My friend Jon has been telling me about the Palos Verdes Marathon in Southern California for a couple years now. "It's a small race, it's hilly, and it is very old school... you'll like it." The only issue is that it is held on the same weekend as the Capital City Marathon in Olympia, and I always try to do CCM. Luckily, Palos Verdes is a Saturday race and CCM is on Sunday, so this year I decided to do both.
A few weeks ago, I told Jon that I might consider PV as a Go Fast race in my schedule... depending on how I did in the two weeks heading into PV, how I felt on race morning, and the weather. Those hills? I like hills. The past two weekends had gone well; you can see the clues in my race reports. Here's something I wrote after The Pig two weekends ago:
3:52. I made my second goal of beating last year’s 3:55 and I felt great. As I met up with various folks and heard about all their smoking times and PRs, part of me felt a little badly for not trying to hammer the last miles. But it is all part of the plan. I had goals and I achieved them.Last weekend's Tacoma City Marathon was very hilly. I ran it with a friend and had a great time. It felt good.
Fast forward to this weekend. The weather on race morning? Overcast, 58, with just a touch of breeze. Island Boy was not cold and went with a single shirt under the pink singlet. How did I feel? Good. Very good.
I met a bunch of people from the coolrunning website at the start of this race. ilene, slojim, huskydon, dromedary, and perhaps a couple others (sorry; I was thinking about the race). And then there was Jon. He was running the half, which would start after the full, and he was wearing a white dress shirt to stay warm. A very stylish look. He asked me about my race plans. I hedged my bets (aka, sandbagged) because I didn't want to say it outloud. I told him "about 4".
But it was Go Fast day.
Recorded National Anthem, and we were off. I knew the course would be hilly, but I didn't know *how* hilly. I had also looked at a map and expected a simple out-and-back. It turns out that the course is supremely hilly - with hills of all shapes, steeps, and sizes. It also turns out that the "simple" out-and-back isn't so simple. Some courses have a little loop at the outermost section of the out-and-back; these courses are known as "balloon-on-a-stick" or "lollipop" courses. PV? It's a pretzel on a stick.
So, we were off on our way out through monster hills towards the Pretzel of Great Confusion (ok, it wasn't that bad). As I was trying to figure out why I felt so good, the first thing that hit me was the similarity between this PV course and my dear Kona Marathon. Both have awesome views of the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. Both take you by some interesting neighborhoods as well as more isolated vistas. Both are out-and-backs with no spectators. Both have challenging hills, though PV's are in another dimension of the challenge scale. Thinking about Kona made me feel even better.
I kept splits, but the main thing this did for me was indicate that the course's mile markers were wacky. I have a couple 6:30s on my watch. Outside of a 5k, I do not run 6:30s. Heck, I don't run sub-8s unless I'm going downhill. And as I've noted in many reports, I don't even run down hills very well. Strange mile markers usually tick me off. Not today. I found the first 6:30 to be incredibly amusing. It gave me confidence. And the fact that I responded positively to the situation just reinforced that I was in a special emotional state for this race.
The hills. They started at M2, and the first one was a real treat. Straight up - a steeeep hill. On and on the hills went. As we approached the middle miles and the Pretzel of Great Confusion, I found myself talking to other runners. This is nothing new; I talk to people all the time. However, I was running 8:00-8:15 miles as opposed to my more typical 8:30-8:50 miles. And I was probably talking MORE and smiling MORE in this race.
So. It's Go Fast day. But that doesn't mean I was "focused" in the sense that I was super intense and balancing on the edge-of-puking. I *was* focused. Very focused. But I was comfortable, and that's a real key to something that's gonna take several hours. If I'm ever on the edge-of-puking at M10 of a marathon, then that just means I went out too fast.
Not on this day. We entered the Pretzel of Great Confusion, and I hit the half at 1:47. I wondered briefly if I could hold it together. My right foot had been hurting for a few miles, but I noticed that it had stopped. Hmm. That's good.
The pretzel was fairly confusing, but I never got lost even though there weren't a lot of runners to follow. As we headed back, we had a bit of a headwind. It was the nice, light, cooling kind of wind. Perfect.
Drink. Run. Talk. See the sights. Wish everyone else well. Thank volunteers. Drink more. But mostly?
Go that way, really fast. If someone gets in your way, turn.
By M20, I could tell that I had run 20 miles, but I wasn't feeling super tight. I was holding it together. Just as importantly, I had not felt the need to potty at all. And still didn't.
At M21ish, I hit the course's serious hill. It had been a long downhill on the way out... but now it was a supremely long uphill on the way back. It was a lot like the big hill at Big Sur. It was a hard hill made psychologically harder because of the geography... we were winding along the coast, so we could see allll the waaaay up the hill. Up I went. At M24, I hit the steep hill that we'd gone up at M2. Now I was headed down. And I am a poor downhill runner.
Not today. I remembered the training - lean into the hill, adjust stride, try not to brake, keep the arms in control. Down the hill I went.
At M25, I could see the end.
At M26, I could hear the end.
At M26.1, I saw Jon at the end.
At M26.2, I was at the end.
3:36. That might or might not sound like a fast time, but it is a post-sickness PR for me. It was my 11th marathon (or longer - one 50k, one 50 miler) in 10 weeks. It was a hard course. And although it was a positive split, 1:47/1:49, that's pretty close for me.
3:36. I started running again last October. My first marathon was a robust 4:29. Six months and 25 marathons later, I've taken almost an hour off that time.
After the race, I talked to Jon, slojim, and a couple other coolrunning folks (hahaoya and brwf) for a little while. They waited for ilene to finish while I went to checkout of my icky hotel. Then we ate lunch in the sunshine. It was a good day.
For fun, I went ahead and ran the Capital City Marathon the next day. This is a special event for me because in 2001, the half was the first race of any distance I did after being sick. Last year on the new hilly (but not PV hilly) course, I managed a 3:48. This year? Well, uh, my good day was the day before. The weather at CCM was icky and it got worse as the day progressed. I was a bit stiff. 4:06. 30 minutes slower than PV. A good recovery run. Lots of chatting with friends.
Next up? Another double. On Saturday, I'm running the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City Michigan. I did this race back in 2005. It was an odd experience. I was in good shape and I ran the entire way... but very slowly (4:11). We'll see what happens. On Sunday, I'm running the Buffalo Marathon. I know nothing about this race, but they did send me an "in training" T-shirt.
Which is nice.