Racing, Family

GR Marathon

The Plan

I ran the Boston Marathon earlier this year and had a pretty disappointing race. My goal was 2:25:00, but after being sidelined and unable to run for a month leading up to the race, I ended up running a 2:50:02. After having a good season racing triathlons during the summer (I won the USAT Age-Group National Championship and finished 3rd at the ITU World Championship!), I wanted to run a fall marathon to improve my Boston Qualifying time so I could start with the first group in Boston. A 2:50:02 would be right on the border of making the first corral; in years past, the slowest time in the first group of runners to start behind the pros has been between 2:47:00 and 2:52:00.

Because my triathlon season ended just a few weeks before the marathon (Cozumel!), I knew I wouldn’t be in peak marathon shape (probably because of all the cinnamon rolls!) so I just wanted to go out and run nice and “easy”. That being said, there is NOTHING easy about running 26.2 miles! So, my goal was to run at a 6:00/mile which would be a 2:37:12, well within the time of the lead group for Boston.

Another goal of mine was to negative split the race, meaning I would run the second half faster than I ran the first half. Strava (a social media website for runners/cyclists/triathletes) partnered with New Balance to give a free pair of shoes to anyone who ran a negative split marathon between October 9th and December 4th.

So with that in mind, my plan was to run between 6:05 and 6:10 per mile for the first 13 miles, drop down to 6:00 pace for the next 7, and finish the last 10k at 5:50 pace or faster. This would put me between 2:37:15 and 2:38:20 depending how fast I ran the first 13 miles and give me the negative split I was looking for!

The Lead-up

The night before the race, mom, dad, and I stayed with our friend, Tracey Willmer. Actually, we crashed her brother’s house while he wasn’t there :P Mom and Tracey were running the half-marathon and dad and I were running the full. Tracey was doing a little trash-talking before the race and said she was going to beat me to the finish line. Game on! haha

Right before the start of the race as dad and I were jogging to the start line, I said to him, “I think I could go to the bathroom again.” I took a quick peek at my watch and it read “7:52am” only 8 minutes until go time which means there was no time to make one last pit stop. “That’s okay. I don’t really have to go that bad anyway.” I thought. So, I lined up at the front of the race and got ready to rock and roll.

The Race

I started the race with a group of about 6 or 7 other guys. I couldn’t tell who was running the marathon and who was running the half, so I just tried to stay within myself. I really wanted to make sure that I didn’t go out too fast because that would put my negative split in jeopardy. This meant I had to make the decision to drop back from the group and run on my own. I let them go before the first mile was finished because they were running just a little too fast for my liking.

Mile 1- 6:00

The first few miles of the marathon are awesome because we run right through downtown Grand Rapids and the spectators are so enthusiastic! It was really tough to hold back in the beginning of the race because the atmosphere was so charged up. I did my best and was able to stay relaxed through these first miles and actually got to run with the eventual winner of the women’s half-marathon through the first 8 miles (way to go Paige!)

Mile 2- 6:05

Mile 3- 6:00

Mile 4- 6:00

Mile 5- 6:04

Mile 6- 6:07

Mile 7- 6:07

Mile 8- 6:06

It was around this time, right before the half-marathon turnaround, when I had to make my first unscheduled pit-stop to visit my friend John (first name porta!) I’ve never had to stop and use the bathroom during a race before so this was a new experience. Thankfully, I wasn’t trying to win the race or run super fast so I didn’t have any hesitation about stopping. After I took my quick bathroom break, I was back on the road. I tried to be smart and didn’t try to make up the time I lost while I was stopped.

Mile 9- 7:09

It was during the middle miles of the race when I was running by myself where I thought, “It’s kind of lonely out here.” Which of course turned into Donkey from Shrek singing, “Cause iiii’m all alone. There’s no one here besiiiiide me.” It honestly felt like I was just out for a long run by myself.

Mile 10- 6:02

Mile 11- 6:05

Mile 12- 6:10

Mile 13- 6:09

Through 13.1 in 1:21:21

Wouldn’t you know it, but just after the half-way point and I had to visit my friend (porta) John AGAIN! Like I said before, I wasn’t trying to win the race so I didn’t mind taking a minute to catch my breath, but it sure was frustrating having to stop in the middle of a race TWICE when I’ve never had to stop even once before.

Mile 14- 6:59

After my second (and thankfully final) pit-stop, the run just kept on going. With 12.2 miles left, there was still a lot of running to be done. Lucky for me, the crowds started to thicken and we were getting to the part of the course where we doubled back on ourselves so we could see other runners. The turnaround was at mile 18.5 so I wanted to see how far behind the leaders I was. I thought they might be somewhere in the realm of 6-10 minutes down so I should see the leaders around the 18-mile. Since I was running a 2:37 pace, I figured the winning time would be around 2:30. Well, much to my surprise, I saw the leader (and back-to-back GR Marathon champ), Brendan Maloney at the 17.5 mile mark. This meant that he was 2 miles ahead of me and at least 12 minutes. That would put him on pace for a 2:25:00 marathon! Dude was flying.

