The Patriots Run and Patriots’ Run Marathon is an annual September 11th event in Olathe, Kansas. It started in 2003 with a 9 hour and 11 minute timed event to honor the victims of the tragic 2001 happenings, and to honor those who generously serve. In 2007, a 26.2 mile marathon was added as an alternative to the timed event.
I first participated in this event in 2009. In 2009, I participated in the 9 hour and 11 minute event with the hope of covering 50 miles [event report: here]. This spring I started thinking about returning to see if I might be able to improve on how I performed in 2009. Scott Griffith, my primary marathoning companion, expressed interest in participating in the marathon option this year (he had crewed for me in 2009). During some very hot and humid running outings this summer I started to question if I really wanted to do this event again given the high likelihood of the event taking place in a very hot and humid environment. I hinted to Scott that I was rethinking this one. Scott was pretty committed to wanting this event to be his Kansas marathon. I finally resolved that I would do the event again this year, but I would do the marathon instead of the timed event.
Coming into this marathon I was excited to be getting my fall marathoning/ultra-marathoning season started. I had not participated in a marathon or ultra-marathon since the Kettle Moraine 100 on June 5th. Looking at past results for this marathon, I started dreaming of the possibility of a top 3 finish. So regardless of the fact that this event was starting at noon and it was very possible that the temperature could climb to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, I was going to see what I could do to be competitive.
The day before the event my son Caleb secured his driving permit and was very interested in getting in some solid behind-the-wheel time on the way to Olathe. We ended up having a full vehicle for this trip: our Horton four, Scott, and Scott’s youngest daughter Emily. The drive to Olathe went well. Caleb drove all the way to our traditional race traveling McDonalds stop in Clinton, Missouri. We got an opportunity to test out my phone's mobile hotspot and that was a big hit with all the passengers.
We arrived at the event location with an hour and a half to spare. This year the event had moved to the parking lot of the Great Mall of the Great Plains. A positive of this move was being able to make the loop a mile long instead of the ¾ of a mile it was at Two Trails Park. A negative was the fact that running in this parking lot meant running with zero shade.
Prior to the start I was able to say hello to some of the other participants that I knew: Doug Claxton, Kim Greer, Chris Scott, and Jeff Hyde. I also finally got to meet in person with Darin Schneidewind and his family. I got acquainted with Darin via his running blog just prior to the Kettle Moraine 100. Darin won the Kettle Moraine 100 mile event this year, and though I did not meet him there in person, I have enjoyed being friends with him on Facebook and Dailymile over the last couple of months.
Our crew got settled about 100 yards past the start/finish of the one mile loop. Robin brought along our backyard flip scoreboard to assist Scott and I with keeping track of our laps. It was great having my family at the event and it charged me up in a big way. I found myself really wanting to pull off a solid demonstration of my athleticism for them.
Following the National Anthem we all got lined up and ready to get rolling. The 9 hour and 11 minute runners lined up at the start/finish line and the marathoners lined up further into the one mile loop with instructions for a .2 loop to complete before taking on the 1 mile loop 26 times. I was charged up and found myself sizing up those around me. I was wondering how efficiently some of the runners near me might be and how the race might possibly unfold. With regards to the heat, I had already started to pour water over my head to help keep me cool. When the race started we actually had a little bit of cloud covering and I was very thankful for that.
As we ran the .2 loop, I found myself in second place. It was very early in the race but I was quickly aware that it did appear that this might be a day for a top 3 finish. I hit my watch split at the end of the .2 loop and reminded myself that I now had 26 one mile laps to go. As much as I do not like to take splits during a race event, I thought keeping splits in this kind of lap-based-marathon would help me not lose track of my lap count.
Soon into my first 1 mile lap I was in first place. I spent most of my time way out to the right passing the 9 hour and 11 minute participants. I would guess that after a total of 1200 yards I was passed, and the runner who passed me appeared to be prepared to run about a minute-per-mile faster than I had intended to [he did win the event]. It became time to settle into my own pace and I felt like I was doing so. My time for the first 1 mile loop was a bit of a shocker:6:32. That mile split inspired me to relax and find a more realistically sustainable pace.
I believe it was during my 2nd or 3rd 1 mile lap that I became aware that our cloud coverage had totally disappeared. I soon found myself getting very warm, and in light of how many more miles I intended to cover, I was already starting to second guess what kind of pace I would be able to sustain. I was taking advantage of putting water over my head after each lap, but it didn’t seem to be as refreshing as it had been during the Patriots’ Run in 2009.
