Sunday, June 17, 2007


Oh man, where to start? As with most marathon race reports it’s not about the 4:30 AM wakeup calls, hill repeats in the dark on slippery paths, 2 hour runs in minus 30 wind chills, weekly mileage, etc. It’s about the weather on race day.

Let me just say right now, if I EVER look at the weather forecast prior to Grandma’s Marathon again, someone please come and give me a smack alongside the head. I swore I wouldn’t look until Wednesday or Thursday, but caught myself sneaking a peak on Tuesday; low 60 and high 80 – I started to worry. Wednesday it was 58 and 75 – a little better. Thursday it was a little better yet. Pretty soon the forecast was almost perfect; 55-60 degrees at the start, cloudy, 30% - 40% chance of rain and a tailwind.

I went from Plan A (thoughts of sub-2:55 and possibly sub-2:52 on an ideal day) to Plan B (running conservatively and trying to pick off as much carnage as possible without worrying about my time) and back to Plan A.

Riding the bus to the start, I knew perfect conditions were not in the cards. It was probably already 60 degrees 90 minutes before the start and what few clouds we had were burning off quickly.

To get a better sense of what was to come, I’ll just share a few sentences from today’s paper;

A race that has built an international reputation for speed and cool conditions was on the burner for a second-straight year. It was 66 degrees, sunny and humid at the start and 74 at the finish for the winner. At the 4-hour mark, it was 84 degrees. The warmest run in Grandma’s Marathon history probably was the inaugural race in 1977 when it started at 11 AM. This year’s race may rank second.
I hate to spend too much time talking about the weather (I know, it’s too late.), but the reason I bring it up is because I don’t run well in the heat. So at the start, I’m still not really sure what my plan was. I knew Plan A was highly unlikely, but the conditions didn’t seem bad enough to switch to Plan B. I guess Plan C would be the way to go - wing it.

Miles 1-3
Before I get started, let me set the stage by saying that I happened to be sitting in front of Jason, a guy who finished about 30 seconds in front of me at a recent half marathon. We were talking pacing and I said I'd like to go out around 6:50-7:00 and work down from there. I’d rather be “too slow” than “too fast” during the first 2-3 miles.

As usual, during the first mile I’m looking around for familiar faces, seeing who I can use to gauge my pace. About 5 seconds ahead of me I see Sonya, Heather and Laurie. These women are steadily around 3-hours, give or take two minutes. I figure they’ll go through the mile around 6:50. So I stay where I’m at and come across mile 1 in 6:34. Yikes! That turned out to be my third fastest split of the day – not how I typically start my marathons.

Luckily I’m able to slow to a 6:50 second mile and end up going through 3 miles in 20:02.

Miles 4-6
The course provides little shade and the road curves a lot, so the question arises; Do I run the tangents or do I stay to the left of the road and run in as much shade as possible? I opt for the shade. At mile 5 I take my first gel and learn a valuable lesson; Do not put gel in your mouth unless you have a cup of water in your hand to wash it down. We’re less than 20% into the race and I nearly gagged myself to death.

During this stretch I’m still within 5-10 seconds of Sonya, Heather and Laurie (and the pack of men that are following closely behind them). After seeing my first three splits bounce around, I finally settled in a little and ran 20:25 for this stretch. Somewhere around this time Kyran and another UW-EC graduate pull up alongside me for a few miles.

Miles 7-9
While headwinds are not normally wished for during a marathon, we have a slight headwind that actually provides a little relief from the heat. Add in a little shade and water over my head every two miles and I wasn’t feeling too discouraged about the weather.

I finally moved up into a group of about 6-8, including Sonya, Heather, Paul and Kevin. I know Sonya, know of Heather, and “met” Paul and Kevin during the race. These three miles turn out to be a tad quicker; 20:19.

Miles 10-12
While my miles have all be 6:51 or under I really have no idea what pace I’m running. I’m eager to get to mile 10, so I can do the math and figure out where I’m at. I pass by in 1:07:18 and am happy with the 6:44 pace. That’s not far from my original goal of 6:40 pace.

At mile 11 I take my second gel and tell myself to get to the half and see how I feel. With the help of a downhill 10th mile (6:33) I run these three miles even faster; 20:08.

Miles 13-15
Originally my goal was to pass the half in 1:27 +/- 30 seconds. I roll through in 1:28:19. Rather than being bummed out, I tell myself that that’s only 50 seconds from goal. Come to think about it, I believe that is fastest I’ve ever run for any half of a marathon.

At this point I’m still with the pack of 6-8 that I mentioned earlier. In addition, Jason, from the bus, has now joined us. I’m not sure what happened next, but the 14th mile turned out to be my fastest of the day, 6:27. That led to my fastest 3-mile stretch of the day; 19:51.

Miles 16-18
During mile 16 I’m thinking to myself, man this pack is really solid. We have a nice number in the pack, we’re consistently hitting 6:40-6:50, there’s some friendly banter going on, etc.

