Monday, November 15, 2021

Race Report-Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 2021

 ORN:   26.2 miles, 5:07:32 (11:45/mile); 3,441 of 3,947 overall; 30th of 37 M65-69

             first half:  2:21:17     second half  2:46:15


I started the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2021 with high hopes of a clean run of 4:45, setting me up for a winter and spring of solid training.   During the 21st mile, those dreams crashed in a hurry.   

Gory Details:

The Race Itself

This is about the eighth time I've run this event and it's grown to be

a major event in Indy, not just a major running event. The impact

on hotels and tourism is significant.

The drill is familiar now. Up at 4:20am, out the door before 5 and

in a good parking spot by 6am. I was able to walk around the

early morning preparations at the finish line and get ready to go

with little rush.

By 7:30am I was in the grid but not seeing the pacing group signs.

Since my plan was to hang with the 4:45 marathong

group, this was a bit disconcerting. But, about 15 mintues before

the 8:00am gun, I spotted the pacers, well behind me in the packed

grid. So, as the field started to move out, I stood still and slid in

behind them. Better that way than trying to move up in the packed field.

And that's how the race went. I settled in and stayed with the 4:45

pacers. I actually knew one of the pacers, as it turned out and it was

nice to see Heather again. Through mile 14, it was easy.

At mile 14, though, I really needed to find a portapot. When one

appeared, there was a line but I had no real option. It took me about 2

mintues to wait but I then took off at the same pace we had been running.

I lost sight of the pacing group but still felt comfortable all through the

hills around Butler University, past the Museum of Art and down the

lonely stretch by the White River. I was encouraged.


Midway between mile markets 20 and 21, my race fell apart. Quite

literally, in 500m, next to some abandoned baseball fields, I went from

feeling fine and optimistic to being reduced to a mere shuffle interspersed

with much walking. My legs haven't hurt that much in a long time.

I slogged to mile 23.5, made the right turn onto Meridian street, a major

milestone on the route and it didn't get any better. Especially discouraging;

the 5:00 pace group passing me at mile 24. Other than a nice conversation

with a guy from Iowa and a laugh with a DJ in front of the Murat, it

was a slow slog to the finish line. I was quite disappointed

with the 5:07 on my watch.

My mood lifted somewhat with a nice chat with Carlton Ray,

the race founder and Board Chairman of the race's parent organization,

whom I've met several times now.

I got the official printout of my splits, hard data which confirmed 

what my legs felt.  

But there were no triumphant whoops or euphoric embraces

this day. I just found some chocolate milk, talked with

a couple of guys from the race management company who

I know, got in my car and drove home.

My Analysis

I went into the race with a goal of running a 4:45 marathon by running with the 4:45 pacing group from the start to the finish of the race.    

4:45:00 for 26.2 miles is a pace of 10:53/mile.   

Here are my individual mile times from my Garmin: 


Lap time


over miles:










































1 to 20














21 to 26

Consistent through 20, in fact 16 sec/mile faster than required on average.   Failed during mile 21.   Pace fell to barely a walk for the final six miles.   

So, the race did not go as I had planned.   The question now is Why?   

Stay with me a moment, as I provide background to how I’m trying to answer the marathon question.   

I’ve been doing a lot of specific reading and thinking over the past 10 months on predicting business performance.  It’s been a general topic of interest to me, though, for many years now.   How do we arrive at predictions?  In my work experience, it seemed most often we made forecasts based on hunches, intuition and often unwarranted optimism.   And we were seldom accurate, which bred skepticism and cynicism about both.   

My thinking on the topic was first piqued about fifteen years ago, after I read and digested the book “Moneyball”.   No surprise I liked this book, as it combines two of my favorite topics:  Baseball and organizational change.   The book sought to answer a predictive question, central to baseball;  How do we predict if a player will be successful in the major leagues?   The compelling answer--a scout or manager’s “intuition” was far less accurate than simply calculating how often a hitter could reach base (more is better) or a pitcher’s ratio of walks and hits given up per inning pitched (less is better).   In addition, shockingly, the ability of most players to field their position defensively was irrelevant to their success.  A few simple measures outperform human judgements.  This really ticked off grizzled baseball veterans.   And has ultimately changed the game, profoundly. 

Coming out of the 2008 stock market crash, I dove into another predictive question:  How do you select stocks which will yield profits over the long term?   Compellingly, I came to see that stock index funds outperform human picked stock funds.   Index mutual funds are run by an algorithm, allocating any investment equally across the entire target index of the fund.   Costs are nearly zero to administer such a fund, the performance of which mimics the market and, over time, the market rises about 6.5% to 7% per year.   It works.   And I’m retired based on that decision. 

In fields as un-alike as baseball and stock picking, simple algorithms and metrics outperform human intuition or judgement.   

It was therefore with some interest that I picked up a 2010 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by the Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman last March.   He cogently describes how our minds use both quick intuition and slower analysis to help us function.   And how we get tricked by these two at times.   He devotes over a fourth of the book’s 600 pages to the specifics of predicting business outcomes.  He builds a nuanced logic that simple formulae will generally outperform human judgement in most business cases. Further, he describes how best to develop such formulae to specific how will a new product perform, or how might a marathon runner succeed.   

Which brings me back to the question at hand;   Why did I perform so poorly at the IMM?   More specifically, why did I hit my target pace 20 miles in a row and then fall apart in the space of about 500m during mile 21??   

My intuition (my quick thinking) on race day and the day after was a) blame myself for choosing to hang with a pace group which diminished my focus on hydrating or b) blame the organizers for having so few portapots on the course when I really needed to pee a couple of time (these two blames seem self-contradictory, don’t they ?) 

Then, I slowed down and asked what is predictive of carrying through The Wall that hits at mile 18-21 for most normal humans in a marathon?    I looked at my own data.   

So here’s my chart of monthly mileage, going back to the start of 2017

I worked hard all of 2017, leading up to my BQ in November 2017 at Monumental, this very same race, with average monthly miles in the 135 range.   What have I done lately??   My monthly miles in 2021 is hovering around 115.   20 miles a month lower, 5 miles a week.   Not shown on the graph above...the 2021 miles are also slower and less focused than the 2017 miles.  

Looking further, I ran a lot of miles during the winter of 2018-19, leading to the 2019 Boston Marathon.   While my 4:40 at Boston was disappointing, two weeks after Boston I ran a 4:09 at the Wisconsin Marathon.   I’ve not come remotely close to that 4:09 since.   

My conclusion?   I have to add more miles and better (i.e. quicker) miles to my training if I want to get to even a 4:30 marathon.    It’s just not complicated. 

Secondarily, I need to learn to run a steady pace with long run intervals and short walk breaks.  My training since Boston has been mostly at 3/1 or 2/1 run/walk ratios (3 minutes run/ 1 minute walk).  I have to stretch that out to 8/1 or 9/1.   The fact I ran solid for 21 miles tells me I can do the longer runs.   Yet I need the walk breaks to eat, hydrate and adjust gear in a marathon.  I really think it also helps preserve my legs.   I will also need to adjust targets to allow for about 2 minutes per marathon to stop and pee.   Ugh, my 68 year old bladder is not what it was at 48 :-).  

So that sets up my winter training plan. Can I get quicker through the spring? It's up to the process.




Saturday, October 02, 2021

Race Report-My Marathon/Ultra #100! Ely Marathon, Sept 25, 2021

ORN:   26.2 miles, 4:55:44, (11:17/mi), 102 of 125 overall, 6 of 10 Men 60-69


Never would I have believed a lumpy guy like me could ever finish 100 marathons and ultramarathons.   But it happened on September 25, 2021 at The Ely Marathon in Ely, Minnesota.   Joined by our two older sons, three Elys ran in Ely to celebrate the older Ely.   It was amazing.    

Gory Details:

Background for #100

I started running while living in Africa shortly after our oldest son, David, was born in 1978.   Surprised by how much I enjoyed running, I ramped up to run two marathons in Africa; the first August 1980, just before our second son, Nathan, was born, followed by a second in January 1981.   Circuitously, I came back to running in 2004 and ramped up to my third marathon in St Louis in 2006.   And then a fourth and fifth and......

