Royal Victoria Marathon, 2000

Short version: Great city, great course, great folks. Crashed and burned starting at the 32 km mark, and then it just went downhill from there.

Painfully long version:
The plan was to run as even splits as possible given the slightly rolling sections of the course. I wanted to run a 4:43 - 4:45/km pace (7:35 - 7:39/mile pace). A 4:45/km would give a finish time of 3:20:26 (barely a Boston qualifier) and happens to make an even 19:00/ 4km. I wrote the 4km split times on my hand before the race. Mika had generously offered last spring to pace me and had spent some of his own running time slowing down to a 7:38 pace so he would know what it felt like. My training was in some ways better than it had ever been, despite a lousy June and July due to injuries.

Pacer extraordiare and fast Finn, Mika Lavaque-Manty on the left and Your's Truly on the right. I'm not really trying to flex for the camera, I'm just cold. Notice that it doesn't seem to phase Mika a bit. Mika titled this picture, "Dave in a Trash bag".

The weather on Sunday was perfect. It was chilly at the start and the promised rain just never materialized. I wore a trash bag over my shorts and singlet along with gloves and a mesh cap. Mika and I lined up at what seemed a reasonable spot given my pace and waited. As it turned out, there were many runners who moved way too far forward. I don't think we were too far back, just a lot of slower folks were too far forward.

It only took a few seconds to cross the start. The first km was pretty slow due to the crowds but it thinned out reasonably well so that by the third km the only thing that slowed us down were water stations and hills. I wanted to check out the course profile today so I could compare my km times with the hills. Unfortunately, when I got home tonight, I discovered that the website for RVM has disappeared along with all the course information. If anyone happens to have the profile, please send it my way.


Here are how the 4k splits looked:

4k 19:12 (12 seconds slow)

Somewhere along here we passed Sylvan Smyth (who was volunteering) and he jumped in and ran with us. I think it was about from 6k to 11k. It was great to have the company. It was even great to have his lousy jokes. The last km that Sylvan ran with us we ran a 4:28/km (7:11/mile) by far the fastest kilometer of the day.

8k 38:20 (20 seconds slow)
12k 57:20 (20 seconds slow)

As it turned out, these splits written on my hand proved to be "optimistic".

I was feeling good. The pace felt comfortable, and the only complaint I had at all was the just the beginning of hot spot on one foot. As it turned out, the blister never materialized and my feet made it through the race just fine, despite wearing racing flats in a 'thon for the first time. Mika continued to be great company and the view of the water was fantastic. We were starting to make up the lost time from the start.

16k 1:16:05 (5 seconds slow)

Shortly after the 13k mark, the course left the water and headed through some nice neighborhoods. By the 18k mark we were back by the water and starting to head into the Victoria Golf Course and over one of the hills of the course. We average the pace well over the hills and I was still feeling great.

20k 1:35:00 (right on pace)

Mika caught the split at the Half, I think it was just about right on 1:40. I was feeling good, but I could tell now that I was in a race and that eventually this was going to get hard. I think it was through some of this portion that there was a little bit of a headwind. I tucked in behind Mika to draft. I commented to him that at this point it would have been nice if he was Dick Decker, someone closer to my size to act as a wind block.

24k 1:53:43 (17 seconds ahead)

The course's second out-and-back section turns somewhere around 24k. We looped through some neighborhoods then headed out to the water again. Just before the 25k mark I seem to remember that Mika asked how I was doing. I think I told him "fine" other than starting to get dizzy. I had been noticing some lightheadedness that I've never had in a race before. It wasn't bothering me though and it certainly wasn't hurting my pace. I also wasn't having any problems yet with my calves starting to cramp up. Normally by this point, I would be feeling them.

28k 2:12:45 (15 seconds ahead)

It was here that things started to get tough. Going up the hill at the Golf Course, my legs suddenly turned to Jell-O. I was able to make most of it up on the downhill, but when I would hit an uphill, the legs would turn back into mush. I dropped 16 seconds in this 4k, I was still only a second off pace, but starting to worry. I was also starting to get the cramps in the calves. The cramps themselves didn't slow me down, just made things a bit uncomfortable.

