Sunday, November 05, 2017

Race Report: Indianapolis Monumental Marathon--finally, a BQ!


26.2 miles, 3:59:07, 9:08/mile.  Continuous run, walk through water stops. 

Quick Summary:

I finished the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 4 in 3:59:07.   In so doing, I also qualified for the 2019 Boston Marathon.   I can't believe this really happened.   So much came together for one special race day.   Here's the background and the day's story.  

Gory Details:

As best I can recall, this crazy idea first hit me while flying to the 2009 Portland Marathon...could I really qualify for and run the Boston Marathon?   Since then, eight years now, I've pondered this, the dream of many marathoners,  sometimes seriously, sometimes in resignation.

I got more serious about a BQ after running a four hour marathon for the first time ever at the 2015  edition of the Monumental Marathon.   That success triggered thinking I could shave more time off 26.2 and get the BQ.   I stated this goal on this blog in early 2016, hoping to BQ before September 2016 and run Boston in 2017.   Didn't happen, though I got within 5 minutes of the required 3:55 twice.   I tried again at Chicago 2016, which would have qualified me for Boston 2018, only to come up 8 minutes short and that on a perfect day to run on a dead flat course.   I was bummed...could I ever get quick enough to BQ??

Two nights after Chicago, an idea hit me as I tried to fall asleep:  When do I get old enough that I'd get the next bump in qualifying time?   I got up, checked Boston's website, made a time line and eureka...Boston's qualifying time is based on one's age on the day Boston runs.   On April 15, 2019, I'll be 65 and that means my qualifying time for that race would be 4:10, not 3:55.  Starting in late September, 2017, the qualifying window, could I try to run another 4 hour marathon?  Thus, the latest plan was hatched a year ago.

Central to that training effort was the quest to figure out how to hold speed through the entire 26.2 miles and avoid the deep pace fade in the final 6-8 miles that plagues most marathoners.   Looking at a lot of my race experience, it was evident that I did best when running a very even pace, not banking speed.  Logically, this would be a role a race pacer might provide.  I had a hint of that benefit in the 2015 Monumental Marathon.  But I needed more experience.  So, I looked for opportunities to practice this pattern.

My first try for a BQ this fall was on September 23 at the Grand Lake Marathon in Ohio.   They had a four-hour pacer, I fell in with him and it worked great through mile 15.   But then the 95F temperatures took a toll.  I bonked and so did the pacer.   It didn't happen that day.

Then, three weeks before Monumental, I ran the Boilermaker Half Marathon, a big race only 10 minutes from my house.   They had pace groups too, so I fell in with the 2 hour pacer to practice this pattern.   It worked perfectly, as you can see me crossing the finish line here with Trena, an excellent pacer.

My time for that half marathon was 1:59:23 and I felt totally relaxed and fresh at the finish, despite it being a warm day.   I felt more confident about the plan than ever and ran 17 miles the next day for my last long run before Monumental.   And it was fun to finish the Boilermaker HM with several work colleagues.

Brooke, Michelle, Steven and I finished Monumental as well...first-rate engineers and scientists and good people, all.

Life goes on, of course; I had to get the Chicago Cubs through the baseball playoffs this fall.  Not quite as successful as 2016 but we did our best, with our three oldest grandchildren sporting plenty of Cub stuff for a watching party vs the Dodgers.  Duty calls. 

Race week finally arrived and a pal sent me this cartoon...the perfect description of the lead-in to an important race. 

Earlier in the week, the forecast had much rain falling on race day.  But, that gradually slid off and by Friday, it was apparent we were going to have very favorable weather.   That helped. 

I've run this marathon 5 times before, so know the course and logistics well, which really helped.  Up early and drove to Indy with long time running buddy, Jon, my son David (father of the kids above) and new running pal Sean.   Jon scored a great parking place and we got to the designated warm up room in the Indy Convention Center nearly 2 hours before the gun.   I met up with a team from our local running store...good to see them. 

