We sorta snuck Jacksonville in at the last minute. I was checking airfare, and it was ridiculously cheap to fly from Milwaukee to Jacksonville, FL, but only if we made it a 3 day, 2 night trip. Hmmm. Run in Wisconsin wearing 3 shirts, 2 jackets, long tights, hat, mittens, etc. or Florida in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Twist my arm.
My goal for this marathon - run with a local and get a recommendation for a good restaurant for our post-marathon dinner, and run comfortably and still break 4 hours.
We had quite a foggy start to our morning. After inadvertently picking the slowest port-a-potty line, I got to the start corral with about 30 seconds to spare. I decided to start with the 3:30 pace group.
Just before the start, they announced that yellow balloons indicated a Galloway pace group. For those not familiar, Galloway'ing (also called Gallowalking) is an approach that mixes several minutes running and timed short walk breaks. The Galloway method is a generally accepted approach to a goal of over 4 hours for a marathon, but fairly rare for a 3:30 goal. I am not here to criticize Gallowalking, but, let me just say, this approach doesn't interest me in a marathon.
The 3:30 pace guy has a yellow balloon around his neck. I spent the first 8 miles leap-frogging his Galloway group. They were doing about 4 and a half minutes of running then 30 seconds of walking. Every time they passed me, I got a face full of yellow balloon. They'd get ahead of me, then suddenly switch to walking, and I'd pass them again.
Fortunately, at mile 8, I had to duck into a port-a-potty, and kill a couple minutes that put enough of a gap between me and them.
Around mile 12, I caught up with a small group of runners, some in the group seemed to know each other. Quiet group.
I decided to break the ice, and ask about the eerie looking vegetation growing in their trees. Most of the group was not interested in this conversation, but one guy took the bait, and told me it was moss. We chatted a bit for the next 6 miles. He reminded me a bit of Tony Shalhoub from the TV show Monk.
He was local, recently divorced, and relatively new to marathoning. I mentioned that we were planning to go to St Augustine for the afternoon. 'Tony' (never got his real name) immediately recommended A1A Ale Works
in St Augustine. Sweet. First goal met.
Somewhere in the upper teens, Tony and I separated. I think the port-a-potty got me again. And then a side stitch of all things slowed me down in the low 20s.
Late in the marathon, I caught up to a group of young women, they had a couple guys on bikes pacing them. Not a problem at all, there was plenty of room. I noticed that one of the guys had an Ironman shirt. The one where all the participants names are really tiny and form the M-Dot logo. As I came up behind him, I just asked 'Where's your name?'. He replied with a friendly 'its there somewhere'. Uh, no. That is unacceptable. I jokingly scolded that not only did he need to know exactly where it was, he needed to be able to point to the exact spot without looking.
People who have done an Ironman, have an uncanny way of spotting others who have done one. Whether its a tattoo, or an inconspicuous logo'd garment, we all notice and simply ask each other 'which one(s)'. There is a unique camaraderie among Ironman finishers.
The course was mostly beautiful, and a tour of affluent neighborhoods, however, the last 2 miles were along a busy highway. The sun came out and started to cook us a bit. I was comfortably on pace to break 4 hours, and definitely out of reach of the 3:30 number that I really like. But, I was just taking this one easy, not worrying too much about time. But I was definitely ready to be done.
Just before mile 25, I came up behind a young woman who seemed to feel defeated. I have done so many of these, I forget how hard they are. She sorta staggered to a walk, and seemed overwhelmed by the mile and a quarter she had remaining. As I passed her, I assured her "you can do it!" Another woman just behind me, offered more encouragement, and seemed to take her under her wing. I could hear... "just over a mile to go" and "in 10 minutes, you'll see the finish". If that other woman hadn't been there, I hope I would have done the same, and stayed with her a bit. Its hard to know how much to do. Some people want to be left alone, some people get energy from the encouragement of others.
The finish was on the running track of the Bolles school. That was pretty neat. Post race food included bagels, bananas and soup. Soup? Really? Soup would be great after a December marathon in Wisconsin, but in Florida? In the heat? I will pass on this one.
After a quick shower, Webmaster Bill and I headed to St Augustine for the afternoon. We went to the A1A Ale Works, as recommended by 'Tony'. Yum! Loved it! I had salmon, and Bill had wahoo, which neither of us had heard of, but it was some sort of very yummy fish.
As recommended by training partner Dennis, we toured the Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest fort in the United States, and learned a bit of history, some of which I actually remember. They had a guy dressed in costume, that gave a talk about the fort. I usually am very skeptical of men dressed in funny outfits, but this guy was fun and made it interesting. History was never my forte, so everything I learn as an adult is new. And my attention span is about that of a ten year old boy at his sister's ballet recital. So, the fact that this guy kept my attention for his entire talk is way more impressive than finishing a marathon.
The rest of our weekend was low-key and relaxing, and we returned to that Wisconsin December weather that we know and love... well.. ok.. that we know.
OK - final score:
sub 4 marathon states: 26 - more than half way!
marathon states: 30.