Not quite what I had been going for …
May 21, 2016 – Fargo 1/2-Marathon, Fargo, ND
What a difference a week makes …
Last Saturday I wimped out of a triathlon because of the wind chill and freezing temps, and this week the temps at the start of the half-marathon were about 60°F and quickly rising above 70°F (probably about 15-20° above my liking for a half-marathon).
Overall, this year’s Fargo Half-Marathon was a good news – bad news kind of scenario for me:
Good News – I finished :-), actually I did not just finish but I finished 2nd out of 183 finishers in my age group, my age-graded time catapulted me into 43rd place overall (male and female) out of 4433 finishers.
Bad News – My total time of 1:43:56, was almost 6 min slower than last year, and at least 4 min slower than where I would have liked to be. I imploded over the last 4 miles.
Fargo never was an A-race for me, not even close. It’s just a nice way to start the season. That does not mean that I do not want to do well and give my best. And let’s be honest, it’s a great feeling if everything comes together.
Training up to Fargo had been going well, especially on the bike and in the water. The Stride Into Spring 10K four weeks earlier had been acceptable but nothing to brag about. However, the two last long runs and the speed work prior to Fargo had felt quite good. So going into the race I was not pining for a personal best, but I was hoping that I would be able to stay below a 1:40:00 (below a 7:38 min/mile pace).
Unlike previous years, when the race was the day after Bemidji State’s commencement celebration, and lots of finals and projects had been waiting to be graded, the two-week lead up to this year’s race was almost relaxing. Final grades for my students were already submitted 10 days earlier and summer break had already started. But who knows, maybe that did not just cause life to slow down but also my body 😉
Like previous years, I lined up with the 1:40 pacer at the starting line. It had served me well the last two years. The pace going out seemed fine. I felt OK. But unlike previous years, I didn’t seem to be able to separate myself from the pacer group. I was waiting for my legs to get wings, but the wings never grew. It did not help that the water stations came at some very irregular intervals and not at all where they had been indicated on the course map. At some earlier stations I could not grab anything because runners ahead of me knocked several cups out of the volunteers’ hands. In short, I had problems keeping myself properly hydrated and my fluid stores capped off … not too good for the relatively warm conditions.
Around mile 8.5 I seemed to hit the wall and, within 1.5 miles, I dropped from a solid 7:35 min/mile pace to an 8:30 min/mile pace. With a heavy heart I had to let the 1:40 pacer pull away. After that I just did not seem to be able to get my legs going again. I maintained this relatively slow 8 something pace for the remaining 3+ miles. However, it seemed that I was not the only one struggling. I recognized several runners around me that also had started in the 1:40 group and had fallen back at the same time as I.
What can I say, at the end, the Fargodome and the finish line was a very welcome sight :-). Walking after crossing the finish line felt more like a shuffle, I was not willing to lift my feet any more than absolute necessary. I grabbed a bottle of water, but I could not open it. The same happened with a box of chocolate milk a friend gave me. The anterior aspect of the right shoulder hurt so much that I could not lift my arm. I must have really tensed up my shoulders while running or held my right arm in a weird way. Luckily I was with two friends, Craig and David, who had come in ahead of me and who opened the water and chocolate milk for me. Hooray for nice friends 🙂 ! And good thing the pain went away within about 45 minutes.
I stayed with Craig and David at a corner of the long finishing chute to wait for their wives, Lisa and Nancy, to come in. It was fun standing there and see so many familiar faces coming by. That’s the Fargo Marathon weekend for you, almost every distance runner from the Bemidji area seems to take the pilgrimage to North Dakota to participate in the races … Fargo in the spring, Bemidji Blue Ox in the fall. When we finally saw Lisa, I had to laugh, because she looked exactly how Craig and I felt … beat :-(. Neither one of us had met our expectations.
There is something comforting about the knowledge that you were not the only one struggling. The more I talked with other friends and athletes, the more I realized that many runners encountered problems this year, especially folks that tend to run at the top of their age groups.
I love that the race ends at the Fargodome, it allows for a nice warm shower afterwards. In my opinion, a shower never feels as good as after a long exhausting race. Sitting in a Coffee Shop afterwards, I summarized my race with the following Facebook statement:
Even now, a few days removed, I would not change this statement. It was not all bad, but it was not what I had been going for.
I know that I tend to be way more critical about my performances than I often should be, so on my way back to Bemidji, I stopped at my coach’s house in Nevis. We had a good chat analyzing the race, and a nice relaxing dinner with his wife before I headed on to Bemidji. And now, on it goes to my first triathlon in three weeks.