Monumental is now a big race in its tenth year, with over 19,000 runners in all distances.   Squeezing this many people onto one narrow city street in front of the Indiana State Capitol Building is an adventure in shoe-horning.   So, David and I headed to the starting grid around 6:40 and it was a good thing.   I needed to make sure I found the 4 hour pacer and got into the same Wave with him.   It worked and I settled in to await the many speeches before we started just past 8:00.   The weather was nearly perfect, with the start temp of 45F, cloudy skies, and the finish temp of 50F.  A bit of wind, but not bad, coming from the southeast.   Only a few minutes of a very light mist, so it was terrific.

In the grid, I saw running pal Michelle (not work colleague Michelle), who also wanted to go with the 4 hour pacer.   She and I have run several events together as we have about the same pace and many similar interests.   It was fun to talk with her prerace and run together through the first eight miles.  She ultimately pulled away from the pace group and set a PR at 3:54.  

 My plan was to set up with the 4:00 hour pacer from the start and stay with him.   Amazingly, that's exactly how it turned out.   He did a perfect job...we just hit mile after mile at 9:07 to 9:10.    My final results showed the first half in 1:59:03 (9:06/mile pace) and the second half in 2:00:05 ( 9:10/mile pace).   Just 58 seconds off a perfectly even split over 26.2 miles.   I've never done a full marathon with a pace group, though I've observed pace groups for years.   Predictably, there were about 40 people with our group over the first half of the race.   By mile 16, the group started to thin.   By mile 23, there was the pacer, me and one other guy.

By and large, the race simply became running and staying with Tim.   It contained elements I've seen many times before.   I hit a low spot around mile 11, which didn't surprise me, as I often hit a low spot around 90 minutes or so into any distance race.   I knew to just persevere and work through it and that took care of it.  I was then fine and felt very good at the halfway mark.  AND I knew this was not significant...we had a long way to go.

My real interest was to see what happened at mile 16 and beyond.   This is where I often fade (as do a lot of people) and I knew all the landmarks where I had faded in this event previously.   Yet, it went well; Mile 16 rolled by fine, 17 was good, 18 happened quickly (the only hill on the course and I motored up it), 19 was a long, lonely stretch and went well, mile 20 came at just over three hours on the clock.  I still felt fine.   Man, I say to myself, might this be the day??  This was the first time I allowed myself to gently anticipate getting the BQ.   I didn't want to be disappointed again.

At a water stop just past 20, a very enthusiastic local running group was cheering us on and I had a big smile to see chalk letters on the pavement saying "Boston in 2019!!"   Yeah, that's what I'm shooting for!  On we went, and went through mile 21, still OK.   Where was The Wall?   In those rare, good marathons, I usually find the wall somewhere between 16 and 21 and if it didn't show by then, it usually didn't show.   Might that be the case today?


Just past mile 21, this race got serious.  That Sneaky Wall, the scourge of Marathoners, had been laughing at me, hiding in the weeds, wanting to catch me unawares.  My stomach churning was the first clue but, mostly, the turnover really started to flag.   I had been close to the pacer, had my eyes locked on his bright orange shirt all day but for the first time I just was not hanging with him as easily as I had.   I was working hard and my breathing picked up.   The mental battle set in...what do I do?    It hurt and I was at a low ebb.

Two things helped.   First, I'm an engineer and thus a linear thinker.   So, I had a pace chart in my pocket with mile splits to account for a slowing final 7 miles.   Doing the math (I wasn't so discouraged I couldn't do the math...see engineer statement above), I realized I was still on track for the BQ...the pace hadn't slowed that much.   On my wrist on my Garmin, I had a secondary screen I had scrolled to which told me my aggregate pace for the entire race was still at 9:06/mile. I needed 9:08 to go sub 4 and and had a lot of miles now at that pace and better.  Plus, even if I came in at 4:07, I'd still likely get into Boston.  Armed with that data and experience of running a lot of marathons, logic followed, saying to myself "Joe, dude, you have never been this close to a BQ performance.   You will never get a better day on which to run.  You have only 5 miles to go.   Work through this."   I got my head around the situation, even if my legs had not yet received the memo.

