We really lucked out with the weather today. The reports kept on making it seem worse and worse with tornado warnings, freeze warning and possibility of winds of 20-30 miles per hour and nearly 100% chance of rain at the start.
Somehow, the dire predictions did not come true. The start of the race was about 68° and 90% humidity but barely any wind and the rain had finally stopped. It had been raining for a good part of the night. I had woken up at 1:00, fell back asleep and woke up each hour until 5:00 when I got up. Joe and I found a parking spot about a half mile from the start, so that was pretty much my warm up.
I met up with two guys who were also going for a 3:20 - Pat and Andy.
We set out and got into our pace right away. The first few miles were terrible for me, I was doing all I could to keep up with the other two guys, but I kept hanging on. I often times have this problem, I'm not sure what causes it but I know that it usually gets better eventually. At 11 miles, one of the guys with us dropped off for a bit, he had been fighting a side stitch and could not shake it. We would see him later at one of the loops but he would not be able to catch up again. Pat and I went on. By the half way point I was finally feeling better - we made the half at 1:38:40. At 15 miles I started thinking that I might be able to pull this off. I was surprised to see that I could keep hitting the planned marathon pace or close to it.
At 18 miles, Pat announced 64 minutes to do 8.2 miles. What I really had in my head at this point was keep each mile under 8:00 and I've got my goal. That was not correct. How much under 8:00? It's difficult to do the math, and with cutting things so close that 385 yards at the end would make all the difference. It was tough going but within reach. At 20 miles I decided I needed to focus on getting to 22 miles, then I would take it as 4 1 mile races to beat the clock.
Whenever we went through water stops, Pat would walk and then sprint to catch up. He was very good at this. However, sometime after 21 miles, Pat did not catch up to me. I would be on my own for about the last 5 miles.
I made it to mile 22 and was doing good until about half way through I got a side stitch. It was one I knew I could recover from but it slowed me down, that would be my slowest mile and only mile slower than 8:00, it was an 8:12. Next mile was better at 7:48. With two miles left I should have kicked it into high gear but I did not. It was a little bit uphill and the wind and finally picked up and was coming directly from the north.
At the 25 mile sign the clock said 3:12:xx (xx maybe 29 or something like that). I though, ok I still have a chance. I did kick back into gear but it would not be enough. 7:33 for the last full mile and then the remainder put me over 3:21. The finish line goes on the Bolles school track for about a 1/2 a lap, my watch said 3:20:48 as I got onto the track and the clock was ticking towards 3:21:30 as I ran under it. I knew I started a few seconds after the starting gun but not that late. Final net time was 3:21:24 for the net time - missed BQ by 25 seconds. So many places where I could have gotten those extra seconds.
Every muscle on my legs was aching. This was different from my last two marathons where mainly my calves felt knotted up and aching. Jacksonville marathon advertises itself as "flat and fast". That's not quite true as it is really more like mildly rolling terrain. It made the course interesting and also helped spread out the wear and tear across all of my leg muscles. Some people have mentioned before that this is not very nice looking course. I think they have worked on the routing maybe in the past few years and it is actually quite beautiful most of the way, running under canopies of large live oak tress covered with Spanish moss, many large beautiful old and new Florida homes, and an occasional view of the St. Johns river or one of its tributaries.
Now I know I can do this pace for a full marathon. I never fell apart or slowed down drastically at any one point. I made it through without any cramping. I also felt the best after finishing than I have after any other marathon. There will be other marathons.
Joe was able to make his BQ time and we had a good ride back home, although we made several stops to get out and stretch.