We are finally back from South Bend after a great weekend and great race. However, there is good news and bad news about my finish. The good news is that I PR-ed by 4 minutes over my Glass City Marathon time by finishing. The bad news is that I missed my secret goal of 3:40. I finished in 3:48:53 (although my Garmin claims 3:47:50, not sure where the difference is). I had a great first half of the race and fell apart on the second half when I hit the “wall” at about the 18 mile mark. The last 8 miles were just brutal, but I survived.
We got into South Bend on Friday afternoon and headed straight to packet pickup at the College Football Hall of Fame (also the starting line). It was a fairly well organized expo albeit a small one. After picking up mine and KS’s packets’ we got some ice cream from the South Bend Chocolate Company. Jennie was able to muster enough will power to only get an ice cream cone, however, left to her own devices, she might have ended up with one of everything in the store.
After packet pickup, we headed out to drive part of the course and find the best place for Jennie to see me during the race and to get to the finish line. Then we cruised around ND for bit while trying to avoid the ND
rent-a-cops Security Police who felt the need to flaunt their limited power. We stopped the bookstore to pick up the requisite ND paraphernalia before heading to dinner.
Dinner was at Papa Vino’s (per Mooney’s recommendation). We had reservations to eat with KS and family as well as HS and family. It was definitely a good time with their three energetic kids. I think HS said it best by warning us beforehand that it would either be good encouragement to have kids, or, the best birth control in the world. The kids were very cute, but it turned out to be the latter rather than the former. After dinner, we finally checked into the hotel before heading to Meijer to pick up breakfast food for the morning. By then, it was after 9:00, so we just crashed knowing that it was going to be an early morning.
On Saturday, I woke up at 3:59AM, one minute before my alarm was set to go off. I guess it is good that I didn’t sleep through my alarm, but I really could have used that extra 60 seconds of sleep. I got up and went through my standard pre-marathon routine – eat breakfast, get dressed, check (and double) check that I have everything, and poop (sorry, but it is a necessity).
We headed out shortly after 5:00AM and got to the starting line around 5:30AM. It was still dark and really didn’t seem like there were all that many people out yet. However, everyone seemed to appear out of nowhere by the time the race started at six.
The first few miles of the race went fairly smoothly. It was still very cool out and the sun was just starting to rise. I tried to keep JB in my sight, but that was hopeless after about 2 miles (she ended up finishing in 3:23 as the 9th overall female). About 4 miles into the race, my stomach started to act up on me. I decided to just try and push through the pain, which actually proved to be the best solution. Although it took 8 miles, it finally got better 12- 13 miles into the race. Jennie was at the 12 mile mark or so and was able to snap some great pictures of me as I passed.
With my stomach bothering me the first part of the race, I wasn’t at all mentally encouraged by my performance and felt I was doing very poorly. I didn’t even have the heart to look at my watch out of fear of disappointment. That all changed at the half way point. At 13.1 miles, they had a clock, that showed me passing at just over 1:40! I couldn’t believe it. It really gave me a mental boost to see that. The next 10 miles, however, were very tough. It was basically a 5 mile out and back at that point with little loops thrown in here and there to add on extra distance. Almost all of the 10 miles was in direct sunlight with a portion right along the river which made it seem extra hot because of the sun reflecting off the water.
It snuck up on me. I didn’t even see it coming. But at the 18 mile mark, I hit the wall. I had just completed another of the mini out and backs that were added onto the course to add distance, and both my legs decided they had had enough. Mainly my quads, but also partially my calves, tightened up almost instantaneously. At this point, I started to walk through the aid stations to take as much water and Gatorade as possible and even had to walk for other stretches along the way. I tried to shorten my stride a bit to try and lessen the impact. However, no matter what I did, I just could keep up the pace I had been going at as seen below.
After struggling through the last miles of the race, the finish made it all worth it. We entered the campus with about a half mile to go, rounded the stadium, and ran through the tunnel (to the ND Victory March of course), and then onto the field to finish at the 50 yard line. Beyond the awe and wonder of the finish, the rest of the finish sucked big time. More to come in the criticism section about that though.
There were a couple of issues with the race that I thought diminished the overall positive race. The first thing that I thought made for difficult/boring course was the numerous amount of loops and turn around points. There was one point where you were headed in one direction, got to a T intersection, turned right, ran a 1/4 mile, turned around, then ran the other direction of the T intersection for about a 1/2 mile, turned around, and then headed back the way you came from initially. While I do enjoy some out and back portions because it makes you feel like there are more runners, it seemed like this course had an excessive amount of them.
The second issue that I had with the race was that there were a lot of other races going on that the same time (half marathon, 10k, 5k, and family walk). There were a couple portions of the race where we had to cross paths and literally had to run through a crowd of runners in another race to get where we needed to go. I think the other races started later in the morning (around 8:00), so I am assuming that is why we were all on the course at the same time. Once we got closer to the finish, all of the races seemed to merge into one because they all finished at the same spot. They tried to keep the walkers to one side and runners to the other, but there were a few energetic walkers that were pushing the boundaries. All of the extra walkers/runners led to another problem. Massive lines at the refreshment tables after the race. Now, I know I may sound like an pretentious ass, but if you walk 3 miles, you shouldn’t be allowed to the same refreshments as the runners who ran the half or full marathon. Nevertheless, I ended up not getting anything to eat at the finish line because I didn’t want to wait in a line of 200 walkers and 3 marathoners.
Notable Runners and Fan
Of the notable runners I saw, there was a guy that juggled for the whole marathon. I am sort of ashamed to say that he beat me (by about 10 minutes), but I am still sort of impressed by the feat.
The most notable fan of the day (other than my lovely wife), was a group of 3 college guys who were Rick Rolling all the runners. They were each holding up signs that said “Never Going to Give You Up”, “Never Gonna Let You Down”, “Never Gonna Run Around and Desert You" respectively. As a self affirmed nerd, I found this quite hilarious, although I am sure there were many runners who didn’t get the joke.
After the race, we headed back to the hotel where I tortured myself with an ice bath. The concept had been recommended as a good way to avoid sore legs and let me tell you, the freezing plunge into the water is definitely worth it. I am almost pain free already. On the way back from South Bend, we even stopped in Holland where we walked around to the all shops and my legs didn’t hurt at all. They are still a little sore when I get up from sitting, but that is to be expected I guess.
Also, before heading back home, we stopped by ND one last time to walk around campus and snap some pictures of different parts of the campus. It sure is a gorgeous campus and really puts little old Aquinas to shame.
- Time: 3:48:53
- Overall: 170/596
- Gender: 147/410
- AG: 20/40
- Pace: 8:44/M
Apologies to my lovely wife. She did such a great job taking pictures of me, that I neglected to take any of her. I will do a better job next time – I promise!