This report is work in progress - the note will be removed when it is complete.
St. George Marathon - 2:23:57, 11th place, PR, qualified for a bummer. Explanation - 2:22:00 or faster, you qualify for the Trials, 2:24:00 or slower, just a PR. But once you are within 2:00 of the qualifier, it is a bummer if you do not get it. So today I qualified for a bummer, it is an accomplishment, not exactly the kind I hoped for, but it breaks a 4 year drought of marathon PRs.
Ran my best race, gave it all. Felt like I was sprinting from the start to 23. Red-lining near the anaerobic threshold the entire time with complete oblivion of how dangerous this can be in a marathon. First 22 miles went by very fast. At 22, I said to myself, was that 20? Wait a minute, that was 22. That was the first time in my life that I ever wished it was only 20 when I was at 22. I did not care about pain or discomfort, or even a PR, I only cared about hitting the qualifier. But today was not the day for reasons not fully known to me, yet one thing is clear - there are more lessons I need to learn before God will give me the blessing of meeting the standard. After that, raise the bar, and try again. Indeed, as our motto says, Run, Blog, Improve, Repeat.
First half 1:12:12 at the official clock, I think it was positioned
2 seconds too far based on where the 13 mile mark was, which is more
reliable, I think. Second half 1:11:45, again, based on the official
position of the first half.
Some words in defense of the term bummer. The popular culture teaches positive mental attitude (PMA) and attempts to sell it as a substitute for true faith. True faith cannot happen without the ability and willingness to face the grim reality, appreciate it, feel its depth in full measure, and only then defy it with a real as opposed to a merely imagined power. Additionally, perhaps from being soaked in the PMA environment, we are at times too quick to give ourselves and others a pat on the back that is so hard that it makes it hurt for a less than a spectacular effort. While positive encouragement is not only helpful but necessary, one needs a chance to feel in depth that he shot for the stars, missed it, and be on his way to figure out what he is going to do next to reach the stars in the future. This thought process would not be sufficiently acute to produce desired results if the post-race attitude is the one of celebration. There needs to be some form of pain to prevent one from becoming complacent. Thus, while I am very happy with the fact that I broke a 4 year old PR at the age of 34 in my probably 45th (I lost count) marathon (I wonder what Tim Noakes would have to say about that), I am also happy that I have the nerve to say that I qualified for a bummer. 9 years ago I ran the same course in 2:39:48 after putting in a lot of training. I was happy that I had broken 2:40, yet the Trial's Qualifier looked so impossible, and at the same time it was calling me to reach into the depths of my soul and find a way to run faster. Had I been content to merely celebrate my sub-2:40 then, I would have never gotten anywhere close to what I did today.
From the start we formed a nice pack. The pace varied depending on the terrain. We let the A guys pull ahead, but then Steve Ashbaker led us in a surge to catch up, which was OK with me. So we were all together for a while. Hit 5 miles in 26:52. Steve pressed a bit, that made the pack go a bit faster, we hit the next two miles at somewhere around 5:05 pace, but it was a decent downhill.
At mile 7 the aid station handed me the bottle of Chris Rogers. I gave it back to them and told them what to do with it. In the mean time, I ended up getting nothing in the confusion, and lost contact with the pack. I caught up, then we started the climb. The A guys had more speed and power, and pulled away. Mike Kirk fell back a bit, then caught up. From then on we worked together more or less. Hit 10 miles in 54:32. Nick McCombs caught up, I tried to run with him, but 5:30 pace up Dameron was too fast for me, I felt 5:40-5:45 was what I needed.
Hit the half in 1:12:12. For a negative splitter, this would have been just perfect. For me this looked promising but dangerous, even though I was feeling good. I had plenty of opportunities to latch on to somebody and run faster. Yet, my body was telling me this was the fastest I could hit the first half without having negative consequences on my overall finish time. This was not a good feedback, nevertheless I promised to myself that I would rather die trying to qualify than be merely content to run a PR. So from then on, I erred on the aggressive side and did my best to override the system feedback.
Hit 15 in 1:22:12. That is 57 seconds behind the 5:25 guy. There is still hope, we are closing. A little mishap at 15, do not think it cost me the qualifier, maybe 20-30 seconds max. My bottle with Hornet Juice was not there. I was counting on it. I stopped and tried to find it. After about 5 seconds I realized it was hopeless, and just kept going. I ended up getting nothing at all 15. Lesson learned - I will not do bottles any more unless I am running in a race that makes you do it. I get plenty of fuel just from the regular drinks, and the bottles only add extra stress and confusion. The confusion cost me broken rhythm and loss of contact with Mike Kirk, Mike Vick, and Steve Macintire. However, I do not think it cost me as much as 1:57.
