One of the greatest experiences ever!
Well, we did it! We completed the 2007 Shamrockfest Marathon in well under our goal of 4 hours and had a blast doing it! For Teddy and I it was our first marathon while Cole ran the Marine Corp Marathon back in October as his first. All in all we were/are all sore as can be but otherwise we're feeling great! My right knee is pretty sore but I think that is due to me twisting it a few weeks ago during training and should be back to normal soon. Otherwise my muscles feel a bit like they would after a hard day of lifting in the gym but nothing more then that.
The three of us started the race with the 4 hour pace group and ran a good pace to open up the race. We averaged around an 8:45 minute mile for the first 6 or 7 miles before picking it up to around 8:30 where we held consistently through somewhere around mile 17. At this point we started to let our minds into the race a bit too much, especially as we compared heart rates and mine was still consistently at least 10 points lower then Cole's. We also hit a stretch of the race where supporters were few and far between and we were left with only the sounds of our own breathing and our shoes on the pavement.
We also through this period hit a steady and torturous head wind which we were left to fight through. Occasionally we would catch a pack and I would jump behind a taller runner to draft, but my lack of discipline had me pulling quickly by them as I wanted to continue my pace. We figured on the way back down though we would get this wind as a tail wind and we would get blown in to the finish with help. Unfortunately the wind was shifting and we only managed a few bursts behind us to help us along, not to mention by this point in the race leg movement was hindered by the soreness in our hips and knees so that help from the wind was only refused by the legs.
While we ran together we stuck three abreast and for a good portion of the race had a following of 4 or 5 runners that stuck behind us and joked along with us as we ran. While this was certainly not the best strategic approach (especially as the other runners drafted behind us through some of the toughest sections of wind) it felt good to be setting the pace three abreast with two of my closest friends.
The three of us though managed to stick together through somewhere around mile 20 or mile 21 were we lost one at a water stop and the distance was never recovered. I lost the second at a water stop a little further down and was left alone in front trying to chase down the 3 hour and 50 minute crew that we had just let slip away. As I watched them run off ahead and knew my friends were falling off behind I tried to fight off the pain in my legs and carry myself through the last few miles. The last 5 miles were by far the hardest miles of the race and the final 2 or 3 were probably some of the toughest accomplishments of my life. Every part of my body was telling me to stop, but I knew I had to keep going for just a little bit longer.
From miles 24 to 25 as I ran by myself watching people pass me I hit the lowest point of my race here and I knew it as I went along. I ran my slowest mile at 9:17 and just wanted to be finished. From 25 to 26 I managed to pick it up just a bit as I knew I was getting into the final mile and it was just a matter of minutes until I would be crossing the finish line with my hands held high. I came to a corner and figured the finish was just around the bend, came to another corner and another with the same hopes until finally I hit the boardwalk and saw the finish line in the distance, probably less then 1/2 a mile away.
I picked up my pace just a little bit more here and started to pass other runners offering words of encouragement as I went by. When I got to the 26 mile marker I lengthened out my stride for the last 2 tenths of a mile and went barreling across the finish line as fast as my legs would allow. As I "sprinted" for the finish I could hear people calling out my name since I was all alone out in the open lane. My face twisted from agony to ecstasy and back again as I ran past all of the supporters and clanging cowbells.
Looking back on this even as I still sit here in pain, everything about it was entirely worth it, even the searing pain in my knees and the ankle that was rubbed raw from the chip strap. I feel like for the first time in a long time I set a goal for myself that wasn't an easy accomplishment and I overcame my fear of failure, worked hard and completed my goal. It feels even better that I essentially smashed my expectation of time by nearly ten minutes finishing in 3 hours, 50 minutes and 21 seconds (though I am a little disappointed by that damn 21 seconds!).
Now as I start to think about number two I'm thinking a good goal should be around a 3:30. I know 20 minutes is a lot of time to drop, but I think now that I've got an idea about the race and the confidence in me to know that I can do it I should be setting another tough possibly unattainable goal. I think 3:30 is about right; not to mention my ideas about a possible triathlon. I've officially become a DC resident now so it is probably about time for me to start using those public pools for some swimming training!