Who's racing this thing?I had to find a marathon that fit two criteria. It had to work with my running and vacation schedule and it had to be a Boston Marathon qualifier. I needed a BQ because I missed Boston this year, and I was happy to miss it, but not happy why I missed it (see 'The Worst Running Injury Ever'). And the only time that worked for me was mid-July, definitely not the nicest time of year for a fast race. So I found the University of Okoboji marathon in central Iowa.
This was an odd race run in conjunction with a triathlon, half marathon and 10k. The marathon being the first event to start, at 6AM, though they did have an early 5AM start that wasn't publicized. I would gladly have taken that, except that I'd eaten too late and had no idea what the course markings were going to be. Did I mention that there were only 85 people signed up for the race? Given those stats I wouldn't be able to follow anyone during the race either. Just before the start I asked the RD what the course markings were, since it was an open course, and he just said follow the map on the back of my bib.
My bib is pinned to my shorts and the map was so small to be essentially useless. Thanks dude. Fortunately, the course was very well marked with white arrows through all the turns and guiding you through intersections you ran right through. Of course I found all this out after the run started.
Anyway, it was pretty warm at the start, but overcast, and the 80 of us that didn't start early lined up and the gun went off. I was running in just a hat, shorts with 3 gels, and my new Pearl Izumi emotions. The overcast weather was a huge boon, and while it was warm, it never got uncomfortable. Right off the start a couple of guys took off really fast, and I found myself running behind a, um, chubby dude. Now I'm not the fastest marathoner, but I was looking at the guy and thinking: 'really?' Fortunately for my self esteem, he dropped back and I found myself in 3rd, where I'd remain for most of the race.
I lost track of the two leaders and never saw the #1 guy again, other than on his way back after turning around 3 miles in. So I ran the entire race alone, without headphones, which I really missed. Now, my plan was to run straight 7 minute miles so I could have the -10 minute early registration for Boston, but my gps was dead at the start and I didn't have time to get my other watch from the car. This was good and bad. Every mile was clearly marked, so it would have been easy to get on a pace, but running this hard by feel was a different story.
Out to the turnaround at three miles, then back and all the way around the lake. It was surprisingly built up, and there was very little wild land to run through. There were aid stations every couple of miles with water and energy drink, usually staffed by a couple of helpful volunteers. Since I wasn't running with anyone, I kind of made it my mission to pick off all the early starters, and I got the first one about 5 miles in. I'd say his prospects for a finish were dim. Since there were only 5 or so they were pretty easy to spot. Ultimately I picked off the last one somewhere around the halfway point.
I cruised around having no idea what my time was, until finally around mile 23 a fan said I was only a couple minutes back from 2nd place. I caught up to him a little while later and we chatted for a minute and he said he went out way too hard. I got ahead of him for about half a mile, but when we hit the 25 mile marker he took off, and I couldn't even try to match him since my legs felt like lead.
Ultimately I made the final turn to the finish and saw the clock hit 2:59:50, with 100 yards to go. Crap, or yeah? There's no way I could slip in under 3 hours, but a 3 minute PR, at 3:00:12. If my GPS had been working I would have run too slow to get this low, but I think if I had economized better I would have gone under easily. But, I walked with 3rd place and 1st masters. Not bad for a marathon.