2021: Marquette Marathon

When I completed the 2020 Sunday Lake Marathon in October, little did I know that I’d have to wait nearly a full year before getting another opportunity at the marathon distance. The 2021 Milwaukee Marathon I had been training towards from early 2020 December (scheduled for early 2021 April) was postponed to sometime in 2021 October. The ever evolving COVID-19 situation kept me from looking for alternate events to replace the Milwaukee Marathon. Though I had signed up and been training towards the 2021 Whitefish Point Marathon (scheduled for mid June), the marathon deities had other plans and decided that tuning up my Assistant To The Chief Timer and Other Duties As Assigned skills was the priority.

Training plan and compliance

If all had gone according to the script, I’d have started the 12-week program designed by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas (detailed in their book Advanced Marathoning) from mid-June. But I rolled/sprained my left ankle/foot during the 2021 Blue Mounds Trail Run a week before the 2021 Whitefish Point Marathon. In the interest of longer term health and lifestyle, the collective advice of my healthcare system was to let the ankle/foot heal on its own time (~10-14 days). Maybe it was/is a sign of maturity – I dutifully followed their advice, did not jog/run and gave my left ankle all the time it needed to heal.

The first stress test after a short series of super easy runs that followed a 2.5-week break – 2021 Hodag Run 10k – turned out to be a bit too stressful. The stiffness/pain returned putting any/all running on hold until I was fully healed. The time off from running wasn’t all gloomy or sad. Once I made peace with it, the time off was quite enjoyable. As a bonus, I got to be a non-running part of three lovely events – Whitefish Point MarathonRun The Keweenaw – A Festival of Trails as well as Canal Run – and gained a deeper understanding/appreciation for minutiae of race/event organization.

In light of the six weeks invested in giving my body (and maybe mind too) sufficient rest, Marquette Marathon no longer was the target (or A) race. Fortunately, I found a different race few weeks down the road from Marquette and I was cleared to start training as usual from mid-July. As it turned out, the long run for week #07 of this 12-week plan would be a 20-miler. Assuming the training had been going well for the 6-ish weeks, I figured I’d tweak week #07 plan just enough to accommodate the Marquette Marathon as a full distance long run.

The changes I made to the training plan were (a) the conscious inclusion of strength training – three times a week, and (b) increase the length of hill repeats from 10 seconds to 30-40 seconds and that of of strides from 100 meters to 200 meters – with full recovery between repeats for both. The lifestyle-ish goals for this training block were to improve hydration practices and strengthen mental fortitude for the later parts of races. As a sign of continued maturity, I based the initial workout paces on the previous race at this distance in summer-like weather conditions (3:27:44, 7:55 min/mile). And I assumed, with reason, that several weeks of consistent marathon-specific training – built on top of a fairly decent base and five weeks of rejuvenating rest – would be sufficient to at least put me on the path to where I needed to go, if not get me there.

To be honest, my procrastination got the better of me and in turn, my compliance with strength training routine was well below par. I didn’t necessarily do all the individual activities exactly as prescribed either. The primary reason for this lack of compliance – need to give my body enough time to fully heal from the sprained ankle and not take any step backs (or worse, cause longer term damage). Against my initial intentions, I did move activities around during some weeks, and I also split the mid-week long run into two parts – focusing mostly on earning the total prescribed distance for each week during the first 5-ish weeks. Week #06 was the first time I felt confident and comfortable to complete the mid-week long run in a single outing and week #07 was the first time I almost completed every activity just as it was prescribed.

Week by week compliance with training plan is summarized in the chart above. Day by day compliance is summarized in the table below. The complete log of my training activities is available in Strava, if interested.


Training Plan
Notation: Easy (E) | MLD (M) | LSD (L) | Recovery (R) | Tempo (T) | VO2Max (V) | Race (R)
Distance in miles and time in h:mm:ss.
Entries in the final column represent the average miles after a given number of weeks in the training cycle.
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
01 07/19
E 8.00
8.13
3:47:12
07/20
Rest
-
1:00:00
07/21
E 9.00
9.01
2:26:54
07/22
Rest
-
-
07/23
R 5.00
5.45
2:23:16
07/24
M 13.00
10.73
1:44:11
07/25
Rest
-
1:00:00
35.00
33.32
12:21:33
35.00
33.32
12:21:33

35.00
33.32
12:21:33
02 07/26
M 11.00
11.43
2:58:54
07/27
Rest
-
-
07/28
T 8.00
8.06
1:24:15
07/29
Rest
-
2:15:00
07/30
R 5.00
12.49
5:03:12
07/31
M 15.00
13.12
2:45:56
08/01
Rest
6.23
2:05:47
39.00
51.33
16:33:04
74.00
84.65
28:54:37

37.00
42.33
14:27:19
 

W02D06 (2021-07-31) was the Queen City Half Marathon (Official Website, Strava) in Marquette, MI.

