We arrived at the race grounds in Milford, MI around 7:20 AM Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous morning for a race. Temps were in the mid-50’s around 30 minutes before the start.
I had hopes of breaking below 2:05:59 assuming the course was fast and relatively flat. However, I did not know anything about the course. There was really no detail on the race website.
I asked a woman in front of me in line at the check-in area if the course was hilly. She laughed and said, “Um, yes, it’s hilly. In fact, I can’t think of a single flat stretch of ground on the whole course.” Great, I thought. That answers that question.
Wanting to get a second opinion, I checked in with a dude who struck up a conversation with me at the start. “You don’t want to run this one for time,” he said. Alrighty then, so much for a 2:05.
I backed off my expectations and decided I was going to focus on hitting as many 6:45 splits as I could. This is the pace I felt I needed to race for the 30k distance to be on track for a sub-3 Chicago.
I decided to wear the Garmin, which was against my recently adopted anti-Garmin policy for races. I decided that this was partially a training run more than a race. I wanted to see what HR’s would look like. I turned off the auto-lap function and hit the splits manually.
Miles 1-3 were on the local streets and did not have too much grade. I thought, where’s the hype? Then I came upon mile 4 and saw why. I started to pass a guy who looked in his 50’s on the first major hill, which was a wake-up call. When we got to the top, I said “how many more of these are there?”
We started chatting (after we caught our breath) and this guy, Doug, starts telling me about some of his running feats. He also throws in that he writes a running column for the Detroit Free Press.
In short, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was running with a marathoner of legendary status. I am by no means a running historian, but after checking up on this guy, he has to be considered one best marathoners in the modern running era.
Check out this profile for Doug Kurtis and you will see what I mean. The marathon history is simply astonishing: he holds the world record for the most marathons ever completed under 2:20 – a mind-blowing 76.
Doug and I chatted it up casually while banging out 6:40’ish pace. He asked my age and told me that his best year of running was when he was 37. He started to pull ahead at mile 8 and knowing his experience I decided it would be wise to let him go. I later learned that he came in at 2:05.
Now about those hills. Yes, there were at least four or five killers out on that course. In addition, there were plenty of steady grades in both directions. I have not put in a hill run since Boston in April. I started to feel it when I hit 14. I just felt winded from the up and down. You can see my HR’s fluctuate along with my splits.
This was a competitive field. Late in the race, I also ran with a guy who was pushing me for miles. We got to chatting and he told me he was 50. He pulled ahead of me on the final stretch to come in about 15 seconds ahead of me. I hope I can do that to a 32-year-old when I am 50.
Bottom line: I ran a 2:07:20 (see splits below) and I am satisfied with the result. I had a very strong finish and responded pretty well to a hilly, gravel terrain course. I did manage 5th place in my age group.
Garmin says the race length was 18.81 vs. the 18.64 for a 30k race, so not sure if I added on or what. I know the hills and dirt, gravel terrain cost me at least 10 seconds per mile – if not more. I would have nailed a 2:05 on flat pavement – guaranteed. I know it. I am on track for a 2:59:59. I can feel it. Progress has been huge and there are two solid weeks of training left before taper.
With this race, I hit 58 for the week. This coming week, I will plan for low 60's mileage before ramping up the high 60's one last time before taper. I will be running the Ikea Half Marathon next week with Steve and Aaron in Pittsburgh.
I’ve got to figure out what I will run this week. I also will begin planning for my trip to China, which is a mere two weeks away. Did I mention I will taper for the Chicago Marathon in China? After marathon Sunday, I will turn around on Monday and head back to China. Never in my life did I think I would be living the crazy traveling/running lifestyle that I am now.