I had a great race in Victoria on Sunday. It was not the sub-4:00 BQ that I was looking for, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am happy to have finished my third marathon. My time of 4:07:13 was within a minute of this same race in 2008 in what would turn out to be a very similar race experience for me.
How did it all happen? The first 30K proceeded as planned, with my split times pretty even throughout. I quickly settled into a nice and relaxed pace of 5:35-5:40/km, a pace that I hoped I would see as an average for the race. For most of first half of the marathon I felt great, maybe just a bit harder than a long training run. There were a few hills on the course, but nothing long enough to get me out of my desired heart rate zone for very long. I enjoyed the running, talking to a few people along the way that had similar goal times to mine, but ended up holding my own pace for most of it. At the half-way point I was still right on pace at 1:59:xx.
I did start to feel like the pace got harder after the half-way point, but I didn't worry too much; after all, it is supposed to feel tougher than a training run, right? But I wasn't sure. Would I be able to hold this? Just after the turnaround between 23 and 24K, I saw my friend Cheryl who was doing her first marathon. She looked strong and fluid, and I knew she was having a good race. She would pass me around 25K, just as I started to get some nasty calf-cramping. OW! I said out loud at one point? “Are you OK?” asked another runner. “Oh, I'm fine, I said. I'm just getting some calf-cramping.” “Change your pace,” he suggested. I tried to change it a bit, and that seemed to help, but I didn't want to fall off my 5:35-ish average on my watch. I kept thinking, just hold this as long as you can. “As long as I can” turned out to be about 35K, although I was already slowing a bit between 30 and 35K, hitting the splits at closer to 5:45-5:55 each time. My friend Rob passed me at one point and was looking great. He tried to pull me along mentally, but I was falling back in pace and energy.
By around the 37K mark I knew I was losing too much time that I would not be able to get back. The calf-cramping had subsided, but my body was not cooperating as I tried to regain my pace and stride. The wheels just simply fell off. It was the wall again, just as I had experienced it the last time on this course. It was very hard to keep pushing on at that point, but I did-- the course goes beautifully along the water here and there were still lots of spectators. One woman was cheering loudly and then said, "Wow, look at the smiles!" when I passed. Yes, I was still smiling- enjoying the experience, pain and all. I was enjoying participating in a great race and pushing my body to the limit, even if that limit had come earlier than I expected.
The last 5K brought us along a gorgeous stretch of waterfront and then right by our hotel along the point at around 40K. All I could manage was a painful run/walk shuffle, and I was jokingly thinking that it was a good thing I didn't have my hotel key card. In reality with less than a kilometre to go I knew I would jog it in over the finish line. My husband was there to cheer me in; my kids had missed me as they had walked back a bit, but saw me after the finishing chute. The clock said 4:08:04, and chip time was 4:07:13, so just a little slower than an almost identical race in 2008.
So the sub-4:00 Boston qualifier remains elusive, the goal is still there when I am ready to try this all again. I am not sure when that will be, but I will be planning and reassessing as I let my body recover in the next couple weeks. I will admit to some being somewhat disappointed, but not about the race itself; only that I overestimated my fitness improvement and misjudged how much more training I will need to break through the wall after the 30K mark.
Thanks again to everyone for their endless support and encouragement. There are too many of you to list here, but I was so impressed with the outpouring of comments here, on Facebook and elsewhere in the days before and after the race. Thanks especially to Pat, my coach and friend, and to my good friend Greg who has been with me on my journey since before my first marathon. I know you all will be with me as I continue to move forward.