2013 Outer Banks Race Report

Nov 18, 2013 by

2013 Outer Banks Race Report

OBXBib On November 10, 2013, I ran the Gateway Bank Outer Banks Marathon.  This write up is a report on my performance.  I trained using the 3:25:00 Boston Qualifier plan outlined in the book Run Less Run Faster.  You can find summaries of those workouts here.

If I can find some time, I may do an additional report on the actual event.  Two thumbs up is the short version on the event, though.

Finally There

At 7:10am on Sunday, November 10, after 16 weeks of focused training and no less than 77 workouts, I was finally at the starting line for the Outer Banks Marathon.  Despite only four hours of sleep before the race and waking at 4am (had to eat and then catch the shuttle to the start), I actually felt good and ready to run.  The air temperature was about 50 degrees and the forecast was perfect.  I removed my “donation” pull over and laid it on the ground beside the starting corrals.  At 7:20am, the elites started and thirty seconds later, my corral was off and running (no elite corral for me :-)).

I’d trained to run the race at a 7:49 pace, and I really wanted to make sure I didn’t start too fast.  If there’s one lesson I keep learning the hard way over and over again, it is ‘Do not start too fast!‘.  If I could hold the target for the first twenty miles, I’d try to run the last six at a faster pace.  Thanks to my GPS watch, I could see I was too fast about the first half mile, so I slowed down.  I hit the first split at 7:47.

After a faster second mile at 7:42, I worked a little harder to slow it down.  Third mile, 8:00.  That put me right on 7:49, I see sawed up and down for a few miles, but through mile seven, I was right on track.

I had a problem, though.  This early in the race, I expected to still be feeling good having to dial it back as in my last few training runs, but I was struggling.  My heart rate was too high for this early, and I was having to push too hard to keep my goal pace.  This was not good.  We weren’t even to the off road section yet, where I expected to have to give extra effort.

The first trail hill

The first trail hill

As we entered the off road section at around mile ten, I was still hanging in there, right at a 7:50 pace.  The first two miles of the dirt road, didn’t seem too bad.  The ground was pretty firm, but fairly undulating.  The scenery was nice.  I managed 7:54 for mile eleven and 8:08 for mile twelve.  At about mile 12.5, we turned off the dirt road onto the real trail section.  It was straight up a short, steep hill, then up and down hills for about a half mile.  I didn’t think it was all that much different than the Harbison Forest trails I run occasionally.   We exited the woods and my mile thirteen split was 9:19.  Ouch.  Overall pace per mile had slipped to 7:58.

Doing the Math

Now, I’m not a math genius by any means, but I knew this meant I’d have to run around 7:40 miles the rest of the way to meet my goal.  I tried to ramp it up a bit.  Mile fourteen was 7:42.  OK, not bad.  Mile fifteen was 7:44.  Not horrible, but I still wasn’t finding a groove, though.  Mile sixteen proved to be a struggle at 8:15.  I gave one last super effort on mile seventeen for a 7:50, but that was the last I’d even come close to goal pace.

Mile eighteen was 8:15, and I officially hit the wall during mile nineteen, coming in with an 8:55.  After that, I just resorted to ‘just finish’ mode, running as much as possible but having to walk every so often.  I felt terrible.

The most brutal of the last six miles was mile 23, which included the bridge.  I had an awful 11:14 for this mile.  After that, I did manage to close with increasingly faster miles of 10:28, 10:20, and 9:28.

My official finishing time was 3:42:30, an 8:30/mile pace.  Believe it or not, this was a PR for me by 5 minutes and 10 minutes faster than my spring marathon this year.  I was 14th of 76 in my age group and 125th out of 1,112 overall.

Official results can be found here: http://www.precisionrace.com/outer-banks-marathon-results/

Here’s a chart of my split times.  The blue line is the actual times. The dotted line is the goal, and the red line is the pace average.  Unfortunately, this chart follows a similar pattern to my other marathons.

Splits Graph

Splits Graph


So what happened?  How did I end up 17 minutes off my goal.   That’s quite a miss.   I wish I knew. I did run less and did run faster.  After all, it was a PR.  Am I happy with that?  Honestly, no.  It is a character flaw, I guess.  Mr. Malcontent.

