Well; now that I had completed a half-marathon, I set my eyes on the full meal deal - the LA Marathon on March 3rd. A great opportunity to go to Southern California with Cheryl, see all the relatives, and maybe qualify for Boston. Shaine's college applications were mainly to New England, and I thought a trip to Boston, MA, in April 2003 would fit nicely with a visit to her at the College of Her Choice. One of those internet running sites had a calculator purporting to show your time in any event, based on what you did in another distance. A 1:41 half-marathon calculated out to 3:30 for a full 26.1 miles, which was the exact qualifying time for my age group to Boston.
But, how to train, and get motivated to run enough to prep for the thing? The Ft. Steilacoom Running Club for years has sponsored a "Resolution Run" series, starting on New Year's Day with a 5K or 5 mile event, progressing every three to four weeks through 10, 15, to 20K or 20 miles. One can enter all four, run Ks or Ms either time, or do just the Ks (or Ms), and try to win the series. I figured, looking at the previous times, and noting what I needed to do in training for a marathon, that I could get in the top 5 in my age group in the Kilometer series. So, 7:30 AM on New Year's Day, I stuffed a bag full of running gear, with options for tights, pullover, extra shoes, a towel, and drove off to Ft. S. High School. "Great" I thought when I got there, "This place is only 22 minutes from home. Got my number, wandered around a bit, and found the stairs going down. There, I meandered to a locker room (labeled "maintenance"), and saw showers, lockers, etc. This seemed plush to me, as I'm used to setting up for triathlons on chilly mornings outside, soaking in the dew, and waiting for body-marking, wetsuit donning, and the inevitable plunge into frigid waters.
This day was actually sunny (not saying much at this time of year though - the sun didn't break over the trees, and was fighting all the way with fog and mist and low clouds). The doors outside the locker room led down to a track, where we would start and finish. I tried a lap or two to warm up, and reminded myself I was here to learn, having never run such a short race before - 5K should take about 20 minutes, but what's the pace, what's the heart rate? I didn't know, so picked "159" for the HR goal, and sub seven minute miles for the pace.
We line up, and go through way too long an introduction to the series, hearing about the former race directors who are now married (or was that just betrothed?), listening to a description of the course ( a useless exercise for me - I can never translate from my head to the run until I actually go thru it), and hearing about some "Roman Meal, and Glove Runs, which apparently took place months ago, and were already part of local lore. Finally, we're off, and I steam around the track, up the hill to the parking lot, across the main thoroughfare, and into the neighborhood, then quickly back again. At the gravel by the gas station, I turn on the after burners, and zoom over 160 for the last 3/4ths of a mile. 20.55, 6:44 mile pace, 5/14, 3rd among those going for the series, 13 seconds behind second. Hmm, maybe I can actually do this running thing.
However, in analyzing the times and people around me, I think I'm among the very slowest "runners", just ahead of the fastest "joggers" in this population. But, a dry place to change clothes, post race chili, and a short drive home all soften the sting that maybe I'm just a dilettante, not a real runner, which is OK with me.
Three weeks later, I'm back, this time for the 10K. Today, the temp is about 30F, with black-ice roads, and a brighter, but colder sky. I aim to break into the top three this time and get a ribbon, but resolve to start fast, avoiding my mistake for the half-marathon, where I jogged for the first mile or two at a 9 minute pace. Here, I want to be under 6:50 for the first mile, and burn it up from there. The track is crunchy, the gravel up slope into the parking lot is firm frozen, but the asphalt is a skating rink in places. People around me gingerly steer through the ice. I trust my balance (after all, I AM a skier first foremost, and was an ice skater before that!) and hit the half-way mark under 22 minutes. I link up with a couple of older gentlemen (meaning older than me), who seem to want to use me as a rabbit. One labors like a steam engine, the other sounds like a horse, and both seem bothered by the ice.
I cruise on, staying near 159, and open it up again at the gas station. I sprint around the track, hitting 163 at the finish. 44:17, 17th place overall, 2/16 in my age group, 7:08 miles. The smaller, older of my two trailers comes up as I'm gasping for air, trying to flush water down my system. He shakes my hand, congratulating me on my finish. I can't even say thank you; I just want to breath again. Turns out those two were 1st in the 60-64, and 55-59 age groups. I stick around for the baked potato and my red ribbon.
Four weeks later, a week before my marathon, I come back for the 15K. This might be a mistake, but I plan on not going fast, just using this as my final pace/long run before the race. Today, it's about 40F, and raining lightly. Puddles everywhere, meaning the thing I like least - running with heavy wet shoes - will plague me today. Oh well. I end up 5/17, 1:09:58 (7:31 miles), 3.5 minutes back of my competition for second in the series, and 2.5 minutes behind CARL, the weight lifter from the gym. I know I can beat him! I don't know if this was too fast for an LA prep or not.
Three weeks later, I'm back for 20K. (If you're reading these in order, I'll keep you in suspense on my marathon result.) Suffice it to say, my only goal here is a third place in the series, which I can probably do WALKING today. But I don't want to walk, as it's SNOWING! Two inches of the crunchy stuff on the track, wet puddles (31F) on the roads, and just a miserable excuse for a running day. The only good part, I need a longer run now, two weeks after the 26 miler, and I sure would never do it unless I had other idiots around me, to make it seem less masochistic. I come back in at 1:36:44 (7:48), WAAAY behind Mr. Number 2, 3/9. I take off my cap, and notice an inch of snow on the bill. I strip the tights and heavy biking shirt, pile them with my shoes and socks, and estimate the whole mess weighs at least ten pounds. No wonder I'm so slow, I'm carrying a 7% weight handicap!
Baked potato again, and two more white ribbons to finish my
winter running career. The guy handing them to me says "Hope
to see you back here next year". I think, "Cold, ice,
rain, snow - what are the odds for a decent day next year - just
40F, with no wetness, for one race. I might be back then".