Well, sometimes you go into an event with high expectations, other times, you go in with high hopes and then you have Fargo.
I went into it still a bit weak with a poor taper because of being sick and you know what I proved yet again, if you start a marathon not entirely healthy you probably won't find a cure on the course. I had low energy almost from the start, we were also blessed with a warm day and high winds, ok high winds to me, to someone from Fargo they described them as a little bit of a headwind. All on your perspective, I guess.
Karyn and I drove over to Fargo on Friday. She was running the 1/2 and I would be running the full. We picked up our packets and took in the expo at the Fargo dome. I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the people at the expo. We headed over to eat the spaghetti dinner (also at the dome) and stayed around to hear their speakers. They were Sarah Reinertsen, the first women amputee to complete the Ironman in Hawaii and Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Race Director. Both gave very interesting and inspirational speeches, it was nice to be able to sit back and relax and hear their stories.
Race day: Both of our races started together, so my plan was to run the first 2 miles with Karyn and then to get into my own pace. It was in the mid 50's at the start with a forecast high of 71 with winds increasing to 20-30+ mph as the day went on. I was worried about both the heat (yes, 71 might be a problem as I had yet to run more than a day or two over 60) and the wind. There were too many people in the start area as the 5k'ers were kind of in the way (they were to start 15 minutes later). After the gun went off it took us 3 to 4 minutes to get to the start and we proceeded onto the first of many concrete streets to follow. I was crabby as the race got going, too many people and too many concerns for how the day was going to go. Sorry about that Karyn.
Anyway, after I separated from Karyn, I quickly got into a reasonable pace and I thought to myself maybe things would turn out good. I had a nice conversation with a couple who were in the 50 states club around mile 8 and it turned out they were planning on running Haulin Aspen as well so I will need to look for them there. The next few miles passed ok although I was working too hard for the pace I was going. I thought it was the heat or maybe it was the sickness taking away my strength, either way I was thinking I might have issues ahead but the legs felt ok for the moment. I was struggling with a tight hamstring and had some minor knee pain but I thought they would be manageable.
Somewhere around mile 14 or 15, my day took a turn that would become the real problem. I had been coughing more and more as the miles went on and it was at this time that I had to stop completely from coughing and proceeded to gag a bit. I just couldn't seem to keep the cough in check and every time I tried to get on pace it would start up again. It seemed I couldn't get enough air into my lungs. I thought this must be what my girls experience with their exercise induced asthma, not fun. I struggled onward and each mile it seemed to get worse, cough, stop, gag. I had some significant knee pain around mile 17 so I went ahead and put on the other patella strap I had, that seemed to help the knee pain some. It was around mile 19 or so that I was thinking that I was getting dehydrated and was worried about my stomach cramping but I did the reality check, I realized I was fine but it was the coughing thing that was the problem.
I saw Karyn at mile 21 and got another water bottle, her day had gone ok but she said the wind the last few miles would be a problem. I told her of my problems and she said she had struggled breathing as well. Around mile 22, I had to make the decision to walk, I just couldn't breathe enough to run. I ended up talking to a runner from Florida and she said that she and her husband had the same kind of sickness and that I should have gone to the doctor and should still go in and get it checked. I chatted with her for 3 miles as she was walking it in with cramps and almost missed Karyn at mile 24. I was also acutely aware of a blister on the ball of my left foot (it had started around the halfway point). So at mile 25, I decided that my lungs were as good as they were going to get and my foot couldn't hurt worse so I would run it in. Karyn was right about the wind, it was strong. I was able to resist coughing although my lungs were hurting but I made it. It was kind of cool to finish in the dome. My finish time ended up being - 5:36:41. I was hoping for a sub 5 so not quite the day I had hoped for.
So it's the morning after and as I take in my damage, the body is tender but not too bad, the blister(s) are pretty cool, glad I have never had them before. One of them is about a silver dollar size right on the ball of the foot, the other one is about dime size and is right next to the bigger one.
One more thing, I would recommend Fargo to anyone, the course is flat and fast (if you get a bit less wind - see below). The race is well organized, the support is great and the dome makes it pretty easy logistically for the runners, all in all a first class event. Karyn and I talked about returning next year. It wouldn't help me with the 50 states thing but it was a fun day worth repeating.
In the past when I had days like this I would have psychoanalyzed my day to figure out what I should have done different. The reality was and still is that I am quite happy with the finish. My last three weeks of non quality training had me weakened and the coughing/breathing/gagging issue along with the wind and heat finished me off. The woman from Florida said it best sometimes you got it and sometimes you don't and if God tells you that you don't, you need to just relax, enjoy it and go onto your next event..............
Wind during the 2008 Fargo Marathon (8:00 AM start) from the NWS:
7:53 AM - NW 5 mph
8:53 AM - N 9 mph
9:53 AM - NW 20 G 28 mph
10:53 AM - NW 28 G 35 mph
11:53 AM - NW 30 G 38 mph
12:53 PM - NW 29 G 36 mph
1:53 PM - NW 35 G 41 mph