So, I was thinking that maybe I'll need to change the title of the blog. 3:15 to Boston? Same ring? Maybe not, but whatever. Either way, I went to Vegas to get my ticket to Boston and I got it. Sure, I have to wait until 2010 so that I'll be 35 but that's a minor detail....the time from Vegas will still be valid and I'm going to go.
For those of you following along, the score is clearly Beth 1, FatDad 0 in the '1st annual Vegas Online Smack Talk and Marathon Challenge'. There was some chatter about the loser of the challenge needing to dress up like a Vegas celebrity however, someone was a little too enthusiastic in their post race brunch celebrations and missed the opportunity. 'Celine's' time has passed. Too bad...
First off, for those of you who may be considering travelling to Vegas to race, know that Las Vegas and marathoning are an awkward couple. It is really, really tough to keep your mind on why you're there. I can understand now why there are so many Olympic athletes who fall short of their potential at the games because of all the distractions. Who wants to be sitting in their room eating pretzels when they could be strolling the gardens of the Bellagio? Or drinking Miller lites in the sports book. Or eating cheesecake when you should be in bed sleeping. Hypothetically.
That said, the course was flat and fast and running down the strip is pretty cool.
Race morning, up at 4AM, meet up with Brian and we head to the lobby to grab a pre race coffee. Share a cab with another racer heading out to the start line at Mandalay Bay. Get possibly the angriest cabbie in Las Vegas. I'd say that 5 of the first 10 words out his mouth were f-bombs. Tells us he's been in Vegas for 17 months and working as a cabbie for 14 months and he hates it more every day. Tells us he hates the race and the road closures. I guess he figured that spandex, short-shorts and visors were our 'going out' clothes. Yikes.
Ran into Beth at the start line but she took off to the seeded runners corral. It was my first blogger friend meeting! The interweb is crazy. My Garmin wouldnt turn on, which sent me into a very minor, brief panic. Gunner gave me his and talked me off the ledge. Brian was running the half and was hanging back in the crowd at the start. I started between a chatty Mexican guy who was looking for a 3:20 Boston time and a stoic Irishman who had run a 3:05 in the past and was here to see the sights and shooting for 3:30. Gun went off, fireworks popped and I settled in running alone.
Ran on pace for the first 4 miles and caught up with Beth and Filipe. Ran with them until about mile 9 and by then we had gathered up a pretty good little pack of about 6-7 runners with Beth pulling off the front. I started to have some small issues with my stomach and getting food down almost right after I ate the first gel about 40 minutes in, and by mile 9 I needed to make a bathroom stop. That was the last time I saw Beth.
Ran through the next couple miles with weird stomach cramps and bad burps. Nothing too serious but it was putting a damper on my ability to get fluids and food down. Didn't take much in at all between 9 miles and halfway. Hit the halfway point right on time but I was feeling pretty beat up.
Somewhere in the next mile/mile and a half I can remember catching myself doing the math and trying to figure out how slowly I could run the rest of the race and still finish under 3:15. That's when I knew 3:10 was gone. To say that I made a decision to slow down wouldn't be quite right but it was something like that. More like I accepted a lesser goal for a smaller amount of suffering. I was worried that this exact thing might happen going in to the race. I feared that because I knew that 3:15 would get me where I would wanted to go that I would take the 'good enough' option when things started to hurt rather than digging deep and going for it. I'd even made sure that none of my friends and family knew that 3:15 would get me to Boston so that none of them would say "Well, if you don't run 3:10, 3:15 will be just as good!".
Turns out it didn't matter. I knew that 3:15 was fast enough and so that was my new goal, for better or worse. I settled in, pushed as hard as I could on that day and started gathering the pack that had ran away from me when I stopped to use the bathroom. I'm pretty sure I caught them all but one.
I had slowed down and stopped eating and my stomach was feeling better. I caught Felipe at about mile 20 and had a second wind that lasted until about mile 24. Somewhere around mile 21 I ran up along side a grey haired guy who asked me "What are we holding here, 8:00?" My watch said 7:10. I told him the pace and he said, "C'mon, let's pull each other" but I let him run off. It wasn't until I told that story later in the day that I realized how hilarious that man's homoerotic suggestion was.
The last few miles the half and full course overlap and whole road was filled with walking half marathoners. I could see about 4 guys ahead of me running the full, and about 3000 people walking the half. That was mentally tough! The walkers looked so happy, strolling and chatting, eating. I just wanted to find a friendly looking group and join them! But, of course, I didn't. I ground out the last couple miles, turned the corner and saw the time clock about 150 meters ahead of me: 3:15:31. For those of you unfamiliar with the Boston Athletic Association's qualifying standards: I had until 3:15:59 to cover those last 150 meters. Ordinarily, not an issue. At the end of a marathon it's a different story. I took off in what I considered to be a 'sprint' and covered the last bit of ground in time to see the clock read 3:15:57. That's what I call perfect pacing! I'll try and post a funny video here later that Jamie captured of that finishing chute 'sprint'. Um, I'm pretty sure that when you sprint your feet are supposed to leave the ground. It felt fast, honest....haha.
So, bittersweet results in Vegas. Happy to have earned my trip to Boston, a little disappointed that I quit on myself. Overall though, after having some time to reflect, I'm happy with how things turned out. I took 20 minutes off my previous best time on 5 months of hard training less than a year after I finally quit smoking, and finished 138th overall out of about 4000. I'm OK with that. There will be other races where I can prove to myself that I'm able to push it to the limit.
Gunner's talked me into doing some Xterra this year. He tells me swim training starts next week. That should be interesting....
2 hours ago