2012 Pensacola Marathon
The purpose of this race is to pace my friend Mike Mohr in his first marathon. While qualifying for Boston would be a stretch goal, I reviewed the numbers from last year and knew it was possible to place in our age group even without that. Of course, the first goal was just to have a good race for his first, and have a memorable time together. Mike uses HR (heart rate) training and we planned to start at about 8:20 pace while monitoring HR for the first 4 miles or so. We knew that Mike's calves (that had been having some pain) could cause changes too, so he planned to watch that carefully. I had a watch that read HIS heart rate so I could help monitor it. This was the first time I carried a phone too... I texted the family mile markers periodically so they could attempt to meet us at mile 9 and at the finish.
This would be a very interesting race for me because I've always gone out to go as fast as I could. So this is the first race that I was going at a pace that was easy for me. I was curious about what would change. There were a few surprises.
Small races are SO AWESOME for easy logistics and this was great yet again. I was able to pick up both race packets the day before.
The Start - Mile 6
The line-up was informal and easy. We went somewhat near the front, but not as close as I was able to go last year... they had baracades so we were about 50 feet back. 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).
We started at the planned 8:20 pace and mostly held that for several miles. Mike was watching his heart rate and feeling how it was on his body. We settled in to a reasonable pace. By around mile 4, we somewhat locked in on Mike's heart rate of 158-160.
The first split from the half marathon happened at mile 6 and that came up quickly for me. The crowd was much thinner at that point.
Mile 7 - 16
The wind was present, but not as bad as it was last year. I was able to block wind some for Mike. We saw the family at mile 9 which was a nice psychological boost. But we were not too tired by that time. Too bad this would not be there at mile 17 or beyond. But we knew they would be at the finish. By around mile 14 the gradual up hill was mostly gone... it was gently up and gently down both near the end of this stretch. We slowed a bit in the middle and end of this. We were around 8:45, so I knew the Boston qualification was out, but I had studied the finish times for last year so I knew that we had a shot at age group (AG) awards. I wanted to push as much as reasonable for Mike. Somewhere around mile 14, a guy was telling us what place we were in. we were around 135 and 136.
Mile 17 - 21.5
At mile 17 we rejoined the half marathoners. It seemed thinner than last year which was likely because last year I hit this point earlier... while they were more densly crowded. This year it was not a big deal to merge with them. Mike was continuing to monitor his leg. He had some pain with it, but not too bad. We kept up the 8:45-ish pace through most of this. We had some people passing us, but we were passing quite a few. Mike was hanging in tough.
Mile 21.5 - 23
At about 21.5, the half marathoners split from us again. This year I knew it would happen so it did not catch me off guard. I also remembered the site so we went the correct way very easily. It was also better marked this year (the wind was not blowing the signs around as much).
There were a couple slow miles for Mike, but very few. He hung on to the 8:40 or so pace most of the way and actually picked up pace near the end.
I began running ahead of Mike. At times I was able to block the wind. Sometimes the wind came up suddenly and didn't stay too long. It had value, but not always as much as I was hoping. When the wind was constant, it was helpful.
While we had some distance to go, reaching mile 23 was a great milestone (quite literally I suppose). We let his HR go higher and picked it up a little.
Mile 24 - Finish
We began picking up the pace a bit and were trying to reel in anyone who looked to be our age (hoping for an age group plaque for Mike). We know of two that we passed and later would see them in the standings. We didn't talk as much through this part... The wind was higher in this area and I just ran a couple steps ahead trying to block what I could.
A runner was down. Legs on the road, torso laying over some low growth greenery... an official motioned to me and wanted something. I told Mike to run ahead. The official approached (no words) and took my water bottle... the runner was out cold. There were several officials there, so I knew I could not help any more. They poored the water on him and I turned to leave. I hope he was OK.
HR was no longer an issue... Whatever Mike could do is what we ran. The last person that we passed who seemed to be near our age was walking (and we never walked). Of course, we never knew when they may blast to the end. (This one never did... we beat him by 5 minutes so he may have walked the entire way or even stopped).
Just past the 25 mile marker, I let Mike know that we had only a mile left. Mike just stayed fairly focused with little talking. I was sending texts to the family so they'd know where we were.
Less than a half mile to go. Mike hung in tough and we maintined our increased speed. We rounded the last corner and saw the finish. The crowds were thicker here as expected. As the crowd thickened on our approach, I began shouting "FIRST MARATHON" and pointing to Mike. The crowds responded with huge cheers for him multiple times. Mike was looking strong and gave big waves as we covered chute and crossed the finish. Family was right there and was so excited! Great fun!
Mike was a little wobbly but needed no help. What an awesome performance! We later learned that he came in 3rd in his AGE Group! That gives his accomplishment some perspective! Great run... one we'll both remember for a long time.
The race results and statistics are as follows:
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 clear.
© copyright - Mark W. Rice