Sunday, November 2, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon

On November 1st, I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  This was the first race of an ambitious November race schedule.  This race starts and finishes in downtown Indianapolis, running past the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.  I chose this race because it was a quarterly reunion for the 50 States Marathon Club.

I was able to get an affordable non-stop flight to Indianapolis, arriving early Friday afternoon.  My friend Aaron, who was rooming with me for one night, picked me up at the airport.  We stayed at Embassy Suites, which was only a few blocks from the expo, start and finish.

After checking in at Embassy Suites, we walked over to the Indiana Convention Center to pick up our race packets.  After dropping off our stuff at the hotel, we walked back to the convention center for the 50 States reunion.

I saw quite a few friends at the reunion.  The majority of the meeting is dedicated to recognizing club members who have recently finished their quests to run marathons in all 50 states.  Each one is presented with their award and given an opportunity to tell the rest of us about their journey.  Aaron was one of the recent finishers who spoke at the meeting.

After the meeting, several of us had dinner together at Palomino, an Italian restaurant that was across the street from our hotel.

Saturday morning, about 30 minutes before the race, I met my friend Stefanie in the lobby.  I first met Stefanie on my trip to Costa Rica in September.  She was aiming to qualify for Boston at this race.  She needed 3:35 to qualify, but wanted to run 3:30 or better, so she would be under her qualifying standard by five minutes.  My default goal for most races is 3:30, so I have a lot of practice pacing for 3:30.

The weather was cold.  It was in the low 30s with 15 MPH winds.  Friday afternoon it had been raining and there was a possibility of rain or snow overnight.  When we went outside, I was pleased to see there wasn’t any ice on the streets.

I wore a long sleeved polypro shirt with my 50 States Marathon Club singlet over it.  I also more my cheetah tights, my cheetah hat, and two pairs of gloves.  The hat doesn’t cover my ears, but it’s warm.

As soon as we got outside, I regretted leaving the hotel so early.  I would be warm enough once we started running, but walking to the start I felt cold.  The start was only a couple of blocks away, so we didn’t really need much time to get there.  We stepped inside a Subway restaurant briefly, to escape the cold.  A few other runners had the same idea.

There was a 3:30 pace group, so we lined up with them.  Large races are always congested in the early miles, making it hard to gauge your pace.  By letting the 3:30 pacer worry about the pace, we were able to focus on working our way through the crowd of runners.  There are always people who line up in the wrong spot, and it takes a few miles before everyone around you is running the same pace.  As we started running, I watched where Stefanie and the 3:30 pacer were.  My only goal in the first mile was to stay near them without bumping into people.  It’s easier said than done.

Our first mile was 8:19.  That was a little slow, but nobody was too concerned.  It gave us a chance to warm up.  We had 25 miles to make up the time.  It’s possible that we were already going fast enough by the end of the first mile.  It didn’t seem like we sped up much, but we hit the two mile mark in 15:59.  In the third mile, we eased up and settled into the right pace.

The early miles wound through the downtown area.  There were a number of turns, including a portion of the circle around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.  After that, we were mostly running north until the halfway mark.  That meant we often had a headwind.  I was worried that the wind would be both cold and tiring, but we could look forward to having a tailwind in the second half of the race.

After three or four miles, we got a little bit ahead of the pace group.  That gave us more space to run without bumping into people.  At first, we made a point of making sure the group was right behind us.  Eventually, we didn’t worry about it.  We settled into a nice rhythm, clicking off miles in the 7:50 – 8:00 range.

My outer pair of gloves were cotton, so I didn’t want to risk spilling water on them.  Stef went through aid stations without slowing down.  I stopped briefly, so I could drink without spilling.  Then I would hurry to catch up to her.  Since we were running a little bit fast, I usually stayed a step behind her.  I didn’t want to inadvertently pull her to a faster pace.

Around 10 miles, I was noticing the wind more.  It wasn’t too tiring, but my hands were getting cold.  I knew we wouldn’t have a headwind much longer, but I was looking forward to the second half.

At 13 miles, we were almost a minute ahead of schedule.  Stefanie saw that she could break her half marathon PR, so she accelerated before crossing the chip mat.  After a couple of turns, we started working our way south again.  Now the wind was at our back, and I felt warmer.  I removed my second pair of gloves and tucked them under my belt.

Since we sped up just before the halfway mark, I was concerned that we might continue running too fast.  We eased up in the next mile.  At the 14 mile mark, I saw that we eased up too much.  That mile was 8:16.  I worked to get us back on pace.  We started passing quite a few of the other runners.  I overcompensated.  We ran the next mile in 7:36.

We were both feeling good.  One fast mile wasn’t going to hurt us, but we back off again.  The next mile was 8:02.

With the wind at our backs, we slipped back into a rhythm where we were averaging about 7:55.  At 19 miles, Stef was beginning to feel tired, and I was starting to get warm.  We tried to ease our pace, but accidently ran another 7:50 mile.  Overall, we were ahead of schedule by about 1:40.  We settled back to an 8:10 in the next mile, but still had a cushion of a minute and a half.

With each remaining mile, I calculated the pace we needed to average to break 3:30.  With four miles to go, Stef started having cramps in her right calf muscle.  We were forced to slow down a little, but we were still running fast enough.

In the last few miles, we could see the downtown buildings in front of us, and it was easy to see they were getting closer.  Until the last few turns, we were running toward the monument.

In the last mile, I could tell we were slowing significantly.  We only needed to run it in nine minutes, so I was pretty sure we were OK.  I had to be careful not to pull away from Stefanie.

As we reached one of last turns, the 3:30 pace group caught up to us.  They were actually a little ahead of schedule, so we were still OK.  The pace leader was encouraging everyone to stay with him.  As we rounded the corner, I saw the 26 mile sign.  When we got there, I could see we still had 2:35 to run the last two tenths.   That seemed safe.

There was one final turn before we could see the finish line.  The 3:30 pacer encouraged everyone else to finish and then slowed down to stay with us.  I finished alongside Stefanie, and we crossed the line in 3:29:09.  Stef got her Boston qualifier with almost six minutes to spare.  She also beat her marathon PR by 15 minutes.

After receiving our finisher medals, w each got a disposable hooded jacket.  The temperature was still in the 30s, so we needed them to keep warm until we got back to the hotel.  Stef thanked the 3:30 pacer for his encouragement in the last few blocks.  He said he could see us just ahead of him for most of the race, and didn’t want to pass us.

I ate a few post-race snacks, but I think Stefanie just took a water bottle.  There was a tent with hot food, but we headed straight to the hotel.  It was only a few blocks away, but my hands were cold by the time we got there.

It was reassuring to know that just five days after the Dublin Marathon, I could run a 3:29 without too much effort.  In two weeks, I’m going to be leading the 3:30 pace group in the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Marathon.

I went back to the room to get cleaned up.  Before long, Aaron returned.  He had a tough race, but finished within four hours, which was his primary goal.  He drove home, and I went next door to a sports bar for a late lunch.

Later in the day, Stefanie and I walked around downtown a little, and I took a few pictures.  Then we had dinner.  Naturally, I celebrated with pizza.

Indiana State Capitol, where the race finished

My flight home wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, so I was able to get a full night’s sleep and take my time eating breakfast before getting ready to leave.  Some of my friends were also doing marathons today.  I’m kicking back and taking it easy – only one marathon this weekend.

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