Marathon number 74 is in the bag. I'm not delighted with my race, but it will do - I got under the race time limit of six hours, with a time of about 5:44:19, but had hoped to do at least 15 minutes better, maybe 30. I was second of two in my age group, nine minutes behind the other guy. Happily, I finished without injury and should be ready for the Mankato Marathon in three weeks.
This marathon is easily one of the most beautiful I have ever run. For that reason alone I would recommend it. I stopped to take pictures several times, accounting in part for my tardy finish. Fortunately, the fog which is usual for this area was absent, except for a few low spots along the shore where it accented the beauty of the sand, the cliffs, and the ocean. I could get poetic about this, if I were poetic.
I had been interviewed live on a local bay area TV station, KRON, and as we waited for the start a woman came from the sidelines to tell me that she had seen me on TV. That got the day off to a good start.
The weather forecast was for 50 degrees at the start, with temps rising rapidly toward 70 (The car's thermometer actually said 79 at my finish), and no escape from the sun, so I started off a little faster than the pace I wanted to use. I knew that I might pay for it toward the end of the race, but I took the risk and sure enough the last seven miles were very difficult, though the course contributed greatly to that difficulty.
I felt chilly at the start, always a good thing, but quickly warmed and soon felt hot enough to pour water over my head at the aid stations. There was very little wind, and every breath of breeze was a blessing. I also carried water, as the race committee had asked, to reduce the amount of cup litter.
I was on time, in fact eight minutes ahead of schedule for a 5:30 finish, up to maybe the 17 or 18-mile point, but then I ended up walking more. At about 19 miles the course turned up a steep hill, shown as only 250 feet high on the elevation profile, but it seemed like 500. That hill was far too steep for me to run up at that point in the race, and on the return it was also too steep to run down in ancient knees. My eight-minute advantage evaporated. Worse, beginning at mile 20 or so, my calves started to cramp badly and for several miles I couldn't run at all.
I had recently discovered that the addition of magnesium to my supplements had put an end to night cramps, and I was counting on that to manage the cramps that usually show up in the last two or three miles of a marathon. But this time I had neglected salt, and maybe got behind on water too, and the cramps actually came much sooner. Apparently the magnesium by itself doesn't give me a free pass. Evidence: The cramps got a little better in miles 25 & 26 after I wised up and started taking salt and more water.
As I was coming back to the finish the race director, Erik Vaughn, dispatched a runner to go fetch me and bring me in, which is an experience I've never had before! He met me when I had about a mile to go, and the runner seemed relieved because, he said, the six-hour time limit is a hard cutoff - one second over and I wouldn't get a time. Actually, though, the on-line results now include times for 12 runners who went over 6 hours, including one who finished in 7:13.
At the finish I was treated as a celebrity, with Bart Yasso of Runner's World giving me the shout-out at the finish line, the 72-year-old guy with cancer and 50 states and 70 plus marathons and whatnot. The race director himself greeted me and hung the finisher's medal around my neck at the finish. I've never had that sort of experience before - other people are the celebrities - but it felt good, if just a bit embarrassing. Oh well, I guess I could get used to it! And maybe it pays to finish late, when fewer people are crossing the line and there is more time for hoopla.
The Half Moon Bay Marathon:
To repeat, this is a lovely marathon, worthy of the cities of Half Moon Bay and El Granada, where it takes place. I've never run in a venue more beautiful. It was superbly well organized. The course itself was very well marked, with hundreds of cute little signs and lots of chalk lines, so there was little risk of going off the course even for those who, like me, might not always have a view of the runner ahead. The race is small, just 361 marathon finishers and 768 in the half. It's a certified green event.
The route is mostly paved bike/pedestrian trails and low-traffic streets, with maybe seven miles of dirt trails. Those dirt trails are unlike the grass/sand/dirt trails on which I train in Minnesota. They are hard dirt with no grass or sand, often heavily rutted. In a few places, where they are washed by rain, ruts go all directions and footing is a challenge, requiring careful hop-scotching. I enjoy that, of course, but I couldn't run at normal speed there. The course was certified, but in my opinion this is not a race for a PR or a BQ, it's a destination race along an incredibly beautiful seacoast. Right along the ocean! I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
The only unpleasant part of the route was a stretch of less than a mile on the shoulder of Route 1, which has lots of traffic. There is an alternative, parallel trail for most of that distance, however, and I hope the race committee can get permission to take advantage of it.
11:27, 22:51 (2 mi), 39:23 (3 mi w nature break), 10:52, 11:27, 11:36, 25:10 (2 mi w nature break), 11:38, 24:17 (2 mi), 23:35 (2 mi), 23:13 (2 mi), 30:53 (2 mi), 12:58, 14:10, 17:25, 19:02, 17:02, 14:42, 2:37, total 5:44:19, overall pace 13:08. Humph.