Thought for the Day

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Desert Classic Marathon 2006

I have to get this race written up before I run another one, so here goes.
This was a small race. It has usually been small, with maybe a hundred runners, but last year there were a lot of organizational problems.
This year it was the same day as the Lost Dutchman Marathon on the other side of the Phoenix metropolitan area, which was much more promoted.
So there were only about fifty marathoners, and a little over 150 half marathoners, at the Desert Classic.
It was a nice morning in Surprise, just a little cold. I know many of you are more used to freezing temperatures than I am, so it might not have seemed that cold to you. But it was cold to me. I stayed in my car as long as I could.
I got to the start with just two minutes to go and started moving up through the pack toward the front. Then they delayed the start while trying to figure out a mixup that had happened with a few of the numbers and chips. The announcer kept calling out names of people they needed to come forward and show their numbers. This took about 10 minutes, and before the end of it, people were shivering and shouting to start.
It was just a little crowded in the first quarter mile, then I had room to go my own pace.
The course is uphill 350 feet to mile nine, then down 170 feet to the turnaround, then back up 170 feet to mile 17, and downhill, more or less, from there.
I had decided to stay close to my goal pace of 8 minutes per mile even on the hills. Chugging along at close to that pace near mile 5, a guy in a red singlet came along side me and asked what my goal was. I was in a long sleeved shirt and gloves, and was still cold. I told him I was trying to break 3:30, and he guessed that I was between 45 and 49 years old. He was, too.
I mentioned that we were in the same age group, and he said he didn't care about placing in his age group, just about getting 3:30. The runner just behind us said, "Me too."
I said we were going about the right pace, but within a few minutes, the guy in the red shirt pulled away. I figured he had decided to beat 3:30 by a lot instead of a little. The other guy ran with me for a while, but dropped away. I knew that I was a little under the pace, so I thought maybe he was smarter than me, running a more conservative pace going uphill.
Both of those guys looked like serious runners, lean, rhythmic, focused.
While I was running with those guys, another runner came up. He seemed to be chatting everyone up like he was just out for a morning stroll.
He was kind of broad around the middle with skinny legs. He did not look so much like a runner.
But he was moving along effortlessly, and quickly left me behind. Then a few miles later, he caught up with me from behind again.
I said, "You must have taken a potty break."
He said, "No, but that's a good idea." and went off into the bushes.
I reached mile 9 where Jen was waiting to help me get a blood sugar reading, but I couldn't get the test strip to work. I have had that happen a few times with this meter I've been using for the past month. Jen went to get another strip and said she would catch up to me.
He caught up with me again and ran my pace for a while and told me some stories about running in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
I kept wondering where Jen was. I thought she and Sue would come driving up any minute. Then I heard her voice behind us talking to the guy at the water stop we had just passed. She had run a very fast mile to catch us!
While I was finally getting a reading, the guy from Indiana left me behind behind right before the halfway point.
I had no blood sugar problems the whole race, but testing was a pain. We had planned to test again on the way back, but gave up on it after the first try didn't work.
I caught the guy in the red shirt around mile 17.
I said, "We're going to get this thing." and he said, "Yeah." but he wasn't keeping up with me.
I really thought it was possible for me to finish in 3:30 at that point, because I was only a little behind the required pace, and the rest of the race is mostly downhill. But it was like I described when I ran the 30K here a few weeks ago, it was like the earth had tilted in the other direction, and it was uphill both ways.
A young, energetic, guy came up from behind at near 19 miles and said, "Let's get that guy ahead of us."
Because it is just a long, straight road, you can see far ahead. The runner he was talking about was at least a quarter mile up there.
I said, "You get him and hold him for me."
It turns out that young guy finished in 3:29.
I finished in 3:34. I could have cut a minute or two off of that, but I really had no ambition to get extremely close to running my BQ time again. When I passed the 25 mile point and I could see I would have to run a 6 minute mile to reach my goal, I eased up. I would have kicked more if anyone had been near me, either in front or behind, but I was running alone at the finish, as I was most of the day.
The round guy with skinny legs from Indiana was third overall in 3:27.
The red shirt who went out fast and came back slower ran it in 3:53, and the other guy in my age group ran it 4:18.
So my 3:34:09 was worth 6th place overall and first in my age group. I don't do that in a marathon very often.
I found a lot to learn in this race. I hope you got something out of it.
One thing I've been thinking about is how far I've come. I want to thank the Roads Scholars for their support and help over the years. It wasn't that long ago I was happy to break four hours in a marathon. I am now quite certain I can break 3:30. I just have to be ready at the right race.

01 7:51 0:07:51
02 7:58 0:15:50
03 7:47 0:23:37
04 7:42 0:31:20
05 7:58 0:39:19
06 8:07 0:47:26
07 7:59 0:55:25
08 8:07 1:03:32
09 8:04 1:11:37
10 8:03 1:19:40
11 8:05 1:27:46
12 7:44 1:35:30
13 7:49 1:43:19
14 7:53 1:51:13
15 8:03 1:59:16
16 8:34 2:07:50
17 8:15 2:16:05
18 8:26 2:24:32
19 8:20 2:32:52
20 8:18 2:41:10
21 7:59 2:49:10
22 8:20 2:57:31
23 9:03 3:06:34
24 8:51 3:15:26
25 8:18 3:23:45
26 9:46 3:33:31
26.2 0:37 3:34:09

Garmin said 26.09