Monday, September 11, 2023

Square Lake 70.3 (ish) Triathlon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 9th Edition
131 miles run and 58 miles biked and 1930 meters swam in 2023 races
Race: Square Lake 70.3 Tri
Place: Square Lake, MN
Miles from home: 40 miles
Weather: 55-75; cloudy, warm

After the debacle which was the final few miles of my half marathon last weekend, I was extremely trepidatious about this "Half-Ironman" race. (Quote used here as it was not a branded Ironman race which means it often has less frills but costs about 1/3 the normal going rate.) Most of that fear came from the fact that the weather which had wilted me last weekend looked pretty similar to what I was going to face for this race. Nothing "too" warm but not the best ever. My brain would normally look at 70ish degrees and think that was a good day for a run, but that is only because living in this super-heated world we live in (sure, there's no climate change, Republicans) has broken my brain and I think anything that isn't 90 degrees is the bee's knees. 

I rested a great deal the week before this , especially after a run on Wednesday evening in lovely 65 degree weather netted me one of the worst training runs I had ever had in my life. Suffice it to say I was worried. But I had trained harder on the bike this summer than I ever have in my life (really not saying much but I did have two 40+ milers and a 50 miler under my belt - something I had never done) and was going to simply give all I had.

Morning Of:

We couldn't check into the park where this race started until 6 a.m. (supposedly) to begin setting up our gear. Yet when I arrived at 5:57 a.m. the parking lot was 3/4 full. After buying the park pass and realizing I had forgotten a couple of things for my race, I went to see if anyone was selling or had extras. No one did. It wasn't the end of the world, but it was just annoying that I hadn't prepared better.

There wasn't much fiddling around after setting up my bike and run stuff before we headed to the beach to begin the swim. This portion of the tri would be done by self-seeding. Each swimmer would step up to the timer, say their number, have it repeated back to them, then sprint into the water to begin their swim.  I had only had 10 swim workouts this summer but I felt good in my swimming ability. Nevertheless, I wanted to defer to other swimmers who had put in the time and/or were talented. But when not many seemed eager to get in, I found myself entering the line of swimmers about 12th overall. I read my number and away I went.

Swim: 36:42 (4th overall)

Plunging into the the lake, I was the only person I saw not wearing a wetsuit. I know they help with buoyancy but I have had horrific abrasions from them in the past and was perfectly happy wearing just my new Sherpa trisuit. I was also using new goggles and I should have tightened them more than I did. Rookie mistake. A little water slipped in one eye but after one quick stop to empty it out, and one hard press with my shoulder, the googles were more or less fine the remainder of the way.

The water was about as perfect as you could get. I wouldn't have minded it being a bit cooler but there were no waves, no wake, and it looked like glass. Pretty clear as well and just set up for some fast times.

Our course consisted of two separate rectangles and I was ready to fall back on my swimming skills, and my penchant to never kick when I swim, which actually saves my legs for the latter portions. I didn't expect to do that great but I figured I would be ok. Let's hear it for being naturally good at swimming! (That's not a brag but more a self-own since I should probably practice it more. Alas.)

Right after turning at the second buoy, meaning we were halfway through the first of two laps, I looked ahead of me and saw...nothing. As far as I could tell, I was in first place.  This was different. I didn't even feel like I was swimming that fast. And that was where I would stay for an entire lap where I felt someone hit my feet. I hadn't seen them in my peripheral the whole lap which means they were just riding along in my wake. Legal, but annoying. So I threw in a surge to try and lose them and it felt like I did. On the final homestretch, I saw another swimmer way off to my right.  He was definitely swimming fast but couldn't sight worth a damn. He finally got the right tack and was tracking me down but with just a few yards left, I wasn't going to NOT be the first one out of the water. Or at least the first one out of the water I could see.

(As it ends up, there were two others who swam slightly faster than me but started behind me, and another, the overall winner, who swam like a marlin and beat me by nearly 5 minutes. I have no idea if he was in front of me and somehow didn't create a wake or started behind me and just bided his time. Triathlons are so annoying.)

T1: 1:47 (7th fastest)

I didn't feel like I was all that fast in this transition as things weren't going on quickly and other things weren't clicking and I was just kinda moseying along. But lo and behold, I was actually pretty quick onto the bike. Transitions have never been my strong suit but my penchant for wearing my socks when I swim helps.  Some people find that wet socks would stink to cycle in but trying to put dry socks on wet feet takes forever.  And no socks is a no go for me.  And the way I sweat, my feet are going to be wet soon regardless. So, socks on for the swim it is which allows me to run over surfaces a little better anyway.  Win win.

Bike: 3:07:16 (33rd overall)

Within about two miles I had a cyclist pass me, followed quickly by two others. Then a few miles later, two others passed me and I was already feeling the hills.  One of the biggest climbs of the entire race is right out out of the gate. I had driven this course a few weeks ago and had noticed all the hills but there is a huge difference between riding them and driving them. And in spite of my concerted efforts to be a better cyclist this summer, I am still bad at uphills.

There were a few nice sections which had just been paved but there were a few not-so-nice sections (much longer) that were not and were quite rutted and uneven. Not the worst road conditions I have biked on but not fun. 

One thing which I don't understand whatsoever is the little out and back before the second loop. That out and back had a couple of large hills in it (the whole damn course was up and down) that equaled about three miles. The whole bike course was over two miles long. Why in the, and I pause here for emphasis, HELL did we add an extra out and back that made the course long? And this was no mistake. Two plus miles from the finish of the second loop had "Mile 56" painted on the ground with a sign as well. So this was the plan. I am seriously curious why this was the case. I just don't get it. 

Don't advertise your race as 70.3 if it is at least 72.3.

Throughout the first loop my spirits were down. All I could think about was asking if it was possible to drop from the 70.3 tri to the AquaBike which was being run concurrently. And having the biggest hills of the race coming right at the end of the loop didn't help me any. It frustrated me greatly that I had put in a lot of time (for me) on the bike and still wasn't seeing the results I wanted. I know while I upgraded my bike it has a LONG way to go to being top-notch but I don't want the blame the instrument. I just need to remember that triathlons are basically cycling events with a swim warm-up and a run cool down. I hated that I was so mental defeated the first loop. 

On the second loop, I undoubtedly slowed a bit but somehow talked myself out of quitting at the end of the bike. I actually felt pretty good.  This is fairly typical for me on looped course.  Knowing what I have in store always helps me. I grabbed a water bottle from one of the volunteers about halfway through this loop.  I sure wish that liquid provided on courses was colder. This is almost universal. Almost always it is not the liquid I need as much as I do the COLD liquid. Not sure why this isn't a universal thought.  Not blaming the volunteers who were very nice and helpful. Just another thing I simply don't understand about racing.

So many hills.

I was feeling decent even though I was getting passed here and there by a few cyclists.  In the other tris I have run I have never been too bothered by this because I would always think about how many of them I would end up passing on the run and it is usually a great deal. 

