How often does it happen? A perfect race or a single run that remains etched forever in one's memory.
The Perfect Training Run
I remember the run very vividly. My coach, Tom McGlynn, had scheduled an overdistance run for me that weekend. I was training for the Silicon Valley Marathon (Oct 2001) and was feeling great, both speedwise and injurywise.
I set out on the run armed with a couple of Fuelbelt bottles of Gatorade and 5 Cliff Vanilla gels. The run, different from my usual hilly route in Fremont, CA, was all flat but had a score of lights I had to cross. Lights notwithstanding, I got into a groove very, very soon into the run. It was early September and the day had been hot but I started the run around 5:30 pm by which time it had started to cool down.
My breathing was in sync with the rest of the body and I was flying. Mile after mile slipped by in a zone and with a shock I realized that I had come to mile 11 (the turnaround point) and I had done it in 88 minutes. 8 min/mile for a long run when I was supposed to be training at my maintenance pace of around 8:40! Wow! I was so happy!! I felt that nothing could prevent me from going under my then marathon PR of 3:42 (CIM, Dec 2000).
The run back was a tad slower. I finished the entire run in 3:05. I had taken 95 minutes to run the return 11 miles. I did my one and only triathlon 2 weeks later (700 yd. Swim, 19 mile Bike and 4 mile Run).
I must have arrived at the start line of the SV Marathon tired. My quads started hurting 11 miles into the race and I knew that a sub-3:42 was not on the cards that day. I had Rajeev Char on his bike supporting me along with Karen Hamill (she had run Portland a few weeks before in 3:17) and Phil Sarin (he ran the last 10 miles) but I found the going tough the last 5 miles. I finished in 3:50 but those last few miles were tough.
The Perfect Race
This one arrived unseen and unbidden. I had suffered a stress reaction in my left leg at the end of July and had spent almost 3 weeks biking and not running at all. I came back to running with Team Asha sometime at the end of August and had pretty much only 1 months left before the Royal Victoria Marathon (Victoria, BC, Canada) in the second week of October 2003.
Most of the Asha runners had chosen an early start, i.e. 6 a.m., since they were going to finish in over 5 hours. The faster ones, like me and a few others started at 8 a.m. The distance markings were in Kilometers.
The drizzle had stopped when we started at 8. I got into my groove soon. The temperature must have been in the mid-50s or maybe lower. What surprised me the most were the incessant rolling hills. This was supposed to be a "flattish" marathon!! The hills were a rude shock. Even then, my rhythm never faltered. Up and down hills I went, not slacking off a bit. I was able to maintain 8:15 min/mile all the way to the 37K mark (by now my quads were feeling the effects of the rollers). This is where I ran up this hill thinking that it was the last one only to run into a wind wall - a stiff 30 mph headwind coming off the headland in the distance. The last hill was actually followed by another slightly less steep one. By the time I struggled up that last hill, my pace had fallen off and my legs were starting to go.
I struggled through the next few kilometers and then finally espied the 41K sign. My legs got their second wind. I picked up the pace substantially and blew into the finish in a personal best time of 3:37.
Who knows what time I might have achieved had it not been for the constant headwind the last 6 kms?