Saturday, May 06, 2006

One American Mini-Marathon: Race Report

ORN: 13.1 miles, 1:56:10, 8:53/mile

Wow, what an experience! On the most perfect weather day for running possible, everything lined up and came together. Hang on, here’s the report!


Up at 4:30am after fidgeting over packing my stuff till 10:30pm, I was rolling early. I met my former work friend Chris at our appointed spot at 5am and headed to Indy. Chris and I have both changed jobs in the last couple of years and it was wonderful to catch up on the drive down. This was his first half-marathon and second race, ever. It was fun to talk about what to expect and how to prepare. We could have talked for three hours…before we knew it, we were in downtown Indy and found a convenient parking garage.

Still obsessing over the temperature and what to wear, I walked up onto the city street after we parked. Brrrrrrr, a chilly wind on a still-dark morning. I modified my dressing plan, adding a second layer of technical fabric. Chris watched me fuss for 10 minutes or so in the parking garage, perhaps wondering about the wisdom of getting a ride with me. Eventually, we headed out and walked down to the starting area.

Which is huge…it takes a full nine city blocks to queue up the projected 35,000 starters for this race. Runners are assigned corrals, based on their predicted race time. Numbered from A to Z, each corral holds about 1,000 runners. We T-eed into the start grid around coral P and could not even see past corral K. Oh my, said Chris, this is big. He and I walked up front, continuing our conversation. Eventually we parted ways…he did not know what his time would be, so he was in corral Z. What a path!

On the other hand, I submitted an application last fall for a “seeded” entry. The organizers established cutoff times which, if you could prove you could meet, enabled you to start up front. I had some good 5 mile and 10km times which I submitted and, amazingly, they placed me in the fifth of the five seeded corrals, corral E. This eventually proved to be huge.

By this time it was a little before 7, so I ran a half mile or so and spent quite a bit of time stretching. I was in the corral by 7:10, moving to the rear of box E, waiting for the 7:30 start. I chucked the old sweatshirt and was ready to go.


This is as close as I’ve ever come to hanging out with fast runners. From pen E, I could see the start line. The gun went off and we started walking. No accordianing, no weirdness. It was like everyone in the front 5 pens knew what to do…which they should, as seeded runners. In a mere two and a half minutes the 6,000 seeded runners were across the starting line and the race was on.

What was amazing to me, a back-of-the-pack runner, was that there was virtually no jostling in the first two miles. As I thought about it, it became logical. All the seeded runners knew, accurately, what pace they wanted to run. We were all with similarly-paced folks and so the start was very even. We all just slid into the pace and off we went. How smooth!! How wonderful!! And what a difference from working around walkers and slow runners when I was in corral N a year ago!! It was like suddenly flying first class after years of flying coach.


We quickly settled in. I was shooting for a sub 2 hour race, which means sub 9 09 miles. The Garmin helped hold me in check. Mile one came up comfortably at 9 07. We turned north and hit mile two at 8 52. I felt good and was consciously holding the effort down early.

By mile three, I was starting to feel a bit warm. Shoot…my parking garage ruminations caused me to add the long-sleeve technical shirt over the top of my favorite US Army PT shirt. Did I need to chuck the long sleeves? Even though it was only a $7.50 shirt from Wal-Mart? I mulled my financial future…and decided to donate the shirt to a young family watching the race. Down to a t-shirt and cotton gloves, a combination that would serve me the rest of the way.

Then, I realized a visit to a port-a-potty was soon going to be a necessity. Oh my. At least they had a good quantity set up at each water stop. I found one open and, at last, it seemed I was truly set for the rest of the race, as mile 3 took 9 46 with all the goings on.

Miles 4 and 5 moved us towards the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Clicking by at 8 41 and 8 46, I still felt good and was sensing a rhythm. We entered the speedway grounds, did the first quarter lap on the infield of the track, then joined the track midway down the backstretch. Doing the speedway at 7 miles per hour is a whole lot different than the 240mph speeds one sees at the 500. Let’s just say the turns don’t need banking for my speed. Miles 6, 7 and 8 passed at 8 53, 9:10 and 9:00.

We left the track midway down the backstretch, after circling the entire 2.5 miles and headed back downtown. We angled back to 10th street and then did 2+ miles on this long straight stretch. It was here that the race got mental. Last year, I bonked on 10th street, overheating and running fully out of gas. I really didn’t want to bonk there again. By mile 9, I was still feeling good, doing the mile in 9:01. Knees were fine, breathing was fine, nothing hurt. I decided to stay steady through mile 10 and then see how to finish.

I hit the 10 mile marker at 8:55, with my split 1:15 ahead of the pace I needed. I decided to push it a bit. I grabbed the last water I’d take on the day and moved the turnover up a bit. Mile 11 passed in 8:34. Still feeling good.

I looked around for some help and keyed off of a couple of people that were near my pace but pushing it just a bit. We turned south along the White River and hit mile 12 in 8:38, with the split now two and a half minutes under the sub 2 threshold. Still feeling good, I decided to open it up further as we turned onto the last, mile-long straight away.

I began to push. Now I was passing folks. The crowds were 2-5 deep along both curbs, and it was a cool atmosphere. I didn’t go anaerobic, but was holding the pace as deep as I could. As we neared the finish, mile 13 went through at a very encouraging 7:53. The last tenth just happened…another 50 seconds at a 7:36 pace.

And it was done.


It was the usual drill…de-chipping, get the medal, go through a well-organized food court with lots of bananas and cookies. After picking up my gear and getting into a dry shirt, I walked around and watched the finish for 20 minutes or so. At this point, the finishers were those with times around 2:40 to 3:00. Just like Niagara Falls, the runners just kept coming. It was wonderful to be on the other side, to see those who were pleased, those who were struggling, those who were brave, those who were just plain glad it was over. On a fantastically beautiful May day, it was sure great to sit on a grassy knoll, rehydrating, watching a race.


The official chip times are now up. I finished in 1:56:10. That’s a new PR for me, by over 8 minutes. Wow. I thought a sub 2 was possible, but was still a little worried about my knees, just four weeks after the St Louis Marathon. I never dreamed of getting nearly four minutes under 2 hours.

In my age group of 50-54 year-old greying, bifocaled guys, I was 404 out of 1,368. For all men, I was 5,188 of 13,298. Interestingly, this year for the first time there were more women finishers than men, 14,335 to 13,298.


On January 1, I published my
2006 Goals: A Full and a 2. And, in four weeks, I’ve accomplished them both. Amazing. What do I do the rest of the year??? I’m thinking I do it again!!

Other reports on this race will be coming from
George and Dallen. Both had good days, but I’ll not steal their thunder…check them out!!

Thanks for reading…perseverance means slogging through all this verbiage as well!!


Dallen said...

Congratulations on a grat race and a new PR. I'm impressed with your ability to really drop the pace over the last few miles. I was just trying to hang on.

Darrell said...

You ran this race exactly they way they should be done (or at least from what I've read); controlled in the beginning, then turn up the speed at the end. Good for you!

I had a seeded start for the LA Marathon in 2004. Your assessment is right on.

I laughed out loud at your summary. Indeed, what will you do for the rest of the year? I love it. You just have to pick the races. Ride the high for at least a little while and then dig in, I say.

D said...

Great job - congrats on your PR.

jeanne said...

Fantastic job! I honestly can't ever imagine running a sub-10 min mile, so thanks for letting me live vicariously! Great job with your goals. Time to set some new ones!

Running Chick said...

Joe!! Great race!! What an accomplishment - achieving both those goals and making it looks so easy!