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2014: Blackrocks 5k and Marquette Half Marathon

I don’t have a specific reason or a story as to why I signed up for this race in early July, except that I was looking for half marathon events to get the count up to ten, and I wished to keep as many such events in the Yoop as possible. Marquette Marathon, not too far from being a home area event, seemed to satisfy all such requirements with the added bonus of a new point to point — mostly downhill — course, making it a very good candidate to test my legs in different conditions and potentially earn a new PR.

Just like the previous race, NPS Birthday Run 10k in Isle Royale National Park, there wasn’t much time to train specifically for this one. I just had to rely on the experience and habits gained from previous races, and hope that enough rest coupled with decent eating habits would do their part. Getting into a decent eating habit was much easier compared to desired resting habits: post Ragnar Relay effects continued for 10-12 days and it wasn’t until the Wednesday of the race week that I was able to sleep through the night. And the pain from two falls in Isle Royale National Park didn’t subside till late Friday afternoon, and as such, couldn’t once do the ever helpful Robert Larson workouts.

Summary of training activities since the last race
## Activity Date and Time Details
Device, Distance, Time, Pace, Speed
HR, Cadence, Ground Contact Time, Vertical Oscillation, Stride Length
01 Tobin Harbor → Rock Harbor Run 2014-08-25 11:47:00 Garmin Forerunner 620, 1.18 mi, 0:16:33, 14:03 min/mile, 4.30 mph
154 bpm, 136 spm, 9.10 cm, 284 ms, 0.84 m
02 KRG Run #15 I 2014-08-27 18:03:00 Garmin Forerunner 620, 1.70 mi, 0:21:04, 12:22 min/mile, 4.80 mph
149 bpm, 150 spm, 10.2 cm, 266 ms, 0.87 m
03 KRG Run #15 II 2014-08-27 18:25:00 Garmin Forerunner 620, 2.06 mi, 0:29:02, 14:04 min/mile, 4.30 mph
154 bpm, 135 spm, 9.00 cm, 280 ms, 0.84 m

With still unfaded memories of a race day experience from over a year ago, XTERRA Marquette: Epic Triathlon with Team Winston, I opted to take half a day off from work, pack everything essential and be in Marquette the night before the race rather than the day of. Listening to audiobooks made the 100 mile journey go by a lot quicker.

The initial plan was to check into the hotel, get a quick bite to eat, go for an easy pace two miler to get the legs moving, pick up the bib at the expo, get dinner and hit the bed by 9:30 pm. The execution part of it had some wrinkles: I did check into the hotel and got a quick bite to eat at the expo — thanks to EconoFoods for all the healthy stuff they offered for free at the expo. May be it was the ego (or some form of stupidity), I chose to sign up for the Blackrocks 5k as well after picking up my bib — assuming one more mile for a warm up run couldn’t really hurt.

Event started at 7:30 pm on Friday night from the Marquette Commons, and though I had thought about the potential for breaking the 5k PR (of 27:35 set in 2009 edition of Lake Linden 5k) the comfortable pace at which I started the run showed little to no indication that I had any chance of coming anywhere close to 27:35. It wasn’t until mile marker #1, when my Garmin beeped, that I realized I was running sub 8:30 min/mile pace. With plenty of gas still left in the tank and not sensing any uncomforted, I kept about the same pace and Garmin beeped to indicate sub 8:45 min/mile pace. It was only then that I thought I had a shot at surpassing 27:35 at the finish line. A little bit of mental math suggested a 9:00 min/mile pace would get me there. There was quite the disappointment as soon as I crossed the finish line for the timer indicated 27:36 — missing the PR by a mere one second.

Syncing this activity to Garmin Connect portal, after a hearty dinner in The Pasta Shop (thanks to Kris and Kate for introducing this place to me last year), held a very pleasant surprise: the course for Blackrocks 5k was 3.20 miles — a mere 0.10 miles longer than the designated distance — and I had indeed earned a new PR for 5k with a time of 26:42 at a pace of 8:36 min/mile.

3.20 mi, 0:27:38, 8:38 min/mile, 7.00 mph, 162 bpm, 161 spm
Splits: 8:20, 8:36, 9:01, 8:16
Garmin Forerunner 620, Garmin Foot Pod and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress

I woke up to pouring rain after a full night of sleep and rest, and made my way to the designated parking area, and later to the starting area in Neguanee via transportation service provided by the race organizers. Michigan Iron Industry Museum provided the much needed shelter — protecting runners from rain and keeping our bodies warm. The event started on time, in rain, after the rendition of the national anthem. The rain soon turned into a gentle mistI stayed with Ben and Jeff for the first four miles maintaining a sub 10:00 min/mile pace. While the pace remained under the desired limit, natural separation kept me somewhat behind Ben and Jeff for many more miles (I didn’t see Ben again until the finish was in sight). The course was a mix of crushed gravel and asphalted surface, and ran along the scenic Iron Ore Heritage Trail for the most part.

I am not quite sure as to how much my effort in Blackrocks 5k had to do with but I found myself increasingly empty in the last three miles in spite of frequent and periodic intake of gels and electrolytes. And the mile long seemingly never ending uphill finish didn’t really help the cause either. In spite of earning a new PR by 7.50 minutes, it was rather disappointing to not be able to finish strong and push as well as I had hoped for over the last mile or so.

