Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Grandma's Marathon RR

Timeline of The Goal:

June 17, 2006:

I line up and run Grandma's Marathon with the 3:10 pace group. It is sticky and warm. Mid 60's at the start with over 90% humidity. Temps climb through the 70's during the race. The course is black-flagged before we hit the half. Somehow, I hang with the pace group up to mile 22, and then take off with a few other runners. Cross the finish in 3:07:43.
Wow, maybe without the heat, a sub 3 hour marathon might be possible......this was the day I first started thinking about "the goal". But, for the next 11 months I'm plagued with plantar fasciitis. It just does not go away. My runs are getting slower. I still manage to run a few marathons and races, but nothing very fast.

Summer, 2007:
The running is going better. My running takes a slightly different direction. Ultras.
An excuse to run slower, but now for longer. Thoughts about a sub-3 marathon go away for a while.

In 2008:
I've got a different goal - run 100 miles. By the end of August, goal accomplished.
After the 100 (or maybe during), a tibial stress fracture hits me. Takes until January of 2009 to heal properly.

February, 2009:
I'm trying to figure out goals for the year. I still think a lot about sub-3. I'm getting older. My 3:07 PR has stood for nearly 3 years. Time to give up on that dream.
Unless.....If I have a plan. Let's see.

  1. Train smart - I'm not injured now.
  2. Lose some weight - never have paid attention to diet at all.
  3. Run some benchmark races to see if I can run equivalent times at shorter distances.
Around March 1, the diet starts. Just limit calories. Include more lean meats, fruits and vegetables. Take away soda, french fries, pizza, cookies - all the fun stuff.
I'm hungry all the time, but the weight starts coming off quickly. Running becomes easier, I'm running faster paces with less effort.
On March 10, I announce my goal here.

June 20, 2009:
Three years after my PR of 3:07, I'm at the start line of Grandma's again. It feels EXACTLY the same as 2006. Same temperature, same humidity. Only this time, I'm lined up way ahead of the 3:10 pace group.
I can see the Kenyans. Do I belong here? I'm just a 48 year old guy with a 3:07 PR three years ago. Part of me says it's just a pipe dream. But the other part of me knows that I'm fully prepared for the race of my life.
The gun goes off. I ease into my pace and more runners are passing me. I lined up with about 200 runners ahead of me, but now it's more like 350.
I hit the first few splits about perfectly. My goal is to stay steady, with about 30 seconds banked at the half.
But, it's getting warm - uncomfortably warm. My HR is climbing into the 165 range already. About 10-15BPM higher than it would be on a nice cool morning. As long as I do not let it peak over 170, I should be OK.
Around mile 4, I sense a pack of runners approaching. Adam was with them. They looked so strong. I visited with Adam a bit here. A couple of times we caught a breeze from the lake. It was brief, and then followed again by a blast of hot wind. The temperature difference in the air was incredible.
I looked at my watch.., we just ran a 7:00 mile. Gotta get back on pace. It feels uncomfortable, but I push to get back on pace.
Somewhere around mile 7, Spinach (David) passes by me. We visit a little, but he's moving really well at the time. I'm pretty well running alone now, except I notice a runner ahead of me with a real energy-conserving stride. We play cat and mouse for the next couple miles. He passes me on the downhills - I pass him on the uphills. We visit a bit, and continue through the half together (1:29:45). I find out that Richard is 40, an Ironman triathlete, and has a marathon PR of 3:22. But that PR was during an Ironman. He is running very strong.
The wind is picking up now. Pretty much in the face - but it has a cooling effect on me. Temperature is still rising, but I'm doing OK. Sometimes I tuck in and draft Richard. Sometimes he drafts me.
Around mile 20, I start thinking about the final miles. Richard drops back a little bit. A young runner is beside me. (Found out later his name is Dan). We don't talk much, but attack Lemon Drop hill together. He is strong on the uphill..we stay right on pace. After we crested the hill, my calves began to cramp. This always seems to happen on a downhill stretch after an uphill push. I slow down for about 300 meters and eventually get them to back off. Dan stays close by. We arrive in Duluth running together.
I look at my watch at mile 24. 30 seconds in the bank. Just hang on!!
The cobblestone street on Superior Ave starts. I love this part. Nice, slightly downhill. And the people!! Spectator support is tremendous here in downtown Duluth. We keep going, and make the turn towards the DECC. Little uphill followed by a downhill. Running well now, but the calf muscles are on the verge of cramping again. Right before the William A. Irwin ore ship, the calf cramps set in big time. Ouch. The pain. Can't extend my toes. I'm forced to run on my
heels, as the ore-ship cramps continue. As I clear the ship (my guess is that thing is nearly 400 meters long) the cramps subside a bit. Edit(The ship is only 200 meters long-Thanks, Chad!)
Time to take it home.
Cross the finish line and I see 2:59:21 on the clock.
The pipe dream is now reality!
I walked for a bit and then knelt down and give thanks to God. Then I cried like a baby.
Tears of joy.
The medics came over. "Can we help you?" they asked. "Nope - never been better" I told them. I continued through the runners area. I congratulated Dan who was just 2 seconds behind, but had a better chip time. Heard the announcer counting down the 3 hour mark. There was some drama as a runner missed the 3 hour mark, crossing the line in 3:00:03. It was Richard - but I knew he had the sub-3 chip time also! Talked to him a bit and congratulated him.

