Some of you read my race reports and wonder why I get disappointed with 3:13s, 3:18s and 3:21s. It’s because I know I’m capable of more, as I did today. I’ve been working for a while to shake some rust off, and for the first time in about nine months, I’m happy with the direction I’m going.
I headed into Carlsbad today feeling pretty fresh after running a 3:13:56 last Sunday in the Arizona Rock ‘N Roll Marathon. At the time, I was pretty happy with how I ran, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with my fitness. I really want to run consistently better than 3:10, and the reason is twofold. First, I feel like I’m capable of that. Also, I have a lot of you supportive of what I’m doing because it’s difficult, so I feel like I have a responsibility to bring y’all good times.
This was the fourth time I’ve run this course and it’s never been easy. The first time was when I was just getting going with running. It was just my fifth marathon and I ran a 3:54. The next two times I went 3:16 and 3:19, although I ran the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon the day before those two. Today, it had been an entire week since I had run a marathon, so I was fresh (relatively speaking). My legs felt great, although I didn’t know how heavy they’d be once I got going.
I got rolling and felt fairly good early on. I run by heart rate and do my best to get as much as I can out of my body. As has been the case in all of my marathons this year, I started out running in the very low 7:00s, but I wondered how long it would be until I faded.
Carlsbad is a series of rolling hills with one big uphill at about mile 9, and a screaming-fast downhill on the way back at about 11. I’m a little weak on the uphills right now, and rather than break the bank, I keep it conservative. I’m getting quite a bit out of downhills, though. I ran my own race and tried to take care of myself as well as I could. I really hoped I had 3:10 in me today, and I stayed ahead of the 3:10 group until the big uphill at 9.
They passed me up and gained about a minute on me, but on the way back down, I passed them back up and for the first time this year, I really felt like I had some of the speed and power back in my stride that I’ve been missing. I felt good and I felt fast. I kept cruising and at about 14, a woman named Julie Brekke pulled up alongside me and told me she liked my pace and wanted me to pace her.
I told her we were cruising along at about a 3:07 pace, but I thought I might fade later so she was at her own risk. She laughed and told me she wasn’t worried and we kept rolling. We chatted for a little while and she was super nice. She was also CRUISING. She entered the race with a PR of only 3:17, but she was knocking off miles at right around 7:00 like nothing.
I never felt the fade that I’ve been feeling lately. I think part of that had to do with a switch-up in my race morning fueling, which included UltraFuel at the suggestion of a running friend of mine, John Hill. He’s a sub-2:40 guy, so I figured I ought to give it a shot at least once. I never felt like I was going to fade and I never felt much more pain than the typical fatigue I get during a marathon. Safe to say, it’ll be UltraFuel again next week in Miami.
As I got up towards around 20, I knew I was in store for a good day. I was moving well, feeling great and in a zone. I don’t have all the speed I did, but I can tell I have a lot of it back. I guess 26.2 miles at marathon pace every Sunday will get you in shape?
Me after the race. Yes, that’s blood. No, don’t ask.
Anyways, Julie stayed strong the whole way and I started telling her that she was going to crush her PR. It was a no-brainer. She was moving way too well and she said she was feeling pretty well. I could tell she was money because she was killing me on the uphills. I can start narrowing down what my time is going to be when we get into the 20s and I knew we were looking at about a 3:07-3:08, maybe a 3:06 if we really turned and burned at the end.
I told her I wanted to try to push at 24, but I had nothing. I was able to keep rolling, but I couldn’t step it up. I tried again at 25, and I still had nothing. I was able to find a tiny little something at about 25.5 and finished hard. My final time was 3:07:21, my fastest of Operation Jack so far by 6:35, good for 27th overall. Julie went 3:07:28, good for 6th woman overall and 2nd in her age group. Oh, and a 10-minute PR!
I saw a great friend of mine right there at the finish. He had a great day, too, lowering his 1/2 marathon PR from 1:39 to 1:34. He was fired up that I finally put it together this year and ran a good race and gave me a big hug. I continued the hug-fest and gave Julie a hug. She really nailed her race, as did I, and we spent about half of the race together. Things like that warrant a hug!
All-in-all, I’d call it a great day. I’ll savor it for about four days and then start thinking about Miami!