|Bill Gnade photo - Keene Sentinel|
September 27 (Sunday) - Another NH race crossed off the list. I figured since the year was all wonked up anyways due to my injury, I'd mix it up and just jump into a fall marathon. What better way to begin that with the Clarence Demar Marathon (38th running) (results) in Keene. I've never run this race before so it was time to test out the leg at the longer stuff and also get a good idea of where I am fitness-wise. I also thought I may have an outside shot at a marathon win, depending on who showed up.
I've been congested with either a cold (which I think I may have a touch of) and/or severe allergies for a week + (or a mixture of both). The past few nights were especially bad. Last night (the night before the race) I got about 2 hours of broken sleep because I couldn't breathe. I also had to get up at 2:30am to be on the road by 3am to make it to Keene in time to get my bib and get on the bus to Gilsum, NH and the start. After a nice moonlit drive (2 and a half hours), I arrived in Keene, still under the cover of darkness, and popped into the Keene State gym to get my number. While in the bathroom, I ran into Scott Leslie. I immediately knew 1st place was out the window. I was happy to see my teammate but kind of disappointed that now my hopes of a marathon win (finally) was out the door. Scott has been a great marathon runner for years and he was just doing Demar as a warmup before his Hartford race in 2 weeks. Despite only doing Demar as a warmup, I figured his workout pace would be hotter than my current race pace. I hopped on the bus to the start and we finally got there after taking a wrong turn on the way...
While waiting inside (it was freezing out) I ran into Patrick Moulton, who registered that morning. My thoughts immediately shifted to 3rd place now... but as I looked around, I started to see a few other guys who looked like they were pretty good. I started to realize that it wouldn't be an 'easy' day as I had initially hoped for and thought it would be. Scott and I walked over to the start, which was our warmup. We then stood on the line, freezing, and scoped out the competition (or at least I did)... I noticed last year's winner, George Adams, on the line and was glad he was in the race to try to defend his title (although I had heard he was hurt). After a short prayer given by the local pastor, we were off and running.
|Just after the start...Patrick rolling. Herr right behind. Me to the right.|
Patrick shot off to an immediate lead. He had told me he wasn't sure what would happen and he wasn't particularly training for a marathon (then again, who was?)... He's only run 3 races all year (including this one) and they've all been marathons. For the first quarter mile or so, there was 7 or so guys ahead of me including David Herr (50 years old) and a dude wearing a Maine singlet. As the beginning of the race played out, those looked to be the guys jockeying for the early position. I weaved through a few of them as we started on a nice downhill. Scott was hanging way back and to plan. He told me he was going to run easy for the first half and then hammer the second half. I had almost no doubt he'd catch me, whatever I decided to do. I made a conscious decision during that first mile, to go for it. I had no clue how long I could run sub 6s for but figured I'd go up to Pat and keep him company for a while. I rolled up on him before the mile mark and settled into pace. He was happy to see me and we started shooting the sh*t as the pace 'seemed' easy.
The second mile had the steepest climb and it was our slowest of the first half of the race. We started to slowly break apart the chasers. Only Herr and the dude w/ the Maine singlet were in tow and they were right behind. Somewhere in the third mile or so, only Herr was lingering. Pat and I continued to discuss the race and make small talk as the miles rolled on. He was giving me motivation and encouragement to hang on so I just kept up w/ him and figured I'd do that for 5, 6, 7, 8 miles or whatever...then blow up and get caught. The miles continued to roll.
Herr was keeping within feet of us for at least the first 10 miles. I was actually shocked to see a 28 high first 5 mile split considering the way I was feeling. When we hit 10 miles, I was feeling 'ok' but had small little twinges in my calfs and hamstrings as expected. They actually started to bark a little, very early in the race (4-5 miles) but I kept everything relatively quiet and in control. I was feeling very good about how my body was reacting, but knew inevitably I would be paying for 5:4x miles later on. We kept the pace very even though (other than that 2nd mile w/ the climb). I was pretty happy to be running with Pat and locked into a pace. He is very good at that. He was also really good to be there to talk to and key off of. I wasn't at all worried about him dropping me, as I knew it was going to happen sooner or later and was completely fine with it. If it wasn't him and it was some other guy I didn't know and often lose to, I would have been way more nervous. I was just a little nervous about what was happening behind with Herr and Scott, etc.
We hit 10 miles in 57-high and I was pretty surprised that I was still there and running very even. I thought maybe at 8 miles or so, Pat's pace would be a little too hot, but I was still side by side. He kept telling me to just hang on and was trying to take my mind off it. Somewhere between 10 and 11 miles, we actually started to drop Herr. He started pulling back a little, but not much. Even Pat was a bit nervous. At one point during mile 11 he mentioned that he wouldn't really be sweating anything at that point if Herr wasn't lingering back there. I agreed, it was unnerving. He's won the race numerous times and has my number in long events. Even though he's 50, he hasn't really lost anything.
Mile 11/12 ish is out and back over a dam at the base of Surry Mountain Lake. It's a beautiful part of the course. Pat and I got to head out and then back against traffic there. We could see most everyone in that first pack of 7-8 guys or so, not too far back as we started back over the dam. Herr was still pretty close and we had maybe a mile or so on Scott as he was still running his easy first half. When I went by Scott, I deliberately pulled a few feet ahead of Patrick (who was laughing) to make it look like I was leading and pulling him along (to play mind games with Scott who I was pretty certain would eventually mow me down). As we went by Scott, he actually laughed and mentioned that he was surprised I was actually leading the race... it was pretty funny (at the time) considering all the sandbagging I was doing before the race (as usual).