When it was time for my first gel, [@ 30 minutes] I opted to walk while I fueled. During my three fastest marathons (3h:22m:41s, 3h:21m:07s, and 3h:19m:18s) I did not walk. I know that sometimes the most efficient strategy for some events includes walk segments, and given the way the heat was already starting to drain me I was thinking that some walk segments might prove wise. Once I got my gel down I quickly abandoned the walking and shifted back to running. At this point I was dreaming of a second place finish, and I didn’t want to give anyone behind me an unnecessary moment to catch me.
That gel was likely the only one of the day that went down smooth and that first 30 minutes might have been about the only portion of the event where I really enjoyed being out there doing laps in the mall parking lot. I enjoyed seeing the other runners out there and greeting them when we would cross paths. Sherrie, a Dailymile friend, was very encouraging every time she saw me. Over the next 3 miles I started to think that after the next gel I would likely need to change to some kind of run:walk pattern. The heat was getting to me and I started to conclude that I had not started with a proper strategy for running in this kind of weather.
My second gel came after covering 8 miles and it did not go down smooth. This seems to be a typical indicator to me that I am overheating, i.e., I start burping up some nasty stuff. I shifted to running 8 minutes and walking 2 minutes and I started to get pretty discouraged. I still had a long ways to go to finish this event and I was not enjoying it. Over the next few miles I let go of the thought of trying to place in the top 3. I started thinking it might at least be somewhat enjoyable if I could find a way to finish the event with Scott. We were about a half mile apart from one another on the loop and it didn’t seem like I was making up the distance.
After 2 hours and 14 miles I gave Scott a call and informed him that I was going to wait for him to catch up to me. This was just at a moment wherein he had intended to walk an entire lap. After some ribbing from me, he did some running to catch up to me while I slowly walked. This mile lap took me 18m:45s.
Once we were together things did improve for me for a bit, but we still had a long ways to go and we were facing a lot of time out there baking in the sun. We tried a 4 minute run 1 minute walk pattern for a few miles. The problem I encountered with that pattern was that Scott likes to really power walk during his walk portions and I like to move at a bit more of a recovery pace. So I felt like I was pushing him a little during the running and I felt like he was pulling me a little during the walking. At moments I considered just trying to keep running so I could get the day over with. The mantra of “the faster you run the sooner you are done” kept emerging in my mind. I was feeling a bit like I felt during the Kettle Moraine after I had resolved to just go after the 100k kettle and then found myself on the trail for almost 4 more hours to get that accomplished.
Just prior to our final 10k I decided that I didn’t feel comfortable finishing a lap ahead of Scott after working with him had improved the quality of my day. I decided that I would sit out a lap so that we could finish together. Mile 21, which included me sitting down while Scott completed his 20th mile, was my slowest mile of the day with a time of 28m:22s.
The last 6 miles were tough. I had totally lost track of my fueling and I had totally lost track of even caring about my fueling. I was totally sun-baked and when we would run a portion of the loop my stomach would get uneasy. Even though I was with Scott, I had also turned into a bit of a zombie and wasn’t very social. One of the things that kept me going was that I wanted a Kansas marathon finish. I already had a Kansas ultra-marathon finish, but one of my dream goals is to complete one marathon and one ultra in all 50 states. I had commented to Scott that if I had already accomplished such, it might have been very easy to throw in the towel early.
We persevered and finished together. Scott with a time of 5h:07m:14.399s [28th out of 71 finishers] and me with a time of 5h:07m:14.470s [29th out of 71 finishers].
Regardless of my own miserable experience, I was privileged to witness others looking strong and smart: Scott, Doug Claxton, Kim Greer, Jeff Hyde [he logged 30 miles marching in uniform and with a pack], Stacey Utley [who I met on the loop and observed her finish her 21st marathon strong, smooth, and smart], my Dailymile friend Sherrie Klover [she did awesome, i.e., she logged 47 miles and was 1st place female in her first ever ultra].
A couple of things I believe I learned: (1) there is nothing sissy about wearing sunscreen, (2) I will need to adjust my strategy for participating in events in the heat.
I am thankful that with this marathon completion I now have two States completed on my journey to compete a marathon and an ultra-marathon in all 50 States.
Total marathons: 9
Total ultra-marathons: 3
Total thons: 12
Long runs of 26.2 miles or more: 21
Marathon States: 9
Ultra-Marathon States: 3
Marathon or ultra-marathon states: 10
Marathon AND ultra-marathon states: 2
What’s Next: Steamtown Marathon on 10.10.2010 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. If the weather is right, I am hoping that will be the day that I qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon.