I generally jump at the chance to run with family. No exception when two of my sisters down in Texas mentioned that they were running during the two-day New Years Double . And it was a great excuse to visit family over the holidays.
Training has been going well for the Rocky Raccoon 100 (Feb 2), and this double fit nicely into my training plan. Melanie and I planned to run the back-to-back marathons (she's training for the 50 at Rocky). Lisa, planned to do run the half-marathon on New Year's Day but had to back out on race day because of sickness.
I ran with Melanie at the New Year's Eve portion of the double last year. Since we were doing both this year, I planned to run hard on day 1 and then run with Melanie on day 2.
I've been feeling fit, so I thought I could post a pretty good time on day 1 as long as the weather was decent -- it can be pretty windy on this course.
New Year's Eve Marathon
Race GoalsA+ goal = sneak under my PR of 2:55:25; A goal = sub-3. B goal = under 3:10 C goal = fall back and run with Melanie
Temperatures were hovering in the upper 30's on race morning and it was raining steadily. The wind wasn't a factor though, so I went ahead with my plan to push it pretty good; I'd rather run in rain than wind.
Since there are a few loops and half-marathoners start at the same time as the marathoners, this year the race introduced bibs for the first corral to wear on their backs that say FULL or HALF so those who are racing can tell who they are racing against. Well, with all the rain that was falling, about three-quarters of the men in the first corral were wearing an extra layer over their race bibs at the start, so when the gun went off, I had no idea if the group of six or so ahead of me where full or half.
After the first loop, I knew I wasn't feeling quite up to a 2:50, so I set my pace a little under my PR mark with eyes on sneaking under that. It's a 4-loop route that is flatter than any pancake I've ever eaten. The course is certified, but, as I experienced last year, it tends to run long because of the massive amount of turns and all the weaving you have to do around and through 700 other runners. In other words, this course is particularly difficult to run the 'straight' line that it was measured out.
I hit the half-marathon mark a little under 1:27 and was feeling pretty good. As I expected, my Garmin was reading long. But it was reading longer than I anticipated (it was already a quarter-mile off at the halfway mark), so the overall pace reading was throwing me off more than I was planning. I knew to PR I had to keep my overall pace under 6:41. With a long course like this, I knew I had to bank a few extra seconds on my watch to make sure I still hit the mark.
It was still raining, and raining steadily. I was soaking all the way through. It reminded me of the non-stop rain in Scotland this summer.
I came up on Melanie around mile 18 or so and ran with her for about 20 seconds to see how she was doing. She told me, "Scott, I don't think there is anyone in front of you." The way the course is laid out, there's was no way with certainty that I could tell if those 6 or so guys who took off in front of me had finished at the halfway mark or were still running the full in front of me. I said, "Really? Are you sure? Cool." She asked how I was doing and I said, "Good. It's going to be close for a PR."
Starting my final lap there was still no clear indication that I was running up front. There were still hundreds of runners out there all mixed-up with each other on different laps. I couldn't tell who was behind me or how close they might be.
Since my Garmin was way off now - by over a half mile - I wasn't sure how far under 6:41 I needed to hold my overall pace reading. In retrospect, I could have calculated aid station splits instead of overall pace so I could have had fixed-point time goals instead of electronic ones -- but I'm just not concerned that much with my time. I was holding steady at 6:35 and though that should be enough wiggle room to sneak under my PR. When I hit the 10-mile sign on the course I knew I had exactly 5k to the finish line (since it the 10-mile sign was 3.1 from the half marathon finish). Some not-so-quick math in my head told me that I'd need to do a 19-min 5k to get under my PR, and I knew I didn't have it in my legs to drop my pace down to 6-min miles at that point. It would be close, but it wouldn't be a PR.
As I entered the finisher's chute the volunteers saw "FULL" on my bib and were yelling and waving at me to go through the lap chute instead. One of them yelled something like, "It will mess up your time!". It was kinda funny.
I passed through the finisher's chute - along with some of the slower half marathoners - in 2:57:07 and still didn't know if I was the first one through or not. They announced my name over the loudspeaker and gave me my finisher's medal, a banana, and an emergency blanket. It was still raining pretty good, and I was soaking wet, so I snuck into the finisher's tent and sat down for a few minutes to get off my feet. Still not sure if I actually won or not. :)
After a few minutes, I snuck over to Melanie's car and changed into some dry clothes and turned on the heater to warm up for about 30 minutes. When I was dry and warm I headed out to cheer Melanie on as she passed through for her final lap. Over the loudspeakers I heard, "If you think you placed in an age group, head over to the awards table to pick up your prize."
I walked over to the table and said to the lady there, "I think I may have won an award."
She looked up my name, reached into a box, then gave me two glasses wrapped in plastic.
"What's this for?" I asked.
She looked back down at her results sheets then back at me, "You won the marathon."
Wahoo! We all laughed afterward about how anti-climactic it was. It was really pretty funny (in a good way). Not quite the breaking-the-tape marathon win you imagine. But it was my first marathon win, which is pretty cool.
Running a double is hard. Especially after pushing it hard on the first day. My legs were tired and cranky. Melanie had trained hard for this. Even though she's also attempting her first 50-mile race next month, this double was her goal event. She nearly PR'd on day 1 just as I did, and was hoping for a strong showing on day 2.
There was no rain on day 2, but there was a cold wind blowing over the course. We bundled up in anticipation of slog of a day.
I asked Melanie if she wanted to jog from the parking lot to the starting area to try to loosen up our legs a little, but her legs were so tight she was having trouble walking. I told her not to worry; her training was strong and she just needed to get moving to loosen those legs up. We lined up in our corral and took of at a turtle's walk: Melanie couldn't run. She was immediately discouraged, and I could tell from the look on her face and the comments that she was making that she had serious doubts about continuing. But I assured her that it was just tightness, that after a couple miles her legs would loosen up. I reminded her that it wasn't suppose to be easy, that she knew day 2 was going to be super hard.
So we kept moving. Funny walk turned into funny jog. Then funny job started turning into slow run. Then, after a few miles, her legs loosened up and she was running like normal - tired, for sure, but looking normal.
It was awesome to be there to witness Melanie fighting through that wall. She experienced the 'mental' side of running that I so often talk about in my ultrarunning. We clicked the miles off one by one. Our second lap was a little faster than our first lap. The third faster than the second. Our final lap the fastest of the day. Melanie didn't hit her goal time for day 2, but I think she'd tell you that she accomplished much more than just another marathon finish.