I nailed it! Got my BQ. I just got home a short while ago. Here is how it all unfolded:
On Friday, I drove the 6 hours from home to Hamilton. It was snowing hard, windy, icy. Just a miserable day. I had decided to not run that day. On Saturday, it was very windy and rainy. I ran 3 miles on the treadmill.
On Sunday, hurray! The sun was out - not a cloud in the sky. It was -3C/27F at the starting line, and it got up to about 7C/45F by mid-day. So, it was cold, but nothing I was not used to, and great for running. The only problem was the North wind which was gusting up to 33km/hour or about 20 mph. I was a bit concerned about that.
Just over 1,000 runners in the Marathon. The closest pacers to my goal time were 3:15 (too fast) and 3:35 (too slow). So, I knew I was on my own for pacing. I placed myself just behind the 3:35 pacer and ended up passing him on my 1st mile. I did everything right leading up to this re: nutrition and hydration. I didn't know how my body was going to react, so I just made up my mind to follow my game plan, start off slow, and hopefully pick up the pace later on.
The wind was out of the Northwest, and the 1st mile headed North and had pretty much the steepest and longest hill of the entire course (up). After that, we turned East for about 5 miles (mostly flat, with some rolling hills), then South for 1, and then back West into the worst of the wind for the next 6 miles. This was mostly flat. At the halfway point, we entered the expressway and ran North on it for about 3 miles, all downhill. Then on the off ramp and a tricky mile through some steep climbs and descents for just over 1 mile. Then, with just over 8 miles to go, we ran along the water and some residential streets into the wind, and then did a turn around with about 4 miles to go. This was with the wind and was a welcomed relief (although by now, the wind had mostly died down). At this point, we caught up to the slower half marathoners and that made for some tricky spots when they were walking 2 or 3 abreast.
Okay, my splits. The 1st 6 miles were bang on pace:
7:50 7:52 7:49 7:48 7:54 and 7:47. My main concerns coming in were my right piriformis and my left hamstring. So far, I had no pain. In fact, my piriformis was not an issue at all during the race. The hamstring - well, stay tuned.
The next 7 miles were into that wind. Boy, did it feel bad! My splits:
8:01 8:01 8:06 8:01 8:04 7:55 and 7:54. There were no timing mats at the halfway point, but at 13 miles I was at exactly 1:43:00 - basically on pace. The biggest problem was a side stitch on my left. I had not had one of those since training for Detroit a few years ago. It happened as soon as I turned into the wind around mile 7, so I don't know if it's because of the extra strain and effort. But it was soul sapping I can tell you! Between that and the wind in my face, I was convinced that my BQ was over. In fact, I wasn't sure I'd even finish at this point. If someone I knew was there along the way, I'm pretty sure I would have stopped and rode down with them. I know that attitude sucks, but man, it hurt. It wasn't full on pain yet, but I figured it was just a matter of time. I decided to just keep running until the pain made me slow down or stop. The only thing that gave me hope was that my pace was not quite as bad as it might have been, and knowing that the downhill section would give me a boost. I was hoping to make it at least to there.
Well, I don't know how or why, but after running with it for 5 miles, the stitch just faded and went away. And never came back. That was a boost for sure, but around mile 12 I started to feel my left hamstring. It wasn't in the same place as during training (behind the knee). No, it was a bit higher up. But definitely hamstring, and the pain was sharp, rather than dull. So, my brain got all negative on me again and I figured it was just going to get worse as I went. It didn't, but rather it would go away and then it came back 2 more times during the race, each time worse than the time before.
However, now I was on the downhill section. And even though the wind was against me, I figured now was the time to make up for the lost seconds on the upper half. My downhill splits were: 7:41 7:28 and 7:55. I was actually surprised they were not faster. I'm sure the wind factored into that, but maybe the hamstring was playing on my mind also. Still, better than what I was running the previous few miles.
The ramp off the highway led to a dirt trail with some tricky hills. Really did a number on the quads. These two splits were: 8:10 and 8:32. I was obviously not impressed, but I also had expected they would be slower here, and so it didn't throw me off. Plus, I was now 8 miles from the finish and, despite having gone through another hamstring incident, I was cautiously optimistic now that I might BQ.
It's not fun running AWAY from the finish line, and the wind was still a bit of a challenge, but I was SO looking forward to that turn around. These mile splits were: 7:48 7:59 7:58 and 8:12. Four miles to go. Wind at my back (even though it had pretty much died down at that point). And that darn hamstring REALLY got sore at that point. Just keep running.
My last four mile splits were: 7:53 7:57 7:54 and 7:36. I ran the final stretch in 2:08, which was a 7:14 pace. I gotta say, it wasn't until I could see the finish line that I was actually convinced I was going to do it. Seriously - even with just 1 mile to go, I wasn't sure I could do it. It was hurting.
I crossed the finish line knowing I had done it though - man, what a feeling! I slowed down and went to stop in front of a volunteer to get my medal, and I'm glad he was there - my legs just gave out, and he caught me. Weird feeling. They just would not work for me for a few minutes. He was great however - walked me to the food tent and another volunteer sat me down and brought me food.
There were a lot of turns and curves in the course, and I really tried to run the tangents. Overall, I did pretty good in that department. My GPS showed me having run 26.29 miles, which is not bad.
So, I beat my Boston Qualifying time by 112 seconds. That would have been more than enough this year (98 seconds) and next year (62 seconds). I'll have to wait almost a year to see if it's enough to get me in for 2016.
190/1044 Runners; 162/517 Men; 30/98 in my age group.
And a big "thank you" to Tom K for your interest and support along the way!