As we began a nice downhill section (that was interrupted by two 90 degree turns through a bridge which we had been warned extensively about to SLOW DOWN), I once again began having those thoughts. Then the tough climbs at the end of the loop grabbed ahold of my mind again.  My energy ebbed.  My mood soured.  A cyclist passed me after we had both passed the 5th mile and said "I guess we are getting some bonus miles today, huh?"  

"Yep.  And uphill to boot!" I replied. I thought of the run ahead. I realized it would be on the same course I had just biked and that it was going to be rough. Uff da.

I rolled into the transition, saw the race director and asked if I could drop to the AquaBike. I was ready and willing to be done with the day even if it meant a DNF.

T2: 4:53 (Really low overall. I am not counting.)

The RD was nice enough to say that she would check to see if I could drop. The timer said it wasn't a problem. She said I could also start running and if I still felt like I was done, just to come back and then drop down. This was really nice. Something about having that option got me up and going but not after I had spent a long time in transition putting on my shoes, going to the bathroom and ingesting some calories. I figured I could probably plod through this run and still finish in a decent time. I had long ago thrown out any of my previous time goals and now was just trying to finish respectfully. 

As I trudged out of transition and up the big hill to stat the run, the gentleman of NOW Bikes who had sold me my bike (and had been kind enough to give me a water bottle for the same bike that morning) wished me a good run.

"I don't think it is going to be one," I said.

Run: 1:59:02 (29th overall)

This run started out far better than I could have expected. The first two miles were right around 8 minutes per. Then out of nowhere, assisted by some downhill, I threw down a 7:31 mile. "There you go, buddy!" I said, outloud, to myself.  That's hilarious in hindsight.

Even as the hills undulated for miles 4 and 5, I still hung around 8 minutes per mile. I was thinking that if I ran a 1:42 half after this whole day, and thinking about quitting, that would be a huge victory. Then we turned onto a dirt road. Damn it. I just knew some more hills on dirt were coming.

So many hills, Part Deux.

The next mile had four uphills in it including one where I just flat out began walking. I was pissed that I did but it was necessary. Even though I had already passed four runners and was catching up to others, I know when I need to walk. Here I saw the lead runner coming back and man, it sure didn't seem like he was THAT far in front of me. It couldn't have possibly have been the first runner. I must have missed him somehow. 

I filled the bottle I was carrying at the turn-around point and began to try to track down runners in front of me. But ever little gradient of an uphill began to tug at my ankles. My 7th mile was a gallant effort to stay on the right side of the pacing with an 8:30 but then my 8th and 9th miles were both basically 9:30 with walk breaks each. Two runners I had passed in the beginning passed me and I did everything I could to stay with them, running my last good mile of the day in 8:31.  Getting back onto pavement and off the dirt road helped.

Then the heat of the day (mid to high 70s by this point) and whatever else finally got to me as the long

sloping hills, and the short steep hills often brought me to a crawl. My last three miles were 11:02, 10:14, and, egads 13:05. It took everything I had to run down the last hill (I had twice stopped running DOWNhill previously) and cross the finish.

My atrocious time of 5:49:38 was over an hour off of what I was hoping to do today. I guess if you take off the extra bike miles and if I had just held the previous pace in the last three miles of the run it would have only been 40 minutes off, but regardless I was done.  Cooked. Spent.

I took 22nd overall and somehow got 3rd place in my age group, but those are always just a by product of who shows up. I had a super tough ending where I just sorta collapsed after the finish and the EMTs came over to me. I had a hard time convincing them I was fine and I just needed a few minutes. They were super kind and attentive. I kept insisting while I looked like a wreck, I would be fine soon. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes after I laid down, I was putting my gear on my bike and pushing up the infernal hill to my car. (Funnily enough, I was driving away when I heard my name announced for my age group award and had to stop my car and bound down some stairs to pick it up. I was beyond shocked at how spry I felt when 30 minutes prior I was feeling on death's door.)

A runner I met about a month ago told me he had done this tri before and it was tough. Runners often downplay how tough things are. I am not sure why. I don't know if they want to sound like they are badass or they don't want to complain or they don't want to psyche others out. So when one just says "ooh, that's tough" listen to them.

This was tough.

But it is done. And I cannot tell you how happy I am I finished it. I think I would have been happy with the drop to the AquaBike or even the DNF after the bike, to be honest. But I made it through this and am shockingly feeling good the next day when I write this recap. I have some abrasions on my ankle from a waterlogged shoe, my neck is a bit chafed as I forgot to lube it up for the swim, and my muscles are a little tired. But I did a short recovery run after watching my beloved Chicago Bears stink up the field and it doesn't even really feel like I did one of the hardest races of my life yesterday. To be honest, this is a bit confusing. I feel like I shouldn't be THIS good in my recovery after one solid night's sleep.

Time to rest up, heal, and remove this monkey from my back. Tri season is more or less done up here (or at least on weekends I am free) so I don't know when the next foray will be but I think it will be in the Olympic distance.  Less bike, more swim, please.  

And hopefully less hills.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Marquette Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 8th Edition
117.9 miles raced in 2023 races
Race: Marquette Half Marathon
Place: Marquette, MI
Miles from home: 395 miles
Weather: 70-75, humid

I don’t remember when or how I found this particular race but I know that it’s been on my schedule all year. I vaguely recall thinking that this weekend would be good to get away from some potential warmth in the Twin Cities and catch some nice cool breezes and maybe even some fall temps up in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Then it showed it was going to be warm everywhere in the world as race day approached and all of that went out of the window. 

For all intents and purposes, the race delivered on what they promised and was what I thought it would be regardless of the weather. There were a few things that are different than what might be expected and I will get into those in the recap, but, when it comes to being disappointed with how the race went personally, that’s just one of those things about racing. It is often disappointing.

I don’t read virtually anything with regards to recipes on the Internet but apparently I have seen from enough memes that instead of just giving the recipe, people will drone for multiple paragraphs before they get to three cloves of diced onions or whatever. I guess I’m kind of doing that right now before I get to the actual recap because when you’ve written about 400 of these and it seems you’re mostly doing it for yourself, it’s nice to put thoughts down other than "I ran this fast for this distance."

As Minneapolis and the surrounding states have suffered through a warmer than average summer, I still am so happy that I’m no longer living in Austin, Texas, where I likely would’ve burst into flames this past three months. And it was the surviving similar weather for five years previously which I think has broken my brain a little. When I saw that the forecast for this race called for it to be in the low 70s with 70% humidity I thought that was pretty darn good. It is decent compared to the two straight months of triple digits that Austin has been dealing with for example. But that still doesn’t mean that it is good for me for racing. 


However, the morning of the race broke quite windy and cloudy with some serious gusts along the shores of Lake Superior. I thought the hardest part of the day was going to be dealing with the wind, if it turned directions from heading east (the way we were running) to into our face. But I would deal with that if it happened.


