Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mardi Gras Marathon - Race Report

The long winter of training finally culminated in a race on Sunday in New Orleans.  I’ve been really dialed in on this one for a long time, and couldn’t have asked for much more – fast course, legs felt great, absolutely perfect weather.  I had a whole lot of respect for the marathon distance before this race, and after 2:31:13, I crossed the finish line with a whole lot more.  All in all, I gave it a valiant effort at cracking the 2:30 mark, and real happy to come away with a good race, many lessons learned, and knocked 5+ minutes off the old PR.  And of course have a good goal for next time!

It’s funny how 99% of the work in this sport is done outside of competition.  Good thing for me, I am lucky to have the best and smartest runner I know in Chris Lundstrom as my friend and coach.  I was telling Chris on Saturday that if I screwed it all up in the race, it surely wouldn’t be his fault.  He got me through the best stretch of training I’ve ever had and did it feeling really good.  I’m definitely thankful to him for getting me to the start line in a position to give it a shot.

On to the Race!
When I woke up at 5 on Sunday morning, I found it ironic that the temperature in Minneapolis was about the same as in New Orleans – a nice crisp 39 degrees or so at the start.  After checking in my gear bag, I made my way to the front coral and anxiously awaited the gun.  I was glad to meet fellow trail runner Nick Clark right before the race and run the first mile or so together.  The general plan was to start off a bit conservative for the first 10k, then start cruising a bit through the middle of the race to give myself an outside chance at grinding it out in the end for 2:29.

I ran most of the first 5 or so miles with a half marathoner up until the courses split.  Things were smooth sailing through here and felt like I could run that pace all day…just the way it should be on tapered legs.  After the split, I was just a bit ahead of Nick, and already out of sight of the 7 guys ahead of me.  I came through the first 10K averaging 5:49s, and was sort of proud of myself for holding back a bit as planned (the goal average pace was 5:43).  I had my first of three GUs around here, and started ticking off some faster miles.

I came through the halfway point exactly where I wanted to be in 1:14:52.  I knew I’d be cutting it real close and it would take a near perfect split race to pull it off, but that’s the way a marathon is supposed to be run.  I was cruising here through some great parts of town and feeling good – the course went from Audubon Park down St. Charles Ave, to Decatur and the French Quarter, then up Esplanade to City Park and the Lake.  I was still holding on to the pace I wanted, but it started requiring a bit more effort around 18 or 19.  I came through mile 20 in 1:53:54.  It was slightly encouraging that my second 10 miles was a little faster than the first 10, but I knew I was tiring when I was getting real close to passing a guy, and just couldn’t quite close the gap.  The course took a couple 180 degree turns up by the lake before coming back down south along City Park into the finish for the last 4 or 5 miles.

This is where things slowly started to slip a bit more…just couldn’t quite hang on to the pace.  I don’t think I looked at my watch more than once or twice for the last five miles, mostly because I was afraid of the numbers that it would be showing and wanted to just run.  By this time I knew I wasn’t going to be breaking 2:30, so just kept it rolling and as steady as I could to finish with a solid time that I was still real happy with.

In hindsight, I’d love to go back in time to mile 20 of that race and see if I could be just a little bit tougher, but I guess that’s what the next race is for.  It was definitely a great experience and I learned a lot as always.  I really liked the course, was a perfect day, and had a fun few days in a cool city…not too bad of a long weekend out of MN in February.  And I'm convinced this whole marathon training adventure should leave me with a great base for ultras this summer.
Post Race
After the race, I had a chance to visit more with Nick about summer plans…definitely looking for him to tear up the trail at Western States again this year, among many other races for sure.  Also had a chance to congratulate the winner – Fred Joslyn – who qualified for his first Olympic Trials with a 2:18:48.  Great guy and real excited for him.

After getting my stuff again, I met up with my friend Ryan and his friend Sally (both ran their first half and I think are hooked!), and Ryan’s girlfriend Stephanie and his buddy Brian.  We enjoyed a couple of the best tasting beers I’ve ever had before heading out for some of the best tasting pizza I’ve ever had.

Next Up…
I signed up on Saturday for Cascade Crest 100 in August, so as far as races are concerned that’s the next big one for me.  There will be plenty of adventures before then though.  And this 40+ degree weather I came home to has me thinking about the trails.
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And here is the Garmin data for any of you numbers and splits enthusiasts.  The Garmin runs a few seconds per mile faster than actual.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mardi Gras Marathon Weekend Begins

I'm usually not one to put much stock in quotes, or even remember them, but this one by Martin Luther King stood out to me on a random commercial this morning during the 10 minutes I had the TV on:

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase.”

Whenever I get myself caught up in trying to wrap my mind around one big task all at once, it just seems overwhelming to the point where it doesn’t seem possible and you don’t know where to begin.  In reality though, you can’t take the second step until you take the first, so why worry so much about trying to take every step all at once?  I guess the lesson learned for this weekend is to trust the training and not think too much about trying to run all 26.2 miles fast, but just begin and let it play out from there.

As for the trip so far, I made it to New Orleans this afternoon and I’ve already decided I really like the city.  Yeah it might be a bit rough around the edges to say the least, but it’s got a ton of character which works well for me.  It’s definitely not like any other city I’ve been to, and can’t say that about very many places.  First stop was the Expo to pick up my packet and meet up with my friend Ryan from college who lives and teaches here (and is running his first race in the half).  We met up with his buddy Brian for dinner, and even ventured down Bourbon Street.  Tomorrow will probably be a pretty low-key day…sleep in a bit more than usual, jog a few miles in the morning, and maybe see a bit of the town in the afternoon.  Ryan very conveniently lives about 3 blocks from the start, so it’s nice not to have to worry about race-day logistics and all.

Oh, and I’m loving this tropical paradise thing they have going on down here.  Ok, it was only like 50 degrees this afternoon, but sure felt toasty compared to the -10 I woke up to this morning in Minneapolis.  It should be perfect weather for a run.