The excitement started earlier in the week. All the advance well-wishes from friends online was incredible. The taper was not as bad as I had anticipated, except for the lack of sleep. I only ran half my usual mileage by Thursday. Thus I am wide awake at 3am Thursday, 1am Friday and 2am Saturday. The fatigue finally hits me 6pm Friday and I am getting extremely irritable. Fortunately Andria is extremely understanding and allows me to chill on my own. (I do apologize for being an ass. Knowing you are an ass is the first step toward not being an unbearable ass.)
The four o'clock alarm sounds, I kiss the wife and sleeping kidlets and I am off to collect my "pace rabbit". Timothy P. of North Carolina offered to pace me through the race. It is amazing how running is a bridge to "fast" friends, even when personalities or backgrounds can be so different.
We arrive at the parking lot next to the starting line and mingled amongst the crowd beginning to assemble. There are even a few chance meet ups with fellow dailymilers such as Jonathon S, Aaron, Paul S, Matt and a few others that may have blended into the predawn excitement. I also exchange well-wishes with local running friends making their way to the appropriate spots in the starting field.
Tim and I move forward and are in the second or third row off the starting line. I am not nervous so much as ready to test myself and see how I will respond to the challenge I set for myself months ago.
My running is about so many things - physical fitness, mental & emotional wellness, breaking through barriers. In the pursuit of being the best runner I can be I had aspirations of qualifying for Boston. I also want to run New York City. The lottery process would afford me a "guaranteed" entry by my fortieth birthday. However, after the Boston registration fiasco I looked into how one might avoid the NYC lottery and "qualify" for that race. That change in focus meant I had to reset my race goal from 3:15:59 (7:27 minutes per mile) to 2:54:59 (6:40 minutes per mile). And that difference is staggering.
The starting cannon fires and my left calf "pulls" with the first step. Ugh! So my race strategy suddenly changes from going hard and fast to managing the pain and staying on the course. Going to be epic one way or another.
Tim and I manage to pick our way through the crowd over the first few miles. We don't pass too many people as our early plan is to warm up to the pace. The breathing is easy and legs feel good other than my calf. This first major landmark will be seeing my family at Mile 6 in Market Commons, a local retail/residential area.
I bounced between 7:00/mi and 6:40/mi but as I see my family I suddenly speed up as the excitement overtakes me. I worked out a system with my oldest daughter before the race. I would flash a hand signal for my current pacing which she would text to dailymile.com through Twitter. The race timing company offered live tracking for the race but that site crashed on race morning, so this little system with Lochlyn works out pretty well, as evidenced by the chatter on Twitter during the race. As the course winds through the blocks of Market Commons I check my Garmin and realize my pace has dropped to under 6:20/mi. Time to ease off the gas with nearly twenty miles still ahead of us.
But I was somewhat unprepared for what would happen on the half mile back to the oceanfront. This is the first "out and back" of the course with inbound runners filing past the outbound runners. I scan the oncoming crowd for familiar faces. I call out to Hal, a Michigander spending the winter here with his daughter and her family. Then it happens. I start hearing my name. Shouts of "LOGAN!" "GO UNARUNNER!" Knowing that people were looking for me gave me a huge boost and put me in a very happy place.
The next challenge is on Ocean Blvd. Almost nine miles along the oceanfront into a north wind. The wind is not cold, but offers heavy resistance. The best approach I find in dealing with the wind is to just let it come. I cannot redirect it, and with a set course I cannot avoid it. Best to make friends and keep moving ahead.
We pass Bob and Tom at Mile 12. They are dailymilers and offer encouragement. Bob is a course volunteer. Tom had hopes of running today but decided to hang out and soak in the atmosphere. Tom snapped this picture for us.
We cross the halfway mark at 1:28 and change. I am a minute and a half off my NYCQ goal but I have time to make that back if everything goes well. No worries yet.
At some point Tim says he is developing a blister. Apparently he does not get blisters and may have cause for concern. Over the next five miles we process along fairly well only to realize I have lost Tim. Never says a word. Just not there. I wonder what happen but later learn he developed a major foot problem and finishes ten minutes behind me.
One thing I know is that before any major race you cannot go to the bathroom enough. If I do not have pee at the starting line I have not hydrated enough. So by Mile 17 I need to make a pitstop. I am on another short "out and back" and spy port-o-johns on the other side of the road, but figure I am still a half-mile away. I cannot wait that long and start wondering if I can make it or risk jumping into the woods along the road. I decide "to Hell with it" and hop into the woods, take care of business and get back to work. But like my first marathon last November I am not able to recover my speed. It is during mile 17 that my pace finally goes over seven minutes per mile.
Someone once suggested that I revel in any finish line. A marathon completed is a good marathon. That same person (and I cannot give credit because I have forgotten who said this) said to enter any race with multiple goals. A single goal means I risk seeing the day as a failure if I cannot hit it. But multiple goals gives me the opportunity to adjust and reset my determination and still have something to race for.
Goal Number One is to qualify for New York City with a time below 2:55:00. My second goal is to run the course under three hours. My third goal is to quality for Boston at 3:15:00. And my fourth goal is to best 3:30:00. The last goal would represent a fifteen minute PR over my first official marathon time.
So by Mile 18 I know that New York City will have to wait for another day. I have other races on the schedule anyway. My spirit will not be extinguished over a few numbers on a clock. Now a sub 3 hour pace is on my mind.
