Tuesday, December 07, 2004

26.2 Miles To Go

The start, even though there is no pushing to get across the line, is still dense with runners. For the first quarter mile, I'm dodging other runners -- mostly passing them though some, like me, are moving into positions ahead of where we started. The first couple of miles are just some gentle hills. Similar to what I've been training on in Overland Park. I clock the first mile at about 8:40.

By now there is sufficient room to maneuver around runners and I accelerate slightly. My legs feel great and I'm into a good rhythm -- and I don't feel like I'm going too fast. At mile 2 I clock 16:50 -- I'm now at an 8:10 pace. It feels great to me. Of course that won't get me to Boston. For my age, I would need to run 8:00/mile through the entire marathon to qualify (under 3:30:00). As I don't foresee speeding up much, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to be slowing down towards the end, I immediately see my first marathon will not be a qualifying run for Boston (boo hoo -- the important thing is to finish and to feel good -- and under 4 hours would be great).

For the next several miles I even speed up slightly to about an 8:00/mile pace, then slow down slightly again. At mile 13, halfway through the marathon, I clock 1:48:15 -- an average pace of 8:15. Only 3:15 over the Boston qualifying pace. If I were to keep that pace up in the second half, I would complete the course in 3:36:30. But I already know that is not going to happen. I'm beginning to slow down a little bit more. First to an 8:30 pace, then eventually a 9:00/mile pace. But I'm still moving steadily through the race. One by one I pass other runners. The very short woman who seems to be taking 2 steps for every one of mine, and breathing almost that much faster than me as well. I can't believe she can keep that up for an entire marathon. She passes me again, and several minutes later I pass her once more. The tall gray-haired man with "Jim" on his shirt. Make a note to get a name printed on a shirt -- all the spectators are yelling "Go Jim!". The "red shirt/black shorts" I've been following since the first mile. Can't seem to catch up to her, but I stay within eye contact.

By mile 17 or 18 my calves are starting to ache, and by mile 19 my feet hurt as well. The calf pain I'm used to from my long runs, but the foot pain is probably related to my high mileage shoes. Guess I should have gotten the new ones last month and broken them in for the race. Next time. This time I don't care if I get a stress fracture -- I just put it out of my mind. Which is easy because the pain is building everywhere else.

Just before mile 20 we have to run an out-and-back section of the course. They added it to the course when they moved the finish line from the El Conquistador hotel to the Hanley business park -- which thankfully means there is no more uphill finish. But it's still a goofy section of the course and nobody likes watching runners passing them going in the opposite direction. Just before we turn around on the out-and-back section, we hit mile 20. I clock 2:50:00. I've run 20 miles at an 8:30 pace. This time is 30 minutes faster than my best long (20-mile) run. I am also getting seriously tired and can feel myself really slowing down. But I figure I've only got 6 miles and some change to go. Even at a 10:00/mile pace I will comfortably finish under 4 hours. I'm wondering if this is what it feels like to "hit the wall". I'm really feeling exhausted now, but I continue pushing on. I finally pass "red shirt/black shorts". She's looking quite tired as well. I continue at what feels like an 11:00 or 12:00 minute pace for the next couple of miles. They were probably closer to 10:00 miles, they just felt really tough.

Then it happened. My right calf cramped, followed immediately by a muscle in my right foot. I had to stop to stretch the muscles back out, walked a few steps, then resumed running. Wow, that's the first time I've had a leg cramp while I was running. A little while later the left calf cramped. Again I had to stop and stretch it out then continue on again. Each mile seemed to take longer and longer to complete. Then the leg cramps started coming closer and closer together. By mile 25, from all the stopping to stretch out the cramps, "red shirt/black shorts" passed me, "Jim" passed me, and then "short woman breathing fast" passed me. There was absolutely nothing I could do about the cramps. I would run about 100 feet and they would cramp up, making it impossible to continue running without stretching them out. At this point I'm no longer sure I'm going to even get under 4 hours.

In the last mile, as I pass the official photographers, I try to run through the cramping. Those pictures will probably be really interesting! As I run into the Hanley business park, with spectators everywhere cheering, I have to stop and stretch out the cramps about every 50 feet -- including 50 feet from the finish line. As I'm standing, trying to walk as I stretch out the debilitating cramps, I hear my name announced "Kurt Winikka from Overland Park Kansas!" I make a valiant effort to run the last 50 feet and as I reach the finish line I hear and then see my sister-in-law Barbara and her friend cheering me on. As I cross the finish line I stop my timer.

My official chip time is 4:00:01.


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