As promised, a full race report from my Martian Marathon weekend. It’s long so grab a drink, sit back, and enjoy!
Let’s start at the beginning, Friday afternoon. The plan was to leave Grand Rapids at 4:00 and head straight to the expo in Dearborn. With the car loaded up, we got right on the road.
The drive wasn’t as bad as expected and we made it to Dearborn faster than Google estimated. It’s not speeding if you are going with the flow of traffic right??
When we got to the expo, we were greeted by one of the many Martians I would be running with on Saturday.
They really went wild with the Martian theme. Each of the mile markers was an inflatable Martian – you could buy your own too if you wanted. They also had alien antenna headbands and other UFO-related memorabilia for sale. It wasn’t a huge expo, which made it easy to get in, get my number and T-shirt, and get out. Instead of doing the traditional race packet with a plastic bag and bunch of flyers that eventually get thrown out, they did a virtual packet. This meant that they gave everyone a link to a website that had PDFs of all the brochures and coupons that you could view and print out if you wanted.
After getting everything I needed, we took a few minutes to drive the beginning and end of the course. We really couldn’t drive the whole course because part of it was on a bike path and apparently it is frowned upon to drive down them.
Once we drove the course a bit, we headed to Jennie’s parents’ house for the night. It was after 8:00 when we got there and we were starving. We heated up some noodles and sauce for a quick and easy pasta dinner. I was eager to hit the hay after dinner as it was going to be an early morning.
I slept pretty well for a race night. As is normal for race nights, I didn’t sleep very soundly. I think part of it is the anticipation of the race and the other part is fear of oversleeping my alarm. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had an eerie dream foreshadowing the outcome of the race. I woke up with a start at 4:30 AM from an extremely vivid dream. In the dream, I had just finished running the race. When I crossed the finish line, the timing clock was broken, so I had no idea how I did. I felt okay during the run, but figured that I had run a 3:45-ish race. For some reason, in my dream, the official results were only posted in the newspaper, so I had to wait to see my time. When I finally did see my time, I was shocked to a see a time 3:34. When I woke from the dream, I was completely exhausted and felt as if I had really run the race.
5:00 AM rolled around a lot quicker than I would have liked. I crawled out of bed and had a quick breakfast of bagel with jam and yogurt. After eating, I actually went back to bed for about 20 minutes while I digested. I went back and forth deciding on what to wear. I brought both shorts and tights as options because although the weather has been very nice, it has still been dropping into the 30’s at night resulting in cold mornings. I decided to go with the tights although I probably could have made it with the shorts. The field was split with about half the runners in tights and half in shorts.
By 6:00, we were out the door and on our way. Well, we were on our way after I scraped the frost off the car windows. The beginning of the drive went smoothly, but traffic was horrible close to the race. The main road was reduced from 3 lanes each way down to one lane each way. We knew this ahead of time from driving around after the expo, but I didn’t think it would be that bad at 6:30 in the morning. We sat in traffic for what seemed like forever. By the time we got to the parking lot, it had been closed because it was already full. We ended up parking at a meter and walking a few blocks to the starting line.
It was rapidly approaching the race start time of 7:30. As I got closer, I saw the line porta potties had lines about 40 people deep and it was already 7:15. Thankfully, all I needed was a tree and there were plenty of those available.
I was at the starting line and ready to go at 7:20. I cut it pretty close getting to the line on time, but thankfully everything fell into place and I didn’t seem overly rushed. The race started off promptly at 7:30. There wasn’t much fanfare or anything. The race director simply said “Ready… Go!” No starting gun or sports horn.
Jennie was able to snap some photos of me right as I started and at the 1 mile mark. I was glad I had the tights at this point because I was freezing. This would be the last time I would see Jennie until the 11 mile mark.
The course wound through some neighborhood streets for the first 3 miles. I tried to take it easy and not let myself go out to fast. This meant checking my ego at the starting line and not caring if people passed me. This ended up being a difficult task because both the half marathon and full marathon started at the same time and there were over twice as many half marathoners than full marathoners.
After the first 3 miles, we made our way to the out and back portion of the race. The next 10 miles out and 10 miles back were on a park road. This made for a flat course with plenty of scenery. However, because there wasn’t any crossroads or neighborhoods, there was hardly any spectators. It was easy to go a mile without seeing a single one. Also, portions of the road seemed very crowned and I was constantly moving left or right to find the flattest surface to run on. I kept to my philosophy from the beginning and tried to take it nice and easy. Still a long way to go and I didn’t want to burn out early.
We lost the half marathoners at the 6.5 mile turn around which really thinned out the crowd. At mile 7, things started to go down hill. My left knee started to hurt – a sharp pain on the outside of kneecap. It hurt like hell, but it wasn’t really affecting my stride so I trudged along. It still hurt at mile 8 and I was worried that I was going to have to stop and end my race. The pain was reminiscent of a knee injury I had following my first marathon 5 years ago which grounded me for a couple months. Thankfully, by mile 9 the pain had lessened a bit and by 10 miles, it was gone.
As I approached mile 11, I saw a familiar sight in the distance; a red car and my beautiful wife.
Not sure where this smile came from; I was hurting at this point. I gave Jennie a hug as I passed. She told me that I was doing great and that the leaders had just past by. I admit that at the time I didn’t believe her that I was doing great – I felt like crap. I had my Garmin on, but I rarely (if ever) look at during a race. I use it more as way to reflect on the race rather than tool during the race. I actually managed to avoid looking at it until I hit the 26 mile mark.
As I got closer to the turn around, I started to believe that I was doing better than I thought. The leaders passed me going the other way when I was nearing the 12 mile mark which meant they were only about 3 miles ahead of me. At the halfway point, I had a surge of mental strength and was feeling much better about the race.
On my way back, just as I was nearing mile 15, I spotted Marathon Don (race director from the Grand Rapids Marathon). He has an absolutely amazing resume: 188 marathons or longer, all 50 states, 21 countries, all 7 continents 3 times, 82 consecutive months with a marathon or longer. As I got close to him he let out a “YAY Grand Rapids Marathon” (the shirt I was wearing) yell. I gave him a high five as I went by and told him he was doing great. He ended up finishing 4:14, 48 minutes faster than his marathon 3 weeks prior.
Here are Marathon Don and I after we passed each other. Look for the red shirts.
I saw Jennie again around the 15 mile mark. I was feeling pretty good, better than I was at 11 miles. I think it was all mental and I was finally on the home stretch. I managed a strained smile and double thumbs up as I cruised by and told her I would see her in about 10 miles. I know. It would be more like 11 miles, but 10 sounded more manageable.
The next 7 miles or so was a struggle. My legs were starting to hurt, but I was feeling mentally strong enough to keep myself going. I got passed more than I did the passing which is sometimes hard to absorb, but I was rolling with the punches. I started chanting in my head, “Just keep running. Just keep running. Just keep running, running, running. What do we do? We run, run..” (ala “Just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo).
I walked through my first aid station at around the 19 mile mark. I had, up until this point, been alternating water and Gatorade at each aid station and was able to jog through them. By this point, though, I slowed to walk and grabbed one of each. They must have been running low on Gatorade mix because it was really watered down; almost to the point where you couldn’t tell if it was water or Gatorade.
After mile 23, the course finally changed and I was finally done with the back portion of the out and back. The next miles wound through Henry Ford Community College and U of M Dearborn. Unfortunately my knee pain was returning which was slowing me down again. Part of the last miles wound along a bike path which included two wooden bridges. It was a weird feeling running over the bridges. They were nice and cushiony and it felt good on the legs. However, they were slightly bouncy so it was a weird feeling if more than one person was on the bridge at the same time; sort of like running on a trampoline. The worst part of the whole course was at mile 25.5, the biggest hill on the entire course. Seriously? After 25 miles of flat course, they decided to put a hill at the end. Not cool.
At the top of the hill, I caught up with 3 other guys. Only one of the guys was actually running the marathon. His two friends were just helping to run him into the finish. They offered me some encouraging words which was very helpful at that point.
When I made the second to last turn, a little over a quarter mile from the finish, I finally looked at my watch for the first time. It said 3:30! I couldn’t believe. I turned onto the final stretch and gave it all I had left. I saw Jennie cheering me on a few feet from the finish line.
I felt awesome as I finished. All of the pain had vanished – at least momentarily. I crossed the line in 3:34:19 (chip time) which is a 12:43 PR over my Grand Rapids Marathon last October.
This was by far the happiest I have felt after a race in a long time. I was riding high on the emotion of a huge PR. I was pretty tired too, I guess, as witnessed by the fact that I must have fallen asleep standing up.
After the race, the pain in my knee came flooding back. I hobbled over to the refreshments tent which was poorly located because you had to walk through a muddy, uneven area of ground that was torn up from construction work. It wasn’t a huge offering, but they had pizza, fruit, and bagels. I had a slice a of pizza and grabbed a banana before we headed back to the car. I’m not really one to hang out too much after the race and wanted to get back and take an ice bath.
Jennie picked up a bag of ice and 6-pack of Bell’s Oberon for me at the gas station on the way back to her parents’. I road home with it on my quads before I used it for my ice bath. We also stopped at Subway for a couple of oven roasted chicken breast subs. That was my mid race craving. At mile 22 or so, all I wanted to eat was this sub. Is this what I have come to? Now my marathon cravings are relatively healthy foods?? In the past, my cravings were greasy, fatty, unhealthy foods (taco bell, pizza, french fries, etc).
The Rest of the Weekend
After the festivities of the morning, I made sure to keep moving to keep my muscles from tightening up. Despite the sore knee, I worked on helping Jennie’s dad build a new fireplace surround. We made a bit of progress on Saturday afternoon before taking a break to enjoy some Buddy’s Pizza.
On Sunday, I woke up more sore than Saturday. Thankfully, the soreness on Sunday was more the usually sore muscle feeling. The pain in my knee had finally subsided. We continued to work on the fireplace and finished that afternoon. Here is the finished product. It is a nice step up from the previous shelf mantel.
Overall, it was a great race and a great weekend. I couldn’t be happier with how the race turned out. I looked back at my splits from the Grand Rapids Marathon and compared them to this weekend’s splits. I was faster on all but 3 miles. On top of that, I didn’t “wall” until mile 23 this time rather mile 20 previously. Also besides walking through a couple aid stations, I ran the entire race. In the past, I have usually ended up walking at least a half mile or so.
|Total Time:||3:34:19 (PR)|
|Age Group Place:||8/17|
|Run Pace:||8:11 min/mile|
Thanks for reading and the encouragement you have all given me along the way! Now, I have to go catch up on reading your blogs. At last count, my folder of running/triathlon blogs was up to 51 in Google Reader. Yikes!