Oct 18

Race Report: Grand Rapids Marathon

Or, my first GRM as a lifetime runner.

Or, PRs really hurt

Oh dear Lord am I sore today! Holy crap.  I haven’t been this sore in a long time.  I felt 10 times better than this after IMWI. 


We hit up the race expo on Saturday morning.  As always, the GRM puts on a great expo. They even had the expo divided up into blue/yellow and green/white sections for the big UofM v. MSU game later that day.


As a Lifetime Runner, I get an extra shirt each year on top of the official race shirt. This year’s shirt is pretty cool.  It is a nice long sleeve Saucony shirt that will be perfect for winter runs.  Along with my shirt, I got my race number. I am now #115 for the rest of my life.



After checking out the rest of the expo, we had to stop by the Pickle Juice booth to snap some pictures for Emz.


I spent the afternoon relaxing on the couch watching football.  Notre Dame had a bye week so it was stress-free day for me.  Jennie made my favorite pre-race dinner – breaded chicken and pierogies.  It is the perfect fuel before race day.

Race Morning

Because this is a local race, we don’t have to get up super early. I was up at 6AM, had my standard breakfast of eggs, toast and OJ before we headed out the door around 7AM.  It took us a while to wind around road closures because of the race and construction.  The GR Marathon has a “velocity challenged” start at 7AM so the roads get closed down earlier than the 8AM start time.  It just means that we had to do a giant loop around the city to get to the other side rather than just cutting through.

Just like last year, we got a great parking spot about a quarter mile from the start/finish line.  It was raining a bit so we quickly hurried over to the YMCA.  Thankfully, despite forecasted rain all morning, the rain let up just after the start of the race and it made for absolutely ideal running weather.

2011-10-16 07.33.47

At about 7:40, I saw the pace groups leaving the YMCA. I gave Jennie a quick hug and kiss before heading out to catch up with them.  I had my eye out for Ben from Team Type 1, a friend of Tom and Colleen.  I picked him out immediately and introduced myself.  He was part of the 3:14 Pi Pacers pace group.  This was just an “easy” run for him.  He was coming off a sub-10 IM finish at Rev3 CP and running Chicago last week.  All while preparing to embark on Team Type 1’s Run Across America starting next week.  Talk about crazy awesome!

2011-10-16 07.38.35
That is Ben to my right, your left

We exchanged race stories from the past season as we headed to starting line.  I was still debating on whether to go out with the 3:14 Pi Pacers pace group or the 3:29 Billy Baldwin Racers.  Last year I went out with the 3:29 group and picked up the pace around mile 10 to finish in 3:26. Ben helped convince me to go out harder this year as it is easier to fall back than it is to speed up.

We lined up just in time for the Canadian National Anthem. Yep, that’s right, Canada. If they get more than 100 Canadian registrants, they sing both the Canadian and US National Anthems. I consider it good practice for IMMT… “O Canada! Our home and native land…”

2011-10-16 07.58.39

The camera was acting up again like it was at the Honolulu Marathon.  I think that it is just a later riser and doesn’t like early mornings.  However, the slow shutter speed resulted in another ghostly cool image.

Miles 1-4

I felt great for the first 4 miles. I was holding pace with the group without a problem and was really comfortable.  There were a total of 5 official pacers in our group.  One of them, Hank, had on a hydration belt that he had rigged with an iPod and speakers to provide tunes for the group.  He had a pretty good mix of music and it helped take my mind off the run.

2011 Grand Rapids Marathon
(photo courtesy of mlive.com)

At mile 4, I saw Jennie for the first time and ditched my long sleeve shirt. I had warmed up enough and was glad to shed it.

Miles 5-11

At about mile 6, the course winds around to the hills of Butterworth.  These hills are a series of small, but unrelenting rollers.  They are part of the River Bank Run as well so I am used to them, but they never get any easier.  Before getting to the hills, our pace was a bit fast (miles 3-5 were sub 7:10) but I knew that the hills would flatten us out and get us back on schedule (7:23 was the scheduled pace).

Sure enough, as we rounded the corner at mile 9 and flattened out, we were right back on track.


I saw Jennie for the 2nd time of the day.  She originally had planned on bringing her bike to get around like last year but with the rainy forecast, she decided to try driving this year.  It actually worked out great and she was able to get all over the course.

