glad I have a short name), started singing along with my playlist and at mile 24, got under the 4:40 target pace for the first time all day. I turned off my beeper and decided to run the last 2.2 hard, just to see what would hold.
We came around a corner, back into Carlsbad. Still feeling good, I got into a mock sword fight with a "Pirate" at the last water stop full of Captain Jack Sparrow-themed characters and kept having fun.
I locked in and then ran as hard as I felt I could to the finish line. Mile 25 went by in 9:54, mile 26 in 10:01 and the finish came with me feeling good and smiling as you can see here.
Marathon #35 in the books, 4:37:23. I was astounded to see I had beat the elusive 4:40 time by two and a half minutes. I felt terrific at the end and was grateful to be able to run.
John was at the finish, having smoked his half marathon in 1:47. We quickly met up, chocolate milk in had. The recounting of our two races continued the rest of the weekend.
Later, the race results popped up and I was very pleased.
Seeing the pace steadily drop was very nice to see. It followed how I felt, from clunky to smoother. The race calculated out to another negative split as well...that is sweet in a full marathon.
As I've said before, the fascination with marathons rests in what I learn every time. The lesson from Carlsbad?? Trust your training, don't panic, keep plugging. You never know when the day will come together. And you get to enjoy some cake afterwards.
Man, it is so much fun and a such blessing to run. Simply to run.
And it's best to run with perseverance.