Friday, November 25, 2011

Louisiana Missions Marathon 11.12.2011

The Flying Duck and I started the journey to Shreveport around 5:30 AM on Friday November 11, 2011. Fortunately we both had the day off because of Veterans Day. The drive through Arkansas was efficient and beautiful.

We made it to the Louisiana border in good time,and grabbed our traditional border crossing photo.

We managed to make it to Shreveport on our initial tank of gas. After filling up we went directly to the packet pick up at Sportspectrum. Sportspectrum was an impressive sports store with a substantial running related inventory.

The remainder of the afternoon was relaxing and included hanging out at Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, and Target. We grabbed an early meal at the Olive Garden and then found a discounted showing of the movie "In Time". I had yet to get in my streak related run for the day so I squeezed a couple miles in between our meal and the movie. Running 15 minutes after eating resulted in a not so comfortable run.

Both Scott and I really enjoyed the movie.

On race morning we enjoyed the breakfast offered at the hotel and even meet another guest who was heading to the race.

We arrived at the race location, Eddie D. Jones Park, a good hour before the start. I went to check if we needed a timing chip and in the process I observed Chuck "Marathon Junkie" Engle arrive to pick up his race pocket. I was totally shocked to see Chuck show up at this little trail event. Chuck is a very impressive athlete and it was cool to interact with him for a few minutes. I finally got to hear his story about what happened to him during the Omaha Marathon back in 2009 (turns out that he completed the event with a collapsed lung).

The Duck and I hung out in the car until about 10 minutes before the start of the race. We headed to the start ready for adventure and I believe both of us were hoping that we were going to encounter an easily runnable trail. I had recently embraced a goal of doing a sub-4-hour marathon in all 50 US States and I was therefore strongly hoping that we would NOT encounter a highly technical trail.

After a few instructions from the race director we were off (the we included half-marathoners, marathoners, and 50k participants). The event is reportedly 98% on trail, but it starts on pavement. I took out the pace smart but also mindful that when we hit the trail I was not wanting to be stuck behind runners moving slower than my desired pace.

When we hit the trail I encountered a highly technical single track mountain bike trail with a significant portion of motion sickness promoting switchbacks. I did not encounter climbs with challenging grade but the switchbacks turned a 25 yard hill into a 75 yard ascent. The trail had minimal rocks but maximum roots. I often found myself ducking under branches and at times squeezing between trees. I also encountered a couple of downed trees that required jumping or stepping over.

The thought of a sub-4-hour time was slipping away as the realization that this was a legitimate trail event progressively sunk in.

I got past the 1st mile marker before inserting a 1 minute walk segment. I intended to do this event with cycles of 8 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. In retrospect it would have been better to abandon that plan once I got a good taste of the trail. With a trail of this nature I prefer an improvisational approach of throwing in the walk segments based on the trail climbs.

The aid stations were about every 2 and a half miles and that seemed to work fine for me with the weather being pretty comfortable. I did pause at the aid stations because I was not comfortable discarding cups too far away from the volunteers.

After the first aid station and early into my 5th mile I encountered a nice down hill section that did not appear very technical. I was appreciating that the section was more glideable when I suddenly caught my foot on a root. Soon my face was about 1 foot above the ground. I tried to force myself back up (I have pulled such maneuvers off in the past), but it quickly became apparent that I was going down. I managed to tuck myself in for a roll. My roll ended up being more of a thump and a skid. I quickly bounced back up and let the two runners in front of me (who had stopped in response to the large thumping sound) know that I was fine. I was in a bit of a shock. I have only fallen twice in my running career, and this was the first time in an event. The running system appeared to be fine, but in response I decided I needed to up my focus so that I did not go down again during the next 21 miles.

Following the 2nd aid station I encountered sections of the course that were more conducive to up-tempo running and I tried to take advantage of those sections. I had yet to let go of the dream of a sub-4-hour marathon, but I was thinking that if I came through the half with a 2h:10m split then I would give myself permission to let it go.

I was surprised to see that I completed the first lap in under 2 hours. I decided to see if I could possibly repeat my performance for the second lap. I turned off the interval beeper on my watch and just threw in my walk segments based on the terrain of the course. After working pretty hard for 30 minutes I saw the 16.1 mile marker. Following some simple mathematics I realized that a sub-4-hour was slipping away. I believe I stayed after it for about 2 or 3 more miles. Around mile 19 I let go of getting another sub-2-hour lap and instead tried to hold off a runner that appeared to be in my age division.

When I saw the 20.1 mile marker I grabbed a picture to post to my Facebook account. While I was walking and attempting to get the picture posted I heard the guy I was trying to hold off getting closer and therefore I got motivated to get the run segments going again.

With about 5k to go I was feeling finished. I was ready to see the finish line and hit the showers. The walk segments got increasingly longer, but I was still throwing in some up-tempo running segments.

I did hold off that runner and it turned out that he was in my age division. I finished 3rd in my age division. They had some cool plaques for awards but they only went 2 deep.

I grabbed a shower and was intending to get back to the finish to see Scott but he was finishing just as I came out of the facility door.

When Scott hit the shower I ate some of the food offered at the finish line. I was feeling very exhausted. A technical trail that requires a runner to keep their feet up is so much more demanding than most road marathons. I love to glide across the ground and this event did not permit me to do much gliding. Regardless, it was a great event. If anyone is looking for a trail marathon in that area of the country I would highly recommend this one.

Official results: here.
Finishing time: 4h:33m:34s
Overall: 12th/30 finishers
Male 40-49: 3rd/6 finishers
Marathon/Ultra-Marathon event completions: 22
Marathon event completions: 18
Ultra-Marathon event completions: 4
Marathon US States: 17
Ultra-Marathon US States: 4
Marathon/Ultra-Marathon US States: 18
Marathon & Ultra-Marathon US States: 3
Sub-4-hour Marathon US States: 14

The Flying Duck, AKA Scott Griffith, had a strong performance out there.

The Junkie won the event and set a new course record. Before the event I predicted that he would come in just under 3 hours. Once I tasted the course I started second guessing my prediction, but he pulled it off!
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