Race weekend started with a fairly pleasant drive, including a stop for lunch, on Saturday. While the kiddo slept quietly in the backseat, I sent D off on a run on Acadia's carriage roads and headed for the marathon expo. I have to admit, I was a bit jealous that she was getting to enjoy a no pressure jaunt in arguably my favorite running destination. Sam eventually woke from her nap, and I hung out with Jamie for a short bit at the expo also chatting with Mindy, Pete and Tim and Bob Dion while Sam dragged my red bag schwag bag around...literally. Sam and I headed off to check into our hotel and do a diaper change, then back to pick up D and then back to the hotel to meet my parents, who were part of my amazing support crew. I snuck off for a drive of the course...to refresh my memory/confirm my fears, and then we all headed out dinner. It wasn't the most relaxing pre-race afternoon and evening, especially after Sam threw pizza all over me at the restaurant—"Sowwy, Daddo," but I did manage to get to bed around 9:30.
We stayed at the Bar Harbor Inn—only a two minute jog from the starting line—which worked out perfectly because as I went out to warm up it started raining. Since I was chock full of pre-race jitters, I needed to pee again, so I took it as a sign to shoot back to the room. This turned out to be a shrewd move as I was able to drop my warm up clothes, which were also my finish line clothes, since I wouldn't see D or my parents again before the start. I was cold and lamenting the rain as I went to the start line, but saying good mornings and good lucks to a number of folks, including Blaine, Jim, Tom Trytek and Peter Keeney to name a few, kept my mind off the conditions.
|Trail Monsters ready for the roads.|
|The start. Look at my shoes!|
Early in the second mile Jamie commented, "See most of those guys in front of us? We'll see them again later." Outwardly, I agreed with him, but I really doubted my ability to run this pace for the entire race. I even dropped back a bit a couple times, and each time, Jamie would motion for me to jump back on board. "Yes, sir!" In the early miles, we started chatting with two other runners, Ty and Anita, and we soon became a pack of four. The conversation was free flowing and often off color, but it was just what we all needed on this day. Well, I know I did anyway. It really was a fantastic vibe, and it totally took the pressure off. Even if the pace was too fast, I wasn't overly concerned because we were having so much fun.
I have no idea when it stopped raining, but it wasn't the prominent weather feature du jour. That honor went to the wind, and it was really blowing as we passed the Tarn just after the two-mile mark. The wind would continue to remind us of its presence from time to time in the early miles. No one wanted to really talk about it aside from a few groans here and there, but we all knew that it would be in our faces in the final miles.
|The "Uh-Oh" Moment at Seal Harbor|
Much like mile 7, I remembered feeling really bad during mile 11 in '08. I mentioned this out loud, and Jamie and Ty both agreed that they disliked this mile. I took comfort in the fact that no one else was feeling particularly frisky, and it bolstered my spirits a bit to the point that I felt pretty good again. Also, I was really looking forward to seeing my crew at around 11.25 for both the mental boost and a new bottle of Nuun, since I drained my first 10oz bottle by mile 9. I wasn't disappointed on either front as D executed a flawless hand-off and the crowd was pretty loud at this corner. I felt great coming through here and was excited to soon be at the halfway point.
|Team No Filter|
|Through the half marathon|
At some point around mile 14, which was a lackluster 7:17, two guys, Red & Gray Shirt Duo, motored by me. Jamie was a few seconds ahead, so I made a fateful decision to latch onto these guys and try to catch back up to him. This turned out to be a brilliant move. Within about a minute or so, I was back with Jamie, and Red & Gray Shirt Duo were just ahead. They had pulled me to a more respectable 7:05 for mile 15. I was stoked to be back in the picture, but I told Jamie, "I'm having a really hard time making the shift from running comfortably to working. This is starting to hurt." He replied, "It's all in your head." Those words were a giant turning point in my race. He flipped some kind of switch in me, and I was totally locked in.
R&G were a bit ahead of us now as we ran along Sargeant Drive, and I motioned to Jamie and pointed to them. In other words, "Let's stay with these guys." I tucked right in behind them, and they pulled me to a 6:45 mile 16. It certainly didn't feel like a 6:45. In fact, it felt easy. I thought, "Well, if I'm feeling this bad, but easily clicked off a 6:45...well...maybe...let's do this." I also hoped that Jamie would hop on board knowing that I wasn't feeling great, but he stayed a bit back. I just focused on R&G and stayed relaxed.
