The Missoula Marathon.
This race runs deep in the Carnes household. In 2007, when they announced the inaugural race, I took the cue and signed up for my first marathon. Kailee signed up for the half, and a tradition was born. For the last eight years, every July, whether we are truly trained for it or not, I get on the bus out to Frenchtown, and Kailee does the same to Blue Mountain, and we meet up several hours later on the Higgins Street bridge.
The first year, I got cocky. I decided I should be able to run a three hour marathon, and promptly sped through the first half in 1:28:30. I felt great. Until mile 16. The wheels started to come off, and I realized, with utter horror, that I still had TEN MILES to go. A miserable hour and forty five minutes later, I stumbled across the line, promptly vomited on the side of the road, and Kailee carried me down to the river, where I sat and cooled off. My finish time that year was 3:29:52.
Fast forward seven years, and I am training almost exclusively for triathlons. Every year, I have still managed to make the marathon fit in my schedule, but every year it wrecks me for a week and messes up my training schedule. So I came to the decision that this year, I would volunteer as a pacer. And for which pace group? Why, 3:30, of course! I could lead first-timers and help them pace themselves properly, so they wouldn’t end up running the second half 30 minutes slower than the first, like me!
It was a wonderful decision. The pacer corps is a great group of people, and was a blast to be a part of, and I got to run with balloons!
It was really fun to run with an entourage! Through the half, I probably had at least 15 folks with me, following the balloons. Around mile 17, some people dropped off, and some pulled ahead, and our group dwindled to about 5 or 6 pace-oriented souls. I could tell a few were suffering, and a couple guys seemed like they were running easy still. It was a mixed bag. By mile 23, all but one guy had either split off the front or fallen back, and he started to pick up the pace. For the last three miles, I tried my best to keep it steady, providing encouragement to those I passed and cheering on the two or three people who passed me.
About a half a mile from the finish, I caught and passed one last guy, a man named Ernie who had run with my group for the first 7 or 8 miles, then gotten a little extra confidence and picked up the pace a little. I found out after the race that this was his second marathon, and his first had been a 3:46. He really wanted to break 3:30 for this one. As I passed him, I encouraged him to come along with me and leave all he had on the Higgins bridge. He gasped that he had nothing left, and I jogged across the bridge in front of him, trying to hold my pace, and glancing back every few strides to make sure he was still somewhat close. He staggered across the bridge with my balloons still in striking distance, and triumphantly crossed the finish line in 3:29:44! Success!
Ernie came in to the bike shop yesterday morning, and we talked about the race further. He thanked me for helping him achieve his goal, and he is looking forward to his next marathon. It’s unbelievably rewarding to be able to help people like that, and this definitely won’t be my last pacing experience. As an added bonus, it’s some great endurance training for Kona, and I am not a total wreck this week!
Next on the schedule is the Tiger Triathlon, my hometown race in Colville. After winning it for the first time last year, I’ll be looking for a repeat. We’ll see how it goes!