Race: 2012 Prairie Fire Marathon
Location: Wichita, KS
Date: October 14, 2012
Overall Finish: 53rd out of 721 finishers
Age Group Finish: 7th out of 63 finishers
While it’s still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share a few thoughts about yesterday’s race. The irony the day: I am sorely disappointed that I missed my goal of running a sub-3:15 marathon, but at the same time so ecstatic to finish my fifth marathon.
I am disappointed because I put so much effort into this training session and thought I was better prepared than any other marathon. I also thought running the same course as last year would have been a benefit as well.
I am thrilled to finish because there were so many times along the race that I simply wanted to quit. Strategically, I probably ran about the worst race I could imagine. I stayed with the 3:15 pace group for the first five miles, but broke apart from them before mile 6 fearing the pace was too slow. I was pretty much on my own after that break — not a brilliant idea on a windy day. I kept my pace fairly consistent but the 3:15 pace group caught me around mile 15. I struggled but managed to stay with the group until after mile 18 and then things started to fall apart for me. My legs felt like they weighed 500 pounds each and the miles seemed to go on forever. It didn’t help that this was about the same area that I faltered last year during this race — I stayed with the group a little bit longer this year.
One bright spot of the race was my support. I appreciate my friends and family that were able to make it to the race. Seeing familiar faces in the crowd always helps, no matter how bad you are feeling. On the course, the two friends from my office helped tremendously. In fact, in the last four miles when I was looking for any excuse to stop and call it quits, seeing my friend, Len, in front of me encouraged me to keep going. Although it wasn’t quite as dramatic as the training partner finish in the 2012 10,000 Olympics meter race, our back-to-back finishes are a testament to the power of training and racing with others.
My mile splits for the race were: 8:04; 7:51; 7:33; 7:20; 7:20; 7:17; 7:11; 7:12; 7:19; 7:18; 7:19; 7:16; 7:16; 7:24; 7:20; 7:28; 7:21; 7:28; 7:45; 7:52; 8:26; 8:45; 8:58; 8:37; 9:04; and 8:49.
Today I’m trying to recover physically and mentally. I keep searching for some perspective. Although the race was about four minutes off my personal record, I am consoled by thinking the wind was much more challenging than last year’s race and I was able to better my 2011 time by nearly five minutes.
Hands down, this marathon was the most fun. In fact, I’m not sure I’ll have more fun running another race unless I run this marathon again. We always enjoy visiting Disney World and admiring the attention to detail — and the marathon is no exception. From registration all the way through the post race, every detail was covered.
This race marked my second attempt at running a 3:15 marathon. Despite the early 5:30 a.m. race start time, the start was nothing short of spectacular. My 3:15 pace group was able to line up close to the elite runners — close enough to hear the start and see the fireworks. One of the best parts of this race is getting caught up in all of the characters and support along the way which helped take my mind off the matter, especially at the beginning of the race.
The marathon runs through all four parks at Disney World. One of my favorite memories was taking over for the pacesetter while he took a bathroom break. He handed me the 3:15 pennant shortly before we arrived at the Magic Kingdom. I cannot describe how cool it was to lead our pace group up Main Street USA. It simply does not get much more fun than that.
I was able to hold onto the 3:15 pace until mile 20. My splits were: 5 miles-37:38 (7:32 pace); 10 miles-1:14:54 (7:29 pace); 13.1 miles-1:38:20 (7:30 pace); and 20 miles-2:29:33 (7:29 pace). And even though I knew I was falling off pace, I tried with all of my might not to fall too far behind. Looking over my mile splits from the race, I am proud that my pace never fell below an 8:28/mile pace. I finished in 3:19:40 (7:37 pace), good enough for 296th overall out of 13,478 finishers.
What made this race even better was that I was able to enjoy it with my wife. I felt a little bounce in my step every time I saw her cheering me on in the crowd. And after crossing the finish line, she was right there to congratulate me.
My third marathon marked my first attempt at running a sub-3:15 marathon. In retrospect, the goal to cut off so much time off my personal best was too lofty. But it sure was fun trying.
Running with the 3:15 pace group, I made an instant connection with the pacesetter. Things went well at first — finishing the first half in 1:37:20 — almost right on the mark of where we needed to be to run a 3:15 marathon. I kept up for another few miles, but after mile 17 I hit the wall. I lost contact with the pack and tried to recapture their pace, but mentally I was already spent. Even though I could not hold their pace, I bettered my personal best by finishing in 3:28:13.
One of the best memories of this race was having my dad watch me run a marathon for the first time. Being around him before and after the race brought back many high school and college running memories — many lost to the hands of time until then. Another fond memory I have was having my oldest son, Logan, cheer me on throughout the race and support me after the race (literally). It’s one of those memories that will be difficult to forget, so much that I used the picture of Logan helping me walk after the race as the default picture for this blog. Thanks to my oldest brother for snapping the picture, as he was there supporting me in two of my three marathons.
I found myself much better prepared for my second marathon. One lesson I learned from my first marathon was to hold back early, which is especially difficult to do after 16 weeks of training. I started with the 4:00 pace group, but by the fourth mile it was clear the pace had to pick up, so I left the group to venture on my own.
Holding back early in the race paid dividends in the second half of the race. By conserving energy early and running within my limits, I was able to run the second half faster than the first. I even gained a little support from a local high school track team that was out for a run and was nice enough to let me tag along for a while. I finished the race in 3:52:40 which was good enough for 124th overall.
One of the things I enjoyed about this race was the fact that much of the course had been covered in training with Team in Training when I prepared for my first race. Knowing the course and having ran portions of the route numerous times gave me a sense of familiarity that is often difficult to find in a race.
I started the race with the 4:05 pace group. In retrospect, I should have stayed with them as long as possible, but I felt so good the first part of the race that I pushed too hard in the first half and paid the price later in the race.
My 3.3 mile split was 32:37 (9:53/mile pace), a reasonable start pace with the 4:05group. By the 9.29 mile marker, I had decided to leave the pack with a quicker pace, passing the mark at a 1:26:22split (cumulative pace of 9:18/mile; or 8:58/mile pace over this section of the course). My friend, Chris, had joined me so this also helped pass the time and made it feel much like a long training run than a race. I was right on pace for a four hour marathon at the half way point with a split of 2:00:38at 13.1 miles (cumulative pace of 9:13/mile or 9:01/mile over this section of the course). Still having Chris helped with the 10 miles he ran with me, although I was starting to feel the beginning of the wall towards the end of our time together. At the 19.8 mile mark, my split was 2:59:33(cumulative pace of 9:04/mile or 8:48/mile pace over this section of the course).
That’s about the time I hit the wall. Miles 19.8 to 26.2 took 1:12:42 (11:22 pace over the last 6.4 miles). It was a true struggle to finish the race, especially without Chris by my side. Luckily, I our training mentor that helped me with the last four miles of the race – the exact point I was feeling my worst – breaking down to walk several times outside of aid stations. Mentally, I think I felt I was running slower than I actually was, although the walking breaks certainly had their impact on my times. I finished my first marathon at 4:12:13 and a pace of 9:38/mile.