"Your strength is your endurance" - Coach Amy
I went into this race not feeling very confident in myself, not having run a marathon well in a long time. The last marathon I went out and tried to run as fast as I could was the 2015 Walkway Marathon in Poughkeepsie, NY. Long story short, it was the worst executed race I've ever run an included a nice 10+ minute positive split on the way to finishing just over 3:05 and missing my BQ. Anyway, back to the present...
I knew that I had learned from my mistake and that under no circumstance would I allow myself to go out that hard/fast and let that bonk of all bonks happen again. That in mind, I knew the course would be challenging to manage if I was not prepared. It began with a big climb about 1/2 miles in then downhill for about 10k until hitting some nice flat for a while and then about 4 miles of climbing about mile 15 to get across a big bridge finally before coming back down a huge descent and hitting the flat for the last 6-7 into the finish.
I knew that I wanted to keep my HR as low as I could for that first 7 (aside from the initial climb) to conserve energy for the climb and later in the race. Doing this would be key to having a good race on this course. As the race started the front of the group quickly divided into about 3 packs. The leaders took off on a pace most could not sustain, then a second chase group, and then a third group all planning to hit around or under the 3 hour mark. There I was with about 12 guys for about the first few miles until we hit a bike path coming down the side of the hill for a few miles. From here we got into a nice group of about 4-5 guys (coincidentally enough 4 of us were all wearing yellow singlets). We quietly raced side by side for about the first 10 miles before spreading out a bit more. During the first 13 miles I closely watched my heart rate and could also tell that most of the guys around me were also working much harder than I was at the time. I knew this would work in my favor later on. I crossed the halfway mark in 36th place in 1:27:41.
From there, the fun began. We had another mile or so of flatish roads before heading up a steep climb which began the 4ish miles of ascent. Luckily this wasn't as bad as I imagined in my head, and only one mile did I break 7 minute pace. There were a few nice spots to recover for a moment before heading back up. The bridge wasn't as bad as I thought it would be either. Coming off the bridge I got locked in step with another racer who was determined to stay in front of me (no matter how much it pushed him), so we jockeyed back and forth for about 2 miles. Once we got off the bridge and back down to the water we hit a massive headwind and I asked him if he wanted to work together and switch off leading and drafting with each other. Unfortunately he did not understand my English, but after some crude sign language I managed to get him to understand my plan to draft for 2-3 minutes off each other and swap back and forth. We did this for maybe 15 minutes before one of his buddies came off the course and started running in front of him to help with the draft. I immediately pointed to him and said "no no" and went on my way and dropped them both. It was a bit sooner than I wanted to make my move, but there was no turning back now.
For the last 10k of the race I was passing people pretty much nonstop, one after the next. Just reeling them in and moving onto the next one. I was definitely feeling tired, but knew I was getting close and would be well under 3 hours, so I just kept pushing. I kept repeating "your strength is your endurance" in my head because I knew Amy was right and it helped me keep picking up the pace. With each person I passed I felt stronger and more motivated to catch the next one. In this stretch I passed the 2nd and 3rd place women, and even a guy pushing a stroller that came in under 3 hours (but I couldn't catch the other stroller guy who finished a few seconds ahead of me). I had moved up from 36th at the half to 15th overall at the finish putting in a 1:28: 55 second half split. Slightly positive split, but overall very happy with them considering the top 10 men all had 5-10 minute positive splits or worse.
It was great getting a call the next day from my close friend Breno Melo, coach at Above Threshold Training, to hear him say he saw my Strava file and that I basically ran a perfectly executed race. Hearing that from a very accomplished athlete made me feel really great. He commended me on increasing my heart rate slightly and slightly as the race went on (see red line below matched to elevation profile).
Though, I know I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement from my coach. Having Amy push me for the last year has improved my running way more than I ever could have imagined it would and I am very grateful for her pushing me to the limit. I've been lucky to have some great races lately and great results, but I know I can get better and I know she will get me to where I want to be!
OH, and because the course wasn't very spectator friendly, Woo decided to go ahead and sign up the day before the race to join me. Even though it was only a week after she crushed her Ironman! She just wanted to go out and "play tourist" and have a fun easy run. In the end Woo had probably best splits of anyone in the entire race posting an 8:13 negative split!! I looked through results and could only find one other person with negative splits and it was the 10th place woman who had a :03 neg split. Woo also passed 205 people in the second half of the race and 13 in her division. Most impressive!
The course was not quite as "scenic" as we thought it would be though, but I really liked the layout of the race course and would definitely do this one again. There were some beautiful spots along the water, but also a few spots that were kind of run down and/or industrial, but overall the course and support were great! I would definitely recommend this race to anyone looking for a fast late summer marathon. I do think we got lucky with the weather too, low 70s and overcast made for perfect running weather aside from the headwind.
At the end of the day this was my 2nd fastest marathon and got me a much needed 8+ minute buffer for Boston Marathon registration for 2017, which was my ultimate goal. So happy to have raced smart, finished strong, and finish ahead of my expectations. All and all a great day. Now where is my poutine??