32k 2:32:01 (1 second slow)

Yup, I was starting to fall apart. Mika was encouraging me, trying to pick runners ahead for me to catch, but I was starting to lose it. I was holding as fast a pace as I felt I could maintain, but this was 10 sec/km too slow. I was getting increasingly lightheaded. I knew I wasn't dehydrated. I had been taking enough water, gel, and Gatorade (a nasty overly concentrated orange flavor that dyed my mustache orange). It was looking bad.

36k 2:51:40 (40 seconds slow)

A couple of kilometers later, I told Mika that I had inadvertently stopped my watch instead of hitting the split button. I have no idea what my split times were after the 36k mark. I wouldn't have been in any shape to notice them if I had them. I was heading into death march mode now and just concentrating on Mika's shoes in front of me. The very slight rises were killing me and I was starting to be passed by smarter runners like I was a spectator. I was starting to weave some and accidentally ran into a guy that had stopped in the middle of the road to stretch. He didn't stop right in front of me and I could have sworn I had plenty of room to clear him (or at the least the one that I thought was real).

Mika kept encouraging me. He never once announced that I was going to miss my BQ, but was telling me that I had a huge PR going, just to press a little more, catch the guy ahead, etc...

Somewhere between 40 and 41km I think, Dan Frasier passed us going the other way. Mika recognized him and Dan turned and shuffled with us a ways. I was so out of it by this time that I don't know if I even said a coherent word to him. (Sorry Dan, I normally am more sociable.)

Mika looks happy, I'm just watching the back of his feet trying to follow.

The last mile was hell. I've crashed during marathons before, but nothing like this. Having Mika there was the only thing that kept me moving at all. I remember mentally taking back all the cynical things I ever thought about Suzy F-H diving in the 1500m. I was just trying my hardest to keep running and NOT fall down. The course winds through a part of town where you can only see about 100m of the course at a time. I would aim for the next bend in the road, only to go around it and have another one ahead.


Two seconds from the finish, finally.

After the longest km I've ever run, I finally saw the finish line. I wobbled towards it as quickly as I could, but couldn't even muster the thought of a kick. I do remember seeing Sylvan directing runners through chutes at the finish and thinking "how nice to see Sylvan again". Someone shouted Mika and my names and we crossed the line.

Final time 3:29:49, 8:50 behind what I need for a BQ and :45 slower than my PR.




Right after the finish, I had to lean on Mika to keep from falling over.

I was able to rip my tag, and after a little fumbling between Mika and I as to who would turn ours in first (he won the argument by default and I handed my tag in first), we got our finishers medal. I was really staggering and honestly couldn't stand upright. I had to support myself on Mika's shoulder or I would have gone down right there.


Mika led me on and our wives found us. I shortly spotted a bit of grass that was calling to me and I sat down. (My wife says I collapsed, but who are you going to believe?) Mika went to get me some water and goomies and I laid down on my back and watched the sky spin. Next thing I knew, Karen (my wife) was asking me if I was alive. I guess as I lay there asleep (unconscious doesn't sound dignified), Karen was really beginning to wonder if I was simply dead. Mika returned with water and great goomies and I lay on my back and munched. I may have fallen asleep again, but at one point I recall looking up and seeing Mike Arau standing over me. He had finished his race and, to me, looked like he could go out and do it all again.

Back on my feet, I'm hanging on to a sign to keep me upright.


This is myself trying to make my way out of the finish area after I got up off the ground. Notice that I'm on my feet with the help of Mika and a friendly truck. Mika titled this picture "Dave Trashed".

I have never felt this way in a race and have never been so wiped out at the end in my 5 prior marathons. I have no idea why, other than maybe simply not enough miles.

I never could have run the time that I had without Mika there to pace me, then keep me going. Of course, if he hadn't been there at the finish I would have been stretched out on the asphalt making an ever bigger fool of myself than I did. I can't thank him enough.

Aftermath:
After a shower and a 45 minute nap, Karen and I spent the next few hours wandering around Victoria looking for a good place to eat. We got back to our room around 5:00pm and we both promptly fell asleep.


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David S. Hays, O.D.,dhays@davidhays.net