The "Heart-Break" hill felt like a minor rise. Good sign, except it broke the rhythm again, and set me back in the chase of the 5:25 guy. Logan Fielding went by. He moved so fast I could not latch on. I thought barring a severe disaster he was going to get the qualifier. I felt like saying to him, Logan, go get it for the Blog for me, if I cannot today. Hit 20 miles in 1:49:09. The OTQ guy is now only 49 seconds ahead. There is one problem though - he does not slow down on flat or uphill, and he does not slow down after 24, while I do. It was very clear from the split, and how I felt, that barring a disaster, I had a PR in the bag, and barring a serious but still remotely doable miracle, the OTQ was out of range. Nevertheless, I told myself that it is better to risk missing a PR while trying to get the qualifier, than just give up. I floored it on the next downhill mile hoping to gain momentum, ran
5:03, this gave me hope, next one 5:38 with less downhill and more
uphill, still a glimmer of hope remaining, then 5:22 instead of 5:00 on
a downhill mile, followed by a 5:48, then it became painfully clear
that the trials qualifier guy had hopelessly run away.
Iain Hunter came by. I was a relative zombie by then, could not latch on. Ran another mile in 5:48. Heard steps behind me. I said to myself, if this is Clyde, I am going to strangle him. Not for beating me, but for being in shape to qualify, and not trying by starting on pace. It was Kelly Mortenson. He was not as lively as Iain, so I was able to latch on for a bit. But then I could not go. Mental note for trying to run in The Zone next time - one minute on one minute off. I think the limit can very well be at least partially neurological, and the nervous system actually might be able to deal with the surges better than even pace at that stage.
2:16:48 at 25. The clock at supposedly 25.2 was in the wrong place, too far away from the finish. Why put up a clock at a random location in the race to confuse the already confused runners? Stumbled my way through the next mile in 5:57, then saw I could beat the 2:24:00 guy, kicked, managed 1:12 for the last 385 yards thus qualifying for a bummer (within 2:00 of the standard)!
The bloggers did great. To start with, Paul got standard A with 2:18:08, and Logan standard B with 2:21:45. I have particularly fond feelings about Logan getting it. I feel he got it for the Blog for me. He mentioned in his blog that he feels he does not deserve it. Nevertheless, there is a reason, and whatever it might be, I am very happy we will have two people from the Blog at the Trials.
There were three more bloggers who cracked 2:30 setting PRs - Steve Ashbaker (2:25:18), Clyde (2:25:50) - after reading his report I do not feel like strangling him, he really ran his best, and Dave Holt - 2:26:54. We captured 10 spots in the top 25 in the race. We had numerous "impossible" PRs. Over the course of the next week I will visit each blog individually and leave my thoughts.
It boggles my mind what we have accomplished. Consider Paul - he ran for Calvin, a division III college. His best 5 K was 14:47. He could not even crack 30:30 in a 10 K. He was a good college runner, but by far not a stand-out, just one of many point scoring workhorses. After college is he is falling through the cracks. Not much is happening in his career. He is getting beat in local 5 Ks and 10 Ks, tries marathons, gets beat up and left in the dust in any race of significance. Finally he gets injured, and cannot even run for a year. Looks like a typical case of a post-collegiate failure, he is headed for the runners junk yard or meat factory, depending on which metaphor you like better. Wrong! He joins the blog, finds a support network, recovers from his injuries, discovers better ways to train, and in a year goes from the butcher's knife candidate to qualifying for the Trials with standard A with room to spare!
Look at Logan. We have a guy that ran 2:41 in St. George last year, followed by 2:55 crash-and-burn in Ogden this year. He never ran for anybody, in fact he started running at all only 3 years ago. He is not "cool", he has not been through the ranks of high school and collegiate running at all. But he does not care. He joins the blog. He sees guys training twice a day running 100+ miles a week. He says, I want to give it a shot, is this a good idea? We tell him, yes, go ahead, give it a shot. In 6 months, he runs a Trial's Qualifier.
Look at Clyde, Dave Holt, and Steve Ashbaker. They have similar stories. I cannot help but think of a scripture in Luke 3:8. The arrogant Jews approached Christ saying that they were "cool", because they were the children of Abraham. Christ responded with this:
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
How can God raise children unto Abraham out of the stones? He gives us blessings based upon our faith and how that faith is manifested through our works, not just based upon the gifts we've been given, or our past accomplishments that may have had to do more with our talent than our diligence.
Applying this to running - nobody needs to feel that because they are not "cool" (high-school star, All-American in college, etc), they cannot accomplish something noteworthy. You may feel like a stone, but out of that stone through faith and hard work on your part God can raise a great runner.