Saturday, May 29, 2010

fargo marathon 3h:39m:14s

i had the fargo marathon on my schedule for a few months. on paper it looked like the fargo marathon was my best opportunity for a peak spring marathon performance. if i was going to boston qualify this spring, fargo looked ideal. a few weeks back i decided to change my frisco registration from the 50k to the marathon so that i could have two boston qualifying opportunities this spring. during the frisco marathon i slid off of boston qualifying pace around mile 19, but was able to hold on for a new personal record and a 3rd place overall performance. so coming into fargo i was putting some pressure on myself to make boston qualification a reality.

i majorly obsessed about the race day forecast from 10 days out, checking it sometimes 5 or 6 times a day. i was not liking the predicted temperatures that were consistently coming up. i believe my preferred marathoning temperature is somewhere between 40 and 45 degrees fahrenheit. the predictions for race day were consistently close to 70 degrees fahrenheit. it looked very possible that the weather was going to be a deal breaker for me.

2 days before the race i got myself a race haircut. i tried something different and went with a wide mohawk. i dubbed the cut the mara-hawk.

friday: travel day

my trip to fargo started early friday may 21st. robin drove me down to the branson airport. i actually had the airport to myself for about an hour. i found a nice comfortable couch and some wifi and enjoyed some relaxation time. before i knew it, it was time to pick up my boarding pass and go through the security point. this was my first flight since 1997, so it was also the first time I was exposed to the level of security that was established after 9/11. i made it through without incident, but did experience some stress related to trying to avoid making a wrong move.

the flight from branson to des moines was smooth and fast. we took off at 10 am and i was getting off the plane in Des Moines at 10:58 am. As we took off i noticed an awesome view of branson so I tried to capture it with my camera but the acceleration speed caused my lens to jam. i finally got my camera to work about 30 minutes into the flight.

i power walked through the des moines airport and jumped into scott’s car just outside the airport entrance. scott and i took turns driving and were on a mission to get to fargo in time to catch the expo. we had a backup plan for my friend chris dew to pickup our race packets if we fell behind schedule, but we really hoped to be able pick them up ourselves and enjoy a little time at the expo.

we made it to fargo at 7 pm, and just as we got close to the fargodome we got hindered by traffic around the dome which was primarily related to the 5k event that was in action. a saturdary marathon that requires a friday packet pickup makes for some extra event related stress. the expo was fun, but i was feeling a little rushed on time as i knew we still had a couple errands to run before we made it to our host home.

for this event we stayed with my friends chris and nicolle dew. it had been way too long since i last saw them. it was fun to sit down and swap stories. i was most fixated on wanting to hear about what kind of adventures chris had experienced in the two marathons he had participated in. chris made some awesome smoothies and it was soon time to call it a night and attempt to get a bit of sleep before the arrival of race day.

saturday: race day

when my alarm sounded on race day i took a nice relaxed approach to the race morning rituals. the forecast looked somewhat improved with light rain showers. chris rode with scott and i to the fargodome and was planning to crew for us during the event (he also helped us get around all the backed up traffic). the fargodome was a great place for hanging out prior to the start of the race. just before i stepped outside to do some warming up, i was thrilled to see a couple of dailymile friends that I had yet to meet in person (jeff and jenn).

super crew-man: chris dew

for warming up i parted ways with chris and scott and found a place outside under an awning where i could do some stride-outs and be sheltered from the rain. the race was scheduled to start at 8 am. i made my way over to the starting corral close to 7:45. the goal was to find a spot near the front and not cool off too much. i was peeking around for my classmate mike mcmahan thinking he might be lining up in a similar location. i did notice another robbinsdale armstrong graduate: leah zoey thorvilson. i did not know leah in high school as she is a few years younger than me. a mutual friend introduced us to one another via facebook after the little rock marahon wherein leah was the first place female runner. when i saw her i recalled that she had informed me that she was going to be in fargo to participate in the marathon relay event with some friends.

while awaiting the go command we participated in listening to two national anthems being sung. i was wondering why the canadian anthem was necessary given that the start time had arrived and runners who had warmed up were now standing in the rain and cooling down fast. it is cool that some canadians came down to marathon with us, but is it really necessary to burn time for their national anthem…really?

the race

when the go command was given it only took me 4 seconds to get over the start mat. i was wearing two watches. on my left wrist was my timex for taking manual splits at the mile markers and on my right wrist was my garmin which i intended to use to help me stay on boston qualifying pace. the garmin is always very helpful in preventing me from taking the pace out too hot during the first mile. a quarter mile in i shed my extra top layer. i was enjoying the light rain and i hoped that it would stick around for a few hours. i did opt for trying to avoid going directly through big puddles. a couple of miles in and i discovered my mantra for the day. it was: “keep it sustainable” and sometimes just “sustainable”. i was wanting to go for a pretty even split effort and have just a small little cushion in anticipation of how difficult the last couple miles of a marathon can be.

the first three miles were very enjoyable. the light rain was keeping things comfortable. earlier in the week i used google street view to view pictures of the entire marathon course. as the race was unfolding, i was really appreciating the familiarity I had of the course via my online preview.
about 3 and half miles in we crossed a bridge into moorhead, minnesota. on the right side of the road some moorhead state university students were offering encouragement. i was enjoying the connections with my past and recalling my days as a student at moorhead state. when we hit the 4 mile marker i was aware that it was no longer raining. i was thankful that it was still overcast and was hoping that the clouds would stick around for the rest of the morning.

just prior to the 10k split we ran through the campus of concordia and i thought of my good friends that went to school there back in the day. we ran right next to a bell tower and they had the bells ringing, which was a nice touch.

