What a strange and bizarre day. Race day's usually all about pushing yourself, answering questions and facing the unknown...but today also seemed to be about unfortunate turn of events. Anyway, I'm sure that despite the weather, it was a good day for others.
Race weekend started last night when I met up with some fellas from the Runner's World forums at a Souplantation in Pasadena. The 4 of us chatted about, what else - running; specifically goals and certain races that were coming up while noshing on some greens, baked potato and pasta. It's always fun talking with like-minded folks. Ray - who I once considered an equal, has really improved his speed and is someone I feel could easily run a sub-1:30 in ideal conditions. Emil would be running the full and runs one virtually every weekend. Steve was running the half and had ambitions of a sub-1:45 time so we both agreed it would be fun to run together since I was using this race as a training run, more or less.
Fast forward to this morning. With a 4:30am wake-up call, I went about my usual pre-race motions of getting on my gear while sipping my cup of coffee and eating a piece of toast. I was on the road by 5:15am and made the 20+ mile drive up to Pasadena. Parking wasn't too difficult to find once I got beyond the usual pre-marathon gridlock and almost immediately found Ray near the start. As we neared the start time of 6:30am, the light drizzle slowly began to turn into an outright downpour. Ray positioned himself near the front, while I moved in toward the early to mid-start position and stood with many wet and shivering bodies waiting eagerly for the horn. With no signs of Steve anywhere, I began wondering how I should run this race.
When the start was finally announced, I decided to leave the trash bag I was wearing on as it was still raining and started off relatively conservatively.
Mile 1 - 7:47
Feeling pretty good and with a little let up in the rain, I ditched the trash bag and said screw it, "let's race".
Mile 2 - 7:03
Around mile 2.5, a familiar face comes up next to me and sure enough, it's our boy Steve. Although I was donning a combo of ear-warmers and a hat on my dome, he saw and recognized the arm warmers I spoke at great lengths about last night. Content to back off my half-marathon race pace, I settled back a bit to run with Steve and get him his goal.
Mile 3 - 7:37
Mile 4 - 8:20
From mile 3 to about 4.5 was a noticeable, continuous and steady climb and this is where we dropped back in pace first. Seeing that we still had some time in 'the bank', I figured it would be ok. Unfortunately, the ITB band in his left leg started flaring up and we had to start dropping the pace.
Mile 5 - 8:03
Mile 6 - 9:03
Mile 7 - 8:16
Mile 8 - 8:46
Initially he could run on it while clearly grimacing, but as the miles wore on, the pain just grew worse and we started taking walking breaks. We were out in front of the Rose Bowl at this point and this is where 'the incident' took place.
Steve and I were walking/running on one side, while the folks that were ahead were running back on the opposite side after the turnaround point. I started paying attention to a female biker (not sure if she was part of the bike race portion or not) started yelling out, "on your left!...on your LEFT!" to certain, oblivious iPod sporting runners ahead of her. She wasn't going at a fast pace and was clearly a little frustrated that a few choice racers weren't yielding. Then, one of the runners must have moved in front of her because she braked all of a sudden, high-sided and crashed head first into the pavement ahead of her.
Witnessing all of this, I ran over to attend to her and immediately saw that she was in bad, bad shape. Blood started pouring out of her mouth and she was barely coherent lying face first on the pavement. I shouted at the aid station we passed about 75 yards back and started yelling, "MEDIC! MEDIC!". We made sure she laid still and thankfully, a fellow runner who happened to be a doctor, came over and attended to her as did other aids and a motorcycle cop. Steve and I couldn't do much more so we just continued on while I cursed those runners under my breath that were oblivious to the whole incident in front of her.
The rest of the run was pretty much downhill from there (not literally, because this was one hilly ass course). Steve's knee was pretty much shot so a sub-1:45 and even setting a new PR (a sub-1:51 I believe) was out the window. I thought briefly about finishing it up on my own, but figured we had come this far and I was running "chipless" (don't ask) so I stuck with him while we reeled off double-digit splits from miles 9-12.
At a little over mile 11 when we stopped by the side of the road to stretch his ITB a bit, we saw our buddy Robert ("Shacky" to you RW folks) cruising down. After exchanging pleasantries, we let him go by and started up again ourselves shortly thereafter. At one point, I left Steve for a bit to go run with Robert for a little while but he was too far ahead and we were nearing the finish anyway. So I turned back around and at the very least, successfully added a little distance.
We unfortunately missed the 2-hour mark but Steve did tough it out through his worst race ever (his words) and we came across the line around 2:02:XX (I always forget to stop the Garmin).
We met up with Ray and Robert at the end and while Ray didn't get a sub-1:30 as I predicted, he finished at a still very impressive time of 1:36 on a hilly, rainy course. Anyway, after shooting the shit for a bit, we parted ways and I proceeded to add another 2.5 miles at the end while also snapping a few shots of other runners finishing (didn't have my camera for the actual race itself because of the rain). By this time it was pouring down, so I ran back to my car, hopped on the freeway and just missed witnessing my 2nd unfortunate accident of the day - a Prius that ended up flipping over in the fast lane of the freeway. Ugh, horrible.
Anyway, 13.64 + 2.5 = 16.14 miles for the day. I'll take that.