Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tallahassee Marathon - 2/7/10

On Friday, I was at work, regretting that I was not on a plane to the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Race. For 3 years, the first weekend in February has been reserved for that race. My first 2 years were completions and then last year was a DNF. I was in worse shape this year than last year, and I didn't want to chance another disappointment at one of my favorite races. Therefore, I signed up for what I thought would be a sure thing - the Tallahassee Marathon. It was my fastest marathon in 2009, a very slow 5:12:12. I knew that I couldn't get even close to that time this year, but with a very flat course, I thought that I would have no problems beating the 6-hour cut-off.

Cheryl (FL) and I shared a room at a Motel 6 the night before the race. We have run several races together, including the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic 50K in December. Since then, I have been affectionately calling that race the Tallahassee Monsoon. If not for her company, I probably would have hated life that day, lol. It rained hard and steady all day. We stuck together for the whole race, finishing cold and sopping wet but happy. Cheryl tells lots of stories, whether she's running or not, and I wanted her companionship again. But Cheryl has also been cheating; she's been training, lol. She goes to the gym for elliptical workouts, treadmill intervals, and weights. Listening to her the night before, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up her pace. She also was coming off a sub-5:30 at the Ocala Marathon the weekend before and would be gunning for that time this weekend. It appeared that I would be all alone in my struggle for a sub-6:00.

The weather was perfect, probably in the low 40s at the start and in the high 50s towards the finish. There was no precipitation, but it was overcast the entire time. I saw Phil (AL) before the start. Last year, Tallahassee was good to him, and he finished with a sub-4:00. He didn't think he would get a repeat this year, but he still finished very well in 4:22:44. Nice job, Phil!

Art (FL) was also there. I saw him at the Jacksonville Marathon in December. When we see each other at races now, it seems that we always end up talking about how our weight gain has screwed up our times. But we're still out here and doing our best. He finished in a fine time of 5:44:28.

We start with a small double loop through the Florida State University campus before hitting the roads to get to the 11-mile (22 miles total) out-n-back on a bike path. We then finish the race on the track. As we started, I saw my running buddy, Frank (MN), in his signature red shorts and red jacket. I rushed ahead to catch up to him, and I'm glad that I did.

Frank and I talked, laughed, and ran/walked our way through the race. He is always so upbeat, never complains, and seems to thoroughly enjoy every race that he runs. He has dragged me along in several races, but today would be a struggle to keep up. My normal aches and pains were along for the race, too, and they worsened early in the day. Several times I told him to go on ahead without me. He was moving well and effortless, but my strides were choppy at best and favored the side of my body with the least resistance. Right before we reached the half-way point, he took off. I was sad to see him go. But later, I mustered a little pep in my step and caught up with him again. He was talking with another runner and that must have slowed him down. We then continued on together.

Frank was keeping time for the both of us. No one would ever guess that I have a background in engineering, because my math is all fuzzy during a race. He would tell me when we were ahead of pace and when we were slacking off. I dreaded every mile marker when he told me that we had lost another minute. That meant more running and less walking and talking for the next mile. For the last 6-8 miles, I would ask how we were doing as we approached the next mile marker. I'm sure he grew tired of me asking. Heck, I was tired of asking. Every time I looked at my watch and calculated how much time we had, I didn't think we would make the cut-off. Frank kept reassuring me that we would.

At 5:53:51, Frank and I stumbled across the finish line. Cheryl had finished in 5:36:11, very close to her goal. Congratulations to her for placing 2nd in her age group! She waited for us and snapped our picture at the finish line (see above). Just like last year, the pizza was all gone, but I really didn't care. I appreciated my official finisher's time and shiny, new medal more than anything, both of which I owed to Frank. He could have left me out there on my own, but he sacrificed his own race to make sure that I crossed the finish line under the cut-off. Maybe one day, in another race, I'll be able to return the favor.

I missed being at the RR100, but in the end, it was the best decision for me this year. After finishing 26.2 miles, I couldn't imagine tacking on 73.8 more miles on this day. I'm glad that I was at the Tallahassee Marathon instead.