Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Michelle's Grande Ass Marathon

Sunday was Michelle's Grande Ass Marathon, 26.2 miles from Puyallup to Tacoma following a route that used various Starbucks as route markers and aid stations. (The route can be seen HERE.)

The day before the race I did things quite differently than usual, my diet & activity levels were both dictated by thoughts of 'meh, it's just a low key run.' I had no intentions of doing any thing 'special' the next day and figured that as long as I was able to stay under 4 hours I'd be content. This line of thought resulted in unhealthy eating, lunch time beer drinking, and, of all things, running. The eating and beer drinking shouldn't be shocking, after all, they'd both break down into energy eventually (right?) but the running, that just something I haven't done the day before a race in the past.

Friends informed me Saturday afternoon that I'd be able to use their car to get to the race, I decided it was most logical to run the 4.5 miles to their house as it didn't seem right to ask for them to deliver it and I just didn't feel like riding the bus. I ran the distance relaxed and unconcerned with speed, there were a few hills in between me and them, but over all, I would consider this an easy run under any circumstances.

The next morning I was up at 4am, I took the dog out to due her 'duties' and headed out the door within a half hour of being awake. I arrived at the starting Starbucks at around 5:30am and was surprised to see as many people as I did, I picked up my packet (at a freebie?!?), got my bib pinned on, and proceeded to bide my time until the start.

(just prior to the start, I'm back to the left about 4 people in)

At 6am I and 30 other marathoners (+ some relay runners) were off. Despite the fair warning, I had no real idea how to follow the route and was relived to know that it had been marked with spray chalk the prior day (just in case I had the direction in a plastic bag in my shorts). Within the first mile I had struck up conversation with Phil Kriss (MM # 289), we chatted (and got lost together a few times) up until about mile 15 at which point he suggested I continue as he backed off the pace a bit, I was reluctant at first, convinced he'd eventually just catch me and pass me anyways, but it soon became apparent he was letting up a bit (to Phil's credit he had biked 80 miles the day prior and had a full week of Ironman training, any day he shows up fresh he would beat me by a significant margin).

Shortly after parting ways with Phil I spotted Steve Walters, I knew he was in first place and at that point decided I would do all I could to hold on to second if not make a run at first. I slowly seemed to be reeling him in, though, much like with Phil, I'm well aware Steve is a much faster marathoner than I am. At the second to last Starbucks I had actually caught him, I stopped ate a Gu and drank some water, both Steve and I headed out at about the same time but he quickly put some space between us once again, I decided that with some 6 odd miles yet to the finish this was no time to start running someone else's race. For the most part I maintained the same distance between himself & I and was once again starting to real him in when we entered old town Tacoma. We headed past what would be the finish line and down a small hill, at this point Steve was no more than a block in front of me, I was never convinced I could gain the lead but I did feel it was possible. At the bottom of the hill I watched Steve cross the street and begin the water front out and back, just as I reached the road the street lights changed and a slew of cars passed as I stood there for what seemed like forever, by the time I got across the street Steve was out of sight.

The official times make it appear that I only finished 31 seconds after Steve, but the reality is he would have finished a few minutes in front of me had only the finish line been spray chalked in when he got there. Despite never catching up to first place, I am completely thrilled with how the day went, race organization wise, everything was great and I've attempted to make sure both Michelle & Eric know that, I'm already looking forward to 2009's Grande Ass Double Shot. From a personal stand point, I sort of feel like I turned some sort of corner, I don't know what to attribute it to exactly, but ever thing was clicking just right on Sunday. I knew I was maintaining a descent pace the whole time but it never felt significantly harder than it usually does and I never felt as though I hit any sort of 'wall,' sure, mile 26 was harder than mile 6, but I felt physically strong the entire time. Mentally too, I was just rocking, I'm sure having the first 15 miles eaten up by conversation helped but even after I was on my own, I never got the 'I just want to be finished' portion of the run.

The big take away from all this is I'm now starting to believe that I could run a 3:30 marathon still some time this year, despite it being listed as a 2008 goal of mine, I had all but dismissed it a while back, now, with a 3:37 under my belt, it once again seems possible (perhaps this training stuff actually works) which is both exciting and a wee bit daunting.

Final results can be found HERE.
I suspect more photos will be on the way, if so I'll update this post when they're available.

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