At the same time, Tim the Pacer dialed back his pace just a tick.   This was the first time I pulled even with him all day...I had lagged behind earlier, as I didn't want to run in the crowd surrounding him.   No crowd now.   He commented we were "a bit quick" and he backed off just a bit.   By this time, we pulled through the mile 23 post and I seemed to have worked through the low point.   I felt better and had weathered the Mocking Voice of the Wall.

5K to go and at this point I felt OK even though fatigue was setting in.  We made the right turn off of Fall Creek and onto Meridian Street, heading straight back downtown, which is a psychologically positive point on the course.   Knowing where I was, I began allocating what energy remained to get me to, but not beyond, the finish line at this same pace.   I hung next to Tim, told him I didn't want to talk in order to preserve oxygen and he was fine with that.   We just ran.   Our pace stayed steady and even picked up a bit, as we took only 8:52 between mile 24 and 25.

Originally, in my dream scenario for this race, I was going to bid a fond farewell to the pacer at the mile 25 marker and "hammer" the final 1.2 miles.   In reality, with all my numbers, I realized a) all I needed was a sub 4 and b) I had no "extra gear" to go into anyway.   I was just hanging on.   So I stayed with Tim, feeling comfortable, through all but the final turn.

With a quarter mile to go, I saw a coworker who has functioned as a coach to me the last three years...Mike ran cross country at U of Toledo and ran Boston himself a year ago.  He's both encouraged me and offered "tough love" when needed on my BQ training and strategy.   He had been tracking me after he finished his 3:25 marathon and came out to find me.   He knew I was in striking distance of a BQ.   Mike's shout, high five and encouragement at that point was what I needed.   I pulled ahead of Tim and powered with what I had left to the finish line.   Man, that last 0.2 took forever, but it was awesome to go down the final 50m, knowing I  had a sub 4 marathon in the bag.   Jon snapped several photos as I wrapped it up.

I crossed the finish line, and I was done.   I mean DONE.  Stick a fork in the guy.  Finished.  I allocated that effort exactly.   And there was nothing left in the tank.  Zero.  I collected myself enough to get this photo with Tim and express my deepest appreciation to him.

And, in my happy exhaustion, I kept looking at my watch, checking if it was really true.   I did the math, even then...a buffer of nearly 11 minutes under my BQ time requirement of 4:10...that meant I'd almost assuredly get in.   Amazing.

I then gimped to lean on a metal barrier at the edge of the finish corral and tried to collect myself.   Mike got there shortly, gave me a big hug and we basked in the moment.   And, as a true friend and coach, he watched as I silently smiled and said "Boston" several times.   It was special.  I called my wife and what a joy that was.   She had followed along the final 5 miles on line via Garmin Connect.   She was so excited and supportive.   That was huge and she was the one person I wanted to hear more than anyone.

I gradually came back to the land of the living, got my medal and shuffled more than took me a solid 15-20 minutes just to get my act together to get out of the finish area.   I was that toast.   But then I bounced back, saw Jon, who had run the HM and was as happy about my BQ as I was.   (note to baseball fans...zoom in on my bib here and you'll see "GO CUBS GO"... did I mention I'm a fan of the Northsiders??)

Ingesting chocolate milk, Gatorade and a cold piece of cheese pizza all helped accelerate the recovery.   I saw my son David, who unfortunately had to drop out of the marathon at the halfway mark with a bum knee.   Too bad for him but he was excited for me.

I saw the guys from our local running store in the food tent too...we had a wonderful time of celebrating.  Scott, to my right in this photo, has run Boston twice and he'll be a huge help to me as I plan logistics 18 months from now.  

Got my drop bag, changed into some dry clothes and a warm jacket and we headed home.   What a morning.

Later, I downloaded my pace chart for the full race.

The general evenness of the pace is pleasing to me.   The short spikes in pace are the water stops along the way, the only walking I did all day.   Tim the pacer did a terrific job and delivered on the promise of a four hour marathon.

I was also pleased with the final race stats.   I was 1953 of 4667 overall finishers.  Is this placement a mere coincidence with the fact I was born in 1953 and my particular age was central to the nature of my finish?   Hmmmmm.  Inquiring minds will want to know.    I placed 34th of 104 men age 60-64 and 1,340th of all 2,635 men who finished.   I'm very pleased with these results.

Nine years of effort all came together for this race.   I still can't quite comprehend I qualified for Boston.   This is a pivot point in my running and I'm thrilled to now look to the next goals and plans.

I feel blessed to be able to run and humbled and grateful to be in this place.

And very grateful God has given me the grace to persevere.

Thanks for listening.


Sunday, October 01, 2017

Race Reports: Grand Lake Marathon and BOMF Marathon Relay 2017

ORN:   Saturday, Sept 23:  26.2 miles, 4:37:19
Sunday, Sept 24: Marathon Relay, team time 4:37:51


I took a shot at a BQ time on Saturday but 90F+ temps scuttled that plan.  Came back and ran the final third of a marathon relay on Sunday in similar temps and enjoyed it.

The Gory (and sweaty) Details:

I'm still keen on qualifying for the Boston Marathon.   The timing for the 2019 Boston is such that as of late September this year, I "only" need to run a 4:10 marathon to qualify.   Last summer, I set the plan for two serious attempts at a BQ this fall...the first at the Grand Lake Marathon  in Celina, Ohio.   It's a flat course, well thought of and only about 2.5 hours from my house.   I was in.

Running buddy Jon and I drove over on Friday afternoon, breezed through packet pick up and slept reasonably.   From earlier in the week, though, the looming concern was mid-day was predicted to be in the mid 80s by the time I anticipated finishing.  Would I still try to BQ?

I decided to give it a go and see just how far I could take the pace.   My aim was to finish at 4 hours even.  They had pacing groups and so I lined up with the four hour guy and off we went.   We started before dawn, it was cool and comfortable and I fell in easily.   In fact, it felt easy, wonderfully so, with very even splits through the halfway mark, which I hit at 1:57:02...nice, three minutes in the bank for a sub four, which I figured I'd need.

Yeah, I'd need it.   And more.

Around mile 15, about 9:40am local time, I could sense the temperatures really starting to rise.   By mile 16, I felt my heart rate suddenly go up.   That's not good.   I walked (having run almost all the time up to that point) and worked to get the HR down.   The day got warmer and warmer.  Obviously, the BQ was out.  So, I backed off and kept the powder dry for another day.

At mile 24, a store had a sign with time and was 94F and I still had two miles to go.   So much for the mid 80s.   I trudged on, eventually doing the second half of the marathon in 2:40.

Crossing the finish line, I felt quite light-headed for the first time in the day.   I found some shade and just sat down for what was eventually about 30 minutes.  Very grateful for the organizers to have not only water but drinkable yogurt...I think I drank about 50oz of yogurt in that half hour and it made the difference.   Jon found me (he ran the half), and we left, showered and drove home.   It was a good race but the temperatures just kept it from being fast.

Jon and I met up and we were both "toasted" can tell a bit from this photo.  It was hot but we made it.

When I saw results later, I was astounded.   I ended up being

  • 42nd of 121 finishers
  • 2nd of 8 of men 60-69
  • 32nd of 69 men
This is far better than I usually third overall is amazing.   Such was the heat...I guess it was a reward for just finishing.   

After a good sleep, I got up way early again the next morning and drove to Indianapolis for a race which has become a favorite of mine:  The Back on My Feet Marathon Relay.   BOMF is a cool organization which seeks to help homeless people in Indy through running.   This is a big fundraiser for them and is a blast.   On a 2.2 mile loop, relay teams run 12 laps to finish a marathon.

Jon and I had originally entered this to run as a two-person team, the day after Grand Lake.   Then, he had a vacation/family trip arise, so my work colleague and fellow engineer Michelle opted in to run.   She needed to get in 18 miles on that Sunday for her training plan ahead of the November 4 Monumental Marathon, so we agreed she'd run 8 laps, I'd run 4 and we'd have a run in.   

