PF Chang 2011 was all about setting those demons to rest and trying to capitalize on 9 months of prior Ironman training to carry me through this race. Literally, I was banking on that "Ironman Spirit" to keep me going and mentally power through the final miles knowing that my training over the last 3-4 weeks had not been sufficient.
Out of the gate, I felt really good. Of course the energy, music and announcers are there to get you pumped up and everyone is having a good time. I will freely admit that I was pushing the first half of the race. I was trying to stay within the 8:15 to 8:30 range (erring on the faster side of course) for the entire race. Between miles 0 and 15, this felt very achievable. I was pacing with the 3:40 group at this stage in the race.
I did break the cardinal rule of race day however...nothing new on race day. Duh. I was looking for every advantage I could get so I wore some new CEP compression socks with my relatively new Newton's. This would not work out in my favor around mile 18. I could feel the socks shifting at the balls of my feet and blisters starting to well up. Each step was starting to hurt with the additional pressure.
Mile 20 would be the first aid station I actually walked through. I could no longer hear the bands playing or the kids yelling. My quads were on fire. The feet were half-numb. It was me and the lines on the road at this point. The 3:40 pace team was gone and all I could hope for was to keep up with the 3:50 pace team.
"A marathon is 20 miles of hope and 6 miles of guts..."
The mile posts seemed like there were getting farther and farther away. Just when you'd think you were reaching another mile marker, it would actually be one of the kilometer signs (damn!). The joy and buzz had left the faces of many at this point in the day. Folks were shuffling, panting and groaning all around me. Just git'er done.
Still determined to make my goal, I was run-walking from mile 21 through the end. I stopped a couple times to stretch out my calves and quads. The signs of under-training were becoming oh-so-evident between miles 22 and 25. I had a fleeting moment of enthusiasm at mile 24 crossing over the Rural/Scottsdale Rd bridge. As I cursed the slight elevation I realized that this is the same bridge we crossed during the bike (and run) of the 2010 Arizona Ironman. I only wish the elation and joy had stoked the fire of that "Ironman Spirit" I was trying to rely on, but it didn't.
Sometimes motivation comes from the strangest places. During the last 3-4 miles of the race, there was this older man - let's say mid-60's to be fair - who kept leap-frogging with me. I'd catch him running and then I'd stop to walk for a while. Running again, I'd catch up to him again. The only reason he caught my attention was because he was a thin little man wearing a pink pair of women's Newton's. There was really no way I was going to let him beat me to the finish (but let me be the first to say that he has my respect for running a respectable time at his age).
Not to be outdone by pink-shoe-dude, I stepped up the pace for the last 1/2 mile to ensure I widened the gap and finished ahead of him. Motivated? Perhaps to save my pride more than anything. What ever it takes though, right?
So what was my goal you ask? Sub-4 hours.
I smashed my previous 2 marathon times by an hour. I'm happy with my performance and time (3:50) but again, I know that with the proper training and motivation, I could do better.
Here are my splits in case you're curious. Try to ignore the final 2 splits - I walked around the athlete area for about 15 minutes before realizing I had not turned off my watch (happens all the time).
Thanks to everyone who was there to support and push me through to the end. Perhaps PF Chang's in 2012? I guess we'll have to see. Thanks for reading.