Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marathon Pacer Report

Bob Potts Marathon, York PA   Sunday May 15, 2011  6:30 am start

I was pacing for running friend Brenda, with whom I have run many hundreds of miles over a few yearss.  She was going for a 3:55, to exceed her BQ requirement by 5 minutes.  I thought if we averaged 9 minute miles to the turnaround at about halfway, we could make the goal with only a little increase in pace on the return trip.  We ran with Mike who hoped for sub 4 hours.  The day started overcast in the low 60's, with showers predicted.  It was quite humid and warmed up into the 70's.  Conditions proved troublesome for some, as a couple runners were taken to the hospital. 
The weekend was like a field trip for our run group. We had rooms at the same hotel, carpooled, went to dinner together. Six of us running, three there to support us, and a couple more showed up for the race.
For the start, we crowded near the front since there was no chip timing.  My watch showed 2 or 3 seconds as we crossed the start line.  We had trouble throughout with uneven pacing.  (Yep, that was supposed to be my job.) 
The race started on the streets of York and the first several blocks were downhill.  That combined with being up front meant we were going too fast.  We kept agreeing out loud that we were going too fast, but only gradually got close to our planned pace.  As we slowed we were constantly being passed by other runners. 
Still, I thought the pace was fairly comfortable and I enjoyed the run for the entire first half.  Lots of chatting, jokes, etc.  I was not carrying any drink or nutrition, depending on the aid stations, walking each one to get a cup or two.  (I would do that different next time and carry something.)  Brenda and Mike were each carrying their own nutrition items.  We saw our great crew at about mile 9.  I took some of my honey gel mix and a drink of water.  Thanks to Rose (my wife), Denise, Kristal! It was a real boost knowing you were there.  Nikki and Dagmar were there cheering too.   
We did some guessing of where we would see the leaders on the way back and the same thing for which mile Jill would appear.  She looked to be doing great when she came by.  Now and then I would refill a water bottle for Brenda at the tables in addition to getting my own drink.  One of these times was just before the turnaround and I was pushing a little to catch up to Brenda and Mike, so I was last in our little group to make the turn.  Volunteers handed out gels at the turnaround and I took one for later.
Now for the return trip where we would go a little faster.  I thought we should delay our pace increase since we had run some fast miles early and were something like 30 seconds ahead of plan.  Soon we saw Crystal and Anna looking relaxed and happy on their way to the turnaround.  Mike stayed with us through something like 15 miles.  In spite of saying we would not speed up, the pace picked up a lot for a couple miles.  I will blame it on a story from Boston that I told to Brenda.  Reliving the strong memory got me going faster.
We continued on, passing back through aid stations and coming to our crew again at mile 18.  Brenda decided to switch from her water belt to one with her coconut drink, so I ran ahead to get that for her and take care of my fuel/drink.  Denise had nice cold, wet washcloths ready that were so refreshing. 
Nikki began running with us there.  By then Brenda and I were working to keep pace and by mile 20 or so we were beginning to struggle/suffer.  It was great to have Nikki's help.  She was fresh emotionally and really chatty, while we were on the decline.  She took over caring for Brenda's water bottle and doing the talking/story telling.
Gradually we had to focus only on the current mile. Nikki did the encouraging/chatting, I tried to set the pace.
It seemed to me that Brenda was really suffering and I wondered if we could make the goal time.  I was hearing her breathing now even though we weren't going so fast.  I was hurting too.  I prayed we would somehow make it.  My watch had been acting up and I was doubting whether the pace display was correct.
We slowed for a couple miles and I insisted Brenda walk the aid station to drink and recover a little. By 3 or 4 miles to go, it seemed from the miles remaining and the clock-time that we still had a shot if somehow we could keep to 9 minute miles.  So we kept on, Brenda silent and with an expression of misery (though still running well), Nikki saying "you can do it!", and me in front pacing & listening to make sure they were keeping up.
Eventually we were into the last mile and just trying to stay on pace.  Then onto the road, up the hill to the track and a half lap to finish.  As we made the last turn, the clock showed we had about 30 seconds and we pushed to the line - with seconds to spare.  That we met Brenda's goal was more than I can take credit for, surely an answer to prayer.
Congrats to Brenda for running an impressive PR, getting her BQ, and age group award. 
She proved again what she is made of.  And it's more than just sugar and spice... 
Jill also achieved an impressive PR, getting a BQ by 10 minutes.  These ladies have given me reason to go for a faster BQ of my own so we can go to Boston for another group fieldtrip.

mile splits according to my watch. (after the middle of the race it was showing some paces I couldn't believe, so not sure how well these match Brenda's numbers)
8:14, 8:41, 8:54, 9:04, 9:13, 8:53, 8:59, 8:53, 8:46, 8:54, 8:48, 8:57, 8:54, 9:04, 8:32, 8:33, 9:06, 8:51, 9:19, 9:18, 8:33, 9:47, 9:25, 9:04, 9:09, 8:42, 8:50(0.26)
My new realization of marathoning: 15 happy miles, 5 or 6 miles of work, and the remainder is suffering.