Mile 15- 5:59

Mile 16- 5:58

Mile 17- 6:00

Mile 18- 6:03

After hitting the turnaround, I got to see who was behind me. There was one guy who had snuck up on me so I wanted to make sure he didn’t catch and pass me. Even though I wasn’t trying to win, I sure didn’t want to get caught! It was also along this same portion of the race that I got to see my dad and Mr. Kahrs who were running together. Mr. Kahrs attempted to give me a high-five, but we barely touched fingertips. I asked dad how he was feeling and he just said, “Eh.” Not good, but I had faith that he would still be able to finish!

Now I’m not one to give high-fives to other runners while I’m racing. Partly because it takes me out of my rhythm and partly because...well, it hurts! I’m running 10+mph and even if the other person is running at 7mph, that’s a 17mph high-five! No thank you. Now high-fiving spectators is another thing. I am all for that! They aren’t moving toward me so it’s easy to control how hard we slap hands and I gave out more than a few of those to spectators during the marathon :)

Mile 19- 6:02

Mile 20- 6:03

Mile 21- 5:59

Mile 22- 6:04

Now remember how I said I wanted to run the last 10k (6.2 miles) at a 5:50 pace or faster? Well, I didn’t really feel like hurting that bad and since I was still quite a ways down from the lead, there was really no sense for me to run really hard. I did pick up the pace a little bit in the last 4 miles, but only to about a 5:55 pace.

Mile 23- 5:56

Mile 24- 5:56

Mile 25- 5:57

HOWEVER! With less than a mile to go, I could see a runner up ahead of me who looked like he could have been running the full. My first thought was, “I could probably catch him if I really push it!” and then in almost the same train of thought, “I really don’t want to work that hard, though.” So I just kept running the same pace, but I noticed I was gaining on him pretty quickly. With less than half a mile to go, I finally gave in to my competitive-ness and decided to run him down.

Mile 26- 5:48

I caught him running down the final straightaway and when I passed him, I took a peek over my shoulder to see if he was going to respond with a surge of his own, but there was no surge to be had. It was nice to feel so good at the end of 26.2 miles! Running down the finish chute, I even saw my friend James Fry standing at the finish line taking pictures. I was a little surprised and gave him a look that said, “Hey, I know you!”

Finished 26.2 in 2:40:43

The Finish

After I crossed the finish line, I gave my mom a great big hug. She ran the half-marathon and her goal was to finish the race before I did. Well, not only did she accomplish her goal of finishing before me, she also set a HUGE PR by running a 2:12:22! Tracey also had to rub it in that she did in fact cross the finish line before me. What she likes to leave out is the part where I ran twice as far as she did ;)

After chatting with James, my mom, and Tracey, I did a little bit of stretching; my legs were a lot more tired and sore than I thought they were going to be! I thought that since I was just running “easy” that I would be hurting too much. Well, a marathon is still 26.2 miles no matter how fast you run it and that many miles really beats up your legs. I wanted to sit down so badly, but know that the best cure is to keep moving. Once I finally made my way out of the finish chute, I got to catch up with my massage therapist, Lynika, and my friends (and sweets sponsors!) Nick and Becca and their baby girl Haven. Those pumpkin doughnuts with maple pecan glaze really hit the spot after the race! I finally allowed myself to sit down when I was talking with them, but only so I could do a little self-massage on my calves and quads.

While I was chatting away, mom was trying to track dad to see where he was on the course. I decided to go back out on the course to try and find him. On my way out, I ran into my friend Brittany and her boyfriend Morsi. Britt was cruising to the finish and Morsi had been running with her for 22 miles; just a nice little “training run” after finishing 2nd at the Detroit Half-Marathon last weekend! After running with them for a bit, I went back out and then ran into Mr. Kahrs. I asked him how he was feeling and where dad was and he said they split up a few miles back. I ran with Mr. Kahrs for a minute or two and then headed back out (for a 3rd time!) to find my dad. I didn’t have to go very far before I found him. I was actually surprised because of how he had been feeling and how far back Mr. Kahrs told me they split up.

This was the second time I was able to cross the finish line of the Grand Rapids Marathon with my dad and it will always be a special feeling. 

And just like that, my 2016 race season is finished! Well, with the exception of a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot. After the way the year started, I am extremely satisfied at how it ended. I won a few races, had a lot of fun, and ate some delicious treats after those races :) Now it's time to kick back and relax until 2017. Ha! Just kidding. There will be no relaxing going on. I will take some "downtime" (aka- maybe only ONE workout a day :D) after the Turkey Trot, but then it will be back to work getting ready for the Boston Marathon in April!

Thanks as always goes to Mark and Matt at MojoFIT, James Fry, Nick and Becca Van Liere, Coach Barb, my family, and everyone who takes the time to follow along with my story. I'll be sure to write a recap for the year and a look forward to next season, but that won't be until January 1st when I can add up my total mileage for 2016!

And if you made it this far, be sure to stay tuned for some exciting news! Don't you just love cliff-ha.......