When I ran the Grandma's Marathon last June and experienced the smack-down she gave me and resultant Personal Worst time, I had pretty much decided that I didn't really like marathons that much and would stick mostly to ultras. Then I ran the PF Chang's Rock N Roll Arizona Marathon for the second time on Sunday. Now I may like marathons again.
I arrived in Phoenix on Thursday, within 15 minutes of my brother and sister-in-law and at the next gate. They rented a car and we were on our way to Casa Mom and Dad for a nice visit. We spent the days leading up to the marathon visiting, celebrating our Mom's 84th birthday, carbo-loading, playing cards (for nickels), driving to Tucson to visit my favorite aunty and celebrating her birthday, and relaxing. We also took in the race expo and heard Dean Karnazes speak.
Race morning arrived with perfect weather, the temperature at the start was right around 50 degrees. The three of us (brother, sister-in-law, and me) got ourselves ready. I needed to make one last porta-pottie stop. The lines near the start corral were very long, so I backtracked to some where the lines weren't nearly as long. As a result, I didn't get to my corral until shortly before the start. I had hoped to run into Sole Mama (she ran 14 miles from her house to the start, THEN ran the marathon for a total of 40 miles, take THAT Dean Karnazes!) at the start, but my late arrival in the corral didn't give me enough time to look for her.
My training the last couple of months had me thinking of this as more of a training run, my long runs had been terrible with lots of walking breaks, my tempo runs were anemic, and when I looked back at my training for last year's race, I saw that my long runs were at a pace 20-30 seconds per mile slower than last year. If there had been a 5:30 pacer, I would have run with that group, but the choices were only 5:00 and 6:00, so I decided to run at my own pace.
Running at the slower pace and without my tunes (my armband thingy broke the day before) I was able to chat with folks here and there, do a little eavesdropping on others, and spot the many Vikings fans lining the course. I talked a bit with two Team In Training gals from Minnesota about the hot Grandma's marathon last year, met one guy running his 50th + marathon with a titanium hip, offered words of encouragement to several Marathon Maniacs on the course, and followed a guy in an outrageous orange outfit and hat that stopped to dance with every band on the course. I had followed him for several miles last year, so I pulled up next to him and we talked for a while. One couple had me laughing to myself, seeing the 11 mile sign, they told each other that they were halfway there. I didn't have the heart to tell them otherwise! At the six mile point on the course, a gal that I've known for over 10 years, but never met in person had a cheering section set up just for me. She had a huge sign with my name on it, and had several of her friends there to cheer me on. Apparently she had set up smaller signs along the way several blocks before in a kind of Burma Shave style, but I missed seeing those. It was great to finally meet her in person, even though it was only for about 10 seconds. At the 22 mile point I had another cheering section, my mom and dad were out there and this year my mind was clear and I could appreciate them being there. I even "made" my 84 year old mom run with me. I was expecting her to do maybe a brisk walk with me, but she broke out into an actual jog! We need to find her a 5K to enter that has age group medals, she would smoke the competition!
Now for the numbers, I'm going to list this years times compared to last years. You'll see that I started out much slower, and that worked out very well for me.
First 5 miles: Last year 55:40 This year 58:05
Miles 5 - 10: Last year 55:16 This year 58:11
Miles 10 - 15: Last year 55:09 This year 58:20
Miles 15 -20: Last year 58:23 This year 58:18
Miles 20 - 25: Last year 59:11 This year 55:05!
Last 1.2: Last year 14:44 This year 11:25!
As you can see, I started much slower than I did last year, and instead of fading after mile 15, I kept a constant pace all the way to mile 22 where I then put the hammer down (and boy was that fun, not only did I start running faster, I started high-fiving the cheerleaders and volunteers). My pace for for the first 22 miles was consistently between 11:30 and 11:45. I was thinking I would finish right around 5:05. Then I picked up the pace. The 23rd mile was 10:58 and I was feeling good, so I kept it there. The 24th mile was 10:50. I'm still feeling amazingly good, so I picked it up again. Mile 25 was 10:25! Halfway into mile 25, my brother met up with me. I told him I was feeling unbelievably great. He then told me that the 5:00 pacer was just ahead of me and asked if I was going to catch him. I looked at my watch and realized that I was too close to five hours not to go for it. Crap! Just past the 25 mile mark, I kicked it up another notch. My brother cautioned me not to start my final kick too early, I still had a long mile to go. We passed the final water station and I decided to try drinking from a cup while running. (I always slow to a walk at the water stations) I was half successful. I managed half a swallow of water, didn't snort any up my nose, and only got half a cupful in my shoe. I'm still feeling great, but about a half mile from the finish, I'm thinking that maybe my brother was right with his cautionary words. Thank goodness for sibling rivalry. There was no way I was going to slow down now. I ran the last 1.2 miles at a 9:15 pace! You have to understand, the fastest mile I've ever run when just running one measly mile was 8:48 and here I am running the last mile of a marathon almost that fast. I did approach the puke threshold and reached a new max heart rate, but I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with my brother, a smile on my face, and hands raised in victory rather than surrender.
Final time 4:59:24. A negative split by about 4 minutes.
I still like ultras better, but I no longer dread the marathon.
Oh, before I forget, some charts for the math and chart geeks out there. These charts show pace versus average pace. The first one is from the Grandma's Marathon Massacre, and the second one is from the victory in Arizona.