This was a day to remember. Good workouts, good rest, good health - and I had never run sub 2:46 here, but thought if I was ever going to, this was the day. I was up at 4:30 a.m., anxious to get ready for the race. I was excited and not at all nervous, but felt just a tiny bit of dread due to the pain I knew I was about to take on.
I caught the bus at 6:15, and sat with Susan Lokken. We chatted about fitness, readiness, goals, and expectations. We both wanted the Olympic Trials Qualifier, first and foremost. Anything else was icing on the cake. She had run in the low 2:40's here and was a multiple USATF Master's champion here.
The invited runners were dropped off at our holding ground - a church very close to the start line. I sat quietly with 100k Teammate Michael Wardian, and Strands friend, Mike Reneau. We stayed mellow, and at about 7:15, Wardian and I went out for a warm up. Everything felt great. Legs had energy and the temperature was cool, but not too cold. It was dry and calm. Eventually we all had to be out of the church, so I decided on my final attire - singlet with sleeves and gloves, but didn't need any other warm clothes.
I ran a number of strides, trying to keep the heart rate up for the start, and finally at 8:00, we were off! I knew what heart rate I could maintain for the duration (173) and hoped that the pace would fall in line with a sub-2:46. Many women went out ahead of me, but I stayed calm, my legs feeling a bit of a shock after standing at the start line for a couple of minutes.
Mile 1 came, and I hit my watch - 6:16. I thought that was okay, not exciting, but okay. A little downhill now, and then an up, and I looked at my watch - it still said 6:16. Oh good grief - I had hit the stop button instead of the lap button. Great. Now I wouldn't know my overall time. Should I start it at the next mile? Funny how the brain just stops working when running hard. I hit 'start' again, and relied on the overall pace on my beloved Garmin. From past experience (see my Napa Marathon report) I knew that to run 6:20 pace, I would have to average 6:16 on the Garmin. So, I continued to hit the lap button for my mile splits, and kept my eye on the overall pace. Miles 3 and 4 went by in 6:06 and 5:49, and mile 5 in 6:31. My heart rate was around 171, and I wanted to be a little careful not to get to 173 too soon.
I was soon running with a very nice group of women, all with a sub-2:46 on their minds. It was a great dynamic. Ruth Perkins, a young gal from Washington, seemed to be in control, suggesting different runners take the lead. Conversation was limited, but at one point she asked if any of us had kids. No one answered for a bit, and I said "I have a 24 year old". The gal next to me - yeah, you guessed it - said "I'm 24!"
We motored on, hitting the next miles in 6:07, 6:14, 6:16, 6:02. Heart rate hung in at about 170, 171. I was feeling great and having a blast. I was getting my bottles at the aid station, and making sure I got a good deal of the fluids down before I tossed it.
We closed in on Susan Lokken and her running companion at about mile 11. Our now bigger pack worked on for another couple miles - 6:04, 6:14, 6:13 - and went through the half at 1:21. This is right where I knew I had to be to even have a chance, so I was stoked, as I was not dying yet. Mile 14 we encountered a gentle climb, and I let the pack get away. My next few miles, a bit more solitary, with the pack just out of reach, were 6:18, 6:14, 6:17. The best part, was that my average was still around 6:12. I just need to maintain that pace to mile 20, and then not let it get about 6:16 for the last 6.
Mile 17 was 6:06 - so hanging in there, but starting to feel a bit rough. I passed a woman who was reduced to a walk. She tried to run again, but didn't have it. Mile 18 was 6:37, and I missed 19, but for the next 2 miles I averaged 6:19. As I crossed the Mississippi River, I was feeling a bit like toast, but either I got a second wind of my own, or there was an actual tail wind and I felt my legs revive.
The clock at mile 20 said "2:05" and some change. Aye aye aye. I knew I could but it would be close. I had to run a sub 41 minute 10k, after 20 miles at 6:12 pace, with the uphill challenges. Surprisingly, I had some wheels for the flat sections, and fairly clawed at the air on all the climbs. Ahead I could see Susan Lokken, and another woman, and thought that I may not catch them, but I might as well try. Miles 21 was 6:42 and miles 22 and 23 I averaged 6:32, mile 24 had a bit of flat and slight down, so I pulled out a 6:24. My pace had been slowly inching up, and at mile 24 was now 6:16. I could not afford to let it go up anymore. Mile 25 was 6:20, and my average held. Running pretty much blind by now, I flailed to the top of the last hill, and with an alarming sense of jarring, jolted my way down to the final stretch. I finally saw the finish line, and heard the announcer proclaiming Susan Lokken as USATF Masters Champion. When I was finally close enough to see the clock, it said 2:45:11. Depth perception on a good day is challenging, and I just didn't know how many seconds away I was from that clock, so I kicked in my 200 meter sprint mode and made it over the line in 2:45:46.
What a great feeling. I was so elated, and coach Bob was there at the finish to congratulate me. I was third Master, as Susan had passed the number 2 woman just at the end.
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