03 08/02
E 8.00
-
1:30:00
08/03
R 4.00
4.04
0:46:50
08/04
M 11.00
8.49
1:39:31
08/05
Rest
-
1:30:00
08/06
R 4.00
11.43
3:26:16
08/07
L 16.00
-
-
08/08
Rest
13.12
1:41:25
43.00
37.08
10:34:02
117.00
121.73
39:28:39

39.00
40.58
13:09:33
 

W03D07 (2021-08-08) was the Traverse City Half Marathon (Official Website, Strava) in Traverse City, MI.

04 08/09
R 5.00
5.46
3:27:25
08/10
T 10.00
-
-
08/11
M 11.00
10.32
5:22:07
08/12
Rest
7.50
2:04:48
08/13
R 5.00
5.00
3:00:00
08/14
L 17.00
7.13
1:12:06
08/15
Rest
13.12
2:48:44
48.00
48.53
17:55:10
165.00
170.26
57:23:49

41.25
42.57
14:20:57
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
05 08/16
Rest
-
1:30:00
08/17
M 12.00
5.05
1:15:43
08/18
Rest
10.06
2:45:58
08/19
T 9.00
6.02
0:53:20
08/20
R 5.00
10.01
3:04:40
08/21
L 16.00
6.26
2:40:59
08/22
Rest
6.54
2:17:44
42.00
43.94
14:28:24
207.00
214.20
71:52:13

41.40
42.84
14:22:27
06 08/23
R 5.00
5.07
2:23:31
08/24
V 9.00
8.57
1:25:41
08/25
M 12.00
14.92
3:03:52
08/26
Rest
-
0:30:00
08/27
R 6.00
3.16
1:26:46
08/28
M 15.00
9.13
2:39:11
08/29
Rest
6.38
2:11:39
47.00
47.23
13:40:40
254.00
261.43
85:32:53

42.33
43.57
14:15:29
 

W06D05 (2021-08-27) was the Husky Hustle 5k (Official Website, Strava) in Houghton, MI.
W06D06 (2021-08-28) was the Lake Antoine Classic 15 km (Official Website, Strava) in Iron Mountain, MI.

07 08/30
R 6.00
5.82
2:02:18
08/31
R 7.00
9.60
2:25:48
09/01
Rest
2.36
1:49:18
09/02
Rest
-
3:00:00
09/03
R 4.00
3.35
0:59:52
09/04
R 26.20
10.74
2:40:39
09/05
Rest
-
1:00:00
43.20
31.87
13:57:55
297.20
293.30
99:30:48

42.46
41.90
14:12:58

Training eye candies

Activity type by distance (miles)

Activity type by time (hours)

Surface type by distance (miles)

Easy-Hard distance (subjective; miles)

Companion-Solo distance (miles)

Heart rate zones (time; minutes)

Power zones (run; time; minutes)

Vitals (sleep and resting heart rate) were measured every day shortly after waking up. If a measurement wasn't taken on a given day, then the recorded value from the previous day is used for computing the 7-day moving average. 50% of the body weight (55% since 2021-09-11) in fluid ounces was the hydration goal on normal (i.e., pleasant weather, non-workout and non-racei) days.

Race weekend

My boss granted Thursday and Friday off leading up to the race weekend and that gave me plenty of time (in spite of working a few hours on my own volition on both days) to check off to do items at a very leisurely pace. My friends – Jess and Tim – graciously offered to put me up at their casa and saved me from driving 100 miles at an ungodly hour on race day. After wrapping up the final checks, trip to Marquette was smooth and uneventful. Picking up the race packet at the pre-race expo while catching up with friends was a breeze. So was picking up food from The Pasta Shop (they were kind enough to take my request many hours ahead of time) and driving to Negaunee. Given the 4:30 am wakeup call, we didn’t party beyond 9 pm.

Race day morning, albeit early, came after a full night of quality sleep. The drive to the finish line to catch the bus was smooth. So was the journey in the said bus with fellow racers to the starting line in Ispheming. Albeit seemingly gloomy and certifiably a bit colder with persistent rain, returning to scene of my very first marathon – six years ago almost to the day – brought back some really warm memories: making me chuckle at what I then thought training was and training as I understand now (I am sure a version of me six years down the road will chuckle at the current definition/understanding as well), and feeling very grateful for all the people (and places, foods, experiences and more) that have been a part (and/or a result) of this process!

