An interesting day at Marathon to Marathon (M2M), not as good as I hoped nor as bad as I thought it might be.
M2M starts in Storm Lake, IA and proceeds to Marathon, IA which is located to the northeast. The marathon and marathon relay both start together at Storm Lake High School at 6:00 am. The 1/2 marathoners get bussed to the halfway point and they start at 7:00 am. After the race, they provide bus service to get you back to your car in Storm Lake.
Karyn and I arrived the night before and were staying at a hotel about 3 blocks from the marathon start. We drove over to the high school and picked up our packets, easy parking, friendly volunteers and no lines. Off to the grocery to pick up a few pre-race items.
Once we got the basics out of the way, I was able to confirm the weather forecast, it was expected to be partly sunny with the temp at the start of 60 and around 78-80 at the time I would finish. Karyn was running the 1/2, which meant I had to carry what I needed and to be self sufficient for the day.
The morning came quickly and I ended up almost getting started on a very bad note, I putzed around the hotel to the point Karyn said shouldn't we be going. I also had my normal pre-race coughing attack, which we joked was exercise anticipation athsma. I have had the same type of coughing attacks before my last 4 long events and have had some issues during the runs, the worse being Fargo. Hopefully not a precursor to the day.
We arrived about 7 minutes before 6. I have never cut it that close before, I very much appreciated the hotel's location and the fact that there is plenty of parking at the high school. I hurried to load up what I needed and walked quickly to the start line. I dropped my bag into the pick-up that would take the bags to the finish, went to the back of the pack and had about a minute to get ready. Sure enough as I struggled to get things put away they said, please take your hats off for the national anthem. A young man did a great job with the anthem and then the horn sounded and we were off. If you wonder how large this race is think small, from the back of the pack to the start line it took no more than 5 seconds. Yes, my kind of event.
My goal for the day was to finish in around five hours but not to push through the heat and end up getting dehydrated and having recovery issues. The course takes you east out of Storm Lake, you then head north for a mile, back to the east for 3-4, and then north for 3-4, to the east for 4-5 and then straight north for 9+ miles until you turn to the east for a 1/2 mile and then finish out heading north into Marathon. The course is fairly flat and gives you a lot of farmland to take in, with a few gradual uphills and downhills sprinkled in, just enough so that the long straight sections are not a major issue.
Within the first half mile it was obvious that I was to be the back of the pack. I looked behind me and there was the ambulance, I thought to myself, oh no I am going to finish in last place. I thought a bit more about it and said, ok, if that is where I am so be it. I was planning on running around 11:30-12 minute miles, not fast but where I am. My right knee was tender from the start, not painful, just kind of ached on every step. I have been dealing with patella tendinitis all year, the pain is more of a mental thing than a physical one, it hurts but not enough that you think you should stop but enough so that you just can't relax and ignore it. I was more worried about my left knee as it had been doing weird things on past runs and it varied from no pain to relative intense pain but it normally didn't occur until around 5+ miles into a run. I was near a couple of runners for the first mile but they moved away from me when I stopped to have a drink. My fuel plans were pretty simple, take in some Clif Crisp Apple Electrolyte every 15 minutes or so, some sport beans and gummi bears as needed and Endurolytes at least 1 every hour, more if the stomach turned south. Again, another goal was to not experience dehydration or more specifically stomach cramps. So I proceeded to zone out and to listen to podcasts.
Pretty much uneventful, my main concern was the ambulance and how bright the sun was, the ambulance took off and some clouds covered the sun, yes, I looked behind me and didn't see anyone. I worked to keep myself on pace and to fuel as it was obvious that the day was going to heat up. I also had numerous coughing attacks more of a nuisance than a problem. It was about mile 6 that I passed a runner. I also realized that no other runners had passed me, maybe I had been in last place. I thought to myself, don't let that guy pass me back.
No issues, just the normal, early miles of a race. As the miles, went by, I was thinking that maybe my day was going to turn out well and then around mile 10, the cloud that had kept the sun at bay pretty much disappeared and we got to take in the sun. If not for the wind which was at our back or a crosswind it would have been pretty hot. I passed another runner, oh yeah, a two runner buffer.
Sunshine with the wind at our back. As I approached mile 12, there were a series of signs along the road about Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. They were like the old road side signs, the first of a series would ask a question like, "What do you call munchkins when a house falls on them?", the next sign said "Crunchkins". Turns out there were 38 signs with 15 or so different questions. The farmer who ran the water stop was wearing a Dorothy wig, (a dress, I think) and had bright red boots (for sure), his kids(p were dressed as the tin man and lion. An interesting water stop. Shortly after that stop, I realized I was starting to get pretty hot. I never like the wind at my back. It was around mile 14 when the left knee started bugging me, I have treated it like patella tendinitis and had an extra strap for it. I have found if I wear the strap from the start, the knee bugs me but in a different way. I passed another runner during this stretch and couldn't see any runners behind me.
The wind was blowing out of the southwest so it was a nice cross wind pushing you during this stretch. It was interesting as every time the wind was blocked by a farmhouse or trees how much hotter it felt. I was struggling with the heat but not to the point that I couldn't continue to run but more with an understanding that if I pushed the pace I would be in trouble. I had had coughing attacks every few miles and they continues during this stretch, I remember thinking just relax, let the lungs breathe. I ended up slowing down a minute per mile during this stretch, in looking back, I think it was a combination of the heat, my conditioning, the knee pain, fear of cramps or all of them combined. I ran quite a bit on the shoulder of the road to reduce the effect of the pavement and because the road is not closed to cars so it kept me from worrying about them. During this stretch, I passed 3 or so more runners and no one passed me back.
Mile 26 to finish
When you make the turn at mile 25 onto Highway 10, you have a nice 1/4 mile uphill run to the east, you then turn left and head into Marathon. I tried to pick up the pace but didn't have a whole lot left, which I took as I had made the right choices earlier. I finished with a time of approximately 5 hours and 20 minutes and was congratulated by Lois Lind who along with her husband (LeRoy) created this marathon. LeRoy passed away before the first event was held but has a quote that best describes this event, "We may not be world class, but we ARE first class -LeRoy Lind". LeRoy had it right.
At the finish, Marathon was celebrating their 125th year so a lot was going on, a band playing Buddy Holly songs, lot's of food, a neat celebration.
Karyn had a good day and finished the half marathon strong. I need to thank her for taking the bus back to Storm Lake and sparing me that long bus ride. The bus ride turned into an adventure of it's own, after she watched many of the runners struggle into the bus, the bus ended up stuck in the mud and everyone had to get off. Like all of Iowa, they had had a lot of rain (our thoughts and prayers are with all of Iowa as they deal with their floods, tornado deaths, injuries and damage). After everyone got back on board, it turned out that she sat next to the winner who decided to do this marathon at the last minute (he finished in around 3:04) and they had a nice discussion.
A final note, this was the first ever marathon where I have not been passed by a single runner, pretty weird but it tells me that I was fairly consistent with my pace and yes that there weren't that many runners.
On to Afton, where the challenge will be to manage the knees on the hills, the expected heat and to finish under the cutoff.