This was the race I had exactly zero intention to run. Which I think is the opposite way one normally approaches a marathon, considering that it is slightly longer than a 5k, which is the last race I ran on a whim. However, because of my training to run across America prior to getting sick (or while getting sick), I had the fitness to run the marathon, so it was not completely out of the realm of reality.
Prior to my hospitalization for extreme bloodlessness (yes, that’s the medical term), I had planned to run the Brookings and Fargo Marathons as a part of my training. Both races had graciously comped my entry into the races, and I was looking forward to what were advertised as very flat courses. The week of Brookings, however, was the first week that I spent at the Mayo Clinic, and it was clear by the end of that week that the run across America was not going to be feasible for me. Plus, the procedures done at Mayo had left me pretty week and feeling rotten, so I knew a marathon at Brookings was out of the question. But even if I was feeling amazing, I didn’t think it was ethical for me to run a marathon on an entry that had been comped to me based on an event that was no longer taking place. I emailed the race director and withdrew from both races. This was a big bummer for me as I was really looking forward to some marathon-related running fun.
But all hope was not lost.
In the back of my mind, however, I knew that my best running buddy was running Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon on the same day as Fargo. After some rest and refueling post-Mayo, I was feeling strong again (I’ve found that these forced downtimes, as long as they aren’t too long, actually enhance my running, probably because they force me to recover). I decided that I wanted to run Lake Wobegon, and logged on to register, only to find that registration was closed. Bummed, I decided that I would accompany my friend to Lake Wobegon anyway and try to register at the pre-race dinner the night before the race.
A note about Lake Wobegon: It is truly a marathoner’s race. In fact, there is only a marathon (no half) and the course the first ever that is as advertised: mostly flat, and great for a BQ. The course is also beautiful, not that I noticed because I was focused on running. Finally, I grew up listening to Garrison Keilor’s A Prairie Home Companion, and I felt like this was the closest I would ever be to the fictional Lake Wobegon. Which was probably the biggest reason I wanted to run this marathon. #PublicRadioNerd
Since I didn’t know if I was going to run the race, I packed for two eventualities: marathon running or spectating. I still held out hope that the race director would give me the chance to run, but wasn’t going to bank on it or get my hopes up too much. Come the pre-race dinner, my nerves hit – What if the race director shut me down? Or worse, what if she acted like I was unreasonable for even asking? Which, in reality, I kind of was. But I shouldn’t have worried. The amazing race director went out of her way to allow me to register. I was so excited.
And then I realized I had to run a marathon in less than 12 hours.
But I was still stoked.
There was not a lot of pressure on me for this race, so I slept well and was in a great mood race morning. I decided that because the race director had worked so hard to get me into the race, I had better do my best, so I set off at the start with the 3:45 group. This was before I realized I might have some “fast” potential in me, so when I looked at my watch and realized the pacer was running a 7:30 split, I slowed down and decided to set my own pace. I put my music on, and settled into an 8:35 pace that I managed to maintain for the next 18 miles. While this was faster than I’d run in probably two or even three years, it didn’t feel that fast. I am pretty good at maintaining a constant pace up and down hills (for better or for worse) and I focused on the run. I find that if I let my focus waiver (like if I’m listening to an audiobook), I start to slow down, which is fine on long training runs, but not on races.
I was feeling so good, that I fell behind on fueling. Because of all my gastrointestinal issues (Mayo still hadn’t told me that I don’t have Celiac’s after all), I was still trying to figure out what to eat, and I was behind by 200-400 calories by the time mile 18 came around.
And that’s when the proverbial wheels came off.
Suddenly, my 8:35 pace became hard. And while I was able to maintain it for the next three miles, I was feeling the pain. I tried to catch up on my calories, but my stomach refuses to handle any more than 200 calories an hour at faster than a 10:00 pace. By mile 22, I had slowed down to a 9:00 pace, which quickly descended into the high 9’s for miles 23-26.2. I walked through the last two aid stations, and struggled to push myself for a strong finish.
My time was 4:01.
Going into the race, I just wanted to run hard. And I did. And while my time wasn’t a PR (3:47), it is actually my second fastest marathon time ever. All things considered, I was and am pretty happy with that time.
I’m more happy with the idea that maybe, just maybe, I might have a much faster marathon in me. Not this season, as ultra training is my first focus, but maybe in two years (next year is “iron” year), I might try for a BQ.
And if I do, you better believe that I will try for it at the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon. As long as they don’t change the course.