15 May 2010

My first 26.2

The music featured along the course was a huge incentive for me to undertake this marathon. Beautiful course, 25th edition, and music. There were something like 24 musical acts along the way. I don't know if some didn't show, or if I just missed them, or if I happened to hit certain acts during their breaks. I missed the bagpipes which I'm pretty sure were listed to be at the starting line. There was at the starting line a local singer with a "Star Spangled Banner" that wasn't too annoying. I've mentioned the Taiko drummers and the legendary/iconic grand piano at the mid-point. But every "act" was appreciated. There was a really fine junior high jazz band - we had (unkindly) wondered if a group like that was put on the course to help us want to move on! But they had a nice clean sound, played in tune, and actually swung a bit. Nice. There was another middle school band, a student string orchestra, a couple of rock bands. Solo synths, Irish flute, folk harps (who - cluelessly? - had out a busker's change bucket! Did they think runners were going to have change to drop in?). Another drumming outfit  near the end, and reggae. Somewhere along mile 24-25 was a small, very fine Gospel group, singing "At the Cross," so well I felt I got church. I nearly stopped to sing with them.

Todd had wanted a picture of the 4 of us with the piano. But as already noted, by then we were each running our own race. I enjoyed the piano as I continued the descent, after noting my 13.1 time of 2:00:12. It was time to get serious now, with Hurricane Point behind me, and enter the long stretch of rolling hills, alone.

Chris and I had tried to estimate when we would find each other along the course. We thought, given our expected paces, probably around mile 17. He started with the 21-milers, at mile 5, at 6:30. With the delayed marathon start, he'd probably be farther along than that. I started to look for him at mile 16, by which time I was making my way around other walkers. Mile 17. Mile 18, and still no Chris. It occurred to me that I could have missed him: aid lines, porta johns, carelessness on my part? By mile 19 I was pretty sure I'd missed him.  But I kept scanning the field of walkers ahead of me. Then, approaching the sign for Mile 20 ... There he was! Hugs, stories, and head shot; we walked through that aid station together before I resumed my pace. "Alone again, naturally."

I don't recall my timing at that point. 3 hours something, at mile 20. The markers along the route were part of the fun, and generally an obvious prompt to check my time. The delight in catching up with Chris made both the marker and my watch secondary and tertiary, I guess. Plus, once I left that aid station I was heading into my longest run ever.

On April 5 I did my longest training run, 21 miles.I had not done a double-digit run since April 10 (12 miles). Race week I did 3 very short efforts, totaling a disappointing 9 miles. Now I was in my test zone, approaching the dreaded "wall" at some unforeseen point just down the road. Would it be in this next mile? Next step? To this point the day had gone well, and I was feeling good, amply fueling and hydrating, and had only once poured water on my head. I was keeping to a 9-minute mile, pretty closely, pretty consistently. It would be what it would be. Maybe Rich and Adam would catch me? I kept an eye forward for Todd.Chris said he thought the 4-hour pace runner had passed just moments before we saw each other.C'est la vie. I was about to enter the longest run of my life and mentally I was gearing up just to finish.

Prior to mile 18 I had slowed to walk just long enough to drink without spilling. After getting Gatorade on me several times, I began to worry about bees! From mile 18 on I was committed to walking all the way through each remaining station. That may have been equal to "walk one minute per mile," but I didn't check it out. It was what it was, and it was necessary. Each station: water/Gatorade OR Gatorade/water. A couple of banana bites. There was another GU station. I began to drink one full water, and pour the second cup over my head. And so I managed from mile 21 to the end.

One foot in front of the other, and the pace kept pretty close to the 9-minute mile. Walk through the stations, keep the liquids coming. I abandoned the banana option after only 2 or 3. Enjoy the music and especially the scenery.

Soon we were entering developed areas, and real spectators were on corners and at curbs. Not many on the southern outskirts of Carmel, but the crowd element kicked in.

Mile 23: the Strawberry Lady, another BSIM legend.Even when I got there (and I know also, later) there were still lots of berries out: topped, cold, and wet. I only took 1, but oh my!

Beaches on the left, the 25-mile marker (angel of death holding the sign "the end is near") ... and the final hill. OK, it's not a big one, and we had fair notice from the course description and video.I was so thankful to know it was coming. While dreaded (how would I feel by this point?) it would have been disheartening to be surprised by it. And there was the crowd - "up and over! and it's all downhill!" Up, over, down, cross the river, and turn ...

There was the finish line. It choked me up. I was actually finishing a marathon! 9 months earlier it wasn't even a vague notion. And here I was finishing 26.2 of the most beautiful miles on a U.S. Highway, ending in a charming California coastal town. And now the street  is lined on both sides, 2 - 3 deep along the barriers. And the occasional shout of my name! This was an awe-inspiring, humbling moment. I choked back tears and cleared my throat. I'm sure I was grinning like an idiot! What a day! It started in the pre-dawn dark in the redwood forest, and ended in the glorious seaside sun in Carmel.

4 hours, 9 minutes and 32 seconds after my right foot hit the start line, it hit the finish line.

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