March 7, 2006 at 7:14 am #4991
Napa Valley was my third overall marathon. I ran/walked/limped my way to the finish line of the 2001 Rock ‘n Roll Marathon with a time of 4:35:37 and ran the 2003 Mardi Gras Marathon with a time of 3:30:44. Since February 2003, I’ve raced nothing long than half marathons.
I had initially hoped to run a marathon last October, but I ended up getting slightly injured, waited to register, and the race filled up. My next plan was to run the Pacific Shoreline Marathon in February, but that race also filled up before I registered. Because I had started training for the two previous marathons, I had run ten, 20 milers and had averaged 55 miles a week since last August. I had missed a few runs here and there, but I knew my fitness was there to easily pass my previous PR. With that in mind, I set a goal for this marathon to average 7:00 minute miles, which would give me a finish time of 3:03:24.
Like most of us I started checking the weather as soon as the ten-day forecast became available. The predictions called for cold, rain and wind. Not ideal racing conditions. The forecasts turned out to be fairly accurate, but the weather still wasn’t too bad. At the start of the race, I found the temps to be slightly cool, and the wind wasn’t too strong. During the race, the rain was a constant drizzle. Other than soaking my shoes, socks and feet, it wasn’t a big factor.
The race started on time, and I was able to cross the line after only a few seconds. After the usual jockeying for position for the first quarter mile or so, I easily found my stride. My one goal for the first mile was to not start too fast. I got into a rhythm pretty early and mainly tried to stay around other people. The wind wasn’t too strong, but I figured I’d save what energy I could by staying in a pack. I hit the first mile at 7:17. I wasn’t on pace, but I was pleased with this time.
I don’t have my splits available, so I can’t give a mile-by-mile description of how my race went, but I remember enough to give an overview. The second mile went by pretty much the same as the first. I stayed with other runners when possible. Sometimes I led the group and other times I followed. I made up a few seconds during this mile, and hit the two mile mark at 14:11. During mile three, the runners spread out a bit, and I was running alone until another runner came up behind me and drafted for a mile or so. He then moved in front of me and told me to draft off him. I stayed right behind him for probably three quarters of a mile. However, without me in front of him, his pace was quicker than I wanted to run. I ended up running mile four at 6:40 pace, I stayed with him a bit further and went back and forth in my mind whether I should stay with him and share the duties of cutting the wind or if I should let him go and move back to my goal pace. It didn’t take long for me to come to my senses and let him go ahead.
By the time I reached mile five, I was approximately 25 seconds ahead of my goal pace. I maintained this cushion for a while. The first two thirds of the course were rolling hills. On the more uphill miles I would give back a few seconds and on downhill miles, I would gain them back. I pretty much continued this routine until mile 16.
Right about the time I hit the 16 mile mark, the wind seemed to really pick up, and I started giving back time pretty quickly. During miles 17, 18 and 19, I averaged approximately 7:20 mile pace. Mile 20 was mostly a long, steady uphill climb. I knew this hill was coming, but believed that after this hill, it was mostly downhill to the finish line. With this in mind, I pushed the effort up to the 20 mile marker and the top of this hill. I ended up crossing the mile marker just over a minute behind goal pace.
My plan was to take advantage of the downhill and try to run 6:50 miles to the finish. This pace would put me right at my goal pace. The problem is that after a short downhill, the course was mostly flat for the final six miles. With the increased wind and without a downhill course to take advantage of, I just didn’t have enough left to gain back any time. After staying even for a couple of miles, I started giving time back. At this point of the race, I can’t really say what my pace was. In my head I thought I was making up time; however, when I got to the 25 mile mark, I realized that I was over two minutes behind my target pace. Realizing that I wasn’t going to reach my goal, I started concentrating on catching two runners who were in sight ahead of me. I slowly gained on the runner in front of me and finally caught him with close to a half mile to go. Just as I was passing him, we came to a corner. I heard a spectator say (or at least I thought he said), after the corner, you can see the finish. I turned the corner, and a ways ahead I could see people standing around, so I thought that was the finish. I pushed the pace and started working towards a strong finish. The next runner wasn’t too far ahead of me, and she was struggling. I past her about the same time I realized that what I saw wasn’t the finish line but was the next turn in the course. I made this turn, and still only say another turn – no finish line. However, I started hearing cheering and knew I was close. I started sprinting (or doing the best version of a sprint that I could muster) and just hammered to the finish line.
