Monday, July 15, 2024

Race Report: Summer Camp Series, Day 3

Today was the third race of the Summer Camp Series.  Today’s race was at Warner Lake County Park, which is near Clearwater, MN.

We seem to be alternating between hot days and rainy days.  Today was a rainy one.  It started raining a few minutes before the start of the race.  The good news is that the aid station was set up in the park pavilion, so the food tables and bag drop area were always under a roof.

During pre-race announcements, they recognize runners who are reaching any kind of lifetime milestone.  Today, I was one of the runners hitting a milestone.  This was my 100th marathon or ultra in Minnesota.

photo credit: Elizabeth Carrie

photo credit: Elizabeth Carrie

My last three races were all on paved trails.  This course had a mixture of surfaces.  The majority was either gravel or packed dirt, but there was also a wooden bridge and two short segments of pavement.  The dirt trail had some roots, so I had to watch my step.

The length of our out-and-back route was the same as yesterday’s race.  It was about 0.82 miles in each direction.  To complete a marathon, I had to run 16 laps.

It was sprinkling when we started, but I was expecting heavier rain.  I started the race with a plastic rain poncho.  I was comfortable for about half a mile, but then I started getting hot.  It was still only sprinkling when I finished my first lap, so I took off the poncho.

The rain poncho forced me to go slow in the first lap, so I wouldn’t overheat.  Without it, I was able to pick up my pace.  During my second lap, I caught up to Tim.  Then I was able to run with him for about a lap.

The rain stopped during my second lap, but it started up again during my third lap.  Thankfully, it never rained hard.  It was just sprinkling.

At some point, I started to notice some discomfort on the back of my left heel.  I felt the same thing during Saturday’s race.  Both times, I was running with wet shoes.  I started to wonder if that had something to do with it.

To make the laps seem to pass quickly, I broke them into short segments.  Then I could focus on one segment at a time.  Each one was short, so I never felt like I had to run that far.

Each lap started out on an asphalt path that led from the pavilion to a dock.  We were on that path only briefly before turning onto a gravel path.  The first section of gravel led to the boat launch.  Near the boat launch, we briefly ran across pavement again.

Next, we ran through a gate and started another gravel section.  This one took us past a building and to the bridge.  After crossing the bridge, we were on the dirt section.

I also broke up the dirt section.  First, I had to get through the section where most of the roots were.  Then I looked for a yellow traffic cone.  This cone was the turnaround point for the 5K and 10K races.  After the yellow cone, I knew there was a purple cone just around the next bend.  That was the turnaround point for the last lap of the 50K race.  As soon as I reached the purple cone, I was within sight of the red cone.  That was the turnaround for the marathon.  After turning around, I ran all the same segments in reverse.

On the section of course that was dirt, I had to slow down to a cautious pace, so I could be careful to avoid the roots.  There weren’t any roots on the gravel sections, so there I could speed up without fear of tripping.  The dividing line was the bridge.  I always slowed down when I started the dirt section, but I would start pushing the pace as soon as I crossed the bridge and got back onto the gravel.

By my fifth lap, I started to notice muddy patches on the dirt trail.  Now, in addition to watching out for the roots, I also had to watch out for slick spots.

Halfway through my sixth lap, I felt a sting on the back of my neck.  I reached back and grabbed a biting fly that was still on my neck.  I had applied bug spray before the race, but the rain must have rinsed it away.

By the time I started my seventh lap, the rain was stopping.  I heard another runner say that a period of heavy rain was going to start in about an hour.  Thankfully, that forecast was wrong.  We were done with the rain.  It would take another hour, however, for the muddy patches to dry out.

At the end of my seventh lap, I needed to make a bathroom stop.  There was a permanent building with pit toilets, but it wasn’t right next to the course.  Making a bathroom stop meant taking a short detour off the course.  It took extra time, but making a stop was unavoidable.

After eight laps, I was half done.  I was on pace in finish in about 4:40.  My only goal at this point was to finish in less than five hours, so I had room to slow down in the second half.

For the first half of the race, I was noticing about six runners who were going at a faster pace.  As I started the second half, I didn’t see them anymore.  It seemed like they must all have been doing the half marathon.  I couldn’t be sure, but I started to wonder if I was the fastest runner doing the marathon.  The only other time I ran a marathon on this course, I won the race.  With that in mind, I wanted to see if I could do it again.  I didn’t slow down.  I continued to put some effort into my pace when I was on the part of the course with no roots.

I was in my 10th lap when I had my first scare of the race.  I was focused on a cluster of roots that I recognized when I caught my foot on a root that I didn’t see.  I stumbled briefly, but I was able to keep from falling.  That was a reminder that I needed to be extra careful in the remaining laps.  As I got fatigued, I was more prone to tripping.

When I finished that lap, I had about 10 miles to go, but I didn’t look at it that way.  I occasionally noticed how fast I ran each mile, but I paid no attention to how many miles I had completed.  Instead, I only kept track of laps.  At this point, I needed to run six more laps.

Mainly Marathons has a unique method to help you remember your lap count.  At the aid station, there’s a table covered with rubber bands.  Each time you finish a lap, you grab a rubber band and put it around your wrist.  If you ever forget how many laps you’ve run, you can count the rubber bands.

