Tuesday, January 25, 2011

InStep Icebreaker Marathon: 3h:40m:13s

Here is the story of my adventure regarding the 2011 InStep Icebreaker Marathon. The IceBreaker was my first experience with an indoor marathon. Because the event was limited to a 120 entrants, Scott and I registered for this event as soon as registration opened back in August 2010.

I awoke way before my alarm on Saturday 01.22.2011; our travel day. I was very excited about running this race. I was planning to let Rob-the-Racer loose on this event and I was thinking I might have a solid chance to run a personal best and in the process finally make the standard for Boston qualification.

The road trip with Scott to Milwaukee went smooth and surprisingly efficient. The only glitch that we encountered was when we stopped for our traditional border crossing picture. Scott was not familiar with working my camera and though he thought he caught a few nice pictures, he was not getting past the focusing step. We discovered this about 10 more miles down the road and it didn't make sense to go back and retake the shot, but I did get a bit consumed with trying to find an alternative shot.

We found our motel, dropped off our gear, and then headed to P.F. Chang's for our pre-race meal. I was hoping to find someplace on that drive to get my replacement border crossing shot. I didn't have much luck, so when we arrived at P.F. Chang's I asked Scott to drive up into the nearby neighborhood and give me 5 minutes to find a location for the shot. I finally found a high school track buried in snow and I thought it would be a cool shot as it was somewhat related to running a Wisconsin marathon in January on a track.

We arrived at P.F. Chang's close to 5 PM and we were both surprised that we had to wait 45 minutes for a table. We used the time to wander around inside the nearby mall. Dinner at P.F. Chang's was good. Scott used a gift card he got for participating in the Rock-n-Roll Seattle Marathon and I was privileged to use a gift card that Susan Griffith got for participating in the Rock-n-Roll Vegas Half Marathon. Part of these marathon adventures for Scott and I is attempting to make these trips as low budget as possible, thus it felt great to have a great pre-race meal without dropping more than some cash for a tip.

We relaxed Saturday evening and made sure we had all our gear. I laid my gear out for a picture because that shot always reminds me a scene from the old 1972 rapture movie: "A Thief in the Night".

Saturday evening I also got to participate in a conference call with my Great River Ragnar Relay team that was gathering at Steve Hibbs' house. At first I had some difficulty hearing them and I am pretty sure I missed out on some good humor. I finally got my headphones on and was able to hear them a lot better. It was great to get some encouragement from the team, and I am excited about doing the event again in 2011.

On race morning I was once again awake long before my alarm went off. Our motel was only about 8 miles from the Pettit National Ice Center where we would be marathoning. As we traveled in the cold car I took note that the outside temperature was 4 Degrees Fahrenheit.

The race was scheduled to start at 8 AM. Packet pickup was scheduled to open at 6 AM. I think Scott and I were the 2nd and 3rd runners to arrive at packet pickup. It was nice to be there so early and have time to check out the track, set up our pit areas, and do a little bit of warming up. The facility was very impressive and I could not imagine a better location for an indoor marathon.

I did enjoy about three easy paced laps around the track and every part of my running system felt great.

Scott and I joined a few other Marathon Maniacs at the start and I tried to find an ideal spot to avoid slowing faster runs and avoid getting stuck behind those wanting to take it out at a slower pace than I.

The Marathon

At the fire of the gun I started my Timex and tried to find the right pace. We had started 177 meters from the finish line which we would need to cross 96 times. Of course at this point, everyone was still pretty bunched up. I was trying to discover who around me might be trying to run on my target pace. I hit my split button on my Timex as I crossed the finish line for the first time. I then intended to get my splits every 4 laps, which would be every 1.1 miles. [the .4 lap time: 50.63s (7:43 per-mile-pace)]

During the first full lap things started to un-bunch a bit and it felt like I was finding my pace. As I came by the monitor I was able to see my name pop up with my lap time. The lap pace I was looking for was in the range of 2:01 to 2:06. I believe that first lap was about a 2:08. I picked it up a little bit as I was still trying to discover who was running on my target pace.

I believe I hit the 2nd full loop right on 2:02. I locked into that pace and committed to running my own race.

Soon I was coming through my first 4 full laps and it was time to hit my split button on my Timex. I came through in 8m:10.11s. My target pace range for every 4 laps was 8:04 to 8:23. [1st 4 full laps: 8m:10.11s (7:25 per-mile-pace)]

I had found my pace and was enjoying it. I started consistently seeing 2:00 pop up on the monitor when I would cross the timing mat. I soon shed my hat as I was warming up with the increased blood circulation.