The race started and I found a wonderful shade tree.   Michelle rolled by about every 23 minutes and we checked in and I went back to reading The Confessions by St. Augustine on my's a profound book.   

About three hours in, Michelle wrapped up her 18 miles and she handed off the baton.

I wasn't sure how my legs would feel 24 hours after the tough run in Ohio.   I was stiff early, but half way through my 4 lap outing, I was happy to mug for the is my habit.  

The run went quickly for me and as I came around to end our 12 laps, Michelle jumped in and we ran hard to the finish line, with her winning handily in our engineering sprint. 

Interestingly, our laps were nearly the same.   The final time was 30 seconds different than my time on Saturday.  An odd coincidence.   

So, a fun weekend of running.   Way hotter than anyone expected for late September.   But I got through it.  

Thanks for reading.   And matter the temperature.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Race Report: Double Marathon Weekend-Wisconsin Marathon, Kalamazoo Marathon; "The Mittens Challenge"

The Summary:
Saturday, May 6, 2017; Wisconsin Marathon; 4:56:12, R/W 3/1
Sunday, May 7, 2017; Kalamazoo Marathon; 4:50:28, R/W 3/1

The Gory Details:

"Are you crazy?  Yes, you are crazy."   This is the almost universal response when I told people I was planning to run two marathons in a single weekend.  I've grown used to it.   I just like to run and these two races fell out wonderfully on my 2017 running calendar.

Actually, I have done two marathons in a single weekend once before in September, 2014 (link).   I've wanted to do it again but a lot of logistics have to fall in place to make such insanity possible.   The 2017 version fell into place because I didn't need to run either marathon for time, the two marathons were in reasonable driving distance from my home and from each other and the weather had a chance to be favorable.   In addition, the two races have a loose alliance with one another, calling completion of them both the "Mittens Challenge".  So, I signed up around the first of the year and the big weekend finally arrived.

I've run the Wisconsin Marathon three times before, so was quite familiar with the course and logistics just north of Chicago, across the Wisconsin border in Kenosha.   I took Friday afternoon off from work and headed north.  Packet pick up was a breeze.   A treat was having Friday night dinner with Laura and Jake Gillette and their two kids.   Midwest runners will recognize both their names, as both regularly win and place in marathons around here.   I've had the chance to get to know them as they both won the Circular Logic Marathon three straight years.   Great folks and it was fun to share bowls of pasta and talk running and raising kids.

I awoke around 4:30am on Saturday for the 7:00am start time and scored a primo parking spot by getting to the start area so early.   The temperature was set to be near perfect, in the mid to upper 40s at the start; the only question was how the wind would behave.   As the course flows along Lake Michigan for the entire 26.2 miles, the breeze off the lake can be severe.  The 2016 race proved that, in spades.

As the sun rose, runners assembled.  I saw a lot of folks I knew, including Heather Ziegler, below, a fellow Marathon Maniac and a truly excellent runner.

I decided on layers for the day...I wore two short sleeve tech shirts, tube sock arm warmers, a neck warmer, hat and mitten/gloves.   I picked all this as it was adjustable as the day warmed and as we varied either into or with the wind.   And I wore this sign on my back to make the case.

The race started on time and the new course was a little different than we had run the past two years.   We went farther south during the first half than in previous years, made a loop and headed back north.   During this out and back, I saw Jake Gillette amongst the leaders.   Since I didn't see the first runner and since the half marathoners were still in the mix, I didn't know just where Jake ranked.   But I did turn around and run for 50m or so with Jake, wishing him well.   And, man, it felt different to run a leader's pace, even for such a short distance. 

I started out and held my run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute routine from the start of this race and, as it turned out, I held that through the entire weekend, until the final two miles in Kalmazoo.   But I jump ahead.   

At about my mile 7, I saw Jake again, now waaaaaaay ahead of me.   I had counted all the leaders and confirmed for him he was in third place for the marathon, about 100 m behind the second place guy.   Again, fun to run that fast and Jake told me later the intel helped him.   He ran hard, but so did the other guy...he ultimately took third.  

Around the  half way point, the new course had us looping near the start finish line.   Laura Gillette (who was watching their kids as Jake ran...the reverse would happen the next day, when she won a marathon farther into Wisconsin as Jake took care of the kiddos) managed to snap a photo of me plodding along.   I hit the halfway point at 2:24:00 and felt fine.  

 We continued south on the second half of the marathon with the wind generally at our back.  This portion of the course spent more time on gravel roads on the south portion than it had before.   This altered the nature of each stride, compared with asphalt.   I didn't like it as well as the previous course but I suspect it worked better for local residents.   

My pace per mile was in the upper 10 minute range for most of the race through mile 19.   Around 19, we turned into the wind as we headed back home and the wind was steadily picking up as the morning wore on.  The combination of fatigue, wind and gravel combined to push the average times to the mid 11 minute range.   It was what it was.   I was very cognizant, as well, I was not yet half way through my weekend of running. 

The finish of the race was fun...I was glad to have it over, wondering over the final mile just how the next day would be going.  Yet, as soon as I crossed the finish line, I had huge fun with the volunteer handing out medals.  I told her this was as close as I'd ever get to the Olympics, so "we need to be serious"!!  I then sang the Olympic theme song as she somberly placed the medal around my neck.   Two very European "air kisses" followed and we both then cracked up...she got the joke and played along wonderfully.   Yeah, I was feeling better already.   Lifetime marathon #73, done.  

My fascination with logistics then kicked in, immediately.  I grabbed a couple of bottles of chocolate milk and plenty of cheese (this is Wisconsin, remember) and headed for my car.   I called in the results to my wife as I drove to the Kenosha YMCA, where the race had arranged for free showers for any runners, a wonderful feature for us out of towners.   Cleaned up, I grabbed a quick lunch and headed for the Kalamazoo Marathon.   It was around 1pm.   

Driving to Kalamazoo from Kenosha involves traveling around Chicago.  Fortunately, it was Saturday afternoon, there was no major construction going on and there were no accidents to snarl things.   Looping around the Lake and heading into Michigan without stopping, I arrived in Kalamazoo around 5:30pm.   Having never been in Kalamazoo proper before, I depended on my GPS to get around.   I swung by the Start/Finish area to gauge where to park and how the start would work.   To my surprise, I saw one guy setting things up who turned out to be the committee member in charge of the finish line.   He was super helpful, explaining start logistics and best parking plans.   He really put my mind at ease about race morning.  

Eventually, I found my hotel and then some nutrition for the evening.   I had a long phone call with my wife once I got in for the night, as we had our house up for sale and, out of the blue, had received a serious offer on the house late on Saturday evening...yeah, I like I need something else to think about!!  Bedtime at 11:00pm was later than I would have liked but that's how it fell out. 

I was up early again and into my car around 5:15am.  A few fellow residents of the hotel had not yet gone to bed yet and were quite drunk and quite boisterous.  I'll just say they loudly queried what I was doing and were not of mental acuity to comprehend a marathon.  I scurried away and hope they eventually slept it off.  

Thanks to the advice from the volunteer, I knew right were to park and was the second car in the lot, a mere 80m or so from the start/finish line.   Two mornings in a row, two primo parking spots.  Sweet.  

Pre-race was nice in two ways for this race.   First, was packet pick up...they had a special tent set up just for folks who were running the Mittens Challenge.  Since they understood we'd get to Kalamazoo late, they let us get our packet on race morning.  It was fun to see a number of folks I had run with the day before, swap stories about Chicago drivers and get set.  

The second was the opportunity for Christian worship pre-race.   I had seen this on the race info and it was really nice!  A local pastor who was running the half-marathon led the open service.  He had some good stories and scripture application and it was great to sing familiar music as runners gathered for the race.   It meant a lot to me. 

The weather was a bit cooler than on Saturday, with the temperature just at 40F for the race start.   I opted for one extra layer underneath the Maniac shirt and everything else was the same as on Saturday.    Right on time, the race started and off I went, again. 

I hoped to finish around 4:50 again but had no familiarity with the course so didn't know just how that would work.   Not surprisingly, I was also stiff early through the hammies, glutes and lower back.  As they had pacers available, I fell in early behind the 4:45 pacing group as their slowness felt just right.   I stuck with them for well over an hour, as it felt very comfortable.    Around mile 8 or so, we got into some uphills and so I fell out of that group and switched into the 3/1 run walk again.   We looped in and out of the Western Michigan University campus, a fine looking place with which I was totally unfamiliar (other than they correctly spell their mascot as "Bronco" unlike a local high school team in my town which spells the same mascot "Broncho" but that's a different story).   

From there the race just took on a fun nature.  Here's a few points:
  • Around miles 10 through 14, we wound through neighborhoods who seemed to really enjoy cheering runners each year.   At mile 12.5, a lady was serving HOT was perfect!!  I munched slowly on it, when, to my surprise a half mile later, another set of neighbors were serving fresh bacon!  I made a bacon sandwich with my remaining half of a pancake.  Another half mile, someone else was serving fresh oranges.   How cool is all that!! Made it big fun. 
  • I saw long time pal Jen Savage on an out and back in this section...she's a hoot and it turned out it was helpful for her too.
  • I spoke with quite a few other "Mittens" runners as the race progressed.   Some had poignant stories...I was moved.   Others were just fun folks to share some craziness with. 
  • I ran with a young guy who had run Boston, New York and Chicago  marathons before he even turned 29.   He and his wife were both running this day, celebrating their first wedding anniversary.   Fun conversation. 
  • In a city park, around mile 19, I passed one of the 4:45 pacers I had run with early.  "Not your day today?" I asked.   He said it just goes like that some days.   Helpful to see...I hold pacers in high regard but even they can have tough days. 
  • Around mile 22 or so, I fell in with a pair of elementary school teachers from Indianapolis.   One was running her first marathon, urged on and coached by the other who was running her fourth.  We had a lot in common and it was most pleasant.   
All of this was climaxed with an amazing thing just before mile 24.   The elusive but famous "second wind" set in for me.   I felt fantastic.   I bid my new teacher friends adieu and proceeded to run the final two miles, to enjoy the moment and the running conclusion of the big weekend.   There was one short, steep hill which I walked, chatting with a very friendly volunteer there to encourage runners at this tough moment, and otherwise just tried to pick up the pace.   Splits showed I dropped my pace from the mid 11s to 10:24 and 10:26 for the final two miles.   

We made the penultimate turn and I was just feeling awesome.   You get a sense of that in this photo from that section.

You're not supposed to feel this good after 52+ miles of running over one weekend.   But, bumblebees aren't supposed to fly, either.    I turned the final corner and it was a joy to cross the finish line.   I got my two medals (one for the marathon, the other for the Mittens Challenge) and then just hung around the finish line for a while, as if I didn't want the day to end.   I greeted my teacher friends and other folks with whom I had run.   It was a blast.

I did finally head home, a four-hour drive to wrap up a most enjoyable weekend.
A few timing statistics emerged after the dust settled.

  • Both races had official timing mats at their respective 20 mile marks.  On Saturday, I hit 20 miles in 3:40:13; on Sunday, I was 3:40:02 at the same point...almost identical times.   Yet, the final 6.2 miles took another 1:15:59 (12:16/mile) on Saturday, whereas the same distance took only 1:10:24 (11:22/mile) on Sunday.   That's what the amazing and unpredictable second wind did at Kalamazoo.
  • Saturday stats:  I was 423 of 548 overall finishers, 253 of 308 men and 3rd of 9 in the 60-64 Age Group.
  • Sunday stats:  I was 297 of 415 overall and 8th of 12 in the Age Group.  

So there you have it.   Hope you enjoyed the story...I sure enjoyed the weekend.  Thanks to both races and all the volunteers and organizers.

Persevere.  No matter where or if you run.