When you finish your last lap, you don’t need to grab a rubber band.  Instead, you ring a bell to let the timekeeper know to record your finish time.

As I started my 11th lap, what I was telling myself is that I needed five more rubbers bands plus a bell.

When I got back to the area where I tripped before, I recognized the cluster of roots that I had seen just before I tripped.  Near them, I saw another root that I had never noticed before.  It was obvious that this root, and the ground around it, had been disturbed recently.  That’s the root I had tripped on.  It wouldn’t happen again.

Today was the only day that it never got hot.  Maybe it got hot for the slowest runners, but it wasn’t hot while I was running.  The sun came out briefly, but then it got cloudy again, and there was a strong breeze.  I didn’t feel the breeze when I was running through the forest, but whenever I came into a clearing by to the lake, it felt nice and cool.

With two laps to go, I looked at my watch.  I must have made a mental arithmetic error, because I thought my pace was slower than it really was.  I wanted to beat my time from Saturday, but I thought I needed to pick up my pace.  I put much more effort into my next lap.

As I was crossing the bridge, the front of my left shoe caught the crack between two boards.  I didn’t lose my balance, but it was awkward enough to momentarily scare me.  This is why I’m always wary of running on wooden bridges or boardwalks.  As I entered the section with roots again, I was more vigilant than ever.

A few minutes later, a mosquito flew into my left eye.  I don’t think it bit me, but it was still painful.  I wanted to rub my eye to get it out, but I was in an area with roots.  I didn’t dare take my attention off the trail for even a moment.  My eye bothered me for the rest of that lap, but it felt OK later.

Despite those distractions, my 11th lap was my fastest of the race.  As I started my last lap, I wanted to see if I could break 4:40.  If I did, it would not only be my fastest race of this series, but I would also run negative splits.

During my last lap, as I was racing toward the bridge, I noticed the back of my left heel again.  It hurt more now.  It finally occurred to me why it was more likely to flare up today.  This course has lots of uneven footing on the dirt section.  When your ankle is turning in unusual ways, it puts more stress on your Achilles tendons.  I would have to deal with that after the race.

I just had to navigate the dirt section safely one more time.  When I got back across the bridge for the last time, I was home free.

I finished the lap and rang the bell.  My time was 4:39:11.  I thought I won the race, but it turns out there was one runner who finished ahead of me.  I did, however, run negative splits.

I earned another medal to add to my chain.  Today’s medal depicts morel mushrooms.

After getting back to the hotel, it was time to refuel, take a hot bath, stretch, and ice my inflamed Achilles tendon.  It’s all familiar.  Four years ago, I was doing this stuff for 20 straight days, and I had more sore spots then.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:39:11
Average Pace:  10:39 per mile
First Half:  2:20:16
Second Half:  2:18:55
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  520
Minnesota Marathons/Ultras:  100

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Race Report: Summer Camp Series, Day 2

On July 14, I ran the second race of the Mainly Marathons Summer Camp Series.  For me, it was the third day of six on a row, since I also ran the last race of the Heartland Series.

I haven’t been getting enough sleep.  Yesterday, I had an early dinner and made a point of getting to bed early.  I slept well for a few hours, but then a thunderstorm woke me up.  It was a violent storm, and the thunder was too loud for me to get back to sleep.  Even after the storm ended, it was at least an hour before I finally got back to sleep.

The good news is that the thunderstorm came during the night and not during the race.  The weather today was similar to Friday.  It was 65 degrees at the start, and it gradually warmed up to about 80 by the time I finished.  There was one difference, however.  The humidity was much higher today.

Today’s race was in Sauk Rapids.  Our start/finish area was in a small parking lot near the boat launch at Sauk Rapids Municipal Park.  Our course was a paved trail near the Mississippi River.  Our laps were shorter today, so we had to run 16 laps to complete a marathon.

I saw a friend in the start area who isn’t doing the series, but decided to drive up to run today’s race.  I was talking to Karen before the race, and we both started the race at the same pace.

Karen and I both had similar goals.  Neither of us wanted to go too fast, but we didn’t want to take longer than five hours.  We ended up running the whole race together, while talking the whole time.

Yesterday, I felt stiff at the beginning of the race.  Today, I had an easier time getting started.  Karen was letting me set the pace, and I started a little faster today than I did either of the last two days.  For the first five or six laps, I was averaging about 10:15 per mile.

It was a little difficult to know for sure what our pace was, because our watches were telling us different things.  Karen’s watch was consistently giving a longer distance than we actually ran.  My watch was reading a shorter distance.  As a result, we were seeing different splits from our watches, even though we were running at the same pace.  By the end of the race, our watches were half a mile apart.

I usually run by myself.  Having someone to talk to was a welcome distraction.  It made the laps seem to pass quickly.  After our first lap, I forget to stop and drink some Gatorade.  I was careful after that to drink after every lap.  Since there were more laps today, I had more opportunities to drink.

Because of the overnight storm, there were a couple of puddles on the course.  In our first lap, we ran around on the grass.  By our second lap, one of them was already drying up, and we could run through it without getting our shoes wet.  The other puddle was larger, and we had no choice but to go around it, even though it meant briefly running on mud.

