Monday, May 24, 2010

Fargo 2010

Karyn and I left for Fargo with a bit a trepidation about the weather but we figured let's make the best of it and see what happens.

We were staying in an apartment (think fancy dorm room) right on campus a few blocks from the FargoDome where the start/finish lines were. Check in was easy, the room was nice, 4 bedrooms (they gave us keys for 2 of the bedrooms and would have given us the other keys if needed at no additional cost), a kitchen and living room. One thing we didn't think about was that there would be no TV or radio but I had my Ipods with us so they would have to do. They supplied towels, sheets and blankets. If they do this next year, we will want to go back as this is a great deal and makes the logistics real easy so please don't tell anyone ;-).

We headed over to packet pick-up and had no issues there, we took in the expo, it is a small expo but it seemed like it was a bit larger than 2 years ago. We headed up to the spaghetti dinner, we had signed up in advance, it was $10 and we had to select one of 3 seating's: 4:00, 5:30 and 7:00, a speaker was scheduled to talk at each seating. We had chosen the 5:30 seating but after we got our food, we saw that Dean Karnazes was signing autographs and taking pictures so we decided to get one. My wife got a picture of me and Dean and I being the star struck individual didn't think to get a picture of her with Dean. Dean was the speaker at 4:30 and 7:30 so we missed his speech but what the heck I got a picture. My wife knows that to a large degree Dean is the guy who inspired me to run ultras (so I think she will forgive me for not getting her picture). When I read his book, the "Ultramarathon Man", he made ultras seem doable and he made them sound like fun. I know that some in the ultra community will occasionally say negative things about him but what I saw was a genuine person. After we got the picture, we realized that we didn't get an autograph. I headed back over and thought I was going to miss him as he was leaving. I called his name and he turned right away, I asked for his autograph, he said absolutely and he signed my race number. Shook my hand again and wished me good luck. My weekend was made. I should also comment that he is not that tall but he looks to be solid, my wife I think would describe him differently. Dean also ran the 5k and the marathon and he may have run the 10k too.

We then listened to Kathleen Wrigley, the 6:00 PM speaker, her story is pretty amazing. For those not familiar with her, read her post from January, for those that don't have the time, she is a brain aneurysm survivor who is running the Fargo Marathon to raise money, her most recent brain surgeries were last fall. When she was in the hospital, the Fargo race director visited her and she told him she was going to run the marathon. I am not sure if they had already come up with the slogan "What's your 20x10 challenge?" but she sure filled the bill of accepting a challenge. Turns out his mother had also had an aneurysm.

Her speech was tear filled and brought a tear or two to my eye and it sure made me appreciate being able to run even if I am slow. It struck fairly close to home as a friend of mine died from a brain aneurysm at age 39 and the stats she provided were interesting to digest, 6 million Americans have brain aneurysms which works out to 1 in 50 people. When the aneurysm's rupture 40% will die, and 1/2 of the others will suffer neurological disabilities, Kathleen was left partially blind after her surgery. She added a few other stats like women are more likely than men and they are most common in the ages of those that run marathons (35 to 60). During the speech they scrolled names of people who had died or been treated for aneurysms, one of the names was from a women who had run the marathon in 2007. Here are a couple other links if you want more info or wish to donate to the charity she was raising money for.
We ended up sitting at a table with a couple from Fargo who came out just to hear her speech they gave us some additional info on her and her family. Her husband is Drew, the former US attorney for North Dakota who prosecuted the Dru Sjodin case and they think he will be a future governor of North Dakota. They told us that Kathleen's brother was a police office killed in the line of duty and also commented on what nice and genuine people both Kathleen and Drew are.

After dinner we went back to the apartment got our race stuff ready, talked about the weather and listened to the Ipods and before we knew it, race morning was upon us. I looked out the window and it appeared to be raining. Sweet, hadn't counted on that though. Since it was raining we decided to drive closer to the Fargodome and got to about a block of the entrance. Headed over to the dome, saw the 1/2 marathoners off, made the last bio stop and headed to the start line. The rain was still a light rain and there was just a bit of wind, as to the temp it was just a little cold. They changed the course from when I ran it in 2008, in 2008 we ran around in Fargo until mile 18 or so and then we headed to Moorehead, Minnesota were we toured Concordia College and then came back into Fargo and then ran through some more neighborhoods on our way to the finish. This year after about 3 miles we headed into Moorehead and meandered our way through Concordia. We were pulled onto campus by the sounds from the belltower.

