2019: Chicago Marathon

The process of 2019 Whitefish Point Marathon was a memorable experience on several fronts. It wasn’t my first time following a well-written training plan. But it was certainly the fist time doing so through our Winters, learning to use cross-country skiing and indoor biking (and even treadmill running) in lieu of or to complement scheduled runs. It was the first time in a training cycle where hilly routes substituted for much of speed, tempo and race pace runs. It was the second marathon training cycle in a row that I hadn’t consciously made time for formal strength training activities.

On the brighter side of things … I had a better handle on nutrition – ate 1-2 meals on most days, had reduced sugary things and limited myself to 3 servings of alcohol in 22 weeks. I got sufficient rest – sleeping at least 7 good hours on most nights. Running form had improved significantly – combination of breathing, heart rate, body posture and cadence, and I had moved away from being a heal striker. Yet Whitefish Point Marathon and one of the tune up events (2019 Journeys Marathon) had exposed my difficulties

  1. running in warmer temperatures (nature of our Winters was a potential explanation),
  2. dealing with long and often imperceptible ascents (I have no explanation or excuse for this one) and
  3. staying focused in the zone in small events that couldn’t/didn’t offer crowd support along the course (I thought the number of solo outings during training were sufficient but reality showed otherwise).

Though I was on track for a finish time in the neighborhood of 3:20-3:25 (would have beaten my previous best time of 3:35:46), a more rewarding opportunity had come along in the second half on race day, and I had no regret (I still don’t) accepting it and finishing with a time of 3:49:25.

The plan

Compared to a year ago, I was in a much better place – in more ways than one. As of Sunday, 9th June 2019, the cumulative mileage (running, skiing and biking) in 2019 calendar year was a mere 10 km shy of 1000 miles. Taking strength and flexibility activities into account, I had invested upwards of 215 hours. My body had shown signs of handling 50+ miles and my mind didn’t mind the week after week of high mileage. So, I certainly didn’t need to re-invent the entire wheel. While retaining what had been working so far, things that needed my attention and (fine) tuning were what’d help me overcome the aforementioned little things that had bothered:

  1. Formal strength and flexibility activities twice a week.
  2. Retention of good habits and getting more comfortable with
    1. gradual ascents,
    2. warmer temperatures, and
    3. increasing volume and pace, and sustaining the increased length of speed, tempo and race pace runs.
  3. Continuation of
    1. intermittent fasting (one healthy meal a day) and good sleeping habits,
    2. cutting out alcohol and reduction in intake of sugars and processed foods, and
    3. pre-habing routine and studying peer-reviewed literature related to exercise physiology/psychology.

Behavioral psychology shows that a steady stream of rewards (e.g., a new personal best time in every attempt) makes us far less compulsive. On the other hand, when we get the reward sometimes and not the other times, it short-circuits the dopamine (i.e., a neurotransmitter released during reward signaling and many other key functions but known commonly as the feel good hormone) system in a way that gets us to go back (to the attempt) much more frequently than we should.

Unfortunately, if the object of our desires is a new personal best time in a marathon, there can only be so many trips to the well … especially if we intend not to wreck the body and/or the mind in the process. Most marathon plans are 18 weeks long and need a bit of preparation before and recovery afterwards. For example: 4 weeks of pre-training, 18 weeks of training and 4 weeks of recovery makes for 26 weeks. That means only two hard racing days per year for almost all mere mortals. If health cooperates and fitness improves, then one may derive three such days in the same amount of time. Fortunately, research from Dr. Brian Knutson‘s group in Stanford University suggests that the dopamine system is active not only from earning or consuming the object of our desires but also just from either anticipating or looking at it (i.e., visualization).

So, an additional goal in this training cycle was to earn the object of my desire – a new PR with some bells and whistles … without going to the well too many times … while remembering that visualization complements (and does not substitute) the training process … and enjoying the process and the anticipatory taste of dangling carrot. Being a process personality for whom the pursuit matters more than the possession (thanks to my mothership, teachers and Gita 2:47), being committed to the training cycle wasn’t new or difficult but training myself on other fronts wasn’t easy. I expected to get better at those along the way.

I believe it's the natural evolution of a running dream to go from not being able to (or as was in my case, not wanting to) run to running on occasion to running semi-frequently to running a neighborhood 5k ... only to realize that a half marathon or two are in the rear-view mirror. One thing often leads to another and usually peer-pressure is a useful contributor in this process, and one finds themselves to be in the rarefied group of marathoners that make up about 1% of the entire human population.

If the peer pressure continues and blessings of good health join hands with wherewithal to pay for various expenses, the path of natural evolution often takes one on several trips through pain/pleasure caves and dark-ish places ... eventually (and sometimes annually) leading to earning a BQ and then toeing the starting line of the world's oldest continuously running marathon in Hopkinton, MA ... and catching the mystical (or as some less imaginative folks would say, mythical) Unicorn 26 miles and 385 yards later in Boston. Evolution of my own running interests wasn't/isn't any different. While the primary goals for the current training cycle were as listed above so as to continue leading a healthier lifestyle, a subsidiary concern was

If I smartly invested my sweat equity and used the common sense derived from the collective experiences, would the by-product of this training cycle be sufficient to cross the finish line under 3:09:59 (i.e., run faster than 7:15 min/mile or 8.28 mph) on a USATF (or AIMS)-certified course to earn the BQ and toe the starting line in Hopkinton, MA, on Patriots' Day?

Neither the city of Boston nor the marathon therein were new to me. A year after being a FOB (you know, fresh off the boat), Boston was the first BIG city I ever visited in the US in 2003 as part of a Gaussian (a software used to perform computational Chemistry, Materials Science and Physics simulations) workshop in Marlborough, MA. Much to the chagrin of ~98% of the US sports fans, I have wholeheartedly cheered for at least one of Boston area's sports dynasties since 2004 (hint: my love for them germinated purely for philosophical reasons and their motto is literally a 3-word summary of Gita 2:47). I have known about its marathon ever since my dear friends' - Laura and Jeff - engagement near the finish line in 2011. I have cared about it, like many others, since the unfortunate events near the same finish line in 2013. I have DVRd the TV coverage and watched it after work since 2014. I started taking the Patriots' Day off to stay home and watch the proceedings live on TV since 2017. I've claimed Meb, Des and Yuki (yup, we are on a first name basis) as my friends since their respective marathon victories. I've even used champions' times for a VO2Max-related assignment problem and identifying the 2013 bombers' faces in an ocean of people as Big Data-isque discussion (i.e., finding needles in a haystack) in my UN5390: Scientific Computing course at Michigan Tech.

But it wasn't until I watched Boston and Spirit of the Marathon documentaries and read few more books - things I found during the previous training cycle - several times over that I learned about its history (and that of the Boston Athletic Association) and evolution of from a trail marathon. Googling over the past many years and continuing to refine my search criteria (special thanks to Jenn Sams, Michigan Tech's Instruction and Learning Team Leader and Student Engagement Coordinator, for imparting the necessary information in this aspect as part of her guest lecture in my UN5390: Scientific Computing course) helped me find a handful of successful attempts by people

  1. who weren't runners (i.e., weren't track and field standouts in high school or scholarship athletes in college) but running-arounders and
  2. are about my age now with similar work and/or life responsibilities and
  3. preferably got a later start in their life on running and
  4. had gone from 4+ hours in their first/most recent marathon to earning a Boston Qualifier (BQ) and
  5. had documented their process for public access.

The search was an invaluable re-reinforcement of introductory concepts in Statistics: the probability of finding foo and bar is much lower than that of finding foo or bar. I found, through discussions and extrapolations of lessons therefrom, that there are more running-arounders than runners amongst us. Reviewing the demography of the US (it's likely not an exaggeration to call the trend global), the number in the neighborhood of my current age is insignificant. However, I couldn't find the approximate fraction of people in this age bracket who got a later start in their life on running. By most estimates, only 1% of the population has ever completed a marathon and a tinier fraction that attempts a subsequent marathon.

That meant that the number of people who went from 4+ hours in their first (or most recent) marathon to earning a BQ had to be pretty small. Of this pretty small number of people, for a variety of reasons ranging from lack of habit to lack of time (or interest or resources), it's safe to assume that very few documented their process as it unfolded. Finally, for the same variety of reasons, it's not a stretch to assume that even fewer made their training log (or a summary thereof) publicly accessible.

