Monday, October 19, 2009

des moines marathon: 3:22:41

pre-race: saturday 10.17.2009

i woke up around 3:30 a.m. via race weekend excitement (no alarm necessary). i was on the road by 4 a.m. had a smooth and quick trip to des moines and got to the location of the fitness expo with a bonus 15 minutes prior to the doors opening at 10 a.m.

i was impressed with the packet pickup logistics. i put off checking out the expo booths and opted instead to try and find my friend steve hibbs and his booth. steve owns a marathon travel company called "marathon adventures". my intent was to just enjoy hanging out with him in the booth for the day.

i enjoyed the day. steve's booth was right next to the stage which featured a variety of speakers covering a variety of running related topics. during the interviews with the "elite runners" i moved over to the audience seating and answered a trivia question to win a free pair of "new balance" shoes. they only had one option in my size, but at least they had that.

my former neighbor jill griffith, who now lives in des moines, stopped by in the afternoon and visited with me for a while. it was fun to catch up.

near the end of the expo, charlie engle stopped by and we talked about his excellent performance at the badwater 135 this past summer. we also talked about some of his future plans, which include participating in the barkley 100 and writing an article on the experience for runner's world.

saturday evening steve and i checked in at a reasonably priced "motel 6", grabbed dinner at the nearby "country kitchen", and then i was out cold close to 9 p.m.

pre-race: race day 10.18.2009

i think it was around 3 a.m. that race day excitement started to kick in and i was pretty much awake. i listened to some tunes for awhile and tried to stay in bed until at least 5 a.m.

i was dressed and out the door around 5:50 a.m. i stopped at a nearby gas station and opted for an almond snickers and a can of mountain dew for my pre-race breakfast.

i followed the directives of the gps (on loan from my bud scott) to get to the marathon start location. i had great success finding a parking spot in a ramp that was right next to both the start and finish of the race course. after walking around a bit to spy out where everything was, i headed back to my car to relax for a bit longer. i also spoke with scott via cell phone and he was able to inform me of the forecast for the day. that was helpful information, and it helped me to decide to start with some extra layers on.

warm-up went really well. and i also had great success in finding a spot in the starting area. i noticed where the pacers were lined up, but i was also committed to running my own race.

the plan

i was pretty nervous about this event. part of me wanted to really go for a big improvement on my personal best and another part of me wanted to play it safe. i knew the risk of trying to run faster than my fitness level could maintain, i.e., the wheels coming off (like they did at the "minneapolis marathon"). steve hibbs and i processed some possible strategies over dinner on saturday night, and i think it was during that conversation that i decided to attempt an even split effort at a pace just under 8 minutes-per-mile. sunday morning, just prior to the start, i decided to go for a 7:45 per-mile-pace.

the race

i got off to a great start. i started far enough up in the line that i did not experience any boxing-in. i noticed that i was running a very similar pace to the 3:20 pace group. i was right on their heals for the first half-mile before settling into my own pace and letting them pull a bit ahead of me. i was hopeful of keeping them in sight and possibly reeling them in later.

i decided to not wear my garmin gps watch for this event. there is consistently a discrepancy between my garmin and the mile markers in an event, and this frustrating scenario is one i prefer to avoid. thus, i wore my timex and manually recorded my splits. mile 1: 7:36.

during the second mile, i noticed that my left tibia was very uncomfortable. i was really wondering what was going on with that. thankfully, about three miles later it was not a problem at all. mile 2: 7:36.

about two and a half miles in, the half-marathoners exited left and the marathoners faced their first climb. the next eight miles featured some rolling hills.

mile 3: 7:41

mile 4: 7:49

i heard some encouragement from my friend steve hibbs just after the four mile marker. he was easy to spot with his crutches. he had already made an appearance on the course prior to the one mile marker. i had told him that i was feeling fresh. my hope was that i would be able to say this everytime i saw him for the rest of the 26.2 mile journey.

right at the mile five marker i experienced some serious trauma echoes. believe it or not, some one had the audacity to play polka music right at the top of this hill. i mumbled "no polka, no polka!" and kept myself alert. thankfully, i made it through this section unscathed.

during the next few miles i noticed a handful of runners that seemed to be running around a similar pace to me. there was some passing and some passing-back going on, but my mantra at this point was to just run my own race.

mile 5: 7:36
mile 6: 7:40
mile 7: 7:43

around mile seven i was passed by a female runner that appeared to have zero body fat, but her running form looked very inefficient to me. i recall thinking about the fact that i still have some weight to lose, but at least i am committed to having a running form that is as efficient as possible. at my present weight, i can't afford to have a sloppy running form. the mantra that emerged at that point was: keeping my form as smooth as butter. i stayed with this mantra most of the day. once in awhile i would mix in a: i can't believe it's not butter.

i saw and heard hibbs again around mile seven and a half. i was able to let him know that i was still fresh.

mile 8: 7:45
mile 9: 7:40
mile 10: 7:38
mile 11: 7:39

just after mile eleven i passed a very talkative guy. i was committed to being as efficient as possible for this race and that included keeping the chatting to a minimum. as i passed, he commented along the lines of "keep it up" and i encouraged him to "keep it smooth like butter". he seemed to like that.