The time was passing quickly and our strategy was working, we were walking every 22 minutes for 2 minutes, taking the time to maintain fluids and fuel, plus an S cap every 1/2 hour and water at the aid stations. As we headed across the memorial bridge back into Fargo, I looked up and saw nothing but blue sky emerging. I of course commented on it to Karyn, she was less than thrilled both by the sky and me pointing it out. The rain had stopped after the first few miles and the temp was moving up as the clouds started to thin out. I was fairly nervous over how things would end up in the second half of the race. As we continued on towards the 1/2 way point, we ran alongside the returning marathoners, I looked at a mile marker for them, they were headed towards mile 17, for us we were between mile 11 and 12. I thought to myself as the wind was picking up and the sun was bearing down, sure wished I was over with them. The folks in Fargo had done what the race folks had suggested, there were sprinklers out by the street to help cool us down. As we made our way forward the wind kept increasing to where it was a "turn around the hat breeze" (or else it would be gone). By the time we made the halfway point, the wind was getting intense but it did seem to help keep us cool except when it was right on our back or dead against us. The nice thing about the Fargo course is that you change direction a lot so that diminished the wind's effect a bit.

We finally made our way past mile 17 and headed towards 18. It was here that I was most concerned about the wind as it would be against us for a mile or so. Along this stretch Karyn ran out of Heed so I ran forward with her Nathan to get it refilled at the aid station so that she wouldn't have to wait. It took a few minutes and I took out after her. She was a few blocks ahead of me and my mile pace went sub 9 as I sprinted to catch her, then it went sub 10 and then sub 11 and I finally caught her. That wind was a nuisance. We continued on, up to this point she was right on track for her PR but I was worried about the effect of the heat and the wind. Around mile 20, it hit her and she ended up needing to walk a bit more, she was still doing a lot better than she was in Lincoln and she recovered somewhat in miles 21, 22 and 23 still needing a bit more walking. She responded in miles 24, 25 and 26 pretty much just putting the head down and working her way though it. She finished strong coming into the Fargo dome with a smile on her face, tired out but satisfied. She missed her PR by a couple of minutes but I think she ran as well as the conditions allowed and we took some solace in that we passed an amazing number of runners over the last 5 or 6 miles so all in all I think the strategy paid off.

I need to give the folks at Fargo a lot of credit, this is a fabulous marathon, the crowd support is great, the race organization seemed top notch, the aid stations were good and the volunteers were plentiful. I can see how this marathon made Runners World top ten. I need to also mention that the volunteers did a fabulous job of keeping the cars at bay as we crossed countless intersections through out the day. It didn't seem to bother any of the drivers as the marathon weekend seems to have taken over Fargo. It seemed like the city was behind this event and it is growing and improving each year. For those that might want to take part in the weekend, this is much more than a marathon event. As a matter of fact the marathon has the lowest attendance of all four of their races - 5k - 5197 participants, 10k - 2991 participants, 1/2 marathon - 6031 participants and the marathon had 1885 participants. They also had a few hundred folks take part in the marathon relay. I also found out afterward that if I had run the 5k the night before I could have gotten an extra medal after completing the marathon, kind of like the Goofy at Disney except they called it the Go Far Challenge (and you didn't have to run the marathon to get the extras, the 10k or 1/2 would have worked).

My only complaint is I would like to swap start times with the 10k folks, the marathon started at 8, the 10k at 7, the 1/2 at 7:30. Given my druthers, I would start the marathon at 7, the 10k at 7:30 (they have a different course after a couple of miles) and the 1/2 marathon at 8. Other than that this is a marathon worth going back for. Of course if they leave it the way it is, you have a chance to run the 5k on Friday, the 10k first thing in the morning on Saturday and then the marathon right after, why that could make this an ultra worth doing.

So if you are looking for a spring marathon next year and aren't averse to running with some wind, give Fargo a go.

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