2006 Santa Clarita Marathon

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Yesterday I completed my first marathon. Here's how the day went:

I got up around 5 AM and headed downstairs to get dressed. I had laid out all my race gear - shorts (stocked with gels, running gloves, and ibuprofen), shirt (number pre-pinned on), socks, shoes (new battery in the footpod on the right, timing chip attached on the left), watch, heart rate monitor strap, body glide, sunglasses, glasses strap, sunscreen - Saturday before bed. I also put together a "Pump Me Up" mix, which I listened to as I puttered around getting dressed, making some breakfast, and waiting for Mister P to arrive.

Mister P got there around 6 and we spent a half hour getting our post-race stuff coordinated and arranged. He was wearing a very snappy "I BLAME BRAD" sign on his back. Nice.

My sister Anne, who surprised me with a visit this weekend to cheer me on, gave us a ride down to the start line around 6:30. We milled around, I saw a couple people I knew, and took turns making "one last trip" to the porta-potties. Suddenly it was almost time to start, and I had no idea where Mister P had gotten off to - after a brief moment of confusion he appeared out of the sea of humanity at the start line. (Well, okay, more of a puddle of humanity - only 1400 total entries in the half and full marathon.) We stood together for the national anthem - I sang, he did not - and then the gun went off. We started slowly towards the timing pads and as soon as we got across them, Mister P was off like a shot, weaving through the crowd. I caught a glimpse of him slipping around the first left turn and then he was gone, not to be seen until mile 18.

After crossing the pad, I counted to five and started my watch.

In some ways it was good that he was gone. I was able to concentrate on taking it easy, and running my pace. The first mile seemed to pass pretty quickly, and my watch reported a pace of 10:01.9. I was pleased to have put a minute in the time bank for later. I was surprised as I worked my way along mile 2 to pass people that were already blowing really hard - what I call 2-breathing, inhale for two paces, exhale for two paces - and struggling. I checked their numbers and they were all half-marathoners, but still - that's a loooong way to go. I also sped up a little in the second mile to get away from some Very Loud Talkers who were busy Talking Very Loud. I can't tell you what they were talking about but it was Annoying As Hell.

Over the next few miles, however, it became clear that I had a problem with my footpod calibration. It has seemed a little wonky lately but I had hoped it was a battery problem that would be solved with a fresh one. By mile four I realized that the mile markers were not misplaced, but that my footpod was overreporting distance by a fairly healthy margin, which made my lap times extremely optomistic. And wrong. But that was okay, I knew about it.

Also at mile four I had the pleasure of hearing my family cheering for me, and having my kids each hand me a cup of water at the aid station. That was a nice boost - even though I was still feeling very fresh.

Miles five through nine were pretty uneventful, with the exception of one thing. This section of the race was on a 10-foot wide bike path, and by this time people were pretty spread out. Until Mr. Red Armbands came along. He passed me twice (I think I passed him back at a water break), right off my shoulder - like two inches - and as soon as he got an inch past me, he cut in front of me - both times. He had on headphones (dork) and so he did not hear my remark that there was Plenty Of Room For Everybody. Then in mile 8 or 9 he came to pass me again. I did not move from my line and once again he started to cut across the front of me, and he jostled my elbow. He apologized, and I told him that was the third time he'd done that to me. He was surprised ("what do you mean?") but apologetic when I explained the problem briefly. More about him later.

I was feeling great for miles ten through twelve. I taught some half marathoners the saying "I'm here to kick butt and chew bubble gum, and we're fresh out of bubble gum." I thanked volunteers for coming out to help. I drank water. I probably had a gel pack or two. As I was coming up on one of the sound systems they started playing "Eye Of The Tiger," which was awesome. Great! I feel great! The full marathon/half marathon split came up quickly and pretty much everybody went right for the half. My family was there cheering for me again as I came up to mile 12. Yea!

Suddenly it was quiet on the course. Only 320 people were running the full marathon, and we were pretty spread out. I picked up the pace a little because I was feeling good, but in general I was trying not to go too hard. I passed the 13.1 clock at 2:12 and thought, hey, I could break 4:30 here! Somewhere in mile 13 I had a couple behind me that was taking calls on their cell phone. "Yeah, we're coming up on mile 14." Honestly, who carries a cell phone during a race?

The mile 14 water break was the best. It was manned by Brownies - all dressed as pirates, complete with eye patches. I gave them a good "Arrrr!" as I took my by-now customary two cups of water - one to drink and one to dump on my head. Had I mentioned it was hot?