As I rode the school bus to the start of the half marathon at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum I didn’t think that I would be setting the world ablaze with a super fast time. But I felt that my race would give me a good idea of where I stand for the half Iron Man distance race that I would be doing the next weekend. I didn’t have to spend much time at the start to wait around as I planned, taking the last bus to the start. I just wanted to get to running. There was a very relaxed vibe amongst everyone almost like a race wasn't just about to happen. With just a few minutes before the start, I meandered to the front of the line, positioned myself about 30 people back, which is where I thought I'd finish, and waited for the countdown.

Instead of doing this in my normal format, which is pretty tried and true, I’m going to break this race down into the three sections that I think people need to know about if they are going to race.

First Five 1/2 Miles

The countdown sent us on our way and we went down a quick first hill. After a first little bit of winding through the parking lot of the museum, and then around a cemetery, across a road, and onto a dirt path, we made a left turn onto the Iron Ore Heritage trail. I had spoken to some people who had run the race previously while waiting for the bus, and they told me that the trail was half paved and half gravel. It ends up they were just about exactly right. You’ll see from where are you join the trail at just about 1 mile in, until mile 5 1/2 , the Heritage trail is a mixture of small rocks, gravel, dirt, and in one place underneath a bridge, some iron ore pellets. That was pretty interesting. 


And while the race page will tell you the first 5 miles are all flat, that is definitely not the case. In fact, tween miles three and four, there are more than a few little risers. I’m not saying that this is the end of the world or that you’re climbing up Mount Everest but when you are told that it’s flat or downhill, and you have more than a few quick little risers in front of you, it can really play with your brain.It can play with your brain even more when what is supposed to feel easy right around seven minute miles continues to get slower and slower as sweat pours down from your head and soon soak your entire body. 


These first 5 1/2 miles are for the most part either shaded by trees or have enough forest foliage to block any winds of any nature. Although, given how much sweating I was doing in what was not all THAT bad of weather (roughly 70 degrees and 70 % humidity). What was bumming me out was efforts that felt like 6:45 minute mile were being closer to 7:05. As such, I decided that instead of fighting against what was obviously not going to happen, that I would just try to mitigate these first miles and when the downhills started, hopefully pick up the pace.

5.5 miles  to 10 miles

If you look at the elevation profile, it says from mile five to mile nine you lose nearly 100 feet per mile. That should normally be something that I take severe advantage of but today was not the case. While I definitely picked up the pace a good 15 seconds per mile for the first three miles of this portion, by the 8 mile I was right back into the slog that I had been feeling earlier. What should’ve been me being light on my feet but instead me listening to the sweat slog through my socks of my drenched shoes. I didn’t realize as the race slowly evens out between the ninth and 10th mile that this was the beginning of the end of the race for me. 


What is nice about this course that is being run on this trail is that on multiple occasions it crosses roads where your supporters can come out and easily see you multiple times. I actually became "race buddies" with more than a few different spectators. Even when I am struggling, I do my absolute best to try to be friendly to people who are out there cheering us all on. But by the time we hit the 10th mile and the race completely ended for me, I didn't even have the energy for that.

Mile 10 the to Finish

I’m not sure if it was because it was Labor Day weekend or what exactly but there was another festival going on which brought a lot of spectators down to this area of beautiful downtown Marquette. There were plenty of people out there and even if they weren’t cheering you on, just having some bodies around you is energy that you can feed off of. This energy is something I’ve missed in a lot of my races in the past 5 to 10 years where I’ve happened to get away from the big city races and spent more time on the trails or a small town marathons. It gets a little bit lonely out there and sometimes just feels like a long training run. So having bodies around you feels good especially when you are feeling bad .


As we passed the mile 10 marker and I grabbed two big glasses of water and came to a dead stop. I was definitely feeling bad. I won’t bore you with details about the last 5K, but suffice it to say, I stopped a minimum of four more times. Sometimes for a break of water and sometimes just try to gather the energy to push through. 


There was a bathroom permanently placed on the trail with a drinking fountain that signs along the race alerted you to. I wasn't exactly thirsty but I stopped anyway.  This water fountain was one of the coldest fountains I’ve ever had in my life. I wanted to just pulled up a chair and pour all the water on me. I’m not saying that I really needed the water as I was still sweating profusely, but it sure perked my spirits up. 


The final stretch was a little bit cruel as we ran up to where we were finishing and then back away from it just to come back up again. The course seemed more than a little bit long as well which added about a minute to my overall time, but considering I lost probably five minutes in the last 5K, it really didn’t matter.


I finished 58th overall in a time of 1:38:05
in what would be my 104th worst half marathon out of 120 in my lifetime. This is definitely not what I was hoping would build my confidence for the triathlon next weekend. The forecast predicts a better day and man do I need that.  This has been a tough year for me, in racing and life and my confidence is definitely shaken. I know am in the best cycling shape I’ve ever been no matter what the weather is that shouldn’t be a problem on the bike. Regardless, I made it through another race, collected a non-precious medal and am still standing. No race finish is guaranteed until you finish so that's my silver lining.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Fontana Days Run Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 7th Editions
104.8 miles raced in 2023 races
Race: Fontana Days Run
Place: Fontana, CA
Miles from home: 1882 miles
Weather: 50-60s; slight wind and dry with bright sun

Every time I have travel problems going to a race I think back to my 52 marathons in 52 weekends and still can’t believe that it happened. Yes, running a marathon for 52 marathons in a row is what most people find impressive, but to me it is two other things.

1. Averaging a 3:21 for every marathon while working a full-time job with some seriously difficult marathons in there (e.g., Leadville); and

2. the fact that I made it to every race when the race started on race day. 

That’s why I always cringe a little bit when I hear someone say they are doing so many "marathons" in so many days when they’re actually just running 26.2 miles and not actually going to a race. Getting there on race day is almost half of the accomplishment. As I have said for a long time, you can't get to the finish line if you don't make it to the starting line. Which almost didn’t happen for me this race this weekend.

Can anyone explain this logo to me?

Two days before the Fontana Days Run I was looking at my schedule and realized that the race I thought was on Sunday was actually on Saturday. Therefore, my flight that got me in at midnight to LA, then me needing to get a rental car and drive to Fontana would probably get me in around 2 a.m.  That means I would likely get three hours of sleep, max, and that was even if I could find a way to get my packet and bib number. Egads. Fortunately, I was able to change my flight to Friday morning but that still didn’t leave me much leeway. The leeway then got even less (smaller? What is the measuring amount for leeway?) After landing, I had the absolute worst rental car experience I’ve ever had when it took over two hours just to get through the line at the Thrifty car rental place. Then I was booked for an electric vehicle. I am all for the EVs but I had no idea where to charge one so I had to "upgrade" (in cost) to a gas guzzler.  Doing all this finally got me on the road...right into the thick of Los Angeles Friday afternoon traffic

Nearly three hours later I finished the 67 mile trip to Fontana. Hell, I can RUN 50 miles in ~6.5 hours. This left me just enough time to go pick up my packet, check into my hotel, grab some food, and climb into bed. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have many good feelings about how this race would go.