So, in the fall of 2020, with racing still hampered by Covid restrictions and stuck on 93 marathons, I began to look ahead to wonder how I’d get to 100.  I wanted to make that milestone memorable in some way.   But how?

By early 2021, a bit of optimism returned for the resumption of racing.   It was then I realized, if I could work it out, I could make #100 The Ely Marathon, the race that carried my last name on it.   How cool would that be?    The race ticked all the boxes for a milestone event. I had run it before in 2019, so I knew the course and liked the entire set up.   It made for a memorable story.   In late September, 12 miles from the Canadian border in northern Minnesota, the weather would likely be reasonably cool.   Nathan and family now live in Minneapolis and we could visit them going to and from the race.  Having retired in December 2020, I had more control on my schedule to complete the necessary intervening marathons to make the Ely Marathon #100.   I sat down with a calendar and race schedules and it became clearly possible.   The plan was set.  

In March, I shared the plan with our family.   To my surprise, Nathan quickly replied “Can I run it with you Dad?”   This was not unreasonable, as Nathan and I had run the 2019 Ely Marathon together, his very first marathon on his 39th birthday.   He’d since run his second full I knew he was capable and understood just how hard it is to prepare.   While I didn’t want to ask him to make that deep commitment,  I was thrilled and honored he wanted to join me.   With a full spring and summer to train, I knew it was realistic.    

So the plan was set...I knocked off six more marathons from February to July and was set for #100 on September 25 with Nathan. 

The surprise of #100

And one massive, wonderful surprise awaited.   

Nathan and I  communicated all summer long about our training  plus timing and logistics for our trip north.   We decided that he and I would go alone as marathons are not a prime spectator sport for his 6 and 3 year old daughters.   Thus, my wife and I would drive to Minneapolis, and Gretchen and Angela would have fun with the little girls while we drove north to run.   Nathan bugged me to make sure I booked a hotel room.   He asked me to find a replacement Purdue tank top, like the one above, since he had worn his so much it was tattered.   He triple checked our arrival dates and times.  All good. 

We arrived at their house on Thursday afternoon ahead of Saturday's race and had a blast playing with our granddaughters.   That evening, I reiterated with Nathan the plan to head north around 1pm on Friday.  “Well, we ought to leave earlier, like 11am Dad,” he replied calmly.  “You never know about construction delays.”   I’m good with that.    

Friday came and we loaded my car.   “Let me drive up, Dad,” he continued.  “I’ll want to sleep on the way home and that means you should drive then.”   Made sense.  I've learned Nathan's sleep habits over the years. We left on time and cleared the Twin Cities into the beauty of Minnesota’s north woods.  At exits, he fussed quite a bit with his phone but I thought nothing of it.  He did seem in a hurry, but then again, Nathan’s always been in a hurry.   I was surprised, though, when he suggested we stop for a late lunch.   More phone checks, but he’s busy with his job, right? 

We were a half hour south of Ely by 2pm and I knew the packet pickup tent was open from noon.  “Let’s stop and get our bibs now, since it’s on our way to the hotel” I suggested helpfully.   “Oh, I dunno, Dad, I’d rather we relax a bit and then get the bibs later in the afternoon.”   Seemed odd, but hey, we had time.   So, we drove into Ely, laughing at the oddity of seeing our surname everywhere, went to the hotel and checked in.   More texting.   Business is busy in Minnesota, donchyaknow?   We put our feet up.  

Around 3:30, rather abruptly, Nathan said “OK, Dad, let’s go get our bibs!”   Didn’t seem like “late afternoon” to me but I was was a beautiful day.    

Packet pickup was in the Ely city park, next to the finish line of the race, underneath a large open sided circus-style tent.   Nathan and I walked in and I headed to the registration table.  “Hey, Dad, let’s go look at some of the merchandise.”  OK, so we walked to the back, right-hand side of the tent and looked at vests, shirts and hoodies with the Ely Marathon logo.  I had told him I wanted to buy something to remember the event.  He encouraged this, showing me various styles, as if we were both browsing the latest fashions on Rodeo Drive.   