I made my next critical decision at around mile 17. I'd been downing the Nuun at a faster rate than I had anticipated and I only had a few sips left. I had planned to drop the handheld with D at mile 21, but I decided to take a gel right at 2:00, instead of 2:15 on my every 45 minutes schedule and drop the bottle with her at 17.5. I figured if things went bad and I needed another gel, which I was still carrying, I could grab water from an aid station. This was another great decision, as it felt great to run unencumbered for the final 9 miles. In fact, I didn't need another gel and bypassed all the water stops.
|Turning off Sargeant Dr. at 17.5. Looking bad, feeling good.|
Mile 21 is sneaky hard, and I slowed to 7:22. As I was rounding the corner to go through mile 20, a spectator yelled, "Up the hill and head for home!" Well, that's bullshit. You're not running home. You're running the hardest miles of the marathon, and at MDI, those miles happen to be some of the hardest of the entire race. (I would argue 3, 4 and 5 are harder than the final miles, but they're early, so no one is hurting there.) I distinctly remember passing one runner here, and I knew he was in for a rough final 5 miles. "Don't be that guy," I thought. I got another boost at the mile-21 mark, as D and my parents were there yelling. Of course, D's voice quivered she attempted to spur me on, "Go, honey!" I yelled back, "You don't sound very confident!" But, really, she confirmed what I already knew. I was hurting, I looked terrible, and I had some big hills ahead of me.
|Mile 22. Looking bad, feeling bad.|
I did managed to pass a couple guys before the "Top of the Hill" Restaurant just before the mile-25 mark, but I can't really recall the order of the events from these final miles. I do know that the wind was blowing in our faces, and I actually flipped it off with both hands at one point. After I did this, I felt instantly better, and I also thought, "If you can do that, there must be a little more there." It actually made me run faster. Contrary to popular thought, there are a couple short downhills in the "all uphill" section from mile 21 to 25, and these do nothing but destroy your quads that much more for the remaining climbs. Trust me, MDI is a fantastic race, but the final miles are just brutal. Among those, mile 24 is the worst. This mile was easily my slowest mile of the race: 7:56. I couldn't believe it when I saw that split. I felt like I had been pushing so hard and gotten so little in return. It was also at this point that my thoughts of a Boston Marathon qualifying time went out the window. I didn't arrive at the starting line with a goal of qualifying for Boston—even though the entire marathon world is obsessed with the concept—but my split at 20 miles, just under 2:24, gave me a glimmer of hope that I could get 3:10:00 or better. However, it was also at this split that I got the biggest boost of the entire race. Mindy and Pete jumped out of their car at this point to give me one final push homeward. Like I said, things are pretty hazy, but I remember Mindy running across the road and asking me some type of question to which I replied through my thousand-yard stare, "This hurts." She jumped behind me and yelled "GO!" for what seemed like 50 times. I was so confused—"Why is she yelling so much?"—I could do nothing but follow her orders. I was really somewhere else, but I started running faster. Only 2.2 miles to go...
I did remember one key landmark from Saturday's course drive, which was the backwards sign that signals the start of the final climb to the "Top of the Hill" Restaurant. I'd told myself on Saturday that this point marked the "put the hammer down" spot. I did the best I could and passed through 25 miles a few seconds after 3 hours. "Hmmm...maybe Boston is in play." From 2008, I knew that the downhill that starts just before mile 25 would be excruciatingly painful, and it didn't disappoint. I passed another runner here, even though I was really just trying to keep it together. Then, the final slight uphill and then "little bump" at mile 26...well, yeah...they're horrible. You'd barely notice these features on a easy training run, but they're indescribable at the end of this race. Cresting that little bump, though, you do get a slight downhill to the finish. It was here that I spotted the clock, 3:09:56...57...58... It was at this point that I passed D who was screaming wildly. I pointed at the clock, and said, "There goes Boston!" But, really, I didn't care. I pumped my fists and crossed the line in 3:10:11, 21st place.
|Finishing it up.|
Some point that evening, D asked me, "Are you going to be upset about those 11 seconds?" I'm not at all—for the reasons she was asking. Again, I never went into this race with a goal of qualifying for Boston, and I stick to what I said to Jamie post-race: I'm glad I don't have the pressure of having to run Boston in 2013. Honestly, I think it's a little sad that so many people measure and limit themselves by a marathon time that a group of guys with calculators in a board room have determined is what I need to enter their race. I'm a little upset about those 12, not 11, seconds because it would be awesome to have dropped my PR to 3:09:59. But, honestly, I gave it all I had on a really hard marathon course. Could I have found a half second per mile? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it was an awesome day, and I'm really proud of my 3:10:11. Really proud, and despite what the BAA says, I think I should be.
|You mean I have to stand up now?|
|Trail Monsters in their natural habitat.|
|My crew at Sand Beach.|