Tuesday, March 18, 2008

2/23/08 Cowtown Marathon

I used to really despise this race. However, I ran it last year because it fit my schedule... and was pleasantly surprised by how it had improved. You can read my report for last year here.

A couple of Maniac friends came from Seattle to do Cowtown... founding Maniac Chris and "Little" Leslie. Last year, Leslie completed 47 marathons and ultras. She and Chris have been keeping up that pace this year too. Woohoo!

Although we all registered at different times and no one asked for special numbers, somehow we got assigned #27, #28, and #29. We were a little team. In honor of that, I stuck with Maniac colors for the race (and that really dorky beanie). This was my first race after the big pink campaign... the pink clothes needed a breather and some woolite anyway :-). I will wear the pink in certain races going forward, but the yellow and red will reappear more frequently. Cowtown was the first.

I've described the Cowtown course previously, but here's a summary: rolling loop that shows off lots of Ft Worth's sights. It isn't a PR course for most people, but I seem to do well on roly polies. The race includes a half and full... and the course is quite crowded until the half marathoners turn towards the finish. This year, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the race, they also had a 50k option - it was the marathon course with an extra 4.8 mile out-and-back around M23 of the full. I considered switching to the ultra, but I didn't.

I had also considered using this race as a go-fast attempt at 3:30. I was going to try for my 3:30 at the previous week's big goal race, but the weather was too hot and humid. So, I was theoretically in shape to try - though Cowtown's course is harder. The weather on race morning was conducive to going fast: a little chilly, blue skies, and only a bit of wind. Ft Worth is almost always windy, and this was the biggest issue at last year's race. The last few miles in 2007 had gusts around 50 mph. Portapotties blew over spewing that blue stuff on people. Tornadoes even showed up later that day in nearby counties. Nothing like that this year!

However, as I was shivering at the starting line, I realized that mentally I wasn't that into gunning for a PR. I was feeling a lot more like socializing and doing a fun long run. Perhaps this was because I had not been very social at my last race. About this time, Chris and Leslie joined me. Chris was ribbing her a lot, but also giving her lots of last minute tips. Chris is a 3:15 marathoner and has been a 2:50 marathoner in the past (and, I predict, the future). I listened in to the advice too! It seemed that Leslie was going to try to break 4 at Cowtown - a magic number for many marathoners, and a PR for her as well. I wished them well, 3, 2, 1, and off we went.

The start was very crowded, but I found myself near Leslie around M1. In retrospect, I should have asked her if she wanted company. But I didn't. We just kind of started running together. We talked some. I told her a little about the course. I didn't say this out loud, but I was also glancing at my watch every mile to make sure we were around 9:15-9:20 pace. Maybe I could help her stay on track for a good 3:59 (or below) finish. Leslie had gotten some advice from Chris regarding using her watch to keep split times, but this was the first race where she was trying to capture that information. I remember my first experience at keeping splits... it was hard to remember to push the little button each time, and then when I realized a few minutes after the fact that I missed a split, I got frustrated with the whole thing. And then that process repeated a few times. It was probably 3 or so races before it became second nature. Leslie was going through the same thing.

We hit the half split at 2:01. By "run evenly" standards, we were a little over, obviously... but this was still close enough that a slight negative split would bring us home right at 4. And even if we didn't quite make it? Leslie's PR was 4:03 (interestingly enough at Dallas White Rock, just down the road from Cowtown. I guess Texas agrees with Leslie). We were on track to get there.

Unfortunately, Leslie was getting frustrated with the whole watch thing. It was also sunny, though it was still cool, and she was beginning to sunburn. We seemed to ditch "focus on the time" somewhere in the teen miles in favor of having fun. And fun we did have.

Onward we went, back towards downtown. As we ran along the Trinity River, I remembered the winds from last year. It was in here that a 50 mph gust lifted a spectator and almost sent him down the embankment into the river. It was also in here that I really slowed last year. This year, we slowed some too. But this year I was smiling. I smiled through the entire race. It felt nice. And then we finished.

Note the "Batman TV series tilt" in this picture. Heh. We are headed to the finish.

4:11. Whoa. That made for an interesting 2:01/2:10 split. It was a good time. Afterwards, Leslie, Chris... who ran a 3:16... and I ate somewhat yucky pizza (which was my find, whooops) and then I took them to the airport. They ran the Mardi Gras Marathon the next day.

Leslie didn't get her 3:59 that day, but she did get close one week later at Napa. Then in March, she ran two ultras in one day. I'll write it again, but with a different meaning this time: Whoa. Pretty neat. 3:59 is just around the corner.

In the end, I was left with several questions for myself. Did I do a bad job at motivation and being a pacer? On results, perhaps. But then again, there was never a set-in-stone agreement during the race that I was doing that. We ran together just because we did, and we had fun. I did, at least. Was I selfish? Yes, and in retrospect, this was a learning experience for me. I didn't ask Leslie ahead of time if she even wanted company. I know that with a few people like BRB, it's totally cool when they want to run with me. With others, no way. And with many, it depends on my mood. It is possible that I was just "that guy" with her. Fooey. Next time, I'll do better. I'll ask. It's interesting, though. Even the outward goals of "provide company to someone and help her/him meet a goal" can really be selfish underneath. She provided company to me. I was the one who wanted company. And if we'd run 3:59, that would have been all Leslie, not me. I was just a witness. It was a very fun 4:11, and hard work for both of us.

Next up: I skipped a race the weekend after Cowtown because I got scary-sick during the week. The following weekend, I PRed a half marathon. That was cool. Then there was the Seabrook Lucky Trails Marathon where I did not, in fact, get lucky. Which brings us to this upcoming weekend's Easter Marathon, where it will be 28 degrees at the start. Yay.

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