We knew we were going kind of fast, but it seemed pretty easy in the early laps.  I have a tendency to speed up when I’m talking to someone.  After about five laps, we eased up a little.

photo credit: Kevin Brosi

After eight laps, we were half done.  We were on pace for 4:30, but we both knew we would need to slow it down in the second half.  We could afford to slow down quite a bit and still keep our times under five hours.  That’s fortunate, since the heat and humidity started to wear on us in the second half of the race.

I started to feel like my throat was constantly dry, even though I was drinking more and more after each lap.  Karen was monitoring her heart rate, and sometimes needed to take a short walking break if it got too high.

After 12 laps, we were three quarters done.  To be on pace for a five-hour finish, we needed to run the first 12 laps in 3:45.  We finished our 12th lap in 3:28. so we were 17 minutes ahead of schedule.  That gave us room to not only slow down, but also take more walking breaks.  By the last two laps, we were taking two or three short walking breaks per lap.

My left heel, which bothered me yesterday, felt fine today.  That was a pleasant surprise.  The ice/heat treatment I did yesterday was effective.

There was a young guy named Antoine who was running his first marathon.  From time to time we noticed him.  He seemed to be handling his first marathon well, despite the increasingly difficult conditions.  Halfway through our last lap, we asked him what lap he was on.  He was also on his last lap.

With half a lap to go, Antoine was running just ahead of us.  I was tempted to catch up to him, so we could accompany him to the finish line.  We didn’t, because he was speeding up, and we didn’t want to work that hard.

We finished at our own pace.  When we finished, we discovered that Antoine had won the race.  Neither of us was paying enough attention to realize that there weren’t any faster runners.  Karen and I tied for second place, finishing in 4:51:23.

I got another piece to add to my chain of medals.  Today’s medal was a monarch butterfly.

Today’s race went surprisingly well.  In my previous two races, I felt tired, even going at a slow pace.  Today, I had more energy, in spite of the lack of sleep.

After the race, I finished my Gatorade.  Then I ate a few pickle slices.  One of the volunteers asked me if I wanted some pickle juice.  When you’ve been sweating profusely, drinking pickle juice is an easy way to quickly replace salt.  I drank a glass of pickle juice and then drank a glass of chocolate milk.

When we were both done snacking and rehydrating, we waited for a few minutes to see another friend, who was about to finish a lap.  Then we started walking to our cars.  Before we got there, we each realized we had forgotten something, so we walked back to the finish area.

Antoine was still there, sitting on a bench.  I asked him how he felt.  He said, “Not good.”  Then he said he felt like throwing up.  Karen was concerned that he might be hyponatremic.  She and the volunteers encouraged Antoine to eat or drink something with salt.  Then he threw up, which made us more concerned.

By the time we left, he seemed to be feeling better.  By now, everyone in the finish area knew they should keep an eye on him.  By the time I left to drive back to the hotel, I saw that Antoine was up and around, and he was walking back to his car.

I brought a bathroom scale from home, so I could weigh myself before and after each race.  When I got back to the hotel, I weighed myself.  I was both surprised and relieved to see that I didn’t lose any weight.  I still felt thirsty, so I drank two glasses of chocolate milk.

I didn’t feel the need to do another ice/heat treatment for my heel, but I did do a number of stretches after getting cleaned up.  I still felt thirsty, so I’ve been continuing to drink water.

I’ve run three marathons in three days, and I’ve got three more to go.  After yesterday’s race, I was feeling pessimistic.  Today, I feel better.  I need to get more sleep though.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:51:23
Average Pace:  11:07 per mile
First Half:  2:15:06
Second Half:  2:36:17
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  519
Minnesota Marathons/Ultras:  99

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Race Report: Summer Camp Series, Day 1

On July 13, I ran the first race of the Mainly Marathons Summer Camp Series.  This is a series of marathons on five consecutive days.  All of the races are within 15 miles of St. Cloud, MN.

Yesterday, I ran the last race of the Heartland Series, which was also in St. Cloud.  For me, today was the second of six consecutive days running marathons.

All of the Summer Camp Races are on different trails.  Today’s race was originally going to take place in Bend in the River Regional Park.  Because of construction in that park, today race was moved to the Beaver Islands Trail.  That’s the same place where the last race of the Heartland Series was held.

I was able to pick up my race packet for today’s race right after finishing yesterday’s race.  As a result, I didn’t have to get to the race venue early.  I’ll wear the same number for the whole series, so I also won’t need to get there early on any of the other days.

The race started at 6:00, so I still had to get up early.  That’s going to be one of the challenges of this series.  It’s no big deal to get up early for one race.  You can easily shake off one night without enough sleep.  After a few days, however, it can take a toll on you.  I need to adjust my sleep schedule, so I go to bed early enough to get a full night’s sleep.  I did better last night, but I still didn’t get a full night’s sleep.

Yesterday, I learned that there are lots of mosquitoes near the river.  Today, I applied bug spray liberally before leaving for the race.

There’s lots of road construction in St. Cloud.  I had to take a different route to the race today, because the road I used yesterday is closed now.

It was 72 degrees at the start of the race.  That’s several degrees warmer than it was yesterday, so I was expecting this to be a hot race.

I heard a few other runners expressing concern about a possible storm.  The forecast I saw showed a chance of a passing shower, but it didn’t look like anything long-lasting.  I wasn’t too concerned.  On a hot day, rain might feel good, as long as it didn’t last too long, and it wasn’t a downpour.

I didn’t have any sore muscles, but as I started running, I felt stiff.  I gradually worked into my pace.  After a few minutes, the stiffness went away.

I started the race at the same pace that I started yesterday.  I recognized several of the other runners.  A group of runners was starting at the same pace I did, so I ran most of the first lap with a few friends.

Early in my second lap, I heard some thunder.  A few minutes later, I started to feel drops.  It was raining, but most of the course was under a canopy of trees, so very little of the rain was getting through.

A short time later, I saw a flash.  Because of the trees, I couldn’t see where it came from.  A few seconds later, I heard a loud crack of thunder.

By the middle of that lap, I was feeling more rain.  It seemed like just a light sprinkling, but I wouldn’t know for sure until I finished the lap and came out into a clearing.

As I continued running, I saw another flash.  I started counting until I heard the thunder.  It came only two seconds later, so the lightning was close.

The start/finish area was in a parking lot, so there wasn’t any shelter from the rain.  When I got there, it was only raining lightly.  I was only a few minutes into my third lap when the rain stopped.  It only lasted for about 30 minutes.

As I was finishing my third lap, I felt some minor pain on the back of my left heel.  After yesterday’s race, my left Achilles tendon felt tight.  It felt better this morning, but the pain I felt in my heel is something I’ve experienced before.  It’s most likely a minor case of Achilles tendonitis at the insertion point.

I thought the rain was done, but as I started my fourth lap, I started to feel drops again.  This time, the rain lasted longer, and it was only a matter of time before my shoes were soaked.  For the rest of the race, I had to run in heavy wet shoes.

Toward the end of that lap, I saw a brighter flash of light.  There was a longer delay before the thunder, so it seemed like the lightning was farther away now.  The rain, however, was getting heavier.

Running through the parking lot at the end of that lap, I felt pain on the back in my heel again.  It was more noticeable this time.  Running in the rain was causing my calves to tighten up.  Running with heavy shoes also didn’t help.  It was a concern, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it until after the race.

Now that my shoes were wet, my pace slowed down.  I was putting in about the same amount of effort, but I wasn’t running as efficiently.  For the first three laps, I was averaging about 10:30 per mile.  In the next three laps, my pace was closer to 10:45.

At the halfway point, I was about three minutes faster than yesterday.  My only goal was to break five hours.  Ideally, I would’ve slowed down or started taking walking breaks, but I needed to keep running with the same effort to keep from getting cold.  Other runners were putting on rain ponchos, so they wouldn’t get cold in the rain.  I didn’t bring one, so I could only keep warm by running.

The rain persisted through the seventh lap.  Then it seemed like it was stopping.  It was only a matter of time, however, before I started feeling drops again.  For the next hour, the rain was starting and stopping, but it was just light sprinkles now.

At the end of my eighth lap, I needed to make a bathroom stop.  I took my time, because I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t need to stop again later.  When I resumed running, my legs were stiff.  After that, I couldn’t get back into the same rhythm.

With four laps to go, I was running much slower.  At this point, I just needed to drag myself through the remaining laps.

The course was only 1.1 miles each way, but it always seemed longer.  In particular, it always seemed to take longer than I expected to reach the turnaround point.  It seemed more like 1.5 miles.

The course was a bit deceptive.  It had a slight bend it to.  Looking ahead, it always looked like you were going straight, but you could never see any farther than a quarter mile.  Because of that, I could never see the turnaround point until I was almost there.

I managed to get through three more laps.  Now, I just had one lap to go.  At the pace I had been running recently, it was unclear whether I would be faster or slower than yesterday’s time.  I didn’t want to have a slower finish time after being faster at the half.  As I started my last lap, I lit a fire under myself to pick up the pace.

For the first time since my bathroom stop, I managed to shake off the stiffness and run faster.  I had a good pace getting to the turnaround.  Now I just had a little more than a mile to go.

I could gauge my progress by looking for intermediate landmarks.  When I passed the yellow cone that was used as a turnaround point for the 5K and 10K races, I knew I had less than half a mile to go.

I was already past that cone when I felt the warmth of the sun for the first time.  Up until now, it had been cloudy.  I was almost done, but it was about to get hot for the people who were still on the course.

I finished in 4:48:27.  That’s two minutes faster than yesterday.  It’s a bit disconcerting how hard I had to work for that time.  I still have four more days.  I’d like to keep all my times under five hours, but it’s only going to get more difficult.

The finisher medal is in pieces that form a chain.  The top and bottom pieces go to anyone who does at least one race of the Summer Camp Series.  We’ll get additional pieces for each race we complete.

For multi-state series, the medals for individual races are in the shape of the state.  This series is all in Minnesota, so the medals all depict things associated with Minnesota.  Today’s medal was a showy lady slipper, which is the state flower.

I stayed in the finish area for a few minutes to talk to a friend, but I didn’t have anything to eat or drink.  I was anxious to get back to the hotel to get out of my wet clothes and shoes.  I had enough food and beverages in my room to refuel and rehydrate there.