My training success seemed to indicate I’d be much closer to the goal.  I really expected to be on track the first twenty miles and then possibly struggle to a 9 minute pace over the last six miles, if I hit the wall.  That would be a 3:31-ish worst case.

My best explanation is the long trip up the day before (complete with broken down car and emergency car rental at the Fayetteville, NC airport) and lack of rest the night before really hurt more than I expected.  I suppose the extra effort required on the trail section didn’t help, but it wasn’t any worse than the hills around my house where I trained.  Everything else seemed to be on track – training, weather, nutrition.  Maybe I’m just slow.  Who knows.  I guess stuff does happen.

So what’s next?  Not sure about that, either.  I’m contemplating the next move.  I do know, however, I will NOT wear a Batman shirt for my next race.  What seemed like a fun idea at the time turned a bit annoying by the end of the day as I received way more than my share of Go, Batman!, along with chants of the old TV show theme song and one old guy pointing out his Chuckie T high tops with Batman logos.  It was fun high-fiving the little kids, though.

Batman at the Finish

Batman at the Finish


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Race Preview: 2013 Outer Banks Marathon

Nov 7, 2013 by

Race Preview: 2013 Outer Banks Marathon

OBXLogoHey, guess what?  I’m running the Outer Banks Marathon on Sunday, November 1oth.  If you’ve read my posts over the past four months, then you are probably tired of hearing about my preparation.  I understand. I am certainly tired of training!  Here’s some information on what I’ll be facing on Sunday.

Why Outer Banks?

After my disappointing second half on the killer hills of  last March’s Columbia Marathon, I decided I wanted to go back to the coast for a flat marathon.  My personal best was at Myrtle Beach in 2011.  I also wanted a fall race, where most training would be in the summer heat, but race day would be cooler.  This is the opposite of spring races where I’ve trained in the cold only to be hit with too warm conditions late in the race.

So, given those requirements, a few close races meet the mark.  There is Kiawah Island near Charleston, SC in December.  Also, there are two November races, Savannah (Georgia) Rock ‘n Roll and Outer Banks, North Carolina.  I decided Kiawah was too close to Christmas and, besides, I’d done it once.  So, that left the other two.  Despite not visiting Savannah in quite some time, I decided to go to Outer Banks, where I’ve never visited.

The Course

The course is a point to point layout, mostly north to south.  At least it is not a double loop. We’ll start in Kitty Hawk and end with trip over the Washington-Baum bridge into Manteo for the finish.  Here’s a picture, courtesy of TazRunning.com:


For a slideshow tour of the course, click here: http://obxrunners.appspot.com/route/agpvYnhydW5uZXJzcgsLEgVSb3V0ZRgBDA/play

For videos of the sections of the course by Village Realty, click here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC0DEB5774A8B363B

Elevation Changes

While the course is extremely flat compared to the Columbia Marathon and my usual training routes, there are two spots that will make it harder for me to reach my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  The first is around mile 10.  The course organizers decided to showcase some local trails and threw in about a 5K’s worth of cross country running.  The first 2 to 2.5 miles of this appears to be on hard packed dirt roads, but we take a turn about the 12.5 mark onto mulch covered sand dunes trails.  Hmmm.  Sounds like quicksand to me.

Mulch Trail

Mulch Trail
Image Courtesy of Thea Ganoe

The second point of concern is around the 22-23 mile mark, the Washington-Baum bridge over Roanoke Sound.  On the elevation map, it is barely a blip, but at mile 23 it will seem like Mount Everest.

Washington-Baum Bridge. Image Courtesy of Thea Ganoe

Washington-Baum Bridge.
Image Courtesy of Thea Ganoe


Here’s the elevation map for the entire course (courtesy of FindMyMarathon.com):

Elevation Map

Elevation Map – Courtesy of FindMyMarathon.com


Looks like my plan for perfect running weather is looking good.  I run best with temps in the 50’s. Here’s the forecast for Sunday:


OBX Forecast

OBX Forecast


Personal Goal

My goal for this race is to beat 3:25:00.  This is over 22 minutes faster than my previous marathon best and would qualify me for the Boston Marathon.  The goal may be quite a stretch, but my training has come together nicely over the last two months.  I’ve completed all my planned workouts and feel great.  It is gonna be close.  Click on the image below for more details on my training with the Run Less Run Faster program.

