The morning started off well as I boarded the shuttle bus to the start line with three friends that were also running the full. It’s always nice to have great company before the start. As we talked about what our race strategies would be and shared in small chit-chat, I was asked “Why I was being so quiet similar to how I was before the Big Sur Marathon?” I smiled it off, and joined in on the conversation, but inside I knew it was because I was just as nervous for this race trying to break into 4:30 as I was 9 months ago attempting to break into sub 5 hours.
This race was going to be my test of readiness for 2010. The course was flat, ideal running weather and fresh off a PR six weeks ago, my training build up wasn’t going to be an issue. As I have said before, if I didn’t break into 4:30-4:39 I was going to be extremely disappointed in myself.
I started the race with my friend Manny (who has made appearances in the blog before) and we set out with a 10 min. per mile pace. As soon a I crossed the start line, my nerves went away and I felt really loose after the first mile. We stayed on pace together through the first 9 miles and enjoyed good conversation and observations of the course. After that point, I separated from Manny, (after he slightly tweaked his foot) but not by that much as I would later find out. At mile 10, I put in my ear phones and let the music keep my attention on what is commonly described as a “not-so-scenic” course. Fortunately my outlook is: great course scenery helps, bad course scenery has no negative effects. It’s all new to me, so that’s a plus I guess.
I was exactly on pace with 10 min miles through the first half crossing 13.1 at 2:10:44. Knowing I had 10 mins. in the bank for my 4:30 goal was nice, but also knowing that I always cramp somewhere after 18 in races is not so comforting. Training runs, not an issue. Make it official and it’s gonna happen.
After 15 my pace started slowing and I could tell. My legs felt heavy, but I just told myself to keep moving forward. I continued to clock above 10 min miles, but never reaching 11 min. I was already starting to feel salt residue on my face after the halfway point, so I started to increase my sodium intake by putting salt packets in my water. As I got closer to 18, I could feel the legs tightening up and I kicked the salt intake into double mode. I was staying well hydrated, but it began to get warm as the sun crept more and more out.
At the 20 mile mark I was still on pace at 3:23:05 and I started to feel really good, but in the back of my mind I kept waiting for the legs to cramp. There were a couple close moments where they got really tight, but I just kept moving forward and focused on (even if I slowed down) taking one mile at a time. The music pumped, I sang out loud (sorry for those around me) and kept moving.
A couple miles away from the finish line, I knew I had sub 4:39 in the bag barring any serious injuries, even if I began to cramp. The question was: “How greedy was I going to get?” If I could clock low to sub 10 min miles, I could break into sub 4:30 territory. I decided to go for it and started picking up the pace. As I looked at my watch heading into the finish line, I saw 4:28 turn into 4:29 and was pumping my fist in excitement that I had not only reached my goal, but surpassed it. Official time: 4:29:13 — 11 minutes off my previous PR six weeks ago in Sacramento.
When I reached our group of friends and family, everyone joined in on my excitement and coupled with their own personal success in the full and the half, it was smiles all around. Breaking into 4:30 has been a goal of mine for some time and to accomplish it surrounded by wonderful people made it even better. Thank you to everyone that was there with me and to those on facebookthat sent out well wishes. You all crossed my mind more than once throughout the course.