Race Morning:


After what was actually a good night's sleep I got up, drove to where the buses would take runners to the start of this downhill Half Marathon, and parked my car. I quickly used the bathroom and got on the last bus. My stomach was grumbling from the WAY too much food I had eaten the previous evening as I was starving but I tried to ignore it. An uneventful ride the the start popped us out not much more than 10 minutes before the race would start. That was a pretty darn seamless transition, especially when compared to the previous day.


Lining up, I didn’t have any of the normal jitters because I had more or less decided that this wasn’t going to go well. As such I just kind of stood there looking at everybody else feeling nervous or excited and waited for the starting pistol. The pistol was actually an airhorn which I think many races need to learn has to be fired once or twice before its first use. Even then it can't be a timid use. You have to push that button down nice and hard. Otherwise, you get the the "dying duck" signal we got to go.  


But away we went!


First 5k:

I immediately had to make my way through three or four lines of people who shouldn't have been at the start line. I will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever understand why people do that. Ever.


As we made our way down this winding canyon, I felt extraordinarily out of breath. The stomach gurgling

continued. I had a feeling this was not gonna be a good day at all. I decided I would use the opening downhill miles the best I could and just see what happened after that. When I hit the 1st mile in 5:55 I realized part of the reason this felt labored was because I was about 25 seconds faster than I thought that I was! I instantly throttled back to conserve because I knew after the first 5 miles was over, while the race continued downhill, it would not be the same amount per mile and would feel flat. The next 2 miles presented me with a 6:24 and a 6:27, which was closer to the average I wanted to run but definitely were slower than I was expecting.


The canyon was providing us shade from the sun, the air was dry and the temps were cool(ish).  I vividly recall thinking that if I was in decent shape this would be easily be a day where I ran 1:22. But you can only run in the shape you currently are so I left right continued.

To the 10K: 


As we continue down the winding canyon road, I again marveled at how bad people are at running the tangents.  If you read my recaps, this is a constant refrain but it remains true.  Why run further than you have to?! After the first mile I had watched the first overall female slide past me and right around the third mile the second female had done the same. I kept expecting more to pass me any second now but none did even as a runner here and there did just that. I also thought I might begin to reel in a few runners here and there who went out faster than they should have and that did indeed begin to happen.  I also began some see-saw battles with some runners who would surge in front of me, and then I would pass them and we would continue this dance as the miles went on. I love playing these little games in the middle of races.  Who is in better shape? Who is running the course better? Who will eventually have the best kick? People who say the ones in the back of the pack have the most fun have no idea what they are talking about.  This is serious fun at 6 minutes per mile.


The mile markers were a little askew here and there, so it was hard to really get a feel for where I was, but I simply kept pushing what felt good without pushing too hard. Right after the 5th mile we more or less flattened out and came into the sunshine at the same time. I could see fairly far in front of me and began to memorize the shirt colors of the runners in front of me.  It always feels good to think "Ah yes, bright orange shirt.  I have been tracking you for three miles. Oh don't worry, purple tights, I haven't forgotten about you either." The miles here all hovered right around the 6:30 mark which again made me bummed.  Maintaining that pace when the hills flattened was going to be hard.

To Mile 10:

This next section really frustrated me greatly as No matter how hard I continue to push I kept coming up with less than mediocre miles. 6:49, 6:50, and 6:52 is what I netted even as I tried to pick up the pace. I had a few people passing me here and there. They would pull me along for a little bit, but then I would fall back, unable to maintain their pace. At one point there was a cyclist coming at me on my side of the road. This raod is completely closed to traffic (excellent stuff by the race organizers, for real) and he seem to be filming something with his phone. The entire road was open for him but for some reason he felt he needed to continue right at me. I finally had a few choice words to him, and he finally moved. What ended up being the third place female, who was happening right beside me at the time, let out a little bit of a laugh. I think she saw what was going on and agreed with my assessment.


We soon passed under the freeway after an unscenic but also uneventful past two miles.  Doing so meant that the remaining 4.5 miles would be one single straight shot to the finish.  Two young fellas passed me, including one who I had been playing cat and mouse with a few miles before. The other, I think named "Maverick Chamberlain" (now that's a name) looked quite fresh and was listening to music on his iPhone in his hand. I was in no mood to race kids who could easily be my children, so I let them go. But about a minute later I heard some footsteps behind me and I said to myself that I was not gonna let whoever that was past me until the 9th mile. I did just that, and in the process passed both youngsters again, and never saw them the rest of the way. That little spurt felt so good giving me a 6:33 mile.  It didn't even feel that hard and I felt if I could keep it up for the last four miles I might still eke out a 1:25. When the footsteps did pass me, I threw myself in behind the guy and decided to use his energy. We passed more than a few runners and I felt wonderful.  Then I saw my split for the next mile was 6:45.  Damn it.   I still had a 5k left to make up the distance.  Let's go, Dane!


To the Finish: 


Not so fast, Dane! In spite of staying with my pace car human, I ran an even slower 6:49 for the 11th mile. This was confounding to me on this straightaway. And when I say "straightaway" mean, one long street straight through Fontana. It was so enjoyable to just simply turn off the brain, and do left right, repeat for mile after mile without having to worry about one turn, or one curve, or any traffic at all. This race is part of the Fontana Days festival and they shut down this long stretch of multiple lane highway to all traffic, which is pretty impressive. 


Yet even while I was passing a runner here and there (and oodles of 5k walkers, grrrrr, stop walking many many abreast) My next mile was AGAIN slower at 6:50.  Not only had I lost any chance of 1:25:xx but now I was in danger of not running a 1:26.


With a mile to go, I passed the third overall female. She didn't look like she was slowing so maybe, just maybe, I was finally speeding up. I could see the finish line way in the distance with about five minutes of running left and tried to dig deep. Weaving in and out of the 5k walkers, trying to run the shortest possible distance, I knew it was going to be close. With about two blocks ago, I looked at my watch, and I couldn’t tell if I was going to break 1:27 or not. I got a little deflated for a few seconds and actually laid off the throttle. What's the difference, I thought. Then a fire lit under me again, and I answered myself:  the difference is you WANT it. So I gritted my teeth and pushed one final time. But just a few yards short of the finish I could see the clock tick over to 1:27. I gave too little too late. Crapola. 


I finished in 1:27:04.

This was good enough for my 25th fastest half marathon and five seconds faster than the Ventura marathon back in April which also pissed me off for being over 1:26. What can you do? Just a few days after my 47th birthday, I finished 46th overall.

This was my fourth half marathon and marathon in the past five weeks. Mixed results overall but I will take what I have and learn from it. A summer of training awaits me as I attempt to do something I haven't done in 12 years and hopefully faster than I did even then!