Workout Scorecard

Workout Scorecard


Now I just have to make it to the starting line.  I’ve made some planning and logistics mistakes, but that’s another story.

Now I’m off to complete my playlist…



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Race Report: Hewitt 5K aka Blind Squirrel

Jul 2, 2013 by

Race Report: Hewitt 5K aka Blind Squirrel

The Cause

Normally, my spring running seasons ends with the Jailbreak 5K over Memorial Day weekend.  After that, the warmer weather and higher humidity do a number on my already mediocre speed, and the number of events to choose from drops dramatically.  This year, I decided to make an exception.

A new race popped up, and it was for a very worthy cause.  The Hewitt 5K was held on Saturday June 29th at Chapin’s Crooked Creek Park.  The race was to help raise money for a pavilion at Chapin Baptist Church that is being built in memory of Parker and Haley Hewitt, two children who lost their lives in a car accident four years ago.  Sounded like a great reason for me to put myself through the pain of a possible hot and humid 5K.

The Race

So, on Saturday morning, I set out to Crooked Creek Park.  In an un-Greg like move, I decided not to research the course route beforehand.  I knew some high school cross country meets were held at the park, so   I suspected the course might have some off payment sections.  I arrived in plenty of time to get my packet and warm up.  The good news was the sky was overcast and it was a bit breezy.  Bad news was the typical South Carolina summer morning humidity was there. Oh, well.  This was still better than I expected.

I could see the finish line was setup in the middle of a soccer field.  So,  the off pavement suspicion was confirmed.  During my warm up, I also discovered some white arrows on the pavement and decided to follow them.  They took me down winding paved trails.  I suspected this was part of the course.  I  followed them far enough to encounter some short steep hills and turned around to head back to the start area. During my two miles of easy warm up, I didn’t have any trouble working up a sweat.  I was ready to go.

So, there I was at the start.  A month had passed since my last race, also a 5K, and even a PR.  I’d been training hard, and really wanted to improve on that PR, but I knew that would be tough this morning.  I felt twenty-two minutes would be a victory given the humidity and course.

I’ll try not to bore you with too many details.  Here’s how it went.  I went out pretty fast with the lead pack.  After a half mile or so, we hit those paved trails I had found in warm up, and I couldn’t keep with the lead group.  I found myself in no man’s land, running by myself.  A few minutes later, my watch beeped for the first mile split and it said 7:12.  That seemed too slow based on that start.

Unfortunately, my brain cannot turn off the number crunching, and immediately I knew that I’d need to run 6:30 mile splits the remainder of the way to get a PR, if my watch was indeed correct.  About then, I hit that first short step hill.  It felt like someone put the brakes on me. Then there were some more rolling hills.  With no one close behind me, I just decided to try to keep a steady pace.

About the half way point, we looped around a couple of baseball fields.  Here, I could glimpse behind me and saw a guy less than 100 yards back.  He looked like a possible age group threat.  My number one goal now  became to not let him pass me.   I was fading, and I hoped he would, too.  Eventually, we emerged from the paved trails and headed back into entrance to the soccer field.  My watch said 19:00, and I could see the finish line.

Unfortunately, we still had to loop back to the far side of the field and back.  The guy behind me was now very close.  I was fading faster than he was.  We rounded the last corner and a spectator yelled ‘He’s gaining on you!’ I don’t know if he was lying or not, but I did my best to pick up my pace and held him off, managing a 22:13.

Turns out he wasn’t in my age group.

Satellite View of the Route













Blind Squirrel Finds an Acorn

If you aren’t aware, most races have an overall winner then  break up the field into age groups, usually in 5 year increments.  This gives us regulars a chance to compete.  Five years ago, in my first 5K, I actually won first place in the mail 40-44 year-old group.  I didn’t really know what fast was in a 5K back then, and I thought my 23:30 something was not bad, until they announced the overall winner .  He was my age, but ran the race in under 16 minutes.    Oh.

Over the past 5 years, I had not placed first in my age group again.  I did manage a third that first summer, but since summer of 2009, I’ve been shutout.  Until now.  My 22:13 was good enough for 1st place in the male 45-49 group and 12th overall.  As a bonus, they didn’t give out medals, but instead gave sugar cookies with the race logo in icing.  Much better than a medal.

