I had decided a few days ago that I was going to pace a friend. I found out that actually 4:10, her ultimate goal, would be a lifetime PR. I wanted to stay with her through at least the half, and then possibly slow down or speed up, depending how I felt since I committed to drinking all beer offered to me on the course. I also took some photos as I ran, and posted a White Rock Marathon Review in photo form here.
Weather/Attire: The weather was perfect. Cold at the start, but you warm up fast. It was probably mid-30s at the start, mid- to upper-40s at the finish. I made poor clothing choices. I decided to wear a light long-sleeve shirt and shorts, thinking long sleeves would be fine since I was running easy to pace her and maybe wouldn't warm up as much as if I'd be running as fast as I could. Oops. This is the first marathon where I haven't had a time goal, so I suppose it was a learning experience. Lesson: 26.2 miles at almost any running pace means the same clothing choices. I wore gloves the entire race. I had an earband that I pulled off at 8 and gave to our neighbor. And I pushed up my long sleeves around 10. When we were around mile 13-14, one of my best friends passed us, she was running the relay. I'd been running just in front of the friend I was pacing, and she was staying just off my side. I accellerated a bit to run with my relay friend and chat with her. Somehow I mentioned that I was pissed at myself for wearing long sleeves (she was in short sleeves with our sleeveless jersey over it) and she offered to switch shirts with me. That was too sweet and though I didn't accept, oh, it would have been nice. Even wearing someone else's sweaty short sleeves would have been preferable to my "light" long sleeves.
Course Review: It was a new course this year. For someone running the race for the first time, I think it was probably pretty good. Not many hills in Dallas, so the climbs were less than 160 feet. Basically two climbs. One between miles 5 and 9 up about 160 feet, then back down gradually. The second one between miles 19.5 and 22 up about 160 feet again, then back down to the finish. Here's the profile, not bad. The most disconcerting thing for me, however, was my past experience with the old course, having run the prior marathon route about 3 times. It was a new course this year, including about 80% of the old course, so about 80% of the time, I felt like I was in the wrong mile. Basically around 2-4, we were downtown, which used to be 23-25 (so mentally, I was feeling like this means it's the end of the race). Then about 4-24, you're back on the old course (couple minor changes), but you're about 2 miles ahead of the old markers. So when you hit mile 18 on the new course, your body feels like you're at mile 18, but your mind kind of freaks out, knowing it was old mile 16 and thinking you should feel like you're at 16, not 18. There is a pair of hills known as "the dollies" and you now hit those about two miles later, which isn't really good that late in the race.
Start Logistics: Insanely good. My husband and I scored a complete rock-star parking space. We weren't sure if it was legal. We were on the side of a street that was not part of the race course, but it was so close to the starting line (Fair Park) and there were only a couple other cars there, that we thought maybe we'd get towed away or something. But we checked the signs and it appeared legal, so we went with it and it was perfect. My running group had a museum at Fair Park reserved to wait for the start. We were inside, plenty of seats, plenty of friends. It was perfect. Got a few pre-race pictures and just relaxed. Then we headed to the starting line. We were warned that the race claimed to start at 8:00, but because of the news coverage scheduling, the actual start time would be 8:10. Thumbs-down to the race for that false advertising. It was cold at the start and the start corrals were very poorly enforced. But it was still a pretty smooth start.
Spectators: The friend I was pacing had her husband and kids out on the course in two places that we saw them, which was fun. Our neighbors were waiting on the trail right near our house, and she had tissue for me and took my earband, plus they gave me big smiles and congrats, so that was awesome, a huge mental boost for me. And then one of my best friends was cheering with her husband and their two kids (including my sweet godson) at about mile 13, which was so much fun. I love having friends out there cheering, it's so motivational, and my friend had the same experience -- miles after we saw her family had a noticeable boost. I also saw a few other friends cheering, and saw several others running. Overall course support is probably average among races. Nothing like Twin Cities, NY, Marine Corps, or Chicago, but better than St. George, probably more like your average race like San Antonio, etc. Lots of bands, which was nice.
