What a trip! I'll start with Marathon Day. Room service woke me up at 6:20. A small bowl of porridge, one slice of toast with jam, water and coffee. Clearly it was going to be a warm day, so I switched my number to the tank top and met my friend Bill in the lobby. We were in a cab at 7:30. We picked up one of my CIA friends (Chelsea In America) at another hotel and were at Charing Cross Station at 7:50. Got on a seat on a train and we were off. From the Blackheath stop, it was a short walk through the village and into the park for the Blue Start assembly area. It was the first time I'd seen a porta-urinal. I hope someone made a fortune on that brilliant idea. It was already hot. I had half a Cliff Bar and a bottle of Power Aid while we where waiting. No wonder you all complain about Gatorade and Power Aid over there--it's much sweeter where you are. Also took my two imodium pills just in case. We made our way to Bin 3. I was feeling fine. My stomach was still a little full, but I wasn't uncomfortable. I knew the heat would be a problem. My realistic goal was 3:30--eight minute miling. With three minutes to go, I remembered to turn my Garmin on. It took an hour for it to acquire the satellites. Even this didn't bug me because I knew the distance would be distorted by the tunnels regardless. I can do the math in my head anyway. The gun went off. One minute later we were at the starting line.
We decided to just go with the flow for the first few miles. Very little weaving. The first mile was 8:30, which was fine. Go slow and bank energy. The second was 8:00. Mile 3 was 7:30 and now I was a little concerned because three miles in 24 minutes should have found me very relaxed and full of energy and I was already feeling a little zapped. We kept the 7:30 pace up for two more miles, mostly because they were more downhill than uphill. At this point I told Bill that I would have to slow it down a little. The next eight miles were between 7:50 and 8:10. Bill was having a great time. He was clearly running below his pace and was enjoying the crowd and the scenery. He would get water at every stop, take a few gulps and pass it to me. I would take a sip and dumped the rest on my head. Even taking one or two sips a mile is more than I usually do in high-60's weather. I didn't feel dehydrated, but the heat was clearly getting to me. Running over the Tower Bridge is just awesome.
We reached the halfway point at one minute under an 8-minute pace. I had to slow down. I told Bill to go on without me. He only agreed after I told him he was bugging me. Off he went! His next miles were 30 seconds faster and mine were 30 seconds slower. And then a minute slower. And then a minute 15 slower. By the time I hit the Docklands, I just didn't care. Why kill myself? I'm not going to make any of my goals, I might as well slow down, look around and enjoy the day. I kept my head up and greeted the supporters. My name was called out a lot. One gal even said, "Keep going, Tom! Call me later!"
From about mile 19 on, the fan support just got louder and louder. At one point I was listening to Fishbone on my i-pod and couldn't her it over the crowd. I think they estimated the '06 crowd at 500K and this crowd at 750K. That make sense with the sunny weather. At mile 21 or 22 someone offered a beer to a runner well ahead of me. If someone holds out a beer, I thought, I'm taking it. Alas, nobody did. It turns out that Bill had the same idea at the same mile, only he was more proactive. He stopped in front of a group by a pub there and said, "Can anyone spare a beer?" Ten cups were thrust at him. He said thanks and took one. Drank all of it that didn't spill.
The Embankment was pretty easy. Of course, I thought I was running faster than I was. Parliament Square and Churchill: never, never, never give up. Protesters: don't they know that everything is the US's fault? Birdcage Walk: I've felt better--that kick is just not coming. Pall Mall: wow, that's a long 385 yards! Finish and hold myself up with the fence there off to the side. Water wasn't immediately available. I really needed water! I grabbed the bottle out of the goody bag and drank it down in a gulp. There were two other bottles of liquid in there that I tried to make last longer, but they were quickly gone too. I found my wife and Bill and his fiancee and her sister after about 10 minutes of walking around. We sat down for a bit and then got a cab back to the hotel. I started to crash a little in the cab. Shivering, chills, dizzy. I sat in a hot bath and closed my eyes 10 minutes or so. I felt better after that. Put on some clothes and I was sitting in front of a pint of Guinness at The Grenadier within about an hour of crossing the finish line. We talked to about five other marathoners there and left around six. Another pint at the hotel. Dinner reservations at 8:00. More beer and a cheeseburger at The Ivy (I understand that it's the sister restaurant to Le Caprise--go with the smarter sister). I was in bed by midnight.
No injuries. No complaints. Trained hard and ate right. It just wasn't my day. 3:44:16. Third worst time. Oh well.
We had our pre-race pasta dinner at Cipriani's and the night before that at Nobu. There's no recession going on if the restaurants are any guide. Both full and had to sit at the sushi bar at Nobu because the place was full. Zuma laughed at us. Go figure. Other than that, I saw Chelsea at West Ham (the away game experience is very different) and met Guss Hiddick and his girlfriend at our hotel (where he is living while managing Chelsea). On Monday we went to Barcelona and on Tuesday night I saw the match at the Camp Nou. Again, it's a different crowd that makes the effort to travel to a different country to sit five stories above the pitch.
The highlight of the trip was the 20 minutes of hugs and smiles and giggles we got from our two girls when we got back. A week away is too long for me (they seem just fine with it). I think that will be the last time we do that for a while. And by a while, I mean years. Some photos:
Yay, you found me!Bill holding me up.
Showing off the Chelsea wristband.
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