My Prize. It didn’t make it through the afternoon!










Oh yeah, Heather Hunt finished first at 18:37.  Pretty darn impressive for a 38 year old, I think. For the complete results click here: http://www.strictlyrunning.com/results/13hewitt.txt.



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Race Report: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

May 30, 2013 by

Race Report: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

About 7:15am, I pulled into my parking space at Jailbreak last Saturday.  I was alone, and the anticipated father vs. son battle was not going to happen.  I assume  son was scared of the old man running him down.  The reality is he’s a teenager, and I don’t understand what he thinks most of the time.  He had just decided not to run.

Anyway, since I was by myself, I had the radio on the station I wanted, and as I parked, Freebird came on the radio.  Hope that is a good sign, I thought to myself.  Since this was only a 5K, my playlist for this run did not include Freebird, so I just listened for a minute.

I stepped out of the car and walked down to some nearby soccer fields to warm up on the paths around the fields.  The weather was unusually cool for late May in the midlands of South Carolina – around 50 degrees with low humidity.  Perfect for a run, though.  If I didn’t run well today, I could not use my weather excuses.  Darn.

After warming up, I made sure I was at the starting line early enough to be toward the front, just after the big dogs.  The starter finally gave the go, and I pressed the start button on my watch as I took off.  Uh-oh.  My watch said MEMORY FULL.  This means the run will not record.  In the past I’ve had watch glitches that let me down, but this glitch was totally my fault. It will only hold 20 workouts, and I had not cleared them out lately.

Now I had a decision to make.  “Trust your feelings” came to mind for a split second.  Nope.  Can’t do that.  So, I hastily cleared the workouts from my watch as I ran and restarted the workout, but the damage was done.  My time was now at least 3o seconds off. I could tell my instant pace, though.

We passed the first mile marker, and the lady with a stop watch wasn’t yelling out split times.  No big deal, I thought.  Maybe the mile two person will be.    Just past the half way point, I approached the one water station.  The low humidity had really dried out my throat, so I grabbed a water.  At this point it is a short hill up to the mile two marker.  There was a guy with a stop watch, but he wasn’t calling out time, so I asked him.  13:35 he said.  I was a bit surprised. I was right on target at roughly a 6:47/mile pace.  Unfortunately, the hard part had arrived.

Mile three starts with a down hill, but once we turned left on Church Street, its a decent uphill stretch, and I felt so slow.  We turned left on Gibson, and the course flattened out for the final half mile or so.  I rounded the final curve, and with probably 100 yards to go, I  could finally see the clock.  21:10.   At this point,  I pushed as hard as I could and think I actually passed a couple of people.  As I crossed the finish line, I looked up and saw the clock read 21:30 – a new PR!

I had another problem to deal with now, though – trying not to puke.  I kept walking and breathing deep.  It was close, but I held it in.

Later, when the official results were posted, I saw that my time had been adjusted to 21:26.  This was because of chip time, not gun time.  I’ll take it!

Even with a PR, I finished 4th in my age group, just missing the podium by about 25 seconds.  For final results click here.


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Race Preview: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

May 21, 2013 by

Race Preview: 2013 Jailbreak 5K

Just a quick note to let you know I’m still kicking and running.  This year is Jailbreak VII and will be held on May 25, 2012 in Lexington, South Carolina.  The race supports the Lexington County Sheriff’s Foundation.  Last year, an out of towner named Scott Wietecha came in and put a whippin’ on all the usual local favorites with a 14:47.  This year, I hope to see some of the Lexington High cross country and track team guys come out to give the regulars a run for their money.

The Course

I wouldn’t necessarily call this a guaranteed PR course, but in the past, I have PR’d here.  Most of the first two miles is flat to downhill.  The third mile has some rolling hills with a short tough stretch up Church St.  The final half mile or so is pretty flat.  Here’s the map:

Jailbreak 5K Course Map

In addition, here’s the elevation map:

Personal Goals

I rarely go into a race without at least one personal goal. This race is no different. I guess I have two for this outing. The first is to avenge myself from the beat down I took last week in the Run Hard 5K when my son whipped me by over a minute and a half.  Now, I’m not going to make excuses. I ran an OK race at 22:43 for having some sort of cold/virus bug. I’m over that, and I’ve had good training of late. My plan is to let him go out his usually too fast pace, and catch him on the last mile, as the hills take their toll. This plan assumes that I am immune to the hills.  I have no historical evidence to support that, but let’s just go with it.