As we entered Millennium Park, I noticed a guy in front of me running kind of funny.  Then I noticed his hand up his shorts and the stream of fluid in front of him.  Yep, he we peeing out of the bottom of shorts.  While running.  Do I see a “I Pee on the Run” shirt in the future??

Also in Millennium Park, we passed by the site of a race wedding.  A couple from Texas was running the marathon together and stopping at the 10 mile mark to tie the knot. After the nuptials, off they went to run the final 16 miles together as a married couple.

A marriage at the Grand Rapids Marathon
(photo courtesy of mlive.com – See the rest of the pictures here)

Miles 12-15

Miles 12-15 were my final push to stick with the 3:14 pace group.  My longest training run since IMWI was 15 miles at about a 7:30 pace.  So, my goal was to be able to hang with the 3:14 group at least until then.  I did my best to keep up with the group and managed to hold on, but it was tough.

Miles 16-22

Almost on cue, at mile 15, I started to drift back.  For two reasons. Number one, I was really starting to feel the pain. And number two, I really had to drain the tank.  I pulled off and watered a tree for 35 seconds according to my Garmin (remember that 35 seconds).

Shortly after that was the first Pickle Juice Aid Station on the course.  I used pickles and pickle juice as a recovery aid during Ironman training, but had never actually consumed any during an event.  Knowing how much it helps after a workout, I decided to take my chances on the course.  I grabbed a cup (about 2 ounces) and threw it back.  About half of it ended up all over my face, dripping down my chin. Whoops! Now I’m going to smell like pickles! haha. I followed it up with a cup of Gatorade mainly to get the taste off my lips. Thankfully, it went down without any problems.

2011-10-16 10.04.28

I saw Jennie at about mile 17  and then again at mile 18.  As I passed her at mile 18, I was going to say something about hurting really bad, but I noticed that she was taking a video of me so I had to suck it up and smile for the camera. haha

This portion of the course was a long out and back, so at mile 20, I hit the Pickle Juice Aid Station again.  This time I slowed to walk, slammed the pickle juice, and started back up.  For an out and back, it is a fairly enjoyable run.  It is a tree lined road along the Grand River so nice and scenic.  The road is nice and flat, but there is a slight crown to it so I tried to run down the middle as much as possible.

I managed to keep up my pace as much as possible and kept my miles at a sub-8:00 pace.  I only mention this because I have finally started to use my Garmin during a race.  I used to only run with my Garmin as a post-race record of how I did and would never look at it during a race.  However, during IM training, I spent more time working to hit certain paces during my tempo runs and adapted to using the watch as a tool during the run. 

Miles 23-26

These miles were both good and bad.  They were bad because I had slowed down even more and was really hurting.  But, at the same time, I was still running and didn’t have to give in and walk.  Because of this, I managed to pass a few people here and there and that gave me a boast of confidence.  This ended up being the first marathon that I ran the entire distance (minus aid stations).  In my previous marathons, I had always ended up walking for about a half mile in the final 6 miles.

I saw my dad (and his dog Cooper) out cheering at mile 25.  Even Cooper cheered by letting a few hound dog barks fly.  With only a mile and change left, I was determined to push it as much as I could.  I turned onto Seward for the final stretch and kicked it into gear.

2011-10-16 11.18.22

I crossed the finish line in 3:20:31 chip time.  Remember that 35 second pee break? Crap. I was one pee break away from going sub-3:20.  Oh well! It is still a 6 minute PR so I couldn’t be happier!

2011-10-16 11.20.34

Post Race

I immediately found Jennie before heading to the beer tent.  They weren’t letting non-runners into the finish area this year which sucked, but I was able to find a chair next to the fence so I could sit by Jennie while I enjoyed my beer.

IMG_0950 2011-10-16 11.46.47

Beer #1 was New Holland Sundog followed by New Holland Poet

2011-10-16 11.43.06

I ran into some familiar faces in the beer tent. Miguel and Jill (above) are a couple runners that Jennie and I see all the time at races and beer runs.  I saw Miguel a few times on the course at the out and back turn arounds and we exchanged cheers for each other along the way.

As we were leaving, I spotted my highschool math teacher, Sargent Bob Sister Robert Ann.  I ran over to say hello and Jennie caught this picture. This picture is amazing simply because it had never been proven that Sister was photographable; rumor was that she would just turn out as a blur. This woman is absolutely amazing. She has been teaching at my alma mater, Catholic Central, for over 40 years and was recently awarded a Lifetime Service Award.  She is the sort of teacher that you absolutely hate while you are in her class but are glad that you had after you (hopefully) pass.  Sister Robert Ann was my junior year Calculus teacher and she was also the faculty head of the Quiz Bowl team.  Yep. I was a Quiz Bowl nerd.

2011-10-16 11.52.37

Finally, on the way home, we stopped by DQ for some post race refueling. Sunday was the last day the DQ would be open for the season so it was fitting to celebrate the end of my 2011 racing season with the end of the DQ season.


M&M Blizzard… mmmmmm….

Thanks for reading!

Overall Results

Total Time: 3:20:31
Overall Place: 127/1606
Gender Place: 111/894
Age Group Place: 15/83
Run Pace: 7:39 min/mile

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2011/10/18/race-report-grand-rapids-marathon-3


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  1. BDD

    Congrats on your PR and race!!! Knowing you will be 115 for life is cool, I think they should retire numbers if you run 10 or more races, so when you pass, 115 will still continue to be you. I read the same thing, sorta, here, if you donated a car, you got to race for the rest of your life free.
    BDD recently posted..Weekly Ramblings And BIRTHDAY WEEKEND!!!

  2. Matt Smith

    You’re the man! That is so fast, and I think you should pull the 35 seconds out. If you had “drained the radiator” like the other guy on the run, you would have beaten 3:20 anyway. I say you DID it! Great job! I loved seeing that Steelhead shirt. Nice! I loved that quick “smile” you flashed at the camera for us while you ran passed. You looked like you were in severe pain! Ouch! I hope the soreness is gone by now.

    Congrats on a PR!!!!!

  3. Jeff Irvin

    Great race Kevin and way to push through when you were suffering.

    Loved the pic of you and Sister Robert Ann. I had a teacher like her, Sister Bridget, she taught forever and used to be pretty tough on us. At the time she was mean, in hindsight see is a saint!
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Say Goodbye to Blisters …

  4. Jon

    Awesome job Kevin with the 6 min PR! Woo hoo! You have really come a long way (pun intended) this season and all of your hard work paid off not only at IMWI but also at this marathon to round off an UBER successful 2011 campaign.

    I forsee a BQ in your future.

    Now, just have a cup of poutine waiting for me at the finish line at IMMT, cool?
    Jon recently posted..#winning

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      BQ-ing means dropping a minimum of 15 minutes. More likely 17 minutes so that I qualify AND get a registration. Nothing is impossible I guess, it just seems it.

      I looked up the poutine stuff… that looks HORRENDOUS! I’m all for loaded fries (In N’ Out Animal Style FTW), but cheese curds and gravy?? You are a brave man to try eating that after finishing an IM!

  5. Lisa

    Good job! And I have to tell you that the alternate titles right at the beginning cracked me up. 🙂
    Lisa recently posted..Ten Lessons from Half-Century

  6. Matt Oravec

    Solid performance man. I think I liked the post race recap better 😉 haha. Had my share of catholic teachers that we had “theories” about as well hahaha.

    Just think though, holding that pee in would have messed up your system, and I hear if you pee on the run that it causes like rashes or irritation or something (I guess you should splash water on your area after you pee? haven’t tried it, don’t plan on it either hahaha).

    Great job though, isn’t that base fitness remarkable? Well, next spring it is then 🙂 I would have slapped you if you BQ’d at this race LOL!
    Matt Oravec recently posted..Truthful Tuesday…

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      I didn’t know that survived the parochial school systems as well. Maybe that is what makes us tough enough to do Ironman??? haha We a total of 3 nuns at our highschool, but Sister Robert Ann was the only one who always wore the habit and had been there forever. In fact, my boss had her as his math teacher and that was back in the 70’s.

      I don’t intend on ever peeing myself on the run (or bike). I can get how women do it, but too easy for guys to whip it out and do it cleanly. Now, maybe if I’m racing for a Kona slot and I hear another person in my AG breathing down my neck… maybe… But we’ll cross that bridge when (if) we come to it.

      You know, I was totally going to BQ this race, but I was afraid that you might slap me so I pulled back. haha. I wish… I can’t even imagine going a minimum of 15 minutes to qualify. Realistically it would be about 17 minutes faster to qualify AND get registration. Tried doing an easy run yesterday with Jennie but my knee is still too messed up to run.

  7. Randy Winchester

    Hey Kevin –

    Great, great race. I like the mLive photo. I was out there and came in around with Miguel. It was a PR for me at 3:26:45, 7 minutes faster than my previous PR, (at Bayshore) so I am very happy.

    Nice recap.

    I always debate the negative split approach vs. gaining time early on. I know of few people who can kick it up and go faster after 23 miles and doubt I could do it. I held 7:50/mile, but I slowed from 7’50” per mile to 8:20 on mile 24.

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Hey Randy-

      I actually saw you in the beer tent so I figured you must have come in right behind me. I was sitting down by that point and there was no way I was going to be able to get and run over to catch you. haha. Congrats on the PR – it certainly sounds like everyone I have talked to had a great race.

      What’s next for you?

      1. Randy Winchester

        I have a good friend and marathon maniac -successfully completed a marathon in every state and now doing an unltra in every state visiting October 29th to do the Bad Apple Ultra at Klackle’s Orchards. So I’m going to go up and do that with him – no ultra for me, but I’ll do 3 hours of trail running!

  8. katie

    WOW, Kevin, that’s a big marathon PR! Nice job!!!
    katie recently posted..where did all my fast go?

  9. DR

    MARATHON PR!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just huge

    IM & 26.2 PR ….what a year


    love the lifetime runner thing
    great shirt

  10. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)

    Woohoo!! Seriously, you are a ROCKSTAR!! Congrats on your PR and your awesome race!!


    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..Confidence Boosters!

  11. Colleen

    Wait… you were on the quiz bowl team? That’s fantastic!!!

    Congrats on an awesome race! Sounds like you really pushed it and it payed off. Glad that you were able to meet Ben and that he convinced you to run with their group for a while… it paid off!

    Oh… and Tom was WAY more sore after his first marathon back after the full than he was after the full. 🙂 Maybe Ironman races are easier than marathons…

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Yep. Quiz Bowl Nerd right here. We went to Quiz Bowl states my junior year…. and lost every match! haha It probably doesn’t help that Sister Robert Ann asked me to be on the team and you don’t say “no” to Sister. Seriously. I didn’t want to do it, but I was afraid she might find a way to fail me if I didn’t.

      I was hoping to see Ben at the finish, but I think he ran back out to look for his mom who was also running. I looked up her results and she went sub-4 (he said 4:10 was her goal) and took 2nd in her age group! Fast must run in the family.

      I was talking to Jeff about marathons vs Ironman and I think we both agreed that racing a marathon is much, much, harder on the body.

  12. Morgan

    Well done Kevin!!! You so have a BQ in the bag next go around! Way to go! I was anxiously awaiting your time all morning, along with a few others from Columbus and Detroit. It was a perfect day for racing with the overcast sky and cool temps. Congrats on another notch to the marathon belt and a helluva way to kick off that lifetime runner gig! 🙂
    Morgan recently posted..Ode to a Decade: Saying Goodbye To My 20’s

  13. lindsay

    i don’t know if i’d want to deal w/ a new husband right after running 26.2 miles. not to mention i doubt my family would be thrilled with the idea of a ceremony on the run. guess it’s a good thing i’m already married.

    hooray for a new orange shirt!

    i feel like you weren’t even training for this race… so a 6min PR with a pee stop and a 3:20 total is just not fair. i call for an instant replay. i guess next time you’ll learn to just pee your pants!
    lindsay recently posted..bah humbug (christmas photo card giveaway!)

  14. Heather O

    AMAZING! That is all.

  15. Nick

    Congrats…I also ran the race but the half marathon. I pr’d at 1:48. Recently found your blog from slowtwitch reading about IMWI. I am signed up for 2012. I would be interested in getting some training tips from you…

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Congrats on your half marathon PR!!!

      Is IMWI going to be your first IM? If so, you are in for a world of fun over the next year.

      As for some training tips:
      -Ride the course ahead of time. I would say this was the biggest benefit to me out of everything. I talked to a few people ahead of time about the bike course so I had an idea on what to expect, but riding it is really the best way to get a feel for how much up/down/left/right/left/right/up/down there is. It is a challenging course because of all the changing direction, but a it is a manageable challenge. There are plenty of training groups that meet to ride the course. I chose to go the informal/cheap route and did the WIBA event (Their official site appears to be down: http://robbyb.com/wiba, so hopefully they are doing a 2012 event). You can read about WIBA here (http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2011/06/27/wiba-day-1-2) and here (http://www.ironmanbythirty.com/2011/06/28/wiba-day-3) if you want.
      -Lots of long bike rides. My focus during training was definitely on the bike. I ended up doing about 3 more than scheduled 100+ rides to build up my confidence and bike fitness. It helped because on race day I was very comfortable on the bike the entire time.
      -Find nutrition that works for you. They will probably have Ironman Perform on the course again. If you chose to go with that, make sure to train with it. In fact, make sure to train with both the powdered Perform and the pre-mixed Perform – they taste entirely different. If you read my IMWI race report, you know of the disastrous results I had once I got to the run course after not be familiar with the premixed Perform.
      -Have fun. Cliche, I know. But training is the hard part – it is what makes you an Ironman. Race day is just a final party where you get to pick up your t-shirt and medal. There will be good days and bad days, just don’t let the bad days get you down.

      Good luck! If you have any specific questions about training or the venue, just shout and I would be happy to help (kevin DOT neumann AT gmail DOT com)

      1. MJL

        Konami code!

  16. Elizabeth

    Congrats on the PR! You put up some serious times 🙂 Love the shirt IM you had on – I have one just like it, but it’s gray.
    Elizabeth recently posted..7 Bridges Marathon Race Report

  17. Elizabeth

    Congratulations!! Fantastic job! Do you think the pickle juice helped?
    Elizabeth recently posted..It’s all I have to bring today: A race recap of the 2011 Steamtown Marathon—Part 2

  18. MJL

    Long-time reader here, love the blog. I’m CC ’96 and ND ’00, so your fan allegiance posts are right up my alley. The Sr. Roberto Erno pic was priceless. Tell me she gave you a hug?! I can vividly picture the font in my calculus book, and doing problems up at the board. (That’s right… chalk. None of this new-fangled dry erase marker stuff that’s over in the new building.)

    I’m sniffing for local intel. I’m headed back to GR for Thanksgiving with the family, and looking for a run. GVSU’s “turkey trot” is, oddly, a weekend too early. The Gazelle Gobble Wobble is a non-standard distance and not timed, and I think I’m in PR shape. The GRPS 5k is the leading candidate right now, but hopefully I can say without sounding too snooty that I’d prefer to donate my funds in a different direction.

    Any thoughts?

    Lastly, VERY well done on a great year of fitness and racing. Has anybody called you out on Bailey’s role as a practice kid?!?! Oh how the training schedule changes once the family starts growing. 😉

    1. Ironman By Thirty (Kevin)

      Thanks for the comment, glad you have been enjoying the blog. The last name is familiar. Did you have a younger sibling/cousin at CC after you?

      I actually think that I could have gotten a hug out of Sister, but I was pretty sweaty and smelly and despite what she subjected me to over the years, I didn’t think it would be very nice. haha. I still have nightmares with Sister saying, “You five, up to the board!” *shudder*. The horror of standing at the board clueless as to how to solve the problem. I was the class of ’01 and was one of the first years with the “new-fangled dry erase markers.” Heaven help you if you didn’t put the cap back on the markers tight enough – they might dry out!

      We’ve done both the Gobble Wobble and the GRPS 5k (although it was a Calvin College when I did it) – both are good events. The Gobble Wobble was fun, but you’re right – It’s uptimed and a 4 mile route instead of a 5k. When I did the GRPS race, there were a lot of familiar CC faces so you may even run into someone know. I don’t know of any other races that weekend other than the Turkey Trots in Lansing and Detroit, but you probably don’t want to drive to GR just to drive somewhere else.

      Any chance you have any extra ND/USC tickets laying around for this weekend??? 😉 haha. I’m going down to tailgate and I am hoping to have good enough luck to pick up a ticket there.

      Take care,

      1. MJL

        Yup, my lil’ sister Lisa was ’98. I think. Man, I’m a horrible brother. It was that or ’99. Also had plenty of CC cousins, but they were different last names.

        Looks like you landed in the same place that I did for the GR Turkey Trot scouting report. I’ll mull it over, and probably make my typical last-minute decision. Thanks for the low-down on both events.

        Shoot, with some longer notice I could have probably acquired a pair of face value ND tix. Of course, it was only yesterday that you learned that I existed. I hope it’s a good day on campus for you. It should be nothing short of Electric Mayhem. Make sure to be safe getting home.

  19. Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race

    Great race report Kevin. Way to hang tough in those final miles and get that satisfaction of not walking.

    And dude, learn to pee on the run. It is not hard.
    Jason @ Cook Train Eat Race recently posted..It’s Taper Week

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