So, I was surprised I found any at all given the number of ands I had in my query. The ones I did find were the stories of commitment, discipline and sacrifice - a set of traits that I believe come blessedly easily to me. Kathrine Switzer in her memoir, Marathon Woman, did a phenomenal job of documenting the process of going from 4:20 in her first marathon in 1967 to a career best time of 2:51 in 1975! Christopher Russell was another who not only documented the type of progress (within a limited timeframe) I was looking for but provided a structured training program in his e-book, Marathon BQ. There were a few others as well but these two made the most sense to me and had the most objective/subjective appeal.

The plan was to use

  1. the first 4 weeks of Hal Higdon‘s Advanced Post-Marathon Recovery Plan as recovery and pre-training,
  2. Chris Russell’s 14-week training program with following modifications:
    1. Add an easy HR-based run during the lunch hour and extend the MWF recovery runs by about 20%.
    2. Perform speed and tempo runs on the road to better mimic the race day scenario.
    3. Incorporate previously learned lessons to get more out of LSD runs.
  3. Hal Higdon‘s Advanced Post-Marathon Recovery Plan before moving to cross-country skiing season.

Post-Whitefish Point Recovery and Pre-Training

In line with the BIG set of questions, I managed to run about 300 miles after the 2018 Chicago Marathon until the New Year’s eve in addition to some cross-country skiing and very minimal indoor biking. Though I didn’t meet the planned total distance, the pre-training period helped me learn that I could push the mileage for a given activity within reason. It also taught me that I could use skiing (or even indoor biking; especially when the weather conditions weren’t safe or conducive for running) to prevent unnecessary injuries. Additionally, Jan Haase had convinced me that if I skied correctly, the fitness would transfer over to running with ease (Joan Benoit Samuelson re-iterated the same thing in her post-Boston Marathon press conference)… giving me a reason to improve my skiing form and fitness.

Training

As the following long table indicates, I missed workouts every once in a while. Many that I did miss were of the speed or the tempo or the race pace kind. Partly because the roads were too icy and as such, not so conducive for such workouts without risking bodily injury that could derail the training plan. Partly because I wasn’t very keen on using the 200-meter indoor track at Michigan Tech‘s Student Development Complex for it was too short and too many turns around the corner wouldn’t be kind on knees and ankles (a first world problem, I know).

However, consciously pushing the envelope according to the plan – initially just during the easy runs to test the waters (or snow, in our case) and later extended to LSD runs – helped keep up with the mileage while building the necessary aerobic base (or volume). Replacing the speed and tempo runs with hilly routes while much of our area was under the grip of Winter and focusing on improving breathing, body posture and cadence helped make the legs stronger and ready for when conditions eventually became conducive for such runs. Shoveling snow, sometimes twice a day, provided an at-home strength training activity. Adding warm-up and cool-down/warm-down elements to speed, tempo and race pace runs did its part as well in increasing the mileage. Frequent discussions with the athletic/healthcare think tanks throughout the training cycle helped validate some of the thought experiments, learn from others’ misfortunes and offered corrections whenever I risked going off into La La Land. And studying a handful of exercise physiology research articles and reading even more books provided additional insight.

I did a total of five full length (of longer) LSD workouts during this training period. Might be an overkill according to most plans but they helped remove any distance-related uncertainties for the eventual race day. Three of these five runs were real and organized events away from home helping me iron out travel logistics: Vasaloppet USA, Illinois Marathon and Journeys Marathon. Of the latter two, the primary motive for Illinois Marathon was to experience running on a flat course (similar to what Whitefish Point Marathon offers) and that for Journeys Marathon, with only 57 participants and not much for crowd support along the course, was to learn how to run in a small event and in a 55 F heat wave – where  one needs to dig deeper and derive much of the necessary motivation and energy from within (again, a possible scenario in Whitefish Point Marathon). A vast majority of the runs during this training cycle were solo, and those in the in the final four weeks were done wearing extra layers of clothing to mimic/practice warmer tempeartures.

Notation: Easy (E) | Long (L) | Race (R) | Speed (S) | Tempo (T) | XTrain (X)
Distance in miles and time in h:mm:ss
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle
01 07/01
E 5.00
-
-
07/02
S 2.00
-
-
07/03
E 10.00
-
-
07/04
T 3.00
-
-
07/05
E 5.00
-
-
07/06
L 12.00
-
-
07/07
Rest
-
-
37.00
0.00
0:00:00
37.00
0.00
0:00:00
02 07/08
E 5.00
-
-
07/09
S 2.00
-
-
07/10
E 10.00
-
-
07/11
T 4.00
-
-
07/12
E 5.00
-
-
07/13
L 13.00
-
-
07/14
Rest
-
-
39.00
0.00
0:00:00
76.00
0.00
0:00:00
 


Run The Keweenaw (W02D06-D07)

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using 'Content here, content here', making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for 'lorem ipsum' will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).

