Summary: Once again, I enjoyed the hilt running the Sunburst Marathon yesterday. The connections for my family are many. It's well organized and is one of the races about which I arrange all my other races for the late spring and summer.
A little different approach for this race report...here are a few photos with captions. Then a bunch of text about the day at the end. Enjoy.
On the drive up, I drove by this small diner in the town of Logansport. John and I stopped here to dine in style when we ran Sunburst in 2008...it's a classic small town eatery. It's been closed for several years now and looks it...yet a unique spot, where the elite meet to eat.
At packet pick up on Friday, I found this sign in the t shirt tent humorous. "Marathon Men can be either half or full !!"
The marathon started at 6:00am...here's a rather lousy selfie in the pre-dawn cool.
During mile one, I found the legendary Jim Simpson, in the red shirt here, and ran with him for a while. I also ran with Larry Macon for a while too...both men are amazing and it was terrific to see them both once more.
The course had three turn around points and, at the third, I asked a person to get a photo of me actually turning around. Banana in hand (see text below), I got an action photo of myself.
Here's my photo of Notre Dame's famous Golden Dome...you can read the story below of why this was significant.
The race organizers had to shift the finish line away from the customary 50 yard line of Notre Dame Stadium and we got a glimpse after the race of why this was needed. Even on a Saturday morning, heavy equipment was carefully grooming the substrate for the new field turf going in. Despite just finishing a marathon, the engineer in me noted and appreciated the laser-guided bulldozer blade getting the grade just right. When you watch Notre Dame football on TV this fall, you can now say "Hey, I saw a photo a guy took of what's underneath all that green!" And you will be the life of the party with a line like that. This is a full service blog, you know.
Ok, here's the story of the race.
I think I got the "run the best race conditions allow" on this one. My official time was 4:39:30 and it was my fastest marathon since Monumental last November at 4:07. The temperatures, particularly for the final hour of my running, were warm, yet they didn't really bother me. Some thoughts.
My plan was to run a 6/1 run/walk and hold it as long as I could, with a pace during the six minutes of running of 9:45 to 10:00/mile to finish right around 4:40. Based on the long runs I've had since Illinois 5 weeks ago, I thought I could sustain that. Amazingly, I did. I never varied that plan. At all. It was a 6/1 all the way and I recall even in the 23rd mile, I found myself enjoying the run and then getting close to or under 9:00/mile pace. Whoa, boy, you're not done yet and there's one really big hill to remaining...rein it in a bit. And it worked. From the mile splits on my watch, it looks like I had either a negative split or a dead even first and second half. They didn't precisely mark the halfway point but it looks to me like I was right at 2:20, there, which projects (let me get out my calculator here....) a 4:40 marathon. My aggregate splits were in the mid to upper 10s all the way. Mile 23 was 10:36, mile 24 was 10:10 and the final 1.2 miles were at a 10:09 pace. Overall pace for the full marathon was 10:41/mile. Quite bluntly, I lost about 4-5 minutes finding places to pee on the first half and looking for my previously stashed bananas....more on the latter below!
In the final 1.5 miles, the route goes due east, one block south of the main E-W street, Angela Street, on the south edge of the campus. In so doing, the route crosses Notre Dame Avenue, the street which angles up from downtown and runs directly into the heart of campus. If you stand in the exact center of ND Avenue, you can see the Golden Dome lining up perfectly (and tree branches obviously trimmed back to afford such a view!). I remember Dad talking about going to ND the first time in September, 1933, taking the trolley from the downtown train station on ND Avenue to campus and this being his first sight of campus proper.
So, as we approached ND Ave, I decided to pause and try to capture this. The photo above somehow hearkens back to what Dad may have seen. I paused as well and just tried to absorb that for a moment.
Of course, I still had over a mile to run from that point!! And Dad would be the first to say "Joe, quit gawking and get on with the task!!!" I can almost hear him saying that!!! The temps were in the upper 70s by this point and I'd run 25.2 miles already and I was looking forward to being done. Interestingly, though, the course was different from what we've had before, since there is heavy construction going on in ND stadium and we could not finish on the field. So, instead of running directly past the Mendoza (Line) School of Business building [always a highlight for me...who hits .200 in business?] to the stadium, we ran one block farther east, then turning north onto campus and then meandered around practice fields and construction zones to eventually get back to the W side of the stadium to the finish just north of the stadium tunnel.