we hit the twelve mile marker somewhere on the drake track. i had been very pleased with the visibility of the mile markers up to that moment. they featured a big yellow balloon on top and could usually be spotted from a quarter mile out. the lap on the drake track was pretty cool. it was a very soft surface and i felt like i could have run on it all day. i tried to do a usain bolt tribute for the cameras. as we left the track i realized i had missed getting my mile 12 split. so for the mile 12 and mile 13 split i did some division.

mile 12: 7:38
mile 13: 7:38

i saw hibbs again just prior to the mile 13 marker and informed him that i missed my split. he informed me that the the half location was just around the corner.

half-marathon split: 1:40:08 (7:38 average) [new half-marathon p.r. by 41 seconds]

mile 14: 7:41

just prior to the mile fifteen marker the course featured a little out and back section. in this section i was able to catch a glimpse of the 3:20 pace group and it appeared that they were maybe a minute or two ahead of me. i also caught a glimpse of the talkative guy from mile twelve as he yelled "butter" when he saw me. i got a chuckle out of that.

mile 15: 7:38
mile 16: 7:31

i saw hibbs again just after the mile sixteen marker. i was feeling really strong and i informed him that i was thinking i could run a negative split second half. he encouraged me to go for it and told me that he would see me at the finish.

during the seventeenth mile the course enters "water works park". for a mile or two the course is in the trees providing shelter from the wind.

mile 17: 7:31
mile 18: 7:54 [i was kind-of surprised by this split and i wondered whether the mile measured long of if i was losing some steam]

mile 19: 7:44 [19 miles: 2:25:46 (7:40 average)] it was good to see at mile 19 that i was not sliding off of pace. i passed three runners right at the mile 19 mat, and i made some comment about us having one more warm-up mile. the next mile was actually one of the toughest. the wind of was very strong against us. i think i passed five or six runners during this section.

it was very close to the mile twenty marker that someone was giving away leis. i requested a yellow one to go with my purple shirt [i had the vikings on my brain: i wanted to finish the race fast enough to get back to my motel to clean up, and then find a sports bar to watch the game].

mile 20: 7:49

with 10k to go i still felt pretty fresh. i commented to one runner as i passed that we had our twenty mile warm-up and now it was time for our 10k race. i could not tell if i was going to be able to pick up the pace, but i at least wanted to maintain my pace. i was just trying to take it one mile at a time, but i could tell i was getting increasingly anxious to find those yellow balloons [on the mile markers].

mile 21: 7:39
mile 22: 7:44

during the twenty-third mile i noticed the course was getting a little crowded with half-marathoners. our courses had rejoined just after mile eighteen. for the last four miles i did yell out a few times "runner passing on the left". i also got passed by a couple relay runners during this section and i didn't care much for that.

mile 23: 8:03 - this was my first split that was not sub-8. i went into maintain mode and worked hard to stay as close to 8s as i could.

mile 24: 8:09

mile 25: 8:08

at this point i was pleased that the wheels did not appear to be coming off. yes, they had wobbled a bit, but i was feeling like i had something left when someone reminded me that i only had a mile and a quarter to go.

mile 26: 7:42

when i turned the corner and could finally see the finish i was able to shift to another gear and bring it in strong. i heard hibbs yell out some encouragement in this section, and it felt good to have someone i knew witness me charging strong.

.2: 1:35

26.2: 3:22:41! a breakthrough marathon for me. i took 15 minutes and 19 seconds off my previous best marathon time. i averaged 7:44 per-mile. i am still excited about it! the whole experience felt so surreal. i do think it helped a lot to have my friend steve hibbs out there. steve and i ran together in high school and it was via reconnecting with him on facebook (and a handful of other high school running friends) that i got inspired to return to running. part of me wanted to demonstrate to steve that i still had potential to be an efficient long distance runner.

overall place: 174 out of 1,358 finishers
division place: 28 out of 103 finishers
gender place: 155 out of 824 finishers
10k split: 46:58 (7:33 pace)
half-marathon split: 1:40:08 (7:38 pace) [new half-marathon p.r.]
19-mile split: 2:25:46 (7:40 pace)
second-half split: 1:42:33 (7:49 pace)

afterwards and afterthoughts

in the finishing area jason verber found me. jason and i are friends on the dailymile site. he is a running mile maniac. he is consistently on the top of the leaderboard for consuming the most running miles. as of 10.20.2009, he had already logged 5, 251 running miles during 2009. we got our picture together, visited for a little bit, and then talked about possibly meeting up in chicago in the spring for the "chicago lakefront 50k".

the food spread in the finishing area was excellent, including brisket sandwiches. i walked out with my sandwich tray, stopped by the beer tent for my free beer, and then tried to find hibbs. i walked back in the direction from which i had heard him but had no luck. i was going to give him the sandwich, but because i couldn't find him i gave it to a random spectator.

steve and i met back up at the motel room, and i was pumped that the vikings game was on local t.v. i grabbed a picture of him in his boot before we parted ways. he is recovering from surgery on his achilles tendon and hopes to be back to marathoning next spring.

after checking out of the motel, i found "dayton's all sports cafe" in des moines and enjoyed a pizza and a vikings victory (6-0).

the drive home was pretty misearable. about two hours down the road i was ready to be home. i stopped a few times to give the legs some movement time. i was very greatful that i had monday off from work to relax and recover.

six states of thoning complete!

the "des moines marathon" was an excellent choice for checking iowa of the list, and i would highly recommend it.
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