Contributed by Miler Bob Seaman
At the end of last year’s triathlon season I had no plans to do a marathon during our February vacation in Florida. But the idea came to me after a website I frequent, (no not that kind of website “Slowtwitch” a website made up of triathletes), began a “running challenge.” One of the triathletes from Ottawa suggested that we should challenge each other to do 100 runs in 100 days. If we had to take a day off, like I did after the Nordic 300, then the next day we had to double up and run twice (not easy after Skate skiing for 5 hours the day before let me tell you).
The sound of this challenge intrigued me: 1) I was just numb enough to take on such a dare and b) I wanted to be faster next year, not Tilton or Brown faster mind you, but Bob faster (otherwise loosely translated to “faster enough to catch Shauna Ross in the ½ next year”). So on Dec 1 we started the challenge, there were close to 200 people participating in it, some from Europe, Canada and even New Zealand.
A quick look at the calendar showed we would finish said insanity on March 10, so I began to look for something to test my new fitness out on. Luckily were had plans to go to Florida at the end of February, but there really not many races to choose from during the time we would be there. Being more of endurance guy, not really a speed guy (keep your comments to yourselves), I noted that Gainesville was holding a small sized marathon. 2 problems immediately saw was it was a marathon (my longest run in the 100 days was 18 miles, I have done no speed work and of course I couldn’t taper or rest after the race lest my streak would end). The second problem was that Gainesville was a 4-hour drive from Naples, were we were staying. One the pro side of the ledger, it being a marathon meant I could qualify for Boston if I did well. Besides that during our vacation we would be holed up with my wife’s parents (the greatest in-laws in the world! And no I am under no duress as I write that), her sister’s family of 4 and our family of 4 all 10 of us in a 2 bedroom condo. Suddenly the idea of driving 4 hours, running a marathon, then driving back actually started to sound enticing!
The drive to the race was the night before, I originally planned just to sleep in the rental car (yeah I am cheap so what) but while scouting out the registration area some told me there were still some rooms set aside for runners at a local hotel, and at a cheap rate, so I jumped on that! I got up way early because I was unable to pick up my packet the night before. I registered and had over an hour to kill so I decided to drive some of the course some. To may shock, horror and dismay even, Gainesville had hills! Not long unrelenting Kanc kind of hills, but short steep nasty little ones that like to bite you in the legs and laugh at you as you stumble over their crest. While driving I also heard the latest weather report, temps approaching 90 with 80 to 90% humidity, damn it whose idea was it to drive some of the course! Usually I blame such foolish things on Curtis Cote but he was in Cali and I was alone, I shouldered the complete blame.
The race began on time, one side of the divided highway had ½ marathoners and the other side had the full boaters. The announcer said there were 900 doing the short course and about 400 registered to do the long, but it didn’t seem like that many. I always get a bit intimidated at the start of a running race; after all I am a triathlete, meaning I am not good enough in any one sport to do well so I try them all and hope for the best. Surrounding me are all those freaking skinny running type people, with race shirts saying the completed every race ever organized south of the Mason Dixon line, ready to make me pay for my foolish decision to run a marathon while on vacation.
The cannon went off without any warning; it made such a racket that someone said they thought Sherman was marching on Gainesville, no one found that comment especially funny so I later apologized for it. The ½ marathoners were all little rabbits for the first 13 miles, while a group of about 10 of us marathoners hung pretty closely together. I tend to start in the front these days; I find it takes a lot less energy to be passed (well none at all in fact) than to pass slower people, that is how I found myself among the leaders. After about 5 miles the two fast guys were warmed up and bolted. I really wasn’t aware of my overall position in the marathon until the ½‘ers broke off. That’s when I found out I was battling it out for 3 place! Later investigation has shown that Fort Lauderdale had a big marathon the week before, the A1A Marathon, which many of the good marathoners went to, but who really needs to know that.
My half marathon time was 134:15 by my Garmin, 1:35:xx by their clock. Let just say Bernie Livingston was not timing this race and I felt distance and times were a little off, that’s why I note the time differences. Now 1:34 and change is a PR for me in the half so I was going a little faster than normal, well ever actually, and now I find out I am among the leaders. Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly I might add, my legs decided to pick up the pace. They threw down a 7-minute mile, sprinkled in a few 6:50 miles and generally acted irresponsibly. The second tier pack I was in stayed pretty close to each other for the next few miles. I even commented once “I just came here to qualify for Boston not race a marathon”, another runner quickly retorted, “Well your racing now!” followed by “don’t you ever shut up?”
As I approached mile 20 it became apparent that my lack of long runs, the 85-degree heat (after running a few months in nothing warmer than 40) the near 90% humidity and the hills were taking their toll. Luckily for me we had put some distance between the groups of runners behind us that it seemed like I wouldn’t be caught before the finish.
I came across the line 7th overall, 6th male and first in my age division at 3:14:14. The time was good enough to qualify me for Boston (although I later found out Boston was closed and therefore I will be banditting it dressed as Elvis, picture an older, in shape Elvis, with a one piece rhinestone outfit, mirror glasses …but I digress). It was certainly the best I could have done under the conditions and I felt great about my effort and a PR by over 2 minutes I might add.
By the way I lied before, I did run once in the heat. I ran at the Eastern Slope Inn on a treadmill next to the pool, while Maury was giving the kids a swimming lesson, it was like running in a freaking sauna, I nearly died! I would also like to thank MJ for selling us her treadmill at a ridiculously low price, and then delivering to our house by herself and my wife for putting up with all the noise from said treadmill for 100 days. With all that said, watch out Shauna! I will shut up now.