Running in circles, Part II

Sorry, life has gotten in the way of blogging yet again.  But here is Part II of the Delaware Marathon, with Part III to come shortly: scout's honor!

Mile 1: 9:04
Miles 2 and 3: 17:52 (8:56 pace)
Mile 4: 8:56
Mile 5: 8:31
Mile 6: 8:38
Mile 7: 9:05
Mile 8: 8:38
Mile 9: 8:25
Mile 10: 8:26
Miles 11 and 12: 16:50 (8:25 pace)
Mile 13: 9:13

I was trying to stick to a plan: run 8:30-8:40 for the first 10 miles, 8:20-8:30 for the next 10, and then whatever I've got for the last six--but still run the race I had trained for (i.e., not push myself too hard  too early).  When I saw the first split I wasn't ecstatic, but I was happy it wasn't in the 9:30 range that it normally is: the small race size negated the bob-and-weave that usually happens during the first couple miles.  The pack was so thin that by the time I hit the turnaround, just after Mile Marker 1, I could already see groups separating.  I knew I would have no complaints about over crowding here.

What I was having complaints about was Liam.  The playlist started off with the right song, but the next song sounded a bit out of order, and then the third song was most definitely wrong.  I checked the shuffle switch and it was in "off" position.  I restarted the playlist and no luck.  The songs were out of order.  As I found out at home that night, all the right songs were there, so I had dragged in the correct playlist, but somehow when I placed the playlist on Liam the order of songs got all jumbled up.  Weird.  So much for the curated playlist I was looking forward to.

Getting back to the staging area (just after Mile Marker 2) I heard the announcer on the PA system.  I assumed he was just rallying the crowd for the runners passing through.  But as I cleared the boardwalk I found all 1,000 Half-Marathoners lined up, hands on watches, ready to go--given the course design I was in a passing corral going onto the rest of the course, but facing the starting line head on less than 100 yards in front of me.  In a fraction of a second I pieced together what was happening and understood why the announcer was counting down "Five. Four. Three. Two. One."  BOOM.  The cannon fired again.  Totally taken by surprise I threw my arms up to cover my head and then slipped into the chute to keep going on the course.

The next mile or so of the course was an industrial warehouse area, but a nice flat section that I knew I would appreciate on the second loop. The next mile passed through downtown Wilmington on a soft incline and nice decline after that.

I didn't notice how easy I was taking it until I saw the Mile 4 split and realized that I needed to pick it up.  Just after Mile Marker 5 the course went over the Swinging Bridge.  The bridge didn't exactly swing as much as it bounced, providing a trampoline effect.  It was on this bridge that I passed by a svelte blonde girl about my age.  I noticed that we had passed each other a couple of times up to this point and, frankly, that was getting annoying. So I took the trampoline power to pass her.  I kept the lead on the other side of the river and through the next mile until I hit the hill.

The race director warned that there was one big, mile-long hill on the course, and that Marathoners would be running it twice.  I took the warning with all seriousness and slowed down to not waste too much on the first pass at this hill.  As promised it was a grueling climb, akin to the Queensboro Bridge.  The only forgiveness was that half way up the hill there was a bit of a flat stretch that let you catch your breathe before the rest of the climb.  During this hill the blonde girl passed me again, but this time I kept her in sight, thinking that when the course flattened out I would catch up.

At the top of the hill I saw the most horrible thing: Mile Marker 20.  First, it reminded me that there was a hell of a lot of running left to go.  Second, it indicated that the race director has a cruel sense of humor putting a mile-long climb leading up to Mile 20.  Third, it reminded me of Heartbreak Hill (also placed at Mile 20) and all the fateful stories associated with that hill.  I tried to stay optimistic, thinking that I've done late hills in my long runs, but something in the back of my head knew that the second pass at the hill would be rough.

The next three miles were very flat, but twisted an turned through a ritzy part of town and the Little Italy neighborhood.  There were a total of 16 turns in this three mile stretch--and while on the course map it doesn't look that bad, in person it made me disoriented and frustrated (as in: you couldn't find a longer straight course to avoid all of these turns?).

During the first of these turns the blonde girl who I had been keeping my eyes--purely for pacing reasons!...mostly--took off her fleece top and tossed into the grass.  She started shouting to a race volunteer to pick it up, I think in order for him to put it in the donation pile.  But with that distraction I was able to pass her and get a comfortable distance ahead, or so I thought.  A few minutes later I noticed her trying to pass me and knew I wasn't going to allow that this far into the race.  So I pressed forward a little bit harder and took advantage of a steep downhill to get a good distance ahead of her and lost her for good.  You can see in my splits for these miles I was going a bit faster than planned, but I was feeling great and increasingly confident in my running.

On the return part of this loop I got back the long uphill climb in the form of long downhill stretch that ended on the northern side of downtown, meaning there was only a mile left in the first lap of the race and the end of the race for the faster Half-Marathoners that had started to creep up around me.

I was taking it a bit easy because this pass through downtown was on a harder grade than the first pass.  But on the downhill part, with Half-Marathoners zooming by to their finish, I noticed the blonde girl had caught up to me again.  WTF?  I used the downhill to open up some distance between me and her and hopefully get her off my tail for good.

At Mile Marker 13 I must have been too distracted to mark the mile on my watch: I was trying to outrun this blonde girl that I couldn't shake and then I saw Wifey at the base of the hill, camera at the ready.  It was the first time I saw her on the course (but not the first time she saw me), I lit up but avoided skipping and jumping as I did during the NYCM--Delaware was a classier operation.

The course separated from the Half-Marathoners as they turned for the final 50m of their race.  Checking out the finishing chute I wasn't too thrilled: in the last 200m of the the race you make two 90 degree turns, killing any kick you might have at the end.  I plowed forward--and almost plowed over some guy who wasn't paying attention--to the halfway mark and the start of the first loop of the second lap.

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