The second goal is to establish a good baseline 5K time for my next marathon training. I’m thinking of doing the Outer Banks Marathon in November, so serious training will pick up in July. I plan on going to back to using the Run Less Run Faster book. In this book, workout speeds are based on your 5K ability. Since I want to improve my marathon time and maybe catch a glimpse of a BQ (Boston Qualifier), I would like to set a PR, just to help with the mental edge of training.  My 5K best is 21:36 and the book says 21:06 puts you in the ball park for having the ability to BQ, based on their statistics.

So, it is time to go work on my playlist. Being Memorial Day weekend, I’m thinking of going with a patriotic theme. This will at least allow me to justify Night Ranger’s You Can Still Rock in America. I will not be including Billy Ray Cyrus’s Some Gave All, though, in case you were wondering.


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Race Report: 2013 Columbia Marathon

Mar 19, 2013 by

Race Report: 2013 Columbia Marathon

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” That familiar phrase, borrowed from the opening of Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities, pretty much sums up my 2013 Columbia Marathon experience.  Let’s break it down.

The Best of Times

The Event

  • Good expo: The expo moved from the Columbia Convention Center to the Columbia Marriott.  No big deal there.  Easy bib and shirt pickup.  Then I wandered around the vendor area and made a couple of impulse buys – red Headsweats beanie for the forecasted cold start and a pouch n attachment for my iFitness belt.
  • Shirt: Hands down best event shirt I’ve ever received.

Participants Shirts. Image Courtesy of Columbia SC Marathon.

  • Weather: Good weather.  Sunny and a cold 32 degrees at the start, but it was close to 60 degrees by the end.  Perfect running weather, unless you were dumb enough to wear a long sleeve shirt (guilty!)
  • Course change down Main St = two thumbs up.   This made the 2012 finish seem little league.
  • Another improvement over last year: excellent course mile markers, complete with balloons.

My Experience

First, a tip: On race days, set a backup alarm.  I woke Saturday to my iPhone vibrating and playing music.  I looked at the regular alarm clock, and it was on, but the local radio station was out, so no music alarm!.  Had I not set the backup alarm, I may have slept through the start.

Pre Race

I arrived downtown around 6:30am, right on schedule.  The start change was near the Governor’s Cup start and also near a place I once worked.  I knew the area well and easily found a parking space right where I wanted.  I started walking around to warm up, and returned to the car to get my coat.  It was 32 degrees and windy.  Brrr.  By 7:10 I had warmed up enough with a 2 mile walk/easy run and returned to the car to drop off the coat and long pants.  Off to the start!

I came up with this crazy strategy where I’d run try to run at an 8:20 per mile pace on all miles expect the 2nd pass up Trenholm Road, where I’d like by closer to a 10:00/mile pace. This is called banking.  This is a fairly universal no-no in long distance running.  It just doesn’t work. I was going to try it, though.  No one’s life or livelihood was riding on my performance, so why not?  If I could manage this, I’d end up somewhere in the range of an 8:30/mile pace and a PR around 3:45.  If I bombed, I could write it in my blog and remind others not to use that strategy.

First Loop

My marathon race history told me this strategy was too aggressive.  Race time predictor charts said my marathon times should be closer to 3:35:00, based on my 5K, 10K, and half marathon times.  I felt really good on the first loop, and ran it around 1:48.  I clicked my watch screen over to show pace per mile and saw that I was at an 8:14/mile clip.  Wow.  That  was too fast, I thought.  I was going by feel, at this point though, and I felt great.  My play list selection for this section said it all – Carry On by fun.  On I went.  Perhaps a better tune would have been the theme from Jaws.

The Worst of Times

So here it is at halftime of the big game.  The home town hero is up 30 points on the defending champs and the locals are getting excited.  The half marathoners are gone and I make my way back down Sumter Street and hang a left on Blossom Street.  Just as I head down the steep hill,  my mile 14 split sounded and the time shows 8:09.  This is the same hill at mile 12.5 or so of the Governor’s Cup.  It is nice to be going down this hill for a change, instead of cursing it going the other direction.

