Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Miracle at Lake Wobegon

Here is my account of the Miracle at Lake Wobegon on May 8, 2010.

Started right up front. The gun went off and it felt good. There were three runners that shot out ahead of me. Let's call them Red, White and Spinach. Spinach is an excellent 52 year old runner whom I've gotten to know in the last year. He also won the Men's Master's title last year. Red and White were a lot younger.
Time splits were called out at Mile one. Red, White and Spinach - yes in that order went through at 6:00 - 6:05.
I hit it at 6:33 with a lot of runners right behind me.
For me, that's way too fast, so I attempted to settle in to a slower pace. Looking at my Garmin, I was now closer to 6:40 on mile 2. The steps behind me started to pass. I looked over and it was Joe.
Yep, Joe as in last year's winner and Master's course record holder at 2:50:19. He also was sporting Bib #1, which was a bit intimidating for me. Joe said hi and started closing the gap on Red, White and Spinach. He appeared to have set the the cruise control to 6:20/mile and let it fly.
Next to pass me were Brett, followed by Mike and Brad. Mike and Brad appeared to be running together and I visited with them a bit. Their goal was to go sub-3 also. We agreed that 6:45 pace would be wise so I joined up with them and we continued on through mile 4. On mile 5, these guys were pushing closer to 6:35 pace, so I kindly told them I'm going to back down a bit. I got my pace back into check the next few miles, but Brett, Mike and Brad never pulled that far ahead of me. Running felt nice and comfortable.
Now there are 7 runners ahead of me and I'm locked into a 6:45/mile pace.
I have lost sight of Red, White and Joe. Spinach is in sight, but more than 400 meters ahead. Brett, Mike and Brad are still 150 meters ahead of me.
The trail here is a 10 ft wide "rails to trails" asphalt path. Very flat and no hills to speak of. The wind was from the northwest, so the first 11 miles had a cross wind, but then it was a tailwind for the last 15. Couldn't feel the wind all the time, because there are plenty of trees along the trail, providing shade and protection from the wind.
I crossed the 10 mile mark and took note. 1:07:14

Quick math told me that I'm running just under 6:45 pace. At this time, I am very pleased with how this is going.
At mile 11.1, made the turn to head east and I could feel the wind on my back. Mile 12 split gave me a 6:30 - come on, let's keep this thing in check. I tried to pull it back a little bit, just knowing that I'm not even to the half and cannot fathom running 6:30 miles for 14 more miles.

Thoughts running through my head were:
  • Keep things in order.
  • Be in a good place at mile 20.
  • Save the fast stuff for the last 10K.
I was now running at 6:35-6:40/mile and feeling good. The half came up and they called out 1:27:42. I remember thinking that is the 4th fastest half I've ever run, but smiled confidently to myself. I was feeling great. But I was still in 8th place. Could see Brett, Mike and Brad closing in on Spinach. By mile 14, they caught him and they ran together a bit. At mile 15, Spinach had
fallen back from the 3 young guys pushing ahead.
Just before mile 16, I finally caught up to Spinach and visited with him. He said his left knee was hurting quite a bit. I encouraged him to keep going, as a sub-3 for him would still be possible. Just before mile 18, Spinach was slowing a bit, so I pushed ahead.
By mile 19, I was right behind the 3 young runners. It was here where we came up fast on the original leader Red. He had totally imploded and was moving along about a 9:00 pace. I ran right with Brett, Mike and Brad. We were coming up to mile 20. I could tell by their breathing that they were working pretty hard now.
I remember thinking - "Here is mile 20 - and I'm in a good place".
Soon, we came upon another runner who was fading somewhat. It was Bib #1 Joe. I could not believe my eyes. We went by, encouraged him to hang in there and pushed onward. By mile 21 I was now in a pack of 4 runners, realizing the strongest finisher will get 2nd place. It is now a very long, straight section to the finish. The trail has no turns. The young guys pointed out that first place (White) was visible. That was at least 1/2 mile ahead of us. Subconciously, I started to lead the pack and started pushing. By mile 23, the last of the young guys said "Go get him!". Somewhere beyond mile 24, a spectator told me that I was now 1:45 behind the leader. I pushed pretty hard. The Garmin was showing 6:23 pace. I could see that I was gaining, but not fast enough.
At mile 25, I saw some puke on the trail. I'm in second place and there is only one runner ahead of me. Is he getting sick and slowing down? I pushed even harder, but mile 26 was coming up all too fast.
This is the only time I have ever wished the marathon would be one mile longer. I was running out of trail to catch White. At mile 26, he was closer to the finish than I was to him. I tried to stay strong but was not going to go into a full sprint.
I came upon the finish, gave thanks to God for staying with me, and crossed in 2:54:14.

I went over and congratulated White (Brian) on a great marathon. He finished in 2:53:25 - 49 seconds ahead of me. I happened to ask him about the puke, and he saw it too....it wasn't him.
Here are the mile splits:
Mile 1-6: 6:35, 6:41, 6:40, 6:48, 6:44, 6:47
Miles 7-13: 6:45, 6:41, 6:42, 6:44, 6:41, 6:30, 6:34
Half in 1:27:42
Miles 14-18: 6:33, 6:38, 6:45, 6:38, 6:39
Miles 19-23: 6:39, 6:41, 6:44, 6:39, 6:40
Miles 24-Finish: 6:30, 6:26, 6:24 and 1:20

I have included a heart rate chart, comparing my performance at Shamrock Marathon 8 weeks ago vs. this marathon. The main thing to note is the time spent above 170 bpm at Shamrock (miles 8-12) came back to bite me at mile 22. Keeping the HR below 170 at Wobegon
meant I had fresher legs going into the final 6 miles.
Thanks for reading,


SteveQ said...

Congrats! Great race! I'm going to try (emphasize TRY) to keep my heart rate in bounds at Superior 50K this weekend. I've been burned by doing the first two hills too fast; you've just proved it works.

JojaJogger said...

Fantastic race, John. Since I'll never see a race from the front, it was fun to see one from that perspective.

mike_hinterberg said...

Whoa man! Looks like sub-3 is your new baseline, holy cats! You also got the young dude's automatic qualifier for NYCM -- sweet!
As penance for some long blog delays in previous months, how 'bout sharing your best training secrets on what makes a bunch of 6:40s comfortable?