And as I ran the meandering final mile on tired legs, I tried to picture what on earth practice fields must have been like in Dad's day. Yeeeesh...the grit, the dust, the minimal grass wearing hot wool practice uniforms....oh my!! It must have been tough. And so I thought, "OK, Dad, you gutted it out, I'll do the same in this last mile in your honor!" So I did!! It hurt but then again it really didn't hurt....I had this big smile on my face thinking of Dad, enjoying the pain and fatigue in a real, shared, sort of way with him. Interestingly (and he'd be pleased with this) I also passed maybe 50 people in the last mile...so there was some reward for the effort. I came around the stadium and hit the finish line, so happy, so grateful. Hard to express, but it was terrific.
In the offing, I also hit a nice goal. I had hoped today to run a 4 hour, 40 minute marathon. During much of the race, my pace/splits were indicating I'd be close but probably a little over that, like 4:42 to 4:44. My actual finish time?? 4:39:30...I beat the goal by 30 seconds and absolutely that last mile sealed the deal.
What was also interesting to me, though, was what I observed just after the race. Many of the people I passed in the final 1.5 miles I had been running with much of the day and so we had all chatted a bit, as it happens. I got across the finish line and then hung around a bit outside the stadium before going to get some food to say hello and congratulate some of the folks I ran with. With zero exceptions, they were too zonked to really engage. I was energized, happy, enjoying and savoring the moment. They were all wiped out, miserable, in pain, sore, clueless. Amazing.
There was one young woman who I actually talked to afterwards whom I had met in the starting grid. She, her sister and a friend started together, all wearing matching green shirts. So, I dubbed them "The Green Team" and chatted with all three along the way. Gradually, they separated and I talked with them individually as well, since there were 3 out and back sections on this new course and you could see those ahead and behind you. It was all of their first ever marathons and they all hurt, badly by the end. The one at the front had a very sore foot, her sister just came across with blisters and the friend was still on the course, badly cramping in the calf.
I walked back from the stadium to take the bus back downtown to my car and the bus was full of groaning, aching people, lots of ice packs and zombie-like looks. The bus got to the drop off point downtown and hardly anyone moved on the bus...it was too much effort to stand up!! Eventually, we all got off but, again, most were limping/gimping zoned out while walking back to the cars a block away.
Why were all these people hurting and I wasn't? I even felt a little guilty about it. On reflection, though, the combination of experience, selection of pace, the run/walk, taking enough water and electrolytes along the way on a warm day made the difference. And, what a difference...to be able to be coherent enough at the end of a marathon to know what is going on, to well remember my Dad, to encourage others along the way...that's now the equivalent of my "Olympic Trials"!
Certainly, preparation helps. The plan I worked up in mid April to amp up the mileage it taking hold. Here's my monthly mileage chart for the last 12 full months. Yes, winter is over and it's rolling up.
And now we get to the very serious topic of Bananas.
On Thursday, I pulled the course map, set up my GPS to map a route and made an efficient plan to drop off one banana at the 5,10, 15 and 20 mile marks. I got this all done on Friday afternoon, plus picking up my race packet. I thought I had found good spots along the race but still well concealed.
Ha. I was oh for four on this one.
The mile 5 banana turned out to not even be on the course. They changed one of the out and backs and while I could see where it was, it would have been an extra 300m of running and I didn't think that wise. I was lucky, in that just beyond that, they were passing out Gu packs, so I took a Gu. I like the 100 calories from a banana better than 100 calories from a Gu, but I needed the energy. The mile 10 banana was in the residential area just before Mount South Bend. I think a member of the nice neighborhood must have seen me and wondered and took it off. Disappointed, was I.
Now I got lucky again, in that at an aid station at mile 13, they were passing out bananas and so I got one there. Tasty, indeed and I knew I had another one at 15. Yeah, right. The same deal as happened at mile 10...a resident must have moved it or a critter carried it off. Ugh. But, then, lucky again, they were passing out bananas at mile 17. And that very banana was the one in the photo at one of the other turnarounds. Fine, I say, I still have one more at mile 20. Nope, not today, dude...same deal as neat, tidy South Bend citizens cleaned up my hope for race nutrition!!! So, I had nothing to eat from 17 on in but it worked out.
Next time, I need to note that I must find more public places like parks or non-residential areas to stash my bananas. Oh, the trauma. But looking for these lost bananas probably did cost me a couple of minutes total!!
And how about the signs people hold at marathons???
Around mile 13, we were coming up on an aid station and the folks staffing this station had put out a series of signs, most of them the usual. I was running and chatting with two other guys at the time and the layout was along a slight curve, so the signs came into view one at a time. And then we saw the new one and all three of us broke out laughing at the same time. it said:
The NSA is tracking you.
So funny!! Very clever and timely. Then, one of the other guys had a further clever idea...he suggested they could place a second sign, 20 or 30 yards farther along the course, that said
No, really, the NSA actually IS tracking you.
That would be fun.
So, there you have it. A full blog post, the day after a race.
Persevere. My Dad sure did.