Sunday started cold and wet, about 43 degrees and raining as I left the house. The forecast was for the rain to stop by 7, then get colder for a couple hours (down to 38) then come back up to 43 or so. With that in mind, my wardrobe consisted of 2 technical shirts, my standard yellow vest and shorts. I also strapped on my new waist pack I got yesterday and my racing flats (which feel like they’re 1/2 the weight of my regular shoes). A lot of Powerglide and Vaseline, with my Injinji socks rounded me out. Ipod with Nike+ was my timer, sans headphones.
I took Marta down, catching a train about 6:15. It was absolutely packed with other runners and I had a good time socializing a bit. I was sitting with a bunch of gals doing the half, then one of them noticed my bib number was a different color, and was very thrilled that I was doing the full. She nudged her boyfriend and said “Hey, he’s doing the full” in reverent tones. I thought it was kinda funny, but hey, that’s cool.
Getting off the train a guy started talking to me who was doing the half. He asked a bunch of questions about training for the full and how does someone who’s uh, on the bigger side, do it. He was also well built, about 10 pounds less but a couple inches taller. After talking the whole way to the starting area, he was pretty motivated to give it a go. Good luck buddy. Again, I chuckled that here I was, being the role model as a runner.
We showed up a couple minutes before the start, as they were singing the nation anthem. I ran off to try to find the bag drop, hit a puddle that soaked my shoes, and ran probably 1/2 miles looking for it. Finally managed to find it, and got back to the crowd waiting to start just as the gun started. It took about 10 minutes to make it to the starting line, and we were off.
My plan was to take it really easy until the crowd broke up, then continue taking it easy. I’d do some preemptive walking when my legs started to tighten up in an effort to prevent it from getting bad. I’ve been training around a 11:45 pace, and would be happy to hold that for the first half.
The first few miles were a gentle downhill, and I thought I was on track. There was a guy dressed as Superman who passed me. I felt good holding speed for the next couple miles too, even on the uphills. About mile 5, I looked up and was surprised to see I was with the 4:30 pacing group! Holy cow, guess I’ve been going faster than planned. Especially considering I continued at the same pace and passed them up, still feeling good.
The first 7 miles were a lot of fun as we hit a lot of interesting areas of the city and the halfer’s were with us so it was a huge crowd. We saw all the Martin Luther King stuff, and the crowds were out in force. In one area, Little Five Points I think, there was a bunch of kids out playing brass instruments. Okay, they kinda sucked, but it was really cool that they were out there. Coming up on the split, they were playing Jenny’s Girl (867-5309) over the PA, which scared me because I thought I was going to have that stuck in my head the rest of the way.
After the split, it was less crowded and the wind picked up. Ouch, it was a little cold…the wind would stay with us all the way through Decatur until around mile 12. At points, it was more than just a little cold. The crowds in Decatur were good, and we hit Agnes Scott College and the coeds did a great job cheering us further. They had a band rocking away and everyone was having a good time.
I hit the 13.1 mark right at 2:30. Way to go, I was on a 5 hour pace! I made my goal at this point to do sub-15 minute miles from here on out. This shouldn’t have been a problem, and I figured that will get me a 5:30-ish finish. (Yeah, I know the math doesn’t quite work out, but if I picked up 3 minutes a mile for 4 of the miles, it does.)
The next few miles were a blur. I was hurting a bit, but maintaining speed around 12 mpm. Around mile 17 I really started hurting. I felt the wall coming fast and furious. I’d been hydrating really well and taking a lot of gels, but it wasn’t really helping at this point . In fact, it felt like I had a huge ball of sugar just sitting in my stomach. Someone was handing out pretzels at one point, and a few of those helped soak some of that in.
Coming into Piedmont park (mile 22), I was struggling to run at all. I pretty much settled in to the mindset of walking the rest of the way and still meeting my goal. The 5:00 hour flew by at, which didn’t help. (I guess the 4:30 group passed me early and I missed them.) A guy whom I’d been pacing on and off with for that last five miles pulled a lead that I couldn’t catch up, and a woman caught up to me doing a serious power walk. We hung out for a couple miles, and her daughters came on course and walked with us for a while. They were funny as complaining teenagers because they couldn’t keep up with us! This made me feel better. I got the energy to start running a little bit on a downhill and took off.
The last thing of excitement was about 3/4 of an mile later after a uphill where I decided to run again on the downhill. Oh, it hurt so bad I yelled out. It motivated some kid running his first so he said “hey, I’ll run with you. Let’s go!” We motivated each other for a mile or two before my quads gave out. I had to pause to stretch, then eventually lost site of him. I think he was probably 5-10 minutes ahead of me to the finish.
The lady with the kids caught back up to me, I left her again, then she powered up for the last quarter mile and pulled ahead and finished just before me.
Whew! There I am. Chip time of 5:17, which beat my previous best by 22 minutes. Way to go!
Afterwards, as my tribute to Abebe Bikila’s first olympic win, I stretched and laid down on my back and waved my limbs around like crazy. Boy, it felt good.
EDIT (4/1/08): In case it wasn’t implied, I thought I should say it explicitly. Thank you very much to all the supporters out on the course. Hanging out in the cold is hard to do, but for the runners, it really does make a world of difference. Your ringing cowbells, offering food/drink, shouting and everything else helps make the magic happen.