Between mile 14 and 15 the full marathon once again crossed paths with the half marathon. Since they were on mile 12 or so, I saw a bunch of people I had passed long, long ago. They seemed to be suffering. I must admit that I did not feel particularly sympathetic. At mile 15 I stopped to take some ibuprofen along with my gel pack and water.

Things started to get interesting around mile 16. The course was set up with an out-and-back spur between around mile 16 and 20 and another between about mile 21 and 25. I hit that first spur and started to wonder just what it was that had convinced me to sign up for this. The route was very non-scenic, with lots of roadside trail with zero shade and less character. For the first mile or so I was dreading seeing Mister P - I knew he was out in front of me somewhere, but I had no idea how far in front of me he was - and I was increasingly surprised when he kept not being the guy coming around that next corner.

I finally saw him a little past my mile 17/ before his mile 19. He and I gave each other the traditional Shout Of Greeting and the Low Five of Passing Runners You Know and I kept going. Finally, I got to the turnaround (and it's timing pad) at mile 18, and there was my sister Anne with her camera and her big voice - Go! Brad! Go! I was surprised and very pleased to be going back the other direction, with the wind. My 18 mile split was 3:05:26, or 10:19 miles.

I made my way back to the start of the first spur and headed up toward mile 21 and the second one. By this time the field was completely strung out and I was basically running by myself. This made for some tough miles but the peppy tunes at the water stations helped immensely. I watched for Mister P but there were several spots where the "back" side was not visible from the "out" side. I entertained myself with thoughts that perhaps I had passed him while he was in a portapotty and just tried to keep moving. I figured out that I could run 12 minute miles and hit my goal, which was reassuring on one level and no use at all on another. I still had to cover the distance.

At some point another runner and I started passing each other back and forth. On one pass he mentioned to me that he was 71 years old. This did not encourage me. The AARP guys are burying me out here! I finally dropped him around mile 23 - not long after Stroller Lady passed me.

Stroller Lady. Where to start? This woman was pushing a gigantic twin jog stroller with signs for the local Baskin-Robbins. I think there was a kid in the stroller but frankly I just can't recall. She blew by me somewhere between mile 22 and 23. Good grief! The stroller people are passing me! I cared about this but it was more of an academic exercise as I was going as fast as I dared - heart rate in the mid 90% of max range - and so I could not reel her back in. At least not then.

Miles 23 through around 25 were on packed dirt horse trail - plenty of shade (hurrah) and an uneven surface for Stroller Lady (hurrah). So I started to catch up with her. I also passed Mr. Red Armbands And Headphones on this stretch. He was walking with his head down at this point, looking like he was suffering. Ha! Sure, I'm being petty. But I won't lie to you - I enjoyed passing him.

We got back onto the pavement around mile 25 and then it was just a matter of grinding it out. The water station for mile 25 was closer to mile 25.5 and I didn't think I was ever going to get there. The curving paths made it seem like I was completely alone on the course, which was tough. I don't think I've ever been happier to have a paper cup of water than I was at the mile 25 water station.

I caught up with Stroller Lady as we were coming into the last mile or so. We were going over a bridge into the parking lot where the finish was and I turned to her and said "Okay, Stroller Lady. It's on!" (The smack-talking may have been a tactical error.) I pulled away from her on the downside of the bridge and started my way around the parking lot to the finish line.

Sadly, with about a half-mile to go, she blew by me once again - for the last time. I lamented her speed. She observed that she just wanted to be finished. Who can argue with that?

I came into the last couple hundred yards and turned on what little kick I had left. The stupid finish line band was sitting there picking their noses so I yelled at them. "I ran 26 miles and you're on break? START PLAYING!" (This earned me a quick guitar riff and a cymbal splash.) As I came around into the finish chute, I heard my family cheering and the announcer reading my number and name over the PA. (They thoughtfully did not mention my age.) I didn't realize it at the time, but as I passed them my kids came out onto the course to finish with me, which was really sweet. If I had known they were going to do that I would have waited for them - but as it was, if I heard them (which I doubt) I probably thought it was some other marathoner breathing down my neck.

I waited to a count of five past the finish pad and stopped my watch. 4:37:09. One second off my official chip time of 4:37:08.


More thoughts later. That's enough for now.

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This page contains a single entry by published on November 6, 2006 9:42 PM.

Marathon Finisher was the previous entry in this blog.

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