03 07/15
E 5.00
-
-
07/16
S 3.00
-
-
07/17
E 10.00
-
-
07/18
T 5.00
-
-
07/19
E 5.00
-
-
07/20
L 15.00
-
-
07/21
Rest
-
-
43.00
0.00
0:00:00
119.00
0.00
0:00:00
 


Hancock Canal Run Half Marathon (W03D06)

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using 'Content here, content here', making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for 'lorem ipsum' will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).

04 07/22
E 5.00
-
-
07/23
S 2.00
-
-
07/24
E 10.00
-
-
07/25
T 4.00
-
-
07/26
E 5.00
-
-
07/27
L 11.00
-
-
07/28
Rest
-
-
37.00
0.00
0:00:00
156.00
0.00
0:00:00
05 07/29
E 5.00
-
-
07/30
S 3.00
-
-
07/31
E 10.00
-
-
08/01
T 5.00
-
-
08/02
E 5.00
-
-
08/03
L 17.00
-
-
08/04
Rest
-
-
45.00
0.00
0:00:00
201.00
0.00
0:00:00
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle
06 08/05
E 5.00
-
-
08/06
S 4.00
-
-
08/07
E 10.00
-
-
08/08
T 6.00
-
-
08/09
E 5.00
-
-
08/10
L 18.00
-
-
08/11
Rest
-
-
48.00
0.00
0:00:00
249.00
0.00
0:00:00
07 08/12
E 5.00
-
-
08/13
S 3.00
-
-
08/14
E 10.00
-
-
08/15
T 6.00
-
-
08/16
E 5.00
-
-
08/17
L 20.00
-
-
08/18
Rest
-
-
49.00
0.00
0:00:00
298.00
0.00
0:00:00
08 08/19
E 5.00
-
-
08/20
S 4.00
-
-
08/21
E 10.00
-
-
08/22
T 5.00
-
-
08/23
E 5.00
-
-
08/24
L 13.00
-
-
08/25
Rest
-
-
42.00
0.00
0:00:00
340.00
0.00
0:00:00
09 08/26
E 5.00
-
-
08/27
S 4.00
-
-
08/28
E 10.00
-
-
08/29
T 7.00
-
-
08/30
E 5.00
-
-
08/31
L 22.00
-
-
09/01
Rest
-
-
53.00
0.00
0:00:00
393.00
0.00
0:00:00
10 09/02
E 4.00
-
-
09/03
S 3.00
-
-
09/04
E 4.00
-
-
09/05
T 6.00
-
-
09/06
E 4.00
-
-
09/07
L 10.00
-
-
09/08
Rest
-
-
31.00
0.00
0:00:00
424.00
0.00
0:00:00
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle
11 09/09
E 4.00
-
-
09/10
S 2.00
-
-
09/11
E 4.00
-
-
09/12
Rest
-
-
09/13
E 3.00
-
-
09/14
R 26.22
-
-
09/15
Rest
-
-
39.22
0.00
0:00:00
463.22
0.00
0:00:00
12 09/16
E 4.00
-
-
09/17
S 3.00
-
-
09/18
E 4.00
-
-
09/19
T 6.00
-
-
09/20
E 4.00
-
-
09/21
L 10.00
-
-
09/22
Rest
-
-
31.00
0.00
0:00:00
494.22
0.00
0:00:00
13 09/23
E 5.00
-
-
09/24
S 5.00
-
-
09/25
E 10.00
-
-
09/26
T 8.00
-
-
09/27
E 5.00
-
-
09/28
L 24.00
-
-
09/29
Rest
-
-
57.00
0.00
0:00:00
551.22
0.00
0:00:00
14 09/30
E 4.00
-
-
10/01
S 3.00
-
-
10/02
E 4.00
-
-
10/03
T 6.00
-
-
10/04
E 4.00
-
-
10/05
L 10.00
-
-
10/06
Rest
-
-
31.00
0.00
0:00:00
582.22
0.00
0:00:00
15 10/07
E 4.00
-
-
10/08
S 2.00
-
-
10/09
E 4.00
-
-
10/10
T 3.00
-
-
10/11
Rest
-
-
10/12
E 3.00
-
-
10/13
R 26.22
-
-
42.22
0.00
0:00:00
624.44
0.00
0:00:00

