Sunday, October 11, I ran my last marathon of my early 50s -- the Hudson Mohawk Marathon, from Schenectady to Albany along the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers. I picked it for one set of reasons, and enjoyed it for an entirely different set. The original concept was that a whole bunch of us from the South Brooklyn Running Club would go and use the race to try to qualify for Boston. The race is small. The course is pretty flat and net downhill. What's not to like. As we got closer to race date, however, the phalanx dwindled due to injuries and other health concerns. By the time the race rolled around, it was just me and F. Oh well, the few, the proud.
As I have detailed earlier, I'd been wrestling with various goals -- BQ, PR, 4 hours. . . Quite frankly any of those would count as a success, but the question was which one to aim for. Boston qualifying was the original idea. In 2012 I ran 3:42 -- a freakish outlier and PR. The qualifying standard for me for 2017 is 3:40. That seemed vaguely within reach. That is, until the qualifying standard for 2016 was announced to be 2:30 under the stated standard. There's a big difference between a two minute PR and a 5 minute PR. That knocked the wind out of my sails, along with the fact that I simply did not feel quite as fit as I was in 2012.
That said, I made a plan (in conjunction with my guru M). Go out at a stead 8:20 pace (3:40), and if there's gas at 20, light the afterburners -- Hah!! There were two flaws in this plan, and I knew them. It assumed: (1) that 8:20 was a conservative, rather than aggressive pace; and (2) that I have ever, ever, ever, in my life, run negative splits in a Marathon. Oh well, go big or go home, right??
So that's what I did. After a cold wait for the start, I lined up with the 3:40 pace group, and headed out. While at the time, I thought (due to Garmin peculiarities) that we had gone out a bit fast, careful review of the data showed stead 8:15-8:20 miles from the start. I felt good, comfortable, the weather was cooperating. The course was spectacular -- first country roads, then the shores of the Mohawk River on a perfect fall day. I hit the half marathon right on schedule -- 1:49.30 and held pace, mostly (okay, assuming 8 minute miles for the last 10K), through 20 (2:49.40) miles. Without going into the details, though, I slowed a little bit at 18-19, over a tough part of the course, gunned it to get back on pace at 20, and then blew up big.
It wasn't an injury blow up. I just ran out of gas. My legs just wouldn't go anymore. My heart rate dropped, and I lost my mojo. I was okay doing the survival shuffle, but not much more. I stopped to pee, I chatted with the other broken souls, and gutted it out. End result, 3:55 and a bit. Gotta say, that surprised me. Out of defeat, a pretty nice victory. Sub-4 hours, 9 minutes faster than last year, and in what I usually think of as my happy zone. The vast majority of my marathons have been in the zone of 3:50-3:55, with the plurality in the vicinity of 3:54-3:55. I am so _not_ complaining with that result.
Another one for the books!