I was a pacer for the 3:45 group. As a follow up of that effort, I sent a report to the pace group organizer. This is that report… with some more details added to make it relevant even if you’re not a pace runner!
The Saturday night pre-race dinner was a nice event, getting to meet the others in town for the event and talk as a group. I recommended Carrabba’s Italian Restaurant. I received a pacer shirt from Tom after the meal – who knew I’d be donning a Ladies Small shirt and it would actually fit? Jessica met me at the pacer dinner and came out afterwards to a surprise 50th birthday party. Yes it was fun, yes I did have some drinks, no we didn’t stay out too late!
On Sunday morning I arrived on site and took care of gear check and rest room breaks early. I met with a few of the pacers just before 6am near the start line, which was in a new location from prior years. We were alone at the start area except for the Achilles pushcart teams and their support cyclists. We posed for a quick group picture once most in our yellow-clad team arrived. The race began under clear skies, temp approx 72 degrees, 10-12 mph breeze from the E-NE. Waiting for the race to begin, I collected folks that had signed up at the expo for my pace time (3:45/8:35 pace) and others who would by choice tag along for the even pacing for as long as they’d like. I spoke with our group, covering some basics at first. I discussed where the course split for half and full marathoners, how we looked to stay at the even pace the whole way, not to put all faith in the Garmin/GPS devices, how to tie our shoes so as not to suffer a “flat tire” (untied lace) mid-race, gels and the need to drink before you get thirsty. I answered some questions from the runners and the parents of an autistic runner who was competing in his first marathon. ( He ran ahead early and puckered at mile 12) The race began on time at 6:30am. I made sure our group knew that we would be using the first mile to stay together and not get caught up in the surge of adrenaline that a race start can bring. My old timex watch does not have a good split lap feature, I chose not to fester with it for fear of losing the more crucial overall race time I’d be relying on along with my pace band. I kept a fairly good mental note of my over/under splits for most of the miles. Mile #1 was completed in 8:29. The road was wide and we chose to stay on the inside of all curves, not giving any extra steps to the course or the 26.2 distance. This was explained to the group when we came upon the first curve on Flagler Drive heading north. Miles 2 & 3 had us still 4 seconds faster than the band I had, good but we needed to edge off some. The turnaround that put us with the wind and heading back south was before mile 4. Miles 4-7 were right on schedule with the pace band. We passed the start area, enjoyed the fan, music and announcer support and continued south on Flagler Dr. along the Intracoastal Waterway. I kept reminding my group to drink at the stops and gave several that were interested my tips on how to pass thru a waterstop, drink and not break pace. This was well appreciated by full marathoners Brigid, Barry, Katie, Perry, Chris (a runner from Dublin Ireland!) and Jesse, an Ironman triathlete going for a PR in the full. Susan and Brenda were my two notable half marathoners, among others that tagged in with the group but had earphones so they didn’t chat much. Miles 7-10 were 3-5 sec over the pace band’s time. At Mile 10 we sent the half marathoners off to their 5k run home, not before reminding them to email email@example.com with comments and experiences from their time with a pacer. The remaining group of full marathoners was approx 7 runners, with some joining in and one gal falling off pace at mile 12. My miles 11 & 12 saw my pace slow to 12 sec off at the time clocks. Not a worry, I encouraged the group and told them at each mile that we were on our desired pace and within an acceptable range of +/- for what we were doing. The course changed from water view to residential at mile 11 thru to after mile 13. At Mile 13 we were still 10 sec off (slower) than desired 3:44:30 pace, very good. There was no timing mat for 13.1 split or notation on the course that we had gone half way. One girl’s GPS watch said we were at half way even before we hit the 13 mile mark! This was my evidence to the group that we cannot rely on the GPS for the pacing – they saw firsthand and understood. We passed over Lake Ave and saw the Lake Worth Bridge and Bryant Park. This is the site of a popular local triathlon, so chatter among our group centered on triathlons, Jesse’s two Ironman finishes and the differences between triathletes and pure runners. Very entertaining! More importantly, all this talk was distracting the group as we made it into the mid-teen miles. My splits were now right back on time for miles 14-17. These miles were in residential areas with small crowd support, but an out-and-back course allowed us to see the leaders and two faster pace groups (Good going, Jonathan and Michael!) I told my group to take periodic “inventory” of how they felt and if they wanted, bring it up so we could discuss it and perhaps remedy the situation. I spoke about drafting other runners, shoe technology (Brigid ran in her Vibram 5-toed shoes) how to help unseat leg cramps and different stride styles. It was neat to offer things for the runners to think about now that they were quieting down and focusing on their pace. Brigid fell off pace in between mile 14-15. Barry was fading back at mile 16. Two others that joined in with me later chose to go ahead after mile 15 – so they did. Chris and Jesse stayed with me until mile 17 heading back north, Jesse slowed to walk through a water stop and wasn’t ready to keep our pace once he had drank fluids, Chris said he was cramping in the hip or side area and was going to drop back. I encouraged each runner to do their best to keep me in sight and if they felt better to rejoin me. I ran alone only for 1/2 mile – then I came up on a girl that was fading off her pace for the 3:35 group, she ran with me for a mile and a half but then slowed off pace. My miles 18, 19, 20, 21 were ran alone at a pace that had me 12-15 sec slower than goal, I was passing folks and encouraging them to hook onto the 8:35 pace if they wanted. One very sweaty man kept pace with me for a long straightaway, but then stopped at a water station and never caught up. Miles 21-23 were back along the water with much of the same, people fading ahead, seeing me and the 3:45 sign, trying to stay on, but faltering back. Mile 23 and 24 were slow, I stopped at a porta-potty and emerged quickly but found myself now 23 seconds slower than my pace band required. I covered mile 25 and caught back up to pace while running alone, a slight stop for traffic that wouldn’t listen to a police officer at Southern Boulevard included! In the final mile between 25-26, I saw Perry, a friend and fellow full marathon streak holder for Palm Beach Marathon ahead. He had sprung ahead of the group earlier and was now working hard to get home. He ran with me for 1/2 a mile, out onto Flagler Blvd for the last stretch. He slowed off pace in the final 3/4 mile, but then pressed up hard to finish below the 3:45 mark. Perry breathes heavy when he exerts, so I heard him coming in the final straightway. I was only 30 ft ahead of him coming in the final 1/4 mile of the now shaded and well-populated Flagler Drive. He worked to catch up and as the photos show, we crossed the line with him “high-fiving” me at the finish. This is exactly what we look to do out there while pacing. My Timex rang in at 3:44:24, my official race time was 3:44:21.
Once done, I waited in the finish area for Chris and Jesse, my last two group runners. I found Jonathan and Michael in the medals area and collected their signs. I waited for Shannon (3:55) but didn’t see her so I greeted and gave the three signs to Andrea who came in at 4 hrs. I finished 11th in my age group and had a very good time at the World of Beer afterparty. It was a great Sunday for our local race.