Friday, November 6, 2015

Sioux Falls Marathon 2015

Sioux Falls Marathon 2015

3:23:19 has been my PR ever since I ran my 3rd Marathon. I’ve run several more ever since, but have not been able to get closer than 5 minutes to it. Most of them actually hovered between 3:30-3:50. It’s actually been so long since I had run that PR that I thought it was a different time all together. I went between thinking it’s 3:19 or 3:21.

This year I have been able to have a more structured training and it’s been paying off at all distances. I had run my fastest 5K in years, won my first 5K on a different occasion, PR’d my 50K time, ran the furthest I have ever had (58.5 miles) and broke my Half-Marathon PR during a training run 3 weeks prior to the Marathon. I had put more effort into resting when I needed rest and pushing my limits when needed.

During the last few weeks of training, I’ve been giddy about my training runs. I love my weekend’s long run, the middle-week hill sprints and the hard track workouts where I expand my anaerobic capacity. Every single time training got hard and I wanted to quit, I told myself that it was then that I got better. The second after you convince yourself to keep going, you get better. It was a fantastic feeling. Sure, I had crappy runs. Especially in the heat, when my heart wanted to jump out of my chest or days when my legs were so tight, I had to stop mid-run to shake them out.

All this training culminated in a mindset that I realized the night before the Sioux Falls Marathon. Christina asked me if I was nervous. She always asks me this the night before a race. I love that she is interested in what’s going on in my head before going into these adventures. I always tell her that I am nervous. Truth is, my heart races before the gun even goes off. It’s always been that way. Only this time, I told her that I am excited. Not in the way that I am nervous or anything, but really looking forward to the race. I told her that I feel prepared. Just then did I realize that it’s going to be a fantastic run!

3:35am and the alarm goes off. Race start is at 6:30am and I got an hour drive ahead of me, plus warming up. Better get going. I’ve been waking up sporadically since 2am anyways, nervous to have overslept. I had set out my kit the night before to prevent any last minute hiccups. I get dressed, grab some food and coffee, kiss my girls good-bye and get going.

I park right at the starting line and walk into Howard Wood Stadium to warm up. I’ve been dealing with a very tight IT band in my left leg, which had been tugging on my hip for weeks now. I focus on warming it up diligently, as this is the only thing that can cost me my race today.

605 Running Company enthusiasts
With about 10 minutes to go before the start I line up with the guys from 605 Running Company for a group picture. I head to the start and listen to the national anthem and a morning prayer.

I find 3:15 pacer Keith, whom I met the day before during the pre-race Expo. My goal was to stick with him for about 20 miles and then hopefully hang on to finish below 3:23. Earlier in the year, at the Kalamazoo marathon, I was on pace to PR until 4-5 miles left and I hit the wall hard and dropped roughly 2 minutes per mile off my pace and finished in 3:28. 

The race starts and I find Keith’s pace very EZ and we chat about our kids, other marathons and ultramarathons. Our group has 10-15 people in it and I drop off on the uphills and go ahead on the downhills. The “hills” in downtown Sioux Falls aren’t difficult by any stretch, but it does disrupt my even pace. We finish the first 8 miles in under an hour and I noticed my calves getting tight. I decide that I will stick with my group as I still like the pace. Either I have to walk later due to cramps or have a good time. No use in trying to have another 3:30 marathon without cramping. At the 10 mile mark, we’ve dropped most of the other runners in the group and we are down to Keith, myself and three others. I learn here that he is the current course record holder of the Kettle Moraine 100 miler. Talking with him about various ultramarathons gives me the feeling that we are just on a weekend long run and it doesn’t feel like a race. We never push the pace. He runs super steady and it’s a great feeling that I’m banking several seconds per mile in regards to my PR. We pass the half-way point in my second fastest 13.1 time ever and I still feel good.

We approach the last hill of the race at mile 16. Actually we ran it up, not knowing it was the hill we were expecting. On the downhill, I opened my gait and went about 50 yards ahead of Keith, fully expecting him to get me on the upcoming hill. Only the hill never comes. It was a fortunate moment, as otherwise I would’ve likely stuck with Keith for another 4 miles. I use some of the momentum and run a 6:50 mile, which scares me as I fear burning my energy too soon. I settle in to a comfortable, but only slightly faster pace (7:15) than we had for the first 16 miles (7:27).

Not quite sure what happened for the next 4 miles or so, but I simply clicked off miles and kept looking at my watch as the pace kept increasing. With 6 miles to go, I started “racing”. I look into distance and mark the next runner and set my goal in reel them in. With 4 miles to go, I turn on my music and go for broke. I can feel my legs burning with the ever increasing lactate acid. At this point, I know I have my PR even if I have to slow to a jog, but I decide to push even harder. Running on the bike trail helps immensely, as I can see far ahead and set my sights on the next few runners. This allows me to focus on something else other than the ever increasing pain in my legs. The last 4 miles are all under 7 minute pace. I pass a good 10-12 runners during this stretch and finally pop out of the bike trail and take a sharp right. I see the stadium and have about a half mile to go. My legs are really hurting, but I can feel the adrenalin pumping now. I have 3 runners right in front of me and frantically keep switching songs to get one that is slightly faster than my current pace. This always helps me running a bit faster than I thought I could. Turns out, my final half mile was under 6 minute pace. Weaving around the stadium, I turn onto the running track, throw my water bottle and put my head down to push for the last 300 meters and outsprint the last guy that hung on after I just passed him. The finish in the stadium is exhilarating. Lots of people are cheering and the runners high is kicking in. I can hear the announcer call out my name and I am in full sprint now. I dropped the final runner that tried to counter my kick and I can see the timer as I cross the finish line. 3:10:19. This was awesome!

I hug Leiana and Christina and am super elated about my race. My race strategy and nutrition plan paid off well and even though I began my push earlier than expected( mile 16, not 20), it paid off greatly. Great course and organization. I ended up 16th overall, which is my best finish at a marathon of this size (turns out I beat the 17th place by 0.1 seconds. Due to chip timing, I didn’t see him finish, but it comes to show, if you are racing, push until you are across the finish line.)

Later I look through my splits and ran a 10K PR during that last portion of the race. The strategy worked out perfectly and a great thanks to Keith who kept the even pace for my first 16 miles. I will definitely run with a pacer again. I got 5 minutes to shave off for Boston. Another 5 for my ultimate goal: a sub 3-hour marathon.

Sioux Falls, I’ll be back!

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