Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Ran a 3 Hour (and 58 seconds) Marathon!!!

Why is it that in retrospect I feel like I left a sub 3:00 marathon on the course of the 2015 Bismarck Marathon?  Is it because I believe I can always run faster and that is my constant motivation?  Is it that I forget how sore and I tight I was during the last 10K?  Or, am not as mentally tough as I need to be to grind out 6:50 miles toward the end?

After talking with my coach, Ryan Vail, the answer appears to be that I ran the best race I could on that day.  I have trouble giving myself credit for running a 6:59 26th mile and a 1:10 .2 (5:31 pace) that I needed to sneak in under 3:01, especially since mile 25 was a 7:35.  I think back to the New Jersey Marathon where I was coming in around 3:01 until a wall of wind pushed me back along the shore yet held on for a 3:04:01 then-PR.  If I am going to break 3:00 in a future marathon, I'm going to need to embrace the pain in the final 10K, own it, and use every bit of heart to accomplish my "Big Hairy Audacious Goal."

Bismarck, North Dakota, was a small but neat town to visit.  The flight to Chicago from DCA was smooth.  I had plenty of time at Chicago to get a Swedish massage and visit the yoga room to stretch out.  I packet a lunch of pasta and garlic bread I downed before boarding.  The plane to Bismarck was tiny with only three seats total in a row - one on one side and two on the other.  I had a whole row to myself and read my book, League of Denial.  I read Against Football by Steve Almond on our trip to Montreal and am now on a kick learning about the dangers of football.

My lowest bib number ever!
It was an easy city to get from place to place.  I had no trouble navigating from the airport to the packet pick-up on the state capitol grounds in the North Dakota Heritage Center.  It was a really cool museum that I visited after the race.  At the packet pick-up, the former wife of ex-Rep. Earl Pomeroy handed me my bib and we chatted about Capitol Hill.  The expo was as small as I have seen - basically just get your bib, shirt, and swag.  The capitol was interesting and unlike any seat of government  had seen as there was a "skyscraper" where the legislators had offices.  I took a self guided "tour" of each of the chambers and even saw a portrait of a famous North Dakotan, Herman Stern, who is the great grandfather of a fellow toastmaster.  After, I checked into my hotel, rested and assembled my gear, then went to the restaurant The Walrus for my pre-race meal.  I sat alone at the bar, watched the college football game that was on, gorged on a plate of pasta and bread rolls as the bartender kept my water glass full.  The place had an impressive selection of beer - very tempting, but I was there for running and the drinking would have to wait for post race.

At the North Dakota State Capitol

Back at the hotel room, I was in bed early, as usual.  In the morning, I was up 3:30 prior to race time.  I ate my bagel and peanut butter, did my stretches in the room, and left for the race 90 minutes before the gun.  I found the start of the race easy and was able to park my rental car within a short walk of the start.  I had throw away pants that I was able to save so I can toss for the New York City Marathon on November 1.  I toed the start line, heard the national anthem, and chatted with other runners.  My bib number was the lowest I've ever worn (2), and the race announcer called out my name and that I am from D.C. and complimented my socks that profess my love of beer.

Pre race - ready to do my job!

Most of the race I cannot recall.  I held to my strategy of going out pretty even and holding a 6:45-55 pace.  Miles 1-5 were routine as I settled into a zone and there were no other runners near me.  I took my first Gu at 5.  I know I ran over the Missouri River twice as the course took us into Mandan.  I recall running through a few neighborhoods, past a golf course, by a few relay exchange staging posts, and along sidewalks.  There were a few turnaround cones which I am not particularly fond of since the take you off your stride.  I Gu-ed again at 10 and was holding a solid pace.  Once I get to 10, I know I'm running well if I feel good going into the second 10 miles of the race.  At the half, I hit the mark at 1:29:10 and still felt strong.  I think around 15 I took my third Gu as I went back over the bridge and that took us on a path along the river for a few miles.  I saw the first place winner coming back, so I knew there was another turnaround cone.  I hit mile 20 feeling okay, but it was starting to become a struggle to hold pace.

The last 10K I may have lost focus.  I was all alone running through a park and at times I wondered if I was lost since there were no cones and no one else near me in the race or to cheer me.  I found the 23rd mile marker and knew I was okay.  I tried to do math and figured I was coming in around 3:01 or 3:02.  In retrospect, had I just tried to get back to a 6:50 mile for the last three, I would have broken 3:00.  But, that deep into a race, the mind plays tricks on you.  After 32 marathons, I should have known better - my future challenge to myself is to trust myself and just try to stay near pace and not get down or allow myself a reprieve.

New PR 3:00:58!!!

When I hit the 25th mile marker, I recognized where we were and had some half runners to pass and volunteers to point the way.  I could see the endgame and decided not to leave anything on the course.  That's how I put down a 6:59 26th mile.  I hit the .2 and could see the finish and sprinted.  I don't know where that spring came from, but it saved me a 3:00 marathon and a big personal record (3:03 better than NJ).  It was good for seventh overall and first in my age group 35-39 - that won me a sleek jacket.  The award ceremony was at 1PM, and I finished just after 10:30 AM, so I went back to my hotel room, rested, showered, and got dressed to come back to collect my accolades.

Won this jacket for winning my age group 35-39 and 7th Overall

After the race, I got lunch at Fireflour Pizza - it had great brick oven pizza and beer.  I then wandered around their fall Street Fair which brought vendors from the whole region.  I bought a few items including treats for Sammy.  I also bought a postcard to send to my niece and nephew.  I returned to the Heritage Center to buy a fridge magnet for my wife who collects them.  It was then I enjoyed the offerings of the museum - fossils of dinosaurs, artifacts from Native Americans, and the history of the people of North Dakota.


At night, I took in the town by hitting up JL Beers which had great beers and burgers.  While I chowed down on my black bean burger, I chatted with a young husband and wife - he was from Colorado and she was from Detroit - but her job in energy took them to Bismarck.  They were good company.

Black bean burger and flight of beers to sample

I then went to Laughing Sun which had live music.  My server, Michael, from Fireflour, said he was going to be there with his friends celebrating and I was welcome to join them.  He was leaving to return to Tel Aviv to study for his graduate degree.  There was live music and good conversation.  For the nightcap, we wandered and found the speakeasy, but I was tired and ready for bed.

Michael is on my right and Whitney is waving.

Liiiisssssa, pleeeease don't eeeeeat meeeee!

Is there something behind me?
In the morning, I walked around the state capital again, went to the Blarney Stone for brunch and to watch the first half of the Patriots game in which they beat the Bills in Buffalo, then returned to the airport to fly back.  I am quite pleased with my result and had a good time in Bismarck.  I recommend that anyone looking for a small race that is well run should consider it.


Here is my Strava link to my splits and the leaderboard of the race results: 6:49/48/48/46/46/47/48/44/47/48/49/50/49/49/47/56/52/55/54/52/ 7:08/13/09/20/35/ 6:59/ 1:10 for final .2 (5:31 pace).  I had to sprint from the mile 26 marker to make it in under 3:01.   Overall, I am pleased with my race.  It is nice to know that at 38 I am in the best shape of my life and hopefully getting fast.

Top ten and made the leaderboard!

My splits

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