Wednesday, June 15, 2005

WHISTLE STOP 2002 - RACE REPORT

As Grandma’s 2005 quickly approaches, I’ve been thinking about my race plan. I’d like to try to mimic how I felt when I set my PR in 2002. What better way to get in that frame of mind that to re-read my race report from that day?

So just to make it clear, this is from Whistle Stop 2002, not Grandma’s 2005.

THE COURSE: I decided to run this race 7 weeks ago, after plans for a winter marathon fell through. I chose Whistle Stop because it’s low-key, on a soft, forgiving surface, and it’s in the town I grew up in, so I’d be able to stay with my parents. The course is run on what’s called the tri-county corridor, which is an old limestone railroad bed that’s been converted to a bike, ATV, snowmobile, etc. trail. The first 8 miles are flat. From miles 8 to 22, the course drops from 1150 feet to 620 feet – there’s virtually no elevation rise during that stretch. During the last 4 miles there’s a “whole” 20-foot rise. The first mile and last mile are on blacktop, the other 24 miles are on limestone.

THE WEATHER: When I woke up it was about 45 and misty. By the time we got in the car to drive to the start there was a steady rain. Luckily it let up right before we got dropped off. Right when we got out of the car the race director was giving the forecast. He said the winds were supposed to be from the west at 10 mph, which would be a tail wind. Then he said, “however, the winds like to swing around Lake Superior, then head back from the east, so there could be a head wind.”

STRATEGY: My strategy consisted of 3 words, patience, patience, and patience. Having only followed a 7-week program, instead of my normal 18-week program I wasn’t sure what to expect. I still had some solid training this summer and my best races in 6 years, including a 1:23:05 half and a 29:15 5 miler. Since my marathon PR was 3:00:55, breaking 3 hours was my primary goal. Results from the past 2 years showed that about 10 people would break 3 hours. I figured most people go out too hard, so early on, if I were in the top 25-30 I would be alright. That would allow me to pick people off towards the end.

THE RACE: The gun goes off and I settle in quickly. The first mile does have a little up hill, so I don’t worry about the 7:16 split. We hit the limestone trail and a pack starts to form around me. One guy is trying to run 3:15 for a BQ. Michael wants to beat his wife’s 3:03 from Grandma’s. We’re chatting away having a good time and rattling off 6:45-6:55s. A couple of more guys join us and we have a pack of 6. One of the guys, Gary, is a 50 year old with a 2:34 PR from 20 years ago. He’s looking strong and says he’d like to break 3 too. I have confidence in Gary, but the rest of the pack seems to be working too hard, too early in the race.

As we hit the water stops I grab a cup and maintain my pace. Everyone else in the pack seems to really slow down and then they spend the next 2-3 minutes trying to catch me. This continues through about 12 miles, after which it’s just me, Gary and Michael. We hit the half in 1:29:43 and I’m feeling awesome. Still lots of small talk going on as Gary and I drop Michael. At 14 miles Gary and I are both feeling great. My mind feels great too; I’m relaxed and not worried about the pace, my energy level, the slight headwind or anything. I tell him if we can maintain our pace until 20, we’ll be in great shape.

At 16 we hit another water stop where I experience my first real hurdle of the day. Right before the water stop I put a gel in my mouth. I grabbed a cup from a gal that said “water.” I lift to drink and wash my gel down and see that the contents are bright green. Shit! By the time I realize this I’ve already passed the water stop. I take a quick sip to wash down the gel and hope I don’t cramp up. Gary must have really slowed down at this aid station because I was at mile 17 before he caught up to me. I tell him about the “incident” and he decides to take a gel too, which makes him slow down. That turns out to be the last time I’d see Gary until the finish.

I approach 18 feeling great and think to myself, “there’s ‘only’ 8 miles left.” I decide to squeeze the gas a little, rather than wait until mile 20. I run 6:33 and 6:31 for 19 and 20. So far I’ve only looked at my elapsed time at miles 1, 7 and halfway. At 20 I take a peek, see 2:16:02 and “do the math” – figuring I can run 7s for the last 10k and still break 3 hours.

Right after 20 I see my parents and tell them I’m feeling awesome as they hand me another gel taped to a water bottle. Since about the halfway point people have told me I was in 21st place. I see a few guys up ahead and decide to see how many people I can pass during the last 10k. By this time, there are also half marathon walkers on the course that I’m passing. I continue to roll, running 21 and 22 in 6:25 (fastest of the day) and 6:28, respectively. I still feel good during a 6:43 23rd mile. With 5k to go I start to feel it as I slow to a 7:01 for mile 24. I “do the math” again and figure I can run 8s for the last 2 miles and still break 3.

I continue to push and move into 16th just before mile 25, which is another 7:01. Now I know sub-3 is in the bag. Since I don’t see any other marathoners within striking distance, I just maintain my pace and enjoy running the same streets I used to run as a kid – knowing sub-3 was mine. I “kick” the last block to pass a group of walkers and cross the line in 2:58:10. After grabbing some refreshments, I see Gary cross the line in 2:59:32. Michael ended up running 3:11.

This is the first marathon (out of 7) where I’ve run negative splits; 1:29:43/1:28:27. My 5-mile splits were 34:31, 34:16, 33:50, 33:25, 33:38. 10-mile splits were 1:08:47, 1:07:15 with a 42:08 last 10k.

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Unfortunately, I had to re-type this whole thing and I don’t want to retype each mile split. However, their consistency is pretty “amazing” (if I do say so myself) I’ll post the short hand version.

(7:16 – slowest of the day, 41, 56, 50, 49, 46, 54, 55, 45, 40, 48, 45, 43, 50, 52, 52, 41, 33, 31, 25 - fastest, 28, 43, 7:01, 7:01, 8:30 – last 1.2)

4 comments:

Chelle said...

That's what I want to do!

Anonymous said...

Zeke man, you are ready. Let your hair out a bit the night before. Have a good meal and a brew if necessary. Patience is definately the key, your not out there to "push the envelope." As you know the first 10 are over like that and then you settle in. Just run to 20 like you've trained for and then work the last 10k in. You know the drill better than most. I wish you success and remember we do this for fun and the outrageous stories afterwards.

Chad Austin said...

Thanks, Double?

Double said...

Yeah buddy.....make it happen. Don't put a lot of pressure on yourself. I like to treat them like workouts. Resist the temptation to work harder in the middle miles. The training will keep you near goal pace, but the brain gets use to telling you your tired now so increase effort. Past 21-22 increase the effort all you want. I am not from the "bank time" camp. My best two are negative split efforts, so that's my mantra.