I believe it was during the next couple of laps that I found myself running right behind two guys who were running together and right on my target pace: Dan Jeromin and Nicholas Alajakis. It didn't make any sense to try and pass these guys, so I just tucked in behind them and eventually communicated to them that I intended to just stay with them. [2nd 4 Full Laps: 8m:00.04s (7:16 per-mile-pace)]

The next 6 miles consisted primarily of just staying behind Dan and Nicholas and watching my lap times pop up on the monitor. I soon shed my gloves, and then eventually shed my arm sleeves. It was nice to be able to just toss those items into my pit area. I fueled on some Sunkist fruit snacks every 30 minutes and focused on just relaxing into the pace. I talked to Dan for a little bit and found out that he was primarily a triathlete and that though he now lived in Chicago he was from Michigan and was a Detroit Lions fan.

About every 20 minutes I would attempt to get my water bottle from the fluid table. The method was to let the person at your area of the table know your number and that you wanted your bottle the next time you came around. This first time I tried this it took three laps for my person to have my bottle ready when I came around. To get my bottle I did kind of rip it out of her hand. I was so focused for the first few miles on staying on pace that I did not want to have any pauses whatsoever. As we got more spread out on the track it became easier to get my water 1 lap after I requested it.

3rd 4 Full Laps: 7m:59.67s (7:16 per-mile-pace)
4th 4 Full Laps: 7m:58.79s (7:15 per-mile-pace)
5th 4 Full Laps: 7m:59.87s (7:16 per-mile-pace)
6th 4 Full Laps: 8m:14.69s (7:29 per-mile-pace)
7th 4 Full Laps: 8m:15.36s (7:30 per-mile-pace)
8th 4 Full Laps: 8m:15.04s (7:30 per-mile-pace)

As were were running Dan and Nicholas would take turns dropping back to take care of their fueling needs and then catch back up. After about 9 miles Nicholas dropped back and did not return. After a few laps of the pace dropping I ventured to take the pace out on my own.

A couple laps later Dan found me and asked if we were still on pace and I informed him that I believe we had gotten back on it. We later passed Nicholas and he commented that he was having issues with an injury.

9th 4 Full Laps: 8m:05.33s (7:21 per-mile-pace)
10th 4 Full Laps: 8m:07.46s (7:23 per-mile-pace)
11th 4 Full Laps: 7m:58.46s (7:14 per-mile-pace)
12th 4 Full Laps: 8m:05.06s (7:20 per-mile-pace)

After about 1 hour and 40 minutes of running I noticed I was doing both some mental battling and some physical battling. Mentally I was attempting to get myself to relax into the pace and keep my form efficient. Physically I was noticing that my quadriceps were getting increasingly sore and painful. After a few more laps I found myself losing the battle. A couple of laps after covering 14.4 miles I found myself walking. As I walked I communicated to myself that I was going to have to mix in some walking to bring in some different muscles and take some strain off of the quadriceps. I quickly set my watch up for 4 minute and 1 minute beeps and committed to finishing up the remaining laps with a 4 minute run, 1 minute walk cycle.

13th 4 Full Laps: 8m:10.37s (7:25 per-mile-pace)

14.4 miles; 1h:46m:10s; 7:22 per-mile-average

The last 11.8 miles of the event was a way different experience than the the first 14.4 miles. I was actually aware of the environment I was running in and I was actually aware of the laps I had remaining to finish the distance. I got a chance to interact with a lot more runners.

I only extended my 1 minute walk segments a couple of times, for the most part I was still committed to finishing as strong as I could on this given day in this given event. I believe with about 11 laps to go I was struggling to get back into the running gear and Scott found me. He was using a 4:1 cycle too so he encouraged me to run with him for awhile. That helped me as I would have likely walked for a few more minutes. Once I heard over the intercom that "Rob Horton has 3 laps to go" I found another gear and finished it up pretty strong.

The remaining 11.8 miles: 1h:54m:07s; 9:40 per-mile-average

Total Time: 3h:40m:13s (8:23 per-mile-average) [official results: here]

This was not the performance I had dream of, but I am pleased with it. I am referring to it as my indoor marathon personal best. It was a day of a lifetime achievement, i.e., it was the first time I have completed a marathon event indoors.

Scott stayed strong all day and finished the distance in 4h:21m:53s.

The two guys I ran the early miles with, Dan and Nicholas, got it done. Dan stayed after it and finished in 3h:14m:52s. Nicholas adjusted his pace in relation to his injury and got it done in 3h:54m:41s.

If anyone is interested in giving an indoor marathon a go, I would highly recommend this event. It is well organized and it is an excellent setting for such an event. I myself might be one-and-done with regards to marathoning on tracks...but you never know.

My updated Marathon Maniacs stats: here

The photo album below for your viewing pleasure:

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