Marathon Route 20: Brookings Marathon – Brookings, SD

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A Tale of An Unintentional Personal Record

For those of you who are unaware, I built up a great deal of consistency with my running by pacing some races last year with a company called Beast Pacing. What does a pacer do? Essentially I put aside any time goals I have for a race and run a consistent pace so that other runners can gauge their running with mine and so hopefully beat a time goal they may have. As a pacer, you usually run at least 15 minutes slower than your usual pace for a half marathon, a half hour slower than your marathon time. This should give you the ability to breath and the ability to talk while you are running to support those around you. I personally find that running that consistent pace leads me to a meditative run, where my breathing is steady and I can elongate my flow (the feeling of running in good form with an elevated feeling).  I feel like I really got it down to a science for the half marathons last year. I have yet to do this with a full marathon.  I have yet to be able to run a consistent pace for a full marathon.  My times per mile can vary by minutes instead of seconds, my first half is almost always faster than my second, and no matter how much I have slowed down, there has been a bleeding of time, a point where my best effort only generates minuscule returns. So, of course, my goal for this race became consistency.

This should have been a fairly easy task. I had a good week of recovery runs, running hills and consistent paces over 3-5 miles.  Brookings Marathon is a flat course.  It is at low elevation. There are no scenic monuments that require a five minute photo opportunity.  I had been warned of the wind.  When it comes into town, it blows strong, and there is no telling what direction it will take, so that was a random factor.  This was their 47th year holding this race, so I was expecting the race support to be a well oiled machine.  Essentially I felt this was a smaller version on next week’s Fargo Marathon.  I was hoping to run a slow, evenly paced race and utilize this experience to build up my foundation for the following week and a new personal record.  Despite the tough-go I had at the trail run in Montana, I felt that marathon and the subsequent support runs built up my strength and endurance and I was ready to harness that power.

Race Review

This is a flat course.  After doing all those many hills on the trails of Montana last week, any hill except the climb at mile 9 seems unimportant.  There are some dips and rises, but overall, if you do any hill training at all, this will be a breeze.  We also lucked out, the wind was either at our back or hitting us at an angle so that I never felt we had significant drag holding us back. The well oiled machine was in full swing and I felt safe and protected at all street crossings.  In fact, the second half of the course was filled with volunteers from the National Guard.  No offense to the many teenagers giving their all in volunteer positions, cars are more apt to pay attention to a military person in full fatigues in the middle of the street than a 70 lbs gal (soaking wet) with a tiny orange flag. Another thing that made this race stand out energy wise was the the intense enthusiasm of the relay racers and their support teams. Every time I ran through a relay transition area, I was greeted with a wall of sound and a roar of support.  So many high fives and low fives that at the first transition point just past the stadium of South Dakota State University, I put out my arms like an airplane crashing into a tropical jungle and the love continued for 80-100 yards. Again at mile 9, at the only real hill on the course, relayers and support were chanting in a rhythm that for my pace made it very easy to power up and over the hill.  Since I’m slower, the pure volume of support diminished since teams were further ahead and moving to support their faster runners, but it was an amazing wave of support.  Water stations were also well manned, organized, and helpful in every way possible. Right around the half marathon mark, you do run on a gravel road but it can’t be much more than a mile.  However, I did get some stones in my shoe, so you may want to consider wearing guards on your running shoes.The neighborhoods and bike trails you are running on for the a good 8 miles from miles 14 to almost 22 are flat and well paved.  You start to see the dips just before mile 22, running down into an underpass and back up the second largest hill right on the other side of that.  The next three dips are all through some very cool rifle barrel strafed viaducts that cut under roads in miles 23 and 24 but there can’t be more than 4 of them. The final stretch brings you back to where you started, Pioneer Park, where members of the National Guard were hanging our finishing medals around our neck.  The Finish Line Party was great with ample food and beverage supplies even for us slower runners and the icing on the cake was a bag of freshly made to order burgers from local mainstay, Nick’s Hamburger Shop.  All in all, a fantastic day running.

Lessons Learned

Even A Small, Smooth Pebble Can Rip You Apart

Remember how I mentioned that gravel road?  I got some small stones in my shoe, but after a few moment of running they had settled and were quite comfortable.  After ten minutes, it was like they weren’t even there. Unfortunately, after another two hours, I not only knew they were there, but I also realized the impact they had on my foot.  There was now a huge bubble on the bottom of my right foot and I could feel it bounce with every footfall. In the last mile when I was desperately trying to make each step count, I felt that bubble pop and the stones had a field day like the chain from a chainsaw tearing up my foot.  Next time, i know it will be better to take the extra minute and clear the pebble one I get back to a paved area.

Be Firm With Your Goals, Flexible How You Get There

The goal this year is always finish a marathon each week in each state. Today I set my mind on running smoothly and evenly at a comfortable pace. For the first 4 miles that averaged around 10:30 pace.  I was a little concerned at that point that I was running too fast, but then I ran the next mile under 10! I thought I need to get it together and slow down and even out.  The next 4 miles I averaged 10:40!  Miles 10, 11, and 12 I tried to slow down my breathing and run smooth.  I finally moved into the 11:30 average for those miles.  Unfortunately around that time, the 4:45 pacer caught up with me. From this point I played leap frog with her group for about a half mile, but I could longer keep up.  I did spend a little too much time just after the half bemoaning my lack of consistency.  Instead, I should have been focused on regaining that nice easy lope that took me through miles 1-9! There are so many things that can get in the way of your best time, hills, stress, heat, altitude that when the day comes when you are loving the run and running well, that you take the bull by the horns and hold on to the ride.  It was mile 19 that i realized that i may have failed at consistency, but I still had a shot at a new PR and you can see my mileage perk up. If only I could have made that choice 4 miles earlier, I may have broken 5 hours that day. I’ve learned to be flexible when the conditions are poor, now I need to learn to be mentally flexible when the conditions are ideal and my body is ready to fly!

Physical Review

You can see in the picture up above that after my blister popped, the pebbles in my shoe basically flayed my foot, leaving nerves raw and open and screaming at every mild pressure.  I had many questions on what I did to heal so quickly. Firstly, soak the foot in an ice cold foot bath.  Secondly, carefully dry the foot and slather with triple antibiotic ointment and let air dry.  Cover and pad it if you need to walk on it, but keep that to a minimum.  Next day, lukewarm foot bath with Epson salt, followed by an ice cold foot bath.  More triple antibiotic.  By the third day I had a layer of new skin.  By day four I could walk on it without discomfort. On the sixth day, I ran another marathon.  I did have a little bit of an issue with my right hip again but stretching through the week helped straighten it out. So mentally I was torn between screwing up my consistency goal and counterbalancing that by the thrill of a new PR. 5:12:38!  If you are running consistently and you are interested in pacing with Beast Pacing, running for free, helping others meet their goals, and running with the most amazing pacers around, please let me know and I will gladly put you in touch with the amazing Vanessa Kline who took a chance on me and initiated me into my Pacer Family.  Until next week, I am ever so grateful for your support.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  if there’s something about these races, some element i am missing that you would like to hear me comment on, please let me know.  After this race, we will see if I am able to hit my new goal of a marathon under 5 hours in Fargo, North Dakota!

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