This morning, I awoke in a way that has never happened the day after a marathon -- pain free. Normally, I'm unbelievably stiff for a few days after 26.2 miles. I hobble around the office like Frankenstein, barely able to bend my knees or adjust my stride for fear of muscle spasms and cramps. But this morning, for whatever reason, I felt fine. I've got a little soreness, but no more than a typical long or a particularly fast short run. I can't really explain it, other than maybe my body is (finally) adjusting to longer distances. This is a good thing. Especially if I plan to continue my journey toward greater endurance endeavors.
So... let's talk about the race. I hadn't slept too well the night before. I had been cold and restless all night. Adding to the discomfort, my throat was a little sore, and my nose was running. Oh, and I also had a slight headache. Ugh.
It seemed I had just fallen into a decent state of unconciousness when the alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. Not surpisingly, I woke up cranky. I wanted to stay in bed. No choice, I had a race to run. So I relunctantly dragged myself out of bed and took a hot shower, hoping the warmth would help. It did, but only a little. I choked down a Clif Bar and a glass of milk, loaded up my bag, and got dressed for the run.
J-Ball showed up at 6:30 a.m., and we (Nell, J-Ball, and I) were en route to the American Airlines center. We avoided most of the exiting traffic by meandering through the streets of downtown Dallas. Whether this actually saved us any time is uncertain. But we were able to find a parking space on the street about three blocks from the finish line.
Originally, I had planned to catch up with Runner Susan and Just 1 2 Finish before the race to meet them and maybe snap a photo. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to plug Runner Susan's telephone number into my cell phone. Alas. It was probably for the best, though, as we had about 30 minutes until the race start.
While J-Ball made some phone calls, Nell and I made our way to the AA Center and hit the restrooms one last time before the run. By the time we were through the line and back outside, the race announcer informed us that we had 5 minutes until the start. Perfect.
J-Ball met back up with us, the gun sounded, and 2 minutes later we were crossing the starting line. I felt the start was more crowded than the Marine Corps start. And--here's a quick rant--I get very annoyed by two things at a race:
(1) Huge groups of runners running side by side so that there is absolutely no way you can get around or through them. I understand if you want to run with your friends. That's fine. But don't block the entire roadway. Run in a group, not a wall.
(2) Runners with headphones jacked up so loud that they can't hear anything around them. It's fine if you want to listen to your music when you run. What's not cool is blasting the tunes at a level where you are completely oblivious to everything else around you.
Okay, back to the race report.
Nell was running the first leg of the relay (along with her team, which consisted of my dad, Shana, M., and E.), and her goal was to keep up with J-Ball and me. We were running about 9:00 per mile, maybe a little faster. Nell did great! She stayed with us through the first 6 miles like champ.
After Nell handed off the "baton" to my dad, J-Ball and I continued on, running somewhat together. By that I mean we had agreed to each run our own race, and if our paces lined up, that was cool. But we weren't purposefully trying to stay together, and there were no obligations to do so. Most of the time J-Ball was a few paces in front of me, although for a few miles before entering White Rock lake, he soared ahead and out of sight.
As with Marine Corps, my goal was to run steady and strong, but to never feel like I was pushing it. I kept general tabs on my pace but wasn't wearing a watch. I felt pretty good, but my right hip kept bugging me. Not enough to slow me down, but enough to cause minor concern. Thankfully, it never became an issue.
J-Ball started fading after the park and around the Dolly Parton hills. About mile 21, he told me he needed to back off the pace and encouraged me to go ahead. I bid him farewell and wished him luck.
Around the same time, I started matching pace with a guy wearing an A&M shirt. I had on my Texas Longhorn gear. This combination of in-state collegiate running rivals spurred the neighborhood crowds to cheer us on with greater enthusiasm. We traded off the lead several times for the next few miles, until he surged ahead around mile 23. (I later passed him about halfway through mile 24 and beat him to finish line. Go Horns!)
The next couple of miles were standard. Keep moving, keep your pace, you're close but not quite close enough to start getting excited. And then I hit mile 25 and was informed of the gun time. It had been 3 hours, 52 minutes, 49 seconds since the official start. I knew I would make it under 4 hours with my chip, but I suddenly wanted to cross the finish line with the race clock still showing 3 hours. So I started to pick it up. Much to my surprise--and delight--I was able to move. Really move. I ran that last mile in 6 minutes, 43 seconds. Holy crap. That's fast. I crossed the finish line at 3:59:26. Later, I checked my chip time and discovered I had run the race in 3:57:00, or 9:02 per mile. A new PR.
After I picking up my finisher's medal and t-shirt, I waited for J-Ball to come through. While standing there, I glanced to my right and noticed a guy who looked vaguely familiar. "Hey," I asked, "you wouldn't happen to be 'Just 1 2 Finish,' would you?" The guy smiled, "Yeah." I introduced myself and asked him how his race went. He had met his goal and run under 4 hours. "Congrats, buddy." "Thanks." Small world.
Pictures to come....