I took a bath to loosen up my muscles, so I could do some stretches.  Then I went to work on my left heel.  I filled an insulated container with ice and water, so I could give my foot and ankle an ice bath.  I brought it to the hotel’s pool area, where there’s a whirlpool tub.  Then I alternated between five minutes with my foot in the ice bath and five minutes with my foot in the whirlpool.  I did that three times.  This has been an effective treatment for Achilles tendonitis in the past.  Part of getting through a series like this is managing issues as they come up.  Immediately afterward, I felt much better.  We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:48:27
Average Pace:  11:00 per mile
First Half:  2:20:23
Second Half:  2:28:04
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  518
Minnesota Marathons/Ultras:  98

Friday, July 12, 2024

Race Report: Heartland Series - Minnesota

On July 12, I ran the Minnesota race of the Mainly Marathons Heartland Series.  The Heartland Series is a seven-day series that includes races in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  I just did the Minnesota race.

I’m planning to do the Summer Camp Series, which is a five-day series that starts on July 13.  All of Summer Camp races are within 15 miles of St. Cloud, MN, making it possible to stay in the same hotel for the whole series.  The last race of the Heartland Series was also in St. Cloud.  I figured since I was already going to be here, I might as well arrive one day earlier and do six marathons instead of five.

I drove to St. Cloud yesterday, stopping for lunch along the way.  I’m staying in a hotel room that has a kitchenette with a full-size refrigerator.  After checking in, I went grocery shopping.  I plan to fix my own breakfast and lunch each day and then go out for pizza in the evening.

The race started at 6:00 AM.  There was an early start at 5:00 for people who needed extra time.  Most people took the early start so they could finish before it got too hot.  I chose to take the 6:00 start, so I wouldn’t have to get up any earlier.  As it was, I had to arrive early enough to pick up my race packet.  People doing the whole series already had their race bibs.

Today’s race was on the Beaver Islands Trail.  It’s a wide paved trail with occasional views of the Mississippi River and the Beaver Islands.  It was an out-and-back route that was roughly 1.1 miles in each direction.  To complete a marathon, I had to run 12 laps.

There was a well-stocked aid station in the start finish area.  They had water, Gatorade, coke, chocolate milk, and a variety of food.  There was a table at the aid station where we could keep our bottles.  That allows them to avoid using disposable cups.  We came back to the aid station frequently enough that I didn’t need to carry anything with me.

When you’re running marathons several days in a row, you need to slow the pace down.  My goal today was to finish the race without pushing myself too hard.  I didn’t want my effort today to leave me feeling sore or tired tomorrow.

I started running at a nice relaxed pace.  My first lap was unusually slow, because I was stopping to take pictures.  My second lap was also slow, because I made a bathroom stop.

Starting with lap three, I was running continuously, stopping only to drink at the aid station.  My pace ranged between 10:30 and 11:00 per mile.  At that pace, I would finish in less than five hours.  That was my only time goal.  Beyond that, I just wanted to conserve my energy.

The temperature at the start was 65 degrees, but it warmed up quickly.  It got into the 70s by 8:00, and it was probably 80 by the time I finished.  With that in mind, I had to be mindful to drink enough.

I have a habit of getting through the aid station quickly, so I don’t always drink as much as I should.  Today, I made a point of pausing long enough to drink enough Gatorade.  I had a 20 oz. bottle, and my goal was to drink enough that I would have to refill it every three laps.

Toward the end of my sixth lap, I had to make one more bathroom stop.  After that, I only stopped at the aid station.

After six laps, I was on pace in finish in about 4:47.  I continued running at a relaxed pace, and I had every reason to expect that I would run the whole race at a consistent pace.

In the second half of the race, it was getting hotter, and I started to feel the sun.  This course has lots of shade, but when the sun gets high enough in the sky, there are places where it shines through the trees.  I could’ve sped up at any time, but I was careful not to overexert myself in the heat.

During pre-race announcements, one of the RDs introduced the runners who were doing their first marathon or half marathon.  Early in my ninth lap, a faster runner caught up to me, and I recognized him as one of the first-time marathoners.  I sped up to his pace so I could talk to him.  His name was Finn.

My first mile running with Finn was my fastest mile so far.  I mistakenly thought Finn was a lap ahead of me, but we were actually on the same lap.  Finn’s pace was faster, but he was taking more time at the aid station.  That was the only reason I was still keeping up with him.

As we talked, I learned that Finn’s longest training run was 20 miles.  I know how hard the last six miles can be when you’ve never run farther than 20, so I decided to stay with Finn for the rest of the race.  Nobody should have to do those tough miles on their own in their first marathon.

The last race of a series is always hot dog day.  They had hot dogs at the aid station, which were conveniently cut in half.  When we got back to the aid station, I was ready before Finn was, so I decided to eat half of a hot dog while I was waiting.

In the 10th lap, we slowed down a little.  Now, we were going at about the same pace that I was running on my own.

As we started our 11th lap, we were going even slower.  Then Finn started to speed up.  I wondered if he suddenly started feeling better.  Then, suddenly, he pulled up.  He had a cramp in one of his legs.  Finn stopped to stretch, and I stopped too.  He had to walk for a few minutes, but then he was able to run again.

