Sunday, November 02, 2008

Inland Trail Marathon: Shipping up to Boston!

Ok, I guess you can figure out how this went down by the title of the entry. Now, the song by the Drop Kick Murphys, Shipping up to Boston, has been pretty much the unofficial theme song this year. If you have seen the movie “The Departed,” you know the one I am talking about. Every race, every workout, this song has played at least once. Just a reminder of what the primary goal of 2008 was...Boston. is how it all went down...

It was a tough call where to make my next attempt at Boston after my near-miss at Wineglass in New York. I needed a cool if not COLD and a flat, fast course. After running the numbers it came down to Inland Trail Marathon or site of last year's best marathon: OBX. The deciding factor came down to Mother Nature and the planets aligned for Inland Trail.

Inland Trail is a flat out and back course on a rails-to-trails all purpose bike path in Elyria, Ohio. Did I mention FLAT. Like flat flat.

Race day arrived and things went pretty well. I was a bit worried due to the fact I wasn't quite feeling 100% but chalked it up to stress and a pretty rough week at work. Most importantly, the weather was perfect. 39 and sunny. Cold and dry.

Packet and chip pickup went very well and we headed outside the school to the starting line. No buses this time to screw up my start. I was not going to fall for that one again! At the start line, I got to talk to some familiar faces and fellow Vertical Runners. Pretty good crowd there actually. Also, at the start line was the infamous Dan Horvath. I have always enjoyed running and talking to Dan. Not only is he a great runner, his blog and running stories are fantastic. The race got started and I headed out with Dan and we got settled into a nice quick pace. A bit fast, but it felt good.

As the race crowd thinned and things started to fall into place Dan and I grouped up with some other folks. Two other fellow Boston seekers of 3:10 and a guy name David, who I had recognized from VR runs and other races. Now, the pace didn't change and the group ran really well together. The miles went by fast as Don told some stories. At about mile 5, Dan split for a pit stop and we pushed on. So good! We were actually ahead of schedule at this point.

Now at mile 9, Murphy's Law kicks in and my old reliable Garmin was beeping it's database was full. Great. Then it just started beeping. And beeping. And beeping. In fact it beeped about every second the rest of the damn race. Beep. Beep.

The group kept chugging away and soon it was down to three folks. David and I lost the Boston seekers, but picked up another guy also looking for a 3:10. The three of us went through the half in 1:33. Whew! By rough count I was in 20th place at this point. Beep. Beep.

After the split, I saw the VR crew pacing Brett (who really doesn't need pacers, the guy is as solid as they come). Beep. Beep. Among them was Theresa who ran with us at Erie. I was happy to inform her she was first place female as they headed to the turn around. Beep. Beep.

We pushed on and still hit things pretty well. David and I lost the other Boston seeker...and then there were two. We were climbing in miles and still on track...but things were slowly getting tougher and I knew it. Beep. Beep. We maintained the pace and things were really getting tough. I was glad to have sometime in the bank. Surprising, after a gel we were back to low 7s again and chugging along. Beep Beep.

A bit after we entered into the 20s I was starting to get very nervous. The mile markers were not matching up with my Garmin at all. A quick check of David’s Garmin showed our watches were dead on. Markers had to be off. However, here was the problem: if our watches were right…we were still on schedule. If the markers were right, we were 1-2 minutes behind schedule! NO! Beep Beep.

I hit mile 21 and saw Lloyd who just ran a sub 3 hour at MCM. He had been out taking pictures and cheering folks on. His girlfriend, Andrea, was running the half marathon today. I had saw her on the outbound trip a while back yelling some nice encourage meant. Lloyd confirmed I was on pace still and looking good. At this moment, I wasn’t feeling it. Beep Beep.

We hit mile 22 and David (who was trying a new fueling method) really started to kick it in. He began pulled ahead of me and I decided it was time to get out the iPod. I had hit a low point so it was time for a gel and had to make a decision. I can hit it hard and hope my watch (which had been beeping for 14 miles now) was right and not the mile markers or just cruise in and go for Boston another day. Beep Beep.

I caught a few more people and made my decision if I am going to go down…I am going to down swinging. All this wasn’t supposed to be easy, right? No progress without struggle, right? Missing by 81 seconds SUCKED a month ago really sucked and I wasn’t looking to experience that again! So, I dug in and gave it a good old college try. Beep Beep.

I got to the end of the towpath section and turned onto the road and caught another runner. Doing math in my head, I started to realize, I did have a chance. It was going to be CLOSE, but still very possible. I hit the school parking lot with 3:09 on my watch while passing one last runner. As I ran through the parking lot, I was able to see the finish. There was a bunch of people yelling and there was David, who had finished jumping up and down. Then I saw the clock. Beep Beep.


I dumped everything I had left and sprinted to the finish line. And hit the button on my beeping watch. David rushed over to me as a lady at the finish line put some medals around my neck and informed me I had won my age group. “You did it! You did it!” yelled David. I looked at my watch…it read 3:10:49. I had done it. With 10 seconds to spare! Beep Beep.

The last guy I had passed actually was right there behind me. Seems he sprinted in just behind me. He, too, had qualified. We looked at the clock now reading 3:11 and started laughing. A bit too close for comfort. Beep Beep.

I head my breath until I saw it posted by the timing guy to make it official. 12th place overall and most importantly….heading to Boston in April! Beep Beep.

With that behind me, I am still heading down to the OBX Marathon in North Carolina this weekend to spend time with my Aunt and Uncle. I haven’t done back to back marathons since 2005 when I was training for JFK 50. Should be interesting….

Beep Beep.