Tucson Marathon Report

3:31AM: Woke up. Showered. Shaved. Dressed and made sure I had everything I needed. I took two pairs of gloves and a few extra items just in case. Binita had packed my nutrition (Stinger Waffles) in neat little plastic bags so I wouldn’t have to struggle opening them during the race. Last night, I realized that I forgot my heart-rate belt in Scottsdale; fortunately I was able to use Binita’s. I was ready!

4:35AM: Headed out to the lobby. A few folks were hanging out waiting for the bus. I sat and closed my eyes trying the visualize the finish. The clock said 3:24. I was going to Boston. Will came out in about 10 minutes.

4:55AM: Boarded the bus to take us to the starting line. People were talking about their expectations for the race. I could overhear some expected finish times. There were some FAST folks on the bus.

6:00AM: After making a few stops, the bus finally got to the starting line. En-route, we saw the course and the cones that will guide us during the race. 26 miles is a long distance even in a car; we will start running in an hour.

6:50AM: After using the restroom (twice) on the bus, making sure we were appropriately dressed, we went outside. There was a chill in the air. It was twilight. The energy was high with athletes doing their own pre-race routines. We checked our bags and were ready. Everyone stood attentively during the national anthem and at 7AM promptly, the race started. Will and I wished each other well and parted company.

7:02AM: I put on my headphones and away I went. The first mile is straight downhill. This is followed by undulating hills for the next 2 to 3 miles. I was trying the regulate my heartrate but it was fluctuating wildly between 140 and 153. It was no help to see the race-pace folks pass me. First 3:40 pace and then 3:50 pace. I had to finish 15 minutes ahead of 3:40. I thought to myself, “I better pick up the pace!” Bad idea…

7:50AM: My first split at 6.1 miles was at a pace of 8:09/mile. I was a good 10 seconds per mile slower. My heart-rate had stabilized between 141 and 144. This was good. I had a chance. Just keep up the smooth cadence and let the pieces fall together. The sun was out by now. I removed my gloves and shoved them into my back pocket. At around 8AM, I ate the first of my nutrition waffles. I felt good.

8:45AM: I had picked up my pace. At mile 10.5, we took a left turn towards the half-marathon start. There is a turn-around spot around a mile-and-a-half in. What I didn’t know was the severe hills in this loop. It took a lot out of me. I didn’t know this at the time, but I paid for it towards the end of the race. I took my second nutrition waffle, and also half a strawberry Gu. I saw Will looping back; he was running with the 3:15 pace group. Perfect. At my second split (12.7 miles), I was pacing at 7:57 per mile and felt good. I knew I had an extra gear. It was time to pick up the pace.

9:37AM: For the next few miles, I picked up the pace. For the next 6 miles, I averaged less than a 7:40 pace. If I could keep this up for the rest of the race, I’d be close. Little did I know what was looming for me. At around 9:37, I felt the first signs of a ‘bonk.’ I was walking at every water station by mile 21. Qualifying for Boston will remain a distant dream. The wind had picked up; hence I found a couple of guys to draft behind. I think they were a bit annoyed at me, but drafting is totally legal. I ate my third and final waffle.

10:05AM: Hello pain. What did Chrissie say? “Pain is a conversation between your mind and your body.” The phrase is great in theory; when the pain is real, only world champions like Chrissie can withstand it. With about 3 miles to go, the pain was real. I could feel my right big toe hurting with all the pavement-pounding. I got hot and then I got cold and then hot again. It was now mind over matter. I wanted to finish somewhere around 3:35. It was a challenge just to keep running. I desperately wanted to walk. I did during some of the uphills.

10:36AM: I finished somewhat strong. The last mile was all about cadence and keeping legs moving. I averaged 8:30 per mile for the last mile. Decent. Will took this video of me finishing the race (this is at the final turn). My form looks decent, but obviously I’m exhausted.

I officially finished in 3:35:32; exactly 10 minutes and 32 seconds outside of Boston qualifying. Unfortunately, Will missed it too by around 3 minutes.

After finishing, I went straight to the medical tent and sat down. I was somewhat delirious and wasn’t sure why I was there. I had a few cups of Gatorade with salt. The inside of my arms had chafed; I had them put some Vaseline on it. My eye was scratched up. I asked for a warm compress. Will showed up and we took a picture together.

As I write this, I am sore. I’m walking like Fred Sanford. My right eye is all scratched up. My arms and underarms are chafed. My big toe on my right foot has subungal hematoma. So do two toes on my left leg. Binita calls me “Delicate Darling.” The shoe fits!

Marathons are tough on the body and mind. I’ll take another crack at qualifying for Boston in 2013. I turn 50 in 2013, so I have an extra 5 minutes.

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