Today’s post marks #400 here on the blog.
That’s a lot of writing I suppose, but it seems like there is always something else to say. So as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.
On Saturday Landry and I watched the Olympic Marathon Trials on television. As I watched Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman earn spots on the Men’s team that will be heading to London the runner that I identified with more than any was Dathan Ritzenhein. Running the race of his life, he fell off the lead pack with a little more than 8 miles to go.
The commentators did not spend a lot of time talking about this, but Dathan had a misstep coming around a right turn and almost tripped to the ground. It seemed that after that near-fall he never could regain that smooth cadence he had been ticking over mile after mile running with the lead pack – and he fell more than a minute behind the third place runner.
Dathan continued to run his race, hoping that the pack would come back to him, and over the final 3 miles he bit into the lead that Abdi had on him for that third and final spot on the team. He ran his heart out and as he crossed the line just :08 seconds behind Abdi, you could see all of the emotions that he had held in that morning clearly on his face. He finished fourth. His dream narrowly missed.
On the women’s side the race also evolved into a three-way race to the finish with Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davilla and Kara Goucher earning the three spots on the Olympic team. Amy Hastings finished 1:11 behind Kara Goucher in fourth place. The third consecutive time she has finished fourth in the trials. Talk about disappointment.
As I watched Hastings fight to the finish, her race was perhaps even more impressive than Ritzenhein’s as she finished 2 minutes and 28 seconds ahead of the fifth place finisher Janet Cherobon-Bawcom. Hastings ran virtually the entire final 10 Kilometers alone. Nobody to help pull her along, nobody to push her, but she kept fighting to the finish line, never giving a single inch to the marathon despite the fact that she knew she had no chance of making the team over the final 6.2 miles.
11:59 back from Shalane Flanagan was a friend of mine. Ariana Hilborn. She ran her heart out finishing in 2:37:37 in 29th place, :09 off of her marathon PR. (I hope my math is correct Ariana!) You can read Ariana’s content at: http://arianahilborn.com/
I followed Ariana’s journey to Houston as she chased her Olympic Trials Qualifying time. There was a disappointing result in her “hometown” marathon in Arizona that even included a fall on the course. Followed by a time of refocus, rededication and a tougher training cycle than any before. At Grandma’s Marathon it all came together for her, and she earned her way to Houston. Now a sub 2:30 marathon is clearly in Ariana’s sights. From there? Who knows?
On Sunday “the rest of us mortals” had an opportunity to run the flat and fast Houston Marathon course in near perfect temperatures and conditions. The Chevron Marathon is not a 3X Loop Course like the Olympic Trials Course – as that was laid out to mimic the course that the Olympians will run in London this year. But it sets up as a great marathon course that can produce fast times if the weather cooperates.
A friend of mine here in Austin ran a 3:06 and change – Sean Lilly. A runner that although a bit younger than I am, has a very similar history as I do and in fact, truth told, I get the better of Sean most times when we race each other.
My Triathlon Coach Claudia Spooner laid down a 3:01:00 on Sunday in Houston – A huge PR and a tremendous effort from an amazing athlete.
So as I sit here 13 weeks before Boston I find myself processing new information. There is very little evidence remaining – aside from the fact that I have yet to do it – that I am not capable of running a sub 3 hour marathon. In fact, most indicators place me in the 2:56-2:58 range.
What is holding me back from hitting that time goal of mine has been luck (poor weather in Austin, 2010) and a bit of fear (New York 2011).
I ran New York “conservatively aggressive” if there is such a thing. My strategy was to go out over the first 20 miles to “give myself a chance” at 3 hours if everything went my way. I came through the half-way point of the race in 1:29:45 and was right on the edge.
When the course got difficult and the final bridges and hills tilted in favor of the course and not the marathoners I dialed back, ran through to the finish and a new PR of 3:08.
Being completely honest with myself, I knew that I would have a huge PR at the 21 mile point. I ran the remaining 5 miles comfortable in that achievement. I did not run them like Ariana Hilborn did at Grandma’s or like Dathan Ritzenhein did on Saturday in Houston.
I ran timidly in a “just happy to be in there” kind of way. Which is fine. I do not run for a living, this is a hobby afterall.
But as I reflect on my training to this point for Boston – I am giving 100% effort in pursuit of my running as close to my potential as possible on April 16th. The weather on race day will have a say in what that potential is – and Boston is obviously not an “easy” marathon course by any stretch.
That being said, I’m done being afraid of the numbers.
It is there for me, I just have to have the confidence to go out there and lay my thing down in Boston.
Run the mile that is in front of me fearlessly. Do not worry about mile 24 or 25 or 26 until it is time to run that mile. Then give my best effort.
Yes there is strategy involved in the marathon, that is what makes it such a tremendous race. You cannot go out with a reckless abandon like you can in a 5K or even 10K race – as the penalties in doing so over 26.2 miles are quite severe.
But what I can do is “believe” that I belong with those 2:56-2:58 marathoners and run my race. Ticking off sub 7:00 minute mile after sub 7:00 minute mile until heartbreak hill and then power through those last 5 miles like my life depended on it. There will be no waving to the crowds like there was in New York. No victory laps over the final 800 meters.
This April’s race is a business trip, and it is going to be treated as such.
After this weekend, I learned an important lesson. Maybe the final lesson when it comes to the marathon.
There is no time left to be afraid.