after the 7 mile marker we ran west across a very nice bridge that brought us back into fargo. at this point everything appeared on track for me. i was enjoying the run and very much enjoying the community support. without a doubt the community of fargo gets out and supports the participants in this marathon.
i beleive it was somewhere between mile 8 and mile 9 that i started to feel uncomfortably warm. i recall a strong urge to take my shirt off. i was not comfortable with the idea of doing this event without a shirt on, so i resisted the urge to strip.

near the mile 10 marker i encountered the dews and appreciated their support. i believe chris was yelling "go skinny bear", but it wasn't until he yelled "let's go rob horton" that i realized this encouragement was directed at me and i looked up and thanked him for the encouragement.

just prior to the 12 mile marker i saw leah about three miles ahead of me running on the other side of the road. i tried to get her attention with a "let's go armstrong falcons" cheer, but that failed. i started to wonder how many miles she was going to be running for her relay team. [it turned out that she opted to participate in the marathon and she ripped it up to the point that she was 8th place overall, first female,and she qualified for the olympic trails!]

at the half-marathon location of the course they had a timing mat out with a clock. i came through just under 1 hour and 38 minutes. i was pleased that i was still on boston qualifying pace and that i had been pretty conservative with regards to not taking out the first few miles too fast. what i wasn't too pleased with was the fact that i was not feeling very fresh.

when i grabbed a water during mile 16 i took a short walk while drinking. i think i was thinking that maybe a short pause would help me somehow in the freshness department.

i saw the dews also during that mile and i confessed to chris that i was feeling a little rough.
somewhere in the next two miles i took another walk segment and i was overtaken by the 3:20 pace group. at the mile 18 marker is pretty much the only real noticeable climb on the course and i walked it. at that point i kept walking and let the reality sink in that today was not going to be the day that i qualified for boston and today was not going to be a day that i would be able to share news of a new marathoning personal record. at this point all cloud coverage was gone and it was actually a bit on the warm side. yet, the other runners who were passing me seemed to be handling the weather just fine. i finally landed on a strategy to employ for the next 7 miles. i decided that i would employ a run-walk-run approach in preparation for my upcoming 100 miler and that i would focus on having fun and providing entertainment for the spectators.

my entertaining of the spectators primarily was in the form of asking for some of them to tag in as a relay partner and finish the course for me and i also would ask some of them if they noticed a giant fork sticking out of my back (because i was feeling very much finished).

when i would opt to run and when i would opt to walk was just improvised. i really didn't care that multitudes of runners were passing me (i dropped 91 places between mile 20 and the finish).

i did get to say hello to erin at the 20 mile relay exchange. erin and i were on the same high school cross country ski team and are friends on facebook and dailymile. it was really nice to be able to connect with her.

during the 22nd mile i heard a runner from behind me yell out my name. i turned and saw mike mcmahan (a high school classmate and fellow "marathon maniac"). this was a bit of deja vu. last year at the minneapolis marathon mike caught up to me at almost the same distance. in minneapolis i ran with him for a few minutes and then let him go. i knew that i was not as shot this time so i informed him that i thought i would likely be able to run with him all the way to the finish. i was picturing a pretty cool finish photo of us classmates crossing the line together. we ran and visited for a mile and a half. i saw the dews again in this section and introduced mike to them. before we hit the 24 mile marker i asked if he would be cool with doing a one minute walk segment with me, and he was cool with it. before we hit the 25 mile marker i was desiring another walk segment and i could tell mike had it in him to finish without anymore walking. i encouraged him to go on without me.

for the last 1.2 miles i continued with a run walk mix and didn't concern myself with those runners who charged by, other than to express some encouragement to them.

leah - amazing performance

mike finishing strong - his fastest marathon since 1999

i did the "skinny bear" - but this is the picture i got (bummer)

coming into the indoor finish at the fargodome was very cool. i picked it up just a notch so i could be somewhat of a strong finisher. i noticed that the time was still respectable. i had not walled out to the extent that i had in minneapolis and i had found a way to enjoy the 26.2 mile journey.

scott earning maniac credentials via 3 marathons in 3 months

mike's wife, krista, 22 minute marathon p.r.

with the dews in the dome

saturday: post-race

mike met me at the finish and we grabbed a bunch of food and sat down to eat and visit (though it was a bit too loud to carry on much of a conversation).

after mike and i parted ways i took advantage of the showers available in the fargodome. i somehow managed to miss scott coming into the finish but was able to find everyone so we could get a group picture.

i was super proud of scott finishing his third marathon in three months and earning his "marathon maniac" status.

we made one last stop at the dews' homestead before hitting the road. scott and i had a motel reservation in omaha so we didn't have to try and make it all the way back home after running 26.2 miles.

while on the road to omaha i discovered a mistake i had made during the event. once i had given up on my time goals, i stopped fueling. thus i was way behind on electrolytes and my right calf threw a big time fit as we were heading down the road. it took me about a half hour to get my electrolytes balanced and during that time it looked like i had an alien crawling around inside my calf muscle.

thoughts for the future

i believe i am done with attempting to marathon in subjection to a specific pace. the few times that i have approached marathoning in such a manner it seems to have soiled the marathoning experience for me. my best experiences have involved not focusing on a specific pace, but focusing on running with my heart. “running with my heart” means something to me that it is not necessarily easy to unpack and communicate to others. to me it is about approaching running as an artistic expression of my being.


june 5th - my first attempt at a 100 miler: the kettle moraine 100. going after the glory of completion...stay tuned :)

my thoning states: 10
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