The Run: We started off too fast, running with a friend (my cadence twin) who was running the half. The full and half run on the same course through just past mile 8. I'd told the friend I was pacing that the issue for me would be that I didn't know her pace. While after months of training, I can easily lock in on my own race pace with no need for any watch or mile markers, but running at a 4:10 or 4:15 meant I didn't even know what pace per mile we needed exactly, let alone how it felt. So she was dictating the pace and she was okay with going too fast. She asked me around mile 14 what my plan was, if I was staying with her or going. I kind of needed a restroom stop, but figured I'd stay with her until I really had to go, and actually, I never did. And since I was having so much fun running with her, I wanted to stay together. And then as she started having some side cramps and slowing down a bit, I really wanted to stay with her. As you can see from the splits below, we were pretty good though about mile 18, then we slowed a lot until mile 25, when I grabbed her water bottle to carry, and we decided to push hard and stop worrying about splits.
The Beer: I drank my first small cup around mile 8.5. Then again around mile 20.2, again at 21, and again at about 23. Unfortunately, when I asked for the beer at 23, they gave me a full can. I knew I couldn't drink that much safely. The cup at 21 had been really full and that had been tough. The can was getting all foamy as I ran and it shook, even after I got it down about halfway. Finally, after drinking about 2/3 of it, I pitched it. But I had two beers at the finish and still felt surprisingly good. I knew I couldn't drive, but I didn't drink at lunch, so I drove to the bar where we met friends after lunch since hubby drank at lunch. One mixed drink at the second bar, and then just water the rest of the day.
Splits: I keep track of my 5 mile blocks until mile 20, then watch the individual miles. For a 4:15 finish, we were supposed to average 9:44 per mile. For 4:10, that would be an average of 9:32 per mile.
1-5 = 45:36 (average of 9:07)
6-10 = 46:40 (average of 9:20)
11-15 = 46:14 (average of 9:14)
16-20 = 48:24 (average of 9:40)
21 = 10:09
22 = 10:10
23 = 10:08
24 = 10:15
25 = 10:24
26 = 9:15 (wow!), got us in under 4:10!
Races of Others: Lots of my friends had really great races as well. Tons of PRs, tons of BQs. Hubby had a good race in the half-marathon, second best ever, but didn't get the PR he wanted. He went out a little too fast he said, and then wasn't feeling great around mile 9, so he slowed down. He said it was pretty cool though because he got passed by the marathon winner in his final mile, which was impressive.
Aftermath: My friend and I crossed the finish line together, passing tons of people in our fast final mile. We went into the finish area, got some water and some gatorade, then the beers, and sat to stretch for a while. She was so happy with our sub-4:10 finish, and I was so happy for her. I stretched more than I usually do after a race, and I was walking alright until we got to lunch and I sat for a long time. This morning my legs are a little stiff, but definitely not as sore as after MTCM. No particular pains, just the general post-marathon ache. I took this morning off from exercise, and am planning to walk with my neighbor tomorrow for a few miles.
I got on FB this morning and saw this awesome message from her on my "bacheca" (I facebook in Italian for some reason):
I cannot thank you enough for today! I have relived it a thousand times already and what never changes is that I absolutly could NOT have done it without you! Thanks SO much - I am incredibly happy and thankful to you!! :) And, I do love it that we finished at the same time - a truly memorable day!Many of my running friends either coach or mentor with our running group, but I've never wanted to do that -- I had my BQ goal and felt like I just wanted to focus on that until I worked on helping others meet their goals. But I've had the same weekend coaches for the last two years and neither of them have a lot of experience, so some runners in the group have emailed me questions, etc. and I'm happy to help, but that's been the extent of it. Now that I've met my BQ goal, I'm going to focus on running a strong Boston in April, then maybe I'll coach or mentor if they want me to. Pacing her definitely showed me how rewarding it can be!
I carried a disposable camera, so I need to get that developed, then hopefully I'll have some pictures to post!
Other areas to mention:
Expo: Very expensive to park ($10), though we scored a free spot. Pretty good number of vendors, and very strategic to place packets and shirts at opposite ends of the building.
Race Logistics: Official start time was 8:10, not 8:00, which should have been made known to runners. Very poor proofreading of the official brochure in your packet (conflicting references to last year's start location). And no runner tracking or live internet tracking available. Seriously, what major marathon doesn't have runner tracking these days? The 10 minute delay and the lack of tracking probably resulted in lots of spectators thinking they'd missed seeing their runners.
Bling: Race packet included a cotton long-sleeved t-shirt for both full and half racers. Then at the finish line, there were tech shirts -- long-sleeved for full, short-sleeved for half -- and I'll put a picture of them in my race review in pictures post. The medals were one million times better than last year. Last year, the sponsor name was all over it, this year it's the little runner logo -- not unique to Dallas, but still quite nice. Half medals were the same but slightly smaller. Like I said, pictures coming.