Taper Weeks

Having experienced the taper period and its benefits during Chicago Marathon as well as practicing miniature ones leading up to each of the organized events in this training cycle (Vasaloppet USA, American Birkebeiner, Great Bear Chase, Illinois Marathon and Journeys Marathon) made managing the last two weeks relatively easier. Having a plan in place ahead of time to what to do with the extra time that became available as a result of reduced training volume was useful. Fortunately, there weren’t any random aches or pains to worry me and I slept relatively well each night. Moreover, I knew by now that anything unintelligent I tried or did in these two weeks could only wreck last 20 weeks of mostly diligent and committed work. Instead, the free time was used to catch up on various necessities: preparing a packing list and packing things away, discussing travel logistics with dear friend Mariana, working with Garmin to fix a little bug in CSV files missing per-lap calorie information for runs longer than 10 miles, catching up on some coding and some more reading while watching what (and how much) I ate.

Much like during Chicago Marathon training, I wasn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination. Even after knowing the rationale behind the structure of training plans and knowing their value, a handful of workouts didn’t feel great. But with the benefit of experiences in the last 18-24 months, it was much easier to treat them as bad data points in a long series of measurements. Years of science-ing has finally taught me to not dwell too much on one bad data point and have it (i.e., the unnecessary dwelling) lead to another OR worse, use a bad data point to project/predict the subsequent result.

Between pre-training and training, I travelled to 5 different states, ran and skied 950+ miles and invested a total of 205+ hours. With the veracity and volume of data collected along the way for a variety of activities over the past 22 weeks, one can bludgeon the numbers until the cows come and end up with a serious case of analysis paralysis. Though much of it is valuable to just yours truly, some of the generally informative eye candies are included below. 

 

 

Geographical spread of distance and time (pre-training + training)
City County State
  Distance (miles) Time (h:mm:ss) Distance (miles) Time (h:mm:ss) Distance (miles) Time (h:mm:ss)
Michigan, The Great Lake State
Hancock 3.11 2:20:31  
Houghton 24.55 8:08:01  
Houghton County Total 27.66 10:28:32  
Copper Harbor 6.29 2:21:02  
Eagle Harbor 7.15 2:34:04  
Keweenaw County Total 13.44 4:55:06  
Michigan Total 41.10 15:23:38
Minnesota, The North Star State
Two Harbors 26.28 3:46:20  
Lake County Total 26.28 3:46:20  
Minnesota Total 26.28 3:46:20
Season Total 67.38 19:09:58

Race Weekend

The workload at work during week #18 was relatively easy to manage. As practiced during the 2019 Journeys Marathon four weekends ago, I completed the last easy jog about 24 hours before the race start time on Friday. Packing had been completed about 12 hours before the last easy jog. After getting a quick bite to eat from 5th and Elm Coffeehouse in Houghton, I started the 250 mile journey to Paradise around 9:30 am on Friday. The drive, though punctuated with stops to stretch legs and one of them to pick up dinner to go at The Pasta Shop in Marquette, was uneventful.

The check-in at the Tahquamenon Suites Lodging around 2:45 pm was a breeze – the place was spotless and all appliances were new (and functioning). It must be under a new and caring management! In light of a 7 am start the next day, I opted to wrap up the dinner formalities around 3:15 pm. That was followed by picking up my race packet in the Whitefish Township Community Center and chatting with the race director. My bib, #493, for the second organized event in a row, wasn’t a prime but the next best thing: a product of two primes. Not that the road infrastructure between Paradise and Whitefish Point would have changed since I last visited in October, I drove the course one more time with Andrew and Mariana stopping to take some photos. All of us took a  short walk to The Inn for dinner (a salad and coffee for my dessert) around 7:30 pm, and we called it a night before 9 pm.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

The morning of race day, as has been the case for about a year now, came after a full night of restful sleep and at a very relaxed pace. I guess the long-term accurate weather forecast – longer than 3 days can be a difficult ask even for the increased supercomputing capacity of NOAA. Presence of a massive waterbody probably only adds a notch or two of spice to what’s already a very complex system. Though slightly disappointing, it wasn’t a surprise that the 10-day forecast of low of 48, high of 65, 10% chance of precipitation, 11 mph SE and 66% humidity turned into a reality of low of 55, high of 70, no precipitation, average winds of 6 mph SE winds and average humidity of 62%. Mariana and I walked the mile to the start and the abundance of mosquitoes ensured that most of us moved around briskly (or at least waved our limbs in frantic fashion). Standing still for the rendition of The Star Spangled Banner by a fellow participant and oration of the Irish Prayer by the director of Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society was … challenging … to say the least.