Overall this was a very well-run event. Just big enough to make you feel like you have some people around you but not so big that you get overwhelmed by all the business going on around you. There's a reason this is the 68th running of this race and it is clear that the city gets behind it, which I always love for an event. When it is clear it inconveniences some people with a road being closed for a few hours on a Saturday morning and there is still a good turnout, you know the city takes pride in what they have. I don't know if these temps are normal for this time of year in this part of the country but for a June race, this is one I would recommend.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Prairie Series Half Marathon South Dakota and North Dakota Recaps

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 5th and 6th Editions
91.7 miles raced in 2023 races
Race: Prairie Series Half Marathon South Dakota and North Dakota
Place: Baltic, SD and Wahpeton ND
Miles from home: 246 miles and 201 miles
Weather: Mid 50s; humid; kinda smoky

A year ago on the day when I started these back to back half marathons, I was on my third straight day of running six back-to-back half-marathons in New England. I can tell you today as I relax back home, that I’m very happy I’m not running another half marathon! Which is more a testament to how it is amazing what people can do when they decide to do a specific goal than anything else. Knowing going into the endeavor last year that I was doing six in a row last year, I am convinced I couldn't do another. But if I had planned to do seven, well, I am sure I would have. So much is about mindset.

When I was putting together my year for racing, I had a lot of different things in mind, some of which have stayed the same and some of which have changed. Running these two half marathons on back to back days in South and North Dakota was a relatively recent addition. it checked off both me racing a half marathon in those states for the first time as well as another geeky thing that I am doing where I am trying to visit every county in the United States. Having said that, even though I was to one extent, simply checking the box for a race in a certain state that doesn’t mean that I also don’t want to run as fast as I can on a well designed course.

I knew both of these races would not exactly be my favorite type of course going in, so I’m hardly surprised to say that both more or less fit my expectation. There’s no way I can say this without someone still reading into it incorrectly, but I am going to try anyway. The people who put on the Mainly Marathons seem to be very nice people indeed. They know what the vast majority of their runners want and have provided that.  A warm and welcoming atmosphere where even the slowest of the slow receive a very neat medal attached to an even neater medal holder with plenty of support along the way. However, it’s quite clear that at least on the courses that I ran, these courses skew quite long and are also not meant to help people run their fastest. This might not mean much to most of their clientele, who are obviously there just to do the check-in of a box or meet a life goal without much pressure, but for me, when I am racing, I don’t want to run any further than I have to. Again, I knew all of this going in, so I am not surprised, and I am not lambasting the organizers. The events just weren't my cop of tea. And I won them both. So it's not sour grapes.

South Dakota:

The course for what was Day One for me but Day Six for many participants, was shaped like a shepherds crook.  We began in the curly portion at the top, looped around a few twist and then ran along the "staff" portion for a bit.  Up the smallest of a hill we turned around a cone and went back. The thing is, if we didn't actually go up that tiny hill, I think this might have actually been close to the right distance.  That's what happens when you run the same course 12 times for a half! 

As we were given final instructions by the amiable race director,as to how the course will be run, it was mentioned that they purposely measure these courses long to make sure that they fit Boston marathon qualifying standards. This is exactly what many races do that in order to make up for the fact that a cone might be miss placed somewhere and they don’t want people to get short-changed on their run. But when you have such a short course and each loop is a little long, you end up with way more than you need. 

I noticed at we listened to the directions a man who had run the previous two states in the series was on hand to run his third marathon in as many days. Having just run on either side of three hours the previous two days (2:58:373:04:32) I was surprised he was still standing.  That's a heck of a run with no rest. I could tell he was looking at me like "Who is the new guy?  He looks fresh.  Damn it." because that's exactly what I had done on day four of my six last year. I figured he would soon figure out I was running the half and to not worry too much.

We directed that all of the Mainly Marathon races have runners grabbing a rubber band at the end of each lap to help them keep track of how many they have done. This seems far simpler than it actually is, especially if you are trying to maintain speed. Before much longer, we were off.

The race director led us out on the course like a rabbit showing us how to run the course.  I stayed in his back pocket hoping to run right around 7 minutes per mile. I could tell the fast marathoner was just off my shoulder and I wanted to tell him I wasn't in his race but as we passed the first 180-degree turnaround, he passed me. I had zero desire to race him today even if he was doing double the distance that I was, because I was here to run as fast as I could and hopefully win. I was surprised, however to see a small young lady behind me not too far pushing the pace as well. As we went back down the course and made the first turn to grab a rubber band, I instead grabbed two.  I didn't know if this was a foul so I tried to toss it back onto the table. I think I hit another runner/walker in the back. Whoops.

The course was all on dirt or crushed gravel, which definitely slows you down compared to running on the road.  I saw some people parroting the physically incorrect statement about how the dirt felt better on their knees that the road races they usually run and just shook my head. Sometimes, just ignoring people is best.  (What are you talking about, Dane? Well, your foot hits the ground with the same force regardless of what surface you are running on. Running on softer or uneven surfaces like grass or dirt do nothing for the impact, but they actually DO make you work harder, and can hurt your ankles and joints because of said unevenness. Which actually tires you out more. But I will just be over here with my correct but unpopular knowledge. Because people "feel" something does something regardless of what it does.) 

That said, I was pretty pleased how in the first 3 to 4 miles I was maintaining a 1:35 marathon pace. As the fast marathoner continued on, actually increasing his lead increase on me, I noticed that the female runner behind me was running the 5K. I was a little bit bummed she was as I was hoping for someone to push me along other than just the marathoner. However, that’s how the rest of the race went. Me occasionally making up a little distance on the guy running the marathon, but mostly just going through the motions. 

The weather was pretty humid and a low-level fog and hazed continued on for most of the day. It was only later I learned that the wildfires in Canada were creating this haze. I don't feel it affected my running and at least kept the sun at bay for most of the day. It also made for a lovely sunrise.

On at least two other occasions, I had a muff up on trying to grab a rubber band as my had was too sweaty. Also, with lots of people coming in at their own paces, and the feed table being right in this tight spot, there was plenty of milling around going on. When I am running hard, I really don't like milling around. Alas.

When it became clear that I was going to run much longer than a half marathon I was a little bummed. Granted I was using these races as hard training runs but I also didn't want them to artificially inflate my lifetime average. This is beyond nitpicking but all of racing is. This is all frivolous. But that doesn't mean it doesn't matter to me.  I have been trying to get my lifetime average under 1:30 for a few years and running a 1:39:06, like I would end up running today, when the course was a half mile (3.5 minutes worth of running) was a bummer.

I got my very nice medal, wished all those still running good luck, and headed back to my hotel. Time to shower, pack, and drive four hours to the next state.

After driving through all of South Dakota I got to North Dakota did a little bit of sightseeing, including checking out the "Wahpper"; a 40-foot long fiberglass sculpture of a catfish beside the Red River of the North in Wahpeton, ND (get it?) and also the Tent Pole Monument to Circus Dead. Yes, I am still single. Why do you ask?