After the Finish:
Now it was time to go back and watch the marathon. I hung out with some friends, rested and stretched for a bit by the ore ship. After a while, I started running the course backward, looking for Schmoopie. After about 1.5 miles, I find her. We run together all the way back to the ship. Se didn't have her best day, but I am still proud of the strong effort she put together.
4:21:28 which placed her 17th in AG and got her name in the paper!
I hang out more by the ship to see our friend Deb come by. She just completed her first marathon and she did it in 4:28:28. Way to go, Deb!
My sister, Joja Jogger was still on the course. She's had a tough time in the heat, as the text updates indicate. I head out running again. Found her at the 25th mile. We walk together a bit,
visit, and run together for the photographer there. This might not be a PR for her, but completing this marathon gives her Marathon Maniac status.
Congratulations, Sis!

Data and Statistics:
Clock time: 2:59:21
Chip time: 2:59:14
Overall: 87/5899
Gender: 74/3702
M45-49 AG: 9/428

10K: 42:45 (6:53/mi)
Half: 1:29:45 (6:51/mi)
20 mile: 2:16:57 (6:51/mi)
25 mile: 2:51:01 (6:51/mi)
Last 10 K: 42:18 (6:48/mi)

Stats I look at:
Overall HR average: 167 (second highest avg in a marathon)
Two men older than me beat me (one was Paul Brown, the guy who beat me 2 weeks ago)
13 women beat me.
But - No women older than me beat me (Whew...)
Here is the HR chart, which shows '06 Grandma's (dark blue) vs. '09 Grandma's (lavender).

In my opinion, weather conditions were carbon copy. Looks like I worked quite a bit harder in miles 10-20 this year.
Thanks for reading,


mike said...


SteveQ said...

Paul Brown isn't even human - finishing behind him is like finishing behind the Kenyans. That was one great way to break 3 hours!

Helen said...

Awesome job John - I was thrilled to hear you'd run sub-3. What a great achievement. Enjoyed the detailed race report. You did well to handle the calve cramps at the end.

Looking forward to your new goals! Though we'll let you enjoy this one for a while... :)

Jessica said...

John, that is so awesome!! Congrats on your day. I hope I am even still in the 3's at 48! Amazing accomplishment, gender, age group and overall!

Chad said...

Congrats on your sub-3!!!

Not sure if you were serious about the Irvin being 400m or not, but it looks like it's about half that distance. From Wikipedia; the SS William A Irvin stretches 610' 9.75" feet.

Matthew Patten said...

That was seriously an awesome performance in the heat. Looks like you do well in heat (Lean Horse).

I can't believe you did it with only a few seconds to spare.

You beat my buddy John by less than a minute.

Very, very nice

Chris said...

Holy @#$%! Sub-3 in those conditions is phenomenal! I've always thought about running Grandma's, but the recent string of warm, humid conditions has got me gun shy. I definitely can't run like you in that soupy air. Congrats!