I got my sneezing, coughing self out of bed this morning and met my friend Etienne at 6:30 am to drive out to Sparks, MD for the Northern Central Trail Marathon.
It was a pretty kickass day all around. I've been nursing a cold/sinusy-pain/yuck thing that's been going around (I share my immune system with my son's 1st grade class), but I managed to get up and go. My mom came through with an early Xmas present of a Garmin Forerunner 305 (THANKS, MOM!) and I got to wear it for the run.
It was a really pretty day-- pretty cold when we arrived, but by the time the gun went off it was 42F. I meant to take off slow, but the crowd was going at 8:30 miles and I felt good, so I went for it and clocked 8:30's and 9:00's the first six miles. I slowed down to mostly 9:00's and 9:30's from 6 to the turnaround point at 13 miles. Then I started doing the math...
Back in 1990 I ran my first marathon, The Marine Corps, in 3:49:49. I was 26 and foolish, poorly trained and indestructible, and I made it through that race by sheer will. I swore I'd never do a marathon again. This time I was trained, wiser... and 44 years old. But I started thing, hey, if I can just click off 9:30's for the rest of the race, I can beat my PR.
So I tried doing that. And it went just fine until mile 15 when (cue ominous violin swell)... my nose started bleeding! Actually, this very minor inconvenience took on major significance to my race. I tried pinching it off, but no amount of that would work. There must be some weird physiological mechanism that makes your blood not clot when you're running really fast. So I dove into my gear pack to see if I was carrying anything I could jam in my nostril. Nada. I finally flagged down a father and son who were watching the race and asked for a napkin. Fortunately they had one. By the looks on their faces I could tell I was not a pretty sight (yes, that's blood on the picture of my race number). But I rolled up the napkin and jammed it in my nose and kept running.
I kept clicking off 9:30 miles right up until 20 miles. I felt really good, very tired, and my legs were complaining about the work by now, but I felt I could do this. And then at 21 miles, I looked at my watch and saw I had just run an 10:30 mile. It had felt just like the 9:30 mile I had run just before. I thought, wow, I'm going to have to pick it up. I really dug deep and pulled out... (tada!) a 11:30 mile! By now I was down to only 5 miles to go... no time to make it up. Long story short, I just got slower and slower until my last mile, which I ran in 15:22. Moral: sometimes experience can beat youth, but it's not really the way to bet.
Anyway, I rallied for the last half mile or so and really cranked when I got to the end. I passed one spectator on the way in the chute who said, "Hey, looking goo... oh, rough race." I actually almost started laughing. I can't wait to see the picture of me crossing the finish line. My race number was covered with blood and my nose plug was saturated in it.
I loved this race.
Overall, the race was really well run, every volunteer I met was fantastic, friendly, and for some unknown reason willing to stand around in the cold for hours to watch us. And the EMTs who checked me out at the finish line were friendly and courteous. Oh, and the soup at the end was like, the best food I ever ate anywhere. Really.
Final clock time was 4:28, I'll get my chip time when it's posted.