2012 Pensacola Marathon
I drove an hour, parked, and only had a couple blocks to walk. Used the same-day packet pickup, ran back to the car and prepared. Small races are SO AWESOME for easy logistics like this. They were calling for runners at the starting line while many were in line for the potties. Are there any races with enough potties to prevent that pre-race stress? Hey, it's chip-timed so no worries.
The Start - Mile 6
The line-up was informal and easy. I just went near the front. It wasn't long before the wheelchairs were going. To my surprise, we runners were started only a few minutes after the wheelchairs. We caught up and passed many of them (because the first half is gently uphill... they're very fast downhill).
As we started I watched pace and kept myself around 7:30 regardless of heart rate (until I was warmed up). There was a fair bit of runner traffic, but it was not irritating (yet), likely because I was near the front. We shared the road with cars but we usually had a lane (or a bike lane) to ourselves. Usually this worked. I was surprised that I recognized (and had previously run) much of the path from a training run I took while on a beach weekend here.
At about mile 5 another runner and I started chatting. He asked if I was targeting a 7:25 pace. I told him that I was going by HR, but 7:25 would yield a dream time, but it was not directly the goal; a specific HR was. He'd been using me as a pacer for a few miles. We talked for a while and at mile 6 I found that he was a half marathoner, and we split ways around the 6 mile marker.
Mile 7 - 13
The wind was fairly bad around miles 7-9 as we were passing the airport. I tried to draft some, but the one person near me stepped aside so I just passed. The wind kept me down to an 8 minute pace for a small bit but seemed to let up periodically and I was able to maintain speed using HR to govern a consistent effort.
At some STRANGE mile location (around mile 8.6) I crossed a timing pad. I could not figure out a reasonable measure for this pad (not 10k, 15k, 10mile, or half). The race official there required the guy in front of me to return to cross it (wasting seconds, and energy for 2 U-turns). So I aimed straight for it. I later learned that it was intended for the RETURN, and it was the half marathon mark. Not only did the guy not have to cross it, but it gave us super-bogus half times (estimating my marathon time at 1:54 or some such non-sense... world record, here I come!). There was lots of lonely running, which is fine for me. I could just get in the zone and did not have to focus on going around people.The first half felt MUCH slower than it was. I was feeling very strong and slowed myself down several times as I saw a sub 7 pace on my watch... I sometimes allowed the faster speeds if my HR was still below 165 (~79% HRR). I was in disbelief at times because I maintained bits of a 7:05 pace and a nice 162 HR (~77% HRR). I had to keep saying "trust your training runs."
Mile 14 - 17
By mile 15, my left foot hurt, which also hurt in the week before the race, causing me to skip a training run. I'm glad I took care of it, or it could have had a significant impact. By mile 17 I was feeling good, but feeling a little more fatigue. We joined the half marathoners again which turned out to be more annoying this time, because the ones present were MUCH slower than we were. This was just over the 2 hour mark and my mile 17 was their mile 7.5... so they were doing less than half my speed, and they were often walking and talking side-by-side in a narrow path. I often had to swing out into the car lane or fight with a curb. I really don't think this added time and it wasn't their fault, but it was irritating. The half-ers didn't expect us. I even heard a few comments on the full marathon bib color... "Oh, there's a white bib".
Mile 18 - 22
I knew that I was doing very well compared to any previous race. My excitement was building as I saw I was not fading, yet knew things could still go wrong, so it was not yet time to poor it on. By mile 18, my left foot was downright painful. Around mile 19, I started feeling the higher effort. The wind was at times significant just after mile 19, as we rounded a corner to run toward the South. We had some stretches that were better, and even had a very mild push from the wind for a little while.
I saw one runner talking to an official and heard him say "I just got so turned around and now don't know where I am". I felt so bad for him and knew how easily it could happen. I was hoping this was not a "milestone" race for him too. I knew how I'd feel if that happened to me at that point. Then, just down the road, fear gripped my heart...
There was a spot around mile 21 that the half marathoners split AGAIN... I didn't expect this and started to go their direction. Yet I saw a sign that pointing the way that said "half marathon." I saw nothing for the full marathon. Fear tore through me; I might be lost. The closest official was in his vehicle (likely because of the wind). There was one official near the half-marathon sign. I loudly yelled "WHERE'S THE MARATHON?" and was quickly pointed the way. It was a HUGE relief to see the "full-marathon". No analysis of what happened... I quickly moved on.
Around mile 21 I took a gel but I should have waited for mile 22 (where I could take in water with it). My stomach revolted. I asked an officer if he had any water (yes, I was desperate). He did not but pointed to the mile 22 station. I could see it, but it felt like forever when fighting an angry stomach. I paused a bit to take two (small) water cups, walking a few paces. The water quickly calmed my stomach (whew) and I hadn't lost any time... just endured pain. (If we couldn't endure pain, we wouldn't be marathoners anyway.)
Mile 23 - Finish
I crossed the 23 mile mark, and immediately rounded a corner, slamming into head-on wind. It was merely bad for a little while (maybe 8 MPH). Then it started to really rip past me, causing what felt like significant slowing. I fought the wind and fought a childish anger about it. For the entire last 3 miles the headwind was brutal... unrelenting and felt every bit of the predicted 15 MPH, and at times higher. I put my head down and monitored my HR, and repeated "even with this, the time will be strong... go go go."
In one case (~mile 25) I was to go straight, but the sign pointed more to the right. The officer was inside his car and even stopped traffic with hand motions out the window... didn't give me a confident feeling that the cars would stop. His hand motion to me was not too clear, but I recognized some surroundings and correctly gleaned that I should stay straight.
With just over a mile left, I was pushing as hard as I could and didn't bother to look at my watch any more. Mad at the wind and determined, I pushed a little harder. I saw an arch. Must be the finish! It was not. But I then saw the timing pads and kept pushing while trying to see the official race clock. Seeing the 3:15:something on the clock made my brain jump around with excitement! I pushed hard across the line and stopped my watch which showed one second under my official time of 3:15:38.
I did my cool-down jogging behind the finish, absorbing what happened. I finally did what I was sure I could do. I've waited 2 years to see this time. While elated, I kept vacillating between "I KNEW I COULD!" to "Did I REALLY do that?" It's certainly a day I'll remember.
The race results and statistics are as follows:
This my HRR % for this race. While I'm happy with it, I was not as consistent as it could have been, especially miles 8-13 and 20-22. The REAL key information was that this closely matched my training runs, leading me to believe that elevated heart rate in my prior HRR governed race (Tupelo) was greatly affected by the heat/humidity IN SPITE of the fact that I trained commonly in the same conditions. Pensacola showed that my HR in a race with good conditions, will be close to that of training runs.
I'm very pleased with these splits. The wind did significantly affect miles 23-the finish, making it appear that I was merely consistent... I wasn't. The effort was increasing there, and it only somewhat reflected in the average HR.
This race had been called The Blue Angels Marathon. I don't know the reasons for the switch, but the tie with the Blue Angels is still evident. I appreciated the medal.
I was expecting an Age Group placement (50-54) but didn't know that they had a Grand Master prize (50-59) and was happy to have earned that.
© copyright - Mark W. Rice