Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quad Cities Marathon 2010

So last Sunday had disaster written all over it. I had registered and committed to doing the Quad Cities Marathon, that however was not the disastrous part since this was my 5th marathon the experience was not new to me. But several things did make it a gamble. This was my first marathon in the two years since I had knee surgery, I had originally planned to do the Des Moines Marathon but had cut my training short by 3 weeks because frankly I was pressed for time to get the long runs in. Speaking of long runs it turned out the longest training run I did was 16 miles and I walked part of that, I had also only ran three days a week to try and keep my knee in good shape. I had been mountain biking the other days. So although I knew I would finish, when and how tired I would be was a big old question mark.

So I got up at about 0430 Sunday morning and drove the 100 miles to Moline Il. I arrived at 0630 for a 0730 start. I found the check-in table and grabbed my swag bag, which included my number,timing chip, and coveted t-shirt. I continued to hydrate with one of the two 32 ounce Gatorades I had purchused at a convenience store on the way down. I had finished the other on the drive. The Quad Cities for those that don't know consists of Moline, IL.,Rock Island, Il., Davenport, Ia. and Bettendorf, Ia. The start line of the marathon would be in Moline but the race itself would go through all 4 cities.

Because of my apprehension about my training I decided to hang with a pace group something I had never really done before. I found the guy holding the sign indicating he would be running a 10:52 per mile pace which equated to a 4hr and 45 min marathon. I thought I could handle that pace. The gentleman acting as Pacer was named Paul W.  Paul had completed 26 other marathons and 3 ultra-marathons and was 54 years old. A good pacer must be congenial, conversational and above all stay on pace. Paul was all of these. Before the race started I hit the Porto Potty again and removed my hat for our national anthem. The race with started with the firing of a civil war cannon and off we went. Our pace group had about 10 people to start but more on that later.

The first two miles of the race were flat through the downtown area of Moline, we then turned north and crossed the mighty Mississippi river for the first time crossing over on the interstate bridge which the authorities had blocked one north bound lane. Paul kept up a constant stream of banter as we crossed over the river. It was a very eerie feeling when the bridge started to sway and bounce in rhythm with the thousands of pounding feet. Coming off the bridge we were in Bettendorf, Iowa and we encountered the first of a few hills on the route this started about mile 5 and continued for a mile or so then we took a right and made a 3 mile circuit of Bettendorf. I marveled how fast the first 5 miles had flown by as we talked and kept our steady pace. Paul was very good and announced our splits every mile, he would announce our actual time versus our goal time and we were generally no more than 3-4 seconds one way or the other. At about the 10 mile mark we started heading west along the river as we crossed into Davenport, Iowa, we had gained a little on our pace and Paul was actually disappointed that we were now averaging 37 seconds faster than out goal. He vowed to slow the pace down and keep that 37 second cushion for the rest of the race. He managed to do this by the way.

At mile 12 we once again crossed the Mississippi this time heading south, we had lost about 1/2 our pace group with 2 forging ahead and 3 falling behind. This time we were in Rock Island IL. and in no time we crossed back over half the river and we were on the US Army Rock Island Arsenal, which was actually on an island. This is were I first noticed I was starting to get fatigued but it wasn't an overwhelming fatigue and I was still keeping up with Paul no problem. It was on this island between miles 13 and 19 where we just ground out the miles and got into the rhythm of the race. I got a little nostalgic as I passed the officers quarters and saw the same style nameplates,quarters and street names I had seen on a dozen other military posts. Paul was an engineer by trade and was doing math in his head as he calculated how much time we had left and what our splits would be. Me being me I started to tease him and called him the "numbers guy."
 Here are some Paulism's that were uttered during the race:

"Age is a moving target." "Connect your head to your heart." and "One time I pissed blood when I finished a race."

That last one is funny I don't care who you are. So anyway as we left the Island we crossed the 20 mile mark and the real second half of the race began. It is after mile twenty when it becomes mind over matter. As luck would have it mile 20-23 were along a deserted bike trail between the river and some warehouses. No scenery and all the bands and spectators from earlier in the race had decided to congregate elsewhere. This was the loneliest part of the race for me as we were down to myself, two other guys and Paul in our pace groups. No one was doing much talking. At mile 23 we emerged back onto the street we had started on in Moline but we had to run away from the finish at first. The last 3.1 miles were an out and back course along this road and as I saw the faster runners heading my way towards the finish I kept reminding myself there was only a 5K left to the end. So we slogged along and as we rounded the turn to run the last 1.5 miles or so back to the finish I noticed I was the only runner from our original pace group that was still hanging with Paul. As we made the turn he said" If you have any energy it won't hurt my feelings if you want to go ahead." I told him " I am already using it." In reality I had decided that I had begun the race with Paul and I would finish with him.

So we made it back downtown to the cheering crowds with myself and Paul crossed the finish line together in 4 hours 44 minutes and 17 seconds about a perfect a race as could have been run. I discovered when I got back home and looked at my logs that this qualified as my third fastest marathon time. I want to thank Paul though because of his course management, steady pace, forcing us to walk at water breaks, forcing us to take water, I finished this race feeling better than I ever had at the finish of a marathon. Following a pace group was definitely worth it.

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