This was going to be my attempt at my fastest marathon time of the year. The course features a net 2500 foot downhill and promised to be fast. I planned to take advantage of the downhills while running conservative on the uphills.
I flew into Vegas early in the morning the day before the race. I didn't get much sleep the week of the race due to a hectic work schedule and the extremely early flight didn't help. I picked up my rental car and then picked up my Maniac friend and drove the scenic 1:45 drive to St George,Utah. We headed straight to packet pick up which had a larger expo that expected for a smaller race. We didn't stick around too long before going to get lunch and then check into our hotel. I had forgotten toiletries and had to head over to the drugstore for replacements instead of taking a nap. We had an Italian dinner and went to bed early for the 3AM wake up call. I was on a shuttle shortly after 4AM and headed to the start.
The course is a point to point starting in Central, UT and winding through Veyo and Snowfall Canyon before finishing in St George. The start area featured dozens of campfires and a thousand port-o-potties. Runners set up camp with mylar blankets and gloves provided by the race waiting for the 6:30AM start. There was a delay to the start as a bus was still on the course. We eventually were sent on our way about 10 minutes late.
Miles  to 
In spite of the lack of sleep, I felt pretty good early on. The first 5k was basically a warm up and I ran it in 24 minutes. The next 5K had some of the most perfect downhill running I could dream of and I ran it in 21:45 with hardly any effort at all. I was beginning to really like my chances of having a special day.
Miles  to 
My optimism didn't last for very long. Mile 7 was basically a 250 foot climb. I didn't take things as easily as I should have and still had a 9 minute split in spite of taking a walking break late in the hill. I hoped to recover on the descent, but the course rolled pretty heavily until mile 11
Miles  to 
The course turned downhill again after mile 11. Some of it was steep downhill. My legs became pretty chewed up from the previous section and the steepness of the downhill here didn't help matters. I actually managed to stay on PR and 'B' goal pace until the 30K split. I wasn't confident in my ability to keep it up and with the sun now out, the temperature was quickly rising.
Miles  to [26.2]
There was a bit of an uphill at mile 18. Some kids were handing out otter pops though so I grabbed one and walked and enjoyed it while ascending the hill. I became a bit self defeated in this section of the race. I walked a lot more than I needed. There wasn't any sense of urgency to really run. I started talking to some other walkers who had also blew their goals about other later fall races that were supposed to be fast. We all did agree on trying to break 3:40 since it was still in reach and started jogging again. This didn't last all that long before walk breaks took hold again. I managed to get myself going just enough to finish in 3:48:00.
St George became my 16th state completed and 20th race finished of a marathon or longer. It was also my 11th state with a sub 4 hour finish. I was happy enough with this, but disappointed in the overall performance as I should of been able to run a much faster time. I learned my lesson and need to do more hills if I'm going to run a course like that. Getting ample sleep would help as well. All sadness was washed away a couple hours later when I had an amazing old fashioned burger from an old drive-inn type place near the hotel. The next day I headed to Vegas and really celebrated my finish with a slab of ribs and beer.
I didn't come into this marathon with much of a plan. I had ran it the year before and intended to do much of the same. My training hadn't been quite as intense as 2015, but I expected my fitness levels were around the same level and hoped to run as fast as or faster than by prior year time.
I did most of the same routine as 2015. I flew into Denver early. This year I had a rental car instead of taking the shuttle to Vail and then renting a car. I met up with family for lunch in Eagle and hanging out for a bit before heading down to Aspen. Once in Aspen, which I arrived much earlier than last year, I checked into my hotel and headed to packet pick up. Pick up was at another local hotel and very low frills. Afterwards I walked around town catching Pokemon before getting the same pizza I got the year before and getting some sleep. Race day started early and I walked to the start and met up with my Maniac friend and chatted a bit before we were on our way.
Miles  to 
The first few miles brought about that familiar gasping for air that I experienced last year. I knew it took a couple miles to settle in and so didn't panic. I wound up running with the 3:40 pacer for a bit and chatting with her and another Maniac. The early miles were about settling in and getting comfortable. My pacing was already ahead of last year and I felt good.
Miles  to 
Around the 7 mile mark I felt the need to urinate. The aid stations in this race were spaced further apart and the port-o-potties even further than that. The gentle downhill led to an increase in pacing without an increase in effort, or perhaps that was just perceived since I had to pee really bad. After several miles and a couple aid stations with no bathrooms I finally gave up and used a bush on a more secluded part of the trail. Luckily there were no critters hiding in there. I did encounter 2 snakes later in the race. Outside the urge to pee, these miles were mostly taking advantage of the downhill trail and beautiful scenery of Colorado's mountains.
Miles  to [26.2]
After 20 miles the course flattens out and then adds in some rollers for hills. Nothing terrible mind you, but definitely rough after 20 miles of running downhill. To make matters worse it became quite warm. The weather was much hotter and drier during this year's visit to Colorado. I decided to start taking it easy and walked a bunch. I had been well ahead of the prior year's pacing up to this point, but I didn't feel like I needed to throw off the rest of my summer training just to beat an arbitrary goal. I did wind up finishing in just 57 seconds slower than my time the prior year and consider than a win given that it was somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees warmer at the finish. I grabbed my beer and enjoyed it before taking the shuttle back to Aspen and checking out of my hotel.
Once again I got roped by Mo into running Ragnar Relay. This year we joined some of her Milwaukee based friends on a team and thus were the only Chicago based runners. I had to pack even lighter this year since we'd be taking Amtrak up to Milwaukee the night before the race. It was my first time on one of those trains since I was a kid, but it was a short fun ride with a couple of beers. We were picked up in Milwaukee by Renee and another teammate, Erin, who I was meeting for the first time. We immediately headed to a local bar for some beer.
Race morning wasn't too early. We were in van 2 so we casually got ready and then the rest of the team picked us up in the Van for our trip to Lake Mills for our exchange point. The heat and humidity were already starting to hit pretty hard. The drive consisted of jokes on how we weren't allowed to take the van to Mexico according to our rental agreement. That later turned into the theme for the van with "Mexico Bound" splayed across the back. I contributed a "Donde est la biblioteca?" on one of the window panels. We also had to comment on the weather with a "[Redacted] This Weather!". It's worth noting that we were Team [Redacted]. Soon enough the runner from Van 1 rolled in, Renee was off, and our adventure began.
I was runner 12 so I still had quite awhile until I had to run. I demolished a 12 inch sub and some chips from Subway where as everyone else opted for a 6 inch and some saved their sandwich for after their run. It was already evening by the time it was my turn. I took the hand-off and bolted out a bit too fast. My leg was 6.8 miles and I dropped a 7:24 first mile. The heat soon caught up to me and I had a hard time cooling off. I slowed down more and more each mile, finally opting for short walking breaks the last couple miles. I wound up posting a pace a little below 9:00 min/mile and was fine with that given all the running and heat we would still have to deal with. We parted ways with van 1 and went to get dinner at Noodles and Co. After a bit of re-hydration I started to sweat a bunch during dinner before finally cooling off.
After dinner we headed over to the high school that hosted the next major exchange for some sleep. We initially set up outside and were there for about an hour before one of the volunteers came over to let us know that a lightning hold was started and that runners were going to be held at their next exchange. We looked at a huge storm on our weather apps and decided to head inside to the air conditioned gymnasium for more sleep. This sleep would be interrupted by what became referred to as erector set guy who dumped all sorts of metal poles on the floor and then proceeded to noisily put together a cot to sleep on. Some people are just so self centered and oblivious to everything else that is going on. Close to midnight we received word that the hold had been lifted and that the team would skip 2 legs. This meant we had 3.5 miles from runner 6 until we were on duty again. We packed up our gear and got ready to go.
The night legs got interesting as the exchanges and directions didn't match between sources. Multiple teams were getting lost. The running routes were also changed at times, but luckily there were signs on the course. One of the route changes proved fortunate as a shooting had occurred on the original route. We witnessed all the police vehicles fly by. The sun was starting to rise by the time I was up to run again. I had a nice 6 mile route through some neighborhoods and then along the lakefront in Racine. It was still slightly warm and humid, but much cooler than the previous evening. I flew along and finished this leg with a 7:58 pace. Next was a much needed stop at IHOP for breakfast.
After breakfast we headed over to North Chicago High School for the next major exchange. We weren't allowed indoors here so we camped out where we could find shade. We had a little shade tent, but it wasn't enough to shelter the whole team. I shifted several times as the shade moved along with the sun. It also didn't help that every time I started to fall asleep that ants would start crawling over me and wake me up. The heat and lack of sleep were really starting to get to me. We did learn that we could double up runners and skip some legs for our final leg of the race. Between the hold and the heat slowing us down, we needed everything we could get to finish before the 8PM cutoff.
My final leg started at 4:30PM. It was a bit odd in that no one was handing off to me since we had skipped the prior leg. I showed up at the exchange and told the officials I was starting and we just skipped. I then started my 9.7 mile journey towards La Bagh Woods for the finish line. Early going was ok. I knew I'd be taking it easy and taking walking breaks to avoid overheating. There was supposed to be 3 water stations on this route, but no one knew if they would actually be there. I conserved the water I had just in case. The first water station was there about 1.8 miles in. Shortly after while still in the forest preserve I got a nice scare as a deer jumped out of a creek towards me and was about 10 feet away. The doe seemed startled by my presence as well and we eyed each other as I kept running and she darted off into the woods. The next water station was about 4 miles in after a long sunny stretch through a park. I was already running more than walking and couldn't get enough water into my system. I took a salt tab to try and help, but it was a losing battle. I started jogging a bit more until we got to the final water station just before mile 6. We then hit a long sunny stretch down Devon where I just felt done. I walked the entire way. I knew my water wouldn't last until the finish. Luckily lots of teams were out there handing out water and gatorade to those who needed it. Someone even propped a spray hose up in their driveway. The last few miles of my run are a big blur. I got dizzy, took another salt tab, and just tried to stay cool and finish safe. I was able to get an ice cold bottle of water from another team than I put on the back of my neck to cool off a bit before chugging it. There was another spot where a team had a hose and sprayed runners with cold water. Finally, after about 30 minutes after my predicted finish time, I rolled into La Bagh woods and wondered where the heck my team was. I stumbled closer and closer to the finish before I finally spotted them and we all ran across together. I then just hunched down and tried not to black out. Water was fetched and a team photo was taken while everyone asked what I needed. My answer was shade.
We found a spot in the shade and I laid down for a few minutes. A team mate brought over a bottle of gatorade which I downed pretty quickly. I also ate a slice of pizza and finally started to feel a bit normal. Just like that it was basically over. A couple of team mates left, van 1 gave some of us a ride to van 2 and we parted ways. The remaining team members dropped me off while accidentally side swiping a car in the process. We waited 45 minutes for the police to show so we could file a report. I finally went in to my air conditioned condo and took a much needed shower and warmed up some leftover pizza. I think I caught up on social media for about an hour and called in a night and slept for the next 11 hours.
The theme for Ragnar this year was "Inner Wild", but it should of been "Embrace Chaos". Things just didn't run as smoothly race-wise as with prior years. I get that they can't do anything about the heat or storms, but communication was horrid. There also weren't any improvements over prior years and existing problems still remained. Poo mountain anyone? One would think that they would take extra safety precautions with the heat, but all that we got was a text at 3pm on Saturday saying to stay hydrated. Yeah, we've been trying to do that since 5AM on Friday. Ragnar hasn't done anything to help matters. There's no extra hydration stations. No misters. No extra shade constructed. Nothing. I think this race has left me burned out and turned off from Ragnar for the time being.
I had heard many good and potentially concerning things about Flying Pig before I had run it. People talked about the great course and crowd support. They also talked about the hills. Given that this was day 2 of my first ever marathon double, the hills would definitely be of a concern.
We drove up to Cincinnati from Louisville, which is about 80 miles away. We got to the expo and saw that it was pretty big. After some initial confusion we found out where to get our packets, and then had to head to the opposite end of the place to get our shirts and our pretty nifty bags with yoga mat holders. The wandering around the expo was probably good for my legs as it kept the blood flowing and prevented me from getting too stiff after my marathon that morning. I also wound up buying a new pair of shoes, Hoka One One Infinity, that aren't carried by Fleet Feet in Chicago. After we went to our hotel, grabbed some dinner, and then settled in for the night.
Race morning felt like it came a little too soon. It was also raining steadily outside. This didn't bode well given that I finished Louisville looking like a drowned rat. I was smart and had a poncho with me, so I wore that down to the start line, which was about a mile away. The walk served to warm the legs up and get a little loose before the race. It started to feel a bit steamy out with the humidity and also wearing the poncho. The rain let up just before the start of the race and I ditched the poncho.
I was in Pig Pen B (aka Corral B) for the start of the race. I headed towards the back knowing I wasn't going to start out too fast and the pen was really for runners who expected to run between a 3:20 and 3:40. Totally not happening this time. The race starts and we're running along near the river and by the sports stadiums. Things feel a little stiff, but ok. We hit a long uphill on a bridge and I decide to take a walk break. I see a runner from the day before and we chat for a few minutes before he goes running off.
About 2 miles into the race I spot Meg, a fellow Marathon Maniac who I had run a couple miles with at the Garmin Marathon 2 weeks prior. We made the decision right then to stick together since it was the first double for both of us and would make things easier, and it did! The miles actually started to tick by. It helped that we had a lot of similar goals and talked about other marathons we planned to do or had already completed. She's going for 50 states at a far faster pace than I am and hopes to finish next year. I wish I had the vacation days and funds to pull that off. We also started sort of a game. We knew that the hills would eat us alive if we tried storming up all of them so we would pick a landmark such as a sign or a traffic cone and say we were going to run to that sign and then start walking. We would repeat for transitioning from walking to running.
We hit the halfway point in around 2:12. I was still feeling optimistic at this point of achieving my goal of not running my worst marathon ever which was a 4:26. I knew the 2nd half of the course was mostly downhill and the worst of it was behind us. Up to this point the crowds had been pretty awesome and people were handing out all sorts of things on the course such as twizzlers, swedish fish, orange slices, and even slices of bacon! I had a twizzler that I ate part of before I gave up on trying to chew the rest. The sun had come out during the course of the race and was beating on us in full force now.
There was a lady after the halfway point who was yelling out that it's all downhill from here. I joked to Meg that I was gonna have to cut the woman if she was lying. She was most definitely lying. Although the course was net downhill after the halfway point, there were still a lot of inclines. As the sun continued to beat down and warm things up, the walking breaks became more frequent and longer. My stomach started knotting up a bit. I grabbed a beer on the course and that seemed to help for a bit. Finally I stopped and used the facilities around mile 20 or so. Meg walked so I could catch up to her after. It was here that I realized something else scary, My thighs had chafed badly and I was bleeding. It didn't hurt, yet, so I continued on.
As the end of the race came near the crowds picked up again big time. It felt like a big city race heading through the downtown streets towards the finish. Meg and I decided to put our all into the final stretch. The final time of 4:38:35 was a new personal worse by 12 minutes, but I had completed my double with the 2nd day being the hilliest course I've ever run and on a fairly warm day with temperatures in the 70s. Meg had run only 2 minutes slower than the day before so she was pretty happy. The finisher's chute had so many goodies after we collected our medals and water. I wish I had a bag to collect all the chips, cookies, candy, etc. I soon parted ways with Meg and found Natali who immediately asked if I was ok and pointed at my legs. I had partially dried blood streaked down them. It's a wonder no one stopped me on the course or in the finisher chute since it did look pretty bad.
We made our way back to the hotel where it felt great to get out of my soaked clothes, all sweat this time, not rain. I found out my once white socks now had a nice pink hue. The shower was a bit painful to wash certain areas, but much needed. Luckily I had first aid cream and medical tape in my toiletry bag to patch myself back up.
After showering we managed to wander over a few blocks to Tom + Chee to get the most amazing grilled cheese sandwiches ever. I think that might be my ultra food. I had one at mile 36 of the DPRT 50 miler last fall and it was a godsend. After a few hours resting at the hotel we got hungry again and wandered out for dinner. I found a place called Eagle Food and Beer hall that looked good. It had an hour wait at 6PM. We put our names in and headed across the street for a drink. The wait was well worth it as I got half a fried chicken and a 5-cheese mac with garlic bread crumbles. I destroyed that dinner and then had Graeter's Ice Cream for dessert. I guess 52.4 miles made me a little hungry.
We managed to barely stay up long enough to watch Game of Thrones and then had a good night's sleep before driving back to Chicago the next day.
Some time ago I got the bright idea of running two marathons in one weekend. Kentucky Derby and Flying Pig seemed like the perfect set up since the races were only about 80 miles apart. I soon signed up and all was well until race weekend approached. I was never able to properly train for the double, so that had me a little worried heading in.
I drove down to Louisville on Friday afternoon. It was largely uneventful except when it came time for lunch and the realization there is almost no where to eat on the drive between Chicago and Lafayette. We finally got to Louisville which featured nearly as much road construction as Chicago and headed to the convention center for the expo. I picked up my stuff which included a hat that I wasn't expected then headed out. The only route out of the expo snaked you through all the exhibits and had narrow corridors full of people gawking over stuff. Not fun. Next was over to a friend's place that we crashed at and dinner and finally bed.
The original forecast was for a wet and stormy morning. I checked the weather once again when I woke up and saw that the rain was going to hold off until later in the morning. I brought my hat in preparation, but this was much preferred to having the race potentially canceled. After parking somewhere in the vicinity of downtown Louisville we made our way to the start line. I soon found Amanda and line up in the corrals with her and Julie. The race started and sent us down the main drag past bourbon places and the Louisville Slugger museum.
It wasn't long before I left Amanda behind as she was making sure to take things slow to survive the double as well. I ran past some girls where one was explaining to the other what the different bib colors meant and that some of the people were running a marathon. I announced to them I was running two. They asked if my 2nd one was Flying Pig and I said yes. They were excited since they were from Cincinnati and love Flying Pig. They were shooting to get the girl a sub 2 hour half so I ran for them awhile to try and keep them on pace. I tried coaching the girl a bit as she was running far to tense and it showed. The miles ticked off and soon we were doing a quick lap around Churchill Downs. A bit after this the course split so I said good luck and good bye to the girls and was on my way.
There were far fewer marathoners than half runners. It didn't take long to spot some Maniacs though. I found a couple who were also trying to be 50 Staters. There was a sprinkle that started at mile 8 that was now turning into heavier rain. It was refreshing and I picked up the pace a little. At mile 11.5 we entered Iroquois Park which featured a lot of ups and downs, especially compared to Chicago. I swallowed my pride and walked a bit of the uphill portions knowing full well that even though I wasn't tired, I wasn't even 1/4 of the way through my weekend mileage yet. One of the Maniacs, Steady Eddie, saw what I was doing and joined me to conserve some energy as well. He told me about another group he's in that I should join - 50sub4. You need 10 states at sub 4 hours to get in and the goal is to his sub 4 hours in every one, which only 84 people have completed to date. We were still on sub4 pace for KDF so that would give me my 10th state if I kept it up.
As we finally hit some downhills and left the park I also left Steady Eddie to greet his wife. Back on the streets I picked up the pace a bit. The trip through the park meant some splits closer to 10 minutes with the walking. While still on sub 4 pace, I wanted a little more cushion. Once we reached mile 18 the half and full course merged once more, but had dividers splitting the 2. The marathon side was a bit narrow and I soon found myself weaving around a lot of the marathoners who had faded. I was still running strong and enjoying myself in the rain. I cleared 20 miles in 2:56 and knew I could practically coast to the finish line under 4 hours. I finally realized how dumb I was being and slowed things down at mile 22.
I nearly made it through the entire race without using the facilities, but decided to stop during the 23rd mile because I had time and there was no need to run with discomfort for the next few miles. When I slowed down I switched to monitoring my heart rate. Once I hit the threshold from moderate effort over to hard effort I would walk myself down to and easy level heart rate and then start jogging again. The system worked out pretty well even if I did have a 10 minute and 10:30 mile doing it. I soon found myself on the home stretch and with a large group of people yelling my name. It was the girls from earlier and their friends with them out there cheering me on. That gave me a little pick up for the home stretch as I crossed the line in 3:55:59.
Don't think I've ever looked this strong at the finish (in yellow)
I soon got my medal, water, Mylar blanket, and a chocolate milk. The finish area was under an overpass so it stayed mostly dry. Unfortunately the area was sandy which was a mess to walk through. My friends found me and after a bit we decide to grab lunch at a local bbq/microbrewery. By this point the rain was a complete downpour. Lunch was good, but I wasn't very hungry. My tummy was a little out of whack still from the running. One of the girls from earlier actually came in and she ran over and hugged me. She PR'd and was happy about that but missed her sub 2 half by 33 seconds.
After lunch it was time to put on some dry clothes and head to Cincinnati for the next part of this epic journey.
After last year's move to Lincoln Square, this meant that Ravenswood was now my neighborhood race. I had to sign up for it of course. I've run this race for a few years now and the convenience factor was now a definite plus. I was able to do packet pick up from the Fleet Feet Lincoln Square location on Thursday evening. The races are now being organized by RAM so it was their set up with check in, get a random bib, and scan it in under your name. Fairly quick process and then I went and bought new shoes.
Race day was one of those freakish warm days we've been getting this Sprinter. I decided to jog over to the start as warm up. I might have gotten a bit of a late start and then have to rush a little, but not too much. I got to the race site with 12 minutes to spare before the race was to start. I headed over to gear check and spotted Pete. It was quick to drop off my gear bag and then head towards the start corrals. Had a little bit of a fight to get anywhere near the pace I needed to be lining up at. Lots of kids near the front which worried me a bit.
It wasn't long before we were off and running. The early going had some speed bumps, but those weren't much of an issue. It was everyone who sprinted out and then got winded and slowed down that I had to weave through to keep on pace that slowed me down. The first mile was still a respectable 6:35. There were no Rahm sightings for me this year since I found out after the race he actually ran.
During the 2nd mile I began to struggle. I just could not keep my legs pumping as hard. My cadence slowed and my stride shortened. I was working way too hard to maintain the pace I was running and thus slowed down a bit to 7:10. Things should not have been as hard as they were given that I had run faster on a windy day 2 weeks prior. I didn't think the warmer temperature was affecting me that much. Every time I went to try and push things I got a little dizzy and realized my heart rate was up near top effort.
We ran down Lincoln and through the main square where the Fleet Feet employees were cheering everyone one. After than is the turn down Lawrence that seems to go on forever before turning back down Damen. I was getting passed and really fought to maintain the pace that I had been running. The third mile was just a touch slower at 7:14. Turning back down Wilson I pushed with everything I had left and ignored that I was getting dizzy again. I crossed the line at exactly 22:00. It was a subpar performance for me and I was happy to just be done. I grabbed some water and headed towards gear check.
I ran into the Bootleg group on my way to gear check and found out where the meeting spot was going to be. I got my gear fairly quickly and also got a sticky bun before heading over to church for pictures with the Bootlekeggers and the bloggers.
We began discussion race performance. Pete had an amazing PR. I realized that I had not eaten well the day before and likely just bonked. It's been recommended that I get the book Racing Weight to be able to cut weight and still train for endurance. Also found out that Rahm was behind Pete at the start. We had an Olympian in the race who finished 2nd overall for females. Pete and Annabelle both placed in their age groups. In spite of the bad personal race, it was a good day and the weather was beautiful. Couldn't think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.
Last fall I gave in to a whim and signed up for the Garmin Marathon. There was a discount for Marathon Maniacs and they were touting some perks. I figured it was a race I could drive to and spend a 3 day weekend. I didn't put much thought into how the course or weather might turn out or the fact that I was doing my first double marathon 2 weeks later.
I took Friday off of work and drove to Olathe (Oh-LAY-thuh), Kansas. The home of Garmin. It is a suburb of Kansas City.The trip was mostly uneventful as driving across Illinois and Missouri can be. I stopped a few hours in for gas and lunch, but pretty much trucked it right on to the race expo. I must admit my legs were a little wobbly after being in the car for so long so I spent a few minutes getting my balance and senses back as I wandered into the expo. I got my registration sheet and headed towards the back to pick up my stuff and crossed paths with a girl from my Ragnar team. She was in the other van so we didn't really know each other too well, but she gave me a funny look and was like, hey, do I know you? After I said yes, Ragnar, she was like oh, right. What are you doing for dinner, me and the girls are gonna grab something soon. She was with Too Tall and Judy who I knew, so I figured why not join in on the fun.
After happy hour beers and a teriyaki stir fry I finally made it to my hotel. Someone must not like me because the room was filthy. I was too tired to complain. The only things clean were the sink and the bed which was all I needed after the long day. I talked to another runner after the race staying there who said she got a newly remodeled room. We both paid $45 a night so I still feel a bit shafted. I managed to get to bed after the Blackhawks game finished and got up bright and early to get to the race site. It was at an industrial complex without a lot of roads in or out and would be closing for the race so I was there 75 minutes before race time. I chilled in the car for half an hour before heading to the race area to use the facilities. I wandered around looking for familiar faces, but talked to several other Maniacs instead. I used the facilities one more time before the start of the race and then found the start corral completely jam packed with 10 minutes before race time. The pacers were all like 5 feet apart. There wasn't enough room for the number of runners so I had to wait with a large group to jump in from a side entrance after the race was under way.
Early Miles -
I was way back in no mans land by the time I crossed the start. I saw a 4:40 pacer in front of me and groaned. I wanted to start conservative, but this was a bit too much. There was no room to navigate either. I wanted to avoid weaving, but didn't have a whole lot of choice as the pace was painfully slow. I wound up using turn lanes on the road for a little extra space to get around people. We also got an early taste of some rollers. These were a bit taller than Mt Roosevelt in Chicago and ran back to back. I caught up to Too Tall somewhere around the 4:30 pace group and she was sticking around there with her friend and told me to keep going so away I went.
The Fun Miles -
It took about 4 miles, but I finally got locked into a groove. I had caught the 3:50 pace group and planned to stick with them for a bit. A couple Maniacs started talking to me and one of them was doing 3 more of the same races as I was this year. The pace felt casual and I had no problem conversing so I was surprised to see my watch show a sub 8 split on the next mile. After a couple miles my new friend said she wanted to take it easy and stay with the 3:50 group so away I went. There were some more small hills, but I was in a good mood and cruising so I kept at it. I eventually caught and passed the 3:37 pace group. I had no intention of running anywhere near this pace so it was a bit unexpected. The sun had come out though and things started to take more of an effort.
The Grind Miles -
There was a long hill up to mile 12. I fought my way up and might have used too much energy doing so. I only had one more sub 8 mile after that hill. I recognized that between the heat and the climbs, my legs had lost their mojo and tried to slow my pace just to survive. To make matters worse my stomach was in knots. I was sure I was having hydration issues and the powerade flavored water wasn't helping for electrolytes. I tried to use the bathroom during the 16th mile and this is when the 3:37 pace group passed me by.
The Wheels Falling Off -
I kept going. I started getting stomach pains and wondered when the next bathroom would pop up. Miles 12-25 of the race were along a paved bike trail that while scenic, meant longer distances between aid stations and restrooms. I tried using another restroom at 18 with no luck. Finally at 18.5 we hit the turnaround of the out and back along the trail and I was greeted with a fierce headwind. It was a steady 15 mph with stronger gusts. The fact that we were also going uphill just added to the battle. It wasn't long before I was reduced to mostly walking. I was feeling faint and dizzy, but was too stubborn to give up so I power walked what I could and jogged the downhill stretches. I hurt seeing a bunch of pace groups pass me by, but I didn't want to end up in a med tent or worse.
The Finish -
Even if I had fresh legs, the climb just before the mile 25 marker was pure evil. It was 80 feet up a steep incline. We then went down a little decline and small incline before turning onto the same road we started the race on. One last trip over those rollers before hitting the finish. I had pushed myself just enough over the last couple miles to avoid a personal worst. I finished just under 4:21. I collected my medal, a water bottle and headed straight to the beer tent. I caught up on news from Carmel and waited for the others to finish. The medal was actually pretty cool.
After thoughts -
I actually felt really good in the first half of the race. I may not have lost as much fitness over the winter as I thought. I'm definitely not in shape for hilly courses on warm days though. I also need to start splurging for host hotels and the perks they give. I could have slept in an extra hour if I had. The race was well themed and well done. The only problems were the crowded start, the over diluted powerade, and the lack of on course port-a-potties.