We were somewhat slow until we reached the turnaround, but coming back, Finn sped up again.  We had our fastest mile of the race.

After that, we just had one lap to go.  I anticipated Finn would need some time at the aid station, so I ate another half of a hot dog.

The last lap was slow.  For most of that lap, our pace was slower than 13 minutes per mile, but there was never any doubt that we would still finish comfortably under five hours.

In the last mile, Finn needed to walk, but with half a mile to go, he was ready to run it in.  There’s a gate where we leave the trail to come back to the start/finish area.  As soon as he saw that gate, Finn knew how close we were, and he picked up the pace.

Now, I had to work to keep up with him.  As we made the turn into the parking lot, Finn sped up so much that I had to follow at my own pace.  Finn finished his first marathon in 4:51:44.  I finished several seconds later, in 4:51:50.

The finisher medal has three pieces that link together.  The top and bottom pieces went to anyone who did at least one race of the series.  The middle piece was for today’s race.  People who did multiple races got a piece for each state that they ran in.  People who did the entire series got an extra piece that goes below all the states.

Before leaving the finish area, I had a couple glasses of chocolate milk.  I would’ve had another hot dog, but they were temporarily out.  When I got back to my hotel, I had more chocolate milk and some cinnamon rolls.

I took a bath and did some stretches.  My left Achilles tendon is a little tight, but I don’t have any sore muscles.  Hopefully, that’ll still be the case tomorrow morning.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on that Achilles tendon.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:51:50
Average Pace:  11:08 per mile
First Half:  2:23:26
Second Half:  2:28:24
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  517
Minnesota Marathons/Ultras:  97

Monday, July 1, 2024

2024 Second Quarter Review

This is my second quarterly review of the goals I set at the beginning of the year.  I’ve reached one of my goals, and I’ve made progress on most of the others.  I see no reason why I can’t reach all my goals by the end of the year.

Run 3,000 Miles in 2024

Through the first six months of 2024, I ran 1764.55 miles.  I’m well over halfway to my goal.  In fact, I could take a whole month off, and I’d still be on schedule.  If I stay healthy, I should reach this goal easily.

Run at Least 100 Miles in the FANS 24-Hour Run

The FANS 24-Hour Run was on June 1-2.  I ran 100 miles, and I won the state championship for my age group.  Those were the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year.

By race day, I was hoping for more, but I didn’t pace myself well.  I didn’t reach my more ambitious goals, but I managed to at least reach my minimum goal.

Run My 100th Minnesota Marathon

FANS was my 96th marathon or ultra in Minnesota.  To reach 100, I need four more.  I have seven marathons scheduled in July, and all seven of them are in Minnesota.  I expect to reach this goal on the third day of the Summer Camp Series.

Run Marathons in 50 Countries

Already this year, I’ve run marathons in three new countries, bringing my lifetime total to 49.  I just need one more to reach 50.

I expect to run two more international marathons this year, but only one of them will be in a new country.  If all goes well, I’ll get my 50th country this December in Barbados.

Run Outdoors Whenever Possible

So far this year, I’ll done all my running outdoors.  The summer months are easy.  I don’t mind the heat.  The only challenge will be the return of winter weather in December.

Qualify for the National Senior Games

I plan to qualify for the National Senior Games in August, when I compete in the Minnesota Senior Games.  Until then, all I can to is train for them.

Qualifying in the road race events is easy.  Anyone who competes automatically qualifies for nationals.

In the race-walk events, I need to place in the top four in my age group.  There are two race-walk events.  I plan to compete in both of them, but I only need to place in the top four in one of them.  If I qualify in either event at the state level, I can compete in both events in the national games.

Ideally, I’d like to better.  I’d like to place in my age group in one or both of the road race events, and I’d like to win my age group in both of the race-walk events.  That won’t be easy.  Both race-walk events are on the same day.  In the past, I’ve done one or the other, but not both.

While I was training for FANS, I put race-walk training on the back burner.  I was doing a few walking workouts, but my emphasis was on getting comfortable with a brisk pace, rather than going as fast as I can.

Since FANS, I’ve been picking up the pace of my walking workouts.  I recently timed myself at 31:30 for 5K.  I haven’t timed myself on 1500 meters, but I’ve walked a mile in 10:00.

Stay on Schedule to Finish a 5th Circuit of 50 States in 2025

Originally, my goal was to make enough progress toward a fifth circuit of 50 states that I could finish by the middle of 2025.  Since then, I’ve changed my goal to finishing this year.  The hard part was squeezing in a Vermont marathon.

Earlier this year, I ran marathons in Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, and West Virginia.  Two weeks ago, I ran one in Vermont.  At this point I just need to finish marathons in Wyoming, Ohio, New Jersey, and Oklahoma.  All of those races are scheduled.  I expect to finish at the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Race Report: 2024 Missoula Marathon

On June 30, I ran the Missoula Marathon.  The course is point-to-point, starting in Frenchtown and finishing in downtown Missoula.  It’s mostly flat, but there’s a tough hill in the middle of the race.