Then it was time for bed. Fortunately, I was much closer to the start of this race than I was the previous day.  I had to drive 20 miles from Sioux Falls to Baltic and also pick up my bib number. For this race I was less than three miles away, had my bib, and as such could catch an extra 20 minutes of sleep! 

This course was a little different than some of the others the Mainly Marathons people put on as it included a slightly different first lap due to some changes in the park we were running in that didn't allow them their normal starting point. 

Like the day before, and I’m assuming every day, the race director took the lead runner on a tour of the course. It’s clear he is quite speedy and it was nice to have this rabbit for the first three miles of the course.  as we approached the end of the first loop,the RD told me that I did not have to grab the rubber bands off the table this time as long as I could remember how many laps I was on.  I think it was clear to him I had difficulty the day before so this was greatly appreciated.  I said "I think I can count to five."

And then, from there, on out, it was simply the same thing as the day before. Dodging runners and trying not to get in their way as well (they paid for the race, too) while also not trying to run too much further than I had to on each lap. People were very friendly and encouraging. I tried my best to do the same. I sometimes got in my head and didn't say it to someone I had just seen in the opposite direction four minutes earlier but I hope they will forgive me.

I could tell that today's course was going to be even longer than the previous day and with absolutely no competition whatsoever it was hard to push myself that fast. The same runner doing the 5K the day before I was again doing it today so that was a nice little push.  That only lasted  for 25% of the race, however.  I did see her out running the course with a marathoner which was nice of her to do. But for me it was simply concentrating on running hard on the one mile of each loop that was paved and then trying to find the best places to run on the back half of each mile which was gravel and dirt road.

In spite of the wildfires in Alberta, we lucked out in the weather department. Mid 50s with mostly cloudy skies helped combat the relatively high humidity. Nevertheless, I was completely drenched in both races. I was also doing an experiment of sorts by running both of these half marathons without taking a single drop of liquid. Being these were also my third and fourth races in the last past 19 (one marathon and three half marathons) I was surprised how unsore I was even if I wasn’t necessarily running as fast as I would like. That’s something to look into for sure in the coming months when I try to change my training up and see if there still are some fast races in these old legs. The lack of soreness tells me that I can run faster but I don’t know if that engine still burns as hot to turn the legs over and allow me to do so.

My mind drifted to my mom here and there. Most of what I am writing here I would bore her with in a post-race recap. Then in a nanosecond I would remember that I can't tell her any of this boring stuff anymore. I would then try to shake that feeling off and find something else to think about.

All told, my GPS, which usually skews low, told me I ran 13.55 miles (I later measured it online and came up with 13.85 miles) for a near-identical-to-yesterday time of 1:39:13

Two more races in two new states, two more wins, 23 new counties visited, and some snazzy medals. These were my 110th and 111th (out of 118) slowest marathons ever but likely closer to 90th and 91st if the courses were right.  Either way, I have another half in two weeks where I hope to set the course for the rest of the year with my first race as a 47 year old. I am making a prediction here of a 1:24. Let's see how right I am.

(Oof, just looked at the forecast and it looks like it will be in the 70s during race time in Fontana, California. Let's hope for low humidity and some tree cover!)

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Colorado Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 4th Edition
65.5 miles raced in 2023 races
Race: Colorado Half Marathon
Place: Fort Collins, CO
Miles from home: 854
Weather: Mid 40s degrees and party cloudy

When I had originally signed up for this race, I had a much different plan in mind. But then I DNFd my first ever marathon and with that gnawing away at my psyche, decided to throw in an impromptu marathon a week ago. 

That race's success cleared many of my ills but undoubtedly left me a little bit tired for this half marathon. When I initially threw the Redemption Marathon into the mix, I figured that I would be absolutely decimated for this race. But somehow I felt surprisingly good not only after the race but all week.  My shakeout runs were tragically slow but I figured some of that was me being at altitude from Wednesday on. But when I feel good for seemingly no reason that only means I will simply expect more out of myself than is reasonably smart to do. I’m sure I can look back over about 20 different recaps of races where I said something akin to “just because there’s no reason to believe I should’ve done as well as I hoped doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed anyway.” Is it any better if I recognize the insanity?

As one of the sponsors of the race weekend, we were happy to meet and greet runners at the expo and get them excited for the pending launch of Sherpa.  The continued feedback we get from people of all skill levels tells me we have a homerun on our hands here. Cannot wait to let everyone use it!

Race Morning:

I have raced four times this year and three of them have required me to get up at an ungodly hour. This race was no different as even with staying close to where the buses would pick up the runners and take them to the start, I still had to get up at 4 A.M. Just not a good start for Mr. Nighttime Circadian Rhythm. I felt I had done an excellent job getting to bed at 10 p.m. but still didn't fall asleep until after midnight. That said, I woke relatively refreshed. Took a very comfortable bus ride to the start that went by too fast, and then got into the bathroom line basically three consecutive times just trying to kill the hour from when I got there to when the race would begin. 

As time drew near for the start, a director had us all line up at the 13th mile marker. Then, when it was time to get started, we moseyed down the the starting line en masse.I  heard some runners behind me giving each other the business so I joked with one of them that their timing chip wasn't on their shoe. It wasn't because it was attached to our bibs. They still freaked out for half a second. I'm fun to be around in the mornings.

First 5k:

This race course boasts a mostly downhill run, but is rather gradual in its descent for the most part. The biggest downhill section comes in the first 2-3 miles, and I decided to try to take advantage of that the best that I could. My 1st mile went by in 6:39 but felt like a 6:30 effort. I sat back on my haunches for a little bit of the 2nd mile and this netted me a 6:52 mile. I wondered how long I would be able to keep a sub 1:30 pace, and simply decided to see where the day took me. The 3rd mile ending with a 6:56 told me I was going to hold on to the desired pace for a little bit more at least.

In these first three miles, while super speedy runners took off, a couple of less speedy but still fast groups formed. Occasionally one runner would get spit out of one group and join the one behind or one would spurt forward and leave the one they were in. I always enjoy watching these little games within races and wonder what everyone's plan is and how much it changes on race day.

To the 10k:

After the third mile, I was simply trying to get to the 6th mile. From five to six, the biggest uphill of the course was on my mind. But I had forgotten about how the 4th mile also had a little bit of a bump. When I got that 4th mile under seven minutes I felt pretty happy. I sped up a touch on the mostly flat fifth mile as we continued to run on wide open roads. I love a long open road where I don't have to spend  one calorie of thought on where I am turning or if I have to hug a turn. But for the most part, this course had its fair share of long twists and turns. I was always shocked to see how few fast runners seem to know how to run the tangents. I ran every single possible "shortcut" possible and still was having my GPS ping right at the mile markers. All those people running on the long curve outside were only adding more distance to their day. And would undoubtedly say the curse was long.

The climb at mile six did a number on me, giving me a 7:20 for the mile. This was definitely slower than I wanted it to be but not as bad as it could have been. At just over halfway, I was ready for the race to begin.