After bottoming out as we passed Maxcy Gregg park, I hang a right on Saluda Street and the sleeping giant that is loop two of the Columbia Marathon woke up.  And it was not happy with the butt kicking I had administered on loop one.  The Saluda Street hill hits me hard.  I felt like I was walking.  I managed an 8:52 split for the mile.   Earlier I had managed 8:24 on the mile that contained this hill.  Those extra 30 seconds seemed like 5 minutes.  My wheels were not just a little wobbly now, I had run over a spilled load of nails, and my tires had holes.  I started leaking air fast.

At this point, I told myself, ‘OK, that is not too bad.  The first really bad mile, but your overall pace is still around 8:15.  If you can manage 8:45 or better from here on out, then the average will be 8:30 and the goal will be met.’  So, on mile 16, I recovered slightly and managed 8:39.   Problem was, this section was fairly flat.  My body was shutting down.  In fact, miles 17  through 19 didn’t have any scary hills. I needed to get back on pace, but I could only manage 8:44, 8:41, and 8:58.  Then the last section of the Lake Katherine neighborhood decided to throw in a couple of sucker punches before Trenholm Road and knocked me back to 9:18 and 9:48 for miles 20 and 21.  If my run was the televised game of the week, the network would be changing to another game at this point.

Mile 22.  My arch nemesis, and I don’t have any fight left in me .  I’m staring up Trenholm Road.  My overall pace is still sub 8:30 per mile, but now the beast is just playing with me.  I try to keep the keep moving, but I have to succumb to walking and some sort of foot shuffle that probably doesn’t resemble a run.  At the aid station in front of Westminster Presbyterian Church, I ask a volunteer if I’m winning.  She looks confused for a second, then laughs.  Delirium has set in.  Miles 22 and 23 are a brutal 10:01 and 10:26.    Overall pace 8:38.  Fans are leaving the stands.

There’s one last downhill section during mile 24.  I try my best to push it.  Landscapers at a house on Gervais Street look at me like I’m crazy.  They may be right.  Mathematically, I still have a chance to beat 3:50.  At this point, I’m too hot and regretting the long sleeve shirt.  Despite the downhill and thinking I was moving decent again, I can only manage 9:46 for mile 24.

Mile 25 contains the last hill – a short steep quarter mile or so up Gervais Street before turning right on Pickens.  I have to once again succumb to walking.  During this hill, I have a sudden onset of nausea and light headedness.  I manage not to throw up or pass out, and  I’m coherent enough to realize I’m in trouble.  I tried to breathe deep and just make it to the top of the hill.  I have some water in my water bottle, but I need Gatorade with sugar.   I take a sip of my water and pour the rest on my head.

I turn right on Pickens and hope to see an aid station.  Not yet, but the course is now flat again, and I’m feeling better, so I try to run again.  Eventually, I see the aid station and yell out ‘Gatorade!’ as I approach.  The young guy is kind enough to ask something like “Blue or Purple?” “I don’t give a crap” is my response.   At least they laughed. I down the two small cups of Gatorade and keep on.  Mile 25 split: An awful 11:11.  Only about a mile to go.    I start running again, and a few blocks later I turn left on Richland Street.  Just one more turn and it’s straight down Main Street to the finish.

At this point, my finale song is playing, Top of The World by Van Halen (Live and Sammy Hagar version of VH, of course).  Unfortunately, I’m not going to make my 3:45 goal.  I turn on Main Street, and there’s just over a quarter mile to go.  Mile 26 split goes off – 10:32. I can see the State House dome and there’s a bit more of a crowd thanks to some Saturday morning street market. My playlist starts over, and I try to push it.  My calves are starting to feel like cramps coming on.   The cramps hold off, and I complete the final .2 in about 2:29, right at a 9:00/mile pace.  Someone hangs a finisher’s medal around my neck and guides me to a photo spot.  They snap two pictures, and I need a banana…

My final official time was 3:52:57, an 8:55/mile pace.  I finished 8th out of 36 in the 45-49 age group.  My first half was about 1:48 and the second half was 2:05.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

For complete results, click here.


The Collapse in Chart Form


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