Over the next few miles that cramp in my calf gets really bad. And my right calf is starting to wake up. My feet are sore and I dealt with mild stomach cramps during miles 18 & 19. I've run through most of the water stops, grabbing Powerade or water as best I can. However now I am walking through the stops. Time to manage the course and the pain.
Lets just say that the next few miles were not fun. I saw Haley on the course waiting for her husband Nathan, who is running his first marathon. They are local running buddies and super positive people. I enjoy sharing the road with them at any opportunity. He has a tough day and looks awful at the finish line, but like me he is now a marathoner. Needless to say seeing Haley's cheerful face is a nice boost to my spirits.
By mile 24 I pick up a quad cramp. Never had that before. I have to stop and stretch for a bit and quickly resume my slow trot to the finishing area.
I forgot to mention that my Garmin unlinked from the "Skynet" during mile 22. So other than the course clocks every two miles I have no clue how I am doing. At this point I accept that a sub 3 finish is lost as well. Time to check in with Goal Number Three.
I realize that I have a chance at 3:10:00 but need to run as much of the final few miles as possible. A runner passes me and says we have 1.5 miles to go, that I am looking good. Just keep moving. Time to find that place inside myself to provide the spark. It occurs to me that 3:10:00 will be the new standard for Boston in 2013. Better get it now while I have a shot.
Dedication miles are a big thing for me. Sometimes running for myself is not enough. I will think about people that inspire me. I will run for them. When I put all the people on my list I gave miles 1 and 26 to my wife Andria. I think about her and our nearly twenty years together. As I approached the final turn into the baseball stadium parking lot that hosted the finish area I repeated a few lines for/about Andria that made all my pain and frustration melt away.
The final .2 are in a shoot with a right turn and approach to the finish. As I enter the shoot I hear some dude shouting encouragement and saying 3:09 is within our grasp. I realize he is the 3:10 pacer. Just... Keep... Going...
Hundreds of spectators are lining the chute. I see The Cobra cheering me on. I see Andria and my youngest daughter and hear "GO DADDY!" Only feet from the line I see Lochlyn, my oldest daughter, and hear my mom. Suddenly my race is over. 3:09:20
I cannot tell you how hard I ran those final few hundred yards because I do not know. I can not recall how I felt as I approached the finish line. The cheers of the crowd propelled me forward. And satisfaction is my reward. As I move through the finishing area I bow my head low enough for a volunteer to place a medal around my neck.
The end of the race means that the pain in my calves I spent so long trying to suppress now have my full attention. Walking is so painful, each step is an ordeal. But unlike Chickamauga in November I never lay down. I walk the long gated queue out of the finishing corral to join my family. Time for water, bananas, oranges and whatever else I can find to eat. The Grand Strand Running Club set up a tent with a massage therapist and beer keg. Yay massage! Yay beer!
Some call him The UnaRunner. Some call him Logan Hejl. Now EVERYBODY will call him a Boston Qualifier. WOOOOOOOOOOO!xBQ
Gotta love that...
While I did not meet all my goals in this race I am extremely happy with the result. I gave my best effort and know where I need to focus in the future to make the necessary improvements. The second half took twelve minutes longer than the first. Need to work on lowering "the wall" just a bit. I wondered about feeling embarrassed at publicly stating my ambitious goals then falling short. But David said to keep having those "pie in the sky" goals. I should keep putting myself out there. Can't be awesome any other way.
Post script #1 So I will throw down the gauntlet for the next challenge here for all to read. Since reading Born To Run and "friending" actual ultrarunners on Facebook and dailymile.com I have been bitten by the ultra marathon bug. If I am able to resume training in short order and not break an ankle at the Rugged Maniac 5k on my birthday weekend next month I hope to participate in my first ultra. The Lumberjack Endurance Run is calling my name and offers an opportunity to meet West Coast dailymilers. It remains to be seen if I have the guts for the 50 miler, 100k or 100 miler. I am so excited!
Post script #2 The overall winner was Kathleen Castles of New Providence, NJ. With a finishing time of 2:40:11 she realized her goal of qualifying for the United States Olympic Trial. Kathleen is the first female overall winner and set the female course record. Good luck to her and all the other amazing athletes approaching 2012.
Post script #3 I have worn a HTFU bracelet since December of last year. It was a gift from a great friend and inspiration, Farra Karsen, one of my sisters in running. She gave the bracelet to me during a depressive time recently, when the cold and darkness of winter running threatened to crush my spirits.
I lost that bracelet some time early in the race, either in the starting area or once I pulled my shirt and gloves off in the first few miles. From pictures Andria took I know it was gone by mile 6 . I posted on Twitter that this bracelet is my most valued possession second only to my wedding ring. The amazing thing is the the people at HTFU.com saw the tweet and are going to help me out. Very awesome.
Post script #4 To explain how big 3:09:20 is, let me run the stats. Of 1748 actual finishers, I crossed as number 45. Forty-fifth out of one thousand seven hundred forty-eight. HOLY HELL MAN!!! Had I finished with a sub 3 hour time I would have finished at least twenty-first. If this race went as planned I would have finished in the top eleven and within 15 minutes of the overall winner. OH MY GOD!!! In the age group division I placed seventh of 184 males aged 34-39. I slashed forty-five minutes of my previous personal best. I went from slogging through to a barely sub 4 hour marathon to a near miss of a sub 3 hour effort.
There is still much work to do my friends. Thanks for inspiring me...