13.15 mi, 2:05:30, 9:33 min/mile, 6.30 mph, 162 bpm, 160 spm
Splits: 9:15, 9:14, 9:33, 9:23, 9:55, 8:56, 9:17, 9:00, 9:16, 9:31, 10:38, 9:58, 10:09, 9:21
Garmin Forerunner 620, Garmin Foot Pod and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress

Personal goals for the event (in order of importance)
## Goal Result
01 Improve upon the current PR for half marathon: 2:12:51 (5.90 mph, 10:08 min/mile) Yes; 2:05:29 (6.30 mph, 9:33 min/mile)
02 Keep the pace for every mile under 10:00 min/mile No
03 Finish the last mile of each mile at 9:00 min/mile or faster No; 10:09 min/mile
04 Finish under 2:00:00 (6.55 mph or faster; 9:10 min/mile or faster) No; 2:05:29 (6.30 mph, 9:33 min/mile)
05 Finish in the top 50% of age group, males and overall No (20/34); No (86/140); Yes (169/386)

Post-race activities included hanging with Ben, Jess, Jeff and Jenny before they hit the road, purchasing a jacket in Down Wind Sports to protect against possible hypothermia (poor planning on my part to not use the bag check in facility), meeting dear friend Bugsy in Blackrocks Brewery, a maiden meal at The Third Street Bagel (thank you, Bugsy, for the recommendation) that involved a generous discussion about future of supercomputing with Dave, Dawn and Hillary (none of whom I had met before), and some time in Case de Graci with Sam before heading back to Houghton — with a maiden pit stop in Jasper Ridge Brewery to enjoy a pint of blueberry beer off the tap (thanks to Nils for introducing this beverage many a moons ago).

With the elusive dream of sub 10:00 min/mile pace now a reality, and with no scheduled races in all of September, I hope make time to further streamline my eating and sleeping habits, and longer core and stability workouts. Next event, of similar or any distance, is the Mt. Bohemia Trail Running Festival in first weekend of October — and given the nature of this event, I might be ill-served to expect another PR. But hopefully, as the Ragnar Relay and Isle Royale National Park runs did for this event, Mt. Bohemia Trail Running Festival will help prepare my legs for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon two weeks later, and Madison Half Marathon three further weeks down the road to end the 2014 running season.

Praise be to the Good Lord, and thanks be to

the organizers, sponsors, volunteers, law enforcement officials, timing folks, media folks, community members, and more for putting on a memorable event, and my good friends — the Abbotts (Kathy and Mike), the Blakes (Amy and Scott), the Boissevains (Margi and Paul), the Brewsters (Katie and Brian), the Bunkers (Kris and Kate), the Carlsons (Abby, Cassondra, Josh, and Justin), the Carmeans (Jess and Tim), the Engstroms (Christine and Jaime), the Fredricksons (Lynda and Dave), the Gracis (Kara and Sam), the Griffis’ (Veronica and Adam), the Handlers (Christine, Rob, Shannon and Stephen), the Kramers (Mandy and Jim), the Lehtos (Tammi and Chris), the MacDonalds (Cynthia and Bruce), the MacInnes’ (Elizabeth and Scott), the Obermanns (Catherine and Tim), the Ontls (Kelly and Todd), the Oppligers (Shawn, Emily and Doug), the Rasners (Amanda and Donald), the Resslers (Dee and Tom), the Richards’ (Carrie and Dr. Bob), the Smigowskis (Christina and Tim), the Stenvigs (Chelsea and Nils), the Tervos, the Vendlinskis (Andi, Jim and Rick), the Vertins (Melissa and Joel), the Vizankos (Kelly and Steve), the Watrous’ (Liisa and Matt), the Weathers’ (Stacy and Bryant), the Wilmers’ (Kelly and Stephen), the Youngs (Amber, Christine and Michael), the Zerbsts (Kristen and Ron), team /var/run (Nancy Banfield, Josh Myles and Amy Blake), Keweenaw Running Group, Amy Madsen, Ashley Ames, Ashley Miller, Dr. Bryan Suits, Caleb Wendel, Christopher Schwartz, Darcy Donnelly, Erin Kauppila, Greg Reed, Jesse Cleaver, Julie Ruotsala, Katie Temple, Kelly Wooten, Kelsae Eliszewski, Kim Green, Laura Mlynski, Lauri Keteri-Smith, Leah Tollefson, Louisa Raisbeck, Lynette Potvin, Lynn Czarnecki Makela, Mahesh Shastry, Marc Rea, Maria Janowiak, Marine Foucher, Mark Mehler, Matt Manders, Matt Mlinar, Mary Webster, Michael Babcock, Mike LaMotte, Randal Harrison, Ray Sharp, Rebecca Anderson, Ryan Towles, Riccardo Tortini, Robert Larson, Dr. Robert Weidman, Sam Roache, Sarah Conner, Sarah Menassian, Scott Gibbs, Shreya Kumar, Sue Peterson, Tony Schwenn and more (in and outside of my community) — for the often unexpected, undeserved, unrewarded acts of constant encouragement, and offerings of constructive criticism, tested tips and tricks to improve myself as a runner.