After about a month of struggling in my marathons, I finally executed a plan well Saturday in the Seattle Rock ‘N Roll Marathon. Despite treating it as somewhat of a training run, I finished with my eighth-fastest time of the year and regained some confidence I’ve lost.
I went into the race with one primary goal, to run consistent miles in the first half and reach the midway point at as close to 1:35:00 as possible. I’m running the first half of the Missoula Marathon in two weeks as the 3:10 pacer, so I’ll need to run the first half in 1:35 flat with consistent miles. That’s not something I don’t have the ability to do, but it’s something I could mess up on if I’m not careful, and I don’t want to do that. When I’m pacing somebody else’s race, I take that seriously. If I wreck my own day, so be it. But I don’t want to wreck somebody else’s day, especially when they’ve trained hard and paid good money to go out and try to qualify for Boston.
1:35 doesn’t faze me, because I’m frequently ahead of that. But last week, in my first race after agreeing to this pacing role, I had a nice blow-up and went 1:37 for the first 13.1. So my goal for this race was to run the first half like I was the 3:10 pacer. I wanted even splits and I wanted to hit 13.1 somewhere between 1:34:40 and 1:35:00.
I’ve paced three times before and done well, but at slower speeds — 3:30 and 3:40, which are pretty easy for me to maintain the right pace. But what I had to Saturday was a little more difficult. I had to give a little bit on the uphills and take a little on the downhills instead of keeping a pace like a metronome. I don’t have the ability to do much more than that, but I know that if I run that way in Missoula, the people running with me will be running within their ability (if they have 3:10 ability), so I won’t be harming them.
3:10 pace is 7:15, so I figured I’d aim to lock in at around 7:13 to make up for the tangents. I stayed under control early and had no problems. I ran consistently, got into a groove for the right effort and began to go with my strategy of giving a little on the uphills and taking on the downhills.
I was on target at mile 8 and remember I put a lot of pressure on myself — I told myself that my next 5.1 miles were make-or-break, essentially worth about $100 for the charity. If I stayed on track and hit the half correctly, I’d know I can do this. But if I failed, I wouldn’t have the confidence I needed. If I don’t pace, I don’t get a comped entry.
I kept going, knocking out miles 9 and 10 without any problem. But right after that, we went into a tunnel that must have been well more than mile long. In there, I lost satellite reception and had to guess my pace. We came out at about 12.5 and I thought I was on target. When the satellite kicked back in and added the distance, I was still at my 7:13 pace. But the mile markers seemed off, which was the case a few times in the race.
I was a little unsure where 13.1 was. I thought I reached it right between 1:34:40 and 1:35:20. But I think I crossed the “official” 13.1 mat somewhere in the mid-1:36s. I wasn’t concerned, though, because I aimed to run in a specific way at a specific pace and I hit my target exactly the way I wanted to.
My plan going in was to hold a steady effort for as long as possible and give it a go at mile 20. It looked like there was a long gradual uphill in the several miles preceding 20, but there was a pretty quick finish. Heading into the race, I thought if I was really able to power the last 10K, I thought a 3:08 or 3:09 was possible. If I stayed strong I kept it on cruise control but didn’t have much kick, I was looking at a 3:10 or 3:11. I really expected a 3:12 and really didn’t want anything slower than a 3:15, because that would have been a collapse.
I stayed strong after the half, not really picking up, but I maintained and felt strong. I moved pretty well up the inclines on the way to 20, although I didn’t have a big answer on the declines. There was a climb we peaked at about 19, so once I crested, I decided to give it a go. I didn’t have a ton, but the wheels were turning pretty good for that stage of the race.
With six miles to go, I needed to average 7:00s or so to go sub-3:10 and every 10 seconds more per mile would have been a minute above 3:10. I went 6:45 and then 7:08, but started to fall apart there. I slowed about 30 seconds a mile at 23 and saw my time slipping away. I knew 3:10 was gone and it would be either a 3:11 or a 3:12. The mile between 24 and 25 was about 1/10 short on the course, so I was sure how long the course would go, and I knew that would make all the difference. I went with all I had, trying to get that 3:11, but the 25 marker was short and I didn’t have enough to get there.
I don’t know what my official time was, but I went 3:12:20 on my Garmin. I’ll totally take it. I think I was about 90-100 seconds slower on the second half, which put my first half at somewhere around 1:35:20 and 1:35:25. Not good enough, but I’ll perfect it next week.
As for the race, I’ll give credit when credit is due. I expected to be disappointed, because I always am with the Rock ‘N Roll race series. But I thought they pulled off a good event. The course itself was pretty nice, running through neighborhoods, forested parks, along the water, across bridges, through tunnels, past a shipyard and into the downtown area. There was a little bit of everything, and it was a nice view of a nice city. A few too many out-and-backs to make the distance, but it was still a good course and they put on a good race.
So, I’ll call it a good day, which is nice, because I haven’t had many of those lately. But mission accomplished … another race in the books for Operation Jack. 31 down, 29 to go.
Me and my friend Ryan Gillia after the race. You think I’m nuts? He ran a 100-miler two weeks ago!