Date: November 04, 2007
Race: Silicon Valley Marathon
Location: San Jose, CA
Gosh! What a difference a year and 15 lbs. less makes!! This "fast" marathon felt a lot easier than some in recent memory.
Saturday, Nov 3
I had decided to skip the Helen Klein 50M run this year. It was my first 50M 2 years ago and I went back last year because it still remains a wonderful race to run. All of Norm Klein's races are great experiences. This year I wanted to attend my friend Mohan's first Hindustani vocal concert. It was in his sister, Anu's, home and there was no way I was going to miss it. Anu and I went to the Silicon Valley expo earlier in the day and picked up our bib numbers.
I was the only one running the full marathon. Anu's son, Nishad, was running his first official half marathon. His dad and Anu were to be his companions on the journey.
Lily and Lila planned to run together once again in another half marathon 3 weeks after the San Jose Rock'N'Roll Half.
My plan for this race was simple: use 3 hand bottles filed with Salt Stick and Coke. I would start with one bottle and exchange it for the next one in the 10-mile Team Asha race aid station. Sunil Shah had graciously offered to hand me the bottles on my way through.
Sunday, November 4
I showed up at the Start line at 5:30 a.m. Since 2004, I had been helping Doug Epstein and his Evolve Sports start off the walkers at 6:00 a.m. I showed up with turn instructions for the first 6 miles and the runners and walkers snapped them up in a hurry. I was very surprised at the number of early starters. I would not be wrong in guessing that there were more than 50 of them. I say this because I had to note their bib numbers on behalf of the organizers.
Anu, Nishad and Raj soon showed up along with Lily and Lila. Before I knew it, the gun went off and the race was on its way.
What a beautiful day it promised to be. The 7 a.m. start was actually 8 a.m. (DST in play here) and it had warmed up a bit since the 6 a.m. walkers/runners had taken off.
I found myself running soon with Anand. His Garmin showed us to be running at 8:05 min/mile pace. A bit too fast for my liking. I slowed down and asked him to carry on. I had bombed out around mile 8 last year on my way to a labored 4:19 finish and I was wondering if this year would be an encore performance.
The nice thing was that there was no discomfort in my left arch. My breathing too had settled into a nice rhythm and I could feel my muscles loosening up. The 2 mile marker went by in 16:47. Just the pace I had intended to settle into. The next mile marker my eyes spotted was the one at mile 7. It went by 58:44 into the race. Still on pace. In the interim miles, I had caught up with Anand who had wisely slowed down. I came upon him around mile 4. We ran the rest of the race together.
The Coke+salt mixture was working beautifully. I took a total of 3 gels in this race - at mile 6, mile 11 and the last one at mile 16. Sunil Shah dutifully handed me a new bottle of Coke and I sped through the mile 10 Aid Station after high fiving some of the familiar Asha runners. I was still on pace and, unlike last year, I had not blown up yet. A sign of good things to come?
My pre-race goal had been to try and go under 4 hours. My body was feeling great and if I could keep up the pace for as long as possible maybe an under-4 race was not improbable. The halfway point went by in 1:51. Perfect timing once again. I had reckoned on something between 1:50 and 1:55 before the race.
Anand kept pace beautifully and it was fun running together. We talked when we could and kept encouraging each other.
The mile 16 Asha aid station (mile 10 and mile 16 were the same aid station) in Vasona Park came up very fast and I took the last bottle of Coke from Shekhar Hemnani. I decided to run with both bottles in hand. I intended to save some Coke in one of the bottles for Anand for the last few miles.
The 20 mile marker went by in 2:53. We had 67 more minutes to cover 6.2 mile in if we were to go under 4 hours. Anand and I decided to hold our pace for as long as possible. The next few miles were spent in running with focus and sheer intent. We soon found ourselves past the 21 mile marker, into the neighborhood, running towards the finish in downtown San Jose. Anand and I walked 20-30 seconds in each of the last few aid stations to let our legs get a small breather.
The last mile went by in a flash. We took the final left turn from Vine St. onto Woz way and all we had was a right turn into Discovery Park. Anand and I sprinted onto and past the finish mat.
We had run the last 6.2 miles in just under 60 minutes. Not bad at all.
Nishad, a chip off the old block, finished his first Half in a superb 2:37. Way to go my young warrior!!
Lila finished in 2:26, shaving off 6 minutes from her previous best Half time from the Rock'N'Roll Half.
I felt immense satisfaction. The past 2 years of ultra running have given me unlimited confidence in my ability to go out and achieve a goal. I knew deep down inside me that a sub-4 was not unreasonable and that my year of cycling (for my first long distance triathlon back in June 2007) and fast ultra runs had given me enough leg speed to be able to run a road marathon reasonably fast.
One of my immediate goals is to try and qualify for Boston next year. My qualifying time is 3:30 and I know that I can do it with a few months of dedicated speed work.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Run safe wherever you are.