The horn sounded a few ticks shy of 7:05 am and off we went. Though I expect to train and run like Pheidippides some day soon, I don’t have any plans of dying like him yet. There are far too many bucket list items to be checked off and quite a few double secret goals to accomplish. So, taking the extra few degrees at start (and predicted rise over the next 3-4 hours) into account, I backed off the planned target pace by about 20 seconds per mile. With lessons from Journeys Marathon, I did carry a hat to minimize the effects of heat. Though the heart rate was a bit higher (maybe race day nerves/excitement?), the posture, cadence and breathing were good for the first many miles. It was only after starting to run that I (and I am sure most others as well) noticed the grade … that’s nearly unnoticeable while driving at 35 mph in a car. There were quite a few moments during these first few miles and many more certainly in the back half that I felt the need to have followed through on my original plan of running  one of the 20+ milers here a few weeks ago (likely, in lieu of Journeys Marathon).

26.26 mi, 3:49:25, 8:45 min/mile, 6.86 mph
Garmin Forerunner 935 and WP GPX Maps plugin for WordPress

I followed the nutrition (i.e., gel) plan faithfully throughout the course – taking one every 5 miles through the first 15 and then one every 4 miles over the next 8. One of the things I am rather not proud of is letting the clodhopping of a fellow runner, only a stride or two behind me from miles 10 through 15, unsettle me. I tried putting a little surge a few times but a cautious eye on temperature (and the distance yet to go) limited the extent/duration of such surges. I don’t know how experienced this runner was but I am sure I wasn’t much different a few years ago in terms of runner/racing etiquette. I requested him to pass me … just so that I could return to enjoying the quiet atmosphere rest of the way.

Other than that, I did feel good about my effort until that point: I was likely only 3-5 seconds behind from my best time for 13.1 miles, miles were clipping away comfortably at sub 8:00 min/mile pace and I had the finish time of 3:20-ish within reach after 16 (see the final column, projected finish times, in the table below). Even after slowing down slightly over the next two miles – mostly to stop at an aid station, drink plenty water and douse my head with some – 3:25-ish was within reach and it’d have earned me a 10-minute PR.

Lap Cumulative
# Time Avg. HR Avg. Cadence kCal Avg. Temp Distance Real Time Pace Proj Time
  m:ss bpm spm   F miles h:mm:ss min/mile h:mm:ss
01 7:41 157 179 100 63.3 1.00 0:07:41 7:40 3:21:01
02 7:31 166 179 103 57.5 2.00 0:15:12 7:36 3:19:16
03 7:38 165 176 104 56.5 3.00 0:22:50 7:36 3:19:16
04 7:37 166 176 105 57.4 4.00 0:30:27 7:36 3:19:16
05 7:45 166 175 105 58.0 5.00 0:38:12 7:38 3:20:09
06 7:54 166 176 107 58.4 6.00 0:46:06 7:41 3:21:27
07 7:41 167 175 105 56.5 7.00 0:53:47 7:40 3:21:01
08 7:50 167 175 107 57.2 8.00 1:01:37 7:42 3:21:53
09 7:39 164 175 99 55.3 9.00 1:09:16 7:41 3:21:27
10 7:43 164 177 98 55.6 10.00 1:16:59 7:41 3:21:27
11 7:46 163 175 96 57.6 11.00 1:24:45 7:42 3:21:53
12 7:53 162 176 93 58.5 12.00 1:32:38 7:43 3:22:19
13 7:52 161 175 90 57.6 13.00 1:40:30 7:43 3:22:19
14 7:29 166 176 95 60.4 14.00 1:47:59 7:42 3:21:53
15 7:38 168 175 102 56.9 15.00 1:55:37 7:42 3:21:53
16 7:50 166 174 100 56.2 16.00 2:03:27 7:42 3:21:53
17 8:05 164 173 95 57.1 17.00 2:11:32 7:44 3:22:46
18 8:28 161 171 87 58.3 18.00 2:20:00 7:46 3:23:38
19 9:06 157 170 67 58.7 19.00 2:29:06 7:50 3:25:23
20 10:48 148 157 55 62.0 20.00 2:39:54 7:59 3:29:19
21 11:51 139 151 63 66.9 21.00 2:51:45 8:10 3:34:07
22 13:05 133 143 76 71.0 22.00 3:04:50 8:24 3:40:15
23 9:49 147 163 54 66.5 23.00 3:14:39 8:27 3:41:33
24 10:09 148 165 65 67.6 24.00 3:24:48 8:32 3:43:44
25 11:23 142 155 71 67.5 25.00 3:36:11 8:38 3:46:22
26 10:34 150 158 80 69.6 26.00 3:46:45 8:43 3:48:33
27 2:26 153 165 20 73.0 26.26 3:49:11 8:43 3:48:33

