Good Start into the 2014 SeasonMay 10, 2014 – Fargo 1/2-Marathon, Fargo, ND
It has almost become a tradition to start off my triathlon summer season with the Fargo 1/2 Marathon. This year’s event was a week earlier than in previous years, and therefore, at the end of a very hectic finals week for me and the day after BSU’s commencement celebrations. Not very good timing for proper race preparation. Accordingly, I did not feel ready for this race. Anybody asking me for my race goals got the following answer: “I would love to stay below 1:40; if I can get close to last year’s time (1:38:05) I would be very happy; and I would be in seventh heaven if it ends up to be a personal best.”
Those who know me, know that my day and hours before a race are very well planned out. I thank my friends, especially Craig and Lisa for allowing me my antics. Even though they sometimes tease me about “Christel’s White Binder” – my planning utensil that follows me to my races – I sometimes think they keep up with me because I keep them on track :-P. Here is another example of my need to plan … for every race I have a little note like this.
Race morning was pretty cold, and so Lisa, Craig, and I used my car as warming house and got comfortable inside as long as possible. But finally it was time to (1) stand in line at the port-a-potties, (2) leave our bags at the bag drop off where we ran into some Headwaters Triathlon friends, and (3) proceed to the starting line on Veterans’ Memorial Bridge.
I lined up at the 1:35 – 1:45 estimated finishing time sign, just ahead of the 1:40 pacer. I figured, if I can keep up with them or stay just ahead of them I should be fine. Standing between two friends, Craig Peterson and Matt Backmann, I started to shiver and we still had to listen to the welcome speeches and the American and Canadian national anthems. All I could think was “OK, let’s get this show on the road, I am cold here.”
Finally, the starting signal went off and the masses started to move. Friends who had lined up further in the back, later told me that the bridge started shaking when everybody started to run/walk. I did not feel it, I guess I was too far in the front to feel this effect. I was more concerned about dancing around slower runners who either had decided to start out the race slowly or had just simply not lined up properly.
The first mile was not easy; other than dancing around slower runners, I had to work to keep up with the 1:40 pacer. I was searching for my rhythm. Mile 1 gave me a 7:42 min/mi pace, I felt like ‘here goes my 1:40 goal’, I needed at least a 7:38 min/mi pace for that. But suddenly it clicked and it went nice and smoothly from there on. My splits for the next two miles dropped to 7:25 and 7:20. I did not see the 1:40 pacer again after the first mile, and that gave me confidence.
I do not remember too much about the rest of the race, just a few vignettes here and there:
At one point a guy in a yellow Fargo Running Club singlet came from behind, slowed down next to a women running at my side, and asked her about her goal time. “1:50” she responded, “how about you?” “1:40” was his answer and off he went. I thought, no need to run this fast, at my current pace we all will make the 1:40 mark. Not even half a mile before the finish line, I saw him walking at the side. As I was running past him, I said “Keep running, you can make the 1:40!” I hope he did.
As I passed the 10K clock, it indicated a time of around 46:30. Wow that was about as fast as last weeks 10K race time, and I worked so much harder last Saturday. THIS IS GOOD!
At some time after that I caught up with a young women who like many was wearing a smart phone on her upper arm, probably running some kind of tracking app. About every 10 strides she was looking at her phone, she almost drove me nuts. It’s like a dripping faucet when you are waiting for the next drop to fall, I was waiting for the next time she looked. I am totally a numbers person, and I love my numbers and stats to play around with, but not when I am racing. For races I am only using a standard watch. For road races I might take splits at mile markers, for triathlons I might have an interval timer going to remind me to take in fluids and/or nutrition.
Talking about taking mile splits, my mile 9 split indicated a 6:16 min/mi pace for the last mile. There is no way I ran a 6:16 pace, the marker must have been off. I was waiting for one of the next miles to be longer accordingly, but this never happened. According to my splits my overall pace seemed to drop into the 7:30s for the remaining miles, but there was no single mile with an exceptionally slow pace. Hmm, weird … But, at this point I did not question it any further, I was too concentrated on my run and my body.
Friends and fellow competitors asked me after the race: Did you see me, did you hear me cheer when our paths crossed? No, I did not … I very rarely do. When I am racing most of my senses seemed to be focused inward or at the task at hand. I can only remember Sherry Jahner, the wife of a colleague, cheering me on from the side of the street.
This year’s course lead us through the campus of Concordia College Moorhead, but I did not see “Kernel”, the Cobber’s mascot cheering us on. In contrast to some years ago when the course went through the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and the MSUM dragon – does their dragon have a name? – was jogging up and down the sidewalk. At that time I could not resists starting to sing the BSU fight song; after all MSUM and BSU are NSIC rivals! (NSIC = Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference for the uninitiated)
As I turned the last corner and I saw the gun time clock at the finish line, I knew that there was a chance that I actually had run a personal best. I couldn’t believe it and actually initially questioned the distance of the race, but at the same time I was totally elated.
My time 1:37:06 – a personal best – took me totally by surprise. I did not think I was capable of a performance like this, this early in the season, and after the stresses of finals week at BSU. This should be a good omen for the rest of the summer!
At the finish line I briefly caught up with David Lewis, Matt Backmann, and Craig Peterson, before Craig and I went on the grab something to eat and drink, get our drop-off bags – after all it was kind of cool and we were getting cold – and went on to wait for Lisa to cross the finish line. All of us had amazing races and beat all of our expectations. And most importantly, we all had fun!
Unfortunately, work was calling for me. Grades were due in three days, so, after showering off the sweat and salt, and a mocha at Dunn Bros., I was heading back to Bemidji to my stack of papers, projects, and exams waiting to be graded.