Next thing I know we go through the mile 17 aid station and the pack disintegrates. I took my third gel here and when I came out the other side it was just Kevin, Jason and me. Kevin looked around a little and asked if we had picked up the pace or something. None of us thought we did and our time of 20:20 for these miles shows we’re staying around 6:45 pace.

Miles 19-21
Up until this point the aid stations have been at the odd mile markers. I tell myself just to make it to mile 19 because that’s when they start providing aid at every mile marker. During this mile it’s starting to feel hard. I’m still with Kevin and Jason, but it’s starting to hurt. I feel a little better when I noticed we ran a 6:41. I back off and let them go.

As I approach mile 20 I still remember my 10-mile split of 1:07:18. I'm curious to see what my second 10-mile split is for two reasons; 1) I want the feedback on my pace and 2) the ability to still solve math problems at this stage of the race provides feedback on my mental state. I hit 20 in 2:14:40 and math couldn’t get much easier; 1:07:22.

I’m not exactly sure when I pulled away from Kyran but it had to be prior to the half. I was surprised, but happy when he came by me again. He got about 10 feet ahead of me and I just stayed right there. I run these three miles in 20:25.

Miles 22-24
Mile 22 is at the base of Lemon Drop Hill. I’m happy to see Evan standing right where we cheered together last year. This is where I take my fourth/last gel. It’s also where I see my third consecutive 6:5X split. The goal now becomes; Keep them under 7:00.

Lemon Drop is no Heartbreak, but it’s still a hill. So getting to mile 23 in 6:56 is a victory. In the process I passed Kyran. Now, as they say, “It’s all down hill from here.” The course is a gradual downhill for most of the next 2 miles and if you’re quads aren’t shot, you can take advantage of it. My quads were okay and I took advantage of the terrain, as well as the crowd support, by running a 6:53 24th mile. While 20:39 for that stretch makes it my slowest such 3-mile stretch of the day, it’s miles 22-24 for god sake.

The finish
Prior to mile 24 I thought about calculating what I thought I needed to run for the last 2.2 miles in order to PR, but decided against it. As I approached mile 25 I needed to know how close I was to PRing. I gave myself a conservative 9 minutes for the last 1.2 miles. Given that my PR is 2:58:10, I told myself that I needed to be under 2:49. As I passed mile 25 in 6:49 I saw 2:48:58. Unless the wheels completely fell off, I’d have a PR.

For me, the hardest part of this course is just after mile 25. You go down a short steep hill, up an overpass and down another hill. Then at 25.5 you can practically see the finish line. However, you have to loop away from it and back again.

Just before mile 26 I see my family and I’m able to wave and smile at them. Maybe that’s what caused me to miss my goal of keeping my splits under 7:00, as I hit mile 26 in 7:01. I soak in the tremendous atmosphere during the last .2 miles and cross the line in 2:57:29 – a PR by 41 seconds. Not bad for someone that doesn’t run well in the heat.


Thomas said...

A very solid race, you really were in good shape. Congratulations on the PR. I know you missed your original target, but a PR is a PR.

Andrew said...

Great PR Chad! Really consistent 3 mile splits. Plan C worked out!

And to run mile 26 in 7:01... Not bad at all.

Congratultions on a well earned PR.

Anonymous said...

Hats off to you, Chad. A PR on that day is impressive. One of these times the weather will be right. Keep it rollin.

Rocco said...

Great job Chad. Sounds like you and I had some parallel experiences, from the start to finish (yours just always happened 30 to 60 seconds before mine).

It was nice to meet you post-marathon. Look forward to seeing you again at the next race.

E-Speed said...

congrats! Sounds like you ran perfectly for the conditions. Nice job bringing home a PR!

Nathan said...

Nice running Chad! I told several people afterwards that I'd take the weather in Boston this year (30-40 mph winds and rain) over what you people suffered through on Saturday. Kudos to everyone who PRed!

Trisaratops said...

Congratulations! A PR in heat and humidity. Kudos!!

Anonymous said...

Let me add my congratulations on the PR. It looks like you handled the heat pretty well.

Enjoy your recovery,

MB said...

congrats on getting a new marathon PR!

Don said...

A PR! How wonderful! Very impressive in that weather. And congratulations on your almost unassailable lead in the Minnesota Grand Prix.

Dallen said...

Congratulations on the PR!

seebo said...

I'm hereby adding my voice to the chorus of congratulations. Nice job and a good read.

Chad said...

Thank you everyone!!!

brent said...

i'm quite late, but i read the report at work and couldn't comment. nice work, particularly in that heat-- very impressive.

Runner Susan said...

Chad, that's awesome! I love your race reports.

Ryan said...

Late reading of the report... but Fantastic PR chad! Inspirational!

Love2Run said...

Awesome and consistent racing! Love the way your plan c worked out so well. And sorry to be late (can't keep up lately).