AM: 13.1M (1:09:04); 3M wm/4M cd :: 20M
Its hard to describe the excitement around Grandmas Marathon. This point has been made numerous other places, but it bears repeating that while most of the major marathons in the US are in metropolitan areas, Grandmas remains a small town race. Consequently, it takes on major significance in the community instead of playing second fiddle to any number of other major events. Its a great event to be a part of, as cliche as that sounds.
One thing I do not look forward to each year is the early wake up call. This year I rolled out around 4:15 a.m. Normally Grandmas (half or full) is a key event I've been building for and the nervous energy leads to a restless night of sleep and an easy time getting up. This time around it was just another race in the middle of a training cycle, so I slept like a log and remained groggy until stepping outside.
The warm-up was the usually stiff-legged, get the engine running deal. The humidity was noticeable at the start, but it remained a little cloudy. There remained hope that the conditions would be fair enough for a good race. Looking at the list of the elites it seemed like I was going to be right in the middle of the two leading packs. There was a group of 6-8 who I was pretty sure would run in the 1:04-1:06 range, thus making my only contact with them last about 1/2 mile. The there was the 1:09-1:11 who I would, hopefully be just ahead of. It seemed I would be destined to run in no-mans land the majority of the race, but there was a good chance there would be some of the front runners to pick off towards the end, should they falter.
Goal for Mile 1: 5:05-5:10, Mile 1 (actual): 4:55
I guess I felt alright. Not great, just alright. Mile 2 settled down to a more reasonable 5:12 as Pete Gilman and I ran with two others. Splits were consistent around 5:10 for the next two miles until we went through a water stop and the group split up a bit. I found myself running alone, ahead of the others and so I kept pushing. Judging by footsteps, I dropped them fairly quickly and since it felt as though I was going pretty good, I thought today just might be my day. I started to see the familiar form of Ryan Meissen a ways down the road and I could tell that he and another runner had been dropped by the fast pace of the leading group. It was all going to plan. (Burns voice) Excellent.
Then I saw my mile 5 split of 5:17. My heart sank. I wasn't pulling away at all, I was just dying less. I continued to push, but legs stopped responding. I was starting to feel warm as we approached Lester River. The next stretch until mile 8 was the worst of the race. I was running around 5:25/mile and it wasn't feeling good at all. I was taking 2-3 cups of water at each stop hoping it would help stop the bleeding.
Coming up the "hill", in reality "slight incline", by Lakeshore Lutheran/mile 8, the cheering got a little louder behind me and I could sense that someone(s) was making ground from behind. As I passed mile 8 I decided to make another push, given that the road was slightly downhill for the next mile. In this case pushing meant a 5:12, but today it was good enough to get me back into racing mode.
I suffered up Lemon Drop and could see I was once again making up ground on the runners ahead of me. I relaxed for a little bit over the hill, but once I had recovered I began to push the pace as much as I could. I was really hot now. The sun was out in full force and my legs just felt stale. In my mind I was just waiting for that turn onto Superior St. Once there I accelerated again. My stride relaxed a bit and I used every bit of crowd encouragement to keep driving. The temptation to look back was hard to resist, but I forced myself to keep my eyes up on the back of Ryan's jersey some 200m down the road.
Passing Lake St the crowds seemed bigger than they usually are for the half-marathon. Bigger and louder. I continued to focus on my form and using every bit of mental energy to keep the pace respectable. Again, I was running just barely faster than my goal marathon pace for this fall.
Coming around the DECC it was obvious I wasn't going to catch anyone in front of me or be caught by anyone from behind. Before the race my ultimate goal was to run sub-1:08, but I would have been happy with anything under 1:09. Coming up to the line I saw the time approaching 1:09, but I just didn't have enough spring in me to break it. 8th place overall was respectable given the quality of the field.
Overall, this was a so-so race for me. With the conditions taking their toll (and it was much worse for the marathon), its hard to gleen any thing relevant, other than I have to work on how I handle the mental hurdles late in the race. The ultramarathon ethos of "just keep moving" isn't enough in the marathon. Pace plays a much more important role when time goals are on the line.