TITLE: That Marathon Feeling Again AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 26, 2009 3:23 PM DESC: ----- BODY: I made it. My sixth marathon is now in the books. Yesterday I ran the On the Road for Education marathon in Mason City, Iowa. No two marathons have been the same for me, and this one was unusual in many ways, from how the race went to the venue itself. The weather was dreary but almost perfect for a race: in the low 40s, cloudy, with little wind. After feeling good with an 8:30/mile pace in a half marathon six weeks ago, I decided to try that pace for the full. After nine miles, I was right on target, though by an unusual path. The first three miles were downhill and fast, the next three were uphill and slower, and the next three were flatter and down in a steady 25:30. My time at the halfway mark was 1:51:51. After fifteen miles, I was at 2:07:36 -- still on an 8:30/mile pace. It seemed too good. I need to look up my times from previous races, but I think that these may be my best times ever at those two points in a marathon. On top of it all, I felt good. At the Mile 15, I thought to myself, "I can do this." And I could, but not at that pace. By mile 15, we had entered a 5-mile loop on soft trail through the Lime Creek Nature Center. My pace slowed for at least three reason. The course elevation map says this part of the race is flat, but that must be net rise. These miles were hilly. Add to that the overnight rain which had softened them up even more and created a little bit of mud for us. Slippery footing on hills means a slower pace. The third ingredient was a dose of reality. My legs weren't quite ready to maintain the ambitious pace for a full marathon. I did manage a couple of miles at near-goal pace after leaving the nature center, but in general I had slowed down. I took a second restroom break at the 20-mile mark, which added more than a minute to my time but gave my legs a brief respite. Then came miles 23, 24, and 25. My legs were dead, and my pace slowed further. I had another short reprieve when a half dozen of us experienced our own Des Moines moment in Mile 23. For a while in the last two miles, I chanted to myself just keep running. For some reason I had the strongest of desires not to walk even as my body had the strongest desire to stop. Somehow I kept moving. I never reached what one of my friend's calls "the dead man's shuffle", but my pace had slowed dramatically. The last 0.2 of a mile snuck up on me. I felt a brief boost of energy as I crossed the Mile 26 marker and managed to run through the finish line with a smile on my face. It was a tough finish. In retrospect should have gone out with 8:45 miles for 10, 15, or 20 miles and then taken stock of what I had left. That would have been the conservative approach, the wise strategy. But the siren call of 8:30 miles and a time near my PR was too much for my dreams, or my vanity. I had to know. Now I do! Going into the arena has a way of showing us reality. This race was unusual for me in another respect. My wife and daughters made the trip with me. This was the first time I'd had family with me since my wife accompanied me to my first. They met me along the route a half dozen times or so, and seeing them boosted my spirits every time. It was easy for them to do this, which is one of the benefits of a race in a small town. I'll have more to say about a small town race in a coming entry. So, I survived. Even with the rest stops, I ended up with my third-best time ever. After my experience the last two years, with dicey health, on-again, off-again training, and the mental doubts that came from those two, I really could not be happier with my time. Asking for more would be unrealistic and would devalue what turned out to be a good performance. I could feel better physically, though. A few days' rest can give me that. Heck, I already feel like a short jog! -----