Stage Three: The Actual Race

A race report from magical and exotic Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Part 3 (catch Part 1 here, and Part 2 here)

10632891_716796906448_8039759965038456960_nAll three of us, Alicia, Anna and I were going for BQs at this race. Josh was shooting for an epic halfer PR. We’d all had mixed training camps this summer, and the pre-dawn tension was high.

The race had 450-ish full marathoners total, so there really were no corrals, and it started on the high school track/football field. The weather was perfect, 55*F or so, so we spent most of the warm up hiding under the bleachers out of the “wind.” When the start time came close we all said good luck and went to line up behind our respective pacers. Josh was starting somewhere else with the half marathoners, so we wouldn’t see him until afterward. They sang the anthem, prayed the prayer, and we were off! Coming out of the track onto the road my main goal was to stay between the 8:12 pacers (BQ time) and the 8:35 pacers (for a 3:45 marathon). The 8:35 pacers kept riding me, and I had to keep going fast to avoid getting passed by them. I noticed that my Garmin read 7:55. About this time I heard him say to his pace group: “I’m really counting on y’all to let me know if I’m going too fast, my race pace is 7:35.” PACERFAIL. I mean, really. The guy had ONE JOB. In any event, they backed off, and I slowed down to 8:24s.

Originally, this was my BQ attempt. However, the Great Fairy Step-Godmother of Injury came calling and I had 12 days of inactivity right in the middle of prime mileage. A 3:35 seemed unlikely, so I was mainly hoping for a 340, figuring that if I was feeling strong around mile 17-18, I could try to pick it up and close with a negative split race and possible BQ. As one of my friends put it, “maybe you’ll have a heroic last 8 miles.” I would argue that the last 8 miles of any marathon are pretty heroic regardless of pace.

We headed out of town, northward towards the regional airport. I was clicking off my miles at pretty much goal pace, which is new for me. About mile 2 I was passed by a lady who had the unfortunate habit of getting right on people’s shoulder, hocking a loogie to the side and then trying to pass on the right. I want to be clear that I think this type of race behavior is not acceptable, and also that I passed her later in the race while she was walking. It serves her right!

It’s not a big race, so you’re spread out fairly soon, and I could actually relax and concentrate. Everyone around me in this race had an accent that sounded like a character from A Prairie Home Companion on NPR. It was pretty amusing! I played leap frog with a group of three ladies who were talking very loudly and enthusiastically. Eventually we ended up talking about our MGP goals, and we were right around each other. However, waterstops and mile markers were the main places that spectators were gathered, and I have an inability to maintain my pace when I know people are looking at me, so I generally just sped up going through those areas. The spectators were very supportive and enthusiastic, considering how cool it was and how spread out the race was. After we looped around the Sioux Falls Regional Airport (scenic!!!) we headed back down south and cut over to the levies along the Big Sioux River.

This section was pretty flat and sparse and was also a bike path that had surprisingly NOT been closed for the race. It generally wasn’t a problem except it was kind of annoying now and again to put up with bikers who clearly had no idea a) a race was happening and b) how much I was already hurting. However, while the terrain was flat, it was also exposed and the whole section involved running into a headwind which contributed to the effort level of holding MGP (that’s what Im telling myself). We finally got done with the levies and headed back into town across a bridge that overlooked the Water Treatment Plant (scenic!!!!) and jogged immediately past a Correctional Facility (scenic!!!)

After that we maneuvered back into downtown where the waterstops were populated with a lot of high-schoolers and there was a lot of energy and hilarious cheers. There were not a lot of signs along the race course, and certainly not any I hadn’t already seen on other courses before, but the cheer that seemed to be the most popular was the USMNT World Cup cheer: “I believe-.” There were some very hilarious middle school cheerleader types that were simultaneously encouraging “you’re doing so goood!!!!!” and bossy: “stay to the right of these cones, right around this corner!”

