2013-03-16 - B and A Marathon

26.2 miles @ ~8.9 min/mi


B&A Marathon 2013 - Mark Zimmermann nearing the finish line

(happy ^z approaches the finish line — photo courtesy Annapolis Striders — click for high-res image)
The B&A Marathon 2013 produces a new personal best — 3:54:29 — a Boston Marathon Qualifying time by 31 seconds, and good enough for a second-place finish among the men in their 60's (a 69-year-old beats me by 11.5 minutes). Overall I'm 71st place of 181 finishers, behind 9 women and 61 men. "Gun time" is 3:55:30.

The Garmin and Runkeeper GPS trackfiles agree within ~1% of the certified course markers, and confirm that the first half goes by in close to 2 hours flat. The second half-marathon is thus a monster negative split and unofficial PB at ~1:54:30. The total time is more than 3 minutes faster than at last year's event, which followed the same course but with a different start-finish along the out-and-back rail-to-trail paved path in the Pasadena-Severna Park-Arnold area of Maryland. See 2012-03-04 - B and A Marathon for data on that race and 17 previous road marathons.

Weather conditions are near-optimal, cool and cloudy most of the morning with only a few drops of rain. My Chinese fortune cookie the night before the race has two slips of paper inside, and both say: "You will be fortunate in everything." The last Tarot card I draw, a few days earlier, is "Slowing Down" from the Osho deck. Hope that's not a portent!

Like last year, I wear my lucky New Balance shorts, soft and with pockets, and my lucky shoes, an old Mizuno wave "Ronin" model. Also like last year I suck down an energy gel on the hour and half-hour, and take a Succeed! electrolyte capsule on the 15- and 45-minute marks. A hand-held bottle gets speedily refilled with Gatorade by cheerful volunteers at the aid stations, saving time and letting me sip comfortably along the way. I drink more than a quart.

At sunrise I pick up Rebecca Rosenberg at her home and drive to Severna Park where the race begins. We hear Bob Dylan sing "Shelter from the Storm" on the satellite radio "Coffeehouse" acoustic music station just as the highway, MD-100, takes us underneath the B&A Rail Trail — the path that we'll be running on in an hour.

As race time nears we're busy gearing up at my car a quarter mile away. We head for the starting line and commence a warm-up jog when we hear the race begin, thinking we still have plenty of time to join the crowd that has yet to cross the line. Then suddenly I realize that the crowd is made up of Half Marathon people, whose start is 5 minutes later than the Marathon.

Oops! Rebecca and I stop lollygagging and dash to the front, ask permission of the race officials, and cross the mat already DFL. I hit the "Start" button on my Garmin GPS about a minute after the "Go" signal, within a second of the final chip time. It takes me another ~30 seconds to get the Runkeeper app going on the iPhone strapped to my shoulder. We dash for the first half mile and soon start passing people. When Rebecca finds some friends she falls in with them. I trot on ahead.

About mile 2 I catch up with Joe and Greg, a wonderful pair who pull me along for the next ten miles. "Joe" is Joseph Zern of central Pennsylvania, a beer distributor who's doing his 98th marathon today and aims to reach #100 before his 60th birthday next month. Greg Bayvel is from northern New Jersey, a young stockbroker-turned-investment-advisor. Joe tells of his fast youth, sub-3 hour marathons, races in Tokyo and other exotic locales. Greg is 31 — "Is that Earth Years?" I ask, not believing my ears. He scarcely trains at all, just ties his shoes and goes out to run marathons when the spirit moves him.

Both Joe and Greg are aiming for about 4 hours today, so their pace is near-perfect for me. Joe recounts tragi-funny stories of cramping up in the final miles of the Marine Corps Marathon and other big races. He strongly recommends the strategy of negative-splitting, going faster in the second half. Greg reports seeing celebrities walking their dogs in New York City's Central Park. Joe tells of spotting Reverend Jesse Jackson walking the B&A Trail near where we are today. Both continue their cheerful banter as I cruise a few steps behind them for ~90 minutes. When they pause at an aid station near mile 12 I trot ahead. (Joe finishes in ~4:08, and Greg is ~4:18.)

The race is generally uneventful. Little kids call me "Santa", larger one say "Gandalf". Weather is brisk for the first few hours, but as I warm up first the cap gets doffed. Then the vest and shirt are unzipped, and finally off come the gloves. The B&A Trail is nearly flat, but I persuade myself that it looks downhill both ways. That helps me keep the pace up. During a few of the loop-backs I get to wave at Rebecca, plus Gayatri Datta and Sandra "Sam" Yerkes who are running with her. After the race I learn that early on Rebecca slipped and fell, scraping hand and arm and shin rather badly. But she perseveres.

When I reach mile 20 with only minor left foot metartasalgia I see that sub-4 looks likely and sub-3:55 — a BQ ‐ might be feasible. That would be significantly faster than my pre-race forecast to dear friend Kate Abbott. In a chat online she predicted "4:02 (sorry!)" and I countered with a 2-sigma range of 3:55:01 (one second too slow) to 4:15.

Although mental arithmetic is shaky I monitor the overall GPS average pace display and push to keep it below 9 min/mi, allowing a margin for GPS error. My calves are on the verge of cramping, so during the final miles I drink dry the bottle of Gatorade I'm carrying, then accelerate a bit. At mile 25 I walk up part of a slope to a bridge — the only walk break all day, aside from aid stations. Then it's Fly Or Die time: pour on the coal for the blitz to the finish line. Today it works.

Jeanne Larrison is a race volunteer and takes photos of me at the tent where cold pizza and bananas are distributed. Five minutes after I stop running my calves begin to cramp, rather comically. I lie in the shade under a cedar tree near where the official photographer lurks and watch for my friends to finish. Eventually the old calves relax and I can walk some more. Gayatri comes in ~4:41 and Sam and Rebecca cross the line about eight minutes later. What a great day!

Pace in min/mi from Runkeeper and the Garmin wrist GPS:

mile Runkpr Garmin mile Runkpr Garmin mile Runkpr Garmin

Garmin split information as a smoothed graph:


^z - 2013-04-04