A few weeks ago, I did my longest training run since returning from my injury. 18 miles. Torturous, lead-legged, never-ending mile after mile. Some days are like that and thankfully I've been running long enough to know I will have a good run again.
So of course, with a week until Tacoma City Marathon, the ache of not running a race I've done so many times before haunted my thoughts. I clicked on the website and felt like I was mourning a friend. Being so close to race day, I knew the entry fees would be prohibitive for me and as I perused the fee schedule, I happened upon the pacer information page. I noted that the 4:15 pacer slot was OPEN and the idea niggled in my brain that MAYBE I could run that pace and MAYBE I could finish a full marathon and MAYBE the slot was still open. I sent an innocent message to my buddy and TCM volunteer coodinator, Tony Seabolt, and asked if they still needed a pacer.
It's important to phrase questions and requests very carefully to volunteer coordinators. I was signed up as a pacer in less than 24 hours and Tony reported to Tony Philipi, Race Director Extraordinair, that "I got that!". Oh man, would I??
With no time to "train" for a 4:15 pace, I had to jump in and pray that my legs and mind would cooperate and do better than the prior weekend's 18 miler. Doing some quick math, a 4:15 averages to 9:43 a mile which doesn't sound too intimidating. Yet I had doubts.
After teaching water aerobics at the YMCA on Friday morning, I drove straight to the expo to pick up my race number and timing chip. There was a table of giveaways and I scored some amazing shirts and finisher's glasses from past races. Nice! I saw the Prez, Steven Yee, Tony Philipi, Miguel Galeana, owner of Rt. 16 and running phenom, along with many other running friends. Of course they all looked fabulous while I was still sweaty from my class. I don't think my running friends know me any other way!
Sunday morning came quickly and I got out of the house by 6:05 a.m. The pacers were to meet at Hotel Murano by 6:45 and I knew I was cutting it close if I had a hard time finding a parking spot. Thankfully the hotel was not right by the finish and I was able to park within 2 blocks of the hotel. Pacers were lounging on the hotel couches sporting their Marathon Maniac shirts. Pacers included David Spooner, Terry Sentinella, Scott Krell, Steve The Programmer Pendleton, and Kurt Lauer.
Tacoma Marathon Pacers
The pace signs arrived and we were called to the limosuine! I haven't been in a limo since I was 14 at my dad and step-mom's wedding. A short 5 minute ride later, we arrived at the start line of the race and were introduced to the anxious crowd. Tony Philipi announced our total marathons/ultra stats and our marathon personal records. At 36 marathons, I was the "baby" of the group. In any other circle of people, it sounds impressive. Not with these runners!
With a little time to spare before the race, I was able to use the porta-potty and find some friends waiting for the start. Nicole Niemann-Carr, Bill Barmore, and Merita Tromovich (woman's overall winner) were waiting together. Bill was volunteering for the race. Nicole was hoping to run a 4 hour marathon and get her personal record. She did get a personal record but missed 4 hours by a second! Merita is a competitor and I didn't know what she was planning except to run fast!
As we lined up near our goal paces, a group of about 6 runners let me know they would be attempting to stay with me. I knew there were others who would be hanging with us but didn't say anything. My goal was to hit the half way point at 2:05, giving us a little cushion for the second half. I let everyone know we would be hitting the mile splits around 9:13-9:20 at least for the first 5 or 6 miles. Ideally we would not go over 9:30 until we were in the park. Anyone who has run this course knows the reasoning here. I remember my first time running this. I was on pace for 3:15 and around mile 16, my legs were quivering. Merita passed me during that time and another male frontrunner desperately grabbed his cramping halmstrings. Five mile drive through Point Defiance Park, possibly the sister forest of Fangorn Forest from Lord of the Rings, is deceptively hilly. Just when you think you've reached to top, Treebeard laughs at you and lifts the road up even higher.
My group of runners who stuck with me the longest were Mike, Mark, Jim, and a woman whose name I didn't know. She was one of the silent runners until the park. I was thankful to have such a fun group of people surround me. We were hitting our miles very consistently and made the half marathon split at 2:04. Jim was running his first marathon, Mark was hoping to best his personal record of 4:45 or so, and Mike was hoping to hit 4:15 but I don't recall what his other marathon times were. The woman was also hoping to beat her previous best time.
As we exited the park, I prepared my runners for the long ascent and to my surprise, we turned left and Tony Philipi suddenly became my best friend. The "what the @&$!" hill that follows the insulting hills through the park was gone! Mike and the woman were feeling good and able to get ahead of our group during this time. My legs were feeling the miles and after I did some marathon math, announced that we had time to take little walk breaks if needed and still make the 4:15 finish time. I still had Jim and Mark with me through mile 20-21. Mark's hamstring was seizing on him but he kept pushing, using walk breaks and then leapfrogging back to us. I sent Jim on his way about mile 22 with a reminder that the last 2 miles were golden on this course.
Mile 23 and I'm alone! I couldn't see Mark anywhere. Mile 24 and I literally stop and wait and still don't see him. I wait until a few runners come along and I encourage them with finish time predictions. I let them know that if they can just maintain a 9:43 average in the next 2 miles, they will get a 4:15. Maniac #484 hangs with me through the race, while the other runner is able to push herself to finish in front of us. We tried to collect one more runner in the last .5 mile but his legs were cramping and he just couldn't do it. We finished in 4:15:25.
Mike, the woman, and Jim all finished faster than 4:15! And Mark finished in 4:18 getting a personal record of almost 30 minutes. It was a very successful day and the weather had been perfect.
My next marathon is scheduled for May, the First Call to Run Spring Marathon that I am using as a training run. North Olympic Discovery Marathon is June 5th followed by the Seattle Rock and Roll on June 25th. I am working on letting go of my pride during June as I know my legs are not trained up to race fast yet. I should have completed my 39th marathon by June 25th!