Jack & Jill Marathon, Washington State
(Same course as "Light at the end of the Tunnel" marathons)
Weather: 60s, sunny, light wind, humid but nothing even remotely close to Florida. Course was a bit wet from the rain a day prior. Definitely the best weather I've ever had for a marathon or a half. I was excited.
Course: Started with a 3-mile tunnel that was much more challenging than I thought it would be. The pitch-black tunnel was leaking onto our heads, the "road" was rounded to the center, and there were puddles everywhere. I did enjoy it but relied heavily on my headlamp as well as the 1st place runner. After exiting we basically had an old railroad with a rocky stone trail, mostly hard-packed, angled, with more puddles. The rest of the race was the most gradual downhill in history- perfect for running- equally space almost the entire way. Literally there was one "hill" that was maybe 10-15 feet, and likely less. If they ever pave this course and flatten it out- my goodness- this course would be lightning.
Pre-race: I ran so many miles since Boston it isn't even funny. Although I would have never admitted it at the time, I would have been incredibly disappointed if I did not run faster than a 2:37 with all that work. I had six weeks of mileage that was my highest ever: 115, 121, 130, 130, 122, 123 all in one cycle. I know I had two weeks’ worth of over-use injuries during that, so I was not confident even entering race day.
The start: The race began after 5 minutes of the eventual first place guy (Kunkel) bragging about his successes and how him winning was basically a foregone conclusion. Literally, he was the only one talking before gun went off at the front of the race, and his ego was on full display. I am always afraid to come off as having an ego- particularly in a race- so I supposed that experience offered me an opportunity for some retrospective about my own behavior around others. In any case, he was shooting for a low 2:20s as he proclaimed to the crowd and he even wanted everyone to know that he was annoyed that the race director wouldn't give him two free entries to the race on Saturday and Sunday- "because [he] would win the prize money both days." He did end up winning, so I guess he did back it up, it was just odd behavior for a runner.
The race: I was shooting for 2:29:00. I was ready to blow up or die trying. I wanted that number badly since Boston. I've wanted it for the past year or so. I've never been so focused on one goal ever in my life. I kept repeating three things: relax, calm your breathing pattern, and diffuse negative thoughts.
The gun went off and I was in 3rd through the first quarter mile and 2nd entering the tunnel with 3rd right behind me. The tunnel was unbelievable. You could see the end- of a three-mile tunnel- yet it was pitch black. The end didn't seem that far away, but depth perception is unbelievably bad in the dark. The headlamp was necessary. I didn't want to wear it at first due to over encumberment, but if I didn't have it there is a zero percent chance I'd make it to the end without being soaked from puddles, tripping, or twisting an ankle. The trail was a bit of a nightmare in here, but I was digging the challenge. I hit the 3-mile mark in 16:36. The first-place guy (Kunkel) was about 10 seconds ahead of me as we exited the tunnel. I was happy with that pace, but he sped up shortly and I let him go after a 5:28 fourth mile, I didn't feel I had the fitness to stay with him and wanted to run my own race.
Miles 5-8 were 5:33, 5:32, 5:38, 5:38. I felt fine and probably should have stuck to 5:33 pace here- I just didn't trust myself at that speed.
Miles 9-13 were 5:29, 5:32, 5:41, 5:35, 5:35. Again, felt great, the 5:41 was due to some challenging footing for a bit on the course, causing terrible tangents. I had my first electrolyte pill and my first gel during this time.
Half I rolled through the half and felt pretty good. This was the only time other than mile 21 I saw anyone other than the back of the 1st place guy and the aid station volunteers. Although it was lonely, I was flowing so well. I lost my rhythm for a minute seeing everyone here. I hit the half at 1:12:55, which was 1:35 faster than my goal pace.
Miles 14-17 were 5:25, 5:37, 5:36, 5:35. I felt good here, and I think I made one of my two mistakes here. I had three gels with me, and for some reason I decided NOT to use one of them here and had an electrolyte pill instead. I should have done both.
Miles 18-22 were 5:43, 5:47, 5:32, 5:39, 5:36. I had the gel at the beginning of mile 20, and well, you can see the difference. Similarly, I had made up a minute or so on the first-place guy and he was within 30 seconds of me, so I figured I'd just got for it and try to catch him (mistake 2!). After a mile of trying that, it was clear I did not have the fitness for that, haha. So stupid, but I would have regretted not trying to catch him!
Miles 23-26, finish were 5:43, 5:45, 5:49, 5:39, 1:25 (or something). Total bleeding here. I had half of my final gel, but it was completely useless, and I knew it. I had a good sprint finish, despite the time shown, crossing in 2:26:53 (2:26:57 is the gun time for top 3). I finished second overall, with Kunkel widening the gap to 1:25 in front of me at the finish.
After-thoughts: Incredibly elated. So, so many miles went into this during the summer. I placed snuggly in between two very good runners with my 2:26: Taylor Farnsworth formerly of BYU who ran a 2:28 and Anthony Kunkel a big ultra-runner who ran a 2:25. Looking up Taylor’s former times gave me the chills a bit. I am not an idiot- I know the 2,000-foot net drop on the course definitely aided my performance- how much I can't really determine. The calculators online suggest between 2-5 minutes against a flat course when altitude isn't considered. However, I was a bit demoralized reading about elevation prior to the race and seeing that it is suggested that every thousand feet or so in elevation was a 1:00 minute detriment to performance which implies that it's a bit of a wash over long distances, so I'm happy to outperform at least that expectation.
In the end, I am sincerely proud of myself: I dedicated my summer to training in Florida, had two weeks of missed training during the cycle yet persevered, had to then deal with mild altitude/travel/different climate, and did it all on my own without training partners. I woke up every day I could without fail, did doubles six to seven days a week, ran some ridiculous intervals/fartleks in some even more ridiculous temperatures, and dedicated this summer to this 2:29 goal.
7-mile- 38:48 (5:33/mile pace)
Half- 1:12:55 (5:34/mile pace)
20-mile- 1:51:29 (5:34/mile pace)
Finish- 2:26:57 (5:36/mile pace)