Given the rain, knowing the course and knowing that my right butt needed loosening up, I had chosen to stay dry under the tent instead of warming up. The event started promptly on time after catching up with fellow racers and a beautiful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. I started the proceedings under control and what felt like an easy pace – nasal breathing being the indicator since my watch doesn’t display heart rate, by intent, in a race setting. Putting one of the recently learned lessons to practice, I ran by feel working with what the  terrain offered and checked the trusty Garmin for metrics only when it buzzed at the mile markers. Much more of the Iron Ore Heritage  Trail had been paved since the last time I ran this marathon and the non-paved, gravelisque section – aptly named the Mini Seney Stretch – began around mile 6.50. Because the gravel was finer and had been rolled well by trail angels (and the rain), the racing flats offered considerably better traction and I didn’t have to worry about kicking dirt back (or slipping).

10.74 mi (17.28 km), 1:40:39, 9:22 min/mile (5:49 min/km), 6.41 mph (10.31 kmph)
Garmin Forerunner 945 and Stryd Power Meter, and WP GPX Maps Plugin

Shortly after mile 8.50, I felt some sharp shooting pain in the left heal/foot. Throughout the 6+ weeks leading up to this day, a surge in pace had helped keep the pain away in races (e.g., Queen City Half Marathon and Traverse City Half Marathon) as well as as workouts (e.g., Ahnapee State Trail Run, Tempo Run Gone Good, Marquette Dress Rehearsal). Based on what I knew had worked, I attempted a surge shortly after crossing M-35 (after the 8.50 mile aid station). I expected it to work and hold the surge for as many miles as possible. But it didn’t – instead, the frequency and intensity of the aforementioned shooting pain increased. In the interest of longer term health and well-being, it didn’t make much sense to push through the pain. As difficult as it was at that time, I thought I made the correct decision to stop my race and take the DFL around the 9.50 mile mark.

I walked to the next aid station, around the 10.50 mile mark, hoping I’d get some help to get back to the finish line (or at least as close as possible). Finding none, I continued walking down the course for another mile-ish and peeled off of it not too far from the Subaru Dealership. Plan was to seek their help in either hitching a ride or having them request a cab ride on my behalf. But they were closed for the entirety of Labor Day weekend – good on them for giving themselves a longer break! I mean that without an ounce of sarcasm or judgment. I continued my walk along Northwoods Road towards US-41. Barb, mother of one of the half marathoners hopscotching her way to cheer him on, kindly offered me a ride to the nearest Starbucks and suggested I get them to request a cab.

Folks at Starbucks too were kind enough to call for a cab on my behalf but Marquette was experiencing a busy morning – especially with lot of out-of-towners in town and needing to get around. So, the earliest a cab could show up was around 11:15 – 11:30 am (about 90-105 minutes away). So, I continued on my walk down Wright Street towards the Superior Dome. Little over a mile or so later, I saw a pickup truck slow down, turn around and come back with its human – Dan Dehlin – checking if I needed a ride to Superior Dome. I didn’t know him at all but realizing he knew where I needed to go without ever mentioning it, I took him up on his kind offer. A short ride with a good conversation (learned that Dan holds the course record for this event’s half marathon at ~65 minutes) brought me back to the finish line saving me at least a couple more miles of walking in the cool rain!!

The first order of business upon arrival was to rip the timing chip off my bib and report as a DNF to the official timers. Changing into dryer/warmer clothes didn’t take long and I got a quick bite to eat not too long after that. Next hour or so was spent cheering on friends who came through the finish line in their respective events and catching up with the ones I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I hung around Marquette for few more hours before heading back safely to Houghton well ahead of the nightfall.

Race day experience was certainly disappointing – given the course awareness and blessing of a cooler day. But there was plenty of up moments too – handful of friends/racers (Mariana G, Peter V, Marci R, Bill S, more and some members of the official pacing team) checked on me while I struggled on the course, two strangers gave me rides saving me from walking extra miles in the cool rain and friends who hung out with me afterwards! As if Runner’s World was personally following my day, they had already sent an article to Keep Your Running Motivation After a Bad Run – How you can look on the bright side of a poor outing and find motivation to keep going. If that’s not a sign of caring, I don’t know what is!

With a new NFL regular season about to start in 4 days, Coach Belichick – although he probably already was wearing his cut sleeve hoodie – was too busy to make an appearance. So, here’s Frank Caliendo – in his look-alike outfit and sound-alike voice murmuring …. We Are On To Cincinnati.


Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, 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.

4 Replies to “2021: Marquette Marathon”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.