Very satisfying race yesterday. I am proud of myself for improving on my previous time by more than five minutes and humbled again by miles 18 through 26. I ran a sub four hour marathon, which is always considered respectable, but I had some nervous moments trying to get there. I was coming down the home stretch during the time when the announce was goading those of us in the chute to watch the clock and get in under four hours. Cramps in my hamstrings taunted me just as I passed the mile 26 marker. It was as if my legs had listened to my Garmin watch alarm tell me that I had actually already finished the actual marathon distance (according to my watch we really had run 26.41 miles) I just made with a 3:58.19 chip time, but the clock time said 3:58:59 (chip time acknowledges the fact that it takes time for those of us who are elites must run a bit before crossing the starting line).
Baltimore yesterday was the tail of two races. I ran with the 3:40 pace group and kept up with them until mile 16. This caused me to beat my Baltimore Half Marathon time from last year (I ran 1:49:59 for the half marathon portion of this marathon - last year, I ran 1:51:57 and didn't have to run another 13.1 afterwords). I started struggling around Patterson Park and tried a couple of surges to keep up, but I lost them at E. Madison Street.
The trouble really began midway through mile 17 as I hit the downhill on N. Washington Street. My quadriceps seized up with cramps and I actually had to walk to get them back under control. I ambled along and held off the 3:50 pace group until for a long time even though I was losing over minute a mile from my goal pace. They caught me around Charles Village. I tried to run with them, but their pace dropped me like a Snoop song. It was then that I really started to fear for my goal to PR (break my personal record). I had gotten a diaphragm cramp (you know, a side stitch) from the bridge at Falls Expressway and held my guts in until Eutaw Street. Then the strangest cramp of all happened, I had simultaneous cramps in the muscles around my elbows. Finally, I found enough within to pick up the pace during the last mile stretch downtown to Camden Yards finishing with a 9:44 minute mile, which was my only single digit (minute hand) mile in the last eight.
In retrospect, I can say that I did well despite the physical ailments, I actually took time to take a potty break, and I held a low 8 minute mile pace for 17 miles. My average pace for 26.2 miles was 9:06 min/mi and I think that there is nothing to sneeze at there. I actually PR'ed in both my marathon and half marathon in the same race. I know that before my next marathon I must do a lot more endurance runs - going over 20 miles in more than a few long runs and I need to add hill work to develop strength as I found my legs not up to the hills like I thought they were.
First and foremost God, my wife, and family. Without them I would have nothing to be proud of and could not have done what I needed to do for this race. For the friends and family I lost recently, Granddad Wheeler, Grandma Stella, Ryan Trotman, Marcia Plater, and Ollie. For Gail who continues to recover from a stroke around Christmas. She's up and walking again being braver than I had to be to run the marathon. I ran for them, I thought of them as it got hard, they watched over me. For the friends who encouraged me and wished me well. I hope I did not annoy my Facebook network too badly with my constant training reports - it helped me.
I'll be doing this again soon. I will qualify for Boston.