Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Boston Bound at CIM with Turkey Tom and a Sweet Victory!

Ahhhh I can finally say that I am officially a Boston Qualifier. I ran CIM on Sunday 12/2/07 and posted a final 3:14:06 chip time (which meets my Boston Qualification of 3:15 by just seconds!).

Of course it only took me 18 marathons, 3 ultras and 1 Ironman 70.3 to get here... but none the less I made it and am proud of the sore victory I am enjoying today. Truthfully I'm not sure if I am going to go (though everyone says I should) because it was just knowing if I could actually do it before I am considered in the Masters Division. '08 is already shaping up to be a very expensive and exhausting race schedule so I may postpone Boston until '09 since I have the 18 month window; we'll have to wait and see but if I do it in '08 it's going to be a bit last minute.

The CIM race in itself was an interesting adventure. Two major things were accomplished in this race: 1st I ran a 14 minute PR while also qualifying for Boston, and 2nd my brother completed his first marathon with a time of 4:25 (which bests my 1st marathon time by 20 minutes!).

What made it so interesting beyond that?
The first 13 miles were very predictable because I knew that holding a 7:20 pace was going to be tough even for me, so I held back and did the responsible thing by sticking to my pace from the start and not going out too fast. So the first half of this race was very nice, comfortable and relaxed. I even had managed to stay just an edge in front of the 3:15 pace group.
After the first split things got interesting. What I learned about Sacramento is that they actually have a sort of small country charm to them around Folsom (yes, the same Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Blues place). You know what else you find in country settings? how about wild fowl and animals... The weirdness began when at about mile 14 when a wild gobbling Turkey came out from behind the small town store and starting chasing the marathoners up the road. It took a moment for me to do the double take before I kicked my heels a couple of times and decided I needed to get out of dodge and away from the gobbling mayhem running up behind. The turkey was an odd and funny distraction and helped me relax a little and find my rythm again (wish I had video because it was a bit hilarious to see runners trying to scramble around and away from this "Tom"). Once I got my 7:20 pace and rythm back in place I was starting to feel a bit lagged but nothing unusual, I've been here before and kicked my own ass back into gear, I mean this is what all the tranining was for right?! So all is going well and we are nearing the 17 mile marker, perfect water stop, and I needed it. Should have been the typical stop and usually you would think the folks running around the 3:10-3:15 pace are not rookies... oh my mistake! Did anyone tell that guy that you are not supposed to stop in the water line once you get your cup, "Ouch"!
I was at a nice clip coming into the station and made my usually planned entry point about 3/4 up the water line which was just past where most people were making the water line exit. Unfortunately as I tried to slow down for the exiting runner in front of me, he decided to stop, yes STOP. He took his cup of water and took about two steps to the left (into running traffic) and planted himself to drink, so naturally you can ascertain the next event which was me plowing straight into him trying to make my path in. I was fairly worked already at this point and was all I could do to stay on my feet and keep moving... no water for me this time because I knew that I had no time to stop if I was to make the Boston cutoff. So I hobbled a bit out of the station with a cramped right foot but I knew I could work it out and there were more H2O stops so onward it was!

Things were still moving along nicely but at 21 I was starting to dwindle and really could have used some inspiration or a running partner. As I had gotten fairly close to the 3:10 pace group around 18 and 19, I knew the last couple of miles I was dragging below my required pace. The sound that made my heart drop and my feet kick was the huff and puff of the 3:15 group right behind me. At that point all I could think was there is no way I can let Boston slip away with less than a 10K to go. I dug deep and as the 3:15 group sidled right next to me I knew that I had to stay with them, then inspiration came from my blind-spot, literally. As the 3:15 group (which was about 20 guys and 1 girl) slowly grew around me a gentleman of my age who was in fantastic shape and looked amazingly relaxed passed me. As he made his way to be in front of me I was staring at his yellow vest that read "BLIND"... He was not running with an attached partner and seemed that he was intently listening to feet and breathing of those around him because he was completely in stride with the group and almost meticulously perfect in his stride. This gave me courage and realization that anything is possible that you put your mind to so I found another kick in me and stayed with the 3:15 group to mile 24. By now this group had dwindled to about 10 guys, most looking like this was just a simple 5k. I was starting to feel the sweet victory of seeing anything less than 3:15 on the clock and was digging in deep to visualize the finish, knowing that my family was at the finish watching and my brother was out there doing his first marathon I was feeling pretty high on life. Something hit me again though just yards before the 26 mile banner, and again I began to sag. I was using all my might to keep a visual on the 3:15 pace leader but I could not find anything in me to keep it going and as the 26 mile banner drifted behind me I was watching my Boston hopes in the form of the 3:15 group create a gap in front of me that I could not close. It was about this time with 2/10ths or less of the race to go that I spotted Tom, Jan, Leslie and my mom Shirley screaming and yelling to "Run Forest Run!!!" and wouldn't you know it that was exactly the inspiration I needed at that moment. In that split second of eye contact I had no energy to shout back or even raise my arms in acknowledgement but my shoes lit up with the wings of Mercury and lifted me to the banner where the clock read 3:14:45... yep just 15 seconds away from the cutoff! I crossed the line with my chip time of 3:14:06 and I could finally give the appropriate tribal "WootWoot" allowed to finishing athletes along with the raised fist pumping to show not just a finish but a "I'm going to Boston" confirmation.

The California International Marathon was a fabulous event. The Expo itself was hap-hazard and has need to improve in many ways, but the support, cheering and policing of streets along the way was very impressive and assured every participant along the way a safe and perfect opportunity for the perfect race. Co-incidentally our weather that day was also fantastic and the race become only about you and the connection to the road in front of you, whatever was accomplished this day was because of your inner drive and spirit, nothing would get in the way.

With this running high of Boston and CIM now accomplished I need to double time the mileage as I prepare for the Avalon 50 on 1/12/08!

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