Onto Mile 10:

I tried to make up for that lost time on the next mile and really pushed it hard, passing a female runner who passed me going up this hill. Unfortunately, I only ran a 6:46 mile and felt a bit of a stitch in my side. I figured maybe I could still hold onto that sub 1:30 but it all depended on how I responded to the last 5 miles. For all intents and purposes, these last five miles are flat with just a net total loss of 100 feet. I will take that over a gain of 100 feet but it was basically imperceptible. As such, the course wasn'tgoing to help me if I was faltering at all.

As we continued running down the road on this partially cloudy, perfectly temperatured, excellent day for racing I was struck once again about how I have seemed to have chosen races that leave me with virtually no spectator support. Don’t get me wrong, the volunteers were great, and the people who did come out I appreciated, but the latter were definitely few and far between. One shouldn't rely on spectators to get you through but it sure helps at times.

When we left the road and joined a bicycle running path at mile eight, I was bummed. Not only was this mile way slower than I expected at 7:13, but the fact that we would spend probably the rest of the run on this bike path was not to my liking. You see, these bike paths have always been the bane of my existence. They mentally challenge me with their twists and turns and quick ups and downs. Somehow they are just extremely difficult for me to excel at. Only fittingly, the 9th mile was the slowest so far at 7:20 and now I was beginning to wonder if I would even run a 1:31. A few runners would pass me here and there as they were able to keep up their pace and I only seem to be slowing. In fact, it was very odd how basically five of the first 7 miles were within seconds of each other and then there was a quick jump up about 20 to 30 seconds. Then that became my new normal with no intermediary slowing down. No gradual reduction. Just a big jump and that was where I stood. As much as I pushed along is bicycle trail I basically ran a 7:15 mile.

To the Finish:

I was hoping that I would be able to pick up the pace over the final 5K because I would be able to smell the barn, but the legs simply weren’t responding. It didn’t help at this juncture we joined the 10K runners who were making their way back to the finish line. Obviously they have every right to run however they see fit as they paid for their race as well. Yet, when you know you’re going to be running up the back of people who are often running two or three abreast on a narrow bike path you spend way too much energy trying did not run into them and not enough energy on your own race. Fittingly, as I maneuvered through runners, one came to a dead stop and there was almost a big ole collision. It would have been my fault even if he was the one who stopped because I was the one approaching the runner, but either way it would have been bad. Fortunately, I side stepped them and continued on.

I had another couple of runners passed me in these last three miles and I hung with them for a little bit, but I simply didn’t have the juice.There was quite a cruel mile hill at the 12th mile as we left the bike path and join the city streets that really suck the energy out of me. But once back on the streets, I found my groove again and was able to run my fastest mile since the downhill at seven. 

Even four right-hand turns in the last half mile didn't stop me from picking up the pace a little bit. I wish I would have picked it up just a smidgen more to get her 1:32, but unfortunately, I crossed the finish of my 116th lifetime half-marathon in 1:33:04. Good enough for 46 place overall and second in my age group, this was quite a stunning turnaround from just a little over a month ago when I could barely walk after my DNF marathon. Now I am disappointed that a week after my first marathon in 3.5 years that I didn't run a stellar half-marathon.

Running sure is a weird sport and one I enjoy continuing to explore its weirdness!

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Run for the Lakes Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 17; 3rd Edition
52.4 miles raced in 2023 races
Race: Run for the Lakes Marathon
Place: Nisswa, MN
Miles from home: 137
Weather: 38 degrees and party sunny; shifting winds

I was nervous. 

I can probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I’ve actually been nervous. Anxious, excited, maybe even trepidacious about what lay ahead, but rarely am I nervous. The night before this marathon, I was tossing and turning, wondering if I could even run 26.2 miles. 

If you don’t necessarily follow all of my exploits and travels just know that four weeks ago I DNFd my first ever marathon. 164 times I started a marathon and through whatever came my way, 164 times I finished. Death, taxes, and me finishing a marathon. But, in what was supposed to be my first marathon finish in 3.5 years and also my first marathon since my mother passed away basically everything went to crap and I had to pull out right after the halfway point. It left a bitter taste in my mouth, even though I knew it was the right thing to do. 

I spent the next few weeks recovering from that race even though I knew that I had to quickly find another marathon or this was going to weigh on my mind. I originally thought about a marathon about 90 minutes away from my home in Minneapolis but when we had a freak streak of hot weather here, I decided I would wait until closer to the race date to make sure I knew what the weather was going to be like before I signed up. About a week before the race, it appeared the weather would be fine. I went to sign up but the race was full. I sent an email to the race director but didn't get a reply.  Not even a "Sorry, we are full!" which I would have completely accepted. 

So, I looked around and found a smaller race a little bit further way in Brainerd, Minnesota. Well, technically the race is in Brainerd but the race benefits or is sponsored by a Brainerd organization located just south. I quickly looked over the course and saw that it was two loops and looked relatively flat. Chilly weather was in the forecast but not too cold. I figured there is no time like the present and signed up for it just a few days before the event. 

I drove up the day before the race, had a litany of small town encounters which just made me laugh and grabbed a quick pasta dinner with some other racers. I was ready for an earlier night and some good sleep.  And unlike last marathon, I didn't have to be up at 3 a.m. to catch a bus. Getting four more hours of sleep, driving two miles and parking at the start line was looking like a much better deal. However, the night before, as I tossed and turned in a fitful sleep, things didn't feel good. I thought perhaps maybe I was going to DNF two marathons in a row. I thought maybe I should see if I could drop to the half-marathon. I contemplated missing my alarm and not even going.  I have never had such worries. But I finally fell asleep.

Race Morning:

When I woke the morning of the race, I was surprisingly rested. Getting to the starting line, I was happy with how the weather looked and began reading myself for the race. It was a small event with not even 100 marathoners and I knew it was likely I would spend much of the time running all by myself, making it not much more than a glorified training run. As I parked my car less than a block from the start, I decided to simply wait there until literally five minutes before the start of the race before getting out and walking to the start line. The announcer gave almost a WWF wrestling style over-the-top selling of how the United States was "the greatest country in the world" before introducing the person who would sing the national anthem. After she finished, but before the countdown for the race began one of the older gentleman presenting the colors of the flag of the local VFW or whatever seemingly accidentally fired his gun. Everyone froze wondering if that was the start of the race. We all looked at each other as the announcer assured us we would begin in just a few second. My only two questions were:

1. Since we soon learned that the guns were not how we would start the race, why was the gun loaded?


2. Sweet baby Jesus I hope it was loaded with a a blank. 

Soon thereafter, a countdown from ten started, and away we went.

First 5k:

As the race had a marathon Half Marathon and Marathon and a Marathon Relay, all running the same way, I knew it was going to be difficult to tell who was running which race. But as all I wanted to do on this day was finish, it didn’t matter to me really what place I finished in. I could tell, however, that two of the runners in front of me were running the marathon, so as we hit the first mile, I simply assumed I was running in third place. If it stayed like that, great. If it didn't, I didn't care.