As I left the much needed comfort of trailish N. Superior Road (the lack of camber provided some reprieve to my right foot from running all the miles on the same side of Whitefish Point Road until then) to resume road running, another fellow runner came from behind. At first glance, she looked mighty fine maintaining a metronomic cadence. Soon enough, we were running shoulder to shoulder along the narrow shoulder of  Whitefish Point Road and our first mile together didn’t warrant any caution. Shortly after we passed her husband and just I was about to pick up my pace towards a possible 3:30-ish finish, I heard a yelp from behind. She was cramping and badly so. If this were a big city event with volunteers/organizers frequently patrolling the course, I likely would have called for their attention to help her. But small town events are different and it was a no brainer to pause my effort to make sure she recovered – at least enough to reach the next aid station. She did and we continued on … learning in the process that she was running her second marathon and aspiring to quality for Boston.

Shortly before the township of Paradise came into our view, she cramped again but recovered quickly after a short walk. Knowing the rules and regulations, I didn’t want anyone not associated with the race (i.e., other than volunteers, fellow runners, race or law enforcement officials; e.g., her husband) to help pace her – for the fear that it could get disqualified from the race and thus nullifying her efforts on a tough day. Having spent way too much time browsing the Boston Athletic Association website, I knew what her qualifying time was (she had mentioned her age in one of our conversations). Working a 5-minute buffer into the consideration, I ensured she breathed well, recovered from one more cramping incident and kept up the pace. Knowing that the timing for this event was a manual effort and wanting to ensure she got the benefit of every extra second towards her qualifying time, I stayed a couple steps behind her as we approached the finish line. Seeing her cross it with nearly 7 minutes to spare (a certainty for 2020 Boston) and seeing her happy through pain was undoubtedly more rewarding than any elation I’d have gained by earning a PR of my own. Far too many people – known and previously unknown –  had helped me with far too many things and continue to do so. I was grateful for the opportunity to pay some of it forward.

A short while after she had almost fully recovered from her cramps and was able to walk mostly on her own effort, Andrew came and picked me up. The Tahquamenon Suites Lodging folks had been kind enough to grant us a late checkout – thus giving myself and Mariana enough time to shower in spite of our slower than anticipated finish times. The post-race festivities in the Whitefish Township Community Center were fun and festive to say the least. 

The return journey started after another drive through of the course – this time around for taking a candid photo of the bib and the award rocks by the Great Lake (my official finish time, 3:49:25, had been good enough for 18/86 overall, 11/45 in gender and 3/8 in AG). I probably should have stopped a few more times along the course to take more photos of roadside attractions … but I was eager to get home. The gripping biography of Walter Payton gave me joyful company on an otherwise solo drive. Barring a few stops – one for food, one for fuel and couple for coffee – it felt easy and was uneventful.

The numbers in Garmin, Strava, etc. indicate today’s effort being a Z3-Z4 effort. It could be a quantifiable indication of backing off the originally intended pace. Maybe, just maybe, it could imply that the next training cycle could begin a bit sooner and on a stronger note. Unlike after the 2018 Chicago Marathon, I have full intentions of actively resting for the next couple weeks. A slightly modified version of Hal Higdon’s Advanced Post-Marathon Recovery Plan is set to serve both as a recovery plan for post-Whitefish Point Marathon and a pre-training period for the next training cycle. There are a handful of things that need some serious work while others that need some tuning.

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Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timing folks, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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