Downtown was also a head game similar to Duval, where it’s just enough of an incline to feel awful, but not enough of one that you know why it feels awful and then it gets in your head and fear and doubt start flying. I did however, basically PR coming back down that stretch (this was a mistake. At no point in a marathon, except the finish line, should you PR) and happened to see my teammate Alicia go by on the other part of the course (victory high-five!!). The course wandered back over to the Falls Park (actually scenic!). Going around the twisty-turny park, I was still hitting my 8:24s, but I was starting to dream about my delusions of grandeur (“oh I just ACCIDENTALLY BQ’d at this race! I wasn’t even TRYING!!”) and I told myself that if I was going to go have a heroic last 8 miles, now was the time. So I tried that for a mile or two, and then I hit the wall.

I don’t know if in my previous races (they have a history of not going well) I was just distracted from the concrete-leg feeling by my concrete-stomach feeling, or if my legs were just shot from pounding the downhills and trying too hard, but they were like anchors at this point. Mile 20-24 were slogs. I knew I wasn’t going to hit my 3:40, and I walked through one or two water stops. This section looped largely through neighborhoods, where the roads were also not closed, and it was unclear which side of the cones we were supposed to be on. Until the cars came, that is. Later, after we went around a high school, we actually got out onto the access road of a highway (scenic!!!!!) which was also not closed, and we were all just running in the right side lane, assuming that the cars would see us and not hit us. At that point, I would have taken death. Not to be dramatic.

The last 2 miles were on another jogging/bike path that had also not been closed to the public. At this point I was passed by the 3:45 pacer guy (he had ONE guy with him), and I also kept leap-frogging a guy in a bright yellow shirt and visor who would charge past me, and then I would pass him later when he was walking. I passed him and he told me “good job blue” (I was wearing blue Team Rogue jersey) and then he caught up to me at the mile 24 water stop and said in a very wanna-be personal trainer way “here we go Blue, let’s get this.” I didn’t have any energy to think of a response, and running with someone when you’re both hurting does help, regardless of how patronizing one of the people might be, but I came out of that stop actually feeling revived and started putting back in effort and he dropped after a quarter mile.

The final mile was pretty good, a guy at the mile 25 water stop jogged with me to hand me a cup of Powerade (I really appreciated the effort, but I didn’t get a chance to thank him), and then there was a guy on the last stretch who was very aging-track-coach who got down in my eye-line to make sure I was looking at him and told me “doing good, keep it moving.” The turn to the homestretch was a welcome sight. I finished up with a 3:46, which was not what I wanted, but was still a PR, and I don’t think I could have done more on the day.

After my traditional sit down and cry a little (no reason, is just how it goes) I called my mom to tell her how I did, and then I spotted Josh in the crowd. We talked about the race and the course and the deceptiveness of the hills/role of the wind. They were also giving out DQ ice cream sandwiches (TEXAS!) and we soon spotted Alicia and Anna in short order.

None of us ended up with what we were hoping for, and we all had some bruised egos getting back into the shuttle bus. But that’s what teammates are good for, suffering together and making fun of the terribleness after. As Alicia put it: “Stupid Falls.” Anna also had the ingenious idea of getting beers at the bar before heading to our rooms to take a shower (shower beers) which all the other runners at the hotel agreed was a good idea and one they wished they had thought of. We all met up in the hotel restaurant after showering and changing for some more beer, good food, and story-telling.

If I can be effusive for a moment, I think the best feeling is the post-race feeling. The work, the suffering and the challenge is over, and the rest of the day is a celebration of how it went or didn’t went and however it did go, it generally doesn’t end up mattering. To me, winning and losing are two sides of the same coin and it’s a mistake to read too much into either of them. Certainly all the encouragement I saw when I logged into Facebook and had 25 notifications from all my teammates, past and present made me feel better. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Coach Amy for putting up with all my ridiculous and neurotic emails, and my teammates for putting up with all my dumb jokes/attempts at humor (particularly Anna, Alicia and Josh on this trip), and the Rogue community at large for reading my blogs and not making fun of me (so far).

We went, we tried real hard, and we all left alive! I’d rate the Sioux Falls
Marathon as a pretty good experience over all. 5/5 for the weather, 4/5 for crowd support (not a lot, but the ones that are there are very supportive), 3/5 for deceptive hills, 3/5 for scenery (very pretty in places!), 2/5 for the ratio of snot rockets to pavement (too many) and 1/5 for BQ-ing, just because I didn’t manage to. Thank you.

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