As a few tall, lanky young fellas disappeared into the distance and I guessed they were either running the half marathon, or running so fast, it didn’t matter because I would never see them in my race anyway.  I had driven the course the night before, and realized that my thoughts of how flat it would be were incorrect. Hardly what one would say were killer hill,s it was nonetheless quite rolling. The half of this loop wasn't too bad and I was pleased with my splits for the first two miles. As we hit the 3rd mile, it dawned upon me that barring unforeseen circumstances, I was going to finish this race. I simply felt far too good to have the bottom fall out later on. I let out a huge sigh of relief, even with 23 miles to go, almost tempting the racing gods.

To the 10k:

Right around the 5th mile I heard footsteps from behind, and soon a guy was passing me. I did not get a chance to look at his bib to see what color he had in order to ascertain whether he was in the Marathon but given how quickly he had passed me, it seemed quite evident that he was only doing the half.  I decided I would use his energy to pull me along without going out of my own comfort zone. Before too long one of the two Marathoners in front of me was coming back into sight. The crisp air felt wonderful on my skin and just enough sun flitted through the trees.  The scenery was gorgeous and there was still mounds of snow on the ground in places with trees limbs fallen on the side of the road.  The record-setting winter this year in Minnesota had obviously not spared the foliage in Nisswa.  But the roads were clear, well-paved, and dotted with the occasional sign encouraging runners.  

One older gentleman stood off of the road, no where near a car, or a house, or anything else which would give one a reason to see why he was there exactly. As I passed by gave me the quietest "Go get 'em" that you have ever heard. Like it was a secret.

Onto the Half

Within a mile or two the guy that I was trailing passed that marathoner ahead of us. I soon found myself at mile 11 doing the same thing. I hadn't expected to catch up to him this quickly but another half-marathoner had passed me and I was using his energy now as well.

As the marathoners reached our halfway point, we peeled off from the half marathoners and went a slightly different direction away from the finish line. I was surprised to hear another set of footfalls behind me. Another marathoner? I crossed the timing mat for the halfway point and heard this guy say “is this the finish for the half?" I turned around and told him he was in the wrong place and tried to point the way he had to go. I then asked the people at the aid station to make sure he got where he needed to be. I don’t know how he missed his turn, but I felt awful for him. I hope if he crossed the half timing mat they would give him a time for that instead of having to back track to the actual finish.

To Mile 20:

There is something about running a loop that really suits my running style. Even though I had just started the second equidistant loop, I felt I was already 2/3 of the way done with this race. I already knew exactly where all the hills were which took out the mental aspect. All I had to do was execute. As I got to one section that was an out and back which would allow me to see the runners in front of me, I was surprised to see the gentleman who I thought was running a half marathon zip by. Soon there after I saw the marathoner I knew was running followed suit. They had a couple of minutes on me, but I thought perhaps if things broke my way, maybe I could move up the leaderboard. As I passed through one intersection, I asked what place I was in and the one guy said I was fifth overall. Now I was completely confused and decided to put what place I was out of my mind and simply keep running. 

At the 17th mile I went through a aid station that was manned by two lovely mothers with their young daughters (I am assuming), and one of the mothers said to me, "You’re in third place!" Now I had really had no idea in the world what position I was actually in. But within the next mile one of the runners appeared on the distant horizon. I figured this might get interesting later on in the race. I looked behind me at one point just to get an idea of where the other runners were, but they were no where to be seen. As I near the 20th mile I noticed, even though I wasn't picking up the pace and was in fact slowing down, that the runner in front of me was slowing down even more.

The Run to the Finish:

Each twist of the run revealed I was getting closer and closer to what I had been told would be second place. As I didn’t care either way between second and third I wasn’t exactly trying to overtake the runner in front of me, but as we ran through the back half of the course which was decidedly more hilly than the front half, and also with a steady headwind in our face, I soon found myself in that runner's back pocket. A little downhill section with a cool glass of water in my throat made me decide to make a definitive move and put him in my rear view mirror. I figured I was simply going to finish second overall for the fourth time in my last seven marathons. 

Little did I know that the runner in front of me who I formerly thought was running the Half Marathon seem to be battling some stomach issues. Poor guy had to stop on multiple occasions to evacuate what was inside of him. I’m glad I didn’t know that he was as close as he was because I probably would’ve done more damage trying to pass him then good. You see, as I continued on, the wind really took a toll and dashed any hopes of running a sub 3:10 marathon. For me, that’s the gold standard of a Boston qualifier. In fact, this is the first time in my life my Boston qualifying standard hasn’t been 3:10. Every year that the Boston marathon has tightened up the standards for the race has been the same year that I got into an older age bracket. So from my very first marathon 21 years ago until now 3:10 has always been what I have shot for. Now, I get 3:20, because I am old!

Regardless, as I hit the homestretch and saw that I was, in fact, going to finish this marathon, I really thought that I was going to be overwhelmed with joy. Instead, I simply finished the race pointing up to the sky thinking of my mom, cross the finishline in 3:12:44. This was only my 83rd fastest marathon ever but few have meant more to me.

After asking around and not finding any definitive results, I hopped on the results pages and saw that I had in fact finished third overall. Still good enough for a podium. It ends up that one of those tall, lanky fast Half Marathon hers was also in the marathon. In addition, this young fella is the same running club that I am in Minneapolis. So, the Mill City Runners took a 1-3 on the podium. Not too shabby.

Couple of quick thoughts about the race:

1. This is a surprisingly challenging course with lots of little ups and downs. It's not "tough" but it is not easy. The second loop really felt like they jacked up the hills from the first loop.
2. In spite of it being sparsely populated with both runners and spectators, you didn't necessarily feel all that alone. The two loops helped you feel like you weren't all too far from anyone.
3. This was very well-run with volunteers at all the turns and cones to keep you safe. Plenty of liquids including actual Gatorade and not some random energy drink you have never had that the race took because it was free.
4. Looks like Olympic Trial qualifier and super speedy Dakotah Lindwrum (2:25:01 PR) paced someone through the first half of their marathon. *Napoleon Dynamite voice*: "Lucky".
5. Two runners ran some ridiculously even splits with a 1:44:44 first half and1:44:26 second half. And they finished hand-in-hand. That's cool.
6. It appears I ran the fastest second half of the marathon with a 1:38:21, a four-minute positive-split

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to finish this race. I am shockingly not sore the day after. My energy is not drained from me at all. I am quite surprised that I was so unbelievably nervous given how easy this race was for me. I know well-meaning friends told me "I knew you could do it!" but I sure as hell didn't know that just 7 hours before the race started.

But I lowered my lifetime marathon average by a whole two seconds (3:18:24), nabbed my 78th Boston Qualifier, and really shaped my racing for the rest of the year with this marathon off of my back.

*whew* Thanks for getting me through this, Mom.