Out of T2 I felt fantastic. Having mostly jogged transition I was ready to hit full stride the instant I was on the pavement and immediately dialed in all my attention to the pace I was planning to run, I narrowed my focus and started dealing with the splits one by one. My garmin was going to take a split each 500m for me. 5:00/km is the goal, 4:50 is too fast 5:10 is too slow. All the stuff in between is probably alright, because worrying about 5 seconds here and there will make me go crazy. It took a bit to start getting them right but by the time I’d hit the first mile I was on track. I was carrying a bottle with two cans of cola in it with extra electrolytes added. It was still partly frozen slush as I drank and had 90% gone by the first aid station so I dropped it there rather than carrying an empty bottle for another mile and took a stop at the toilet to empty my bladder. That bottle drank and my stomach feeling perfect, my energy levels up and my body temperature back within normal ranges all had settled me down, I ran, I breathed and I let my heart beat. That’s about it. I didn’t think, I just rode on auto-pilot, 500 meters at a time.
By three kilometers in I had shaken off the early run nerves. I was hitting splits on target. I would continue to get every split correct, or be able to get back on track for the next split all the way through until 10 miles where the hills begin. I was repeating the same pattern each aid station. Check if it’s a multiple of three, if it is, eat a gel drink some water, if it’s not, drink some coke and gatorade. By mile 3 I was adding ice to my top. I’d stash it there and finish with the eating or drinking and then while I ran I’d redistribute the ice that was stashed at my chest into my arm-coolers either in the crook of my elbows where the veins are at the surface or on my wrists where the veins are on the surface. I was staying cool, calm and focused, predominantly on not running too hard. I hadn’t worked hard yet. It was 3pm in the afternoon.
I caught one of the pro men who was trundling along at about this point. He’d had a 15 minute head start on me but I caught him just as Matt Lieto was going the other way. I gave Matt a big cheer but he wasn’t doing so good apparently surviving instead of stalking the guys ahead of him. Too bad, I was rooting for the guy. In any case it prompted myself and Lewis to start chatting. He was having a rough day and I trucked along up the first hill (and really the only one of significant consequence when heading south) with him and then dropped him on the descent when I let my legs run down the far side. I trucked along towards the turn-around some splits faster and some slower but all were ok I thought, I trusted the average was 5:00/km instead of trying to calculate anything, don’t think, just run.
I made the turn and grabbed my special needs bag, I had another bottle of salted coke in there but I didn’t take it, just took a fruit leather and a mini ziploc with gummy coke bottles and left all the other stuff there on the ground. I gave Dad a hug, and then started running again. I didn’t see Mom, she would have got a hug too, but apparently I waved at her when I thought I was just waving to the crowd. Oops. I saw my brother with his camera out, did some eating and got back to focused running again up the hills back towards home. Some of the splits here in the middle weren’t so stellar but they were not a disaster either. I reached the big climb that I’d gapped Lewis on at that point and hunkered down thinking to myself “don’t let you HR come up too much” and I didn’t but threw away some more time taking it easy on the ascent and relatively easy on the descent instead of letting my legs run full tilt down the back. Down the steepest hill and into the toilet at the next aid station, I thought I had to go or at least I felt like I had to go while running, apparently not, the body does weird stuff. Soon back on the road I skipped taking any calories at the next stop, just water and some ice in the arms. The gut feeling was gone quite quickly as I ran through the next stretch but I had discovered some cramping in my quads, rector femoris, probably brought on by the hills, the stopping, the sitting, the standing, the starting, they weren’t too bad initially but my function deteriorated slowly and my running form got a bit modified. I got a quick cramp in my left hamstring at one point and hop skipped to a stop, I leaned forward and stretched it out and got back running in a couple seconds. Not bad, just keep moving. I had crossed the 10 miles to go point with 1 hour 21 minutes left on the clock to stay inside 10 hours. I had now all but run out of that contingency time even though I didn’t think I had been using it. I had a minute to spare on top of the 5 minute pace and that was it. I had made it to within 10 miles of the finish before I started to contemplate what remained in the task ahead. Not bad at all. I knew that salt was likely not going to do nothing for my legs but it wasn’t going to do anything bad. I pulled out my little stash of salt pills and ate a dozen of them all in one shot. I swallowed them dry, who needs water to swallow a handful of pills? I’m going to be an Ironman by the end of the day. I narrowed my focus again and got back to trying at knocking off those 5 minute kilometers.
Now it wasn’t a matter of effort. I couldn’t expend any effort without my muscles failing me so I trotted along just as fast as I could go never really being able to push or try hard at all. I had visualized and imagined so many times getting to some point in the run where I was tired and I just needed to dig deep and bury myself on the run in to the finish. Now I couldn’t, I couldn’t try as hard as I wanted to try. I was fit enough, I was fueled enough, I was mentally strong enough but my muscles were just not strong enough to run any faster than I was going. I wasn’t really slowing down initially from the pace I had been running prior to the onset of the cramps but eventually I did, going up the gradual hill back into town put the reigns on me and I slowed enough that I would now find myself for the first time having to run faster than 5:00/km to get under that 10 hour barrier. Reaching the top of the hill with about 4 kms to go I could see down to the lake, a 2km long gradual descent and then a flat 2kms along Lakeshore before the finish. My ‘fastest capable pace’ quickened a bit but I was still just running easy. I felt like I wanted to start sprinting but my legs would have none of it. At 40kms I checked my watch for the first time to check the actual time of the day while on the run. I had about 11 minutes to run 2.2 kms. I still felt it was possible and gave it my best shot. I was within earshot of the finish when Steve King was getting the crowd to start cheering in people to nip under 10 hours. Today it wasn’t going to happen and I knew it. I let off the gas with a couple hundred meters to go. Spotted a high five in the finish chute, stopped and walked along the blue carpet for a moment, my first steps walking on the entire marathon, and soaked it up there were so many people cheering it was on the border of overwhelming so I stopped and turned and gave a big wave and finally I made my way over and broke the tape and made my way across the line.
The Garmin file is here: http://connect.garmin.com/player/47041360 my heart rate monitor was doing stupid stuff for the first hour and a half and then settled in. I had quit watching it after the first 100 meters so never noticed what it was saying when it started to report correct information in the second half. Not that it really mattered anyway.