I was really looking forward to Sunday’s Orange County Marathon for a lot of reasons — my family would be there at the finish line, I felt fairly good physically, I ran the course fairly quickly last year and I didn’t have to travel. When all was said and done, it was more than I hoped it would be.
Out of my 60 races, the Orange County Marathon was without a doubt my biggest “home race” of the year. Most of my relatives and lots of my friends were running in the 5K or the half-marathon and it’s only about 15 minutes from home. A lot of people asked me what I was aiming for, and all I wanted to do was get as much out of my body and the course as I could. I went 3:11 on this course last year on a humid day when I fell apart a little bit, so I thought I had a legitimate chance at sub-3:10 if I ran hard and didn’t back down when I started to feel pain.
I remembered the first few miles being quick from last year, and I knew it was going to warm up, so I wasn’t thinking about even splits. The race started at around 60 degrees and ended probably in the low 70s. I was counting on banking time, trying to keep my heart rate at 170, and hanging on for whatever I could earn.
I jumped out pretty quickly, running the first few miles in the 6:30s or so. There was a spot early where I let my heart rate get too high last year and I think that hurt me, but I kept it in check today in the same spot. The early part of the course is pretty nice — it’s a run through a big-money town on the coast called Corona del Mar. I got to see a lot of houses I’ll never be able to afford!
My average pace started to gradually creep, but I wasn’t concerned because I was expecting it. The sun started peeking out, but it didn’t feel too warm. My sub-7 miles started turning into 7:10s or so and I wasn’t worried. I just kept on running. We ran by an area called Back Bay. It’s … a bay, kind of marshy. Late in that stretch, a friend of mine named Jeff Cate came up on me and we ran together for a bit. He entered the race with a 3:11 PR and sub-3 ability, but he’s struggled to put it all together in marathons. We were on about a 3:02 pace and he was looking strong. I told him to take off because I knew he had more in him than I did, so he left and I hoped not to see him again. I’ll get back to him later.
As has been the case a lot this year, I felt strong but I didn’t feel fast. I relied on that strength to carry me through and I was content with how I was doing. I could tell when I was with other runners that my turnover was slower, but I was getting pretty good power with my stride. I hit the half in 1:32, an improvement of about two minutes from last year on the same course.
I kept cruising and gradually slowing down. I was turning miles, I think, in about the 7:20 range. The second half of the course was pretty boring. I was running with a runner named Sabrina for a while. Her coach is Operation Jack coach John Loftus, a friend of mine. We had talked at the start line about her using me to block the wind if necessary (she’s short and petite; I’m 6-1, 200 pounds … I make a good shield). I worked hard to pull her along. We knew that she was the fourth-place woman and that second and third were within striking distance.
I was breaking down a little bit, but I really wanted to pull her forward. We were moving pretty good and I stayed stronger than I thought I could. It reminded me of the Carlsbad Marathon, when I worked with a runner named Julie Brekke. However, I pulled away a little bit by about mile 23.
I knew a 3:06 or 3:07 was in range, which I was pretty excited about, but I knew I was really going to have to push. A lot of mile 24 was across a dirt path and I didn’t move too well. I started to move at 24. Mentally, that’s when I feel that there’s not much left in the race.
I passed about six or seven people in the final two miles, including the second- and third-place women I was trying to pull Sabrina past. I made a mad charge over the last half mile or so, getting my heart rate as high as 184. I really wanted that 3:06. I finished in 3:06:32, my second-fastest time of the year and my seventh-fastest ever.
Over the last 1/10 mile, I saw my in-laws, my wife and kids, my brother and my parents. It’s nice having a local race! I saw John Loftus right afterwards. He’s been battling injury and went 2:50, a slow time for him. He told me that Jeff went 2:59 and change and I was really happy for Jeff. He TOTALLY deserved that sub-3! He’s trained really hard this year.
Tiffany participated in the 5K and pushed Jack in the jog stroller. My mother-in-law ran the 5K, as did my brother-in-law Andy and sister-in-law Jacqueline. My dad and stepmom ran the half marathon (their longest distance covered ever!) and went 2:53. We’d been talking a lot of smack about who would be faster. They beat me by 13 minutes, although they covered 13.1 fewer miles. My brother was also out there, although he’s been injured and he couldn’t run.
I had a bunch of friends out there, too. It was so nice to be on a course so close to home and see so many people I knew. I don’t normally see a lot of people when I’m out on the road, so I really appreciated everybody who was there supporting Operation Jack.
All-in-all, it was a great day. 23 down, 37 to go!
Me and Jeff after the race. Tiff didn’t notice my eyes were closed and we only snapped one picture. Oh well.
The Felsenfeld Five after the race. The shot came out terribly, but that’s the way it is with Jack’s autism. It’s difficult to get a good picture of him.
Me, my dad, my stepmom Nancy and my brother after the race.
My mother-in-law, wife, brother-in-law Andy and sister-in-law Jacqueline after their 5K. Nice shirts!
My mother-in-law and father-in-law. Nice shirts!
Jack getting ready for the 5K!
Ben and Ava waiting for me to finish.
With my friends Emil and Lori after the race. Lori went 3:24!