And then it happened.  

With my back to the outside of the tent, looking at a quarter zip tech shirt, a man approached me from behind and said “Excuse me sir, can you tell me where I can pick up my bib?”   I calmly turned, answering his question, when I saw the man was our oldest son David!!!!   Oh my!!  I was stunned!  Why on earth was he here????   “I’m going to run the marathon with you!”   Are you serious????   

It was true.   David was also going to run the full marathon to honor my 100th.   The entire family knew about this and had been in on the planning since May.  And not one person, my wife, my sons, my grandkids, not a one, leaked a single peep to me.   I was totally unaware and completely surprised.  David had driven that morning from his home in Evansville, Indiana to fly from St Louis to Minneapolis to Duluth where he rented a car to drive to Ely.   Thus, all the texting with Nathan was to work out the timing for David to arrive at the Ely City Park just as the two of us were at packet pick up.   And it all worked.   The best surprise ever.   

The three of us were yelling and laughing and hugging and smiling and talking and standing in amazement all at once.   I then realized we were making a bit of a scene in the circus tent  that others were curious about.   So, it became the first of many opportunities I had to have one son under each arm and briefly explain how cool it was that three Elys were in Ely to run Ely.  

David, Joe, Nathan

Nathan THEN allowed us to pick up our packets, all together at last.  It was fun to respond when the lady asked us “So, what’s your last name?”   “Ely.”   “Yes, this is the Ely Marathon...and what is your last name?”    So fun.   Three bibs, consecutively numbered.   We were set.    

The remainder of the afternoon and evening was awesome.   We hung out at the hotel, had a wonderful dinner together full of conversation about matters trivial and substantive.   It was such a rich time, all the while being amazed at the surprise the guys had rigged and the depth of the gift they made by both training all summer to share one event with me.    They told me the whole "My Purdue singlet wore out" was a ruse to get one for David to wear.  Nathan's shirt was just fine!  We laughed and laughed.    We finally concluded we needed to get some rest as a marathon awaited in the morning. 

Running #100

Since Nathan and I had run this race two years ago, the logistics were familiar.   A point-to-point course, the Ely Marathon required we show up around 5am near the finish line where we boarded a school bus for the 30 minute ride to the start line, deep in the northern Minnesota woods.   The three of us were about the only ones talking on the bus at that hour!!   Still dark, the bus dropped us off, drove away and it was striking at just how far we had to go to run back to town.   

The three of us had decided over dinner we’d not try to run side by side during the race.   Nathan had some very good training and his preparation indicated he had a real shot at a 4:10 to 4:15 marathon.   David was confident he could finish but was figuring it would be around 5:40 or so.  I had a modest hope of finishing under 5 hours and mostly wanted to enjoy the run.   We were all OK with this plan.   So, as the start time neared, we posed for one more photo side by side in our matching Purdue singlets.   

The gun fired at 7:00am and Nathan was off quickly.   He's partially hidden in the second photo, in the blue visor and sunglasses...even with the 4:05 pacer and a guy carrying a canoe (more on that below). 

David and I ran the first couple of miles together, which allowed for this wonderful photo by a race photographer early on.   The scenery was just this terrific all day. 

The two of us fell apart around mile 3 or so as the race settled in.   The weather was near-perfect for running, with temps in the upper 40s, sunny skies and very little wind.   The course is quite hilly, which was a surprise two years ago.   I was mentally prepared this time and was content to walk a lot of the steeper sections, knowing the distance remaining.  

A unique element of the Ely Marathon is it’s “Portage Division”.   Since Ely is well known as a starting point for canoeists exploring the Boundary Waters, it fits to have a category in this race for the rugged individuals who want to lug a full-size canoe on their shoulders for 26.2 miles. 