We were 1:15:30ish at the half and I was still there. Side by side with Pat. We had gapped David pretty good and he was now way back and sometimes not even in view. We started to notice his parents (we think) driving past us, pulling over, getting out, and waiting...it was like clockwork every couple miles...so we knew he was still back there pretty close. I was starting to now feel the enormity of the marathon and the fact that I was only halfway done. I started to rig a little but still kept with Pat. Every now and again, we'd hit an uphill and Pat would actually gap me. Somewhere around 14 or so, I thought for sure I had lost him and he was off. We hit a good climb and I just couldn't hang. But then I would catch back up to him on the downs. Not sure if he was waiting for me or if he was just pulling back and not hammering the downs to conserve. Either way, he was graciously accepting me back on board each time. Somewhere around 15 or so, he mentioned to me that his legs were feeling pretty bad and he wasn't sure. He said something about wanting to at least make it to 20... and he did tell his wife who was driving past us every once in a while and cheering for us, that he wasn't feeling that great. He had also told me that in a 'if it makes you feel any better' kind of way...but it didn't :). I was feeling way too bad at that point and was unsure about my ability now to go with him for another 10 miles.
Right by the 16 mile aid station, I reached into my back pocket for a gel. My first of the race. Pat seemed to be taking gels often and early. I wasn't, but I was taking water and Gatorade at each water stop (minus a couple where the volunteer just couldn't figure out how to let go of a cup when I tried to grab it). When I got the gel out, I was a few steps behind Pat. It was a flat and uneventful part of the course but somehow when I tried to bite the top off of it, it flew out of my hand and up in the air like 10 feet to the left. I thought about stopping for it for a split second but quickly decided against it. Right there I started to lose Pat. Almost instantaneously he continued on his way at probably the same pace (mid 5:4x's) and I started to drop back. I reached in and grabbed the only other gel I had (an awful carmel/salt one that was in the race packet) and took that one. I was starting to feel a possible bonk coming on and needed the calories. I felt the difference right away but also now had an awful taste in my mouth that I had to deal with until the next aid station.
We started to meander through a nice neighborhood section and Pat stayed 10 seconds or so in front of me. I was now on my own and knew my day with running along side him was done...it was great while it lasted but he's just a true marathoner who knows his way around the last 10 miles. I knew it was now a matter of time before I was caught by Herr and probably Scott. As we exited the neighborhood, I saw Scott go by on the crossover section. I had no clue how far back he was, but figured I had a few miles at least before I'd see him. No sign of Herr but I kept seeing his parents on the side of the road every couple miles so I knew he was still hanging.
My splits for 17 and 18 on my own were still in the 5:40s but now high 5:40s. Surprisingly for miles 19 and 20 I was still under 6 but barely. I was very slowly losing Pat but he was still within 20-30 seconds probably. I could still see him clearly on most parts. By 20ish, we had started hitting some bike paths through the woods and over the highway. There were twisting and turning routes with some small uphill pops that just took the wind out of my sails. When I split 20 miles in 1:55:4x I was shocked. I was really pumped to run sub 1:56 but also really concerned that I had sunk my race. The last 10k were going to be a sh*tshow and I knew it. I tried to keep Pat and the lead car in sight.
Somewhere before the 21 mile mark I started to zone out. I started getting slight tunnel-vision and kept catching myself not paying attention to what was going on. Somehow I kept the pace a respectable 6:07 and 6:08 for my 21st and 22nd miles. Those were my first miles over 6. Still no visual sign of David or Scott behind me but I was just waiting. When I hit 22, I had zero faith I'd still be able to hold off a charge from someone behind.
Leading up to the 23rd mile, we headed into a graveyard section that I just found exceptionally brutal. There were a couple of slight pops straight uphill (not long, but steep) that I almost had to walk (literally) on. My legs were trash at this point. Because of that, I split an abysmal 6:23 for my 23rd mile. At that point, I was locked into 6:23 for miles 24 and 25. When I hit 24, I started to have an idea that maybe I could get 2nd. I knew I had only 2.2ish miles to go and I couldn't see anyone behind me, even on long stretches (with admittedly only quick peeks back). I figured I could at worst, run 7s to finish up the race if everything fell to hell. When I hit 25, I knew I had it but just had to keep telling myself to keep pushing forward.
In the end, I came into the quad at Keene and through the tape in a surprising 2:35:38 (chip time) and a solid 2nd place. That was my best finish in a marathon. I've never won a marathon and previous to this, 4th at Manchester was my best finish place-wise. Pat pushed to a pretty even paced race less maybe the last few miles only falling off just a little bit. He finished just under 3 minutes up on me. I lost an awful lot of time off the pace in the last 10k, but it was in no way a disaster. I was really pleased to run 2:35 and to get 2nd to a class act like Pat. He pulled me along and I was pretty grateful to have kept him company for a good part of the race. Scott wasn't that far in back of me, only 1:20 behind. And he was doing a workout! I was lucky to have held him off. He was going a minute per mile faster than me during that last stretch. Herr finished in 2:39 and change at aged 50. That was amazing. I am happy with a 2:39 now at age 38. I ran tough for 20 miles and didn't completely fall apart on the last 10k, although there is a ton of room for improvement (should I ever decide to train for a marathon).
After chilling out for a bit and talking w/ Scott and Pat and Jim Garcia about their races (Jim with another sub 3:00 marathon at age 57) I limped back over to the car and headed back 2+ hours north (nodding off most of the way)...
The splits (I had 26.39 on my watch)... (2:34:37 for the exact 26.2 split on the GPS).
last 3.9 (yes, 3.9): 6:12
Chip: 2:35:38 / Gun: 2:35:40 (otherwise known as 'Teschek-timing').
The Garmin data: