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.