ORN; 26.2 miles, R2/W1, 4:46:41, 10:57/mile
In my first marathon on this course after running the HM the last four years, the experience was just as enjoyable, only much more demanding. The race went very much as planned, though miles 24 and 25 were tough, with some nausea and a battle with rising temps. I beat my target by just over 2 minutes and had a very quick recovery, post race. Several surprising emotional adjustments made for some good memories.
Pre-race. Along with local running buddy Tony, we drove to South Bend late Friday afternoon, got our bibs, found an Olive Garden and then basked in the lap of luxury at Motel Six, a marvelous experience once we convinced the front desk we really did want towels and washcloths and promised not to steal them. After the usual pre-race night's sleep (i.e. waking up every hour to see if a) the alarm was still set and b) if it had sounded yet), we got up at 4am, grabbed Tony his needed big cup of coffee and were downtown at the College Football Hall of Fame by 5:15am. The early temperatures were wonderfully in the mid 50s and the sun wasn't up yet. The 600ish marathon runners assembled and off we went, right on schedule at 6am. All the other races went off later, so it was only marathoners in our pack.
The Race. The first half of the course followed the same route as the half marathon I've run four times now. I realized I knew the course well when at one point in a neighborhood, I was looking for the yard signs in the house I knew housed an Active Democrat Issues-Oriented Voting Person. Surely there's a better use for my brain cells.
My plan was to run the same splits I shot for at the Illinois Marathon in April. I ran a 2/1 run/walk sequence, shooting for 10:53 miles through mile 19, rising to 11:20/mile to the finish. Given I had perfect weather in the 40s/50s in April, I felt if I could hold the same pace in warmer, more humid conditions today it would represent progress. By mile 5, I was 1:30 ahead of pace and held that edge pretty much through 18.
With such a small field, the pack thinned quickly and I was able to enjoy a long run largely by myself. The run/walk thing, of course, gave me plenty of back and forth with pretty much the same folks for most of the race and, at the back of the pack, the mood was jaunty and humorous.
At mile 11, the marathon route took a right where the HMers would take a left...we went on a long out and back to add 13.1 to the course. The route generally wound along the St. Joe River to the south and east, finally concluding in a serpentine turn-around sequence in a local park, where we ended up sharing space with the local Organic Gardener''s association. I suspect there was some scheduling confusion. Finally, by mile 18, we were heading back to the stadium. My pace was steady and I still felt pretty good.
Near the 3:30 time mark, I had the first half of a Gu, which I try to take at the bottom of each hour. For some reason I don't know yet, it didn't sit too well. I didn't take the second half of it and for the rest of the race had this nauseous feeling. I've had this before and have observed the one thing NOT to do is to quit drinking water. So I kept up the hydration, even though the stomach was churny. Amazingly, I held the pace through mile 23, when I was a full 3:30 ahead of projected pace.
Miles 24 and 25 were tough, though. The course was back in a commercial district at this point coupled with a long uphill grind. The temperature was into the mid/upper 70s and the sun was hot. Those two splits were the slowest of the day at 12:47 and 12:05, respectively. As usual, the marathon becomes mental at these spots.
Yet, hitting the mile 25 marker was a boost. We turned a corner, had a perfect view of the sun reflecting off of Notre Dame's famous Golden Dome. My thoughts shifted to my Dad and his studies at ND in the 1930s. I thought of his constant effort and just started smiling. I ran the rest of the way.
The drama builds on this course as the route approaches ND Stadium from the south (past the poorly-named Mendoza School of Business...my baseball sense just goes nuts at that moniker) and then loops to the tunnel on the North end of the stadium. What a rush to go down that tunnel and onto the very famous football turn of Notre Dame. The finish was emotional for me. And marathon number 12 was done. The official time was 4:46:41, 2:09 better than my calculated finish time.
Post Race. I still felt somewhat nauseous. Tony, who ran a 3:58, was waiting for me, though he wasn't feeling too great either. I got a welcome ice-cold towel to drape on my head when I rediscovered the famous Sunburst Popsicles. They were the perfect fix for the nausea. I just walked and ate about 5 Popsicles and, seriously, in about 7 minutes I felt fine again. Got the heart rate back down, got some fluids and sugars and I was OK again. Tony and I headed out, showered and made the two-hour drive home, discussing issues of corporate decision making now that the Government owns General Motors.
There were the usual funny and odd quirks during this race. I may write about them later. There were also five distinct emotional moments for me today, four of which really surprised me. I will write about those at some point.
A good day. The pace was one that simply called for perseverance. And it worked. Thanks for listening.