For the second straight year, I stayed at the Doubletree Edgewater.  This hotel is half a mile from the start, and it’s right across the river from the University of Montana.

After running the 5K race Saturday morning, I spent the rest of the day relaxing.  There was a farmer’s market in a parking lot next to Caras Park, so I picked up a huckleberry pastry for my pre-race breakfast.

After that, I spent some time relaxing in the pool and hot tub.  Then I went back to Caras Park, where I bumped into three friends who happened to be there for packet pickup.

I hung out with them at Caras Park for about an hour before heading to dinner.  On my way back to my hotel, I bumped into them again, but this time they were with two more friends.

I went to bed early, in anticipation of getting up early.  I was able to get to sleep quickly, but I couldn’t sleep through the night.  I woke up at 2:00 and never got back to sleep.

Buses to the start left from the University of Montana, which was across the river from my hotel.  I had to walk about half a mile to get to the bus loading area.  There were volunteers to make sure we got on the correct bus, as the marathon and half marathon had different drop-off locations.

The buses started loading at 4:15, and the last bus left at 5:15.  I left the hotel at 4:15, so I was on a bus by about 4:30.  The runner who sat next to me on the bus was also from Minnesota.  I keep meeting other Minnesota runners at races in other states.

The bus ride took about half an hour.  When I was dropped off in the start area, I immediately got in line for the port-o-potties.  It can take time to get through the line if you wait too long.  Then I found a place where I could sit down.

It was warm enough to wear shorts for the race, but I wore warm-up clothes to stay warm before the race.  They had a gear check, so I didn’t have to use throwaway clothes.  I was already familiar with the layout of the start area, so I knew right where to go to drop off my bag before lining up for the race.  I kept my jacket with me, just in case we had rain during the race.

The race started at 6:00.  I lined up with the 3:50 pace group.  I didn’t know if I would be able to run that pace for the whole race, but I wanted to see how it felt.  Last year, I started the race on pace for 3:50, but I couldn’t sustain the pace.  Even before the long hill, I was forced to slow down.  In retrospect, I wonder if it was because I ran the 5K race the day before.  I did the same thing this year, so I didn’t know how it would go.

As the race started, there was a fireworks display that lasted for a few minutes.  They did that last year too.

Last year, the 3:50 pace group started way too fast, and I had to drop back and run on my own.  I’m pretty sure there were different pacers leading that group this year, but I wasn’t going to trust their pacing too much.

In the first mile, the pace felt tiring.  Rather than try to keep up with the pacers, I let myself fall behind a bit.  As I suspected, they started too fast.  My time for the first mile was 8:12, and they were a few seconds faster.  Our pace was supposed to be 8:46.

After that, I eased up and tried to find a pace that felt right.  The pace group quickly pulled away from me.

In the next two miles, my pace was in the 8:30s.  That was still a little too fast, but it was more reasonable.  In mile four, I finally eased into the 8:40s.

After that, my pace bounced between the 8:30s and 8:40s.  If I ran a mile in the 8:40s, I was careful not to slow down any more.  The result was that I would speed up to the 8:30s.  After a mile in the 8:30s, I would ease up, and I’d be back in the 8:40s.  For several miles, I had a consistent pattern of running odd miles in the 8:30s and even miles in the 8:40s.

For the first third of the race, we were on a two-lane road, surrounded by ranches.  There weren’t any spectators on this part of the course.  The only crowd noise was a rooster.

Early in the race, I was already sweating more than usual.  It wasn’t hot, but I suspect there was a lot of moisture in the air.

On average, my pace was still a little faster than the pace I would need to break 3:50.  The 3:50 pace group was going much faster.  Every now and then, I would look ahead.  I could see them in the distance, but just barely.  After about six miles, I started to lose sight of them.

After about seven miles, I started running with a group of local runners who were all going at about the same pace.  I started talking to one of them.  His name was Logan, and I talked to Logan for several miles.

I was finding the pace to be more tiring than it should have been.  I’ve run faster in other races this year, but I had serious doubts that I could sustain this effort for the whole race.  I had the same experience last year.

One of the hills near downtown Missoula has a white “L” on it.  That was put there by students of Loyola High School.  Eight miles into the race, I noticed the “L” in the distance.  I had never noticed before that you can see it from this far away.

Halfway through the 10th mile, we turned onto Kona Ranch Road.  As we made that turn, we got our first crowd support.

At about 10 miles, we crossed a bridge over the Clark Fork River.  Ahead of us, there was a mountain ridge, and I could see dark clouds above the ridge.  I could see rain in the distance, and I was hoping the rain would stay on the other side of the ridge.

Next, we turned onto Big Flat Road.  I’ve always found that name amusing, since it’s the only part of the course that isn’t flat.  At 11 miles, we started to climb a long gradual hill.

The next two miles were slightly uphill, but I kept up the same pace.  At the halfway mark, I was on pace to finish in 3:48.  The 3:50 pace group was nowhere in sight.  They must have been at least two minutes ahead of me.  They were on pace for 3:44 or faster.

The halfway point is where we started climbing the one big hill on the course.  I told Logan my only goal in the next mile was to get through it without wearing myself out.  I was a minute ahead of schedule, and I was willing to give it all back in this mile.