My official time was 3:06:39. I finished 49th overall; 47th male, and 13th in the 40-44 age group. My average pace was 7:07. I didn’t reach my goal of 7:00 minute mile pace, but I’m happy with this race. I made some smart decisions by not going out too fast, working with other runners when possible, and knowing to pull back when the runner I was with was going faster than I was prepared to run. The only real bad decision I made was running too hard up the hill at mile 20, but that decision was made based on bad information about the course, so I can sort of excuse it. Who knows, with dry shoes and no wind (or a tailwind), I may have been able to hit my goal time.
I enjoyed this race. It was very well organized and run on a beautiful course. The only downside was that the entire race is run on cambered roads. it didn’t cause me any problems, but I know they’re killers for a lot of runners.
Thanks for reading. If you skipped to the end to see how I did, look up two paragraphs.
March 7, 2006 at 1:46 pm #20215
Awesome 24-minute PR under tough conditions. No matter how you look at it, you can’t be disappointed with that. Next up: sub-3.
March 7, 2006 at 1:47 pm #20216
great job… nice PR…
starting out wet is no fun, but you overcame it, made some good decisions (on the fly) and didn’t give up with the two fake out finish lines, or lack of finish lines…
more importantly you handled the extended training cycle and not getting into the races of choice which probably was part of your strength in over coming the Napa issues… can’t wait to hear what you pull off in your next training cycle… and while I’ll never have that kind of speed I’ll take a page from your persistence…
March 7, 2006 at 2:41 pm #20217
Nice job, smart race!
March 7, 2006 at 3:01 pm #20218
Great Race. A huge PB, an ‘open’ BQ time, and so close to your planned goal time. It looks like a sub 3 is in your future.
March 7, 2006 at 3:25 pm #20219
Bart, very impressive improvement, especially given the conditions. Hopefully, once you get far enough into your recovery to think about that next one, you’ll be fired up about your potential for the future. It seems to be very bright.
March 7, 2006 at 6:55 pm #20220
I really enjoyed your report Bart. Congratulations on the new PR, that’s a fantastic time.
Sounds like you were ready for this one, both mentally and physically you stayed strong throughout.
I know the last thing you want to think about is another marathon but when the time comes, do you think you’ll up your weekly mileage or does the 55 mile/week work best for you?
March 7, 2006 at 7:09 pm #20221
Very enjoyable report, not just for the finish time (great job, btw), but for how you delat with putting off the race, your lead in about training and what you experienced during the race. You and I are pretty similar ability wise, and I’ve no doubt that you’ll be pushing the sub 3 door down very soon… great job!
Enjoy your recovery!
March 7, 2006 at 9:02 pm #20222
Thanks, everyone for the kind words. Although I would have liked to have reached my 7:00 min/mile goal, I’m really very pleased with my execution and my results.
I considered running the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in June, but now I’m pretty sure I’ll wait until fall and hope to get into the Bizz Johnson Marathon before it fills up.Anne wrote:I know the last thing you want to think about is another marathon but when the time comes, do you think you’ll up your weekly mileage or does the 55 mile/week work best for you?
Anne, 55 mile/week was my average since August, but from the beginning of 2006 until I started my taper in mid-February, I was closer to the mid-60 mile range. I think I’ll try to get somewhere up to the mid-70s as I build mileage and work towards Bizz Johnson.
March 8, 2006 at 1:51 am #20223
Improvement is always encouraging – great improvement even moreso – so keep up the good work. 8)
March 8, 2006 at 2:50 am #20224
A 24 minute PR in a 26 mile race is so awesome, congrats, youre definitley on your way to sub 3!
March 11, 2006 at 6:42 pm #20225
Seeing you are in CA, have you considered Cal Int’l marathon in December? One of the few courses that provide pacing for 3 hours. And it’s an excellent course if you can hold back the first half. the last 3 miles are screaming fast
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