Yes.  Many people paid good money to do just this.  I fell in with two portage guys from around mile 4 to mile 9 or so.   They were young, strong guys with excellent upper-body definition, having a merry chat with each other as they jogged along, their canoes bouncing on their shoulders.   They welcomed me into the conversation but I really didn’t feel quite worthy.   These two were ripped and quite comfortable under the load.   Yeow.   On a long incline in the 9th mile, I thought it wise to walk while the two of them jogged on up and over the top.   They gradually pulled ahead and ended up beating me by about 30 minutes.   That’s humbling.  The winning canoe portage time??  A stunning 4:23:20.   Amazing.

Along with the canoes, there is lots of Scandinavian influence in Minnesota leading to this bit of running humor along the way:

It actually made me laugh out loud.  And do a few imitations of the Muppet's Swedish chef.

Around miles 14 to 19, the course had an out-and-back section during which allowed us to see runners ahead and behind us.   Nathan and I saw each other on this section in 2019 and I was hoping I’d see both lads this time.  Sure enough, I saw Nathan at about mile 17 for him.  He was feeling strong and looked was terrific to see him and snap a selfie. 

We encouraged each other and then carried on.   I soon hit the turnaround at the end of a lonely gravel road.   A little less than a mile later, I saw David running my way...he wasn’t that far behind me.   It was a thrill to see him and learn he had also seen Nathan.    I was very happy he was running so well and looked as if he’d be way stronger than his projected 5:45 time.  

In the "you can't make this stuff up" category, I met David next to a water stop.   A volunteer at the water stop told us she had grown up in Lafayette, Indiana and was excited to see the Purdue logo.  Then, she began singing a full blown version of "Hail Purdue" our beloved fight song!  I joined in full voice and David tried to not look too embarrassed.   In the middle of nowhere...Go Boilers.   

I was soon at mile 19 and on the final approach back to the town of Ely.   While there had been a lot of runners to see on the out-and-back, the course was now just “back” and I was by myself again.   I got great service from each aid station along the way, though, since they weren’t in a rush.   There may even have been some dancing involved.....

The final three miles for me were slower.  I didn’t “hit the wall”.   But I was just out of gas and more tired than I expected.   The lack of enough miles in the prior six weeks while I was on a consulting gig likely had the impact.   Nevertheless, it was a pleasant time of reflection as I wrapped up a milestone race.   

The course wound back through the heart of Ely toward the finish line in the park.   As I saw the banner from four blocks away, my fatigue vanished and I was smiling like a kid.   The race announcer was kind to mention as I approached the finish line that this was marathon #100 for me.   

Across the finish was great.    

I got my medal and turned around and walked back out on the course, figuring David wasn’t that far behind me.  Sure enough, I met up with him as he was entering those final four blocks, the finish line in sight.   He was happy to see the finish line and happy to see me.   We ran the final 800m together and it was an honor.    

We then saw Nathan, who had finished and had changed clothes and was back at the finish line.   It was so awesome to be together, all of us completing a marathon.   No small task on any day and all the more special on this occasion.    

A guy with a video camera and microphone walked up to me, having heard I finished my 100th marathon and did quite an official-sounding interview with me.   I didn’t learn where he was from nor have I found if he published the interview.   If I do, I'll add it here.  

Our official results of the Elys at Ely in Ely.   

The three of us hung out and cleaned up after the race but then the time had to end.   Nathan and I headed back to Minneapolis, while David was driving back to Duluth the next day.   It was hard to have such a marvelous time end, but it did.   So thankful for what these guys did to share a big event with me.   It demonstrated love in a most tangible way.   

Reflections on 100 Marathons

I would have never imagined finishing 100 marathons and ultramarathons to be possible.   Yet, like any long journey, it happened through a series of single steps in a consistent direction.   I’m thankful that God has granted me good health to be able to continue to train.   I’m grateful for my wife’s whole-hearted support of my training and racing.  I’m grateful for my entire family’s interest, shown most powerfully by David and Nathan joining me for #100.   I’m grateful for the resources to be able to buy shoes and travel to interesting places.   Yet, as much as I enjoy running, it is not who I am, it’s merely something I do.   First things first.   Getting to this milestone is a good reminder of that to me.