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North Central Trail marathon - BQ race report
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This was it, this was what I trained the last 5 months for - almost 800 miles of running. If I didn't get my Boston Qualifying time here, there wouldn't be another shot at it for a long while.

Race started promptly at 9:30 and before the start I chit-chatted with a few people in the field as we waited. At the horn I thread my way through the first few rows of runners (they started the full marathon and the two person relay together with the relayers having a ticket on their back so you could tell) and try to settle in with a group of about 40 people or so. You could see up the road as we wound down to the trail that the fasties were already setting a gap. The first mile came at mid 5's .... and everyone said it couldn't be right. There was no way I ran a 5:35 for my first mile in a marahton! But it was a Boston certified course, so we would have to make up the difference somewhere.

Just before the second mile we turned onto the trail. It is an old railway trail, so the grades are relatively flat with minor upslopes and downslopes. It was also crushed rock/gravel and packed dirt, so an easier running surface than asphalt or concrete. Mile 2 came at 6:27, which actually felt right for the pace I was going - which was way too fast for my goal ..... I tried to back it off a little and settle into a groove and let the faster pack go. I wasn't there to try and run a 2:45!!

I found a rhythm that I liked and concentrated on being relaxed and smooth. The bottle of Vitamin Water was still sitting in my stomach and I had no desire to drink at 3 miles which was my plan - drink on 3, Gu on 6. I had my 6 bottle Fuel Belt so I would be set for nutrition for the race, at least until near the end was the thought.

There was a guy tailing me who was a relayer and another guy in front of me that was a full marathoner. I eventually hooked up with him and we ran together for the majority of the first half of the race. His name was Pierre, and he had done this race 5 times before and liked it. He was also going for a 3:10 - 3:20 time to get his BQ (he was a little older though) and we paced well together settling into a nice groove until about mile 10 or so.

At that point we were passed by a guy named Dane who was on his 47th marathon for the year. He was doing one a week for the whole year to help raise money for charity (www.fiddy2.com). He chatted for a few strides and then went on ahead. Pierre was worried that his pace was too fast as we were on about a 3:05-ish pace for most of the time we ran together and he started to back off a little. So I stayed with the same pace and eventually caught back up to Dane.

At a little after the halfway point the relayers switched out and we crossed a timing mat. Someone later said that it was around the 13.4 mile range so it will be interesting to see if the 13.1 split is called out from there. Because the 13 mile mark was definitely a lot more than .1 from the mats and the relay switch!

We hit the turnaround and I was feeling okay. I had been sipping from the bottles on the Fuel Belt and had taken a Gu at around the 7 mile mark and took one not long afte the turn, I'd say close to the 14 point. Focus was good, stride was good and pace was pretty consistent the whole time. For the first part of the return leg it did feel like we were traveling slightly downgrade which was nice. I tried to get a sense of where I was at the turn as far as overall goes, but all I could figure was that I was maybe top 35 or so. It was hard to tell.

I caught up with Dane and we ran together until about the 18 - 19 mark. He was really interesting to talk with and I enjoyed his company a lot. I'd suggest going to check out his cause and support him in any way that is possible. He was a really nice guy. He started to have a bad patch though and fell off as well.

I was still doing okay and had put a lot of time in the bank for the qualifying (needed a 3:15:59 or better). At the 20 mile mark I think I had almost 8 minutes leeway to get my time and there was hopes then of breaking 3:10, which would be what the young whipper snappers need to qualify. ;)

But the faster pace in the beginning and the altered nutrition plan was catching up. My next mile was slightly slower, but still near my goal pace of 7:29 - barely. And I was starting to get a little loopy. The first signs of bonking are that. Your brain runs off of pretty much only glycogen, so when those stores are used up you can't think as straight. Also, various muscles in my legs were starting to twitch. If I was to stop or walk I know from my Eagleman and last year's marathon experiences that the muscles would lock up and cramp. I made myself focus on form and staying relaxed and took a Gu and a drink even though I didn't really want to. I just knew that was what I needed. I also said, "okay, if you are forced to slow down, just concentrate on good form and don't blow too much." Mile 22 came at 7:56, so it was a bit of a drop. Mile 22 to 23 was probably the hardest I had had to that point. I hit 8:00 for the first ime in the entire run. But then the Gu kicked in and I actually had a lot sharper focus and felt okay again.

Although my pace wasn't the same as it was earlier, it was still not bad and I caught two more people. Somewhere along this stretch Dane passed me again and a runner was coming up the path and counting us off. When he got to me he said "23" and I was surprised. Top 25 in a marathon?? You're joking, right??

Right after the 24 mile mark we made the turn off of the trail and it was time to ascend back to the school. I knew this was coming but still knew it would hurt. My haziness started to come back and I had no desire to drink or eat, and knew that a Gu now wouldn't really help as we were too close to the end. At the first real hill I just gritted my teeth and plodded one foot in front of the other. I could easily tell my pace had plummeted but I was determined not to walk. 25 came at 9:19 .... I'd lost two minutes right there and since mile 21 had lost almost three and a half. But I was still well within my goal.

From 25 - 26 sucked .... it was a total plod. In the middle of that Pierre and a relayer passed me. I gave him the "great job, keep it going" grunt and focused on getting to the finish. 26 came at 9:16 and I had 5 minutes or so to work with. Even walking I could do .2 miles in that time!! I started to feel happy and relieved.

At the top of the hill I turn left into the finishing shoot. There it is on the timer as I cross ..... 3:12:44. I cross the mat with the two-handed metal salute and head down and give a "Hell yeah, BQ baby!" Then I hobbled and shuffled through the shoot, said congrats to Pierre and Dane and they said the same. I had done it ........

Results up. 24th/331 overall. 5th/38 in AG. I got 3rd place in my AG as far as hardware goes because two of the top 5 overall were from my AG. 24th overall, 3rd in AG and a BQ!! Not a bad day!!

Rick, "Retired" hobbyist athlete
Trying to come back slowly from acute A-Fib
Last edited by: Daremo: Nov 26, 06 7:43
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