So yesterday I ran the B&A trail marathon for my third time. My seventh marathon in two years. Each time I run this I set a new PR! So I like it a lot. But it was a bittersweet day.
I had been watching the weather forcast -- the Annapolis area was expecting a winter storm starting Sunday, but with a preceding front coming through on Saturday overnight. It seemed like we had a good chance of an ice/snow-covered B&A trail for running on Sunday morning. I layed out my kit with about 5 clothing options the night before. When I got up at about 5:15 am, my back deck and yard were covered with a sheet of slush and I thought it might be a long, wet, rough day. But it wasn't all that cold -- about 32 at that hour, so I was hopeful that the trail would be no more than wet.
So I chose my clothes, got dressed, extracted my wife from her cocoon (she drives me -- for which I'm very grateful, though mostly afterward when I hurt) and made my ritual marathon-day breakfast - a banana and a sesame bagel with a little butter. And drank a pint of gatorade G2 (just for the preloading of electrolytes). Double checked everything and headed out the door. I didn't bring my camera on this one - it seemed like it might be a wet day.
Got to the Severna Park HS starting area at about 6:30. Plenty of time. The place was packed. The event was sold out (possibly for the first time ever?) and the auditorium was crowded. I think I heard that there were 1,00 registrants. Found some friends (Bruce) and shed some clothes, went to the bathroom and chatted. My RB (Spence) showed up and got ready. Spence was planning to run the half and our goal was that he would keep me on pace (about 10:18) for the first half so that I had a shot at breaking 4:30. My previous PR was 4:35. My hope was for even or negative splits.
Then we headed outside to the starting area. I pulled my customized trash bag on and stayed warm enough. Seemed like it was warming up. Then we started. Spence and I had stayed back a bunch in the field, so it took about a minute to cross the starting mat. Then we were off, headed out through the local neighborhoods and onto the B&A trail. Very crowded on the trail. I can see why they have to limit the numbers. But, as usual, it thins out a bit as runners hit their paces. And the weather wasn't bad. We had a little snow aff and on, but it was mostly clear all day.
We ran south for a ways. About mile 4, Spence had a bit of an accident. The trail has 6x6 posts implanted to keep cars from turning onto the trail. Spence didn't see one and tripped over it. Went down hard - face first. At firs, he thought he got bumped and bruised, but would keep going. But blood was pouring from above his eye. He dropped out to get it checked out and said he would catch up with me. Met a pair of youg guys who had decided saturday night to run the full marathon. They were cyclists, so they were in good shape. They were having a great time. Also met "Naptownrunner" from this site. He was volunteering (thanks)!
Up to that point, we were running a very consistent 10:18 pace (thanks to Spence). But after that, I seemed to pick it up a bit. Reached the 6.5 mile south-side turnaround and headed back up the one real hill on this course. Took it easy, but steady. Then hit my stride. Got to about mile 10 at about 1:40 or 10/mile. Faster than I had planned to go. But I felt great. I held back a bit because I felt good enough to run fasterbut I knew that would hurt me later on. I got a call from Spence saying he was heading to the hospital to see about stitches over his eye (ouch).
I got back to mile 13 which is where the 1/2 marathoners turn off to finish. The pack thinned out very significantly after that. Of the 836 finishers, 590 were half-marathoners, 246 ran the full. Passed 13.1 at exactly 2:11 and headed north. The second half of this marathon is mostly a head game. It's mostly flat (two "bumps" which are overpasses) but just goes on and on. I fell in behind a young man doing his first full. We kept the same pace for a bit, up to the northern turnaround point, about mile 19.5.
Coming back south, I started to flag a bit. I did the math (which is simple except that late in race) to figure out the pace I neededin order to break 4:30. Close to 11. So I forced myself to slow down a bit to that pace. I always seem to have a bunch of juice left at the end and knew that if I was close, I would make it. I stopped briefly to pee at about mile 21. Then just slogged along. Felt awful, but after 6 marathons, I know this game pretty well.
But then at mile 24, realizing that I only had about 25 minutes left to run, I knew the goal was in sight and my pace just picked up. Back to 10 and then to 9/mile. Got back to the final turn off the trail and onto the road to the finish and I was flying. Actually passing people. Hit the final stretch, felt great and was running like it was a 5k. I saw the clock and that it read about 4:28 and knew I was golden. As I ran down the chute, I heard a bunch of my peeps cheering me on, heard the finish timers announce my name. And then flew across the mats for a chip time of 4:27:46. Well below my target
I got a call from Spence. He ended up with 4 stitches, a shiner, and a huge lump on his forehead. So it was a bittersweet day -- a PR and a disaster.
I do want to say thanks to the volunteers. They really came through for Spence. And at every water sop, the start and finish, and at all the street crossing. Also a special thanks to the AA County police -- they were geat. And a special thanks to my wife for driving me and picking me up, and for putting up with all the traning time.