We slowed down going up the hill, but it was still too tiring.  I told Logan I was going to walk for a minute.  He continued to run.  I was disciplined about walking for one minute and then running again.  When I resumed running, I was past the steepest part of the hill.

Shortly before the 14 mile mark, I crested the hill.  I ran that mile in 9:39.  That was about a minute slower than my previous pace.  Logan was about 30 second ahead of me.

The next mile was mostly downhill, but there was a section where it kicked up again.  I tried to pick up my pace in that mile.  Logan was also picking up the pace, so I wasn’t able to catch up with him.

When I reached the 15 sign, I was disappointed with my pace.  It was 8:44.  I was hoping to be faster in a mostly downhill mile.

Mile 16 was all downhill.  I did manage to pick up my pace in that mile, but I still wasn’t gaining any ground on Logan.  I suspected I would never catch up with him.

Near the end of that mile, we turned onto River Pines Road.  This was the junction where the marathon and half marathon courses merged.  There was a long row of port-o-potties, followed by an aid station.  I didn’t think I needed a bathroom stop, but I started to feel pressure in my intestines a few minutes later.

Most of the aid stations were playing music.  At this one, they were playing, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”  I couldn’t help but think that I should’ve stayed, so I could go.  Now I had to wait for the next aid station that had port-o-potties.

After 16 miles, I was about 30 seconds ahead of schedule, but now the course leveled out.  Running on level ground, I couldn’t sustain the same pace.

River Pines Road led us to a bridge over the Bitterroot River.  About a quarter mile before the bridge, I saw a sign saying, “Thanks for running.  Because of you, they had to fix the bridge.”  When I reached the bridge, I noticed it had new pavement, so there’s probably some truth to that sign.

Mile 17 took me 8:59.  If I kept running at that pace, I would only be on pace for 3:50 for one more mile.  After that, I would start falling behind.  On top of that, I knew I would need to make a bathroom stop.  I couldn’t hold out for the rest of the race.

In the next mile, I felt a few drops.  It didn’t amount to much, but it was a reminder that rain could still move in before I finished the race.  I could see dark clouds nearby.

At the 18 mile mark, there was an aid station with a row of port-o-potties.  I stopped to do my business, but it took a long time.  As I was getting ready to exit the port-o-potty, I could hear the music from the aid station.  They were playing, “I’m Still Standing.”  That was a reminder that I wasn’t moving.

As I left the aid station, I was about three and a half minutes behind schedule for a 3:50 finish.  I revised my goal to breaking four hours.  I had to do the same thing last year.  At least I held the pace longer this year.  Last year, I couldn’t even hold that pace to the halfway mark.

I couldn’t run as fast as before, but I tried to limit the damage, so I could stay on pace to break four hours.  At 20 miles, my time was just over three hours.  I had slightly less than an hour to run the last 6.2 miles.  My time for mile 20 was 9:37.  At that pace, I would make it, but I couldn’t afford to slow down any more.

From that point on, I worked harder to pick up my pace.  In mile 21, I picked it up to 9:19.  For the rest of the race, all my miles were faster than 9:20, but I really had to work at it.

Looking straight ahead, I could see the “L” again.  I was in Missoula now, so it was much closer.  As the crow flies, I was about two miles of the finish line, but the marathon route has a lot of turns going through town.  To get there, I still had to run more than five miles.

When I reached the 23 mile sign, I saw that I now had more than 32 minutes to run the last 3.2 miles.  I was confident I would break four hours, but my breathing was getting more labored.  The last few miles reminded me of how I felt when I was running the 5K race on Saturday.

In the last mile, I caught up to Logan.  After my long bathroom stop, I didn’t expect to see him again during the race.  As I went by, I told him I would see him at the finish line.

I’ve done this race three times before, but I can never remember the route going through town.  It wasn’t until the last few turns that I recognized where I was.  Then I knew the remaining turns.

After the last turn, I could see the Beartracks Bridge, but I had to go uphill to get onto the bridge.  I finished as best I could, but a few runners passed me on the bridge.

I finished in 3:57:24.  After getting my medal, I waited for Logan to finish.  Then I waited another minute or two to see the 4:00 pace group come in.

The surprise gift for completing the Big 3 Challenge was a small zippered travel bag.  We had our choice of three colors.  I chose the cobalt blue.

It never warmed up much during the race.  It was cloudy and breezy.  It was sprinkling as I ran the last mile, but the rain stopped by the time I finished.  Still, I knew I would get cold quickly, so I put on my Tyvek jacket.  Next, I retrieved my gear bag.  I put on my warm-up pants as soon as I could find a place to sit down.

I stayed in the finish area long enough to have post-race snacks and beer.  Logan spotted me in the finish area, so we were able to eat together.

By the time I got back to the hotel and showered, I was getting hungry again.  Every time I walked to or from my hotel, I passed a small hamburger stand.  It always smelled good, so I went there for lunch.  The burgers taste as good as they smell.

I like this series of races, but it’s tough to run a quality marathon the day after a 5K race.  If I do this again, I either need to go easy in the 5K race or go easy in the marathon.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  3:57:24
Average Pace:  9:03
First Half:  1:53:59
Second Half:  2:03:25
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  516