I got up at 3:00am because I had some work to do before I went to catch the bus. I had a bowl of oatmeal as I worked on my computer. I was not nervous at all because I had planned on this being a training run as I ran 21 last Saturday and plan on doing that again next week as I prepare for and ultra in June.
I drove to the bus loading area and found a sweet parking spot less than a block from the finish line. As I was waiting in line for a bus, Lowell, Bret, Holly, and Suzette came by and we all rode the same bus up. It was fairly chilly on the top and the field was wet from yesterdays rain and the morning dew. We had small shopping bags on our shoes to keep them dry and found a spot to stretch and get ready.
As we were talking, Bret mentioned how she wished their was a 3:30 pace team because she wanted some help to try and break 3:30. I looked at her and said "Well you have one NOW". She was a bit stunned but I explained to her that this was just basically a fun run for me and I would be happy to try and help her. We discussed what her strategy would be and got ready.
The race had already started when we finally made our way through the line at the bag drop truck so we spent the first 3-4 miles working our way through the large crowds. We kept it steady until the turn at mile 8 and were right on pace. She struggled a bit coming in to the half and she decided to make a bathroom stop at the half. I needed to do the same so we both jumped in to the facilities at the half.
When I came out she had already taken off so I chased after her and caught her on the hill after the 14 mile mark. After the bathroom stop I went over the 1/2 timing pad around 1:46 and change so we would need to go a bit negative on the 2nd half to get her 3:30. She looked really good climbing the hill but hit a really bad patch from 15-17. I told her to just hang on and we would make up the time going down the canyon.
When we crossed the dam, she picked up the pace and I figured we still had a chance. The next 2 miles were good but I could tell she was running out of gas. We were still passing lots of runners, but I knew that the 3:30 was getting out of reach. I kept having to slow my pace so she could keep up. I know what it's like to try and keep up with someone and I kept reminding myself that "she is working WAY harder than you are so do your best to help her". I told her to pick a runner to reel in and we would chase them, then pick another. This worked until we went through the tunnel before mile 23.
When we hit the trails I could tell she was just hanging on but stayed really tough. When you hit the point when you know your goal is out of reach today, it gets harder. When we went by the mile 25 aid station she just grabbed a cup and dumped it over her head and didn't take her normal walk break. I was so impressed by her fortitude. When we turned on Grant for the last stretch she said "we need to pick it up so I can be at 3:35:00 or better to qualify for Boston". We picked up the pace and my Garmin even showed a 5:56 pace in the last mile but we missed it by 12 seconds. As most of you know, she would have made it if the course wasn't long. We both had it at 26.37. I have always had that course come out long, stupid tangents in the canyon anyway.
While I was disappointed that I couldn't help her more, she said she would have been much slower if I wouldn't have been there.
On a side note, we passed the 3:35 pacer just after mile 15 and he had nobody running with him. He even threw his balloons in the trash as we passed. He probably had a 2-3 minute lead on us at the start and we beat him by a long way at the finish.
This run for me was just what I needed effort-wise and I had a great time trying to help a friend.